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Regional Mayors Criticise Politicians For Failing To Link Climate Change And Deadly Bushfires

17 hours 19 min ago
ABC NewsJenya Goloubeva | Nour Haydar

Deputy PM Michael McCormack needs to read the science: Glen Innes Mayor responds to comments on climate change. (ABC News)

Key points
  • Coalition politicians have criticised people for linking deadly bushfires and climate change
  • Mayors from fire-ravaged NSW have hit back at that, saying climate change is contributing to fires
  • Glen Innes mayor Carol Sparks says politicians need to believe the scientific evidence on climate change
Mayors from fire-ravaged areas of New South Wales have said there is no doubt in their minds that the devastating blazes tearing through their communities are a result of climate change.
Their comments are a rebuke to senior leaders within the state and federal governments, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy PM Michael McCormack, who have criticised people for linking the current deadly bushfires to climate change.
Three people died in fires across the state at the weekend, with the State Government declaring a state of emergency amid predicted catastrophic conditions and predictions that the coming days will see "the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen".
"What people need now is a little bit of sympathy and understanding and real assistance, they need help, they need shelter," Mr McCormack said on ABC Radio National this morning.
"They don't need the ravings of some pure enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time when they are trying to save their homes."

Firefighters drive through the middle of the Hillville bushfire near Taree, on the NSW mid-north coast, on Friday. (ABC News)

Carol Sparks, the Mayor of Glen Innes, where two people died at the weekend, called on Mr McCormack to refer to scientific evidence before commenting further.
"I think that Michael McCormack needs to read the science, and that is what I am going by, is the science," she said.
"It is not a political thing - it is a scientific fact that we are going through climate change."
Responding directly to the comments made by the Deputy PM this morning, Mid Coast mayor Claire Pontin said she felt "cranky" when she heard Mr McCormack say that "we've had fires in Australia since time began".
"They need to get out and have a real look at what's happening to this country," Ms Pontin said.
"We've not had situations like that. Fifty years ago, this would never happen."
Ms Pontin said the issue went beyond politics and said it was essential to talking about climate change when considering how to respond to the bushfires,
"We don't have capital city greenies around here, we have farmers coming to us and saying, "look what's happened to my farm, I can't afford to feed the cows anymore because I've been buying feed for the last 18 months." she said.
"It's just ridiculous.
"It's not going to go away if we bury our heads in the sand."The Bureau of Meteorology has said that "climate change is influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia."
Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt said the weekend fires demonstrated that "the Government does not have the climate emergency under control".
"Scott Morrison has done everything in his power to increase the risk of catastrophic bushfires and sadly we are now witnessing apocalyptic scenes that none of us — none of us —want to see in Australia,” he said.
But Mr McCormack accused the Greens of exploiting the issue to score a "political point."
"That's what Adam Bandt, and the Greens, and Richard Di Natale, and all those other inner-city raving lunatics — and quite frankly, that's how he was carrying on yesterday — that's what they want, we're not going to go down that path."Michael McCormack dismissed concerns the bushfires were linked to climate change. (AAP: Lukas Coch)
Mayor says Deputy Prime Minister needs to read the science
Former NSW Fire and Rescue chief Greg Mullins has been trying to set up a meeting with the Prime Minister and his team to address the bushfire emergency.
These are the letters sent by former NSW Fires Chief Greg Mullins and 22 other former emergency chiefs to the Prime Minister in April and September predicting a bushfire crisis and requesting a meeting. #nswfires #auspol pic.twitter.com/djhHjHknAe— Zoe Daniel (@zdaniel) November 9, 2019Mr Mullins and 22 other former emergency chiefs wrote a letter to Mr Morrison earlier this year predicting a bushfire crisis and calling the Prime Minister to the table to come with an action plan. The meeting has not been held.
"The numbers don't lie, and the science is clear," he wrote in an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald.
"Unprecedented dryness; reductions in long-term rainfall; low humidity; high temperatures; wind velocities; fire danger indices; fire spread and ferocity; instances of pyro-convective fires "fire storms - making their own weather); early starts and late finishes to bushfire season." An established long-term trend drive by a warming, drying climate," he wrote.
Mr Mullins cited previous examples when federal politicians shut down the climate change discussion saying it was inappropriate while fires are still burning. "But if not now, then when?" he asked.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro is another politician who has said now is not the time, lashing out at people for raising the issue of climate change.
"For any bloody greenie, lefty out there that wants to talk about climate change when communities are at risk — and over the next 48 hours we may lose more lives — and if this is the time that people talk about climate change they are a bloody disgrace," he said.
Fires also burned across Queensland at the weekend, such as this one near Yeppoon. (Facebook: Anthony Carter)But Ms Pontin dismissed that.
"It's always the time to be talking about it," she said.
"Every level of government needs to recognise that there is a big issue and it's almost too late to act, but we've got to start doing something now."
What remains of a fire that tore through Rainbow Flat. (ABC News: Mridula Amin)
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Meltdown: Chilling Proof Of Global Heating

17 hours 19 min ago
The Guardian

An arresting exhibition from activist charity Project Pressure uses conceptual photography to capture the decline of the ice caps
The Lewis Glacier, Mt Kenya by Simon Norfolk. The line of fire shows where the glacier used to extend to. Photograph: Simon Norfolk/Project Pressure

What is it about those melting glaciers and desperate polar bears that makes us want to look away?” the activist and author Naomi Klein asked in 2015. In her book This Changes Everything, she laid the blame on powerful global corporations and acquiescent governments, which both simultaneously underplay the scale of the climate emergency and exploit our collective sense of helplessness in the face of it. Since then, a new urgency has driven climate activism, most successfully in the disruptive protests of Extinction Rebellion. Can art, though, have a meaningful role in raising awareness of that urgency?
A forthcoming exhibition, Meltdown: Visualising Climate Change, at the Horniman Museum in London sets out to answer that question in the affirmative. It focuses on the fate of the world’s glaciers through the prism of art, photography and film. “We are using art as a kind of seduction to draw people in, then shock them,” says photographer Simon Norfolk, one of the artists involved.
Why glaciers, though? Norfolk points out that, while severe floods and forest fires are in some ways more dramatically visual, “they can leave you open to the charge of not being scientific”. Glaciers, on the other hand, are one of the key and irrefutable indicators of climate change. “Through photography and film, you can record over time the ways in which they are receding, and by how much,” he says. “Plus, they are just so visual.”
The Lewis Glacier, Mt Kenya, 1963 (A), 2014. The image traces a line where the glacier’s front was in 1963 while showing where it is now. Using scientific maps and GPS, Norfolk marked out the older  line using hidden flashlights. ‘I walked along the line dragging my burning stick, joining up the dots of the flashlights. It took about 20 minutes, which was hard work at altitude. The exposure for the mountain and the stars continues for the rest of the hour. I wanted it to be all in camera because climate change is surrounded by loons who will claim I faked it all.’By way of illustration, his arresting image The Lewis Glacier, Mt Kenya, 1963 shows a line of fire snaking along the rocky slope of a once completely snow-covered mountain skirting close to some scattered wooden buildings. It is one of a series of photographs he made using long, slow exposures on a mounted camera to track him as he ran along a meandering line on the mountain holding a flaming torch. (You can see him collapse with altitude exhaustion in a short film documenting the making of the work shot by the Observer photographer Antonio Olmos.) “I use old maps to trace the exact line where the front edge of the glacier existed in previous years,” he explains. “My starting point was 1963, the year I was born, and I have made similar images for selected years ever since. It is a way of photographing the absence of something, in this instance a few kilometres of ice that have disappeared in the intervening years.” The series won Norfolk a Sony World Photography award in 2015.
Ice Cave, Vatnajökull, 2014. Richard Mosse used a large-format plate-film camera and infrared film to photograph the ice cave under the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland. Glacier caves usually form when air enters where water flows underneath the ice, the warm air slowly creates melting and forms a cave from beneath. The dynamic process is becoming more unpredictable as the weather changes and cave access may become impossible in the future.Meltdown is curated by Project Pressure, an activist charity that, since 2008, has commissioned artists to work with climate scientists on often ambitious projects that highlight the earth’s increasingly unstable environment. Their partners and sponsors include Nasa, WGMS (World Glacier Monitoring Service), Hasselblad and the UN Climate Action Summit. “When we began in 2008, climate change was not high on the activist agenda in the way that it is now, but we understood the urgency,” says the founder of the project, Danish photographer Klaus Thymann. “For centuries, landscape has been one of the classic themes of great art, so it makes sense to use art as another means to make people aware of the climate emergency and hopefully help instigate institutional and behavioural changes.”
From a purely artistic perspective, what is most interesting about the Meltdown exhibition is that, though it includes the work of a few documentary photographers, it is a reflection of the broad range of conceptual strategies being adopted by contemporary activist artists: from Richard Mosse, winner of last year’s prestigious Prix Pictet, to Noémie Goudal, a French artist whose photographic installations, a hybrid of the real and the created, are made in often elemental landscapes.
Glacier 1, 2016, by Noemie Goudal. French conceptual artist Goudal is interested in the meeting of the organic and the manmade. This work was made on the Rhône glacier, where Goudal constructed a large-scale photographic installation printed on biodegradable paper that disintegrates in water. ‘All my work is about the fragility of the landscape,’ she says.For Meltdown, Mosse used a large-format plate camera to photograph an eerily beautiful ice cave underneath the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland. It was formed by air entering beneath the ice cap, and, in Mosse’s blue-tinged prints, resembles a sci-fi landscape, all smooth curves and jagged icicles, made all the more unreal by his use of infrared film.
Goudal specalises in elaborate interventions with the landscape. For this commission, she photographed the Rhône glacier in the Swiss Alps, before printing the results on large sheets of biodegradable paper. She then mounted the prints, which are 3.5 metres tall, on to plastic canvas using “a children’s glue that disintegrates on contact with water”. The prints were then suspended in front of the landscape she had photographed and, throughout a single day, she shot around a hundred frames of the disintegrating image.
“I am primarily interested in the choreography of the landscape and how it moves and changes continually,” she says. “I want to alter our perception of it through images that show the organic and the artificial blending and clashing. In this instance, I kept on shooting until the scene reverted to the original landscape.”
Mt Baker, 2014, by Peter Funch. Danish artist Funch uses old tourist postcards and historic photos as source material for his series Imperfect Atlas. In this case the images are re-creations of vintage postcards of Mount Baker [in Washington state, US] found on eBay ‘I located the positions from which the original postcard images had been made,’ he says, ‘and re-shot the glaciers from those positions to create comparative juxtapositions of then and now.’I had assumed that Goudal’s disintegrating prints were a visual metaphor for the effects of global warming on the glacier, but she insists that her art “does not really fit into a discourse about environmental issues” and is more about the ways in which artists and scientists “observe and interpret” the environment. “Geology and astronomy are important elements in my work,” she says, “but, apart from this commission, there is really no big eco-subtext in the rest of my work.”
Other artists have turned to the past to make sense of our present ecological dilemmas. Peter Funch uses vintage tourist postcards and historic images of Mount Rainier and Mount Baker in the North Cascades in Washington as raw material for his series Imperfect Atlas. Using maps and satellite images, he pinpointed the exact spot from which the original pictures were taken so that he could photograph today’s mountain glaciers from the same position. Funch also employed an old-fashioned technical process called RGB tricolour separation, in which red, green, and blue filters are used to create three separate monochrome images, which are then combined to make a single full-colour image. The process was invented in 1850, a decade after the first recorded evidence that the mountain glaciers were receding. As his work makes clear, even the earliest 19th-century photographs of glaciers were visual documents of their slow decline.
Bone from 4000 BC, Switzerland, 2017: Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin make photographic still lifes of the often perfectly preserved objects revealed by shrinking glaciers, such as this human bone which remained intact in the ice for thousands of years.“In the exhibition, we use glaciers as a symbol,” says Thymann. “But some of the work is about what makes a surprising story. The artists Broomberg and Chanarin photographed objects that were found inside the ice of melting glaciers. Simon and myself collaborated on Shroud, which uses photographs and film to portray the attempt to slow down the melting of the Rhône glacier by wrapping a vast section of it in a thermal blanket.”
These images are desperate and deathly, like a Christo installation gone wrong. It turns out that the owners of a popular tourist attraction, an ice grotto, have spent 70,000 euros to try and preserve their site. These kinds of measures are symptomatic of what Thymann calls a kind of belated “adaptation anxiety” – “What are we going to do? How can we adapt to this?”
Shroud, 2018, by Simon Norfolk and Klaus Thyman: in an attempt to arrest the melting of the ice at an ice-grotto tourist attraction at the Rhône Glacier, local Swiss entrepreneurs paid for it to be covered up with a thermal blanket. ‘We chose the title,’ says Norfolk, ‘because it looks like they have created a shroud for the glacier’s death.’That, of course, is a crucial question at the heart of the exhibition – and our global climate emergency. As Norfolk points out: “It is the poorest, who caused the least amount of damage to the environment, that will suffer the most. The rich will build higher flood walls around the financial district in Manhattan, but what will happen to people in Bangladesh?”
The point of Project Pressure is to create change though art. “This is not a time for helplessness or looking away,” says Thymann. “The mission is to use art to help accelerate change.” Norfolk nods his head in agreement. “It’s not about making another fancy photobook or beautiful exhibition, it’s about making trouble, starting arguments.”

• Meltdown: Visualizing Climate Change is at the Horniman Museum, London, from 23 November to 12 January 2020

Categories: External websites

(UK) Climategate 10 Years On: What Lessons Have We Learned?

17 hours 19 min ago
The Guardian -

A series of leaked emails was leapt on by climate-change deniers to discredit the data, but their efforts may have only slowed the search for solutions
Since the first images were taken in 1979, Arctic sea ice coverage has dropped by an average of about 34,000 square miles each year. Photograph: David Goldman/APThe email that appeared on Phil Jones’s computer screen in November 2009 was succinct. “Just a quick note to encourage you to shoot yourself in the head,” it said. “Don’t waste any more time. Do it today. It is truly the greatest contribution to mankind that you will ever make.”
Nor was it very different from the other emails that were arriving in Jones’s inbox. Others described the climate scientist as the scum of the earth. Some authors promised to kill him themselves. Most of the messages were riddled with obscenities. All made troubling reading.
Professor Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia. Photograph: Chris Bourchier / Rex Features As to the cause of this outpouring of hatred, that was straightforward. Jones headed the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, from which a tranche of emails had just been hacked and made public. These, it was claimed, showed that he and fellow researchers were faking the evidence that suggested our planet was heating up dangerously.
The affair was dubbed Climategate by those who deny the existence of global warming and it remains one of modern society’s most troubling affairs. Many observers believe it helped delay measures that might have slowed climate change and given humanity more time to cut atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, its key cause.
Climategate marks its 10th anniversary this month – an opportune moment to reflect on just how serious was its impact on society, and to look at the effect it had on those who were trying to stop Earth from being ravaged by rising seas, spreading deserts, disappearing coral reefs and suffocating heat.
At the time, climate-change deniers were desperate to find ways to undermine the idea that global warming was real, and as Jones’s unit had provided key data that supported this notion – by showing how land temperatures on Earth had been rising sharply in recent decades – his work was considered fair game. So they responded gleefully by ransacking his hacked emails for signs he may have been fiddling results and asserted, in blogs, they had found telltale signs.
These claims were then picked up by media outlets hostile to global warming. “Scientist in climate cover-up told to quit” ran one headline. “Scientists broke law by hiding climate data”, claimed another.
Jones was vilified. “Within a day or two reporters were outside my house, knocking on my neighbours’ doors, digging for dirt,” he recalls. “I got hundreds of abusive and threatening emails. I knew the accusations were nonsense. But as someone used to being in control I buckled at the loss of it. My health deteriorated. I found it difficult to sleep and eat. I was under intense, spiralling pressure and felt I was falling to pieces. Looking back I suppose I was having some kind of a nervous breakdown.”
So what had Jones said in his emails to trigger these attacks? In one message Jones says he would be emailing a journal “to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor”. This was interpreted as being a bid to suppress academic criticism. “We’re choosing the periods to show warming,” he says in another email that seems to suggest he was fiddling his data.
A dried pond in drought-stricken Fuyang, Anhui province, eastern China in October 2019. Photograph: VCG/via Getty Images
And then there was his remark that he was going to employ “Mike’s trick” to use data that would “hide the decline”. In other words, he was going to cover up data that showed the world was really cooling and was not warming, it was claimed.
The Mike in question was Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, who had worked with Jones for years. His “trick” was no more than a simple technique to combine the records of temperatures measured directly by thermometer with estimates made from tree rings (which roughly reflect temperature variations).
“In fact, the email was an entirely innocent and appropriate conversation between scientists,” Mann states in this week’s BBC Four documentary, Climategate: Science of a Scandal. He and Jones were merely trying to find appropriate ways of illustrating a graph of global temperature changes.
This view was not shared by Sarah Palin: the former US vice-presidential candidate wrote a Washington Post op-ed article that claimed the emails “reveal that leading climate ‘experts’ … manipulated data to hide the decline in global temperatures”.
British climate science was subjected to huge scrutiny by the world’s best journalists and it stood up to the test
Fiona Fox, Science Media Centre
Subsequent investigations by journalists showed these claims were unsupportable, however. Guardian writer Fred Pearce studied the leaked emails and produced a book, The Climate Files, from his research. “Have the Climategate revelations undermined the case that we are experiencing made-made climate change? Absolutely not,” says Pearce. “Nothing uncovered in the emails destroys the argument that humans are warming the planet.”
Pearce was writing for the eco-friendly Guardian, but his views were supported by many others, such as Mike Hanlon, former science editor of the Daily Mail. “Scratch and sniff as we did, there was no smoking gun, no line that would show that there had been a conspiracy to fabricate a great untruth,” he said later. Thus, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, the notion that Climategate represented “the worst scientific scandal of a generation” – as one UK newspaper had claimed – was found in the end to be unsupportable.
This point is emphasised by Fiona Fox, head of the UK’s Science Media Centre. “British climate science was subjected to huge scrutiny by the world’s best journalists and it stood up to the test. If you look at where we are now in terms of public trust in climate science, it’s hard to sustain the argument that Climategate was fatally damaging to the field.
“Climategate also tells us that front page rows about science are an opportunity as well as a threat and the scientists who stood up in that febrile environment and soundly defended science also did a great job. We need to remember that.”
New Yorkers brave the severe thunderstorms that hit the city among tornado warnings in May 2018. Photograph: Peter Foley/EPASeveral official UK reports on the affair also supported Jones. One inquiry – by Sir Muir Russell, a senior civil servant – specifically praised the “rigour and honesty” of Jones and his colleagues while another, chaired by Lord Oxburgh, found “no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice”. The only real criticism was the suggestion that the researchers had not always shown a “proper sense of openness” in dealing with data inquires.
Jones and colleagues were also backed by the US Environmental Protection Agency which heavily criticised American politicians and energy groups who had tried to use the leaked emails to dismiss the risks facing our overheating world. These individuals had “routinely misunderstood or mis-characterised the scientific issues, drawn faulty conclusions, resorted to hyperbole, impugned the ethics of climate scientists in general and characterised actions as ‘falsifications’ and ‘manipulation’ with no basis or support,” said the agency.
Other powerful support was provided by physicists at University of California, Berkeley, who decided to test if deniers had been right to question Jones’s temperature charts. Led by Professor Richard Muller and backed by funds that included a $150,000 grant from noted climate-crisis denial supporters, the Charles Koch Foundation – the team re-analysed more than 1.6bn land temperature measurements dating back to the 1800s – and came to exactly the same conclusions as Jones: the fairly level temperatures that had continued through the past few centuries began to spike sharply a few decades ago as atmosphere carbon levels rose.
“Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with warming values published previously,” said Muller. “This confirms these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate-change sceptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.”
Such powerful endorsements might have been expected to end deniers’ claims about Climategate. However, they have continued since 2009 to accuse Jones and others of collusion and fraud.
Former Times columnist and climate contrarian Matt Ridley is typical. The “scandal” showed scientists were “conspiring to ostracise sceptics, delete emails, game peer review and manipulate the presentation of data”, he wrote in 2017, ignoring the many reports and studies that in the interim have shown this was not the case.
Note also that since Climategate we have had eight of the warmest years on record; carbon dioxide emissions have continued to rise inexorably; and Arctic sea ice levels in summer have reached record lows over the past decade. Occurrences of heavy rainfall and heatwaves have also increased dramatically. The world has continued to heat up dangerously. Yet humanity has done very little to tackle the crisis.
And that raises a critical question: did Climategate play a role in this failure to act? Some observers believe it did and, as an illustration, point to the fate of the Copenhagen climate summit – organised under the UN framework convention on climate change – which took place only a few weeks after the leaking of the CRU’s emails.
A sheep farm in New South Wales. The drought across the Murray Darling Basin is now officially Australia’s worst on record. Photograph: David Gray/Getty ImagesThe Copenhagen summit is widely regarded as a failure. Instead of agreeing on a legally binding treaty to limit carbon emissions as hoped, delegates chose merely to “take note of” an accord drawn up by a core group of heads of state.
So did the leaking of the Climategate emails have a pernicious influence there? Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, doubts it. “Essentially the conference was badly managed. Climategate had very little impact.”
On the other hand, says Ward, climategate did damage public policy-making in the UK and in other western countries. “Rightwing politicians, allied with fossil fuel companies, used their influence to spread false claims about the emails and to argue against policies to cut fossil fuel use. That propaganda campaign still continues today.” The use of illegally hacked emails in Climategate also shows deniers will resort to all sorts of underhand methods to confuse the public, Ward added. “I am sure they would do the same again today – so scientists are going to have to remain vigilant and be ready to fight back at any time.”
This point is backed by Mann, who has fought vociferously to defend climate science in the US. Although the past few years have seen a significant growth in the public’s belief that the world is heating dangerously, climate-change denial has not gone away.
“Hard denial has evolved into something more pernicious,” he says. “Attention has been deflected from imposing policy solutions towards stressing that changes should be made in individual behaviour – people’s diet, methods of travel and other lifestyle choices. It is a classic industry manoeuvre: put the onus on individuals to change things and ignore the need to impose systemic solutions and make policy reforms.
“Of course, individual action needs to be part of the battle, but not as a substitute for policy reform. It should be as an additional component. We must also be aware how the forces of denial are exploiting the lifestyle change movement to get supporters of action against climate change to argue with each other and engage in behavioural shaming. So yes, we will be vigilant in future.”

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Opinion: Current Proposals To Plant Trees To Fight Climate Change Are Badly Misguided

11 November, 2019 - 04:00
EnsiaWilliam John Bond

llustration by Kelsey KingTree planting is a popular strategy for reducing carbon in the atmosphere to help combat global warming. But is it being thought through sufficiently? I think not.
In recent years, the neighborly act of planting a tree in the backyard has morphed into major geoengineering projects marketed as key interventions for managing global carbon. Important examples are the Bonn Challenge, started in 2011, which set out to plant 3.5 million square kilometres (1.4 million square miles) of trees by 2030, and the United Nations’ Billion Tree Campaign.
Africa has been targeted by the Bonn Challenge as a key area for “forest restoration.” It has vast areas of grasslands and savannas where the climate could grow forests. AFR100, an offshoot of the Bonn Challenge, plans to plant at least 1 million square kilometers (400,000 square miles) of trees in Africa by 2030. Already, 28 countries have signed up, each required to pledge its own target area, with some countries setting aside as much as one-third to three-quarters of their total land area for trees.
It is surely time to pause and ask questions of tree planting and its consequences. The assumption underlying all this is that Africa’s grassy ecosystems are degraded and deforested landscapes “that deliver limited benefits to both humans and nature.” But we know that African savannas are ancient — much older than the human societies that cut down forests. They support the continent’s spectacular grass-dependent wildlife along with thousands of other plant and animal species that prefer sunlight. And they support human societies.
The tree-planting plans ignore the fate of the savanna’s current inhabitants. And they bring the risk of raging megafires as well as adversely altering stream flows. By fixing set targets by a set period, they are forcing rapid land use change on a massive scale. It is surely time to pause and ask questions of tree planting and its consequences.

Climate Benefits
One motivation for global tree-planting plans is to reduce atmospheric carbon by storing emissions from industrial nations in the ecosystems of the less industrialized nations. But how effective will it be? Current emissions are adding an extra 4.7 billion metric tons (5.2 billion tons) of carbon to the atmosphere every year. How will planting 3.5 million square kilometers of trees reduce this annual increase?
Estimates of carbon storage by planting trees are surprisingly divergent and uncertain, with one study giving a maximum of 42 billion metric tons (46 billion tons) if the Bonn Challenge restored 3.5 million square kilometers of natural forest by 2100 (reforestation) but only 1 billion metric tons (1.1 billion tons) if tree farming with plantations is used instead (afforestation). The optimistic scenario would cover less than 10 years of growth in emissions at current rates. If the AFR100 target is reached, my colleagues and I estimated in a recent study, the annual growth of CO2 would drop by a mere 2.7%.
Why are the estimates so uncertain? Different tree species grow at different rates, with natural forest trees growing far more slowly than plantation trees such as pines and eucalypts. Trees also grow at different rates in different climates. And carbon accumulation slows to zero net gain as the trees mature. To continue storing carbon, plantations have to be felled and replanted, and the wood has to be stored so the accumulated carbon isn’t lost to the atmosphere.
Not only that, but tree canopies are usually darker than the grassland they replace. That means they absorb more sunlight and therefore having a warming effect. This and other biophysical effects of planting trees to replace grasslands have yet to be fully evaluated in the tropics and subtropics.

The Costs of Tree Planting
The urgency invoked by the international agencies promoting tree planting has given little time for the implementing countries to consider the pros and cons of long-term land use change.
The downside is the tying up of land to forestry for the foreseeable future, with limited options for crop farming, livestock grazing or conservation of grassy ecosystems. AFR100 is being financed by the World Bank (US$1 billion) and other funders, including forestry companies (nearly half a billion dollars) by 2030. That works out as US$10–15 per hectare (US$4-6 per acre), a real bargain for what is effectively a long-term land lease. Nevertheless, the incentive of an injection of foreign currency is a strong incentive for host countries to sign up. The short-term gains of wealth for some, jobs for others, new primary industries and even some reversal of erosion would be appealing.
The downside is the tying up of land to forestry for the foreseeable future, with limited options for crop farming, livestock grazing or conservation of grassy ecosystems. It could increase the risk of disastrous wildfires, and it’s reducing water supplies because of reduced streamflow.

Out of the Mess
A major problem with current afforestation projects is the setting of fixed area targets by fixed dates. If we really want to restore degraded and deforested areas, we first need to locate them; identify what is possible given social, economic and ecological restraints; and plan accordingly.
Restoring forest in areas that were historically forests, or are currently degraded forests, makes good sense for carbon storage, biodiversity and restoring some goods and services. But the global targets were set without reference to the vast naturally nonforested areas, with their own biota and distinct land use practices.
Much better methods are being developed that target tropical forests, not savannas, for tree-planting, and score areas on the likelihood of restoration success, carbon storage potential, and likelihood of sustaining forest into the future. Though only a fraction of the AFR100 target, the restoration of such areas would make a real contribution to global carbon storage and help maintain intact tropical forests while respecting the development needs of the host countries.

Given the limited benefits of large-scale tree planting and the long-term costs to the host countries, my colleagues and I believe that the Bonn Challenge and other major projects based on tree planting need urgent re-evaluation.
In the longer term, restoring the carbon storage function of ecosystems will be essential for reducing CO2. But tree planting is a slow and minor contributor to reducing greenhouse gases. The larger, more immediate need is to reduce emissions, primarily by reducing fossil fuel use and by drastically reducing land clearing and deforestation.
If you really want to make a difference to your future, rather than contributing to a tree-planting program, consider supporting the planting of wind towers, solar energy and hydropower, or conserving existing high-carbon ecosystems and help Africa’s transition to a more urban, industrialized continent less dependent on fossil fuels. You are sure to have a much larger effect on global warming than tearing up grasslands to plant trees.

Categories: External websites

Loud Environmental Protests Are A Great Australian Tradition

11 November, 2019 - 04:00
Sydney Morning Herald - Editorial

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s threat to outlaw certain forms of protest by environmentalists against coal and gas mining companies might be good short-term politics but it would be a dangerous move for Australian democracy.
Mr Morrison announced last week in Queensland that he planned to crack down on what he described as a new “absolutist” and “anarchist” trend where environmentalists impose “secondary boycotts”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he is working on legal measures to outlaw the "indulgent and selfish practices" of protest groups that try to stop major resources projects. Credit: AAPIn these actions, climate change protesters do not target the mining companies directly but instead they target businesses and firms who provide goods or services to them.They organise picket lines, social media campaigns, consumer boycotts and the like to pressure banks and insurance companies to stop providing finance to the miners and they try to scare away the contractors who build the mines.
Clearly the environmentalists’ tactics annoy mining companies and perhaps also Mr Morrison’s “quiet Australian” voters in regional areas but there is something bigger at stake here for all Australians.
The right to protest and, yes, protest loudly is what separates Australia from countries like China. It must be protected.
Mr Morrison is wrong if he thinks that secondary boycotts are a new trend or that they are only used by environmentalists against mining. They have long been a widely used tool for many social protest movements.For instance, anti-slavery group Walk Free, founded by miner Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, organises protests against fashion houses such as Zara and Gucci, to force them to stop buying cotton from farmers who exploit their workers.
In fact, Australian competition law already bans secondary boycotts and is widely used in industrial disputes against unions.But the law rightly includes a specific exemption for campaigns where the dominant purpose of the secondary boycott is environmental or consumer protection.
The oil and gas and forest industries among others complained about the exemption at a review into the law in 2015.But the panel, led by Reserve Bank of Australia board member Ian Harper, found the exemption for environmental and consumer action was justified because it was up to businesses and consumers to make up their own minds about how to respond to the protests.Protests only succeed if they win the support of consumers and shareholders. It is called the free market.
There must be some limits on protests, for instances where they disrupt traffic or commit vandalism. But public advocacy should not be a crime.Even if the government scrapped the exemption for advocacy in the competition act, that would not be the end of the story. Any new law would be open to challenge as an infringement of the qualified right to freedom of political expression which the High Court has repeatedly found in the constitution.Given all the practical difficulties of drafting the law, Mr Morrison may not actually want it to pass. He may just see it as a useful wedge issue in areas affected by drought and dependent on mining jobs.
But it will be increasingly clear that the real threat to the coal and gas industries is not urban elites or environmental protesters but climate change.Banks and finance companies are being told by their shareholders and customers that they must do something. Regulators like the Reserve Bank of Australia are warning them.
Banks are doing the numbers and realising that the mounting global pressure to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will inevitably cut demand for fossil fuels and undermine the business case for new mines. That is the problem that Mr Morrison should face.

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Examining The Viability Of Planting Trees To Help Mitigate Climate Change

11 November, 2019 - 04:00
NASA - Alan Buis

It’s an intriguing premise: what if we could reduce the severity of global climate change by planting hundreds of billions of trees to remove excess carbon from our atmosphere? A recent study published in the journal Science sought to provide answers by estimating the global potential of restoring forested lands as a possible strategy for mitigating climate change.
The international research team, led by Jean-Francois Bastin of ETH-Zurich in Switzerland, used direct measurements of forest cover around the world to create a model for estimating Earth’s forest restoration potential. They found Earth’s ecosystems could support another 900 million hectares (2.2 billion acres) of forests, 25 percent more forested area than we have now. By planting more than a half trillion trees, the authors say, we could capture about 205 gigatons of carbon (a gigaton is 1 billion metric tons), reducing atmospheric carbon by about 25 percent. That’s enough to negate about 20 years of human-produced carbon emissions at the current rate, or about half of all carbon emitted by humans since 1960. The study attracted worldwide attention, as well as some criticism within the science community.
Is the concept of planting trees to help combat climate change really going out on a limb, so to speak, or might it take root? Sassan Saatchi, a senior scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, believes it has some merit. But while he says there’s potential for using reforestation as a climate mitigation tool, he cautions there are many factors to consider and that planting trees will never be a substitute for decreasing fossil fuel emissions.
“I feel there’s a strong possibility a significant portion of these lands can be reforested to their original forest cover,” said Saatchi, an expert in global forest carbon stocks and dynamics. “It’s definitely not a solution by itself to addressing current climate change. To do that, we need to reduce human emissions of greenhouse gases. But it could still have some partial impact on our ability to reduce climate change.”
A multi-country-led effort called the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) is working to reforest 100 million hectares of land in Africa by 2030. Credit: Andrea Borgarello for TerrAfrica/World Bank Saatchi says the study establishes a reasonable estimate of global forest restoration potential and addresses the issue more directly than previous work. The researchers used new satellite-based land cover and land use maps, along with other climate and soil data and advanced techniques to arrive at their results. He says their conclusions on tree restoration aren’t that different from the recommendations made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2018, which suggested that 950 million hectares (2.3 billion acres) of new forests could help limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5-degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2050. However, he says, “the devil is in details.”

Many Unanswered Questions
Before a global forest restoration effort is undertaken, Saatchi says, numerous questions must first be addressed to assess the concept’s feasibility, scientific soundness, cost-efficiency, risks and other considerations. “We need to understand not only whether it’s possible to do such a thing, but whether we should do it,” he says.
“The paper has sparked a healthy debate in the science community, which has now come forward to begin to address issues that the paper did not,” he said. “The science community has been looking at these questions to some extent for a long time, but there’s more urgency to address them now, since we no longer have the same climate conditions we had 50 or 100 years ago, when humans began massive deforestation for agriculture and human settlements. Since then, Earth’s population and land use have increased drastically. In some parts of the Northern Hemisphere, countries have been able to save more forests, but other areas, such as the tropics, have seen massive deforestations because of the need to feed larger populations.”
Areas of degraded rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sassan Saatchi Saatchi outlined a few of the many questions scientists and others will want to investigate. For example, how realistic are the study’s estimates of how much carbon can be sequestered through reforestation? How long will this approach take to make a dent in atmospheric carbon concentrations? Can grasslands and savanna ecosystems sustain increased tree cover? How might converting non-forest land to forests compete with food production? How much time, money and resources will it take to implement a global forest restoration of this magnitude? How do the costs of adopting such a climate mitigation strategy stack up against its potential benefits? How much carbon would be released to the atmosphere by restoring forests? How will global climate models respond to a massive forest restoration? Will an Earth with a billion hectares of new forests actually be cooler?
Fire suppression tactics have allowed this forest at the edge of a savanna in Gabon, Central Africa, to regenerate naturally. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sassan Saatchi “Planting a billion hectares of trees won’t be easy,” he said. “It would require a massive undertaking. If we follow the paper’s recommendations, reforesting an area the size of the United States and Canada combined (1 to 2 billion hectares) could take between one and two thousand years, assuming we plant a million hectares a year and that each hectare contains at least 50 to 100 trees to create an appropriate treetop canopy cover.”
Even once the trees are planted, says Saatchi, it will take them about a century to reach maturity. Most forests in the United States are less than 100 years old because they are recycled constantly. Trees in tropical regions take a little bit longer to reach maturity, but sequester carbon much faster. We know it will take time for new forests to absorb atmospheric carbon.”
Saatchi says scientists will want to do a comprehensive evaluation of all potential effects a mass reforestation may have on Earth’s climate and the global carbon cycle.
Currently, Earth’s forests and soil absorb about 30 percent of atmospheric carbon emissions, partially through forest productivity and restoration. While deforestation has occurred throughout human history, the practice has increased dramatically in the past 50 years. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, about 7.3 million hectares (18 million acres) of forest are lost every year, and roughly half of Earth’s tropical forests have already been cleared. In the continental United States, an estimate from the University of Michigan found that 90 percent of indigenous forests have been removed since 1600.
Over time, the ocean and land have continued to absorb about half of all carbon dioxide emissions, even as those emissions have risen dramatically in recent decades. It remains unclear if carbon absorption will continue at this rate. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech 
Degraded landscapes in Colombia’s Choco region. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sassan Saatchi As deforestation has ramped up, Earth’s climate has changed significantly. Warmer, more adverse climate conditions are creating more difficult growing conditions for forest ecosystems.
Key questions scientists will need to address are how global reforestation might affect Earth’s surface albedo (reflectivity) and evapotranspiration. In the near term and locally, says Saatchi, forest restoration may actually have a warming effect. As the trees mature, the new forest canopy cover would presumably make Earth’s surface albedo darker, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere during periods of snow cover, causing it to absorb more heat. Increasing forest cover, particularly in the tropics, will increase evapotranspiration, causing a cooling effect. With Earth already warming significantly due to greenhouse gas emissions, will forest reforestation on a global scale have a net warming or cooling effect on our planet, and will the benefits of reforested areas absorbing more carbon outweigh their increased heat absorption? These effects may vary geographically from tropical to boreal regions and may depend largely on water and light availability. In addition, how might these changes impact climate change patterns?
“Recent Landsat satellite-based analyses show that close to 400 million hectares (988 million acres) of forests have been disturbed in this century alone (2000-2017), either by human activities or through droughts and fires – that’s almost 50 percent of the area recommended for reforestation by the authors of the new study,” he said. Some of these areas have gone back to being forests, but a large amount of these degraded forests located in tropical and subtropical regions are suitable targets for restoration.
Map of global tree loss/tree gain since the early 1980s derived from NASA Landsat and NOAA AVHRR optical imagery, revised by Sassan Saatchi from Song et al., 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sassan Saatchi Another science question concerns biodiversity. Will ecosystems in reforested areas revert to their previous conditions and maintain their ability to sequester carbon? While ecosystems that existed before areas were deforested may have been highly diverse, reforesting them with only a single type of species (known as monocultures), might result in ecosystems that won’t function as efficiently as they did before – in other words, they may not grow the same or stay as healthy over time. Saatchi says each region of the world will need to address this question for itself. But restoring a region’s original biodiversity or its natural forests may not be easy. For example, the region’s soil health may have changed.
Yet another concern is something Saatchi calls climate connectivity. When ecosystems become too fragmented, they begin losing their natural functions. “In Earth’s tropical regions, a combination of deforestation and climate conditions may have actually changed the system so much that climate connectivity is reduced,” he says. “Once this connectivity is lost, it becomes much more difficult for a reforested area to have its species range and diversity, and the same efficiency to absorb atmospheric carbon.”
Saatchi says scientists are already studying some of these questions. He believes that by the end of the next decade, better results from satellite observations and modeling will likely enable us to determine whether a global forest reforestation will produce the carbon and climate benefits suggested by the new study, and whether it should be undertaken. In the meantime, stopping further deforestation and restoring these areas to their original forest cover of 50 years ago may be the most effective mitigation strategy.

Looking to Space for Answers
Saatchi says a number of current and planned satellite missions from NASA and other space agencies can make valuable contributions to these research efforts:
  • Instruments on NASA satellites, such as the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite, continuously monitor the energy balance of Earth’s land surfaces, measuring their albedo, a key climate parameter that would be impacted by reforestation.
Map created from data from the CERES instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite, showing how the reflectivity of Earth—the amount of sunlight reflected back into space—changed between March 1, 2000, and December 31, 2011. This global picture of reflectivity (also called albedo) appears to be a muddle, with different areas reflecting more or less sunlight over the 12-year record. Shades of blue mark areas that reflected more sunlight over time (increasing albedo), and orange areas denote less reflection (lower albedo). Credit: NASA's Earth Observatory 
  • NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the agency’s Aqua and Terra satellites provide a suite of measurements on global forest cover change, fire and forest carbon cycling function.
  • NASA’s ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment (ECOSTRESS) aboard the International Space Station, launched last year, measures evapotranspiration and stress on ecosystems, providing valuable information on how Earth’s energy, water and carbon cycles interact in ecosystems in a warming climate.
NASA's ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) imaged the stress on Costa Rican vegetation caused by a massive regional drought that led the Central American nation's government to declare a state of emergency. The image was acquired on February 15, 2019, then processed to generate the evaporative stress image. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech 

  • NASA scientists conduct research to map the functional traits of ecosystems. Models, combined with satellite observations, can examine whether ecosystems will absorb more carbon if we plant new trees.
  • A new NASA mission in development for launch in the next decade called Surface Biology and Geology (SBG) would give scientists a global view of the functional traits and diversity of ecosystems and their efficiency in absorbing carbon, water and energy. Other space agencies also plan to make similar measurements.
  • NASA’s recently launched Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) aboard the space station is conducting high-resolution laser ranging of Earth’s forests and topography to study how deforestation has contributed to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, how much carbon forests will absorb in the future, and how degradation of habitats will affect global biodiversity.
NASA’s Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) mission created this image of a South Carolina woodland. Darker green colors show where the leaves and branches are denser, while the lighter areas show where the canopy is less dense. Credit: Joshua Stevens / NASA Earth Observatory, Bryan Blair / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Michelle Hofton and Ralph Dubayah / University of Maryland 
  • The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, a dedicated U.S./Indian interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) mission scheduled to launch in 2022, will be able to measure the woody plants and forests that make up 80 percent of Earth’s living terrestrial biomass. NISAR’s global, detailed maps of above-ground woody biomass density are expected to cut in half current uncertainties in estimates of carbon emissions resulting from land use changes.
  • The European Space Agency’s BIOMASS mission, launching in the early 2020s, will map the global distribution of above-ground biomass in forests to reduce uncertainties in estimates of carbon stocks and fluxes in the terrestrial biosphere, such as those linked to changes in land use, forest degradation and forest regrowth.
“With these new missions, we should be able to monitor how every patch of forest around the world is absorbing carbon, and how carbon absorption is changing, on a monthly and annual basis,” said Saatchi.

Seeing the Forests for the Trees: The Big Picture
Saatchi says the study’s results can help address policy-relevant questions. In accordance with the Paris Agreement, after 2020, the global community has agreed to major emission reduction programs. Reforestation can complement these emission reduction strategies.
“With the Paris Agreement, governments around the world committed to reduce emissions by adopting low-carbon pathways in accordance with nationally determined contributions,” he said. “As a result, it’s become more urgent than ever to have realistic estimates of each country’s capacity to increase its forest cover and health. While it’s likely the burden of restoring forests will fall primarily on the shoulders of the world’s large and economically-developed countries, the developing world can also contribute by reducing land use change and deforestation.” He adds governments will need to decide which land areas to target first and which will have the least negative economic impacts to both society and individual communities, such as indigenous populations.
A Baka woman in central Gabon makes products from non-timber forest materials. Without forest conservation and restoration, indigenous forest people will be forced to re-establish themselves outside of forest areas. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sassan Saatchi If it’s determined that a global reforestation effort can be successful, will the world’s governments have the will to do it? Saatchi pointed to some recent examples that show what might be possible.
Over the past 15 years or so, China has planted millions of trees and created millions of hectares of new forest cover, much of it in areas with marginal agricultural potential. “China’s land use policy increased forest cover in southern China between 10 and 20 percent, turning these areas into intense managed forests,” he said. “As a result, they created close to a carbon sink (an area that stores carbon) in their forests, almost doubling their carbon uptake. The effort has offset 20 percent of China’s annual fossil fuel emissions, and since 2012 that percentage has increased to 33 percent. So that’s a success story.”
Managed activities to increase the carbon sequestration of forests have also taken place in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including the United States, Canada, Europe and Russia, he says. He believes it’s possible to increase them even further and to extend the area or the capacity of these forests to sequester more carbon. In fact, he says, some foresters have been doing so for decades.
“U.S. forests have actually been a net sink for carbon for many decades,” he says. “A paper published a couple of years ago showed that reforestation could reduce U.S. annual carbon emissions from all sources by 10 to 15 percent. Imagine if we do that? It’s possible. We just need to study the cost-to-benefit ratio – is it economically feasible to plant those trees compared to how much carbon they would offset?”
The U.S. Forest Service is restoring this longleaf pine forest in Alabama. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sassan Saatchi Another region Saatchi says is low-hanging fruit in terms of its potential to extend global tree cover is the Amazon, where large wildfires have made headlines recently. Between the 1970’s and 2010, 20 percent of the Amazon basin was deforested for land use activities — more than 100 million hectares of trees. But prior to last year, Brazil had significantly reduced deforestation for nearly a decade. “Restoring these Amazonian forests, if possible, would certainly absorb more carbon from the atmosphere,” he said.
The Amazon rainforest near Manaus, Brazil. Fragmented landscapes in Earth’s humid tropics are suitable locations for restoration of native forests. Credit: Neil Palmer, Flickr Creative Commons / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Ultimately, should a global reforestation effort be deemed feasible, the biggest question may be whether it will be in time to make a difference for climate change. Saatchi is hopeful.
“We know business as usual will be disastrous,” he said. “We’ve already identified some solutions for reducing carbon emissions in parts of our society, such as in transportation and agriculture, and we’re working on ways to transform our energy consumption. So why not restore our ecosystem as well? Half of what comes out of car tailpipes stays in the atmosphere; the rest gets absorbed by the ecosystem. That’s a huge absorptive capability that must be saved.
“Maybe we’ll find we don’t need to plant a billion hectares of trees,” he continued. “Perhaps we can restore existing, degraded ecosystems to their natural state, especially in the tropics, and invest in maintaining their diversity and services. But I believe a global reforestation effort can have a gradual climate mitigation impact. What happens to Earth 100 years from now depends on the choices we make today.”

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(AU) Activism And Secondary Boycotts

10 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Saturday Paper - Mike Seccombe

Although the Coalition is talking tough about criminalising consumer advocacy, legal experts say any attempt to do so will be hamstrung by reality. 

A projection of Scott Morrison as he addresses the Queensland Resources Council last week. Credit: AAP Image / Darren England Every so often political leaders give speeches that address the great issues of their times, and in doing so define their own values and crystallise perceptions of their personal characters.
Take Lincoln’s 272 perfectly chosen words at Gettysburg, or Churchill’s World War II appeal to British stoicism: “We shall fight on the beaches”. Or Barack Obama’s nuanced “A More Perfect Union” dissertation on race in America, Ronald Reagan’s Berlin entreaty – “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall” – or Robert Menzies’ “Forgotten People” speech.
Scott Morrison gave such a defining speech last week when he addressed the greatest issue of our time: climate change. And he encouraged the polluters to pollute more and committed his government to finding new ways to punish those who would stand up against the polluters.
His speech to the yearly lunch of the Queensland Resources Council, a group largely made up of fossil fuel interests and companies that service them, is already being widely seen as definitive of the man: belligerent in rhetoric, authoritarian in tone, divisive in intent, unimaginative in vision, deceptive and insubstantial in content.
The language was strong. Morrison warned his audience: “A new breed of radical activism is on the march. Apocalyptic in tone, [it] brooks no compromise, all or nothing. Alternative views not permitted.”
City-based activists, he said, were “sneering” at working people in the regions, and intent on destroying their livelihoods.
“Absolutist activism” and “anarchism”, he called it, manifested in disruptive street protests, or in acts of trespass and vandalism. Even more “insidious”, though, was an escalating trend of environmental groups targeting businesses they didn’t like with boycotts.
As a result, Morrison said, “some of Australia’s largest businesses are now refusing to provide banking, insurance and consulting services to an increasing number of firms who just [provide] support through contracted services to the mining sector and the coal sector in particular”.
“Protest does not prevent trade or commerce, and we all have the right to call on other people not to spend their money with businesses of which we disapprove.”
He categorised action of this type as “secondary boycotts”, and assured his mining audience, “This is not something my government intends to allow to go unchecked. Together with the attorney-general, Christian Porter, we are working to identify a series of mechanisms that can successfully outlaw these indulgent and selfish practices.”
Morrison directed his threats not only at protesters who chain themselves to mining equipment or engage in other acts of civil disobedience – actions for which legal sanctions already exist. He was, in the words of Professor Kate Galloway, who is an expert in property and consumer law at Bond University, threatening to make illegal “the simple exercise of consumer power through public advocacy”.
Professor Galloway tells The Saturday Paper that such exercise, and even peaceful protest against companies, does not fit within the long-established definition of a secondary boycott. Under section 45D of the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA) 2010, a secondary boycott is defined as conduct that prevents the supply of goods or services to a person, causing substantial loss or damage to a business. The legislation includes a specific exemption for consumer or environmental boycotts.
The secondary boycott laws, she says, go back decades to the days of the Fraser government and the desire to stop unions from blockading businesses.
“You can understand that,” she says. “If the wharfies wouldn’t unload goods off the dock, that is a clear example of a secondary boycott.
“But protest does not prevent trade or commerce, and we all have the right to call on other people not to spend their money with businesses of which we disapprove.”
Indeed, that right is now exercised more often than ever.
“These days,” says Galloway, “you get an app that tells you whether Target or Sportsgirl or Myer or whoever uses sweatshop labour in making the clothes they sell. We now have a rating system on Google My Business. What if you go on and write them zero stars?
“Christian Porter is a smart guy, a pretty switched-on lawyer, but I find it really difficult to believe that there is a viable means of regulating this.”
On October 3 this year, Sydney radio shock jock Alan Jones went on air and delivered payback to one of the scores of companies that had pulled their ads from his program following his misogynistic comments directed at New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
His target was the supermarket giant Coles. The people who wanted to “occupy the high moral ground” on the Ardern issue, he fumed, were “corporate hypocrites”.
“Is this the same mob who have been ripping off dairy farmers by screwing down the processor who then screwed down dairy farmers on the farm-gate price?” he said. “Is this the same Coles?”
Jones called for his listeners to boycott Coles, much like activist groups – principally one named Sleeping Giants – had called on advertisers to boycott his show.
“We can both play the same game,” said Jones. “So, I can tell my listeners to give Coles supermarket and their petrol stations a very wide berth.”
Jones was not the first to make the call against Coles, either. In an interview on 2GB back in February, Water Resources Minister and Nationals MP David Littleproud invited consumers to “vote with their wallets” and “stick it up these guys”.
So, which of these amounts to a secondary boycott?
Professor Graeme Orr, an expert in the law of politics at the University of Queensland, suggests that while Littleproud may be in the clear, Sleeping Giants may not.
It depends, he says, on whether the threat of a boycott is directed at a primary or secondary target.
“The Sleeping Giants example is a good one,” Orr says, “because in a sense they’re not targeting Jones. They’re trying to put pressure on someone who’s an intermediary – the meat in the sandwich – in this case, the advertisers.”
But it’s a hard line to draw. Jones’s tirade also targeted milk processors – although he didn’t name them – who are the intermediary between Coles and dairy farmers. And what about the case of George Christensen, another Nationals MP, who has called for a boycott of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream because of its opposition to the Adani coalmine in Queensland? Can such a reactive boycott be considered a secondary boycott?
Like Galloway, Orr questions the government’s ability to legislate in this area: “It’s one thing to say it’s an offence to try and incite others to commit a clear wrong, like invading property or property or trespass, but quite another to go after people just for encouraging other people to think about social values when they make commercial decisions.”
He poses the question: “What about non-quiet shareholders?”
This government has tried before – and failed – to stifle dissent in this way.
“Under Tony Abbott,” says Galloway, “the government asked the Harper review of competition policy to examine whether environmental protests could be classified as secondary boycotts. Harper found not one example of a secondary boycott. It characterised what was going on as public advocacy.”
“In the absence of such evidence,” the Harper report said, “the Panel does not see an immediate case for amending the exception [to section 45D].”
The Saturday Paper contacted Ian Harper, now dean of the Melbourne Business School, about the government’s renewed attempt to legislate against environmental boycotts. He reiterated his conclusion in his reply: “Submissions to the review made it clear that, absent an exemption on environmental and/or CP [consumer protection] grounds, an outright ban on secondary boycotts could set the CCA in tension with common law rights to protest and perhaps contravene the broader public interest in doing so.”
Paul Oosting, national director of GetUp!, perhaps the government’s least favourite progressive activist group, sees the prime minister’s latest threat as part of a wider effort to silence dissent.
“Morrison talks about quiet Australians because he wants Australians to be quiet,” says Oosting.
“This is a government that raids media outlets, seeks to crush whistleblowers, shut down unions, silence people seeking to engage in political debate through a whole range of mechanisms.”
He continues: “I think last week’s speech was a defining one. [Morrison] made it quite clear he is a populist, authoritarian leader. He set out to try and pit cities against regions, workers against workers, and he showed his intention to take away free speech and democratic rights and deliberately divide the country.”
The speech certainly divided Australia’s leaders in business. Some Liberal Party loyalists and leaders of fossil fuel companies applauded him. But Mike Cannon-Brookes, billionaire co-founder of the tech company Atlassian – who is reinvesting hundreds of millions in low-carbon ventures and renewable energy ventures – accused Morrison of threatening Australia’s future.
“The government can’t legislate to stop the decline of coal and the rise of solar and wind,” said Cannon-Brookes. “Shutting down debate is a strike against our democracy. Instead of attacking people who just want good policy, we should look at the upside: Australia can be a winner in a carbon-constrained world.”
David Ritter, chief executive of Greenpeace Australia, views Morrison’s speech as essentially a piece of theatre, and the threat of punitive new laws as an attempt to distract from the government’s inability to offer solutions to “a wide range of massive structural problems facing Australia”.
He ticks some off: a stagnant economy, falling living standards, rising power prices, price-gouging banks, a crisis in aged care, general stress and social anxiety in the community and, above all, the existential threat of climate change.
“It almost seems that, in the absence of any positive agenda, the one central organising principle for the Coalition government has become the defence of the fossil fuel industries,” Ritter says.
In his Twitter feed this week, Ritter posted links to two powerful statements, one being the Morrison speech. The other was a piece published a few days later in the journal BioScience and signed by more than 11,000 climate scientists.
The scientists were unequivocal: the world is facing a climate emergency and without an immense increase in our efforts to address it, including the abandonment of fossil fuels, we all face a future of “untold suffering”.
They made their case with a wealth of empirical data – in stark contrast to Morrison, who made his with populist rhetoric and hollow legal threats.
Ritter posed a simple question: Who will you believe?

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(AU) Morrison Is Being Transparently Political In Targeting Climate Groups

10 November, 2019 - 04:00
Sydney Morning HeraldDavid Crowe

Condemning a protest is easy. Passing a new law to limit free speech is another matter altogether.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is being transparently political in targeting climate groups like Extinction Rebellion in the hope he can tap into a resentment against activists who disrupt everyday life.
A blockade during a protest against the International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne. Credit: AAP
But he is yet to prove he can act on his tough talk when his own side of politics is supposed to stand for individual liberty. Would his own party room approve a law that forbids someone organising a boycott?Isn't it free speech to urge your fellow citizens to ban a product or boycott a store or transfer their savings to a bank that will not lend to a controversial coal mine?
Morrison uses hard language that borrows from the populism of US President Donald Trump without going all the way. He also takes a lesson from former prime minister John Howard in starting a culture war and wedging an opponent.
Perhaps it can work. Morrison succeeded with a similar ploy in September when the Senate passed a bill to outlaw "farm invaders" including vegan activists who disrupted beef and poultry farmers.
The bill divided the Labor caucus because many believed existing trespass laws were strong enough, so Morrison was able to wedge his opponents. The law was eventually passed after the Labor leadership worried about the political risk of rejecting the bill, so Morrison gained a second victory.
No wonder he wants to try again.
But something is different this time. The government has a complaint but not a solution. It cannot say which law it would change and how it would change it. It merely says it is "early days" and the proposal would be worked on next year.
The Australian Forest Products Association has an idea, at least. It says the best step is to change Section 45DD of the Competition and Consumer Act, which forbids secondary boycotts by unions but explicitly allows them for "environmental protection" or "consumer protection".
Prime Minister to outlaw extremist demonstrations which cause chaos.

Prime Minister to outlaw extremist demonstrations which cause chaos.

This sounds simple. But how far should it go? What happens if farmers want to boycott a company drilling for coal seam gas on their land? Perhaps a law designed to wedge Labor could divide Liberals and Nationals as well.
There is no great philosophy to underpin this plan. Morrison talked on Friday of the danger of "progressivism" but this merely sounded like former prime minister Kevin Rudd complaining about "neo-liberalism" a decade ago. These are the labels of lazy arguments. Politicians scale the summit of the bubble when they wage war against "isms" like these.
For now, Morrison can talk tough every time Extinction Rebellion makes the news, while challenging Labor to make up its mind on his (unspecified) new law. This means the protesters will probably help the Prime Minister every time they stop traffic.
Whether the politics work for Morrison cannot be known until he puts the law to Parliament. Few issues splinter the conservatives like free speech, as the Section 18C racial discrimination dispute showed five years ago. The tougher Morrison talks, the harder it becomes to put his pledge into law.

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(US) 'Nobody Works Like Jane': Hundreds Join Fonda At Latest Climate Protest

10 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian

Activists of all ages join actor in Washington for her fifth ‘Fire Drill Friday’, focused on the military
Jane Fonda (center, in red) leads hundreds of people in a march from the US Capitol to the White House. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Hundreds of protesters joined the celebrity activist Jane Fonda in Washington DC for her fifth Friday urging radical change to fight the climate crisis.
In front of the US Capitol, Fonda spoke of the “urgency of the climate crisis and need for activism on an unprecedented scale”.
“We cannot leave it to young people to fight this fight for their future by themselves,” Fonda said.
Donning her signature vivid red coat – which she says will be the last she will ever buy, in an effort to be more sustainable – she swayed and sang protest songs while embracing an anti-war activist, Jodie Evans, the co-founder of Code Pink.
Fonda, 81, has been leading protests at her “Fire Drill Fridays” for more than a month, and she has been arrested four times. Her climate action has followed the work of youth protesters around the world who have been striking from school on Fridays, including the 16-year-old Swedish climate advocate Greta Thunberg.
Fonda had not been arrested as of 3pm ET on Friday, but she is scheduled to appear in court over previous arrests later this month.This week’s protest theme was about how the war and military contribute to the climate crisis. The US military is one of the biggest emitters of carbon in the world.
“I started in the streets with Jane in 1970, 49 years ago. And I’ve never ever seen her lose her passion or energy. Nobody works like Jane. She does put her body on the line and she is not afraid to be uncomfortable,” Evans said.
Fonda is a longtime political activist with roots opposing the Vietnam war. She gained the nickname “Hanoi Jane” in the 1970s when she was photographed atop a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun on a visit to Hanoi. A conservative counter-protester, walking alone alongside those who marched with Fonda to the White House, shouted “four more years, Hanoi Jane,” at the group.
A large contingent of activists urging the impeachment of Donald Trump also joined the march, as did veterans of the Vietnam war.
Surreal moment as protestors supporting DACA dreamers cross paths with the #FireDrillFriday #climate march (merged with the impeach Trump march) and cheer each other on. Sign of the times for political activism in America. pic.twitter.com/vWlmZNPHck— Emily Holden (@emilyhholden) November 8, 2019At one streetcorner, the Fonda protest encountered a separate group marching in support of undocumented migrants who arrived in the US as children, known as Dreamers. The two crowds sang each others’ chants.
Fonda’s protest attracted teenagers and seniors alike. Two first-year college students said they had been introduced to Fonda through her Netflix show, Grace and Frankie, and were drawn to her climate message.
“When you read climate studies and see Greta Thunberg and all of these other young activists at work, and then you see someone older also making an effort to try to do something about climate change, it just kind of compels you. You need to be there. You need to have your voice heard,” said one of the students, TJ Boland.
But many of the protesters were at the march for more than the climate. They expressed frustration with a system of governance that they see as exploiting the poor and people of color in order to benefit the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the environment.
Julie Heffernan and Anne Landsman, two friends in their early 60s, traveled from New York City for the protest.
“I’ve been very angry ever since Trump was elected about the fact that we have somebody who is lacking in every quality that I consider as important for a leader, starting off with just basic decency. He’s a misogynist, he’s a racist, he is just everything I despise,” said Landsman, who came to the US from South Africa during apartheid.
“The thought that I’d emigrated and moved to a country that I thought was some bastion of decency and just see it just take this dive down has been incredibly upsetting.”
Ruth Zalph, 89, who traveled from North Carolina, was protesting against the climate crisis and militarism. She said if money was spent on the “military industrial complex”, it could not be spent on ending poverty and fighting rising temperatures.
“I have a great-granddaughter who is six months old, and I’d like to see her grow up in a safe world where people are not having to fight for water and food,” Zalph said at the beginning of a roughly two-mile march to the White House.

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(UK) Judges Overrule London Police Ban On Extinction Rebellion Climate Protests

9 November, 2019 - 04:00
ReutersLaurie Goering

"The right to protest is a longstanding fundamental right in a democratic society that should be guarded, not prohibited by overzealous policing," an Extinction Rebellion lawyer says
Protesters fill the area at the Extinction Rebellion climate change protest in Trafalgar Square in London, October 16, 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Anna Scholz-Carlson

LONDON - Police overstepped the law in issuing a blanket ban on protests by Extinction Rebellion climate activists in October, London High Court judges ruled on Wednesday, in a decision the group hailed as "an immense victory for the right to protest".
In their decision, the judges agreed with Extinction Rebellion's lawyers that police were wrong to use Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 to prohibit upcoming protests planned as part of the movement's two-week "Autumn Uprising".
The Metropolitan Police Service invoked Section 14 after the first week of protests blocked traffic across the city, including in its main financial district, and targeted firms demonstrators said profited from or funded activities driving climate change.
The police service said it was "disappointed" by Wednesday's ruling, reiterating that the protests had caused widespread disruption in London and pulled officers away from other duties.
Tobias Garnett, a human rights lawyer working with Extinction Rebellion, said the movement was "delighted" with the judgment on what he called "an unprecedented and unlawful infringement on the right to protest".
"This was obviously an over-extension of police power," he told reporters outside the court.
The Metropolitan Police was unlikely to appeal the ruling, he said, as the judges had made it "fairly clear they acted beyond their power".
The police service said it was still considering whether to appeal.
The decision means the more than 400 Extinction Rebellion protesters arrested after the ban was imposed would now see charges against them dismissed, Garnett said.
The ruling also opens the way for some of them, as individuals, to seek compensation for false imprisonment if they choose, he added.
Ellie Chowns, a Green Party Member of the European Parliament who was among those arrested for gathering in London's Trafalgar Square following the ban, called the decision "an immense victory for the right to protest".
The Extinction Rebellion protests "have played such a critical role in making the politicians pay attention" to climate change threats, she said, calling the decision to restrict them "disproportionate and dangerous".
Section 14 allows police to make arrests "to prevent serious public disorder, serious criminal damage or serious disruption to the life of the community" during a protest.
"The police have powers to impose conditions to manage protests but not to ban them," Jules Carey, a lawyer acting for Extinction Rebellion, said in a statement.
"This judgment is a timely reminder to those in authority facing a climate of dissent (that) the right to protest is a longstanding fundamental right in a democratic society that should be guarded, not prohibited by overzealous policing," he added.
Outside the High Court, a small crowd of Extinction Rebellion activists expressed relief at the decision.
"It's essential we protect the right to peaceful protest. It would be a slippery slope if we let this (ban) stand," said Caroline Saville, a London resident standing in front of a blue banner reading, "You can't arrest everyone and remain legitimate".
Jim Cooper, another activist, said the ruling was a "moral victory" but that a loss in court would not have affected the movement's plans to carry out more non-violent protests to demand urgent action on climate change threats.
"We will continue no matter what. Our goal is to disrupt, to make people aware of what's going on," he said.
Lawyer Garnett said Extinction Rebellion was grateful for Britain's strong record on human rights and expressed sympathy for climate activists in other nations who were protesting "without these protections to rely on".
Gracie Bradley, of civil rights organisation Liberty, said Wednesday's ruling would "help safeguard future protests from police overreach".

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Past Antarctic Ice Melt Reveals Potential For 'Extreme Sea-Level Rise'

9 November, 2019 - 04:00
Sydney Morning HeraldPeter Hannam

Sea levels rose as much as three metres per century during the last interglacial period as Antarctic ice sheets melted, a pace that could be exceeded in the future, given the turbo-charged potential of human-led climate change.
A study led by Australian National University researchers, published in Nature Communications, found sea-level increases during the last major melt of about 130,000 years ago were faster than models have factored in, even though the "climate forcing" from greenhouse gases is much stronger today.
The Larsen ice shelf in Antarctica began to break up in the 1990s. Others are expected to follow, particularly those with large exposure to the warming Southern Ocean. Credit: FDCUsing evidence ranging from Red Sea sediments to fossil corals, the scientists reconstructed the ancient climate. They showed how ocean circulation slowed, leading the Southern Hemisphere to warm up and triggering the Antarctic and then Greenland ice sheets to melt.
At its fastest – about 125,000 years ago when temperatures were about a degree warmer than now – sea levels rose as much as 3.4 metres per 100 years for several centuries.
"We don't predict the future, but we show what nature can do even without human interference in the climate," Eelco Rohling, the paper's lead author and a professor at ANU's College of Science, said. "Nature knows how to go much quicker than we thought."
Fiona Hibbert, the paper's second author and also at ANU, said the findings reveal Antarctica's "really, really big contribution" to sea-level rise, a finding that was "potentially quite startling" for its implications.
"The rate of warming is much faster this time – the warming is more extreme – and it's happening at both poles at the same time," Dr Hibbert said.
The research will reignite debate over whether the general consensus that sea levels will rise only about one metre by 2100 - as argued in the latest paper by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - is too conservative.
"They calculate very much the sea-level rise without ice sheet contribution," Professor Rohling said.
"Some really fast things have happened in the past," he said. "We need to go to fully coupled models with ice sheets, and have all the physics represented that could be activated."
Waves engulf the Seaham Lighthouse in Durham, England, in early 2016. Sea-level rises may be a lot more than currently predicted by climate models because they largely exclude ice sheet contribution. Credit: PAIf all the ice in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melted, sea levels would rise about 60 metres, he said.
"As soon as it's more than four metres, all of the big coastal cities are going to have to be moved," Professor Rohling said.
Taryn Noble, a marine geochemist at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, said the paper was "a really important contribution. It shows us what the natural system is capable of."
The paper revealed complex systems "can change more rapidly than we thought", Dr Noble said, adding "we've not yet seen the full impact of the temperature changes that we have set off".
Professor Rohling said some of the processes that were part of the earlier melt are already evident. For instance, the flush of fresh water from melting Greenland ice had started to slow the Gulf Stream in recent decades.
"We are seeing the first responses ... and we're really worried about it," he said.
Even without any further "forcing" from extra greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures will rise about half a degree by 2100 and a further degree by 2200 as slow-warming areas such as the deep sea and ice caps catch up, Professor Rohling said.

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(NZ) 'This Is Our Nuclear Moment': Jacinda Ardern Leads New Zealand To Pass Climate Change Law

9 November, 2019 - 04:00

Jacinda Ardern's coalition government has delivered its flagship climate policy, passing the Zero Carbon Bill through the New Zealand parliament.

Zero Carbon BillThe New Zealand prime minister's zero-carbon bill has passed in parliament with historic cross-party support. 
It commits the country to new climate change laws and to reduce its carbon emissions to zero by 2050 in line with the Paris climate agreement.
The bill passed by 119 votes to one with the centre-right opposition National party's support, despite none of its proposed amendments being accepted.
    New Zealand's parliament has achieved the holy grail of environmental politics - a consensus on climate change policy.
    Jacinda Ardern's government landed their flagship climate legislation, the Zero Carbon Bill, on Thursday with the support of the conservative opposition.
    Such a consensus has proved elusive in Australian politics, frustrating environmentalists and industry alike over the last two decades.
    The bill legislates New Zealand's emissions targets under the Paris Agreement and creates an independent Climate Change Commission to steer government policy.
    Ms Ardern delivered a remarkable off-the-cuff speech in parliament just prior to the bill's passing, likening the occasion to anti-nuclear protests that defined the country's politics in the 1980s.
    "For this generation, this is our nuclear moment," she said.
    "We have to start working beyond targets. We have to start working beyond aspiration. We have to start moving beyond signs of hope and deliver signs of action. That is what this government is doing and proudly so."
    The Coalition Government - comprised of Labour, the Green party and NZ First - didn't need the support of the opposition National party to pass the bill.
    However, Greens co-leader and climate change minister James Shaw courted the conservative side of politics in order to secure the future viability of the policy.
    "Some things are too big for politics. And the biggest of all is the climate crisis," he said.
    "Everyone has had to give way, even a little. But this is bigger than all of us.
    "This bill delivers on some of the most important work of the Green movement over many decades."
    The prime minister's passion was evident in her address.
    "New Zealand will not be a slow follower," Ms Ardern boomed.
    "We are here because the world is warming, undeniably it is warming.
    "I'm proud of the fact ... we're no longer having the debate over whether or not it is the case, we're debating what to do about it."
    The opposition moved seven amendments to the bill - which all failed - before National supported the legislation anyway.
    Thousands of people marched on NZ Parliament to protest climate change in September. AAPOpposition leader Simon Bridges, who pledged to make the changes should they win next year's election, noted it was his party that agreed to the Paris targets in April 2016.
    "There are parts of this bill I disagree with. I strongly disagree with," he said.
    "We have taken a bipartisan approach to climate change, but we will continue to fight for the changes we think will make the law better."
    The bill wasn't totally supported inside the parliament or out.
    Judith Collins, a senior National often mentioned as a leadership aspirant, delivered a fiery speech, suggesting a policy reversion should she displace Bridges.
    The one-man libertarian party ACT signalled opposition, only to miss the vote.
    Lobby group Federated Farmers also pointed to methane targets that they believed would reduce production.
    "New Zealand farmers are proud to be the most carbon-efficient farmers in the world," vice president Andrew Hoggard said.
    "Forcing them to reduce production is not only going to make New Zealand poorer but will likely increase global emissions, so we will effectively be shooting ourselves in both feet."
    Greenpeace, usually a staunch critic of the coalition, praised the government - as well as grassroots campaigners who provided momentum for its passage.
    "Climate change won't be fixed by the Zero Carbon Act alone," campaigner Amanda Larsson said.
    "The government must now implement bold and courageous policies that will roll out heaps of new solar and wind energy, replace dirty transport with clean alternatives, and support farmers to transition from industrial to regenerative agriculture."

    Jacinda Ardern: 'On the right side of history'
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    Italy To Become First Country To Make Learning About Climate Change Compulsory For School Students

    8 November, 2019 - 04:00
    CNN - Gianluca Mezzofiore

    A student bounces an inflatable earth beach ball during a protest against global warming by the Colosseum (Colosseo, Colisee) in central Rome on March 15, 2019. ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty ImagesFrom next year, Italian school students in every grade will be required to study climate change and sustainability, in an attempt to position the country as a world leader in environmental education.
    Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti, of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, said all public schools will include about 33 hours a year in their curricula to study issues linked to climate change.
    The lessons will be built into existing civics classes, which will have an "environmentalist footprint" from September 2020, Vincenzo Cramarossa, Fioramonti's spokesman, told CNN.
    "The idea is that the citizens of the future need to be ready for the climate emergency," Cramarossa said.
    In addition, sustainable development will appear in more traditional subjects, such as geography, maths and physics, Cramarossa said.
    "There will be more attention to climate change when teaching those traditional subjects," he explained.
    Fioramonti, an economics professor at South Africa's Pretoria University, told Reuters in an interview that the entire ministry "is being changed to make sustainability and climate the center of the education model."
    "I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school," he said.

    What you can actually do to slow the climate crisis

    Cramarossa said a panel of scientific experts, including Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of Columbia University's Center for Sustainable Development, and American economic and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin, will help the ministry redevelop the national curriculum to pay more attention to climate change and sustainability.
    "It's a world's first to have a (compulsory) national education in that sense," Cramarossa said.
    The Five Star Movement, to which Fioramonti belongs, has a history of environmental concern and grassroots activism.
    Since becoming minister, Fioramonti has been criticized by right-wing opposition parties for supporting striking students protesting climate change and backing taxes on plastic and sugary drinks.

    Categories: External websites

    (Global) Most Countries' Climate Plans 'Totally Inadequate' – Experts

    8 November, 2019 - 04:00
    The Guardian

    US and Brazil unlikely to meet Paris agreement pledges- while Russia has not even made oneSmoke and steam billows from Bełchatów power station in Poland, Europe’s largest coal-fired power plant. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters The world is on a path to climate disaster, with three-quarters of the commitments made by countries under the Paris agreement “totally inadequate”, according to a comprehensive expert analysis.
    Four nations produce half of all carbon emissions but the US has gone into reverse in tackling the climate emergency under Donald Trump while Russia has failed to make any commitment at all.
    Other major oil-producing nations, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have set no targets to reduce emissions. China and India are cleaning up their energy systems but their surging economies mean emissions will continue to grow for a decade.
    Under the 2015 Paris deal, countries agreed to limit global heating to 2C, or 1.5C if possible. Each country makes a voluntary pledge of climate action, but to date these would result in global temperatures rising by a disastrous 3-4C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in 2018 that emissions, which are still rising, must fall by 50% by 2030 to be on track for 1.5C.
    Only the 28 countries of the European Union and a few others including Norway, Switzerland and Ukraine are on track. Of the 184 national Paris pledges made, 136 are judged insufficient in the report, published by the Universal Ecological Fund.

    Three-quarters of Paris agreement commitments
    are insufficient to tackle climate change, say experts

    Guardian graphic. Source: Universal Ecological Fund, The truth behind the climate pledgesAnother problem is many pledges are unlikely to be met, due to the US withdrawing from the Paris agreement, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, reversing environmental policies, or because poorer nations do not get the funding they need – the US and Australia have stopped making such contributions.
    “The current pledges made under the Paris agreement are totally inadequate to put us on a pathway to meet either the 1.5C or the 2C goal,” said the report’s author, Prof Sir Robert Watson, a former IPCC chair and scientific adviser to the UK and US governments. “With just 1C warming so far, we are already seeing some very significant effects. The effects at 3-4C will be very profound on people around the world.
    “When you see a country like Russia not even putting a pledge on the table, it is extremely disturbing,” he said. “Saudi Arabia and Russia rely heavily on their fossil fuels but that is no excuse. Those that have not effectively made any pledges yet really should be shamed into being part of the solution.”
    Harvard University’s James McCarthy, a co-author of the report, said: “Failing to reduce emissions drastically and rapidly will result in an environmental and economic disaster from human-induced climate change.”
    Failing to halve emissions by 2030 means the number of hurricanes, severe storms, wildfires and droughts are likely double in number and intensity, the scientists said, costing $2bn (£1,55bn) a day within a decade. To avoid this, the scale of climate change action must double or triple, they said.

    California wildfires: what role has the climate crisis played? – video explainer 
    The Paris agreement does allow for nations to ratchet up their commitments. This report demonstrates we need to ratchet badly, and as quickly as possible,” said Watson.
    China and India should be applauded for improving their energy systems, he said, but their emissions must peak. However, Watson said it was difficult to expect leadership from these nations when those with the biggest historical emissions, like the US, were not doing so.
    The report concluded that countries that had pledged between 20-40% emission reductions by 2030 needed to do much better, including Australia, Canada and Japan.
    “Leaders need to adopt new policies to close coal-fired power plants and promote renewable and carbon-free power sources such as wind, solar and hydropower,” said McCarthy. That means closing 2,400 coal-fired power stations around the world in the next decade and tackling the 250 new coal-powered units that are under construction.
    Improved energy efficiency is also critical, said co-author Prof Nebojsa Nakicenovic, at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, potentially saving households around the world $500bn a year in energy bills.
    From cars to homes to industry, he said, the potential of energy efficiency was so great that if implemented no extra energy would be required in 2030, despite the fact that global population was expected to be 1.2bn higher than today.

    Categories: External websites

    (AU) Australia Could Fall Apart Under Climate Change. But There’s A Way To Avoid It

    8 November, 2019 - 04:00
    The Conversation

    Iron ore piles at Dampier, Western Australia. Australia could convert iron oxide to metal for export, producing it with no emissions. CHRISTIAN SPROGOE/ Rio TintoRoss Garnaut conducted the 2008 and 2011 climate reviews for the Rudd and Gillard governments. 
    His book, Superpower – Australia’s Low-Carbon Opportunity, is published by BlackInc with La Trobe University Press.Four years ago in December 2015, every member of the United Nations met in Paris and agreed to hold global temperature increases to 2°C, and as close as possible to 1.5°C.
    The bad news is that four years on the best that we can hope for is holding global increases to around 1.75°C. We can only do that if the world moves decisively towards zero net emissions by the middle of the century.
    A failure to act here, accompanied by similar paralysis in other countries, would see our grandchildren living with temperature increases of around 4°C this century, and more beyond.
    I have spent my life on the positive end of discussion of Australian domestic and international policy questions. But if effective global action on climate change fails, I fear the challenge would be beyond contemporary Australia. I fear that things would fall apart.

    There is reason to hope
    It’s not all bad news.
    What we know today about the effect of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases broadly confirms the conclusions I drew from available research in previous climate change reviews in 2008 and 2011. I conducted these for, respectively, state and Commonwealth governments, and a federal cross-parliamentary committee.
    But these reviews greatly overestimated the cost of meeting ambitious reduction targets.
    The Yallourn coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria. David Crosling/AAP
    There has been an extraordinary fall in the cost of equipment for solar and wind energy, and of technologies to store renewable energy to even out supply. Per person, Australia has natural resources for renewable energy superior to any other developed country and far superior to our customers in northeast Asia.
    Australia is by far the world’s largest exporter of iron ore and aluminium ores. In the main they are processed overseas, but in the post-carbon world we will be best positioned to turn them into zero-emission iron and aluminium.
    In such a world, there will be no economic sense in any aluminium or iron smelting in Japan or Korea, not much in Indonesia, and enough to cover only a modest part of domestic demand in China and India. The European commitment to early achievement of net-zero emissions opens a large opportunity there as well.
    Converting one quarter of Australian iron oxide and half of aluminium oxide exports to metal would add more value and jobs than current coal and gas combined.
    Australia’s vast wind and solar energy resources mean it is well-placed to export industrial products in a low-carbon global economy. Flickr
    A natural supplier to the world’s industry
    With abundant low-cost electricity, Australia could grow into a major global producer of minerals needed in the post-carbon world such as lithium, titanium, vanadium, nickel, cobalt and copper. It could also become the natural supplier of pure silicon, produced from sand or quartz, for which there is fast-increasing global demand.
    Other new zero-emissions industrial products will require little more than globally competitive electricity to create. These include ammonia, exportable hydrogen and electricity transmitted by high-voltage cables to and through Indonesia and Singapore to the Asian mainland.
    Australia’s exceptional endowment of forests and woodlands gives it an advantage in biological raw materials for industrial processes. And there’s an immense opportunity for capturing and sequestering, at relatively low cost, atmospheric carbon in soils, pastures, woodlands, forests and plantations.
    Modelling conducted for my first report suggested that Australia would import emissions reduction credits, however today I expect Australia to cut domestic emissions to the point that it sells excess credits to other nations.
    Tall white gum trees in northern Tasmania. Australia has huge potential to store more carbon in forests and woodlands. BARBARA WALTON/EPAThe transition is an economic winner
    Technologies to produce and store zero-emissions energy and sequester carbon in the landscape are highly capital-intensive. They have therefore benefited exceptionally from the historic fall in global interest rates over the past decade. This has reduced the cost of transition to zero emissions, accentuating Australia’s advantage.
    In 2008 the comprehensive modelling undertaken for the Garnaut Review suggested the transition would entail a noticeable (but manageable) sacrifice of Australian income in the first half of this century, followed by gains that would grow late into the second half of this century and beyond.
    Today, calculations using similar techniques would give different results. Australia playing its full part in effective global efforts to hold warming to 2°C or lower would show economic gains instead of losses in early decades, followed by much bigger gains later on.
    If Australia is to realise its immense opportunity in a zero-carbon world, it will need a different policy framework. But we can make a strong start even with the incomplete and weak policies and commitments we have. Policies to help complete the transition can be built in a political environment that has been changed by early success.

    Three crucial steps
    Three early policy developments are needed. None contradicts established federal government policy.
    First, the regulatory system has to focus strongly on the security and reliability of electricity supplies, as it comes to be drawn almost exclusively from intermittent renewable sources.
    A high-voltage electricity transmission tower in the Brisbane central business district. Darren England/AAP

    Second, the government must support transformation of the power transmission system to allow a huge expansion of supply from regions with high-quality renewable energy resources not near existing transmission cables. This is likely to require new mechanisms to support private initiatives.
    Third, the Commonwealth could secure a globally competitive cost of capital by underwriting new investment in reliable (or “firmed”) renewable electricity. This was a recommendation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s retail electricity price inquiry, and has been adopted by the Morrison government.

    We must get with the Paris program
    For other countries to import large volumes of low-emission products from us, we will have to accept and be seen as delivering on emissions reduction targets consistent with the Paris objectives.
    Paris requires net-zero emissions by mid-century. Developed countries have to reach zero emissions before then, so their interim targets have to represent credible steps towards that conclusion.
    Japan, Korea, the European Union and the United Kingdom are the natural early markets for zero-emissions steel, aluminum and other products. China will be critically important. Indonesia and India and their neighbours in southeast and south Asia will sustain Australian exports of low-emissions products deep into the future.
    An electric car being charged. Australia has good supplies of lithium, used in electric vehicle batteries. Ian Langsdon/EPA

    For the European Union, reliance on Australian exports of zero-emissions products would only follow assessments that we were making acceptable contributions to the global mitigation effort.
    We will not get to that place in one step, or soon. But likely European restrictions on imports of high-carbon products, which will exempt those made with low emissions, will allow us a good shot.
    Movement will come gradually, initially with public support for innovation; then suddenly, as business and government leaders realise the magnitude of the Australian opportunity, and as humanity enters the last rush to avoid being overwhelmed by the rising costs of climate change.
    The pace will be governed by progress in decarbonisation globally. That will suit us, as our new strengths in the zero-carbon world grow with the retreat of the old. We have an unparalleled opportunity. We are more than capable of grabbing it.

    Categories: External websites

    (US/China) The U.S. And China Need To Put Aside Their Rivalry And Focus On The Common Enemy: Climate Change

    7 November, 2019 - 04:00
    TIMEChristine Loh | Robert Gottlieb

    Getty Images Authors The U.S. worries that China has become a political and economic threat. China worries that the U.S. is attempting to constrain it. These concerns increasingly resemble a classic Cold War conflict.
    Such security threats are misplaced. Trade wars and technology competition notwithstanding, there is one overarching global security concern that by its very nature should lead to collaboration and cooperation rather than Cold War antagonism: climate change.
    We are today witnessing a devastating global crisis in the making. It is happening worldwide, even as climate change’s impacts are immediately felt locally, regionally, and nationally. Make no mistake—ferocious climate events are not just causing extensive physical damage and loss of livelihood—they are creating insecurities that will grow each year and subsume all other existing security fears.
    In the U.S., the annual average temperature has increased by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit from 1901 to 2016 and is expected to continue to rise, possibly doubling in just one or two decades. China’s official climate change assessment is even more sobering. As many as 641 of its 654 largest cities now experience regular flooding and Shanghai, one of the most prone to serious flooding, has already built 520 km of seawalls defending the city.
    Around the world, climate change impacts could create destabilizing crises in migrations of climate refugees, water availability, and food production, as well as climate-related disasters from massive and intense storms to fire, flooding, and deterioration of air quality. More and more, climate change will dominate political discourse, economic activity, and people’s well-being.
    The U.S. and China are vulnerable because both countries place such a high premium on security. Yet current responses about climate insecurity are minimal, particularly in the U.S. under the current administration. Instead, the U.S. is building walls to keep immigrants and climate refugees out, while heavily promoting fossil fuel development and undermining rather than encouraging decarbonization initiatives. In China, climate concerns have increased substantially in the past ten years and efforts have been made to reduce domestic coal production. Yet, China is also the leading investor in financing coal plants globally that are generating more than 5,000 MW of energy, according to Global Energy Monitoring.
    The U.S. and China have a special global responsibility with climate change. The U.S. has been the largest contributor historically to carbon emissions in the past 150 years and remains the largest per capita contributor today. China, meanwhile, is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases by volume. At the same time, the U.S., under the the Trump administration, is in denial about its role, while China, even as it focuses on decarbonization domestically, has not played a leading role globally through its external development policies.
    Today, to make matters worse, the U.S. and China—through trade wars, technology disputes, and nationalist rhetoric—are creating a new Cold War environment. The future does not belong to globalists, Trump declared at the U.N., it belongs to patriots. Security, both countries assert, is a domestic priority. Yet, when it involves climate change, the Cold War-type environment precludes what is crucial in this period: global action, collaboration, cooperation, and Earth Care. If security is the goal for the U.S. and China, both countries are undermining that goal through their failure to work together, whether through sharing technologies, or dramatic shifts in energy, food, and development policies (jointly and globally pursued).
    Such collaboration could extend beyond government-to-government relations to community and institutional connections, such as the initiative of the University of California at Berkeley and Tsinghua University to form a California-China Climate Institute. It could also involve grassroots collaborations such as those regarding sustainable agriculture programs and shipping emission reductions. And it could include major support and financing of alternative energy and decarbonization projects throughout the developing world, as those countries seek their own transition to a green development future.
    The U.S. and China have the capacity to make their own countries more secure; even more importantly, they can make the world a more secure place. Most governments are not ready for the onslaught of severe weather events. When it comes to climate change, everyone needs to be a “globalist,” and a localist as well, to advocate for their own national security.

    Categories: External websites

    (Germany) Beethoven's 'Pastoral': Artists Revisit A Symbol Of Climate Protection

    7 November, 2019 - 04:00
    Deutsche Welle -  Reiner Schild

    In Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, the composer set his romantic understanding of nature to music. Now the "Pastoral" is the starting point for a worldwide art project against environmental destruction.

    Paul Barton sets up his piano in the midst of nature. His listeners are massive and have huge ears. The man from Great Britain plays music from Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, known worldwide as the "Pastoral," to pachyderms living in the "Elephants World" sanctuary in Western Thailand.
    A concert for elephants only? And why in Thailand? The answer is simple: the unusual concert is part of the global "Beethoven Pastoral Project." And those playing it are artists striving for climate protection and the preservation of nature.
    Artists all over the world will be presenting their vision of the "Pastoral," considered to be Beethoven's musical celebration of nature, on the occasion of the Beethoven Anniversary Year in 2020, marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of the German composer.
    Pianist Paul Barton is just one of the musicians performing in the context of the "Pastoral Project." For the British pianist, who has lived in Thailand since 1996, Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony has a clear message: "It inspires us to find the strength that we need together to preserve our planet — not tomorrow, but now."

    Artists for climate protection
    The concert pianist is joined by musicians all over the world within the framework of the "Beethoven Pastoral Project," presenting their renditions and interpretations of the composer's Sixth Symphony: a visual artist illustrates Beethoven's "Nature" Symphony using graphics on the computer. A DJ samples motifs from the "Pastoral" and assembles them into new tracks. A dancer moves energetically to the fourth movement, which Beethoven called "Thunderstorm." A sextet boils down the orchestral piece into chamber music. A jazz clarinettist interprets the piece together with nightingales, cicadas and humpback whales. A filmmaker uses it as inspiration for a short film. All of this flows into the project, and what unites the artists is their fascination with Beethoven's Sixth Symphony and their desire to send out a signal for the preservation of nature.

    Andrea E. Sroka's illustrated impression of Beethoven's Pastoral SymphonyInspired by Beethoven for climate preservation
    The idea for the project arose in the run-up to the Beethoven anniversary. The initiators of the "Beethoven Pastoral Project" — the Beethoven Anniversary Society, the United Nations World Climate Change Secretariat and the global Earth Day Network movement — aim to draw attention via Beethoven's music to one of the most critical issues of our time, calling on people around the world to protect the environment and work toward the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
    Malte Boecker has helped to develop the project. The director of the Beethoven House in Bonn and the artistic director of the Beethoven Anniversary Society, which was founded especially for the birthday celebrations, is pursuing a plan that goes far beyond music: "People all over the world are preoccupied with the question of how we can ensure the coexistence of the nearly nine billion people on this planet, and that has social and ecological aspects, and the sustainability movement is becoming increasingly tangible," Boecker said.

    What's so special about the 'Pastoral'?
    Beethoven loved nature, offering the musical genius both a place of relaxation and a source of inspiration. As a teenager, he embarked on hikes from his German hometown of Bonn to the surrounding area. His longing for country life accompanied him throughout his life, also after he moved to Vienna, Austria. In the summers, he regularly sought out the countryside to find peace and quiet for composing — including for his Sixth Symphony, which he composed in the years 1807 and 1808. During the composition work, Beethoven first called it "Sinfonia characteristica" or "Sinfonia pastorella," and did not change it to the "Pastoral Symphony" until it went to press, "pastoral" meaning "rural" or "relating to the countryside." To the title he made the addendum in brackets: "More the expression of feeling than painting."
    Beethoven was less concerned with depictions of nature than with the reciprocal relationship between humans and nature. After all, even in Beethoven's time, this was influenced by environmental experiences.
    At the beginning of the 19th century, for example, the drinking water supply was very poor, which meant that wine and beer were often preferred over dirty water. The air was also polluted at that time. In a letter, Beethoven lamented "the bad air in the city." The stench in the alleys and canals largely contributed to those who could afford it leaving Vienna during the summer months. During Beethoven's lifetime, industrialization also began — the consequences of which we feel today more than ever.

    A lithograph from 1834: 'Beethoven by the brook, composing the Pastoral Symphony'On the lookout for participating artists
    The organizers of the "Beethoven Pastoral Project" are still looking for participants: Creative people who want to speak out against environmental destruction and who aim to support measures against climate change. Now, 250 years after Beethoven's birth, people want to re-vitalize his love of nature and make it more tangible. The "Beethoven Pastoral Project" is open to everyone around the world:  orchestras, ensembles, soloists, rock and jazz musicians, DJs, dancers, photographers and visual artists, whether professionals or amateurs. Registration is easy online via the project website: pastoralproject.org.

    Everything is possible
    The most important goal of the "Beethoven Pastoral Project," however, is for the participants to communicate their ideas not only through their statements on the website, but also through a new work of art that they create for the project. There are no formal boundaries. Musicians can improvise on motifs from the "Pastoral" or compose a new piece of music. Other creative minds can create a photo series, shoot a film or choreograph a dance. All participants are free to decide how they want to deal creatively with the grand theme of nature and allow themselves to be inspired by Beethoven.
    The finished work, the new product, the contemporary interpretation should then be documented and uploaded onto the project page —whether as video file, photo series, audio recording or graphic. This is how you can become part of the "Beethoven Pastoral Project."
    Between Earth Day on April 22, 2020 and the UN World Environment Day on June 5, 2020, as many performances of the Pastoral Symphony as possible are to take place worldwide. The works of other art genres will also be published during this period as part of the "Beethoven Pastoral Project."

    Beethoven to save the planet
    Categories: External websites

    (US) Climate Change Lawsuits Ask Whether Fossil Fuel Companies Are Responsible

    7 November, 2019 - 04:00
    Houston Chronicle - 

    Protesters rally outside State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. After four years of legal sparring and finger-pointing, oil-industry giant Exxon Mobil went to court on Tuesday to face charges that the company lied to shareholders and to the public about the costs and consequences of climate change. JEFFERSON SIEGEL, STR / NYTJust 20 energy companies account for one-third of greenhouse emissions since 1965, according to a new study.
    The Climate Accountability Institute’s Richard Heede tallied up all the fossil fuels extracted by every company through 2017 and calculated the emissions. The data is public, the math is straightforward and the emissions are indisputable.
    The top 10 companies, in order, are, predictably, Saudi Aramco, Chevron, Gazprom, Exxon Mobil, National Iranian Oil Co., BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Coal India and PEMEX. More details are available online at http://climateaccountability.org/carbonmajors.html.
    Heede chose 1965 as his start date because the Johnson administration released a report that year warning that the nation risked warming the planet by 2000 if it did not cut carbon dioxide emissions. The president of the American Petroleum Institute, the leading industry association, responded a few months later by calling for more lobbying to head off damaging regulations.
    What is surprising in the Heede report is that 50 percent of greenhouse emissions have come since 1985, and that speaks to the energy industry’s culpability in contributing to climate change.
    Companies may claim that climate change was not well understood in 1965, but by 1985 scientists knew humans releasing growing concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride were trapping heat in the atmosphere and warming the planet.
    National leaders meeting at the 1992 Rio Summit agreed to slow emissions. They signed a legally binding treaty in 1997 called the Kyoto Protocol. Yet today, some well-financed political forces are still trying to suppress the obvious evidence of human-man climate change.
    How Exxon Mobil responded to climate change is the subject of a New York prosecution for securities fraud. The state attorney general alleges that Exxon executives misled investors by misrepresenting the potential financial impact of climate regulation on the company’s stock value.
    The top 20 companies have contributed to 480bn tonnesof carbon dioxide equivalent since 1965Billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent Guardian graphic | Source: Richard Heede, Climate Accountability Institute. Note: table includes emissions for the period 1965 to 2017 only
    “The company failed to manage the risks in the ways it promised,” prosecutor Kevin Wallace told the court. “The cost of that failure is staggering.”
    New York alleges in court papers that Exxon’s behavior cost shareholders between $476 million and $1.6 billion. Exxon’s attorney Ted Wells responded by saying: “Exxon Mobil did nothing wrong.”
    Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed another lawsuit against Exxon on Oct. 24. That case alleges that executives misled investors about climate risks and deceived consumers about the role fossil fuels play in causing climate change.
    “Our goal here is simple: to stop Exxon from engaging in this deception and penalize it for this conduct,” Healey told reporters.
    Exxon replied in a statement: “We look forward to refuting the meritless allegations in court.”
    Exxon scientists, though, have accepted climate change as fact since at least the mid-1980s. At the same time, the company supported political action groups that questioned the reality of climate change to deter environmental regulations.
    The New York and Massachusetts cases will set precedents for a slew of climate lawsuits working through the courts. States, cities and environmental groups have dozens of legal angles they intend to test.
    The U.S. Supreme Court recently rejected a motion by BP, Chevron, Exxon and other companies to move climate change lawsuits brought by Baltimore, Oakland, Calif., and Boulder, Colo. out of state courts and consolidate them in federal court.
    The cities want compensation for damage caused by climate change.
    The federal government is also fighting lawsuits, including one brought on behalf of young Americans demanding more significant federal action on climate change.
     The Sierra Club wants an explanation for why the Securities and Exchange Commission has allowed corporations to quash proxy votes on climate-related issues.
    These fights over responsibility for climate change are staking out new legal ground and will undoubtedly end up at the Supreme Court. The current makeup of the Court, though, casts reasonable doubt on whether it will accept these novel legal theories that could have dramatic impacts on the global economy.
    If any of these lawsuits are successful, though, expect attorneys to cite the Climate Accountability Institute’s allocation of responsibility to inform how courts should assess actual and punitive damages. The higher the rank, the higher the potential liability.
    The bigger question for fossil fuel companies is what the courts and government will expect them to do for climate damage going forward. Every significant oil, gas and coal company acknowledges that carbon dioxide is changing the planet’s climate.
    The question our fuel suppliers will reasonably ask is what did consumers know, and when did we know it? Yes, these companies extracted the carbon, but we burned it, and we continue to burn it. How much responsibility rests with us?

    Categories: External websites

    Climate Crisis: 11,000 Scientists Warn Of ‘Untold Suffering’

    6 November, 2019 - 04:00
    The Guardian

    Statement sets out ‘vital signs’ as indicators of magnitude of the climate emergencyMost countries’ climate plans ‘totally inadequate’ – expertsA man uses a garden hose to try to save his home from wildfire in Granada Hills, California, on 11 October 2019. Photograph: Michael Owen Baker/AP The world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society, according to a stark warning from more than 11,000 scientists.
    “We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” it states. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”
    There is no time to lose, the scientists say: “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”
    The statement is published in the journal BioScience on the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference, which was held in Geneva in 1979. The statement was a collaboration of dozens of scientists and endorsed by further 11,000 from 153 nations. The scientists say the urgent changes needed include ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and slashing meat eating.
    Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University and the lead author of the statement, said he was driven to initiate it by the increase in extreme weather he was seeing. A key aim of the warning is to set out a full range of “vital sign” indicators of the causes and effects of climate breakdown, rather than only carbon emissions and surface temperature rise.
    ‘Profoundly troubling signs’ – drivers of the climate emergency
    Guardian graphic. Source: Ripple et al, BioScience, 2019‘Encouraging signs’ – trends tackling the climate emergency
    Guardian graphic. Source: Ripple et al, BioScience, 2019“A broader set of indicators should be monitored, including human population growth, meat consumption, tree-cover loss, energy consumption, fossil-fuel subsidies and annual economic losses to extreme weather events,” said co-author Thomas Newsome, of the University of Sydney.
    Other “profoundly troubling signs from human activities” selected by the scientists include booming air passenger numbers and world GDP growth. “The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle,” they said.
    As a result of these human activities, there are “especially disturbing” trends of increasing land and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather events, the scientists said: “Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have have largely failed to address this predicament. Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable.”
    “We urge widespread use of the vital signs [to] allow policymakers and the public to understand the magnitude of the crisis, realign priorities and track progress,” the scientists said.
    ‘Especially disturbing’ – the impacts of the climate emergency
    Guardian graphic. Source: Ripple et al, BioScience, 2019“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to look at the graphs and know things are going wrong,” said Newsome. “But it is not too late.” The scientists identify some encouraging signs, including decreasing global birth rates, increasing solar and wind power and fossil fuel divestment. Rates of forest destruction in the Amazon had also been falling until a recent increase under new president Jair Bolsonaro.
    They set out a series of urgently needed actions:
    • Use energy far more efficiently and apply strong carbon taxes to cut fossil fuel use
    • Stabilise global population – currently growing by 200,000 people a day – using ethical approaches such as longer education for girls
    • End the destruction of nature and restore forests and mangroves to absorb CO2
    • Eat mostly plants and less meat, and reduce food waste
    • Shift economic goals away from GDP growth
    “The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual,” the scientists said. The recent surge of concern was encouraging, they added, from the global school strikes to lawsuits against polluters and some nations and businesses starting to respond.
    A warning of the dangers of pollution and a looming mass extinction of wildlife on Earth, also led by Ripple, was published in 2017. It was supported by more than 15,000 scientists and read out in parliaments from Canada to Israel. It came 25 years after the original “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” in 1992, which said: “A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.”
    Ripple said scientists have a moral obligation to issue warnings of catastrophic threats: “It is more important than ever that we speak out, based on evidence. It is time to go beyond just research and publishing, and to go directly to the citizens and policymakers.”

    Categories: External websites

    (AU) The Wealthy Australians Funding Climate Change Candidates

    6 November, 2019 - 04:00
    AFRAndrew Tillett

    Wealthy climate change activist Simon Holmes a Court wants to assemble a $1 million war chest to bankroll independent candidates at the next election after funding disclosures showed the organisation he and rich-lister Mike Cannon-Brookes backed emerged as one of 2019's biggest donors.
    Mr Holmes a Court's Climate 200 initiative donated about $450,000 to 12 independent and crossbench political candidates in the run up to the May 18 poll, helping independent Helen Haines prevail. Two incumbent MPs Climate 200 helped, Adam Bandt and Rebekha Sharkie, were re-elected.
    Independents Zali Steggall and Helen Haines were helped by wealthy donors attracted by their stance on climate change. Alex EllinghausenNevertheless, candidate donations returns released by Australian Electoral Commission on Monday revealed just how potent climate change had become as for political fundraising.
    Independent Zali Steggall disclosed receiving a whopping $1.1 million in donations for her successful bid to unseat former prime minister Tony Abbott in the northern Sydney electorate of Warringah.
    One of the key promises of Ms Steggall's campaign was the need to act on climate change, drawing a sharp contrast to Mr Abbott who as PM dismantled Labor's carbon pricing regime.
    Businessman and environmental philanthropist Robert Purves donated $67,000 each to Ms Steggall's campaign while his sister Sandra gave $37,000.
    Given how well she was resourced, Climate 200 opted not to donate to Ms Steggall, instead spreading its money around other independent candidates in other seats.
    But Climate 200 gave $145,000 to the former head of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Oliver Yates for his campaign against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the seat Melbourne seat of Kooyong, out of $363,000 he disclosed receiving.Kerryn Phelps received $47,500 from Climate 200 (out of $219,000 in total donations) for her failed bid to hold Wentworth in Sydney's east while Dr Haines included $35,000 from the group in her list of $421,000 in donations.
    All up, candidates disclosed receiving $354,500 in donations from Climate 200 but the real figure is higher because donations under $13,800 do not have to be publicly declared.
    Mr Holmes a Court told The Australian Financial Review Climate 200 received $495,000 from donors and distributed about 90 per cent of this to candidates and used the rest for distributing a social media video on the candidates to supporters.
    Mr Cannon-Brookes gave $50,000 and Mr Holmes a Court $25,000, while $195,000 came from the Climate Outcomes Foundation. All other donations were below the $13,800 threshold.
    Mr Holmes a Court said he had been contacted by a handful of philanthropists in recent days looking to donate for the next election campaign.
    He said doubling the amount of the money Climate 200 has to disperse was a "realistic" aim, with the group looking to support candidates who wanted action on climate change as well as advocate for an integrity commissioner.
    "We will almost certainly go again in 2022," he said.
    "Politics is a long game, especially in Australia. [This year] was a modest attempt. I'm confident we will be able to get more bang for our bucks and get more bucks."
    Kilara Capital managing director Ben Krasnostein - a member of Melbourne's Smorgan family - said he and family members donated a "five figure" sum to Climate 200 and he planned to do so again.
    He said he believed climate change action would both preserve the environment for future generations as well as offered new opportunities for investors to make a return.
    "I'm not red, blue or green," Mr Krasnostein said, a reference to the colours associated with the major parties.
    "There is not that much of an outlet for people who want to make a difference, who can write a decent-sized cheque and who don't want to be partisan."

    Categories: External websites


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