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Greta Thunberg Clashes With US Treasury Secretary In Davos

Lethal Heating - 25 January, 2020 - 04:05
The Guardian

Climate activist responds after Steven Mnuchin suggests she should study economics
Greta Thunberg has been in Davos to push for immediate, radical change on the climate emergency. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/ReutersDonald Trump’s treasury secretary has clashed with Greta Thunberg after responding to the activist’s call for immediate fossil fuel divestment by telling the 17-year-old to go to college and study economics.
In an attempt to slap down the climate emergency movement, Steven Mnuchin pretended not to know who Thunberg was, before dismissing her concerns as ill-informed.
Asked whether calls for public and private-sector divestment from fossil fuel companies would threaten US growth, Mnuchin jibed: “Is she the chief economist? Who is she, I’m confused” – before clarifying that he was joking.
“After she goes and studies economics in college she can come back and explain that to us,” Mnuchin added, at a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Thunberg, 17, responded by tweeting a graph from a UN report showing how the world’s remaining carbon budget will be used up by 2027 unless global emissions are curbed. “My gap year ends in August, but it doesn’t take a college degree in economics to realise that our remaining 1,5° carbon budget and ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and investments don’t add up,” she pointed out.
My gap year ends in August, but it doesn’t take a college degree in economics to realise that our remaining 1,5° carbon budget and ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and investments don’t add up. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/1virpuOyYG— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) January 23, 2020Mnuchin’s comments expose the huge gulf that still exists between climate activists and the White House. Pressed on the climate emergency, Mnuchin insisted that environmental issues are “clearly complicated”.
He said: “When I was allowed to drive I had a Tesla. I drove in California. I liked it.
“But nobody focuses on how that electricity is made and what happens to the storage and the environmental issues on all these batteries.”
He also claimed the US was showing leadership in tackling emissions – but through its private sector rather than government. President Trump believes in clean air and water, and a clean environment, Mnuchin insisted, but also believes that more attention should be paid to the environmental damage caused by China and India.

'What will you tell your children?': Greta Thunberg blasts climate inaction at Davos.

People who call for divestment should remember there are “significant economic issues, issues with jobs”, he continued. “Many economies are transitioning to more efficient and cleaner energy. That doesn’t have to be all renewables.”

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As Earth’s Population Heads To 10 Billion, Does Anything Australians Do On Climate Change Matter?

Lethal Heating - 24 January, 2020 - 04:15
The Conversation

The United Nations predicts the world will be home to nearly 10 billion people by 2050 – making global greenhouse emission cuts ever more urgent. NASA/Joshua Stevens Mark BeesonMark Beeson is Professor of International Politics at the University of Western Australia.
Before joining UWA at the beginning of 2015, he was Professor of International Relations at Murdoch University.
Previously he taught at the universities of Griffith, Queensland, York (UK) and Birmingham, where he was also head of department.
He is the founding editor of Critical Studies of the Asia Pacific (Palgrave). As unprecedented bushfires continue to ravage the country, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his government have been rightly criticised for their reluctance to talk about the underlying drivers of this crisis. Yet it’s not hard to see why they might be dumbstruck.
The human race has never had to grapple with a problem as large, complex or urgent as climate change. It’s not that there aren’t solutions available. There are already some hopeful signs of an energy transition in Australia. As Professor Ross Garnaut has explained, it would be in Australia’s economic interests to become a low-carbon energy superpower.
To successfully tackle climate change will require some painful transitions domestically, and unprecedented levels of international coordination and cooperation. But that isn’t happening. Global action to cut emissions is falling far short of what’s needed – and meanwhile, though it’s controversial to mention, the world’s population quietly climbs ever higher.

Our growing population challenge
The United Nations’ World Population Prospects 2019 report forecast that by 2027, India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country.
By 2050, the UN predicts that the world’s population will be nearly 10 billion, up from 7.7 billion now. Nine countries are expected to be home to more than half of that growth: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States. The population of sub-Saharan Africa is expected to double by 2050 (a 99% increase), while Australia and New Zealand are expected to grow more slowly (28% increase).
The world’s population growth rate in recent years. World Population Prospects 2019, United NationsCC BYGiven how difficult climate politics have been here in Australia, why would we expect it to be any more politically feasible in say, India, which claims the right to develop as we did? However self-serving Australian coal supporters’ arguments about lifting Indians out of poverty are, the underlying questions of national autonomy and the ‘right’ to develop are not easily refuted.Even talking about demography is asking for trouble – especially if it becomes caught up with questions of race, identity and the most fundamental of human rights, the right to reproduce.
While reducing population growth is plainly important in the long-term, it isn’t a quick fix for all our environmental problems. In the meantime, research has shown that supporting education for girls in poor countries is one of the single most important things we can do now to address this issue.

How Australia can show leadership
I think we need to understand that global emissions don’t have an accent, they come from many countries and we need to look at a global solution… – Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Insiders, ABC, 12 January 2020This is the central defence of business as usual: there’s no point in Australia making huge sacrifices and ‘wrecking’ (or transforming, depending on your perspective) the economy if no one else is doing so. We contribute less than 2% to global greenhouse emissions, so – some claim – we can’t make any real difference.
As outlined in my 2019 book, Environmental Populism: The Politics of Survival in the Anthropocene, nations such as Australia can play a useful role by showing what an enlightened country, with the capacity and incentive to act, might do. If we don’t have the means and the compelling environmental reasons to make tough but meaningful policy choices, who does?
But even in the unlikely event that Australians collectively retrofitted the entire economy along sustainable lines, there would still be a lot of the world that wouldn’t, or couldn’t even if they wanted to. The development imperative really is non-negotiable in India, China and the more impoverished states of sub-Saharan Africa.

Will China lead the way?
From the privileged perspective of wealthy Australians, the ‘good’ news is that the ecological footprint of the average Ethiopian is seven times smaller than ours. India’s average is even less, despite all the recent development. However, people in India and Ethiopia may not think that’s a good thing.
One of the paradoxical impacts of globalisation is that everyone is increasingly conscious of their relative place in the international scheme of things. The legitimacy of governments – especially unelected authoritarian regimes like China’s - increasingly revolves around their capacity to deliver jobs and rising living standards. Where governments can’t deliver, the population vote with their feet.
As naturalist Sir David Attenborough warned last week, Australia’s current fires are another sign that “the moment of crisis has come”. He called on China for the global leadership we’ve been missing:
If the Chinese come and say: 'Not because we are worried about the world but for our own reasons, we are going to take major steps to curb our carbon output […]’, everybody else would fall into line, one thinks. That would be the big change that one could hope would happen.China has arguably already made the biggest contribution to our collective welfare with its highly contentious, now abandoned one-child policy. China’s population would have been around 400 million people larger without it, pushing us closer to the crisis Sir David fears.
To be clear, I’m not advocating compulsory population control, here or anywhere. But we do need to consider a future with billions more people, many of them aspiring to live as Australians do now.
Looking ahead, will Australians try to keep living as we do today? Or will we decide to set a new example of living well, without such a heavy ecological footprint? Resolving all these conundrums won’t be easy; perhaps not even possible. That’s another discomfiting reality that we may have to get used to.

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(AU) Why Prescribed Burns Don’t Stop Wildfires

Lethal Heating - 24 January, 2020 - 04:10
Sydney Morning Herald - Byron Lamont | Tianhua He

The Prime Minister has declared hazard-reduction burning is just as important as action on climate change to limit Australia’s wildfire risk – but with lives, properties, flora and fauna at real risk, it is critical to understand the realities and limitations of fire management.
The moment the Gospers Mountain fire hammered Bilpin in December. Credit:Nick Moir

  • Byron Lamont is a professor in plant ecology at Curtin University
  • Tianhua He is a senior fellow at Curtin University
Prescribed burns are fires created by fire-management authorities to reduce fuel in an attempt to stop the advance of future possible wildfires.
Unfortunately, areas in the devastated fire zones that recently had prescribed burns offered little resistance to the advance of the latest wildfires. The fires simply passed straight through them. But why?
Current practices of prescribed fires essentially burn the ground flora, the shrubs, herbs and creepers. At most, heat from the ground might scorch the upper canopy. It tends to be patchy. These are called surface fires.
But wildfires burn everything. They create their own inferno. Their greatest heat is produced from fuel in the tree canopy. The convective currents created by the firestorm spray embers up to kilometres from the fire front. They simply drop onto or over areas that have received prescribed burns. These are called crown fires.
The aim of fire managers is to avoid crown fires during prescribed burning for fear that the fire gets out of control and goes far beyond the area intended to be burnt.
Controlled fires are only meant to stop the odd cigarette thrown out of a car window from starting a fire, or lightning strikes igniting the ground flora. They may not even achieve those goals because scorching the trees above can lead to considerable leaf drop and build-up of litter that increases flammability and deters germination and seedling establishment.
They could even introduce a new danger. Along transport routes, firebreaks and access tracks, the burnt edges give access to exotic weeds that blow in, especially grasses and herbs from South Africa and Europe. These weeds germinate far more readily than native plants; they are more flammable than the native plants and once they have invaded, they are there to stay.
So, on grounds that they do not stop the progress of wildfires and indeed may lead to weed encroachment, increasing the rate of prescribed burning is no answer to the current wildfire problem.
A wildfire, in its aftermath, will act as an effective deterrent to further fire because no combustible fuel remains. But this is hardly a solution. This inhibitory effect might last for five or so years, but when the vegetation returns it will be able to carry a fire again.
It may seem counter-intuitive but the longer old-growth forests remain fire-free, the less combustible they become. The thicker canopy creates more shade, the undergrowth becomes thinner and less vigorous - and hence there is less fuel for fires.
Ironically, the Australian flora has experienced wildfires of the current type for many millions of years. It is adapted to wildfires, not prescribed burns. Thus, all eucalypts, paperbarks, she-oaks and banksias release their seeds only when their canopies are burnt and there is massive seedling recruitment in the next wet season that ensures the vegetation recovers.
Have no doubt, the vegetation will recover strongly. But with reduced rainfall it will be unusually slow. Ultimately, we are guests in the world’s most flammable continent and have to learn to live with that fact. The Aboriginal inhabitants did, but we have not.
In the long term, prescribed burns do not achieve the goal of protecting life and property. The side effects of climate change will be a period of intensified fire as mean temperatures rise and dry fuel increases. This will be followed later by less intense fire as the fuel load gradually reduces in the presence of lower rainfall.
In the meantime, Australians should expect the worst and plan for more devastating wildfires.

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{AU) ‘I Am Horrified’: Scientist Who Linked Climate Change With Bushfires In 1987 Says It’s Not Too Late

Lethal Heating - 24 January, 2020 - 04:06
New DailyCait Kelly

The link between climate change and bushfires has been known for more than 30 years.A scientist who predicted our current bushfire crisis four decades ago is ‘horrified’ we did not listen to his warnings on climate change.
In 1987 then-CSIRO scientist Dr Tom Beer pioneered the world’s first research into the link between climate change and worsening fire seasons.
It might seem obvious now, but Dr Beer’s research, published as ‘Australian bushfire danger under changing climatic regimes’, predicted that growing greenhouse gas emissions would have horrific consequences for Australia’s bushfire season.
For Dr Beer, this summer has been the worst told-you-so moment.
Dr Tom Beer. Photo: RSV“For decades, climate scientists have been warning Australian governments about the escalating threat of catastrophic bushfire conditions because of climate change,” Dr Beer said.“I am horrified that what my study found has now occurred and the fact this means it is only going to get worse,” he said.
This year’s bushfire season started early and has killed 29 people, destroyed more than 2200 homes, burnt 10 million hectares and covered large areas of the globe in toxic smoke.
When Dr Beer started his research the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 were the worst the country had seen.
“Since then, we have experienced the Black Saturday fires, had to create a new catastrophic fire danger rating, and in the past few months, we’ve seen 10 million hectares of Australia burn,” he said.
His research was presented at the 1987 CSIRO conference and published in a book. Dr Beer spoke to the media and travelled internationally to talk to specialists in the US about his findings.
For the most part, it was ignored by the Australian government.

Not too late
On Wednesday the 72-year-old was joined by Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science at the University of Tasmania, David Bowman and the Climate Council’s Professor Will Steffen, in calling for urgent action.
“Climate change is fuelling the national bushfire catastrophe, and it will get worse without radical action,” they said.
Calling for state and federal governments to work together, they said Australia needs an urgent plan to prepare for worsening fire seasons and to rapidly phase out the burning of coal, oil and gas.
“The length of the bushfire season has increased substantially, making it harder to prepare for dangerous conditions,” he said.
“The costs of fighting fires have also increased substantially, as have the costs of their impacts.
“Clearly, bushfire conditions are now more dangerous, and the risk will continue to escalate. The risk to people and property has increased significantly and will continue to do so.”
Their calls for urgent action have been backed up by the business, medical and scientific communities here and abroad.Last month, a team of UK climate scientists conducted a rapid review of research conducted since 2013 and found that human-induced climate change will cause an extra 20 to 30 severe fire danger days each year in the future.
We need to phase out coal to mitigate the climate threat. Photo: GettyThe reason action on climate change has stalled is vested interests borrowing straight from the big tobacco playbook, spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Greg Barns, said.
“In some ways, this is like the tobacco debate when we knew tobacco was harmful, that cigarettes caused cancer but governments ignored the advice,” Mr Barns said.
“There are some analogies between the way in which the big pharma and big tobacco litigation emerged, where there was clear and unequivocal advice given to governments which said that radical action had to be taken.
“Particularly in relation to planning and environmental decisions, in relations to the increase in bushfires, the strength of those fires and the length, as a result of climate change.
“Governments in effect ignored those reports, or worse than that, buried them. So there are some parallels.”
The similarities in the situation could potentially lead to class actions against the government, Mr Barns said.
“For a government to deliberately ignore un-contradicted scientific evidence, that showed an increased risk of bushfires, weather catastrophes, is gross negligence and shows a complete lack of moral compass.
“Speaking from a legal point of view, if it can be shown that the government has deliberately failed to implement policies when they had demonstrable evidence, that is a very serious matter.”

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Greta Thunberg Tells Davos Leaders That Planting Trees Isn't Enough As Donald Trump Talks Up Economy

Lethal Heating - 23 January, 2020 - 04:05
ABC News - ABC | AP

Mr Trump slams climate activists in opening address at World Economic Forum (ABC News)

Key points
  • Donald Trump called climate activists "heirs of yesterday's foolish fortune tellers" but said he was a "very big believer in the environment"
  • Greta Thunberg said the inaction of world leaders was hastening climate change
  • Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz also criticised Mr Trump's speech.
Greta Thunberg has told the World Economic Forum in Davos that planting trees is not enough to address climate change, an apparent rebuke of a pledge made moments earlier by US President Donald Trump.
"Our house is still on fire," Ms Thunberg said, echoing remarks she made at the annual meeting a year ago.
"Your inaction is fuelling the flames."
The ongoing row between the teenage activist and 73-year-old US President around climate change appeared an attempt by both to frame the argument at Davos.
Ms Thunberg called for an immediate end to fossil fuel investments in front of a packed audience less than a hour after watching Mr Trump make his keynote address in the Swiss ski resort.
Mr Trump announced the US would join an existing initiative to plant 1 trillion trees, but also spoke at length about the economic importance of oil and gas and called climate change activists "the perennial prophets of doom" who were predicting an "apocalypse".
Ms Thunberg responded by referring to "empty words and promises" by world leaders.

Ms Thunberg says simply planting trees is not enough to address climate change (ABC News)"You say children shouldn't worry … don't be so pessimistic and then, nothing, silence," Ms Thunberg said. Earlier, she called on world leaders to listen to young activists, who have followed her to Davos this year.
She and Mr Trump have been sparring for months.
Last month, the President told Ms Thunberg in a tweet to "chill" and to "work on her anger management problem".
  The voice of a generation?
Greta Thunberg inspired a global movement for climate action, but some haven't welcomed her message.  It prompted a dry response from Ms Thunberg, who then changed her Twitter caption to read: "A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old-fashioned movie with a friend."
"I'm not a person that can complain about not being heard," she said, prompting laughter from the audience on the first day of the annual WEF meeting.
"The science and voice of young people is not the centre of the conversation, but it needs to be."
Among the young "climate heroes" being celebrated by the WEF is Irish teenage scientist Fionn Ferreira, who created a solution for preventing microplastics from reaching oceans.
They also include South African climate activist Ayakha Melithafa, 17, and Canadian Autum Peltier, who has been advocating for water conservation since she was eight.
Activists take part in a march to highlight issues surrounding climate change at the World Economic Forum in Davos. (REUTERS: Arnd Wiegmann)Trump focuses on economy
In his address, Mr Trump mostly avoided environmental issues, instead talking up the US economy.
But he later told reporters: "I'm a very big believer in the environment. I want the cleanest water and the cleanest air".
He attended the event despite his impeachment trial in the US getting underway today.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz criticised the President's swipe at climate "pessimists".
US President Donald Trump has taken a swipe at "climate pessimists" at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. (APL: Markus Schreib)"As if what we are seeing with our eyes are not there," Mr Stiglitz said. "It's astounding."
  Indonesian pre-teen rails against
Australia's waste exports

Indonesian girl Aeshninna Azzahra, 12, pens an open letter to the Australian Prime Minister calling on him to halt exports of waste paper and plastics to her home province.  This was the second time Mr Trump has taken the stage at the WEF meeting. Two years ago, he urged companies to invest in America after passing the first tax cuts to encourage business spending.
This year he thanked overseas companies for investing in the US, which he said was now on a better economic standing than he could have imagined when he took office three years ago.
"The time for scepticism is over," he said."To every business looking for a place to succeed — there is no better place than the US."
He also told a packed auditorium that trade deals struck this month with China and Mexico represented a model for the 21st Century.
US President @realDonaldTrump spoke at #wef20, telling the audience the United States is in the midst of an economic boom.

Find out more: https://t.co/91BiDmegfv @POTUS #wef20 pic.twitter.com/4Q1jXrxDTU— World Economic Forum (@wef) January 21, 2020 Mr Trump also took his biggest swipe yet at the Federal Reserve, whose policies he believes are holding back the US economy.
"The Fed raised rates too quickly and has lowered them too slowly," he said.

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Trump Blasts 'Prophets Of Doom' In Attack On Climate Activism

Lethal Heating - 23 January, 2020 - 04:04
The Guardian |

Comment came as Greta Thunberg demanded immediate action in Davos

Donald Trump decries climate 'prophets of doom' in Davos keynote speech.

Donald Trump told the world’s business leaders to stop listening to “prophets of doom” as he used a keynote speech at the World Economic Forum to attack the teenage activist Greta Thunberg over her climate crisis warnings.
The US president hailed America’s growth record and compared campaigners against global heating with those who feared a population explosion in the 1960s and mass starvation in the 1970s.
On an opening day in Switzerland dominated by the climate emergency, Thunberg scoffed at Trump’s claim that his backing for a new initiative to plant 1tn trees showed his concern for the environment.
“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour,” Thunberg said. “And we’re asking you to act as if you love your children more than anything else.”
The US president and Thunberg did not meet face to face at the WEF, but Trump left few in doubt about who he was referring to as he defended his record since entering the White House three years ago.
“This is not a time for pessimism,” he said. “This is a time for optimism. To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.
“They want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the 70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s. These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives. We will never let radical socialists destroy our economy, wreck our country or eradicate our liberty.”

What will you tell your children?': Greta Thunberg blasts climate inaction at Davos.

He said he was “a big believer in the environment” in a speech that ensured he was absent from Washington as impeachment hearings took place on Capitol Hill. “The environment to me is very important,” he said.
He made no mention of the climate emergency but backed the plan – launched in Davos – to capture carbon by planting trees on a mass scale in the coming years. “What I want is the cleanest water and the cleanest air,” he said.
Environmentalists were unimpressed by a speech in which Trump boasted that his support for the coal and oil industries meant the US was self-sufficient in energy.
Thunberg said: “Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough, and it cannot replace real mitigation and re-wilding nature. We don’t need to lower emissions. Emissions need to stop.”
Thunberg had three demands for her Davos audience:
  • The halt of all investment in fossil fuel investment and extraction by companies, banks, institutions and governments.
  • An immediate end to all fossil fuel subsidies.
  • An immediate exit from fossil fuel investments.
“We don’t want it done in 2050, 2030, or even 2021, we want it done now,” Thunberg said. “You might think we’re naive, but if you won’t do it, you must explain to your children why you’ve given up on the Paris agreement goals, and knowingly created a climate crisis,” she said.
She then added that the right, the left, and the centre of politics had all failed the sustainability test. “No political ideology or economic structure has managed to tackle the climate and environmental emergency and create a cohesive and sustainable world.”
Jennifer Morgan, Greenpeace’s executive director, said: “The 1tn trees initiative didn’t make up for the lack of a wider attack on the climate emergency, and Trump had failed to appreciate the scale of the crisis.
“To assume you can have a great, profitable America, and happy Americans without understanding the risk to Americans from climate change is astounding. It just demonstrates the level of denial, and the capture of this government by the coal, oil and gas industries.”
Trump said the American dream was back, “bigger, better and stronger” than before, adding that the benefits of growth were going primarily to low-income workers rather than the better off. Trump added that 7m jobs had been created and 12,000 factories opened during his presidency.
Many of the president’s claims were rejected by the Columbia University economics professor Joseph Stiglitz. “Research shows that Trump normally tells five or six lies a day. He far exceeded that today,” he said, noting that growth had been faster under Barack Obama than it was currently under Trump, and that life expectancy had fallen every year of his presidency.
Although the US economy grew far more rapidly in previous decades than it has since he was elected in November 2016, Trump said: “I’m proud to say that the US is in an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
The main hall in Davos, together with an overspill room, were packed to hear the president, although there were some titters as he ran through a litany of boasts.
“I hold up the American model as an example to the world,” Trump said, contrasting his record with that of his predecessor, Obama.
The US was “thriving, flourishing and winning” unprecedentedly, he added, citing trade deals signed last week with China and Mexico-Canada as models for the 21st century.
“I am looking forward to a tremendous new trade deal with the UK,” Trump said, noting that Britain had a “wonderful new prime minister” in Boris Johnson, who was keen on a deal.
The president said the economic boom had happened despite the US Federal Reserve, which “raised rates too fast and cut them too slowly”.

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(AU) Too Clever By Half? PM Has Let The Climate Cat Out Of The Bag – And There’s No Putting It Back

Lethal Heating - 23 January, 2020 - 04:02
New Daily - Paula Matthewson

Scott Morrison's endorsement of climate science could open the way, finally, for putting a price on carbon pollution. A lot of energy has been expended this week, particularly on social media, dismissing the prime minister’s talk about doing more on climate change.
It’s an understandable response, given Scott Morrison has clearly been reluctant to aggravate the forces of climate denial and resistance within the government’s ranks, let alone those in the conservative media.
What’s more, strategically leaked stories to the same right-wing media outlets have suggested the PM’s language could just be part of a public relations effort to make the government ‘appear’ more inclined to take climate action – without any real intention to do so.
But even if Mr Morrison had spin rather than action in mind when he mentioned ‘evolving’ the government’s climate policies last weekend, it may be impossible for him to put that genie back into the bottle.
Science Minister Karen Andrews is one Liberal who accepts the settled science. Photo: AAPThe PM not only created an expectation in the Australian community, he essentially gave permission to any other government MP to talk about climate action too. Ministers could speak without fear of breaching Cabinet solidarity in support of evolving the policy, while backbenchers could free-range on the path this evolution could take.
We didn’t have to wait long for that to occur. One contribution in particular was promising, with Science Minister Karen Andrews saying it was well past time to end the debate over the existence of climate change.
“Every second that we spend talking about whether the climate is changing, is a second we are not spending on looking at adaptation, mitigation strategies,” she said before meeting with scientists and researchers to discuss bushfires.
One of the Liberal MPs identified in this column last week – as potentially receptive to voter calls for stronger climate action – also spoke to the media along these lines.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Wednesday that Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said “Australians want us to get on with the job of meeting our Paris emissions but look at what more we can do to reduce our emissions further.” However other moderate Liberals quoted in the same article were less forthright, simply backing the Science Ministers’ comments.
Trent Zimmerman sees the Paris accord as the start of further carbon reductions. Photo: ABCThe government’s initial, tentative comments about greater climate action have not received a particularly positive reception. As mentioned earlier, there is a strong suspicion that PM Morrison has no intention of walking this pro-climate action talk. Other critics accuse the government of deceiving voters by promoting its ‘practical’ climate actions, namely resilience and adaptation activities, to appear to be doing something while continuing to resist further emissions reduction.
The reality is that all three approaches are needed in an effective climate action plan – resilience, adaptation and emissions reduction (also called mitigation). In continuing to pressure the government to take stronger action, we should remember this.
It is easy to find fault in the Morrison government, or any Coalition government for that matter, when it comes to climate action. Ten years of refusing to accept what the climate science says has undoubtedly led to Australia’s negligent lack of preparedness for the current bushfire season. But now the PM has provided an opportunity – inadvertent or not – to change this.
It doesn’t matter if Scott Morrison intends to walk the talk on climate action. He has started a conversation that cannot be silenced with anything other than a response that is a genuine, effective climate action plan.

Categories: External websites

The War On Global Carbon

Lethal Heating - 22 January, 2020 - 04:05
Surviving C21 - Julian Cribb

Photo: Julian CribbCitizens of the USA, Australia, Brazil, Canada and elsewhere are slowly waking to the sickening awareness that they are no longer up against local political forces – but, rather, a metastasizing international power against which they are largely impotent.
Common attributes now unify the regimes of Trump, Morrison, Bolsonaro, Trudeau, Salman, and maybe also those of Johnson and Putin:
  • Blind support for fossil fuels, overt denialism or a reluctance to act on climate
  • Prejudice and cruelty towards immigrants, many of whom are fleeing climate disruption
  • A tendency to favour ecological rapine and increased pollution
  • A taste for repression and the curtailment of civic freedoms
  • Spreading right-wing ideology; use of the same political strategists; rising support from religious extremists
  • Heavy defence spending; a habit of engaging in needless ‘carbon wars’
  • Tax breaks for the already-rich; a disinclination to tax mega-corporates
  • The support of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and its ‘shock jocks’
  • Digital manipulation of public opinion by the automated spreading of falsehoods on social media via bots, trolls and data pirates.
  • A tendency to lie about anything and everything – then divert public attention using emotive issues like abortion, gun control, religious freedom, terrorism, assassination.
  • Use of identical ‘talking points’ and disinformation, much of it scripted by carbon-funded ‘think tanks’.
  • The labelling of concerned, protesting citizens as ‘anarchists’ and ‘terrorists’ to justify use of military force against them
  • The tactic of accusing their political opponents of the very offences of which they themselves are guilty.
The accumulating evidence indicates that western democracy is no longer dealing with independent national governments – but, rather, with an orchestrated transnational movement manipulating a troup of local political puppets.
Many of these leaders and their governments enjoy the funding and political support of the most powerful companies on Earth – the oil and coal majors, here termed ‘Global Carbon’, supported by  a host of shady think-tanks, institutes, media corporations and digital manipulators who manufacture and disseminate their propaganda to create a global ‘echo chamber’.
The Global Carbon regime is unlike any previous political movement. It has no interest in social wellbeing, health, education, equality, justice, the environment or any of the issues that traditionally occupy the political discourse in democracies. It is motivated solely by money – and the power it confers. It is responsible for 9 million deaths annually – a fresh Holocaust every 8 months.
If it were a country, Global Carbon would be the largest economy on Earth, with annual retail energy use worth around US$24 trillion. This compares with, say, the US GDP of US$21tr or China’s $14tr. To this is added the value of its byproducts like petrochemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes, textiles and plastics. This cyclopaean financial clout is increasingly being deployed to influence the result in any country on Earth where they still have elections.
Why, then, is Global Carbon a thing? Previously, these fossil fuel corporates operated independently, competed vigorously with one another and dealt individually with national governments – as Shell did in Nigeria or Exxon in the US.
The answer is fear.
Global Carbon – a loose alliance of 100+ oil, coal and gas mega-corporates and their ancillaries – are collectively terrified that the worldwide movement by citizens and governments to prevent catastrophic climate change is going to put them out of business (exemplified by the case of coal) or at least severely impair their licence to print money and pillage the planet ad libitum. It is a fear not without foundation: calls to lock up carbon and ‘leave it in the ground’ are multiplying from science as well as civil society.
Furthermore, the rise of green-tinged governments – especially in Europe – citizen movements like Extinction Rebellion and outspoken youth like Greta Thunberg – has  shaken them. This has resulting in calls to crack down on these ‘anarchists’, in susceptible democracies like Australia, the US, Canada and Brazil.
Global Carbon believes it is in a fight for its life.
The principle that “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” has impelled onetime competitors to make common cause, to undermine and – if possible – defeat the worldwide movement to save humanity from an uninhabitable, hothouse Earth.
The stark similarities between the affected governments is powerful proof they are no longer independent nations ruled by their own elected governments. They are separate countries increasingly animated by an identical purpose – a regime motivated solely by carbon profit, disinterested in all other aspects of civic governance.
Recent false bushfire arson claims in Australia highlight how these forces now co-ordinate globally. Allegedly the claims were started by Australian resources interests, then multiplied by social media bots and trolls, amplified by right-wing politicians and media corporations, taken up globally by Donald Trump Jr, Fox News and members of the US Republican party to create a global ‘echo chamber’.  
The implications of this for the future of democracy are grim. As Global Carbon grows and flexes its muscle, it becomes harder and harder for an opposition party in any individual country to win an election, because it is not just up against its national opponents – but is also engaging the most potent international cartel on the Planet.
There is only one way to defeat such a monster. If it is truly a regime, then there must be global regime change. The citizens of Earth must rise up and impose their collective will on the rich and malevolent few. They must shun their products, prosecute to the full extent of the law, exact just taxes and outlaw the corrupt alliances that bind carbon to politics.
Like any global conflict, the road to victory will be long, and will be accompanied by much blood, toil, sweat and tears, as Churchill might have forewarned.
First, however, it is necessary, for each citizen to grasp how great and grave is our peril – and for that the dwindling voice of the free press daily plays a critical and valiant role.

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European Parliament Endorses $1.6 Trillion Investment Plan For Green New Deal

Lethal Heating - 22 January, 2020 - 04:02
RenewEconomy - 

The European Union is set to allocate up to a quarter of its annual budget towards tackling climate change, as part of a plan to attract as much as €1 trillion (A$1.61 trillion) in new investment to drive the transition towards clean technologies.
The world’s first major ‘green new deal’ will see theEU accelerate its push towards decarbonisation. The European Commission estimates that the bloc has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 23 per cent between 1990 and 2018, while the value of its economy grew by 61% over the same period.
“People are at the core of the European Green Deal, our vision to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050. The transformation ahead of us is unprecedented. And it will only work if it is just – and if it works for all,” President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said.
“We will support our people and our regions that need to make bigger efforts in this transformation, to make sure that we leave no one behind. The Green Deal comes with important investment needs, which we will turn into investment opportunities. The plan that we present today, to mobilise at least €1 trillion, will show the direction and unleash a green investment wave.”
The plan has been developed by the European Commission and won the support of the EU parliament this week, with MEPs voting to endorse the plan. Implementation of the European Green Deal will require further amendments to EU legislation, including the setting of interim emissions reduction targets.
“Parliament overwhelmingly supported the Commission’s proposal on the Green Deal and welcomes the fact that there will be consistency between all European Union policies and the objectives of the Green Deal. Agriculture, trade and economic governance and other policy areas must now be seen and analysed in the context of the Green Deal”, the EU parliament’s environment committee chair Pascal Canfin said.
The plan will see more €500 billion allocated from the budget of the European Union Commission, which it hopes will leverage further private sector investment to reach the €1 trillion investment goal over the next 10-years.
In May 2018, the European Union established a 25% climate mainstreaming target, which sees 25% of EU expenditure contributing to its climate change objectives.
The European Green Deal’s Investment Plan will include a Just Transition Mechanism to provide investment support to communities disproportionately impacted by the transition away from emissions intensive industries, and help them transition to a zero carbon economy.
To access the funds, EU member countries will need to develop just transition plans, which identify regions that require investment support to undertake measures like the closure and rehabilitation of coal mines and coal fired power stations, and to build new industries and reskill workers in low emissions industries.
“The Just Transition Mechanism will help support those most affected by making investments more attractive and proposing a package of financial and practical support worth at least €100 billion. This is our pledge of solidarity and fairness,” executive vice-president for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said
While the plan has received in-principle support from most of the European Union parliamentarians, European Greens members were keen to ensure the allocation of funding was directly tied to a transition away from coal.
In particular, Poland, which has large reserves of brown coal which is used to generate around a third of its total electricity production, in addition to producing around half its electricity using black coal, is a key target for coal-phase out demands.
“No money should be distributed from this fund before there are clear commitments and concrete dates for the coal phase-out from member states,” European Green MEP Niklas Nienass said.
“Poland should sign up to EU climate targets before being eligible to money under the Just Transition Fund.”
Environmental groups, including Greenpeace EU’s Sebastian Mang, echoed the concern about funds being allocated to countries that have softer commitments to transition away from fossil fuels.
“If this funding is really meant to promote a green transition, it must only be available to governments that are committed to that transition and have a clear plan to ditch coal. If they want the cash, the likes of Poland and the Czech Republic will have to prove they are serious about tackling the climate emergency,” Mang said.
“For the European Green Deal to be successful, all funding, including from the EU budget, needs to stop supporting fossil fuels, nuclear energy and other destructive industries.”
The European Union has a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 and is recently endorsed the formal adoption of a target to achieve zero net emissions by 2050, each based on 1990 levels.
The EU Green Deal resolution was endorsed with 482 votes for, 136 against and 95 abstentions. Further legislative amendments will be required to implement the plan.

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Opinion: Bring On The Royal Commission Into Australia's Climate Change Policy

Lethal Heating - 22 January, 2020 - 04:02
Canberra Times - Crispin Hull

Bring on the royal commission into the fires. Bring on a broad-ranging inquiry and a commissioner who is someone of independence, competence and integrity. This week's essay by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull makes this more imperative that ever.
Malcolm Turnbull this week decried climate change denialism in opinion pieces in The Guardian and TIME Magazine. Picture: ShutterstockMr Turnbull drew some sensible conclusions about what Australia must do about climate change, but what he did not say is of more import.
In an essay commissioned by The Guardian Australia for its 2020 Vision series, Turnbull wrote, quite reasonably: "The lies of the deniers have to be rejected ... Climate change is real ... Our response must be real too - a resilient, competitive, net zero-emission economy - as we work to make our nation, and our planet, safe for our children and grandchildren."
This is the view of the man who was prime minister for three years and in cabinet for five years, including a stint as Environment Minister. So the big question is: why didn't his view become Australian law and policy?
More broadly, the Australian people are entitled to an answer to the critical question: how did the three major political parties so comprehensively fail to deliver the climate policy the nation has needed for more than a decade?
A big part of the answer to that question must be within the power and knowledge of Turnbull to answer. He was at the helm when it should have happened. He was at the helm when he wanted it to happen, and he was at the helm when it didn't happen. Why was that? How did that happen?
Why weren't the lies of the deniers rejected?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison should be questioned about why he gave coal such symbolic power, and continues to give it such actual power in Australia's parliament.
We know that Australian policy alone would not have affected the fires, but effective Australian policy would have given us the moral high ground to urge other nations to do a lot more so future effects would be lessened. This is important, because Australia is among the countries likely to be most affected by climate change, as we have seen this summer.
Let's go back to the beginning with this royal commission (and by the way, why can't we give these inquiries a different name - an Australian Commission of Inquiry, for example?).
The starting point is December 2, 2009. A day after Tony Abbott replaced Turnbull as Liberal leader, the Greens voted with the Liberal and National Parties in the Senate to reject Labor's carbon-pricing scheme.
Those Green senators, especially then-leader Bob Brown, should be put in the box at the inquiry and asked what possessed them to side with conservatives to defeat a pretty good start to addressing, in the words of then-prime minister Kevin Rudd, "the great moral challenge of our generation".
Then when the bill got knocked back in the Senate, Labor did nothing. Rudd and the senior Labor leaders in 2009 should be asked why they allowed short-term political considerations to take priority, and why they did not then and there put the bill up a second time and go to a double dissolution to address this "great moral challenge".
Why didn't Rudd stare down the Greens and give them a last chance to support his carbon-pricing scheme or face a double dissolution with Labor putting the Greens last on their how-to-vote-cards?
Tony Abbott rode a campaign against Julia Gillard's carbon-pricing mechanism into the prime ministership. Picture: ShutterstockRudd should then be asked why, in April, 2010, he chose to defer further action on the "moral challenge" to 2013.
The Australian people are also entitled to answers when it comes to what happened to the Liberal Party when Abbott took the helm.
How is it that a Rhodes Scholar like Tony Abbott can pretend not to understand basic climate science and say it is "crap" and order his party to reverse Turnbull's support for carbon pricing? Why did the leader of a so-called free-enterprise party reject the market approach?
He should be asked whether the financial support of the fossil industry affected that decision. Or whether it was just political expediency to run an anti-carbon-tax scare campaign.
The inquiry should dig deep and hard into the finances of the Liberal and National parties to find out the level of donations and ask the donors in the witness box why they gave the money and what policy positions they expected in return.
Abbott should be grilled about his habit of announcing emissions targets but doing little or nothing to achieve them.
Julia Gillard should be questioned, too, about walking away from carbon pricing after her factional supporter Bill Shorten specifically cited Rudd's walking away from that very carbon pricing as a reason for her challenging his leadership.
To her credit, though, she returned to it - because it was good policy. Tragically for her, the way she took the prime ministership tainted what she did as prime minister. Like Malcolm Fraser, she should have waited for it to fall into her lap, but didn't.
Abbott should be grilled about why he repealed the Gillard carbon price when it was working so well to reduce emissions.
The Australian people are entitled to know what promises Turnbull made as a condition of getting the prime ministership - promises that hamstrung him into weak policies that favoured fossil-fuel industries.
How could he sweep away the knights and dames with such ease, but not redo climate policy? Why did he get done over at every turn like no other prime minister? How and why were all his climate policies stymied? Why did he do nothing about it?
Why didn't he come out early on when he was popular, reveal to the Australian people what the troglodytes were doing, and reverse it?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison should be questioned about why he gave coal such symbolic power, and continues to give it such actual power in Australia's parliament.
Every Coalition MP since 2009 should be grilled about how and why they voted for pro-fossil-fuel policies, their diaries examined for meetings and their accounts audited for fossil-fuel donations. Because even after these fires, they are still at it.
As to the fires themselves, the Victorian royal commission into the 2009 Black Saturday fires did the hard work on the technicalities of fighting fire and reducing the risk to lives and property. And it was very successful. In those fires, 179 people died. This time, with a greater area burned, 27 people have died. Lessons have obviously been learned.
And the greater lesson is that hard policy and technical work in all fields of endeavour does more than any glib slogan.
The commission should also put the lie to the greenies preventing hazard-reduction burning, because it was the heating climate that reduced the window for safe burning. It should reveal all the public service advice about not only combatting the foreseen huge fire risk, but also combatting the global heating that causes it. And it should ask the politicians why they rejected so much of it.

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'You Need To Act Now': Meet 4 Girls Working To Save The Warming World

Lethal Heating - 21 January, 2020 - 04:05
NPR - Anya Kamenetz

LA Johnson/NPRA teenage girl, Greta Thunberg, has become the world-famous face of the climate strike movement. But she's far from alone: Thunberg has helped rally and inspire others — especially girls.
NPR talked to four teenage climate activists, all girls, from the U.S. and Australia, alongside their mothers. These teenagers are juggling activism with schoolwork and personal time. And their families are working hard to support them as they grapple with the heavy emotions that come with fighting for the future.
In Castlemaine, Australia, Milou Albrecht, 15, co-founded School Strike for Climate Australia, which organizes student walkouts. As massive bush fires engulf parts of her home country, Albrecht's group has been pressuring the German corporation Siemens to withdraw from an Australian coal mining project.
In New York City, Xiye Bastida, 17, led her school in the city's first big student climate strike last March, and along with traveling and public speaking, she and some of her classmates have continued to strike on Fridays ever since. ("Gym is on Fridays, so I have a very low grade in gym," she notes.)
In Louisiana, 16-year-old Jayden Foytlin was one of 21 young people who sued the federal government for violating their rights to a livable planet. The young plaintiffs hailed from communities around the country that have been directly affected by global warming — Foytlin, for example, is from south Louisiana, where her home has been flooded in storms.
The lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, was recently thrown out by a federal appeals court. But Foytlin says she's formed lasting friendships with the other plaintiffs. "We all share one thing in common — we really care about where we're from, and how we are going to continue to live [here]."
In upstate New York, Scout Pronto Breslin, 16, is focused on wildlife. She lives in Rhinebeck, and is the founder of a group called Hudson Valley Wild. "I volunteer at a wildlife rehab clinic," she says, explaining what motivated her activism."The birds there often come in with blood poisoning because of illegal toxins from chemical runoff and fertilizer."
Pronto Breslin advises other teens to find what really interests them about the climate movement. She says it could be composting in their schools, gardening, nature: "Once you find something that you really love, then that will just give you motivation to keep going with it."

Girls to the front
It's no coincidence that teenage girls are especially visible right now as climate leaders, says Katharine Wilkinson.
LA Johnson/NPREducation
Giving Schools — And Students — The Tools They Need In The Fight To Save The Planet"The youth movement is such a great example of the way in which girls and young women are stepping into the heart of this space, and showing us what it looks like to lead with courage and imagination and incredible moral clarity."
Wilkinson works with a solutions-focused climate organization called Project Drawdown, and delivered a TED talk on how empowering women and girls can help stop global warming.
"When we think about the nexus of climate and gender, there are three big points of intersection," she tells NPR.
"One is that the impacts of climate change hit women and girls first and worst," particularly in the developing world and in poor communities.
The second, she says, is that "gender equality is itself a climate solution," with women's education and equity leading to smaller family sizes and, research shows, better land management practices.
And the third is what Wilkinson calls "transformational leadership that is grounded in intersectional feminism and what we might consider more feminine approaches to leading." We all need to save the world. It's not up to girls. As much as we admire and love what they're doing. It also doesn't absolve us of responsibility.
Jennifer BreslinScout Pronto Breslin's mother, Jennifer Breslin, used to work on gender equity issues at the United Nations. She agrees with Wilkinson: "I think it's really amazing how many young women are involved in this."
On the other hand, she says, "I don't believe 'Girls are going to save the world.' We all need to save the world. It's not up to girls. As much as we admire and love what they're doing, it also doesn't absolve us of responsibility."

Raised to care for the Earth
Each of these girls expressed her own, independent commitment to the climate crisis — but it's impossible to ignore the upbringings that sparked their engagement.
LA Johnson/NPR"My mom and my dad always taught me what it was to take care of the Earth," Xiye Bastida says.
Bastida — who has been described as New York City's Greta Thunberg — is the daughter of Geraldine Patrick Encina, a scholar in residence at the Union Theological Seminary's Center for Earth Ethics, and an environmental activist since her own teenage years in Chile. Bastida's father is a member of the indigenous Otomi Toltec nation in Mexico, which advocates for the protection of their local water and land.
Life KitHow To Talk To Kids About Climate ChangeGeraldine Patrick Encina says the family follows indigenous traditions. "We will do at least one ceremony, you know, to the waters or to the land frequently, maybe once a week."Milou Albrecht is the daughter of Susan Burke, a psychologist who works in climate adaptation and disaster recovery. Burke and her husband raised their three children for years in an eco-friendly, rural, intentional community. Albrecht says she grew up going to environmental protests, and that they were "heaps of fun."
Social justice was part of Scout Pronto Breslin's upbringing, too. Aside from her mother's work in areas including sustainable development, her father was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, and currently works for the U.N.
And Jayden Foytlin's mother is Cherri Foytlin, a direct action climate activist of Afro-Latina-Indigenous descent who is known for opposing an oil pipeline in south Louisiana.
"Some families, they go to baseball games or
Education8 Ways To Teach Climate ChangeIn Almost Any Classroomballerina concerts," notes Cherri. "Well, it's always been a family function for us to go to marches or meetings or meet with the community and learn how to organize." It's always been a family function for us to go to marches or meetings or meet with the community and learn how to organize.
Cherri FoytlinAll of the teenagers, however, made the point that they had friends in the movement whose parents were less aware, less involved or less supportive than their own.
"I have a few friends whose parents will tell them, 'You can not go to that meeting until you finish your homework,' or, 'You have to stop skipping school on Fridays,' " says Xiye Bastida. She calls it "a very fine line because no parent wants their kid to fail school."

Supporting, but also stepping back
LA Johnson/NPRYoung climate change activists need support, they and their parents say, especially emotional support. "The toughest moments have been when Xiye just needs a hug," says her mother, Geraldine Patrick Encina.
Climate change is enormous and tragic. It feels very personal to young people in particular, who are more likely than older generations to say that it impacts them personally. That makes it similar to other youth-led movements, such as Black Lives Matter and the March for Our Lives movement against gun violence. The toughest moments have been when Xiye just needs a hug.
Geraldine Patrick EncinaAt the same time, eco-anxiety, depression and secondary traumatic stress are normal psychological reactions to learning about the reality of human-caused environmental destruction. That's according to psychologist Renee Lertzman, who has been working in this area for decades. She compares the situation of these teenagers to her own upbringing in the nuclear age.
"Anyone who's my age knows what it's like to grow up with the threat of nuclear war around you all the time, and how terrifying that is," she says. "So I have a lot of empathy and compassion for what it's like to be a young person in the context of an existential threat. I feel concern, and I feel like we need to be thoughtful about how we navigate this."
She says young people need to hear, "It's not all on them."
On the positive side, Susan Burke, Milou Albrecht's psychologist mother, says getting involved with a cause you care about can be protective for mental health. "It's great to take action on things that are worrying you because action is one of the best antidotes to despair and helplessness and hopelessness."
But Burke cautions that this work must be child-led — you can't push your children to get involved. It's great to take action on things that are worrying you because action is one of the best antidotes to despair and helplessness and hopelessness.
Susan BurkeAlbrecht says her parents are good at listening and supporting, "but also kind of stepping back and let me do my thing."
Scout Pronto Breslin's mom, Jennifer Breslin, agrees with that approach. "We need to not micromanage them. It's really hard. You kind of want to jump in and say, 'Why don't you try this?' "
Many youth and student groups have created guidelines for adult allies on how to be supportive without taking over.

Balancing school, life and activism
LA Johnson/NPRMany activists are also high-achieving students with multiple AP classes and packed schedules. Bastida says to make room for the school strike planning and the traveling and speaking she's doing, she's dropped gymnastics and Model United Nations. No regrets, she says: "Model U.N. is so stressful. I am more nervous about Model U.N. than [lobbying] the actual U.N. Kids are crazy competitive. I'm not trying to be part of that."
EducationMost Teachers Don't Teach Climate Change;4 In 5 Parents Wish They DidNevertheless, they all say that they have to — and their parents encourage them to — make room for downtime and hobbies.
Foytlin likes to draw and play with her little brother. Bastida likes Netflix and taking baths, and she says, "My dad tells me every day, 'You cannot fix the world if you do not fix up your room.' "
Pronto Breslin likes taking walks in the woods with her golden retriever, Tess; playing the guitar and listening to Elvis and the Beatles. And Albrecht likes gardening.
Each of these girls says it's important to find joy in the moment, and in the friendships they are making as they work for a better future.
"We advocate [so much] for urgency," Bastida says. "We are saying you need to act now. You need to do this fast. But you cannot live your life in that way. And I think that's the trickiest part — how do you live in a state of urgency without feeling that within you? So we have to remain centered not only in our families, but our communities, in organizing. When we organize, we model the world we want to see.

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(AU) Climate Change: Platypus On The ‘Brink Of Extinction’

Lethal Heating - 21 January, 2020 - 04:04

Researchers have found that climate threats and habitat destruction are pushing platypuses towards extinction.
Drought and heatwaves are exacerbating the threats posed by dam building, land clearing and predators. Picture: SuppliedOne of Australia’s most-loved mammals, the platypus, is being pushed towards the “brink of extinction” by climate threats and habitat destruction, researchers say.
Platypus numbers may have halved or more since Europeans arrived in Australia, according to a study published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation.
The research predicts that local extinctions may have occurred across 40 per cent of the species’ range due to dam building, land clearing and other disruptions.
Under current climate and threats, the researchers predicted platypus numbers would decline between 47 per cent and 66 per cent over 50 years.
Programs to relocate platypuses are being proposed. Picture: Australian Platypus ParkWhen adjusted for projected climate change, the research found that increased drought frequencies and duration were predicted to further reduce platypus populations by between 51 and 73 per cent.
“These dangers further expose the platypus to even worse local extinctions with no capacity to repopulate areas,” lead author and researcher at the University of NSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science, Gilad Bino, told The Age.
The trajectory could place the mammal on the “brink of extinction”, he said.
Even before Australia’s devastating bushfire season – which have killed millions of the nation’s wildlife – the platypus population was suffering as a result of the intensifying drought and heatwave.
Disruption of Murray Darling and Great Dividing Range habitats means “the consequences are grim for the platypus”, said director of the UNSW centre and another of the study’s authors, Richard Kingsford.
“This is impacting their ability to survive during these extended dry periods and increased demand for water.
“If we lost the platypus from Australian rivers, you would say, ‘What sort of government policies or care allow that to happen?’” Prof Kingsford said.
“What sort of nonchalance and disregard for one of the world’s most important species has allowed this to happen?”
A NSW environment spokeswoman told the publication that the Government “recognises that a range of factors, exacerbated by the current prolonged drought conditions, may be placing the long-term viability of platypus populations at risk”.
The researchers said there was an “urgent need” to implement national conservation efforts for the platypus by increasing surveys, tracking trends, mitigating threats and improving management of their habitat in rivers.
The study was the first nationwide attempt to establish a so-called metapopulation model for the platypus.

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(AU) Editorial: Climate Change Impossible To Deny

Lethal Heating - 21 January, 2020 - 04:04
Canberra TimesEditorial

Is it possible that even if the earth was reduced to a burnt out husk and the last humans were sheltering in the deepest caves they could find there would still be a climate change denier up the back saying "it wasn't us, it's just the natural order of things"?
Pooh Corner on the Kings Highway between Canberra and the NSW South Coast. It survived the bushfires, but will it be so lucky next time? Rising temperatures are already changing our world. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos.That seems likely given the reaction by the usual suspects to last week's findings the 2010s were the hottest decade on record.
While not necessarily interesting reading in themselves, the comment threads on some of the news reports of the joint NASA and NOAA finding are notable in that they appear to plumb new depths of human stupidity, self-delusion and wishful thinking.
The Bureau of Meteorology had confirmed 2019 was the hottest year ever in Australia just the week before with temperatures 1.52 degrees above the long-term average.
2020 is also on track to be right up there with early indications it will be one of the five hottest years ever in this country.
While 2016 remains the hottest year ever recorded across the globe, 2019 is now in second place.
Data collated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows warming has accelerated over the past 40 years. Annual global average surface temperatures are increasing at about .18 degrees a decade.
Given the fires in Australia and the Amazon, increased hurricane activity in the Bahamas, reductions in ice cover in the Bering and Chukchi seas, melting permafrost in Alaska and Siberia, heatwaves in Europe and cyclones in Mozambique it is obvious the planet is undergoing major changes.
Our children, and our children's children, will live in a world very different, and significantly less hospitable, to the one we know. Stopping emissions from increasing is one thing; working out how to put the genie back into the bottle - if that is even possible - is going to be another."But", the deniers will cry, "how can we be sure it is humans who are causing this?"
Join the dots. Despite the best efforts of the Kyoto and the Paris agreements global greenhouse emissions hit a record high in 2019. According to the Washington Post "the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now sits at the highest level in human history - a level probably not seen on the planet for three million years".
The multi-trillion dollar question is whether or not this is reversible. Have we reached a tipping point of no return or is it still possible to turn this around before Parramatta and Bankstown become beachside suburbs?
Any honest answer to this question has to be along the lines of "maybe, maybe not". That is because the best advice available suggests the best time to have done something about this will always be "yesterday".
The longer we hold off, the greater the changes we are going to have to make to achieve carbon dioxide targets that would have been relatively easy to reach a decade or two decades ago.
We also need to take into account the fact significant warming has already occurred. Whole countries, including Switzerland and Kazakhstan according to some reports, have already warmed beyond the two degrees celsius the IPCC considers manageable.
Stopping emissions from increasing is one thing; working out how to put the genie back into the bottle - if that is even possible - is going to be another.
One of the few bright spots this week was Science Minister, Karen Andrews's, call for the deniers to get over themselves.
"Every second we spend discussing whether or not climate change is real is a second that we don't spend talking about, putting into place, strategies to mitigate the effects," she said.
That is a welcome change of pace for this government. We hope her more intransigent colleagues are listening.

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

Lethal Heating - 20 January, 2020 - 04:12
The Guardian

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

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Long Shaped By Fire, Australia Enters A Perilous New Era

Lethal Heating - 20 January, 2020 - 04:10
Yale Environment 360

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

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

Lethal Heating - 20 January, 2020 - 04:07
Sydney Morning HeraldRob Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Sad Truth About Our Boldest Climate Target

Lethal Heating - 19 January, 2020 - 04:04
Vox David Roberts

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

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

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

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

Categories: External websites

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

Lethal Heating - 19 January, 2020 - 04:03
The Guardian

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

Categories: External websites

Sir David Attenborough warns of climate 'crisis moment'

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

China needs to tackle climate change - Attenborough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Planet Matters: Climate change explained

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

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

Categories: External websites


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