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Are Economists Globally Understating Or Overstating The Cost Of Climate Change?

Lethal Heating - 7 February, 2020 - 04:00
ABC NewsNassim Khadem

Some economists argue that the world can financially cope with 4°C of warming. (ABC News: Alistair Kroie)In a blog written after the devastating bushfires that swept across his home state of New South Wales, Australian economist Steve Keen states, "I have to admit that I am personally not coping well with climate change".
Professor Keen says he's feeling the "same generalised anxiety about the future felt by Greta Thunberg and the young people she's inspired to strike for the climate", before criticising the work of William Nordhaus and other neoclassical economists.
"Since policymakers take what economists predict seriously — even after the 2008 financial crisis — they have been duped and have drastically underestimated how severe climate change will actually be," Professor Keen argues.William Nordhaus is a renowned American economist whose work modelling the economic impact of climate change earned him the 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
He is not a climate change denialist. His view is that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities will have a negative impact and he's urged governments globally to implement a carbon tax.
But it's the extent to which Professor Nordhaus — and other economists who agree with him — predict climate change will impact the economy (and thereby the level of action needed to curb it) that has been the subject of intense debate.
The Paris Agreement goal is to keep global warming this century well below two degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has inspired many young people around the world to strike for climate change. (AP: Markus Schreiber)At one end of the scale are Professor Nordhaus and Richard Tol.
Tol, a professor of economics at the University of Sussex, has since 1994 been a convening lead author with the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Both Nordhaus and Tol argue that the world can survive a 4°C increase in global average temperature and the economic impact won't be severe.
They also argue we shouldn't reduce emissions too quickly, because the economic cost to people today will be higher than the benefit of protecting people in the future.
Professor Nordhaus told ABC News he was not available to comment, but has previously said that "optimal policy" would result in global warming of about 3°C by 2100 and 4°C by 2150.
William Nordhaus, one of the laureates of the Nobel Prize in Economics on the screen, has long argued that we shouldn't reduce emissions too quickly. (AP: Henrik Montgomery)At the other end of the scale are people like British economist Nicholas Stern and Professor Keen who argue that at 4°C the world would reach a tipping point — when the impacts of climate change become so catastrophic that it is possibly too late to reverse them.
So why do economists differ so greatly, and is anyone ultimately right?

Richard Tol: the loss from climate change won't be immense
When the IPCC delivered its Fifth Assessment Report in October 2014, Professor Tol was one of the authors of chapter 10.
Richard Tol, a convening lead author with the IPCC since 1994, believes technology will help advanced nations cope with climate change and limit economic damage. (Supplied: Richard Tol )
This chapter looked specifically at the economic impacts of climate change, and has come under criticism from other economists for some of its estimates.
It suggested that, while "many estimates do not account for catastrophic changes, tipping points, and many other factors", the global annual economic losses for additional temperature increases of ~2°C are between 0.2 and 2.0 per cent of income.
Meanwhile, a summary chapter of that report used far stronger language.
The summary said that mitigation pathways to limit warming to below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels "would require substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades and near zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases by the end of the century".
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At the time Professor Tol had disagreed with some findings of the summary of that chapter as being "too alarmist".
Professor Tol's view is that climate change is a problem, but that welfare loss will not be immense.
He believes that technological advancement will help advanced nations cope with the impact of climate change, and this in turn will dent the negative economic impact.
"We have decent observations on natural disasters going back a century, data on crop yields going back longer," Tol tells ABC News.
"These data all show that, over time, we have become much less vulnerable to weather and climate, partly because economic growth has meant that we can afford to better protect ourselves, and partly because technology is so much better now."But Professor Tol is worried that the impact will be disproportionate depending on where people live. That is, people in poorer countries are more vulnerable than those living in richer countries.
He says, while rapid warming of the earth would be very costly, he believes that "warming is not very rapid".
Even moving beyond 4°C to a 6°C warming scenario, he says the world won't end.
"6°C is the difference between Melbourne and Perth," Professor Tol argues."If it were to warm by 6°C degrees in a century — it will not — you have about 100 years to upgrade Melbourne's air-conditioning, drainage, etc, to Perth standards. That costs money, but it won't ruin the economy."

Steve Keen: 4°C would unleash a 'howitzer'
But Professor Steve Keen, who now works as an honorary professor at University College London, responds that humanity has never existed in, let alone experienced, a planet with that temperature.
Australian economist Steven Keen says humanity has never existed in, let alone experienced, a planet with a 4°C increase in global average temperature. (The 7.30 Report)"How on earth would such a drastic change in temperature make such a tiny difference to GDP?," Professor Keen asks.He says economists like Nordhaus and Tol use data on GDP and temperature today across the globe (and primarily, across the USA) as a proxy for what will happen when global temperatures rise.
Their models, he argues, assume technology improves at such a rapid pace that the impact of such catastrophic events will be muted.
"All their models tell us is that they have faith — and a faith that bears no relation to the actual way in which capitalist economies function," Professor Keen says.One of Professor Nordhaus's papers includes an equation for calculating the damage from climate change impacts that "assumes that damages are 2.1 per cent of global income at 3°C warming and 8.5 per cent of income at 6 °C warming".
Professor Keen argues that even if we had 500 years to do adapt to rising sea levels, Nordhaus' argument is ridiculous.
"So much of humanity's resources would be damaged or destroyed, so much would need to be devoted to rebuilding, moving, and resettling," Professor Keen says.
"We would be lucky to have any resources left to produce output, let alone expand it."
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In July, a landmark trial could change the way funds invest Australians' almost $3 trillion in retirement savings.
He also notes in a recent blog that Nordhaus's estimates of the potential economic damage exclude entire industries such as manufacturing and mining.
"Nordhaus has put the world into a Dirty Harry movie gone bad: having advised policymakers that a simple and low tax on carbon is a Magnum 44 for shooting climate change, they scoff at the danger, telling climate change, 'Do you feel lucky, punk?'.
"In reality, climate change is armed with a howitzer, and the policy Nordhaus recommends — letting the global temperature reach levels 4 degrees above preindustrial levels — would unleash that howitzer."Nicholas Stern: economists 'grossly underestimate' climate change cost
The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment is chaired by Nicholas Stern, who in 2006 led a review on the economics of climate change for the British Government.
British economist Nicholas Stern co-authored a report noting economists had "grossly underestimated many of the most serious consequences" of climate change. (Kieran Doherty: Reuters)Grantham, in September 2019, released a report noting that "economic assessments of the potential future risks of climate change have been omitting or grossly underestimating many of the most serious consequences for lives and livelihoods".
The report argued this happened because such risks are difficult to quantify and lie outside of human experience.
Dr Stern was not available to comment.
But Bob Ward, the policy and communications director at Grantham who co-authored that report with Dr Stern and other economists, tells ABC News there are problems with models used by Nordhaus, Tol and others.
"There is good evidence that we are rapidly approaching, or may already have passed, the critical temperature at which destabilisation of the major land-based ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica becomes inevitable," Mr Ward says.
This, he adds, would see several metres of global sea level rise.
"Together, the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets contain enough ice to raise global sea levels by about 13 metres."Such sea level rise might take several centuries to occur, but we cannot rule out rises of more than a metre by the end of this century, which would threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world's coastlines."

Kamiar Mohaddes: whether rich or poor, all countries will suffer
Kamiar Mohaddes is an economist at the Cambridge Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge.
University of Cambridge economist Kamiar Mohaddes predicts at least 7 per cent of global GDP will disappear by 2100 because of business-as-usual carbon emissions. (Supplied: Kamiar Mohaddes)He co-authored a recent study that suggested at least 7 per cent of global GDP will disappear by 2100 as a result of business-as-usual carbon emissions.
This includes more than 10 per cent of incomes in developed nations including Canada, New Zealand and the United States, and a 7 per cent loss for Australia.
Climate and economy linked
The Morrison Government risks being stranded at the intersection of climate change related disasters and their economic fallout, writes Ian Verrender.
"In fact allowing for temperature increases to affect the variability of temperature shocks, they show that the estimated GDP per capita losses would almost double at the global level to over 13 per cent, with the income losses being more than 16 per cent for Australia and the United States," Dr Mohaddes explains.
The study found that, whether rich or poor, virtually all countries would suffer economically by 2100 without mitigation and adaptation policies.
There are several reasons why the losses estimated in his study were larger than those generally discussed in policy circles.
Firstly, he says, the frequency and severity of weather events and natural disasters depend heavily on the variability of temperatures.
"We explicitly model the variability of weather patterns, not only averages of climate variables," Dr Mohaddes explains.He also notes that traditionally economists (such as Nordhaus) have argued that climate change affects economic activity mainly through the agricultural sector.
But he says other sectors, including forestry, fisheries, mining, construction, manufacturing, transport, communications, public utilities, wholesale trade, retail trade and services would all be hit by climate change.

Nicki Hutley: costs of climate change will be 'astronomical'
Deloitte Access Economics partner Nicki Hutley says there are all sorts of technological options available to help reduce emissions, but none of that contradicts the fact that if we get to a 4°C rise in global average temperatures there would be huge economic costs.
Deloitte Access Economics partner Nicki Hutley says if we get to a 4°C rise in average temperatures there will be huge economic costs. (Supplied: Deloitte)
"Anyone who says a 4°C [rise] is not going to have an impact is quite frankly drinking something weird," Ms Hutley exclaims.The Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities — a group made up of community and business leaders who are working towards ensuring Australia becomes more equipped for extreme weather events — has considered the economic damage of natural disasters across states and territories.
In a 2017 report, it found that the total economic cost of natural disasters in the 10 years to 2016 averaged $18.2 billion per year, equivalent to 1.2 per cent of average gross domestic product (GDP) over the same period.
It said this was expected to reach $39.3 billion per year on average by 2050 (in present value terms), even without considering the impact of climate change (and the latest bushfires are likely to hugely inflate those estimates).
The report noted that "while the science has advanced, it remains difficult for experts to model the timing, location and intensity of disaster events in response to climate variability and change", and therefore the $39.3 billion estimate was conservative.
"This [climate change] is so multidimensional, and the costs are astronomical," Ms Hutley says.She also points out that the IPCC itself has called on international leaders to limit global warming below or close to 1.5°C, which would require the world to cut net emissions by about half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.
"The idea is that we avoid getting to four degrees," she said.

John Quiggin: Economists don't look beyond tipping points
John Quiggin, an Australian Laureate Fellow in Economics at the University of Queensland, says the problem with economic models is how they treat the worst-case scenarios.
John Quiggin, from the University of Queensland, said the problem with economic models is how they treat the worst-case scenarios. (Supplied: John Quiggin)"A lot of attention has been paid to the lower levels of [global] warming because they are easier to evaluate," he observes.
"Once you get past tipping points, we don't really have a good handle on what may happen."He estimates the economic cost of the latest Australian bushfires alone could hit about $100 billion.

Bushfire cost could run into billions
Ross Garnaut's climate change prediction is coming true and it's going to cost Australia billions, economists warn.
This estimate takes into account massive underinsurance by households and businesses, damage to public infrastructure (which will have to be rebuilt to a higher standard in preparation for future disasters), lost tourism, ongoing health effects from smoke and pollution, and the destruction of entire ecosystems.
"If you look at the way economists were framing the debate, the assumption was bad things will happen around 2050, so how you discount costs and benefits 30 years into the future is a big deal," Dr Quiggin explains.
"The arrival of climate change much sooner than people expected will render the debate about the discount rate largely irrelevant. Climate change is happening now."Another issue that has divided economists is how much it will cost to reduce emissions.
"The technological advancements we have seen mean we could decarbonise the economy very cheaply if we choose to," Dr Quiggin argues.
"But even with technological improvements, it will only happen if the policymakers want it to happen."

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As Our Planet Gets Greener, Plants Are Slowing Global Warming

Lethal Heating - 7 February, 2020 - 04:00
Phys.org - 

Credit: CC0 Public Domain PrefaceChi Chen, a Boston University graduate researcher, and Ranga Myneni, a BU College of Arts & Sciences professor of earth and environment, have released a new paper that reveals how humans are helping to increase the Earth's plant and tree cover, which absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and cools our planet.
The boom of vegetation, fueled by greenhouse gas emissions, could be skewing our perception of how fast we're warming the planet.

Key points
  • Long-term satellite records reveal a significant global greening of vegetated areas since the 1980s, which recent data suggest has continued past 2010.
  • Pronounced greening is observed in China and India due to afforestation and agricultural intensification.
  • Global vegetation models suggest that CO2 fertilization is the main driver of global vegetation greening.
  • Warming is the major cause of greening in boreal and Arctic biomes, but has negative effects on greening in the tropics.
  • Greening was found to mitigate global warming through enhanced land carbon uptake and evaporative cooling, but might also lead to decreased albedo that could potentially cause local warming.
  • Greening enhances transpiration, a process that reduces soil moisture and runoff locally, but can either amplify or reduce runoff and soil moisture regionally through altering the pattern of precipitation.
Taking a closer look at 250 scientific studies, land-monitoring , climate and environmental models, and field observations, a team of Boston University researchers and international collaborators have illuminated several causes and consequences of a global increase in vegetation growth, an effect called greening.
In a new study, published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, the researchers report that climate-altering carbon emissions and intensive land use have inadvertently greened half of the Earth's vegetated lands. And while that sounds like it may be a good thing, this phenomenal rate of greening, together with , , and sea-ice decline, represents highly credible evidence that human industry and activity is dramatically impacting the Earth's climate, say the study's first authors, Shilong Piao and Xuhui Wang of Peking University.
Green leaves convert sunlight to sugars while replacing in the air with oxygen, which cools the Earth's surface. The reasons for greening vary around the world, but often involve intensive use of land for farming, large-scale planting of trees, a warmer and wetter climate in northern regions, natural reforestation of abandoned lands, and recovery from past disturbances.
And the chief cause of global greening we're experiencing? It seems to be that rising are providing more and more fertilizer for plants, the researchers say. As a result, the boom of global greening since the early 1980s may have slowed the rate of global warming, the researchers say, possibly by as much as 0.2 to 0.25 degrees Celsius.
"It is ironic that the very same carbon emissions responsible for harmful changes to climate are also fertilizing plant growth, which in turn is somewhat moderating global warming," says study coauthor Dr. Jarle Bjerke of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.
Boston University researchers previously discovered that, based on near-daily NASA and NOAA satellite imaging observations since the early 1980s, vast expanses of the Earth's vegetated lands from the Arctic to the temperate latitudes have gotten markedly more green.
"Notably, the NASA [satellite data] observed pronounced greening during the 21st century in the world's most populous and still-developing countries, China and India," says Ranga Myneni, the new study's senior author.
Even regions far, far removed from human reach have not escaped the global warming and greening trends. "Svalbard in the high-arctic, for example, has seen a 30 percent increase in greenness [in addition to] an increase in [summer temperatures] from 2.9 to 4.7 degrees Celcius between 1986 and 2015," says study coauthor Rama Nemani of NASA's Ames Research Center.
Over the last 40 years, carbon emissions from fossil fuel use and have added 160 parts per million (ppm), a unit of measure for air pollutants, of CO2 to Earth's atmosphere. About 40 ppm of that has diffused passively into the oceans and another 50 ppm has been actively taken up by plants, the researchers say. But 70 ppm remains in the atmosphere, and together with other greenhouse gases, is responsible the land warming patterns that have been observed since the 1980s.
"Plants are actively defending against the dangers of carbon pollution by not only sequestering on land but also by wetting the atmosphere through transpiration of ground water and evaporation of precipitation intercepted by their bodies," says study coauthor Philippe Ciais, of the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences, Gif-sur-Yvette, France. "Stopping deforestation and sustainable, ecologically sensible afforestation could be one of the simplest and cost-effective, though not sufficient, defenses against climate change," he adds.
LARGE IMAGE
It is not easy to accurately estimate the cooling benefit from global greening because of the complex interconnected nature of the climate system, the researchers say. "This unintended benefit of global greening, and its potential transitory nature, suggests how much more daunting, and urgent, is the stated goal of keeping global warming to below 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, especially given the trajectory of and history of inaction during the past decades," says study coauthor Hans Tømmervik of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Norway.

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RBA Governor Warns Of 'Profound' Impact From Climate Change, Urges Investment

Lethal Heating - 7 February, 2020 - 04:00
Sydney Morning HeraldShane Wright | Matt Wade

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe has warned climate change will have a "profound" impact on the economy and leave businesses with stranded assets while urging governments to borrow more to boost productivity and protect it from a warming environment.
As economists warned the country faced its first quarter of negative growth in nine years due to the combined impact of the coronavirus and the summer's bushfires, Dr Lowe used his first public address of the year to urge more investment to deliver "strong and consistent growth" rather than relying on the nation's fundamentals to get by.
RBA governor Philip Lowe says business and government should borrow more to invest in productivity-enhancing projects including ways to deal with climate change. Credit: AFRThe bank kept official interest rates at an equal record low of 0.75 per cent at its February board meeting on Tuesday, tipping the economy to grow 2.75 per cent this year despite the impact of the bushfires and the outbreak of coronavirus.
Dr Lowe said the bank believed the fires would likely cut GDP across the December and March quarters by 0.2 percentage points while the drought would hurt growth by 0.25 per cent through the year. It was too early to determine the full impact of the coronavirus.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries reported on Tuesday there were 71,731 new cars bought through January, the worst opening to a year since 2003. The chamber noted bushfires and international issues such as the coronavirus were likely reasons for the poor performance.
In an address to the National Press Club, Dr Lowe said low interest rates meant there was no excuse for business and governments not to borrow and invest in projects such as infrastructure, technology upgrades, education and training or energy systems.
He said governments and businesses should also invest in dealing with climate change, arguing it was already having a financial impact that would only grow.
"I think that we're seeing climate change affect patterns of production and distribution and investment. We're seeing the cost and availability of insurance change, which is going to affect where people invest," he said.
"The fact that it is affecting the value of assets and can likely do that in the future means that there are financial stability implications over time. We're likely to see at some point some stranded assets and the value falls."
The Morrison government is aiming to deliver the nation's first federal budget surplus since before the global financial crisis.
But Dr Lowe said there are more pressing budget policy challenges, including the way for fiscal and monetary policy to stabilise the economy given low interest rate settings.
"Whether or not the government has a small budget surplus from an economic perspective is not really that important," he said.
Interest rates and the budget may be called in to help the economy with growing concerns about the impact of coronavirus.
ANZ's economics team had initially expected the virus to lower growth by 0.2 percentage points in the March quarter, but now say it appeared the virus and the response to it across the world would likely take half a percentage point off growth through the first three months of this year.
Several market economists are now tipping the coronavirus may see Australia post its first quarter of negative growth in nine years. Credit: GettyEconomists Felicity Emmett and David Plank said the tourism and education sectors would be hit hardest but there would be a broader impact across the country.
"Local consumer sentiment took a hit from the bushfires and the news regarding the virus is keeping confidence levels low," they said.
"Rising uncertainty about the impact of the virus is likely to test business confidence, and there is the potential for investment plans to be delayed."
They were backed by AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver who said GDP could be 0.2 percentage points lower this quarter, but growth would rebound in the June quarter.
The last time the Australian economy contracted in a quarter was in early 2011 when cyclones closed key ports across Queensland and Western Australia. The economy quickly rebound in the June quarter.

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(AU) Scott Morrison Says He Won't Be 'Bullied' On Climate By Inner City Voters

Lethal Heating - 6 February, 2020 - 04:10
SBS - Tom Stayner

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he "won't be bullied" into changing his government's position on climate change as National MPs renew demands for more investment in coal.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks in Parliament House, Canberra. Source: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared he won't be "bullied" by inner-city voters as he downplayed concerns of a fresh climate war inside the Coalition.
Some National MPs are demanding more coal-fired power stations and urging Scott Morrison to resist calls to take stronger action on climate change.
Nationals Leader Michael McCormack also declared the Coalition should hold the line on climate policy, following a challenge to his leadership from former leader Barnaby Joyce.
Mr Morrison said being in coalition with the Nationals had ensured the government's response to climate change was sensible and balanced, rather than being dictated by those in the inner city.
Re-elected Nationals Party leader Michael McCormack and newly-elected deputy leader David Littleproud maintain the Coalition is united on climate policy. AAP /Lukas Coch)"We listen to all Australians and we listen to Australians right across the country, not just those in the inner city," he told Nine's Today. 
He said action should not come at the expense of jobs and industries.
“What we’ll do is take practical actions that deal with these challenges and that challenge is living in a hotter, drier and longer summer.
“So we won’t be bullied into higher taxes and higher electricity prices.”
Mr Morrison's comments echoed those of his deputy prime minister during the height of the bushfire crisis.
In November, Mr McCormack attacked those who were linking climate change to the severity of the bushfires, labelling them "inner-city raving lunatics".
Mr McCormack held off an attempt by Barnaby Joyce to reclaim the Nationals’ leadership at a party room meeting on Tuesday.
Mr Joyce's platform had been backed by Senator Matt Canavan, the pair urging the government to increase support for coal and investment in new coal-fired power stations.
It is understood Nationals MP George Christensen also spoke out against climate change policy and advocated for coal at the first Coalition meeting of the year held hours after the leadership spill.
While Mr Morrison has previously said the government's policy on climate would "evolve" in the wake of the bushfire crisis, Mr McCormack said the Coalition should not stray from its current climate policies.
“It’s all well and good for some people to say we should stop all fossil fuels,” he told SBS News.
“Well go and tell that to somebody in central Queensland who is working hard for and on behalf of their family … they deserve a job too.”
The Morrison government has committed to reducing emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 under the global Paris Agreement.
But it has faced pressure over its planned use of so-called carry-over credits to meet this target from previous emission agreements.
Nationals Deputy Leader David Littleproud maintained the Coalition is united on taking action on climate change.
“We made international commitments and we are going to live up to them and instead of us beating ourselves up saying we’re this boogeyman in the global stage – we’re not,” he said.
“The quiet Australians out there have had a gutfull of all of this narrative … they just want action … they want us to get on with the job.”

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(AU) If There's A Silver Lining In The Clouds Of Choking Smoke It's That This May Be A Tipping Point

Lethal Heating - 6 February, 2020 - 04:05
The Guardian

Australia’s horrific bushfires could be the catalyst that pushes the world to a mass recognition that it’s time to act
Smoke form the almost-biblical fires bearing down on Canberra: ‘This is a stark reminder that climate change seems gradual until it is on your doorstep.’ Photograph: Xinhua/Barcroft Media Michael E MannMichael E Mann is distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University. His most recent book, with Tom Toles, is The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy (Columbia University Press, 2016) As a climate scientist on sabbatical in Australia, I’ve had plenty of conversations about the climate crisis lately as bushfires have burned their way to the front of everyone’s mind. Although the Murdoch media make it seem as if there’s plenty of debate, the reality is that most Australians I talk to get it.
And why shouldn’t they? More carbon pollution means warmer temperatures which dry out the landscape, making it easier for fires to spread. The fact that the bushfires tore through Australia as we ended the hottest decade ever recorded is no coincidence.
But those opposed to climate action have tied themselves in knots trying to fool the public into believing that it’s really environmentalists and arsonists at fault.
Yet it’s hard to sell denial when people are busy fleeing the flames. It’s tough to distract from the reality of climate change when plumes of smoke dim the sky, and when every breath of soot-filled air stings your throat. As one climate scientist colleague put it in response to the almost-biblical fires bearing down on Canberra: “This is a stark reminder that climate change seems gradual until it is on your doorstep.”
That’s precisely what happened to Jeremy Wright, a Rotary Club member who came to a lecture I gave the other day at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney. Wright lost much of his family farm that has been around for 180 years, outside Milton in south-east NSW where the Australian author Henry Kendall was born. The bridge that provides access to the farm burned and he lost a herd of steer, several vehicles and his farm shed. Climate change is no longer just a theoretical construct for Jeremy.
Some of the steer that died in the fire on Jeremy Wright’s farm on New Year’s Eve.Despite the tragedies playing out around the country, I’m hopeful we’re hitting a tipping point. Not a physical one – which we will hopefully avoid, where the global climate undergoes dramatic, irreversible and catastrophic change – but a psychological one.
Here and around the world these fires appear to be pushing us toward a tipping point in public consciousness, a mass recognition that we must act.
But there has always been a disconnect between what the public knows and what their elected leaders choose to do. Ruling political parties in Australia, the US and Britain are particularly intransigent, their denial driven by ties to fossil-fuel interests and bolstered by the Murdoch media’s steady drumbeat of denial.
It’s something I’ve noticed quite clearly in my time here. The Australians I’ve talked to about climate change seem well aware of the science, are very concerned about reducing emissions and, most of all, are frustrated by their leaders’ unwillingness to take meaningful action.
If there can possibly be a silver lining to the clouds of smoke from the bushfires, it is that they are galvanising public opinion, making it clear that deniers’ and delayers’ rhetoric is a smokescreen to cover for the fossil-fuel industry. Much like how sea level rise and unprecedented wildfires, heatwaves and floods in the US have begun softening the Republican party’s staunch denial, the bushfires have brought the climate crisis to the front and centre of Australian consciousness.
For years, fossil-fuel-funded voices have taken to Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets to tell the public that climate change isn’t real, or it won’t be a problem until years from now, at which point we’ll all be so rich we can just buy our way out of trouble. They told the public to ignore climate scientists who are ringing the planetary fire alarm, that all is well despite the increasingly stark warnings from those who have devoted their lives to studying the issue.
Sadly, despite criticism from within the Murdoch empire, and even from Murdoch’s son James, the promotion of denial and delay continues unabated. “Warming is good for us” read the headline on Andrew Bolt’s column in the Herald Sun the other day to widespread derision as climate change-fuelled bushfires continue to engulf the continent. The headline on Paul Kelly’s column in the Australian read “Any climate policy change is going to be slow burn”, with no apparent sense of irony.
But telling people to ignore the fire alarm doesn’t work so well when they can feel the heat, with flames consuming their country and with so much smoke it’s made a full circuit around the globe.We won’t know if this will be a tipping point for the public’s demand for climate action until we have the benefit of hindsight. But people will have an option: to vote out politicians in denial, and vote in candidates who are honest about the issue.
Perhaps we shouldn’t call it a tipping point, but a flipping point.
Then perhaps she’ll be right, mate.

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(AU) Fire Royal Commission Accepts The Role Of Climate Change: PM

Lethal Heating - 6 February, 2020 - 04:00
AFR - Phillip Coorey

The royal commission into the bushfires will operate on the assumption that the scale and severity of the blazes was fuelled by climate change, Scott Morrison says.
As the Coalition again grapples with internal divisions over climate change, the Prime Minister gave the undertaking to stop the royal commission being distracted by the brawl over whether climate change was real.
Scott Morrison and Michael McCormack in parliament after the Nationals leadership spill. Alex EllinghausenWhile Mr Morrison is unambiguous in drawing links between the fires and climate change, others in his party continue to hedge or deny.
Nationals leader Michael McCormack, who on Monday survived a leadership spill led by Barnaby Joyce and others who do not subscribe to climate change science, is choosing his words carefully so as not to further inflame his already-fractured party.
"What we do, no doubt,  probably has a fair effect on the climate and where we're going to,'' he said of the contributions of humans to global warming.
"How much? That's for scientists to determine.''
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was also sceptical, saying arson was partly to blame for the fires.
"I don't see huge points of difference in our party room ... we're experiencing hotter weather,'' he said.
"But did the bushfires start in some of these regions because of climate change? No. It started because somebody lit a match."
Mr Morrison has announced that former defence force chief Mark Binskin will lead the royal commission into the fires which continue to burn in NSW and the ACT.
The Prime Minister has written to the states seeking input for the terms of reference. Under pressure not to ignore climate change, Mr Morrison said that would be the operating premise of the probe.
"It is accepted that climate change has impacted Australia, and that we're in for longer, hotter, dryer summers,'' he said.
"The royal commission assumes that our climate has changed and there is climate change.
"The issue is what you do about it, the practical actions that keep people safe, and emissions reductions, land clearing. All of these things are critical to that."
He maintained the hazard reduction was just as, if not more, important than emissions reduction.
Despite pressure from within sections of his party, Mr Morrison is holding firm against doing more to decrease Australia's emissions.
He was lukewarm when asked whether he would follow the example of Britain's conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnston, who has committed his nation to zero net emissions by 2050. Also, from 2035, the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars will be banned in the UK.
"I would never make a commitment like that if I couldn't tell the Australian people what it would cost them,'' Mr Morrison said of the 2050 target.
The leadership challenge in the Nationals was sparked by the sacking from cabinet of the party's deputy leader, Bridget McKenzie, over the sports rorts affair. That, in turn, has rekindled old tensions over climate change.
Mr McCormack told Sky News on Wednesday that Senator McKenzie would return to the frontbench at some stage.
He also said he wanted to change the rules in his party to make leadership challenges harder by introducing a threshold, similar to those Labor and the Liberals have introduced.
Having these rules adopted looms as another test of his leadership next week.
Mr Morrison will announce his new ministry today, Nationals Darren Chester and Keith Pitt are expected to take the cabinet spots of Senator McKenzie and Matt Canavan, who quit in an unsuccessful attempt to generate momentum for Mr Joyce's challenge.

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(AU) Media Watch: News Corp's Fire Fight

Lethal Heating - 5 February, 2020 - 04:10
ABC - Media Watch

A Media Watch feature on the bushfire crisis. We examine how News Corp’s loudest voices denied or downplayed the role of climate change.

Media Watch: News Corp's Fire Fight
Transcript
ROWAN DEAN: Unprecedented bushfires? Unprecedented drought? No, this Australian summer has been the summer of unprecedented stupidity. Never before have we had to suffer such idiocy in public debate and political commentary, nationally and internationally, in relation to two of the most common and predictable occurrences in Australia’s climate cycle, drought and bushfires.  - Outsiders, Sky News, 26 January, 2020Hello, I’m Paul Barry, welcome to Media Watch.And welcome to Groundhog Day, where the loudest voices at News Corp are adamant that the summer’s terrifying bushfires have nothing to do with climate change. Or, if they have, there’s nothing we can do about it. And, as always, welcome back to News Corp’s team of hand-picked, highly-paid columnists and TV hosts on Sky, who are leading the chorus: PETA CREDLIN: So, let me deal with the issue head on. Does climate change cause these fires? No. - Credlin, Sky News, 20 January, 2020CHRIS KENNY: … So that’s the key. The drought. And if drought can’t be blamed on climate change you can’t blame the fires on climate change, especially when so many are deliberately lit ...- The Kenny Report, Sky News, 11 December, 2019ALAN JONES: What’s burning in Victoria are eucalypts. What’s burning in South Australia are eucalypts ... When are we going to wake up and stop using this as an excuse to justify the climate change hoax?- Richo & Jones, Sky News, 29 January, 2019Passionate denial that the bushfires should make us act on climate change runs right across the Murdoch media in this country reaching an audience of millions. But it’s also echoed by Murdoch’s Fox News in the US, as two former Prime Ministers noted last month: MALCOLM TURNBULL: If you go to any of the right-wing think tanks or you read the Murdoch press, it's just full of climate denialism and it’s, it is designed to deflect from the real objective which has to be to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions …- BBC News, 22 January, 2020KEVIN RUDD: … the politics of fear around, let’s call it the cost of climate change action, has been well mobilised by the conservatives and Murdoch in Australia just as it’s been well mobilised in the United States by the conservatives through the echo chamber of Fox News.- Fareed Zakaria GPS, CNN, 17 January, 2020So why are Murdoch’s men and women so passionate in their protests? And what would it take to change their tune? Or, as Malcolm Turnbull asked the BBC: MALCOLM TURNBULL: You know, how many more lives and homes have to be lost before the climate change deniers acknowledge they are wrong?  - BBC News, 22 January, 2020It is a fair question. And it’s one that’s hard to answer. But News Corp’s deniers claim, remarkably, that science is on their side:PETA CREDLIN: In this debate, like few others, fact is often replaced with misinformation, analysis with hysteria, evidence-based assessments with mere anecdote, or lectures from teenagers. And balance and sober discussions: they’re long dead. - Credlin, Sky News, 20 January, 2020It’s hard to disagree. But most bushfire experts would level that charge of ignoring the facts at Peta Credlin and her fellow climate sceptics, as this group of former fire chiefs made clear in November:LEE JOHNSON: ... and certainly climate change is exacerbating the very, very dry conditions that we’re all experiencing.NEIL BIBBY: Bushfires are a symptom of climate change.MIKE BROWN: I’ve had 39 years of Tasmanian Fire Service and I didn’t see too many dry lightning strikes earlier on in my career but now, and due to climate change, we’re seeing this as a regular event. - NewsDay, Sky News, 14 November, 2019The Bureau of Meteorology has also warned that climate change is making our fires worse, and made its verdict clear last month:Hottest, driest year on record led to extreme bushfire season- Bureau of Meteorology, press release, Annual Climate Statement 2019, 9 January, 2020And three weeks ago, the Australian Academy of Science piped up with a similar conclusion:The scientific evidence base shows that as the world warms due to human induced climate change, we experience an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events.- The Australian Academy of Science, 10 January, 2020Countless climate scientists say the same. Whether they’re at NASA or the Royal Society. Or at Britain’s Met Office and the CSIRO, which have just reviewed 57 scientific studies on climate change and reached the same conclusion.But no amount of expert opinion is enough to convince the know-it-alls on Sky and 2GB and in the News Corp papers who argue tirelessly that climate change isn’t happening, or isn’t to blame, and/or this summer’s fires are nothing new:ALAN JONES: From Black Saturday in 2009 to Ash Wednesday in 1983, Black Tuesday in 1967, Black Friday in 1939, Black Thursday in 1851. Millions of hectares were burnt …… let me assure you, this is a long way from our worst-ever fire season.- Jones & Credlin, Sky News, 28 January, 2020PETA CREDLIN: … tragic, yes. Unprecedented, sadly no. - Credlin, Sky News, 20 January, 2020The argument that we’ve seen it all before was laid out in The Australian on New Year’s Eve, just before the fires went nuclear on the New South Wales South Coast. And it is that grass fires across remote Australia in 74 -75 burnt a far larger area, while 2009’s Black Saturday fires in Victoria killed far more people.But did either really match the impact of what we’ve seen this year?  Mass evacuations, homes and businesses destroyed, 1 billion animals dead, an area 1.5 times the size of Tasmania burnt to ashes, our big cities choking with smoke and fires still raging.It’s no wonder the Australian Academy of Science concludes -- for reasons you can read on our website:The scale of these bushfires is unprecedented anywhere in the world.- Australian Academy of Science, 10 January, 2020Meanwhile, fire ecologist David Bowman told Media Watch that the scale, reach, duration and impact of this season’s inferno makes it like no other:… there has never been a fire event that has affected the forested rim of Australia stretching down from southeast Queensland to NSW to Victoria, some parts of South Australia and parts of Western Australia and Tasmania ...- Phone interview, Professor David Bowman, University of Tasmania, 30 January, 2020Once again most bushfire experts agree. Yet once again, the News Corp choir insists it knows better:CHRIS KENNY: … climate change exaggeration, alarmism and hysteria ...- The Kenny Report, Sky News, 22 January, 2020PETA CREDLIN: … hysteria or worse ...- Credlin, Sky News, 20 January, 2020ALAN JONES: … hysteria …- Jones & Credlin, Sky News, 28 January, 2020ROWAN DEAN: … the loonies in the climate cult ...- Outsiders, Sky News, 26 January, 2020ANDREW BOLT: Lunatic stuff. - The Bolt Report, Sky News, 27 January, 2020News Corp’s ridicule of climate science is not unprecedented.  And Media Watch has ripped into its columnists and reporters many times.But it’s been so bad this summer that insiders have condemned it too, like Rupert Murdoch’s son James and his wife Kathryn, who issued this public statement three weeks ago: “Kathryn and James’ views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known,” …“They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.”- Daily Beast, 14 January, 2020Note the word ‘denial’ coming from a Murdoch and director of News Corp. An extraordinary public rebuke. So what was News Corp’s reaction? Total silence. Until today, as far as we can see, the group’s Australian papers had not even mentioned it.  But Rupert’s son wasn’t the only one. A few days earlier, outgoing finance manager at The Australian, Emily Townsend, sent this damning email, in which she told News Corp chairman Michael Miller:  “I find it unconscionable to continue working for this company, knowing I am contributing to the spread of climate change denial and lies. The reporting I have witnessed in the Australian, the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun is not only irresponsible, but dangerous and damaging to our communities …”- The Guardian, 10 January, 2020Townsend received huge support from colleagues for taking that stand. We’ve seen several of the messages. But Michael Miller responded in a statement that News does not ‘deny climate change’ or its threat, and is proud of its journalists and columnists:“Our coverage has recognised that Australia is having a serious conversation about climate change and how to respond to it. However, it has also reflected there are a variety of views and opinions about the current fire crisis.”- The Guardian, 10 January, 2020But the main variety News has offered has been in new angles on denial. Such as this news story in The Australian -- featuring favourite sceptic Jennifer Marohasy -- claiming the weatherman is lying to us:Bureau of Meteorology ‘cooling the past to declare record heat’- The Australian, 20 December, 2019Yes, seriously. The Australian is happy to suggest that the BOM is part of a huge conspiracy.But if that was peak stupid, News Corp’s front-line columnists have offered more of the same. And with this line-up, who could be surprised?  Sky’s big stars, featured in this ad in the Telegraph, Peta Credlin, Andrew Bolt, Paul Murray, Chris Kenny, and Alan Jones spread a similar message on man-made global warming and they don’t mince their words:ANDREW BOLT: The bottom line, global warming may actually not be all bad, at all.- The Bolt Report, Sky News, 27 January, 2020ALAN JONES: … apparently now there’s a pile-on on Scott Morrison, it’s all his fault, and it’s climate change. I mean these people deserve to be buried. It’s just appalling.- Richo & Jones, Sky News, 29 January, 2020All these Sky hosts also write columns for the News Corp papers where like-minded souls like Miranda Devine and Piers Akerman sing a similar tune.Their key theme this summer has been to blame the fires on the Greens and lack of hazard reduction to reduce the fuel load. And on Sky and 2GB Alan Jones has pushed that line too:ALAN JONES: There’s one reason above all others for the fire catastrophe. You can’t start a fire without fuel.- Jones & Credlin, Sky News, 28 January, 2020Greater hazard reduction must certainly be looked at but New South Wales Rural Fire Chief Shane Fitzsimmons insists it’s no panacea and has said publicly that this year’s fires have been so fierce it would have hardly held them back:SHANE FITZSIMMONS: … hazard reduction has a place and is a valuable tool for day-to-day fires, for normal seasons, but when you’ve got a really tough season, when you’ve got awful fire-weather conditions, so when you’re running fires under severe, extreme or worse conditions, hazard reduction has very little effect at all....- ABC News Breakfast, 8 January, 2020Another key argument sparked by a story in The Australian has been that arson is to blame:Firebugs fuelling crisis as arson arrest toll hits 183- The Australian, 7 January, 2020That claim in early January, with the inferno at its height, was picked up by the Murdochs’ London Sun, tweeted in America by Donald Trump Jr, rehashed by the Murdochs’ Fox News star Sean Hannity on his website and promoted on Fox as the real cause of the fires: TOMI LAHREN: … So I hate to break it to the Greta Thunbergs of the world ... ...the fact of the matter is this: Australia has an arson problem you can’t pin on global warming, climate change, or whatever title you’re giving your environmental boogeyman these days.- Final Thought with Tomi Lahren, Fox Nation, 10 January, 2020Arson is a part of the bushfire story, of course, but the key issue is not what started the fires but why they’ve burned so fiercely.And The Australian’s figures were wrong, because not all of those 183 arrests were for arson. Many included offences like breaching a fire ban or tossing a cigarette.And 43 of the arrests came before the bushfire season started.But there was plenty more online.Like this Facebook post from PragerU, a conservative American video producer, which used the original Australian article to claim that 200 arsonists had been arrested and that arson was responsible for 50 per cent of the fires.Those claims were wrong and the video’s now been flagged as false by Facebook.But not before it was seen by 2 million people.So, who is PragerU? It was set up 11 years ago by a conservative talk-show host, with funding from two Texan, evangelical, fracking billionaires. It now spends millions of dollars a year to spread conservative information, or in this case misinformation.  But the arson beat up was not just on Facebook, it was also trending on Twitter where the hashtag #arsonemergency was being spread by an army of bots, as the BBC explains:ROS ATKINS: One researcher analysed over 300 accounts using this hashtag. He found a third of them displayed highly-automated and inauthentic behaviour, meaning they could be bots or trolls and he concluded: ‘The conspiracy theories going around, (including arson as the main cause of the fires) reflect an increased distrust in expertise and scepticism in the media.- BBC Outside Source, 9 January, 2020So who is commanding this bot army?QUT’s Professor Tim Graham, told Media Watch there was no evidence of them being run by a single controller, but their aim was clear: … the evidence indicates that (fringe) right-wing accounts around the globe have ‘jumped on the bandwagon’ to push and promote the narrative of #ArsonEmergency to counter the #ClimateEmergency narrative. - Email, Professor Tim Graham, Queensland University of Technology, 23 January, 2020So was arson actually responsible for any of the big fires?On 9 January, Victorian Police said no:“… there is no intelligence to indicate that the fires in East Gippsland and north-east Victoria have been caused by arson or any other suspicious behaviour”...- The Age, 9 January, 2020And according to the ABC, which crunched the numbers in mid-January:Only about 1 per cent of the land burnt in NSW this bushfire season can be officially attributed to arson … - ABC News, 18 January, 2020Adding:NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Inspector Ben Shepherd said earlier this week lightning was predominantly responsible for the bushfire crisis.- ABC News, 18 January, 2020Despite that, The Australian’s firebug beat up remains on its website with the headline virtually unchanged.But as the political storm over the fires continues, News Corp is perhaps showing small signs of movement.  After James Murdoch’s criticism, the NT News declared on its front page:Now is the time to discuss climate change.- NT News, 16 January, 2020And a few days earlier, The Australian conceded in this editorial: More intense fires are an observed reality consistent with the predictions of climate change science.- The Weekend Australian, 11 January, 2020And even Andrew Bolt has flirted with that idea, telling viewers last week: ANDREW BOLT: I can understand some people saying, ‘Oh look I think global warming did play a big role in these fires’. I don’t personally believe it, or I think the role is minor if anything, but I can believe it.- The Bolt Report, 29 January, 2020Is that real change or just lip service? We’ll have to wait and see. There’s no doubt that climate change activists across the world think the fires should be a tipping point.  And many Australians agree, with 72 per cent of respondents to an Australia Institute poll last month saying the fires should be a wake-up call to the world. January’s IPSOS Monitor also shows a huge spike in concern over the environment, with it showing as the most important issue for the first time ever.Add to that, last week, climate protests in Sydney by a couple of hundred so-called Quiet Australians.And more than twice that number of people lying outside News Corp, with banners saying, News Corp lies all the time so it’s OK for us to lie here. So, what’s News Corp’s answer to this chorus of criticism? It told us in a statement: We publish hundreds of columnists across multiple mastheads and magazines, websites and  television and other platforms. These represent a wide range of views, opinions and positions on a range of topics. You identify a handful of columnists to suit your own agenda. To suggest, as Media Watch is doing, that on major issues in Australia there cannot be many opinions aired across media platforms is contrary to the role of free and open media.- Email, News Corp Australia spokesperson, 3 February, 2020We don’t suggest that for a moment.  Our point is that News Corp’s star columnists, whom the group heavily promotes, all sing from the same song sheet on climate change. And that matters. Because it stops the debate from moving on.  The Science Media Centre told Media Watch that having influential voices which do not reflect the science: … creates confusion, uncertainty and apathy among the public, even when the science is quite clear.- Email, The Australian Science Media Centre, 30 January, 2020Rupert Murdoch assured shareholders last year there are no climate change deniers at News Corp. But sadly, that is just not true. And here in Australia its most strident voices show no sign of piping down. Links
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Preventing Climate Change Is A Human Rights Issue

Lethal Heating - 5 February, 2020 - 04:05
Bloomberg - Andrew Gilmour

Social activists and environmentalists should be better about teaming up.
Climate change is a human problem. Photographer: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images Andrew GilmourAndrew Gilmour is the United Nations' former assistant secretary-general for human rights. Every society in the world is going to pay a price for global warming. But it’s the poorest countries and communities who will suffer the most from rising seas and burning lands — and likely also from any drastic measures taken to prevent climate change. The environmental crisis is closely linked to the humanitarian one, and requires the joint action of climate and human rights activists.
They’d seem to be natural allies. They both regard (with good reason) today’s situation as the worst in their movements’ existence. Second,  they share common foes: Leading climate change deniers and environmental despoilers tend to be  dismissive of human rights (Presidents Rodrigo Duterte, Donald Trump, or Jair Bolsonaro, to name but three). Third, both movements are accused of being “elitist” by their opponents, a charge neither group of activists has done enough to overcome. 
But the two groups haven’t historically worked closely together.
The early conservation movement promoted nature at the expense of people (even to the extent of expelling native populations from Yellowstone and Yosemite in the late 19th Century). And while there’s much more understanding today that the two movements are complementary, this has not translated into enough concrete joint actions.
Human rights must be at the front and center of every effort to fight climate change. Not just because climate change will threaten the rights to food, water, housing, livelihood and health for hundreds of millions of people, exponentially increasing the number of refugees. But also because, sooner or later, world leaders will finally wake up to the scale of the impending disaster. At which point they will likely respond with “states of emergency” that hugely undermine human rights, as with the internment of Americans of Japanese descent in the 1940s or justification of torture after 9/11. In a seminal UN report last spring, Philip Alston castigated the human rights community for its failure to face up to the fact that “human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.” The idea that democratic systems failed to prevent global heating may well take hold, with a resulting urge to strengthen state powers at the cost of rights and freedoms. 
To prevent this from happening, human rights advocates and environmentalists both need to broaden their mobilization campaigns by reaching out to groups who have traditionally not been allies of either movement.
From Europe to the U.S. to Australia, an alliance of populist leaders, corporate lobbyists and the Murdoch-owned press have pushed the idea that any gains for human rights or environmental protection will come at the expense of jobs. For example, the “gilets jaunes” protests in France were provoked, in part, by a fuel tax hike designed to reduce carbon emissions. (“Fin du monde, fin du mois” was one rallying cry — stop talking about the end of the world, when we’re just trying to get to the end of the month.)
Fossil fuel workers, cattle farmers and others need to know that they will still have livelihoods after serious measures have been taken to reduce global heating. Governments, NGOs and the private sector can offer such assurances through reskilling programs and subsidies for alternative land management and carbon sequestration. Without job security, too many people will remain vulnerable to wealthy climate science deniers — such as the Koch brothers — who have been able to convince them that climate change is basically a hoax against the “people” perpetrated by the “elite.”
Activists and sympathetic local officials must also work harder to win over indigenous people. In many countries, including Brazil, the Philippines and Honduras, there are examples of indigenous groups  resisting renewable energy projects. Not because they are politically opposed to renewable energy, but because they have traditionally not been consulted about enterprises inflicted on them within their traditional lands and waters.
Climate and human rights activists should be reaching out to these groups to get their buy-in. Governments should be transferring ownership of forested land back to the indigenous communities who have proven time and again to be the most effective guardians of their own ecosystems. Instead, indigenous people are being attacked — literally. In 2017, an average of three indigenous, environmental or land rights defenders were killed every week.
Collaboration between human rights advocates and environmentalists will make it more likely that we come together to reduce emissions and mitigate the worst effects of climate change — and that we do so equitably. But the first step is to create far stronger bonds between the leaders and activists of each cause. Until both sides have fully recognized that neither agenda can be achieved without the other, they will continue to under-perform against their powerful opponents.

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Humans Are Good At Thinking Their Way Out Of Problems – But Climate Change Is Outfoxing Us

Lethal Heating - 5 February, 2020 - 04:00
The Conversation

In some areas of human activity such as farming, we are exhausting our capacity to adapt to climate change. Daniel Mariuz/AAP John QuigginJohn Quiggin is Professor, School of Economics, University of Queensland.
He is an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow, a former Member of the Climate Change Authority, and an active campaigner for action to mitigate global heating. There is growing evidence that Earth’s systems are heading towards climate “tipping points” beyond which change becomes abrupt and unstoppable. But another tipping point is already being crossed - humanity’s capacity to adapt to a warmer world.
This season’s uncontrollable bushfires overwhelmed the nation. They left 33 people dead, killed an estimated one billion animals and razed more than 10 million hectares – a land area almost the size of England. The millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide the fires spewed into the atmosphere will accelerate climate change further.
Humans are a highly adaptive species. In the initial phases of global warming in the 20th century, we coped with the changes. But at some point, the pace and extent of global warming will outrun the human capacity to adapt. Already in Australia, there are signs we have reached that point.
Climate change and its effects, such as drought, challenge the human capacity to adapt. Dean Lewins/AAPWine woes
For Australia, the first obvious tipping point may come in agriculture. Farmers have gradually adapted to a changing climate for the last two decades, but this can’t go on indefinitely.
Take wine grapes. In the space of just 20 years, a warming climate means grape harvest dates have come back by roughly 40 days. That is, instead of harvesting red grapes at the end of March or early April many growers are now harvesting in mid-February. This is astounding.
The implications for wine quality are profound. Rapid ripening can cause “unbalanced fruit” where high sugar levels are reached before optimum colour and flavour development has been achieved.
To date, wine producers have dealt with the problem by switching to more heat-tolerant grape varieties, using sprinklers on hot days and even adding water to wine? to reduce excessive alcohol content. But these adaptations can only go so far.
On top of this, the recent fires ravaged wine regions in south-eastern Australia. Smoke reportedly ruined many grape crops and one wine companies, Tyrrell’s Wines, expects to produce just 20% of its usual volume this year.
At some point, climate change may render grape production uneconomic in large areas of Australia.
Smoke has tainted grape crops across southeast Australia. James Ross/AAPThe Murray Darling crisis
Farmers are used to handling drought. But the sequence of droughts since 2000 – exacerbated by climate change – raises the prospect that investment in cropland and cropping machinery becomes uneconomic. This in turn will negatively impact suppliers and local communities.
The problems are most severe in relation to irrigated agriculture, particularly in the Murray–Darling Basin.
In the early 1990s, it became clear that historical over-extraction of water had damaged the ecosystem’s health. In subsequent decades, policies to address this – such as extraction caps – were introduced. They assumed rainfall patterns of the 20th century would continue unchanged.
However the 21st century has been characterised by long periods of severe drought, and policies to revive the river environment have largely failed. Nowhere was this more evident than during last summer’s shocking fish kills.
The current drought has pushed the situation to political boiling point - and perhaps ecological tipping point.
Thousands of dead fish at Menindee Lakes in the Murray Darling river system underscored the effect of drought. AAP/SuppliedTensions between the Commonwealth and the states have prompted New South Wales government, which largely acts in irrigator interests, to flag quitting the Murray Darling Basin Plan. This may mean even more water is taken from the river system, precipitating an ecological catastrophe.The Murray Darling case shows adaptation tipping points are not, in general, triggered solely by climate change. The interaction between climate change and social, political and economic systems determines whether human systems adapt or break down.

Power struggles
The importance of this interplay is illustrated even more sharply by Australia’s failed electricity policy.
Political and public resistance to climate mitigation is largely driven by professed concern about the price and reliability of electricity – that a transition to renewable energy will cause supply shortages and higher energy bills.
However a failure to act on climate change has itself put huge stress on the electricity system.
Hot summers have caused old coal-fired power stations to break down more frequently. And the increased use of air-conditioning has increased electricity demand – particularly at peak times, which our system is ill-equipped to handle.
Finally, the recent bushfire disaster destroyed substantial parts of the electricity transmission and distribution system, implying yet further costs. Insurance costs for electricity networks are tipped to rise in response to the bushfire risk, pushing power prices even higher.
So far, the federal government’s response to the threat has been that of a failed state. A series of plans to reform the system and adapt to climate change, most recently the National Energy Guarantee, have floundered thanks to climate deniers in the federal government. Even as the recent fire disaster unfolded, our prime minister remained paralysed.
Failure to act on climate change is putting pressure on our electricity systems. Darren England/AAPThe big picture
Australia is not alone in facing these adaptation problems – or indeed in generating emissions that drive planetary warming. Only global action can address the problem.
But when the carbon impact of Australia’s fires is seen in tandem with recent climate policy failures here and elsewhere, the future looks very grim.
We need radical and immediate mitigation strategies, as well as adaptation measures based on science. Without this, 2019 may indeed be seen as a tipping point on the road to both climate catastrophe, and humanity’s capacity to cope.

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(AU) Scientists Sign Open Letter To Australian Government Urging Action On Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 4 February, 2020 - 04:10
ABC NewsAAP | ABC

The letter comes amid a horrific bushfire season. (AAP: Dean Lewins) Key points
  • The scientists have expertise in climate, fire and meteorology
  • They are calling for urgent action to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions
  • The scientists warn the impacts of climate change are coming faster, stronger and more regularly
More than 270 scientists have signed an open letter to Australia's leaders calling on them to abandon partisan politics and take action on climate change.
The letter comes as Parliament sits for the first time this year and amid Australia's ongoing bushfire threat.
The scientists, who have expertise in climate, fire and meteorology, are calling for urgent action to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions and for Canberra to engage constructively in international agreements.
"The thick, choking smoke haze of this summer is nothing compared to the policy smokescreen that continues in Australia," University of NSW climate scientist Katrin Meissner said in a statement on Monday.
"We need a clear, non-partisan path to reduce Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions in line with what the scientific evidence demands, and the commitment from our leaders to push for meaningful global action to combat climate change."The scientists warned an increase in bushfires was just one part of a deadly equation that suggested the impacts of climate change were coming faster, stronger and more regularly.
Heatwaves on land and in the oceans were longer, hotter and more frequent, they said.
The stories behind the moments
that defined the bushfire crisis
They are the heart-stopping videos that stopped the nation and stunned the world. But who filmed them and how did their stories end?
Australian National University climate scientist Nerilie Abram said the letter was the product of scientists' despair as they witnessed the deadly fire season unfold.
"Scientists have been warning policymakers for decades that climate change would worsen Australia's fire risk and yet these warnings have been ignored," Professor Abram said.
Separately, Oxfam said the Government must demonstrate it had fully grasped the lessons of this "horrific" bushfire season.
"In spite of the scientific evidence and the extreme weather we're living through — bushfires, hailstorms and drought — the Government still hasn't joined the dots and taken action to tackle the root causes of the crisis," Oxfam chief executive Lyn Morgain said in a statement.
She said Australia must dramatically strengthen emissions reduction targets and move beyond fossil fuels.
"The Government's narrow-minded focus on adaptation and resilience simply does not go far enough," she said.
She said Australia could wield great authority and leverage globally if it changed its policies.
"If we led by example and immediately strengthened our own emissions reduction commitments, and if we linked our own crisis with those escalating around the world, we could be a great catalyst for stronger international action," she said.

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(AU) Media ‘Impartiality’ On Climate Change Is Ethically Misguided And Downright Dangerous

Lethal Heating - 4 February, 2020 - 04:05
The Conversation

A catastrophic summer has brought climate change into sharp relief – and our media need to have clear policies about how to report on it. Bianca de Marchi/AAP Denis MullerDenis Muller is Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne. In September 2019, the editor of The Conversation, Misha Ketchell, declared The Conversation’s editorial team in Australia was henceforth taking what he called a “zero-tolerance” approach to climate change deniers and sceptics. Their comments would be blocked and their accounts locked.
His reasons were succinct:
Climate change deniers and those shamelessly peddling pseudoscience and misinformation are perpetuating ideas that will ultimately destroy the planet.From the standpoint of conventional media ethics, it was a dramatic, even shocking, decision. It seemed to violate journalism’s principle of impartiality – that all sides of a story should be told so audiences could make up their own minds.
But in the era of climate change, this conventional approach is out of date. A more analytical approach is called for.
The ABC’s editorial policy on impartiality offers the best analytical approach so far developed in Australia. It states that impartiality requires:
  • a balance that follows the weight of evidence
  • fair treatment
  • open-mindedness
  • opportunities over time for principal relevant perspectives on matters of contention to be expressed.
It stops short of saying material contradicting the weight of evidence should not be published, which is the position adopted explicitly by The Conversation and implicitly by Guardian Australia.
Guardian Australia’s position is to concentrate on presenting the evidence that human-induced climate change is real and is having a detrimental effect on global heating, wildlife extinction and pollution. It states that this is the defining issue of our times and fundamental societal change is needed in response.
The position of Australia’s other big media organisations is far less clear and rests on generalities applicable to all issues.
The former Fairfax (now Nine) newspapers, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, have separate codes. The Age code does not mention impartiality but requires its journalists to report in a way that is fair, accurate and balanced. The Herald’s does mention impartiality but confines it to an instruction to avoid promoting an individual staff member’s personal interests or preferences.
Both say, however, that comment should be kept separate from news.
News Corp Australia’s editorial professional conduct policy is quite different from all these. It states that comment, conjecture and opinion are acceptable in [news] reports to provide perspective on an issue, or explain the significance of an issue, or to allow readers to recognise what the publication’s standpoint is on the matter being reported.
Its journalists are told to try always to tell all sides of the story when reporting on disputes.
However, the policy also states that none of this allows the publication of information known to be inaccurate or misleading.
Markedly different as these positions are, they have one element in common: freedom of the press does not mean freedom to publish false or misleading material.
From an ethical perspective, this is a bare minimum. The ABC requires that its journalists follow the weight of evidence, which is a substantially more exacting standard of truthfulness than anything required by the Fairfax or News Corp newspapers. The Guardian Australia and The Conversation have imposed what it is in effect a ban on climate-change denialism, on the ground that it is harmful.
Harm is a long-established criterion for abridging free speech. John Stuart Mill, in his seminal work, On Liberty, published in 1859, was a robust advocate for free speech but he drew the line at harm:
[…] the only purpose for which power can be exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.It follows that editors may exercise the power of refusing to publish climate-denialist material if doing so prevents harm to others, without violating fundamental free-speech principles.
Other harms too provide established grounds for limiting free speech. Some of these are enforceable at law – defamation, contempt of court, national security – but speech about climate change falls outside the law and so becomes a question of ethics.
The harms done by climate change, both at a planetary level and at the level of human health, are well-documented and supported by overwhelming scientific evidence.
At a planetary level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report last year on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.
It stated that human activities are estimated to have already caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, and that 1.5°C was likely to be reached between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.
At the level of human health, in June 2019 the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners published its Position Statement on Climate Change and Human Health.
It stated that climate change resulting from human activity “presents an urgent, significant and growing threat to health worldwide”.
Projected changes in Australia’s climate would result in more frequent and widespread heatwaves and extreme heat. This would increase the risks of heat stress, heat stroke, dehydration and mortality, contribute to acute cerebrovascular accidents, and aggravate chronic respiratory, cardiac and kidney conditions and psychiatric illness.
At both the planetary and human-health levels, then, the harms are serious and grounded in credible scientific evidence. It follows that they provide a strong ethical justification for the stands taken by The Conversation and Guardian Australia in prioritising Mill’s harm principle over free speech.
Aside from these two platforms and the ABC, journalists are offered very limited internal guidance about how to approach the balancing of free-speech interests with the harm principle in the context of climate change.
External guidance is nonexistent. The ethical codes promulgated by the media accountability bodies – the Australian Press Council and the Australian Communications and Media Authority – make no mention of how impartiality should be achieved in the context of climate change. The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s code of ethics is similarly silent.
These bodies would serve the profession and the public interest by developing specific standards to deal with the issue of climate change, and guidance about how to meet them. It is not an issue like any other. It is existential on a scale surpassing even nuclear war.
As I write in my study at Central Tilba on the far south coast of New South Wales, the entire landscape of farmland, bush and coastline is shrouded in smoke. It has been like that since before Christmas.
Twice we have been evacuated from our home. Twice we have been among the lucky ones to return unhurt and find our home intact.
The front of the Badja Forest Road fire (292,630 hectares) is 3.6 kilometres to the north, creeping towards us in the leaf litter. A northerly wind would turn it into an immediate threat.
From this perspective, media acquiescence in climate change denial, failure to follow the weight of evidence, or continued adherence to an out-of-date standard of impartiality looks like culpable irresponsibility.

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(AU) ‘Futuring’ Can Help Us Survive The Climate Crisis. And Guess What? You’Re A Futurist Too

Lethal Heating - 4 February, 2020 - 04:00
The Conversation

When we are imagining this time, next year, are we limiting our thinking to how we avoid the conditions we faced in this summer? Or are there bigger questions we can ask? Shutterstock

Clare M. CooperClare M. Cooper is Design Lecturer, University of Sydney.
Her work spans futuring, pedagogy, interdisciplinary design research, workshop facilitation, consultation, and the performing arts.
She has recently completed her Ph.D. at Macquarie University. Australians, no matter where we are, are coming to acknowledge that our summers – and our autumns, winters and springs – are forever changed.
We are, bit by bit, reviewing our assumptions. Whether we need to radically rethink our calendars, or question where and how we rebuild homes and towns, we face a choice: collective, creative adaptation or increased devastation.
How might this time next year feel - anxious, hot and sticky? How might it smell - like bushfire smoke? How might it taste - would seafood and berries still be on the menu in future summers as our climate changes? (One of my favourite placards at a recent climate rally was “shit climate = shit wine”).
When we think about this time next year, are we freaking out, or are we futuring?
How might the Australian summer of the future look, taste, smell? Shutterstock
Collaborative futuring in a climate crisis
“Futuring” is sometimes called futures studies, futurology, scenario design or foresight thinking. It has been used in the business world for decades.
Futuring means thinking systematically about the future, drawing on scientific data, analysing trends, imagining scenarios (both plausible and unlikely) and thinking creatively. A crucial part of the process is thinking hard about the kind of future we might want to avoid and the steps needed to work toward a certain desired future.
But futurists aren’t magical people who sweep in and solve problems for you. They facilitate discussions and collaboration but the answers ultimately come from communities themselves. Artists and writers have been creatively imagining the future for millennia. Futuring is a crucial part of design and culture-building.
My research looks at how futuring can help communities work toward a just and fair transition to a drastically warmer world and greater weather extremes.
Collaborative futuring invites audiences to respond to probable, possible, plausible and preposterous future scenarios as the climate crisis sets in. This process can reveal assumptions, biases and possible courses of action.
Cars lie damaged after a surprise hailstorm hit Canberra in January. Extreme weather events are predicted to worsen as the climate changes. AAP Image/Mick TsikasGetting creative
Futuring is not predicting futures.
It’s a way of mixing informed projections with imaginative critical design to invite us to think differently about our current predicaments. That can help us step back from the moment of panic and instead proactively design steps to change things for the better – not 20 years from now, but from today.
If you peeked into a futuring workshop with adults, you might see a lot of lively conversations and a bunch of post-it notes. For kids, you might see them making collages, or creating cardboard prototypes of emerging technology.
You might have done some futuring today, talking with friends and family about changes you might make as it becomes obvious our summers will grow only hotter.
I’ve seen futuring occur at my daughter’s school, where children are invited to imagine being on the other side of a difficult problem, and then work out the steps needed to get there.
13-year-old protester Izzy Raj-Seppings poses for a photograph outside of Kirribilli House in Sydney late last year. AAP Image/Steven SaphoreFuturing a just transition to a warmer world
When we are imagining this time next year, are we limiting our (mostly city-dwelling) thinking to how we avoid the conditions we faced in this summer?
For example, are we thinking about staying away from bushfire-prone areas, or buying air purifiers and face masks? For those who can afford it, are we thinking about booking extended overseas holidays?
Or are we challenging each other to think beyond such avoidance strategies: to imagine a post-Murdoch press and a post-fossil fuel lobby future? Can we imagine ways to respond to extreme weather beyond individual prepping?
Including a diverse range of voices, especially Indigenous community members, is crucial to a just transition to a warmer world. We can’t allow a changed climate to mean comfortable adaptation for a wealthy elite while everyone else suffers.
Many of us have joined climate protests in recent months and years.
But more work needs to be done and bigger questions asked. What steps are needed to meet demands for public ownership of a renewable energy system: more support for those battling and displaced by bushfires? How do we work toward First Nations justice, including funding for Indigenous-led land management, jobs on Country, and land and water rights?
It is not enough to pin an image of our future to a wall and pray we get there.
Short term fixes in the form of drought or emergency relief won’t address the fact that extreme weather events are not going away.
Responsible, useful futuring mixes equal parts of imagination and informed projections. It’s not wild speculation. Futuring practitioners draw on scientific and social data, and weave it with the stories, concerns and desires of those present to find new ways into a problem.
Short term fixes in the form of drought or emergency relief won’t address the fact that extreme weather events are not going away. ShutterstockSpeaking of catastrophe to avoid it
Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating last year criticised the Morrison government for what he saw as a lack of vision:
If you look, there is no panorama. There’s no vista. There’s no shape. There’s no talk about where Australia fits in the world.Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s performance during the unfolding bushfire horrors – widely perceived as lacklustre – suggests growing thirst for bolder vision on dealing with “the new normal.”
In their book Design and the Question of History, design scholars Tony Fry, Clive Dilnot and Susan Stewart argue that we should speak of catastrophe “in order to avoid it”.
Polish-born sociologist Zygmunt Bauman wrote:
prophesying the advent of that catastrophe as passionately and vociferously as we can manage is the sole chance of making the unavoidable avoidable — and perhaps even the inevitable impossible to happen.We owe it to those worst affected by the climate crisis – and to ourselves – to dedicate time to collaborative futuring as we rethink life in an increasingly hostile climate.
The next time you’re having a chat about this time, next year, are you collectively fretting or collaboratively futuring?

PODCAST
'Futuring' can help us survive the climate crisis.And guess what? You're a futurist too
10m 15secs

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Early Lessons Emerge From Bushfires As Disaster Review Season Begins

Lethal Heating - 3 February, 2020 - 04:10
Sydney Morning HeraldPeter Hannam | Laura Chung

Early last month, as fire crews monitored a huge blaze burning out of control beneath a major power transmission line near Batemans Bay, a senior Rural Fire Service official signalled a very different challenge that awaits once the bushfire emergency finally recedes.
“At the back of our minds, we know there’ll be inquiries coming,” he said, just before overhead cables ominously twanged, forcing an immediate move from those nearby.
Volunteer firefighters work to keep a fire north of Batemans Bay from crossing the Kings Highway, in early January 2020. Credit: Kate GeraghtyIndeed, the disaster review season has begun, with the Berejiklian government this week declaring the first of what could be a blitz of formal probes. It unveiled plans for a six-month independent inquiry to examine the role played by climate change, drought, fuel loads and human activity.This coming week, the Morrison government will likely consider a royal commission. If history is any guide, the pile of past bushfire inquiries, already some 56 reports high since the 1939 Stretton report into Victoria’s Black Friday fires, will be stacked a lot higher before long.
The inquisitions already have much to work through with 12 million hectares torched - the equivalent of 1.5 Tasmanias - and the fire season still has months to run. Canberra remains under threat from a blaze - started by an army helicopter’s lights which ignited dry vegetation - and large areas of Victoria, NSW and elsewhere remain at risk.
More than 1000 power poles were burnt in NSW in the fires so far this season. Credit: Kate GeraghtyThe military’s belated direct intervention - Prime Minister Scott Morrison called in the 3000 reservists and sent in naval ships only when the emergency peaked in early January - could feature highly.
Australia’s armed forces have been quietly “war-gaming” disasters including large bushfires with federal and state agencies for years. Scenario testing is what most militaries do, and the memory of Cyclone Tracy’s devastation of Darwin around Christmas Day in 1974 - which prompted the dispatch of almost every available plane and ship - hasn’t been forgotten.
A multi-year project, the Australian Vulnerability Profile, led by the CSIRO, is just one of a series of programs that have been workshopping away with the aim of improving preparedness for calamities and the necessary “pathways” to recovery for communities and governments alike.
The project detailed scenarios for South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia/Northern Territory, but it was ended before the country’s two most populous states - NSW and Victoria - had mock disaster runs of their own.
The SA scenario came closest to the current crisis in that it modelled a multi-day heatwave similar to the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires with temperatures approaching 50 degrees. A 5.6-magnitude earthquake, similar to one that rocked the state in 1954, was added to the mix.


Shocking footage taken on January 4 by the Dunmore Rural Fire Brigade in NSW shows how a bushfire engulfs an area in just over three minutes.

Michael Thomas, a retired army major, says the military has been preparing for years for the challenges from climate change, such as a simultaneous extreme bushfire event at home and a more intense cyclone smashing one of our Pacific neighbours.
“The [Australian Defence Force’s] voice has been lost in the Australian debate,” Thomas told the Herald in January. "Climate change is talked about as a 'threat multiplier' but it's actually a 'burden multiplier.'"
Whether or not the ADF should have been more involved in the fire efforts sooner and in greater effect - such as acquiring or renting Module Airborne Firefighting Systems (MAFFs) to convert military transport planes into 30,000-litre water bombers - will likely feature in the inquiries.
But Thomas says it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how even the military could quickly get overwhelmed by “sudden, multiple regional disasters”.
“The ADF becomes very stretched, very quickly in its ability to respond,” he says.
Fires have burnt through about 12 million hectares of Australia this season, or 1.5 times the size of Tasmania. Credit: James BrickwoodChris Barrie, a retired admiral and former chief of the Defence Force, and now adjunct professor at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University, agrees the public has largely been left in the dark about how much disaster scenario work has been under way.  He says military leaders have become accustomed to downplaying climate change in their public utterances since the Abbott government. This includes a reluctance by senior officers to commend junior offices for their work on such security issues. “They don’t get any support," he said.
A spokesperson for the ADF says the 2016 Defence White Paper identified climate change "as one of the causes of state fragility, a key driver of our security environment to 2035".
"Defence factors climate change considerations into our strategic planning for Defence capabilities, estate, personnel and equipment, as well as related operational responses and preparedness."
The clean-up and recovery costs from the fires will run into the billions of dollars nationally. Debate will likely turn to whether governments could have done more to limit the bill. Credit: Nick MoirAn insider who has worked on joint efforts by federal and state agencies says the disconnect between research and policy is widespread. For instance, some lower-level work on preparing for disasters such as worsening bushfires doesn’t make to the highest levels, including ministers, because it won’t be “re-funded” when the program ends, the official said, requesting anonymity.
The most prominent federal effort to increase the nation's climate resilience, the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, lost its funding in 2017 under the Turnbull government, when Scott Morrison was treasurer.
And, as the ABC reported last September, regular meetings of the heads of federal government department - the so-called Secretaries Group on Climate Risk - started meeting in March 2017 and abruptly stopped in the middle of 2018. Meetings of less senior officials continue.
Barrie is among those who say the reliance on a mostly volunteer firefighting force, as in NSW, will likely be prominent in any review of how prepared agencies were for this fire season and whether it will be “future fit” in a warming world. With an average age of active volunteers at more than 50 years, “that doesn’t really work”, he says.
Officially, the RFS has grown into one of the largest firefighting services in the world, with about 72,491 volunteers at last count.
Army reservices are helping with cleanup operations across bushfire affected areas. Credit: Justin McManusMick Holton, president of the Volunteer Fire Firefighters Association, says the true figure is probably closer to 18,500 volunteers. “We've said all along [the 70,000-plus figure] is not the case and if it was the case, they wouldn’t have to import all these other firefighting resources as they have had to,” he says.
Ben Shepherd, a senior RFS spokesman, earlier in the season said 46,000 volunteers were “more or less active” with many playing key support roles, from drivers to managing logistics and assisting at air bases.
With this fire season already approaching six months and more big battles in prospect before it ends, scrutiny is turning to how volunteers are coping - physically, mentally and financially.
One seasoned RFS firefighter, already active for months this season, has watched on with a mix of frustration and determination as the extent and severity of the bushfires appears to have caught authorities routinely on the hop.
As far as he could tell, there were no bushfire plans for public assets in his area, whether it was for power substations, water supplies or even some fire sheds - often the place locals would be expected to evacuate to if they were unable to defend their homes and couldn’t leave the area. In his area, crews were scrambling to clear vegetation from RFS depots on the day before the worst of the fire dangers.
Australia had its hottest and driest year on record in 2019 - factors that have contributed to what fire agencies say are "unprecedented" bushfires this season. Credit: Nick MoirThe one sector that appeared to have a “really detailed” plan to reduce fire risks to their assets was the power industry, including Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy.
A spokeswoman for Endeavour Energy said the group aims to "fire proof" major zone substations by using vegetation exclusion zones and fire walls surrounding substations located in bushland."[The] Tomerong zone substation on the South Coast survived a ferocious South Coast fire due to this design, she said. Fires burnt across 45 per cent of Endeavour’s network area, "but we only had minor damage to one zone substation at Hartley Vale in the Blue Mountains".
Other preparations included the use of helicopters equipped with cameras and light detection imaging radar to pinpoint network defects and identify encroaching vegetation, which are then fixed before the bushfire season starts, she said.
Trent Penman, an associate professor in bushfire behaviour at the University of Melbourne, says the inquiries should, where possible, be community led, since they can be an important process for the public to air their grievances and even grief. Handled badly, they can also add to the trauma of those giving evidence or submissions, he says.
However, any tinkering with the volunteer model should also be done cautiously as such firefighters were often the core of local communities.  “In NSW and Victoria ... they’ve done an amazing job given the circumstances,” he says, noting the human death toll, tragic as it was at 32, could have been much higher given the scale of the blazes.
And while the reviews will have to tackle complex issues - such as why some backburns got away or whether increased hazard reduction burning would make much difference to reducing fire risks -  there is no need for hasty verdicts.
"The decisions we take over the next six months to six years will play out over the long term,” he says.
The RFS itself says it welcomed the inquiry but would also conduct its own internal one. "We owe it to the community and future generations to review what has happened and take lessons wherever possible to improve for the future,” a spokeswoman said.

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Thomas Keneally: ‘These Fires Have Changed Us’

Lethal Heating - 3 February, 2020 - 04:05
The Guardian

The swamp near my home has been dry for two years, and fires burn down to the beaches
A firefighter battles a fire consuming a home near Bundanoon, New South Wales. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP
Thomas KeneallyThomas Keneally is the author of more than 30 novels, including Schindler’s Ark, which won the Booker prize in 1982.
This article has details on how to help with the Australian relief effort. Last Australian autumn, and all through winter, a group of retired fire chiefs wanted to meet with prime minister Scott Morrison, and warn him that Australia had passed, as if through a gate, to a new level of combustibility, and that the fire peril for the coming summer would be unprecedented in length and ferocity. For fear that the group might link this menace with the forbidden term “climate change”, the leader Australians now call “Scotty from marketing” refused to meet them, though in good faith they kept on trying to arrange a session with him into the spring. As they pointed out, Morrison took considerably less time before meeting church leaders who wanted to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws involving the employment of gay staff and similar “freedom of religion” matters. The fire chiefs worried that we share our combustibility with the Pacific coast of the United States, and that given the overlapping North American and Australian fire seasons, the hiring of air tankers was going to get more and more difficult. Above all, they were concerned that this summer’s fires would take on a new scale and not surrender to normal firefighting. They felt they had begun to see abnormal symptoms in the 1990s.

Once we got over our colonial Eurocentrism and realised that the Australian bush was not going to go to any trouble to imitate European flora, we began to take a perverse pride in the fact that so many of our plants are germinated by fire: “phoenix plants”. We know now that our species has been in Australia so long, for tens of millennia, that Indigenous Australians learned fire-stick farming – regenerating the continent with skilfully lit fires, which also had the benefit of flushing protein-rich marsupials out into the open. The reality is that swathes of Australia must burn for its own good. Les Murray, the late, great poet, said Australia had only two seasons: drought, of which fires were symptomatic, and flood.

Both sides of the country, east and west, have had calamitous drought and fires in their time. But the drying out to which Australia has been subjected in this last year is unprecedented and seems to most people to proclaim climate crisis. The denialists are making a last stand by accusing the Greens of preventing back-burning in national parks; and of course the Murdoch press embraces that proposition and emphasises cases of arson. The fact that there are cases of arson, and always have been in Australia and California, explains a minority of blazes, but it does not explain the voracity and appetite of these flames. On the right wing of the coalition that governs Australia, and which Morrison needs if he is to govern, sturdy climate denial remains undented. Yet the climate crisis has for the first time replaced the economy as the nation’s chief political issue, for the very question of the habitability of Australia now stares us in the face. On 4 January, an outer suburb of Sydney – Penrith, below the Blue Mountains that were burning at the time – achieved the highest temperature on Earth that day, 48.9C. Sydney suburbs, as hot as they can be in summer, have never achieved such Saharan heights before.

Kosciuszko national park in New South Wales, shrouded in smoke from the fires. Photograph: Walter Bibikow/Getty Images/AWLWhat have I noticed, living as I do between the harbour and the Pacific Ocean on the North Head of Sydney? Day after day, beginning as early as August, smoke has rendered going abroad in the city an unknown risk about which experts warn us but cannot accurately predict. Air quality has on some days been 11 times the hazardous level.

Today, a Thursday in late January, is better than many days, in that the air quality is merely poor and visibility good, though not as good as it traditionally is on cut-crystal summer days on the coast. We have frequently been sunk in smoky dimness. The water in the smoke condenses on particles and creates a kind of cloud we have seen a lot of, the pyrocumulonimbus, which blankets the earth but does not bring rain, although it is capable of creating dry lightning. For most of my life, heat waves – and today is nudging 40 and qualifies – used always to bring, after a time, a southerly change in the late afternoon or evening. There were always strong winds and a drenching thunderstorm. In the last few years, we have had to get used to the southerly buster that brings no rain, the dry southerly that whips up fire. There is no rain forecast for today or at the end of this hot spate, though there is a prediction for next week.
The New South Wales coast is a place of childhood vacations and dreams, with beaches that stretch for milesI am lucky enough to live next to a national park, and when I first moved here there was a hanging swamp on top of the vast sandstone block of North Head. This was a swamp that in most seasons had water in it, though it would occasionally dry out for short periods. It was the home of a number of species of frog. It was visited by ducks and other water birds, and by a handsome lizard called the water dragon, which enjoyed eating the tiger moths that lived there. That swamp has been dry for two years. Drying out has happened all along the coast, and we have had the extraordinary spectacle of fires burning down to the fringe of beaches, and populations taken off the coast by warship.

The New South Wales coast is a place of childhood vacations and dreams, with atmospheric paperbark swamps running behind beaches that stretch for miles. The lagoons and swamps were perpetually too moist to burn. Fires burning down to the coast is, to use the catchphrase, the new normal. The coast and its valleys and beaches have been places where great numbers of nature lovers, retirees and escapees from the city have chosen to settle. The coast north and south of Sydney is a dream every city dweller has entertained, a migration always on the cards for us. Now an exceptional vulnerability has overtaken regions where people previously lived securely in the bush. The Keneallys’ chosen town on immigration – Kempsey, New South Wales – has for the first time since settlement been ringed by fire. Its long, exquisite river, the Macleay, has become tainted with so much ash that fish have died. Even rainforest has become combustible.

Recently, on a walk in the bush, I encountered one of the species threatened, by the fires and the state of the world, with extinction. It is one of the two survivors from the ancient supercontinent of Gondwanaland: the echidna, a spiny anteater that both lays an egg and suckles its young in the comfort of its burrow. I love this creature: it gives off an air, despite its limited movement, of industry, and she was turning over the earth to the depth of her beak in her search for provender. It was touching to see this most enduring of animals at its ancient earthwork, unchallenged by fire here, unlike in other forests. It speaks to how much human occupation, a tower of millennia, there has been in Australia, and of the contrast between its Indigenous stewards and the stewardship of us immigrant groups. It had taken us less than two and a half centuries to bring the 50m-year-surviving echidna, and the system sustaining it, to crisis.

The fires threaten some species with extinction, including the echidna, or spiny anteater. Photograph: Lisa Mckelvie/Getty ImagesIn this crisis, the volunteer bush firefighter was once an unassertive creature like the echidna. Now, in an age of bitter politics and economic palaver, they have asserted themselves as miracles of social cohesion and human goodwill. The volunteers often come from areas in which they are fighting the fires, and in many cases have helped save houses without knowing if their own home was still standing. They were also, of necessity, the first comforters of those who had survived the loss of their houses. They have lost wages and tested the patience of their employers by needing to take tranches of time off work. One of the retired fire chiefs who tried to speak to “Sco-Mo” last year was Greg Mullins, a volunteer who recently said, “Like countless other men and women on the front line, I have faced off against 30m walls of flame, seen many homes burned to the ground, tried to console inconsolable residents, been forced to run for safety and seen native animals bounding out of the burning bush to collapse and die.” He is angered as politicians describe climate change as “perhaps one of the factors”.

These fires have not been a straw in the wind. They have been brutally manifest and undeniable in the force of their argument. They have the power to change politics here and in other places, as long as they are read honestly. After our long glorying in minerals, it is promised that, if it wishes, Australia can be a leader in the new post-fossil-fuel world. It is a destiny our politicians seem unwilling to embrace, but they may have to.

For the fires have changed us. Perhaps we, too, need fire to germinate an essential concept.

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Heritage On The Edge Urges Action On The Climate Crisis

Lethal Heating - 3 February, 2020 - 04:00
Google - Toshiyuki Kono

Protecting cultural sites against climate change.

Dr. Toshiyuki KonoDr. Toshiyuki Kono is President of the International Council on Monuments and Sites. Distinguished Professor Kono also teaches private international law and heritage law at Japan's Kyushu University. Preserving and protecting the past is essential for our future. This belief is at the core of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a global non-government organization dedicated to the conservation of architectural and archaeological heritage.
Our 10,000 members across the globe—including architects, archeologists, geographers, planners and anthropologists—share the same vision: to protect and promote the world’s cultural heritage. The recent youth climate demonstrations shed a spotlight on the urgency of the climate crisis, which is having a devastating effect on our cultural monuments too. It is important to take action, and we must act now to save this part of our human legacy.
That’s why, in collaboration with CyArk and Google Arts & Culture, we’re launching Heritage on the Edge, a new online experience that stresses the gravity of the situation through the lens of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can join us and explore over 50 online exhibits, 3D models, Street View tours, and interviews with local professionals and communities about Rapa Nui’s (Easter Island) iconic statues, the great mosque city of Bagerhat in Bangladesh, the adobe metropolis of Chan Chan in Peru, Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle and the coastal city of Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania—all heritage sites that are affected by the climate crisis.
Above all, the project is a call to action. The effects of climate change on our cultural heritage mirror wider impacts on our planet, and require a strong and meaningful response. While actions at individual sites can prevent loss locally, the only sustainable solution is systemic change and the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Heritage on the Edge collects stories of loss, but also of hope and resilience. They remind us that all our cultural heritage, including these iconic World Heritage Sites, are more than just tourist destinations. They are places of great national, spiritual and cultural significance.

Built from volcanic stone  by the native Polynesian inhabitants from the 10th to 16th centuries, the Easter Island Statues—called Moai—stand at an average height of 13 feet and weigh 14 tons each. As sea levels rise and storms increase, the cliffs where the monuments are located are being undercut. The statues will eventually fall into the sea.

 
Peru's Chan Chan is the world’s largest adobe city. It is being washed away by increasing torrential rain caused by climate change. But building roofs won’t solve the problem either: Thanks to rising groundwater levels, they could cause a dangerous microclimate and ultimately affect the buildings’ structural stability.

 
A 3D visualization of the Nine Dome Mosque in the Mosque City of Bagerhat in Bangladesh uses a “point cloud” to represent its high concentration of finely made religious monuments and spatial planning. But the monuments are rapidly decaying due to salt water flooding and erosion. With help of this data we were able to also create another dedicated “Pocket Gallery” that lets you explore the Nine Dome Mosque in Augmented Reality.

 
The historic fortress and urban center of Edinburgh is Scotland's most-visited tourist attraction and at risk from rapidly increasing rainfall and groundwater flooding.

 
Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania is the most famous Swahili Coast trading port on the Indian Ocean. Site Director Mercy Mbogellah and her team monitor and work to preserve the site, which is at risk from sea-level rise, mangrove depletion and ocean acidification. Explore the site’s Gereza Fort and the impact of climate change up close in a Augmented Reality “Pocket Gallery”. 
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(AU) Is Morrison Government Fit For Purpose, Or The Greatest Danger To Our National Security?

Lethal Heating - 2 February, 2020 - 04:10
RenewEconomy - 

Credit: AAP Image/Lukas Coch Ian DunlopIan Dunlop was formerly an international oil, gas and coal industry executive, chair of the Australian Coal Association and CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
He is co-author ofWhat Lies Beneath: the understatement of existential climate risk, and of the Club of Rome’s Climate Emergency Plan  The current bushfires are unprecedented in terms of their extent, intensity, fire season length, economic and social impact. They are, without doubt, intensified by human-induced climate change.
However, they are not unexpected; this is what the climate science has been telling us for years. Likewise with the drought. The fact that these warnings have been ignored by government has left the country totally unprepared to handle these disasters.
Once the initial shock at the size and speed of the fires passed, emergency action kicked-in, providing late but welcome assistance to the volunteers who have been battling fires since September. This is what Australia does well, once the decision is made, and it must be an absolute priority.
But the equally important debate around the linkage between drought, bushfires and climate change has sunk back into the swamp of government denial and diversionary tactics which created this disaster in the first place.
The overwhelming evidence is that these issues are all linked.
Weasel words from the Prime Minister that the links had always been obvious, were immediately negated by his underwhelming commitment to “evolve” his inadequate climate policy. In short, nothing will change, hopefully concerns will ease as the summer progresses, then politics-as-usual can resume.
But it will not, because the real implications are still ignored. Climate change is now an immediate existential threat to human civilisation and the greatest threat facing this country. Our drought and bushfires are a foretaste of the accelerating climate emergency which, after three decades of inaction, is locked-in for years to come.
They are early signs that irreversible climatic tipping points, which have concerned scientists for years, are starting to manifest themselves locally.
To avert escalating disasters, we must reduce carbon emissions rapidly, way beyond current policy, greater than 50% by 2030, and encourage the same action globally. In particular, all fossil fuel expansion must stop; coal, oil, gas: Adani, NW Shelf LNG, Great Australian Bight oil, fracking, the long list of NSW and Queensland coal projects, etc.
To do otherwise is simply suicidal. Australia is already more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the lower temperature limit of the 2015 Paris Agreement, and will probably hit 2°C by 2030 or earlier, the upper Paris limit, levels which will create far greater social and economic chaos than we are already seeing.
And we must act early, otherwise tipping points will trigger, moving climate change irreversibly beyond human influence. The longer action is delayed, the faster events move beyond our control. Which means we must talk about climate change right now, particularly about mitigating its impact, not just adapting to events we can no longer avoid.
Which begs the question, do we have a government fit-for-purpose, capable of facing up to this threat honestly, and managing the transformation it implies?
In short, no.
The Prime Minister, in recent comments, culminating in his National Press Club address, demonstrates that he does not understand climate risk and its implications.
Further, he shows no inclination to do so with the continual harping back to, and misrepresentation of, totally inadequate mitigation policies and a concentration on important, but secondary, emergency response and adaptation issues.
Why secondary? Because current global policies, and ours are amongst the worst, are leading to temperature increases of 3-5°C, way beyond the Paris limits, and to the triggering of climate tipping points. It is not possible for humanity to adapt to such conditions; civilisation as we know it will collapse.
Unless we start to cut emissions immediately, those outcomes will become locked-in; emergency responses and adaptation are then irrelevant.
Far more stringent global mitigation measures must be taken now, but particularly here as Australia is one of the countries most exposed to climate risk, as we are already seeing, and the fourth largest global emitter if you include exports, which is the only sensible measure in emergency circumstances.
The Coalition, with its dominance of climate deniers, dismisses such analysis out of hand. Furthermore, successive Coalition governments have created systemic barriers to climate action, not least by continually winding back Australia’s climate change research capacity by emasculating the CSIRO, disbanding the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility and much more, just when we need it most.
In particular, the Australian Public Service for years has been deliberately politicised by both main political parties, hence Scott Morrison’s edict last August that politicians decide policy and the public service just deliver as they are told.
The results speak for themselves.
The Prime Minister’s office is effectively run as a branch of the Minerals Council and other conservative interests, climate denialists to the core.
Senator Bridget McKenzie and her political advisers take it upon themselves to allocate sports grants to gain electoral advantage, irrespective of public service recommendations, apparently because everything was “within the rules”. Blatant pork-barrelling in a moral and ethical vacuum.
Then there is Angus Taylor and his letter to Clover Moore with falsified travel expenditure, questions around water misallocation, Defence procurement, former ministers’ potential conflict-of-interest with private sector employment, such as Christopher Pyne, Julie Bishop and now Brendan Nelson, the list goes on.
The Prime Minister, Matt Canavan, Josh Frydenberg, Angus Taylor and others irresponsibly promote massive fossil fuel development when they have been clearly told by scientific, risk, economic, health and many other experts in both public and private sectors of the risks that represents to the country, the economy and the communities they are supposed to represent, now witnessed by the evidence all around us.
The “frank and fearless advice” which the public service historically provided to counteract such political excess has long since evaporated.
The government’s weak Statement of Ministerial Standards is a poor substitute. It states that the government must: “act with integrity and in the best interests of the people they serve. —- at all times to the highest standards of probity.” Further: “This Statement is principles-based and is not a complete list of rules.”
 Ministers must:
  • act with integrity.
  • observe fairness in making official decisions, that is to act honestly and reasonably – taking proper account of the merits of the decision.
  • accept accountability for the exercise of power, and ensure conduct, representation and decisions are open to public scrutiny and explanation
  • take decisions in terms of advancing the public interest, based on their best judgement of what will advance the common good of the people.
Despite this soaring rhetoric, it is then left to the Prime Minister to judge whether any ministerial action is reasonable in meeting these obligations. And of course his big stay-out-of-jail card is that: “ministers take decisions based on their best judgement of what will advance the common good”.
Not surprising, if you are a climate denier, that your “best judgement” would include a large dose of fossil fuel expansion, despite the suicidal implications for the common good of the Australian and global communities.
These Standards represent a massive conflict of interest, as jurists have pointed out, with the foxes firmly in charge of the hen-house. Little wonder the government violently opposes any effective national integrity commission which might interfere with their entitlement to plunder the public purse.
Senator McKenzie’s actions contradict these principles at every level, particularly the mantra that “no rules were broken”. She and others would resign of their own volition if they had a modicum of commitment to the public interest, but clearly that will not happen, nor will they be dismissed by a weak Prime Minister.
Many commentators seem to think this is acceptable, and that her misdemeanours are just of passing interest, typical of the way politics is played these days. Not so.
Sports rorting is certainly a minor issue in the wide panoply of political decision-making, but the principles involved are fundamental to the entire basis of our democracy and its ability to take the hard decisions ahead of us on issues like climate change.
The words of Lord Acton come to mind:
“When you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men (and women) with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”Our parliamentarians lack any understanding of the ethical and fiduciary responsibilities of holding public office. No doubt there are good people in parliament, but they are not making themselves heard above the slurping at the trough of political entitlement; as a result, trust in the entire political class has plummeted.
In the near future, we have to make the most difficult decision ever to confront the Australian people – how to transform our fossil-fuel dominated economy to a low-carbon footing at emergency speed. The cost of so doing will be substantial, involving sacrifice, effort, co-operation and most of all, trust.
We do have solutions if they are implemented effectively; otherwise the cost will be far greater, probably leading to the collapse of society as we know it. Fossil fuel expansion, in particular, will only hasten the collapse.
That is our choice. A successful outcome is impossible with our corrupt political system and the vested interests to which it is beholden. When climate change, the greatest threat facing the country, is not even accepted by the leadership as an issue, that leadership is untrustworthy, incapable of making ethically and morally responsible decisions, and emergency action akin to wartime is required, they must step aside.
In response to questions at the National Press Club, the Prime Minister insisted that, on climate change: “Australia is carrying its load and more. We are doing what you would expect a country like Australia to do, but what I won’t do is this: I am not going to sell out Australians”.
Absolute nonsense; this has to be the first time in Australia’s proud history that it has so cravenly shrunk from its international responsibilities on a major global issue. Selling out Australians is exactly what the Prime Minister is doing by refusing to face climate reality, making this government the greatest danger to our national security.
New governance is urgently needed, bringing together the best leaders and expertise to build a consensus for change and apply solutions effectively, fairly and rapidly.
The revolving earth pitted with its tragedies, cried in a far voice from the middle of space: “you cannot leave me to the politicians……. It cannot be left to them; not solely to them. You have to bring in the wise men”.
Neil Gunn
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(AU) Empty Nets And Tropical Fish In Tasmania As Climate Change Hits Southern Ocean

Lethal Heating - 2 February, 2020 - 04:05
Sydney Morning HeraldRoyce Millar | Chris Vedelago

Rising temperatures and climate change have been blamed for the failure of stocks of some of the most popular eating fish in Australia’s Southern Ocean to recover from declines despite more than a decade of protection.
The troubling findings come as new modelling from the CSIRO shows further temperature rises already “locked in by past emissions” could see fish stocks fall by another 20 per cent within the next two decades.
Sea surface temperatures off the coast of Tasmania
November 23, 2010 -2017
Source:  IMOS (Integrated Marine Observing System)Dr Alistair Hobday, a principal research scientist at the CSIRO, said there was “no doubt” climatechange was an important factor in the failure of some over-fished species to recover.A report by the government’s Fisheries Research and Development Corporation has found ocean temperatures increased by nearly 2 degrees over the past 80 years in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, a “global hotspot” that was warming at almost four times the global average.
The affected region sweeps from the lower east coast of Western Australia across Victoria and Tasmania to the Queensland-NSW border - one of the most productive ocean zones in the country.
Stringent new controls were introduced in 2005 to try and reverse the effects of long-term over-fishing in the area but new data shows that by 2015-16, commercial fishing operators were still catching less than half their allowed quota for more than two-thirds of species.



“When you reduce pressure [from fishing] you expect the stocks to improve. If you are catching fish and then you stop catching fish, the numbers of fish should come back. But they haven’t, and climate change is stopping that recovery in some cases, such as for jackass morwong, eastern gemfish, and blue warehou,” Dr Hobday said.
“Historically over-fished species (eastern gemfish, school shark, blue warehou and most recently redfish) have shown little sign of recovery despite over a decade of the lowest catches on record resulting from significant management changes under ... rebuilding strategies,” the research report found.
Tropical fish and other species from northern waters are now being seen in the southern ocean along with more than 100 other marine species which have been migrating. Pink snapper for example, are increasingly common in Tasmania waters, while traditional cool water fish are being pushed further south. Species of sea urchin and octopus better known in NSW and Victorian waters are now prevalent and problematic in Tasmania.


What role does climate change play in the changing composition of fish in Victoria's waters? Andy McLaughlin of McLaughlin Consolidated Fisherman believes there are other, more immediate, threats to the industry.

Of the major species sought by fishers, only flathead, gummy shark, pink ling and school whiting were returning catches of about 80 per cent of the quota.
Climate change not only increases water temperatures but also boosts acidity, reduces nutrients, and changes water currents. Oxygen levels also decline in warm water, which means the ocean can support fewer fish. The interaction of these factors forces shifts in the feeding, breeding and travel patterns of some fish species.
The FRDC report, which was produced in cooperation with fishing industry representatives, suggests that other factors that could be affecting catch rates include reduced fishing grounds from the growth of marine parks, the declining number of boats in the fleet, and increasing operational costs limiting the ability to fish.
Study participant Simon Boag, executive officer of South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association, Southern Shark Industry Alliance & Small Pelagic Fishing Industry, said that while the industry accepted the science of climate change, many working on the water had not yet seen the practical effects.

In danger
Orange RoughySouthern Rock LobsterAbaloneGummy SharkMarlinBlue GrenadierWhat they see is huge variations either way - strong currents, weak currents. We have seen the emergence of stocks of fish that have never really featured before and then they go away again."
“I think this is one of the reasons that we haven't really come up with a strategy as an industry to deal with climate change - we don't really know if things are going to get better or worse. The costs of [fish regulation] are much more extreme and much short term and real, than the long term slow and steady effects of climate change.”
Illustration: Matt GoldingIn contrast, Dr Hobday said the fishing industry is increasingly of the view that climate change was exerting a noticeable influence: “Like smart farmers fishermen recognise the inescapable changes happening around them.”
The latest modelling from the CSIRO says climate change will be responsible for a damaging 1 degree rise in average water temperatures by 2040 and likely increase the intensity of extreme events.
“The majority of models also indicate that many of the [species in the SESSF] may decline in abundance by 20 per cent or more as a result of climate-related changes,” the soon-to-be-released report says.
Among those to be rated at a high risk of being affected are orange roughy, oreos, blue grenadier, southern rock lobster, abalone, marlin, and several species of shark, with some species anticipated to see drops in stock numbers of up to 50 per cent.

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A Better Way To Talk About The Climate Crisis

Lethal Heating - 2 February, 2020 - 04:00
Harvard Business Review - Gretchen Gavett

ARTWORK: Thomas Jackson, Party Streamers no. 2, Tumey Hills, California, 2015. Courtesy of Ellen Miller Gallery. Dr. Katharine Hayhoe is a professor of political science at Texas Tech University and the director of the Climate Science Center. She hosts the PBS digital series Global Weirding: Climate, Politics and Religion, is the World Evangelical Alliance’s climate ambassador, and has received a broad range of recognitions and awards, from Working Mother’s 50 Most Influential Moms to the UN Champion of the Earth in 2019. Hayhoe’s 2018 TEDWomen talk “The Most Important Thing You Can Do to Fight Climate Change: Talk About It” has received almost 2 million views.

Gretchen Gavett is a senior editor at Harvard Business Review. Many of us care about the climate, but it can be challenging to talk about. It’s easy to get bogged down in stats and statistics, for one. And it can be nerve-racking to approach someone if you don’t already know what their beliefs on the topic are. Sometimes, it’s easier to just keep our mouths shut.
Given the urgency of the climate crisis, however, many of us feel that silence is no longer an option. And Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, is the person to talk to about how to talk about climate change.
Hayhoe, whose 2018 TEDWomen talk on the subject has been viewed almost 2 million times, talks to everyone about the topic: Uber drivers, church ladies, Rotary Club members, business leaders, managers, elected officials, and more.
People may have different backgrounds and views, but she’s found a strategy that works: focusing on the heart — that is, what we collectively value — as opposed to the head.
So no matter your conversational goal, whether it’s encouraging your company to act on climate issues or getting your employees to understand how the decisions they make affect your company’s climate goals, this edited interview with Dr. Hayhoe is a great place to start.

What should any leader take into consideration when talking to people — employees, clients, suppliers, etc. — about climate change?

Ultimately, whether you’re training a new employee, reviewing best practices with a supplier, or just having a conversation about climate change with a client, follow this rule of thumb: Don’t start with fear, judgment, condemnation, or guilt. And don’t start with just overwhelming people with facts and figures. Do start by connecting the dots to what is already important to both of us, and then offer positive, beneficial, and practical solutions that we can engage in.

Why have you found that this method works best? And how does it lead people toward understanding the urgency of climate change and taking action?

Often we believe that to care about climate change we have to be a certain type of person: an environmentalist, someone who bikes to work, or is a vegan. And if we’re not any of those things, then we think, “Why should climate change matter to me?”
But the reality is that if we are a human living on planet Earth, then climate change already matters to every single one of us; we just haven’t realized it yet.
Why? Because climate change affects the economy, the availability of natural resources, prices, jobs, international competition, and more.
Failing to account for climate change in future long-range planning could lose us a competitive edge even in a best-case scenario, and potentially mean the end of a product line or an entire business in the worst case. By connecting climate impacts to what we already care about, we can recognize the importance and urgency of taking action.

So if I’m a leader, what are some specific ways in which I can communicate with my employees that sustainability is a key part of their jobs?

I would start early. During their initial training, I would explain very clearly how our products, our production, and our waste contributes to the problem of climate change. If our production is very energy intensive or produces a lot of organic waste, for example, that means we may be generating massive amounts of greenhouse gases.
If our goods are transported over long distances, that also requires fossil fuels that produce heat-trapping gases. And aside from the issue of climate change, if we produce a lot of non-recyclable waste that just piles up in landfills or the ocean, how much are we contributing to the pollution problem as well?
But I would also be sure to pair this information hand in hand with what we’re doing to fix the problems from our end and how it’s paying off. Give people analogies so it’s really clear, so they can see it.
I love giving examples of how many X worth of Y we’ve reduced; for example, something like “Through increasing the energy efficiency of our facilities, we have taken the equivalent of 500 cars off the road. Isn’t that incredible? That’s what we’ve been doing through our efforts.” Or, “We have reduced our waste by 50%. That’s the equivalent of X garbage trucks of waste per year.” Or, “We are now powered by 38 wind turbines; that’s X trainloads of coal we don’t need to use anymore.”
Finally — and this is the most important part! — I’d engage the employees themselves in the solutions. As humans, we want to be part of a solution. We want to make a difference. That is part of what gives us hope and what gives us energy, the idea that we’re actually doing something good for the world.
So, for example, I might say, “We’re aiming for an even better milestone. I want your ideas to help us get to this new milestone, too.” That’s even more incentivizing, when you feel like a company encourages you and supports you and wants you to be part of their plan.

Does this advice extend to people who might not believe that climate change is that severe — or that it exists at all? What might this kind of conversation look like in a professional setting?

Only around 10% of the population is dismissive [of climate change], but they are a very loud 10%. Glance at the comment section of any online article on climate change, check out the responses to my tweets, or search for global warming videos on YouTube — they’re everywhere. They’re even at our Thanksgiving dinner, because just about every one of us has at least one person who is dismissive in the family. I do, too!
A person who is dismissive is someone who has built their identity on rejecting the reality of a changing climate because they believe the solutions represent a direct and immediate threat to all they hold dear. And in pursuit of that goal, they will reject anything: hundreds of scientific studies, thousands of experts, even the evidence of their own eyes. So, no, there is no point talking to a dismissive about climate science or impacts, unless you enjoy banging your head against the wall.
But it can be possible to have a constructive conversation with a dismissive — and I’ve had these! — by focusing solely on solutions that they don’t see as a threat because they carry positive benefits and/or are good for their bottom line. And the fascinating thing is that once they are engaged in helping fix the problem, that very action can have the power to change a dismissive person’s mind.

I want to end by asking about the importance of climate conversation over the next few years. I’ve heard anecdotally that companies are hearing more questions from younger job candidates or employees: “What are you doing? How are you addressing climate change as a company?” Does that resonate with you at all? Should companies be preparing for more conversations like these?

We see a very strong age gradient when it comes to levels of concern about climate change primarily among conservative populations, with younger people caring much more and being much more engaged than their elders. (Among more liberal populations, levels of concern are relatively high across all age groups.)
At my own school, the number of students going to the president and asking, “What is our university doing?” has increased noticeably. I hear this anecdotally from colleagues all around the country, too. And when those students graduate, that’s what they ask in their interviews, because they want to be part of the solution.
Young people understand how urgent the problem is, and they know that there’s no time to waste. A lot of them don’t want to do a job that is not helping to fix this massive problem that we have.
If companies want to be competitive, if they want to hire the best and the brightest, the ones who are most engaged, the ones who are most in tune, the ones who really put their heart and their soul and their passion into their work, then they have to start talking about climate change differently. Because this is increasingly becoming something that young professionals really care about.

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(AU) Bushfire Survivors Join Claim Against ANZ For Financing Climate Crisis

Lethal Heating - 1 February, 2020 - 04:10
The Guardian

Three survivors joined Friends of the Earth to accuse ANZ of misleading consumers by investing in fossil fuel projects
One survivor, Jack Egan, claims there is a clear link between ANZ’s support for fossil fuels and the exacerbated bushfires conditions. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAPThree bushfire survivors have joined environment group Friends of the Earth in a legal claim against ANZ, accusing it of financing the climate crisis by funding fossil fuel projects.
The case, lodged under international guidelines agreed by members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), demands the bank disclose its greenhouse gas emissions, including “scope three” emissions resulting from its business lending and investment portfolio, and set ambitious targets that align with the Paris climate agreement.
The claim was inspired by a successful complaint against ING bank in the Netherlands by Friends of the Earth, Oxfam and Greenpeace. Mediation following that complaint led to ING committing to measure and publish its indirect emissions, reduce its thermal coal exposure to near zero by 2025 and make its portfolio consistent with the Paris goal of keeping global heating well below 2C above pre-industrial levels.
The complainants in the ANZ claim include Jack Egan, who was approached by Friends of the Earth to join the action after his home near Batemans Bay, on the New South Wales coast, was destroyed on New Year’s Eve.
Egan said there was a clear link between ANZ and other institution’s ongoing support of fossil fuels and the extreme hot and dry conditions that exacerbated the fire that left him homeless. “We are not seeking damages or compensation from ANZ, I just want them to stop fuelling dangerous climate change,” he said.
Friends of the Earth announced the action at a protest outside ANZ headquarters in Melbourne’s Docklands. It lodged the claim with the federal government’s OECD national contact point, a section of the federal treasury responsible for hearing complaints of corporate wrongdoing under the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises.The national contact point’s initial role is to attempt to broker a mediation between the parties. If agreement cannot be reached, it can make recommendations, but cannot force parties to take action. ANZ declined to comment on Thursday.
The environment group alleges ANZ’s breaches of the OECD guidelines include misleading consumers by claiming to support the Paris agreement targets while continuing to invest in projects that undermine the meeting of those targets.
Emila Nazari, a legal officer with Friends of the Earth, said the bank had increased investment in coal 34% over the past two years as it lent $8.8bn to the fossil fuel sector. She said the bank was Australia’s largest financier of fossil fuel industries, and continued to invest billions of dollars in “climate wrecking projects” while bushfires raged across Australia.
“It is illegal for someone to light a bushfire, and we believe it is illegal for companies to finance the burning of our common home. This case is one of many to come against climate criminals,” Nazari said.
The other names attached to the action are Joanna Dodds, a Bega Valley Shire councillor and member of the group Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, and Patrick Simons, a Friends of the Earth renewable energy campaigner whose family lost their home in NSW.

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(AU) Getting Down To The Business Of Evolving Australia's Climate Policy

Lethal Heating - 1 February, 2020 - 04:05
Sydney Morning HeraldInnes Willox*

Scorched by unprecedented bushfires, our nation badly needs a global solution to climate change.
Evolving emissions policy, as the Prime Minister  has suggested, can deliver a more ambitious,  durable and trade-neutral approach, and get investment flowing to the industry and the infrastructure we need for a prosperous future.
Success requires clarity about what we’re trying to do, and smart policy design that suits the enduring needs of the community and industry.
The fire threat will become inescapably worse in a warming climate, but what if global temperatures rise by 3C rather than the target of 1.5C? Credit: Nick MoirMany fear that the recent fires are the "new normal". The truth seems to be both better and worse than that. The specific circumstances that produced the most dire bushfire season in recorded Australian history won’t recur every year.
But an underlying increase in average temperatures and shift in rainfall patterns has made more severe bushfires more likely. That shift is guaranteed to deteriorate.
Australia is currently dealing with a 1C increase in global average temperatures over pre-industrial levels. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep the total increase to no more than 1.5C – with significantly greater impacts than today and requiring difficult, costly adaptation.
But the initial set of commitments that nations have made under Paris puts us on course for 3C or more.
Global central banks say that would seriously threaten the world economy. It is absolutely true that Australia (which accounted for 1.1 per cent of global emissions in 2016) can’t halt climate change alone. Nor can China (23.5 per cent), the United States (11.8 per cent) or the European Union (7.3 per cent).
Collectively, emitters of Australia’s size or smaller account for more than 30 per cent.
It takes ambitious action by all countries to achieve a net-zero-emissions world. The logic of Paris is for nations to commit to the greatest action they can, then keep upgrading those commitments towards net zero as mutual confidence grows and technology improves.
Australia’s national interest lies in everyone driving that positive spiral by going beyond minimalist compliance with current commitments. If we don’t lift our weight, it takes the moral and political pressure off emitters of all sizes and makes a global solution much harder.
We can contribute by charting our own course to net-zero emissions by 2050, backing it with policies that preserve equity and competitiveness, and co-operating internationally to improve technology and promote success.
Australia has many places to start. The federal government is developing a long-term emissions strategy, an electric vehicle strategy and a technology roadmap, it has options to expand its investment in clean innovation.
The states all target net-zero by 2050 and are developing plans to deliver; greater co-operation and co-ordination on those plans is needed.
The next integrated system plan for the national electricity market will be finalised in June. Internationally, Australia has joined a collaboration on harder-to-decarbonise industrial sectors, and Britain is asking all nations to bring deeper emissions commitments to the Glasgow climate summit in November.
Policy-making needs a clear sense of what matters and what doesn’t. Being seen to "do something" is not enough. Quality matters.
The policy principles offered by the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Climate Roundtable – a broad alliance of major Australian business, environmental, farmer, investor, union and social welfare groups – should guide any policy. It covers environmental integrity, economic efficiency, trade competitiveness, social equity and more.
Electricity is already transitioning, but badly needs clear, integrated, long-term climate policy to attract sufficient investment to meet our needs and support net zero. But the rest of the economy accounts for two-thirds of Australian emissions and needs workable pathways too.
Trade matters. Losing competitiveness via uneven international climate policies has long been our greatest reservation about Australian efforts. Different trade risks are now also opening up: Europe pushes climate in trade deals, and is developing a carbon border adjustment – potentially, tariffs on carbon-intensive imports.
Smart policy design can manage these trade risks, allowing Australia to show leadership while maintaining competitiveness. Some current shibboleths may be dispensable. Carry-over credits for past over-performance don’t help with the long-term transition to net zero, and controversy over them threatens to shut Australia out of international co-operation.


The RBA is warning climate change could lead to the next global financial break down.

The aversion to a carbon price should be rethought. What justifies it today beyond the inertia of past politics? Carbon prices are key policies for major economies on every continent except Antarctica – and Australia.
An emissions trading scheme for China’s huge power sector starts this year.
Should Australia rely solely on government regulation and public spending to reform our economy? Many different pricing models are available, not only those developed by former prime ministers John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.
We need creative thinking. The fate of Australia’s fossil fuel exports lies ultimately with our  customers’ decisions about their energy systems in light of changing technology and preferences.
We need to be ready for those decisions.
The recently announced national hydrogen strategy is a great first step towards an economic hedge. It is an industry whose growth prospects are the inverse of the expected long-term decline in fossil exports in a world that successfully limits climate change.
The trauma and tragedy of the bushfire crisis is shaking climate politics and policy out of its rut.
Evolution is needed.
And all of us have a responsibility to shape it.

*Innes Willox is the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group.

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