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The Environment In 2050: Flooded Cities, Forced Migration – And The Amazon Turning To Savannah

Lethal Heating - 4 January, 2020 - 04:00
The Guardian

Unless we focus on shared solutions, violent storms and devastating blazes could be the least of the world’s troubles. Civilisation itself will be at risk
What the world will look like in 2050 if we continue to burn oil, gas, coal and forests at the current rate? Composite: Guardian Design; Filippo Monteforte/AFP; Patra Kongsirimongkolchai/Getty Images/EyeEm; Alex Board/BBC NHU; deepblue4you/Getty Images/iStockphoto; NOAA/AFP/Getty Images; Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Depart/AFP; Will Oliver/EPA "Good morning. Here is the shipping forecast for midday, 21 June, 2050. Seas will be rough, with violent storms and visibility ranging from poor to very poor for the next 24 hours. The outlook for tomorrow is less fair."All being well, this could be a weather bulletin released by the Met Office and broadcast by the BBC in the middle of this century. Destructive gales may not sound like good news, but they will be among the least of the world’s problems in the coming era of peak climate turbulence. With social collapse a very real threat in the next 30 years, it will be an achievement in 2050 if there are still institutions to make weather predictions, radio transmitters to share them and seafarers willing to listen to the archaic content.
I write this imaginary forecast with an apology to Tim Radford, the former Guardian science editor, who used the same device in 2004 to open a remarkably prescient prediction on the likely impacts of global warming on the world in 2020.
Journalists generally hate to go on record about the future. We are trained to report on the very recent past, not gaze into crystal balls. On those occasions when we have to venture ahead of the present, most of us play it safe by avoiding dates that could prove us wrong, or quoting others.
Radford allowed himself no such safe distance or equivocation in 2004, which we should remember as a horribly happy year for climate deniers. George W Bush was in the White House, the Kyoto protocol had been recently zombified by the US Congress, the world was distracted by the Iraq war and fossil fuel companies and oil tycoons were pumping millions of dollars into misleading ads and dubious research that aimed to sow doubt about science.
Radford looked forward to a point when global warming was no longer so easy to ignore. Applying his expert knowledge of the best science available at the time, he predicted 2020 would be the year when the planet started to feel the heat as something real and urgent.
“We’re still waiting for the Earth to start simmering,” he wrote back in that climate-comfortable summer of 2004. “But by 2020 the bubbles will be appearing.”
The heat of the climate movement is certainly less latent. In the past year, the world has seen Greta Thunberg’s solo school strikes morph into a global movement of more than six million demonstrators; Extinction Rebellion activists have seized bridges and blocked roads in capital cities; the world has heard ever more alarming warnings from UN scientists, David Attenborough and the UN envoy for climate action, Mark Carney; dozens of national parliaments and city councils have declared climate emergencies; and the issue has risen further to the fore in the current UK general election than any before it. With only weeks to go until 2020, the bubbles of climate anxiety are massing near the surface.
Radford’s most precise predictions relate to the science. Writing after the record-breaking UK heat of 2003, he warned such scorching temperatures would become the norm. “Expect summer 2020 to be every bit as oppressive.” How right he was. Since then, the world has sweltered through the 10 hottest years in history. The UK registered a new high of 38.7C this July, which was the planet’s warmest month since measurements began.
Hostile world: tackling forest fires in China. Photograph: Costfoto/Barcroft MediaHe also correctly anticipated how much more hostile this would make the climate – with increasingly ferocious storms (for the first time on record, there have been category 5 hurricanes, such as Dorian and Harvey, for four years in a row), intensifying forest fires (consider the devastating blazes in Siberia and the Amazon this year, or California and Lapland in 2018) and massive bleaching of coral reefs (which is happening with growing frequency across most of the world). All of this has come to pass, as have Radford’s specific predictions of worsening floods in Bangladesh, desperate droughts in southern Africa, food shortages in the Sahel and the opening up of the northwest passage due to shrinking sea ice (the huge cruise liner, Crystal Serenity, is among the many ships that have sailed through the Bering Strait in recent years – a route that was once deemed impossible by even the most intrepid explorers).
A couple of his predictions were slightly premature (the snows on Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya have not yet disappeared, though a recent study said they will be gone before future generations get a chance to see them), but overall, Radford’s vision of the world in 2020 was remarkably accurate, which is important because it confirms climate science was reliable even in 2004. It is even more precise today, which is good news in terms of anticipating the risks, but deeply alarming when we consider just how nasty scientists expect the climate to become in our lifetime. Unless emissions are slashed over the next decade, a swarm of wicked problems are heading our way.
How wicked? Well, following Radford’s example, let us consider what the world will look like in 2050 if humanity continues to burn oil, gas, coal and forests at the current rate.
The difference will be visible from space. By the middle of the 21st century, the globe has changed markedly from the blue marble that humanity first saw in wondrous colour in 1972. The white northern ice-cap vanishes completely each summer, while the southern pole will shrink beyond recognition. The lush green rainforests of the Amazon, Congo and Papua New Guinea are smaller and quite possibly enveloped in smoke. From the subtropics to the mid-latitudes, a grimy-white band of deserts has formed a thickening ring around the northern hemisphere.
Coastlines are being reshaped by rising sea levels. Just over 30cm at this stage – well short of the 2 metres that could hit in 2100 – but still enough to swamp unprotected stretches of land from Miami and Guangdong to Lincolnshire and Alexandria. High tides and storm surges periodically blur the boundaries between land and sea, making the roads of megacities resemble the canals of Venice with increasing frequency.
On the ground, rising temperatures are changing the world in ways that can no longer be explained only by physics and chemistry. The increasingly hostile weather is straining social relations and disrupting economics, politics and mental health.
Generation Greta is middle aged. Their teenage fears of the complete extinction of the human race have not yet come to pass, but the risk of a breakdown of civilisation is higher than at any previous time in history – and rising steadily. They live with a level of anxiety their grandparents could have barely imagined.
The climate activist Greta Thunberg leads a school strike outside of the Swedish Parliament in 2018. Photograph: Michael Campanella/The Guardian The world in 2050 is more hostile and less fertile, more crowded and less diverse. Compared with 2019, there are more trees, but fewer forests, more concrete, but less stability. The rich have retreated into air-conditioned sanctums behind ever higher walls. The poor – and what is left of other species – is left exposed to the ever harsher elements. Everyone is affected by rising prices, conflict, stress and depression.
This is a doorway into peak climate turbulence. Global heating passed the 1.5C mark a couple of years earlier and is now accelerating towards 3C, or possibly even 4C, by the end of the century. It feels as if the dial on a cooker has been turned from nine o’clock to midnight. Los Angeles, Sydney, Madrid, Lisbon and possibly even Paris endure new highs in excess of 50C. London’s climate resembles Barcelona’s 30 years earlier. Across the world, droughts intensify and extreme heat becomes a fact of life for 1.6bn city dwellers, eight times more than in 2019. For a while, marathons, World Cups and Olympics were moved to the winter to avoid the furnace-like heat in many cities. Now they are not held at all. It is impossible to justify the emissions and the world is no longer in the mood for games.
Extreme weather is the overriding concern of all but a tiny elite. It wreaks havoc everywhere, but the greatest misery is felt in poorer countries. Dhaka, Dar es Salaam and other coastal cities are hit almost every year by storm surges and other extreme sea-level incidents that used to occur only once a century. Following the lead set by Jakarta, several capitals have relocated to less-exposed regions. But floods, heatwaves, droughts and fires are increasingly catastrophic. Healthcare systems are struggling to cope. The economic costs cripple poorly prepared financial institutions. Insurance companies refuse to provide cover for natural disasters. Insecurity and desperation sweep through populations. Governments struggle to cope.
“By 2050, if we fail to act, many of the most damaging, extreme weather events we have seen in recent years will become commonplace,” warns Michael Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “In a world where we see continual weather disasters day after day (which is what we’ll have in the absence of concerted action), our societal infrastructure may well fail … We won’t see the extinction of our species, but we could well see societal collapse.”
Huge waves at Porthcawl, Wales: there will be more extreme storms and longer droughts. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Adding to the anxiety is the erratic temperature of the planet. Instead of rising smoothly it jolts upwards, because tipping points – once the stuff of scientific nightmares – are reached one after another: methane release from permafrost; a die-off of the tiny marine organisms that sequestered billions of tonnes of carbon; the dessication of tropical forests. People have come to realise how interconnected the world’s natural life-support systems are. As one falls, another is triggered – like dominos or the old board game, Mouse Trap. In some cases, they amplify one another. More heat means more forest fires, which dries out more trees, which burn more easily, which releases more carbon, which pushes global temperatures higher, which melts more ice, which exposes more of the Earth to sunlight, which warms the poles, which lowers the temperature gradient with the equator, which slows ocean currents and weather systems, which results in more extreme storms and longer droughts. It is also now clear that positive climate feedbacks are not limited to physics, but stretch to economics, politics and psychology. The Amazon is turning into a savannah because the loss of forest is weakening rainfall, which makes harvests lower, which gives farmers an economic motivation to clear more land to make up for lost production, which means more fires and less rain.
On our current course, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere will pass 550 parts per million by midcentury, up from around 400ppm today. Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, explains how this stacks the odds in favour of disaster.
“By 2050, we’d be seeing events that are far more frequent and/or far stronger than we humans have ever experienced before, are occurring both simultaneously and in sequence.”
Her greatest concern is that food production and water supply systems could buckle under the strain, with dire humanitarian consequences in areas that are already vulnerable.
Generation Greta live with a level of anxiety their grandparents could barely have imaginedHunger will rise, perhaps calamitously. The United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change expects food production to decline by 2% to 6% in each of the coming decades because of land-degradation, droughts, floods and sea-level rise. The timing could not be worse. By 2050, the global population is projected to rise to 9.7 billion, which is more than two billion more people to feed than today.
When crops fail and starvation threatens, people are forced to fight or flee. Between 50 and 700 million people will be driven from their homes by midcentury as a result of soil degradation alone, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) estimated last year. Fires, floods and droughts will prompt many others to migrate within and across borders. So will the decline of mountain ice, which is a source of meltwater for a quarter of the world’s population. The poorest will be worst affected, though they have the least responsibility for the climate crisis. For the US author and environmentalist, Bill McKibben, this injustice will make the greatest impact in 2050.
“Forcing people to move from their homes by the hundreds of millions may do the most to disrupt the world. And, of course, it’s a deep tragedy, because these are precisely the people who have done the least to cause the problem,” he says.
In 2050, climate apartheid goes hand-in-hand with increasingly authoritarian politics. Three decades earlier, worried electorates voted in a generation of populist “strongmen” in the hope they could turn back the clock to a more stable world. Instead, their nationalism made a global solution even harder to achieve. They preferred to focus on the immigration consequences of global heating rather than the carbon-capital causes. When voters realised their mistake, it was too late. The thugocracy refused to give up power. They no longer deny the climate crisis; they use it to justify ever-more repressive measures and ever-wilder efforts to find a technological fix. In the past 20 years, nations have tried volcano mimicking, cloud brightening, albedo modification and carbon dioxide removal. Most were expensive and ineffective. Some made weather circulation even less reliable. Powerful countries now threaten rivals not just with nuclear weapons, but with geo-engineering threats to block sunlight or disrupt rainfall patterns.
This is not an inevitable future. Unlike Radford’s prediction for 2020, this vision of 2050 factors in human behaviour, which is more volatile and less predictable than the laws of thermodynamics. Many of the horrors above are already baked into the climate, but our response to them – and each other – is not predetermined. When it comes to the science, the dangers can be substantially reduced if humanity shifts decisively away from business-as-usual behaviour over the next decade. When it comes to the psychology and politics, we can make our situation better immediately if we focus on hope in shared solutions, rather than fears of what we will lose as individuals.
That means putting faith in institutions, warning one another about risks, and treasuring shared eccentricities and traditions – a bit like the shipping forecast.
A storm is certainly brewing. The science is clear on that. The question now is how we face it.

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(AU) Dirty Power: An Australian Political Investigation

Lethal Heating - 4 January, 2020 - 04:00

The coal industry has infiltrated Australia's federal government through a secretive network of ties, working to influence Australia’s political decisions at the highest level: right up to the office of the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison

 Dirty Power: Big Coal's network of influence over the coalition government

We’ve uncovered the web of connections between the world’s biggest coal giants, industry groups, lobbyists and powerful media organisations that serves to halt action on climate change and stall the transition to clean energy.

Why is this so horrifying?
Coal is the number one cause of climate damage. It causes more frequent and intense natural disasters like bushfires while also polluting our water and air.
By pandering to the interests of the coal industry, the Coalition Government is putting dirty profits ahead of the health and wellbeing of Australians who want our nation to run on clean energy.
From furthering the fossil-fuelled agenda of current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to helping to bring about the swift downfall of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: the coal industry has infiltrated the Australian Government at the highest level.
This report is based on interviews with dozens of political operatives, current and former staffers, executives of external lobby firms, and resources sector analysts; previously hidden details about the identity and background of federal ministers’ parliamentary staff; and publicly available information about listed companies and their operatives.
We worked with experienced investigative journalist, Michael West, to expose the web of ties between the coal industry and federal government via industry groups, lobbyists and media.

See the connections between some of australia'smost powerful politicians and the coal industry
Categories: External websites

(AU) A Vision Of Hell

Lethal Heating - 4 January, 2020 - 04:00
This is an embedded Microsoft Office presentation, powered by Office.
Categories: External websites

(AU) Australia’s Angry Summer: This Is What Climate Change Looks Like

Lethal Heating - 3 January, 2020 - 04:00
Scientific AmericanNerilie Abram

The catastrophic fires raging across the southern half of the continent are largely the result of rising temperatures
Credit: David Gray Getty Images
Nerilie AbramNerilie Abram is an investigator at the ARC Center of Excellence for Climate Extremes and an associate professor at the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University. Summer in Australia use to be something we yearned for: long, lazy days spent by the beach or pool, backyard barbecues, and games of cricket with family and friends.
But recent summers have become a time of fear: Schools and workplaces are closed because of catastrophic fire danger, while we shelter in air-conditioned spaces to avoid dangerous heat waves and hazardous levels of smoke in the air. Campgrounds have been closed for the summer, and entire towns have been urged to evacuate ahead of “Code Red” fire weather. Welcome to our new climate.
Of course, unusually hot summers have happened in the past; so have bad bushfire seasons. But the link between the current extremes and anthropogenic climate change is scientifically undisputable.
The fires raging across the southern half of the Australian continent this year have so far burned through more than 5 million hectares. To put that in context, the catastrophic 2018 fire season in California saw nearly 740,000 hectares burned. The Australian fire season began this year in late August (before the end of our winter). Fires have so far claimed nine lives, including two firefighters, and destroyed around 1,000 homes. It is too early to tell what the toll on our wildlife has been, but early estimates suggest that around 500 million animals have died so far, including 30 percent of the koala population in their main habitat. And this is all before we have even reached January and February, when the fire season typically peaks in Australia.
Australia is the most fire prone of all of Earth’s continents. But what has made its latest fire season so extreme? Wildfires need four ingredients: available fuel, dryness of that fuel, weather conditions that aid the rapid spread of fire and an ignition. Climate change is making Australian wildfires larger and more frequent because of its effects on dryness and fire weather.
Australia’s climate has warmed by more than one degree Celsius over the past century, and this change has caused an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves. I am 42, and I have lived through only six years with average temperatures below the 1961–1990 climatological average. My children have experienced none, and in all likelihood, they never will.
Increasing temperatures cause increased evaporation that dries the soil and fuel load. More than a decade ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that ongoing anthropogenic climate change was virtually certain to increase in intensity and frequency of fires in Australia. This assessment of the science evidence has been been repeated in countless reports, including the IPCC’s Climate Change and Land report, released in August 2019.
The effects of rising temperature on drying out the environment can be countered by rainfall or by the growth of vegetation that increases humidity locally. But in the southern half of Australia, where rain falls mostly in the winter, there has been a substantial decline in precipitation. In the southwest of the country, rainfall has declined by around 20 percent since the 1970s, and in the southeast, around 11 percent of rainfall has been lost since the 1990s.
One of the factors driving this long-term loss of winter rainfall is the positive trend in the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). This change is causing the westerly winds that circle the Southern Ocean to shift southward toward Antarctica, causing rain-bearing winter cold fronts to pass south of the Australian continent. The role of anthropogenic climate change in driving this trend in the SAM is also clear in the science.

Climate variability acts on top of these long-term trends that are pushing the Australian climate toward a more fire-prone state. And that variability is an important part of the story of why the 2019–2020 summer has been so extreme.
Southeastern Australia has been in drought since 2017. Rainfall here is normally highly variable from year to year, but there have now been three winters in a row where the winter rains failed. This is a situation that has never been seen before in the historical record of Australia’s rainfall, even during infamous decade-long droughts such as the Millennium Drought. The severity of the current drought has caused large swathes of vegetation to die. It has even dried out wet rain forests, allowing fierce fires to take hold in places that would not normally burn.
The current summer has presented the perfect storm for wildfire. Long-term climate warming, combined with years of drought, colliding with a set of climate patterns that deliver severe fire weather.
In the tropical Indian Ocean, one of the most severe positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) events on record played out this year. The unusually cold sea-surface temperatures in the eastern Indian Ocean cut off one of Australia’s critical moisture sources, adding to the ongoing drought in southern parts of the country. Australia’s worst fire seasons typically follow positive IOD events, much more so than the influence of El Niño events in the Pacific. Again, climate change is part of the story, because anthropogenic warming is causing positive IOD events to become stronger and more frequent.

At the same time, this year, a rare sudden stratospheric warming event developed over the Antarctic in late winter. Weakening of the polar vortex over Antarctica in spring increases the forest fire danger index across eastern Australia. This is because a northward shift in the Southern Hemisphere westerlies (i.e., a negative SAM) at this time of year causes very hot and dry westerly winds to be drawn across the continent.
The angry summer playing out in Australia right now was predictable. The scientific evidence is well known for how anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are causing long-term climate change and altering climate variability in ways that increase our fire risk. The role of climate change in the unprecedented fires gripping Australia is also well understood by our emergency services. Sadly, though, this summer has occurred against a backdrop in which the Australian government has argued, on the world stage, to scale back our greenhouse-gas-emissions-reduction targets. Our leaders are literally fiddling while the country burns.
In many parts of Australia, there will be no traditional fireworks shows to welcome in the new year. The risk is simply too great, and celebration is not warranted while our communities continue to be under threat from this angry summer.

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(AU) Australia, Your Country Is Burning – Dangerous Climate Change Is Here With You Now

Lethal Heating - 3 January, 2020 - 04:00
The Guardian

I am a climate scientist on holiday in the Blue Mountains, watching climate change in action
‘In Australia, beds are burning. So are entire towns, irreplaceable forests and endangered and precious animal species such as the koala.’ Photograph: State Government Of Victoria Handout/EPA Michael E MannMichael E Mann is distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University.
His most recent book, with Tom Toles, is The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy (Columbia University Press, 2016). After years studying the climate, my work has brought me to Sydney where I’m studying the linkages between climate change and extreme weather events.
Prior to beginning my sabbatical stay in Sydney, I took the opportunity this holiday season to vacation in Australia with my family. We went to see the Great Barrier Reef – one of the great wonders of this planet – while we still can. Subject to the twin assaults of warming-caused bleaching and ocean acidification, it will be gone in a matter of decades in the absence of a dramatic reduction in global carbon emissions.
We also travelled to the Blue Mountains, another of Australia’s natural wonders, known for its lush temperate rainforests, majestic cliffs and rock formations and panoramic vistas that challenge any the world has to offer. It too is now threatened by climate change.I witnessed this firsthand.
I did not see vast expanses of rainforest framed by distant blue-tinged mountain ranges. Instead I looked out into smoke-filled valleys, with only the faintest ghosts of distant ridges and peaks in the background. The iconic blue tint (which derives from a haze formed from “terpenes” emitted by the Eucalyptus trees that are so plentiful here) was replaced by a brown haze. The blue sky, too, had been replaced by that brown haze.
The locals, whom I found to be friendly and outgoing, would volunteer that they have never seen anything like this before. Some even uttered the words “climate change” without any prompting.
The songs of Peter Garrett and Midnight Oil I first enjoyed decades ago have taken on a whole new meaning for me now. They seem disturbingly prescient in light of what we are witnessing unfold in Australia.
The brown skies I observed in the Blue Mountains this week are a product of human-caused climate change. Take record heat, combine it with unprecedented drought in already dry regions and you get unprecedented bushfires like the ones engulfing the Blue Mountains and spreading across the continent. It’s not complicated.
The smoke is so thick in Katoomba tourists are opting for photos with billboards, rather than the Three Sisters themselves. @abcsydney pic.twitter.com/MOWvH8UBgs— Tom Lowrey (@tomlowrey) December 30, 2019The warming of our planet – and the changes in climate associated with it – are due to the fossil fuels we’re burning: oil, whether at midnight or any other hour of the day, natural gas, and the biggest culprit of all, coal. That’s not complicated either.
When we mine for coal, like the controversial planned Adani coalmine, which would more than double Australia’s coal-based carbon emissions, we are literally mining away at our blue skies. The Adani coalmine could rightly be renamed the Blue Sky mine.
In Australia, beds are burning. So are entire towns, irreplaceable forests and endangered and precious animal species such as the koala (arguably the world’s only living plush toy) are perishing in massive numbers due to the unprecedented bushfires.
The continent of Australia is figuratively – and in some sense literally – on fire.
Yet the prime minister, Scott Morrison, appears remarkably indifferent to the climate emergency Australia is suffering through, having chosen to vacation in Hawaii as Australians are left to contend with unprecedented heat and bushfires.
Morrison has shown himself to be beholden to coal interests and his administration is considered to have conspired with a small number of petrostates to sabotage the recent UN climate conference in Madrid (“COP25”), seen as a last ditch effort to keep planetary warming below a level (1.5C) considered by many to constitute “dangerous” planetary warming.
But Australians need only wake up in the morning, turn on the television, read the newspaper or look out the window to see what is increasingly obvious to many – for Australia, dangerous climate change is already here. It’s simply a matter of how much worse we’re willing to allow it to get.
Australia is experiencing a climate emergency. It is literally burning. It needs leadership that is able to recognise that and act. And it needs voters to hold politicians accountable at the ballot box.
Australians must vote out fossil-fuelled politicians who have chosen to be part of the problem and vote in climate champions who are willing to solve it.
Illustration: Henny Beaumont

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(AU) Fact Checking Angus Taylor: Does Australia Have A Climate Change Record To Be Proud Of?

Lethal Heating - 3 January, 2020 - 04:00
The Guardian

On a day of extraordinary bushfires the energy minister argued that the country has ‘strong targets, clear plans and an enviable track record’ on reducing emissions. Is he right?
Angus Taylor speaks at the COP25 climate summit in Madrid. The energy minister says Australia has an enviable record on climate change – the Guardian fact checks his claims. Photograph: ReutersAustralians should be proud of the country’s achievements on climate change, energy minister Angus Taylor has argued in a newspaper column that claims “quiet Australians” don’t accept the “shrill cries” of the government’s climate critics.
The column, published in The Australian, makes a series of claims about Australia’s emissions and how they compare to other countries, as well as highlighting exports such as LNG that are “dramatically reducing emissions” in other countries.
So is Australia really a paragon of climate virtue – cutting emissions at home while helping the world to cut emissions?
As is always the case when it comes to climate and energy policy, there is much to check and understand in Taylor’s article.
Prof Frank Jotzo, director of the Centre for Climate and Energy Policy at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, told Guardian Australia: “I would characterise [Taylor’s article] as a selective use of statistics that make Australia’s emissions trajectory look good, when in reality it does not look good at all.”

Tiny footprint?
Taylor writes that Australia is “responsible for only 1.3 per cent of global emissions, so we can’t single-handedly have a meaningful impact without the co-operation of the largest emitters such as China and the US.”
In the context of global emissions, there is much that Australia can, and does, do that has a meaningful impact.
The 1.3% figure does not account for Australia’s contribution to global emissions from the fossil fuels we dig up and export.
If this exported coal and gas was accounted for, one analysis suggests Australia would be responsible for almost 5% of the global carbon footprint from fossil fuel burning.
When countries report their emissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, they only report emissions occurring inside their borders, so it could be argued that using this larger number is unfair.
But the problem is that elsewhere in Taylor’s article, he says Australia’s exporting of LNG is helping countries cut emissions.
Jotzo says: “If we are going to talk about impacts on global emissions of Australia’s energy exports, then we need to consider all fuels, including coal. Any exporting of coal will result in higher global emissions because it increases the availability and lowers the price of coal, and encourages the use of coal.”
It is not clear that the availability of Australian LNG decreases emissions internationally.
Frank JotzoWhile Taylor admits that LNG processing in Australia has pushed domestic emissions higher, he claims that “our LNG exports are dramatically reducing emissions in customer countries such as Japan, South Korea and China — the equivalent of up to 30 per cent of our emissions each year”.
But Jotzo says this claim depends heavily on what the LNG displaces.
He says the “lion’s share” of the exports will actually replace gas from other sources, rather than displacing coal generation. There is also a risk, he says, that increasing LNG exports also encourages countries to build more gas infrastructure, making it harder to move away from the fossil fuel.
He adds: “It is not clear that the availability of Australian LNG decreases emissions internationally.”

Easy target
“Australia meets and beats its emission-reductions targets, every time,” writes Taylor. “We beat our first Kyoto targets by 128 million tonnes. We ­expect to beat our 2020 targets by 411 million tonnes.”
The key reason why Australia has easily beaten its targets, is that they were very low to begin with.The key reason why Australia has easily beaten its targets, is that they were very low to begin with.
Australia’s first Kyoto target allowed it to increase emissions by 8% between 1990 and 2010. The second target period required a 5% cut below 2000 levels by 2020.
Much of Australia’s cuts to emissions in recent decades, says Jotzo, has been achieved through drops in land clearing, rather than reductions in other parts of the economy the government could have influence over.
Australia wants to use some 411 million tonnes of CO2 “credits” amassed over the Kyoto periods against future targets under the separate Paris agreement, even though it admits it is probably the only country looking to use these “carryover credits”.
Using carryover credits would cut the amount of emissions reductions Australia would need to find to meet its Paris target by about a half.
At the latest UN climate talks in Madrid, Australia came under harsh criticism from more than 100 countries for its desire to use the credits, which some analysts say is a proposal with no legal basis.
Australia was accused of “cheating” at the talks, but refused to back down on the carryover issue, leaving it unresolved.

Better than Canada and New Zealand
In his article, Taylor says “when you compare Australia’s emission-reduction track record with nations such as Canada and New Zealand”, Australia comes out on top.
While Australia’s emissions have dropped 12.9% since 2005, writes Taylor, New Zealand’s have risen by 4% and Canada’s have dropped only 2%.
Jotzo says the 12.9% figure Taylor is using includes changes to land use, such as land clearing, which are not major issues for other developed countries.
As an example, Australia’s reporting to the UN shows that in 2005, emissions from land use, land-use change, and forestry (known as LULUCF) were +88mt. In 2017, LULUCF emissions were -19mt. That’s a net drop of 107mt.
Using the same periods for New Zealand, the difference is a net increase of 4.8mt.
A fairer global comparison, says Jotzo, is to use figures that remove these LULUCF emissions.
This, he says, turns Australia’s 12.9% drop between 2005 and 2018 into a 6% rise.

Clean hydrogen
In his article, Taylor repeats a point that he made during his official speech to the Madrid climate talks that technological innovation would be a key to fighting climate change.
In the article, Taylor points to the new national hydrogen strategy as an example of innovations with “enormous potential” for cutting future emissions.
Jotzo says there is potential for an Australian hydrogen export industry to have a positive impact on global emissions.
However, he says this comes with large caveats. Hydrogen can be produced using renewable energy, but also by using fossil fuels.
If Australia was to use coal or gas, it would need to be able to capture most of the waste CO2 to claim the fuel as green.
But analysis by Jotzo and colleagues shows that while rates of up to 95% carbon capture might be “technically possible” they have not yet been achieved.
Only two plants – in Canada and the UK – currently capture CO2 when producing hydrogen from fossil fuels. The best capture rate is 80%.
If the carbon capture rates were at 60%, then Jotzo says the net greenhouse gas footprint of hydrogen would be the same as just burning gas.

Proud and quiet Aussies?
According to Taylor, “Australia has strong targets, clear plans, an enviable track record” on climate change, and Australians should be proud of it.
But when overseas groups look at Australia’s record compared to the rest of the world, the assessments come out differently.
The most recent analysis ranked Australia as the sixth worst country on climate change overall.An analysis by Climate Action Tracker says Australia’s Paris targets are “insufficient” and inconsistent with the Paris goal of keeping global warming well below 2C.
Australia has been placed consistently towards the bottom in the annual Climate Change Policy Index analysis of the world’s top 57 emitting nations.
The most recent analysis ranked Australia as the sixth worst country on climate change overall.
Jotzo, who attended the Madrid climate talks as an observer, said: “Australia was highly regarded at the talks for its technical competence, and it always has. But Australia is not highly regarded at all for its policies or for its efforts to water down effective ambition of the Paris agreement.”
He said speaking with observers from other countries, Australia’s position was seen “with quite some bewilderment” especially with the backdrop of the current devastating fire season.
Jotzo adds: “They are flabbergasted that Australia is digging in to its stance of getting an easier deal when it would so obviously be in its national interest to encourage strong global action.”

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In 2020, Here's How You Can Help Address The Climate Crisis

Lethal Heating - 2 January, 2020 - 04:00
Gizmodo - Brian Kahn

Photo: GettyThis is the time of year when we talk about nice things. Hopeful things.
But honestly, I can’t get excited about hope when it comes to the climate crisis. It’s a monstrous mess. Multinational corporations worth billions of dollars have caused it while lying about their role in doing so. And people in the halls of power have aided and abetted them. The world’s emissions have continued to rise to the point that we now need to cut them a staggering 78 per cent over the next decade to limit the damage to bad as opposed to catastrophic.
“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” is emblazoned on the gates of Hell in Dante’s Inferno, but it may as well have been written about climate change.
I get that hope is a thing we’re all looking for amidst the worsening climate carnage, but I firmly believe hope isn’t the most useful thing to steer us away from a worst-case scenario. And I’m not alone. In a—and I can’t believe I’m about to write these words—viral Twitter thread, climate essayist, activist, and Hot Take podcast host Mary Heglar laid out the case against hope better than I could, noting it’s “stale AF and ending shit on a high note has fuelled a lot of inertia.”
Her solution was to stop asking what gives climate activists hope and start asking “how can I help?” Which at the end of the day is the exact question we should be asking. The climate crisis will be only be solved through sustained, collective action over the coming decade. We’ve seen what the start of a public pressure campaign can look like globally with the climate strike movement, but it’s a start, not the end. And it’s hardly the only way into the fight for a future we can be proud of.
Earther reached out to a handful of activists to ask “how can I help?” Their answers are below, lightly edited for brevity.
Fuck hope. Long live action.
***Bill McKibben, founder 350.org and author
“I think that some of the tasks for the year are, for obvious reasons, political, and that others involve taking on the financial industry that bankrolls gas, oil and coal. I seem to be concentrating on the latter tasks for the moment.”
***Margaret Klein Solomon, founder of the Climate Mobilisation
“Break the silence: Start talking about the climate emergency and the need for WWII scale climate mobilisation — in a realistic, blunt, emergency-focused way, in your family, social circles, and beyond.
“Join the Climate Emergency Movement. There are a lot of organisations that have burst forth this year that are championing a climate emergency message and solution— Sunrise, Extinction Rebellion, Youth Climate Strikes, The Climate Mobilisation, and more. Join us, support us, help us build power!”
***Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright, policy coordinator at the Climate Justice Alliance
“One of the literary treasures of our time, Rebecca Solnit, offered us in her book, Hope in the Dark, ‘Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency.’ I would never presume to speak for Sister Solnit, but what I get from this quote is that Hope without action is like expecting a rock to float on water because you meditate.
“Sister Heglar was absolutely correct to take umbrage with questions like, ‘what gives you hope?’ If that question is not followed by, ‘how does your hope catalyze your drive to act,’ it’s not at all helpful and perambulates what is really called for at this moment, it fosters torpidity through an illusion of action. The people of Haiti have hope, the people of Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador have hope, the people in Hong Kong and France have hope, but they seem to realise that hope alone does not bring about transformational and structural change. Being hopeful can be risky, being hopeful without action is even riskier, and the biggest risk is the one not taken.”
***Sydney Azari, steering committee member for the National DSA Ecosocialist Working Group
“I think people are going to want to hear there is a quick, simple thing they can do: recycle, go to a march, talk about the science, etc. Those are good things, but it would be dishonest of me to say that’s enough. In order to ‘help’ we must address the actual problem, which is a growth-dependent, fossil-fuelled economic system that has stratified power in favour of an elite few who put profit above people and the planet. The way ordinary people can and have overcome the injustice of our economic system and the 1% is through the Labour Movement and our power as workers to strike and halt the economy in its tracks. So, my unconventional answer is that you can help by organising your workplace to address the Climate Emergency through ‘green’ collective bargaining agreements, advocating for a Green New Deal, endorsing ‘climate’ candidates, and building community alliances through strikes for the planetary good.
“The fight for our future must be an all-hands-on-deck effort, and another way you can help is by utilising your social networks to bring more people into the climate movement. Organise your sports team, church, university, professional association, etc. to leverage its power to fight for climate action and a Green New Deal.”
***Elizabeth Sawin, co-director of Climate Interactive
“When people ask me about the ‘best’ action they might take to address climate change, I talk about the things we all need to do together and the things we can each uniquely do. Together, there’s voting and otherwise supporting strong climate candidates at all levels and supporting, with your dollars or your two feet or both, the grassroots organising movements that push politicians to do better. This opens up systems change opportunities, and ensures you have compatriots when the going gets tough.
“But don’t forget to also look for the things that you uniquely can do, the conversation only you can have with your uncle because he trusts you, the art that only you can make that might inspire someone else to act, the community conversation you can convene so beautifully because you know so many different types of folks. Also, you uniquely can leverage your expertise in healthcare, or museums, or teaching, or farming towards climate protection. Because climate touches everything, you don’t need to drop everything to work on climate, you just need to figure out what it means to do what you do in way that also reduces emissions or builds resiliency.”

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(AU) Bushfire Tragedy Shows Need For Climate Leadership

Lethal Heating - 2 January, 2020 - 04:00
Sydney Morning Herald - Editorial

This is the time to wish people a Happy New Year but the unfolding tragedy of the bushfires makes it hard to feel cheerful.
In the past two days people have lost loved ones. The final toll is unknown and hopefully it will not be as high as our worst fears but it is already devastating.
In the communities of the South Coast of NSW and in East Gippsland in Victoria many survivors will also be shaken by the destruction of their homes.
All along that usually delightful coast the fires have hit just at the time when the population has been swelled by tens of thousands of holiday makers.
The beautiful, beautiful bush, dried brittle by the record-breaking temperatures and drought of this fire season, has caught alight in hundreds of places.
It has descended from the hills towards seaside towns preventing any escape.
What was supposed to be a summer break has turned into a nightmare. Residents, retirees and holiday makers were forced to take shelter from the smoke and terrible heat, some in homes, others penned up in hastily established evacuation centres and some even forced to retreat to the beach or boats for safety. It must be terrifying.
The members of the Rural Fire Service have again performed magnificently as they have done now for the two long months of this bushfire emergency.
The death of Samuel McPaul on Monday on the Victoria-NSW border provided a shocking example of the conditions which they have braved for weeks.
The furnace-like weather whipped up winds so strong that they flipped over an RFS fire vehicle crushing Mr McPaul.
He left behind a pregnant wife and became the third RFS volunteer to die in the past week.
In these circumstances, the start of the New Year will hardly be happy.
Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has appealed to the Australian spirit.
Certainly it will require spirit for many people to put behind them the events of the past weeks and hope for happier times ahead.
One thing weighing on them will be the likelihood that this bushfire season is far from over.
The bush is still tinder dry and getting drier as the summer advances. There could easily be more days like Tuesday.
Many people are also burdened by the fear that the extraordinary conditions which produced Tuesday’s fires are now normal and will recur in future years.
Human-induced climate change is raising temperatures and reducing spring rains in our region, turning the bush into a fire trap every summer. That is what scientists are saying.
It is not a day for cheap politics but it is worth taking issue with former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce who last week said he wanted the government out of his life.
The Herald argues that in this bushfire crisis, government has an essential role to play.
That includes more funding and resources for fighting fires and assistance for those displaced, whose businesses have been hurt or who have lost their homes.
But Australians increasingly are looking to the government to take national and global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop the terrifying advance of climate change.  These are problems we can solve together but the government must lead.
Good luck for 2020. May it be prosperous and safe.

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(AU) 'You Have Utterly No Clue': Why 'Climate Emergency' Is Australia's Ultimate Outrage Trigger

Lethal Heating - 2 January, 2020 - 04:00
The Guardian

At any level of Australian government, there is little so divisive as suggesting that a climate emergency be declared
 ‘Incredibly unsettling’: the November day that bushfires turned the sky orange over Port Macquarie. Photograph: Twitter@SteveMolkEarlier last year, Trudi Beck, a general practitioner from Wagga Wagga, wrote to councillors across New South Wales urging them to acknowledge the climate crisis and declare a local emergency.
Some responses were positive. Others less so.
Mark Hall, a Lachlan shire councillor and Baptist pastor, told Beck: “Stick to medicine – you have utterly no clue about climate science. Your email intrusion is truly not welcome.”
So far, 84 jurisdictions in Australia covering about a quarter of the population – mostly cities and local government areas – have declared a climate emergency. The first elected body in the world to act, Darebin council in Victoria, is credited with starting a movement that is now supported by governments representing 800 million people worldwide, including the European Union and Bangladesh.
In Australia, as ever when it comes to climate policy, the process has been polarising and frustrating.
The leaders of one town might have recognised the climate crisis and committed to developing adaptation measures to help the community deal with the impacts of global heating. The next town over might have decided that climate change has nothing to do with local government business such as carting rubbish or fixing potholes.
“We went from talking about the climate emergency, to now all of a sudden we’re living in it,” says Sarah Mollard, a general practitioner from the coastal NSW town of Port Macquarie.
“It was incredibly unsettling to experience the sky going from blue to red in the space of a few hours. It’s extraordinarily unsettling to be in your home and see smoke haze in your home. This is my home, this is my safe space, and I can’t keep my children safe in it.”
In an emergency, timing is critical – if you wait to act, the problem gets worse
Sarah Mollard
A few months ago, Mollard and other community members began to lobby for the Port Macquarie council to declare a climate emergency. In September, a relatively benign council motion to develop a “climate change action plan” was deadlocked at four-all. The mayor’s casting vote shelved the idea indefinitely.
Since the vote, and since the November bushfire crisis that blanketed Port Macquarie in an orange haze, community members have turned up to council meetings, where residents are allowed to take the floor before formal debates, to discuss the climate change impacts of relevant items of business.
In November, Mollard spoke about the need for the council to develop a heat plan.
“It’s constructive in a sense. At the moment the council does not have someone on their payroll who is looking at the actions of council through a climate lens,” Mollard says.
“I prefer gardening to public speaking, and would rather spend my day off work with the kids at the beach than rallying for our government to simply do its job.
“As a doctor I am familiar with the term emergency. An emergency is a threat to people, property or society that has the potential to overwhelm them.
“An emergency requires action to stop the problem from getting out of control and then return to safety. In an emergency, timing is critical – if you wait to act, the problem gets worse, more damage is done, the cost of repair is increased.
“The more involved I’ve been getting the more I’ve had people coming up to me in the street and saying thank you. That’s a really strong indicator that people feel strongly about an issue.”
One of the most remarkable aspects of the climate emergency movement is how it has put debate on the agenda in places that might have otherwise buried their heads in the nearest sandy riverbed.
The Glen Innes Severn council has made a declaration and the mayor, Carol Sparks, has emerged from the bushfire crisis as a credible voice for regional people demanding climate action.
Newcastle, the home of the world’s largest coal export port, has declared an emergency and has a policy to work towards a just transition. The Wollongong City c-ouncil – which along with Newcastle was for decades an industrial and steelmaking hub – has also recognised the climate crisis.
In Queensland, where climate politics is most fraught amid a rush to support coal exports, only the Noosa council has declared an emergency. It also set a zero net emissions target by 2026.
Deputy PM Michael McCormack (right) and Noosa mayor Tony Wellington at a bushfire control centre in Noosa Heads. Photograph: Rob Maccoll/AAP“I see it as both symbolic but also practical for sure,” Noosa mayor Tony Wellington says.
“Of course, when we declared a climate emergency I did receive some hate mail. Let’s just say I did expect that. There wasn’t a large amount of pushback but there are inevitably in our community a number of people who [don’t accept climate change].
“Noosa has a history of being somewhat adventurous and pioneering as a council. We’re also for example the only council that has joined the alliance for gambling reform. We take a rather intrinsic view to development per se. We have a proud history of environmental conservation.”
Two communities in the area, Noosa North Shore and Peregian Beach, were evacuated under threat from bushfires earlier this year. Wellington says the incidents were a “wake-up call” for the need to adapt the council’s plans and operations for a changed climate.
“We’re acutely aware the impacts of climate change will resonate,” he says. “The costs of not preparing are far greater than doing something now.”

‘I respect your view to have an opinion on the theory …’
Conservative Wagga Wagga, home of the deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, earlier this year declared a climate emergency. A few weeks later, after an increasingly nasty debate, councillors rescinded that declaration.
Outraged councillors would later demand the mayor, Greg Conkey, drive an electric vehicle to Sydney and back. He did and has said the journey was a success.
Beck had been instrumental in building local support in Wagga Wagga, and in July, while the city was locked in debate about the declaration, she contacted other council areas soliciting support.
“No way!” replied the Tenterfield deputy mayor, Don Forbes. When Beck responded by referring to the water security issues facing the Tenterfield community, which have got worse in the months since, Forbes asked not to receive further emails.
When the same email reached Wollondilly shire councillor Simon Landow, a former candidate for Liberal preselection, he replied to say it was not the council’s role.
“The term ‘climate emergancy’ (sic) … is very misleading to my residents of Wollondilly,” Landow wrote.
“I respect your view to have an opinion on the theory that man is causing catastrophic global warming.
“I would like you to respect my view that there is none, and I won’t be deviating from a stance thats is filled with so may (sic) flaws and misconceptions.”
Another councillor, Murray Thomas from the Bland Shire, said in response that climatic changes had no relationship to carbon dioxide and would soon be proved to be caused naturally.
“How do you propose explaining that [to] hordes of angry rorted,” Thomas said.
“You’ve obviously made your choice, suggest you reconsider while you have the opportunity. Just tell ’em you were experimenting with psychotic drug samples … or in a moment of stress you fell victim to carbon rort hype.”

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Greta Thunberg: Climate Activism Has Made Her 'Very Happy', Says Father

Lethal Heating - 1 January, 2020 - 04:00
The Guardian

Svante Thunberg says he was concerned about his daughter’s school strike but that her campaigning had helped her beat depression

'She's happy': Greta Thunberg's father says climate activism helped her beat depression.

Greta Thunberg’s father has opened up about how activism helped his daughter out of depression but still worries about how she will deal with the impact of her international fame.
Speaking to the BBC to mark his daughter’s guest-editing slot on the Today programme, Svante Thunberg revealed he thought it was a “bad idea” for Greta to stage the school strike that catapulted her into the public eye.
The programme also featured a discussion between Greta Thunberg and the veteran naturalist Sir David Attenborough, in which the latter praises the teenager for raising awareness of the climate crisis.
She had “achieved things that many of us who have been working on it for 20-odd years have failed to achieve – that is you have aroused the world”, said Sir David, adding that she was the main reason climate was discussed during the British election campaign.
Svante Thunberg reveals how activism had changed the outlook of the teenager, who suffered from depression for “three or four years” before she began her school strike protest outside the Swedish parliament. She was now “very happy”, he said.
“She stopped talking ... she stopped going to school,” he said of her illness, adding that it was the the “ultimate nightmare for a parent” when Greta began refusing to eat.

'It's nice to meet you': Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough speak over Skype.

Svante Thunberg, an actor, said he and his wife, the opera singer Malena Ernman, scaled back their professional lives to spend more time with Greta in order to help her overcome her depression. He became vegan and his wife stopped travelling to concerts by plane.
He said Greta became energised about green issues as the family began talking more about environmental issues. He accompanied her on her tour of the United States and visit to the Madrid climate crisis this year
“I did all these things, I knew they were the right thing to do ... but I didn’t do it to save the climate, I did it to save my child,” Svante Thunberg said. “I have two daughters and to be honest they are all that matters to me. I just want them to be happy.
Greta Thunberg with BBC Today programme presenter Mishal Husain. Photograph: BBC/PA“You think she’s not ordinary now because she’s special, and she’s very famous, and all these things. But to me she’s now an ordinary child – she can do all the things like other people can,” he said.
“She dances around, she laughs a lot, we have a lot of fun – and she’s in a very good place.”
He was concerned about the negative comments his daughter attracted in the media and online and “all the hate that that generates”. But his daughter dealt with it “incredibly well”.
“Quite frankly, I don’t know how she does it, but she laughs most of the time. She finds it hilarious.”

Among 412 new species finds this year
The Greta Thunberg beetle

 The naming of Nelloptodes gretae after the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in October was described as ‘particularly poignant’ by a Natural History Museum senior curator. Photograph: Michael Darby/Pemberley Books/AFP via Getty Images 

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Greta Thunberg And Mass Protests Defined The Year In Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 1 January, 2020 - 04:00
MSNBC - Denise Chow

“In a sense, we’re at a tipping point for world industries, but the hope is that we’re tipping in the right direction and not back to the Stone Age,” one climate scientist said.
The influence of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg helped launch a global movement of climate action. Chelsea Stahl / NBC NewsMost climate scientists will be quick to say that 2019 was the year that Greta Thunberg truly became a force to be reckoned with.
The 16-year-old Swedish activist staged solo “Fridays for Future” school strikes that triggered a global phenomenon drawing millions of people into the streets to protest climate inaction. The teen has since become the face of that newly energized climate movement and was recently named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
“She represents the best of humanity,” said Benjamin Houlton, a professor of global environmental studies at the University of California, Davis. “She frightens those in power right now because she has a very clear message and she’ll continue to be an important crusader.”
But while Thunberg’s influence soared and climate change permeated the cultural psyche, it was also a year in which the strong public engagement and the changing rhetoric surrounding climate change were not matched by aggressive policies to tackle global warming.
“We’re completely divided everywhere,” said Anders Levermann, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “One side is getting very loud and demanding change, but the other side is saying climate change isn’t happening or isn’t man-made or is too complicated to change. That is like looking at a world of slavery and saying it’s too complicated to change. I think there’s a pretty clear right side of history and wrong side of history.”

Tracking climate extremes around the world in 2019

Levermann worries that malevolent forces are preventing humanity from taking the right side.
“There’s a much bigger problem than climate science denial — it’s fact denial,” he said. “Science is about truth, but if you can’t agree on facts, then the most powerful man in the room can decide what is right and wrong.”
Still, he sees some glimmers of hope. Though President Donald Trump announced in 2017 that he intends to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, a climate accord ratified by 187 countries that aims to sharply reduce carbon emissions, the response elsewhere has not been apathetic.
Earlier this month, the European Union unveiled a plan for its 28 member nations to become “climate neutral” by 2050 by eliminating their contributions to climate change. The proposal, known as the European Green Deal, was heralded as one of the most ambitious plans introduced by any government so far.
“It’s only a plan at the moment, but it is a plan,” Levermann said. “A carbon-free continent by 2050 is precisely what is needed for the world, and if we can manage it in a highly developed place that is one of the biggest economic engines on the planet, then it would send a very strong signal.”
China is also starting to invest heavily in renewable energy, a shift away from fossil fuels that could become a trend across other economies and industries.
“In a sense, we’re at a tipping point for world industries, but the hope is that we’re tipping in the right direction and not back to the Stone Age,” Levermann said.
Carly McLachlan, a researcher at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the United Kingdom, said she has noticed a significant change in the public’s acceptance of climate science — and the urgency needed to stop global warming.
“In 2019, it became quite common to frame climate change in the language of an emergency,” she said. “We moved away from the sense that we need incremental change, and the language we’re using shows this is really a defining issue.”

Global climate strikes bring millions to the streets

 Yet despite growing public recognition of the urgent need for action, this year saw attacks on climate science from the governments of several countries, such as Brazil, the United States and Australia.
At a United Nations climate summit in early December, countries failed to agree on certain core issues of the Paris Agreement, and several countries including Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Australia were accused of thwarting the negotiations.
But Houlton, of UC Davis, thinks the realities of climate change will become harder to ignore as carbon emissions continue to rise and communities around the world face warming temperatures, rising seas and more intense episodes of extreme weather.
This year was the fourth consecutive Atlantic hurricane season with above-average activity, Europe sweltered through a historic heat wave in June and dry conditions fueled massive bushfires that are still raging across Australia and have already scorched an area equivalent in size to the state of New Jersey.
Scientists say these extreme events are likely linked to climate change and will become hallmarks of the “new normal” for the planet.
“Climate change is not about how we’re going to become extinct in 10 years or 20 years,” Houlton said. “It’s about: How much suffering do we want on the planet? How many people have to die or move their homes? How much economic disruption do we want?”
In the U.S., the disruptions have been apparent, according to Joanna Lewis, an associate professor of energy and environment at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Parts of the Midwest and the South saw record flooding this year and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recorded weather and climate disasters in 2019 that each cost more than $1 billion.

How farmers along the Mississippi are affected by climate change

“It’s becoming more clear to people that climate change is not something that is a long way off — it’s something affecting people today,” Lewis said.
But while the effects of rising seas and extreme weather may play out at the local level, tackling climate change will require international cooperation.
“If I go out for a run, I will start to lose weight, but if I cut emissions, I may not see that benefit play out in my community but it might help somebody out in another community,” Houlton said. “We have not evolved to deal with that idea of interconnectedness between people, places and economies. We can’t compartmentalize. We need a complete societal transformation.”
Laurence Smith, a professor of earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, said this year was characterized by a shift away from debates about the science of climate change to discussions about policies and solutions.
“We know the science is real, so scientific work is taking a back seat to political will, which is what we really need now,” Smith said. “A lot of great things are happening at the local level, spearheaded by cities and states, but that’s not enough. There needs to be some top-down policy as well.”
Smith thinks the demand for political action in the U.S. and elsewhere will be largely driven by young people, like Thunberg, who see climate action as a priority. Thunberg’s activism has inspired youth-driven movements around the world that culminated in a Global Climate Strike in September that saw more than 4 million people worldwide participate in organized climate protests.
“I haven’t seen this level of engagement before,” he said. “It’s beginning to really matter with young people, even though it’s unfair to kick this off to the younger generation and say: You guys fix it. So I’m pleased that young people are engaged, but it’s also sad.”
For Levermann, the incremental progress made in Europe and his home country of Germany gives him reason to be optimistic. And he recognizes that big changes to societies, economies and industries require some patience.
“Solving climate change is a huge endeavor, and it requires the whole planet, and the democratic process is slow,” Levermann said. “I’ve seen a lot of motion, but we are far from having solved this. This will be a struggle until the end of my life but, hopefully then, I can say to my children: ‘Here you go. We did this and now you have to solve the next one.’”

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Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough Meet For First Time, Talk Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 1 January, 2020 - 04:00

The teen activist "aroused the world" to climate change, the famed broadcaster tells her.
Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough are big fans of one another. BBC screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNETIt's been quite a year for young climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who's capping off an eventful 2019 with major props from David Attenborough.
On a BBC radio program Monday, the famed British broadcaster and naturalist told the teen she'd "aroused the world" to climate change. He also said she'd "achieved things that many of us who have been working on it for 20-odd years have failed to achieve. I'm very grateful to you. We all are."Thunberg, in turn, expressed admiration for Attenborough, saying his nature documentaries had inspired her interest in the environment. The pair met for the first time for Monday's Today program, which Thunberg guest-edited. Their face-to-face chat happened via Skype, as they wanted to avoid the carbon impact of flying, and swapped opinions about the climate -- and activism.
"We don't want to spend our time marching through the streets, but we have to," Attenborough told the Swedish 16-year-old, "and you've shown very great bravery in doing that." This year, Attenborough narrated Our Planet, an eight-part documentary series for Netflix that explores the impact of climate change.

When Greta Thunberg met Sir David Attenborough
Video: Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough have met for the first time via Skype to discuss the climate crisis and share their thoughts on how to make an environmental impact.

The pigtailed Thunberg has drawn worldwide attention since she first sat outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018, protest sign in hand, demanding that world leaders act on climate change.
Earlier this month, Time named Thunberg its Person of the Year, the youngest recipient ever bestowed the title. The publication described her as the "most compelling voice on the most important issue facing the planet."
In March, Thunberg was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She's getting a Hulu documentary set to premiere next year. She's even getting her own mural in San Francisco.
But not all the attention has been laudatory. As part of the same BBC radio program, Greta's father Svante Thunberg said that while his daughter has been happier since becoming an activist, he worries about the hateful comments she received.
She's talked about being criticized on social media for her looks, clothing and behavior, among other things.
Her dad did say she deals with the criticism "incredibly well."

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Climate Change: Six Positive News Stories From 2019

Lethal Heating - 31 December, 2019 - 04:00
The ConversationHeather Alberro | Dénes Csala | Hannah Cloke | Marc Hudson | Mark Maslin | Richard Hodgkins

Hydroelectric power has helped Costa Rica ditch fossil fuels. John E Anderson / shutterstockThe climate breakdown continues. Over the past year, The Conversation has covered fires in the Amazon, melting glaciers in the Andes and Greenland, record CO₂ emissions, and temperatures so hot they’re pushing the human body to its thermal limits. Even the big UN climate talks were largely disappointing.
But climate researchers have not given up hope. We asked a few Conversation authors to highlight some more positive stories from 2019.
***Costa Rica offers us a viable climate future
Heather Alberro, associate lecturer in political ecology, Nottingham Trent UniversityAfter decades of climate talks, including the recent COP25 in Madrid, emissions have only continued to rise. Indeed, a recent UN report noted that a fivefold increase in current national climate change mitigation efforts would be needed to meet the 1.5℃ limit on warming by 2030. With the radical transformations needed in our global transport, housing, agricultural and energy systems in order to help mitigate looming climate and ecological breakdown, it can be easy to lose hope.However, countries like Costa Rica offer us promising examples of the “possible”. The Central American nation has implemented a refreshingly ambitious plan to completely decarbonise its economy by 2050. In the lead-up to this, last year with its economy still growing at 3%, Costa Rica was able to derive 98% of its electricity from renewable sources. Such an example demonstrates that with sufficient political will, it is possible to meet the daunting challenges ahead.
***Financial investors are cooling on fossil fuels
Richard Hodgkins, senior lecturer in physical geography, Loughborough UniversityMovements such as 350.org have long argued for fossil fuel divestment, but they have recently been joined by institutional investors such as Climate Action 100+, which is using the influence of its US$35 trillion of managed funds, arguing that minimising climate breakdown risks and maximising renewables’ growth opportunities are a fiduciary duty.Moody’s credit-rating agency recently flagged ExxonMobil for falling revenues despite rising expenditure, noting: “The negative outlook also reflects the emerging threat to oil and gas companies’ profitability […] from growing efforts by many nations to mitigate the impacts of climate change through tax and regulatory policies.”
An oil pipeline in northern Alaska. saraporn / shutterstock
A more adverse financial environment for fossil fuel companies reduces the likelihood of new development in business frontier regions such as the Arctic, and indeed, major investment bank Goldman Sachs has declared that it “will decline any financing transaction that directly supports new upstream Arctic oil exploration or development”.
***We are getting much better at forecasting disaster
Hannah Cloke, professor of hydrology, University of ReadingIn March and April 2019, two enormous tropical cyclones hit the south-east coast of Africa, killing more than 600 people and leaving nearly 2 million people in desperate need of emergency aid.
Cyclones Idai and Kenneth caused huge floods in Mozambique.Emidio Jozine / EPA
There isn’t much that is positive about that, and there’s nothing new about cyclones. But this time scientists were able to provide the first early warning of the impending flood disaster by linking together accurate medium-range forecasts of the cyclone with the best ever simulations of flood risk. This meant that the UK government, for example, set about working with aid agencies in the region to start delivering emergency supplies to the area that would flood, all before Cyclone Kenneth had even gathered pace in the Indian Ocean.
We know that the risk of dangerous floods is increasing as the climate continues to change. Even with ambitious action to reduce greenhouse gases, we must deal with the impact of a warmer more chaotic world. We will have to continue using the best available science to prepare ourselves for whatever is likely to come over the horizon.
***Local authorities across the world are declaring a ‘climate emergency’
Marc Hudson, researcher in sustainable consumption, University of ManchesterMore than 1,200 local authorities around the world declared a “climate emergency” in 2019. I think there are two obvious dangers: first, it invites authoritarian responses (stop breeding! Stop criticising our plans for geoengineering!). And second, an “emergency” declaration may simply be a greenwash followed by business-as-usual.In Manchester, where I live and research, the City Council is greenwashing. A nice declaration in July was followed by more flights for staff (to places just a few hours away by train), and further car parks and roads. The deadline for a “bring zero-carbon date forward?” report has been ignored.
But these civic declarations have also kicked off a wave of civic activism, as campaigners have found city councils easier to hold to account than national governments. I’m part of an activist group called “Climate Emergency Manchester” – we inform citizens and lobby councillors. We’ve assessed progress so far, based on Freedom of Information Act requests, and produced a “what could be done?” report. As the council falls further behind on its promises, we will be stepping up our activity, trying to pressure it to do the right thing.
***Radical climate policy goes mainstream
Dénes Csala, lecturer in energy system dynamics, Lancaster UniversityBefore the 2019 UK general election, I compared the Conservative and Labour election manifestos, from a climate and energy perspective. Although the party with the clearly weaker plan won eventually, I am still stubborn enough to be hopeful with regard to the future of political action on climate change.For the first time, in a major economy, a leading party’s manifesto had at its core climate action, transport electrification and full energy system decarbonisation, all on a timescale compatible with IPCC directives to avoid catastrophic climate change. This means the discussion that has been cooking at the highest levels since the 2015 Paris Agreement has started to boil down into tangible policies.
***Young people are on the march!
Mark Maslin, professor of earth system science, UCL In 2019, public awareness of climate change rose sharply, driven by the schools strikes, Extinction Rebellion, high impact IPCC reports, improved media coverage, a BBC One climate change documentary and the UK and other governments declaring a climate emergency. Two recent polls suggest that over 75% of Americans accept humans have caused climate change.Empowerment of the first truly globalised generation has catalysed this new urgency. Young people can access knowledge at the click of a button. They know climate change science is real and see through the deniers’ lies because this generation does not access traditional media – in fact, they bypass it.
The awareness and concern regarding climate change will continue to grow. Next year will be an even bigger year as the UK will chair the UN climate change negotiations in Glasgow – and expectation are running high.

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Bank Of England Chief Mark Carney Issues Climate Change Warning

Lethal Heating - 31 December, 2019 - 04:00
BBC - Roger Harrabin

Mark Carney said the financial sector had begun to curb investment in fossil fuels - but far too slowly. ReutersThe world will face irreversible heating unless firms shift their priorities soon, the outgoing head of the Bank of England has told the BBC.
Mark Carney said the financial sector had begun to curb investment in fossil fuels – but far too slowly.
He said leading pension fund analysis "is that if you add up the policies of all of companies out there, they are consistent with warming of 3.7-3.8C".
Mr Carney made the comments in a pre-recorded BBC Radio 4 Today interview.
He added that the rise of almost 4C (39F) was "far above the 1.5 degrees that the people say they want and governments are demanding”.
Scientists say the risks associated with an increase of 4C include a nine metre rise in sea levels - affecting up to 760 million people – searing heatwaves and droughts, and serious food supply problems.
Mr Carney, who will next year start his new role as United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance, continued: “The concern is whether we will spend another decade doing worthy things but not enough... and we will blow through 1.5C mark very quickly. As a consequence, the climate will stabilise at the much higher level.”
Speaking to the Today programme, he re-iterated his warning that unless firms woke up to what he called the climate crisis, many of their assets would become worthless.
“If we were to burn all those oil and gas there’s no way we would meet carbon budget,” he said. “Up to 80% of coal assets will be stranded, (and) up to half of developed oil reserves.
“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer: What’s your plan?
“Four to five years ago only leading institutions had begun to think about these issues and could report on them.
“Now $120tn worth of balance sheets of banks and asset managers are wanting this disclosure (of investments in fossil fuels). But it’s not moving fast enough.”
Copyright Getty ImagesClimate campaigners Extinction Rebellion question whether the capitalist system can halt climate change.
Mr Carney said capitalism had a vital role in raising funding for clean technologies. But he added it must be tempered by government-imposed incentives, rules and prohibitions of the most damaging activities.
Climate change was what he called a “tragedy of the horizon” because the decision-making time horizon of investment managers is between two and 10 years.
“In those horizons there will be more extreme weather events, but by the time that the extreme events become so prevalent and so obvious it’s too late to do anything about it," he said.
“We look to political leaders to start addressing future problems today.”
He told those questioning the consensus on climate change: “We can’t afford on this one to have selective information, spin, misdirection… it needs to be absolutely clear because we are all in on it.
“To deliver, there needs to be shared understanding about what’s necessary. [But] it is reasonable for there to be debates at the margin about where does the role of the state stop - and what’s the role of markets.”
Mr Carney applauded the UK government for hosting next year’s vital global climate conference in Glasgow. He said success was “vital”.

Stress tests for businesses
Under Mr Carney’s leadership the Bank of England recently launched a “stress test” to determine which firms and sectors would be worst-hit by climate change.
The question is how fast financial institutions can change course.
Recently, investment bank Goldman Sachs ruled out future finance for oil drilling or exploration in the Arctic.
The bank said it would not invest in new thermal coal mines (for power stations) anywhere in the world.
It also announced plans to help its clients manage climate impacts by selling weather-related catastrophe bonds.
Insurance giant AXA said it would stop insuring any new coal construction projects, and totally phase out existing insurance and investments in coal in the EU, by 2030.
Nest, the workplace pension scheme set up by the government, is testing whether it can invest its Climate Aware Fund in firms compatible with a 1.5C warming.
Environmentalists applaud the moves but say they don’t go remotely far enough. Scientists say nations must cut emissions five-fold to avoid a temperature rise over 1.5C.

'Dire consequences'
Meanwhile, the heads of two key environmental bodies have warned that 2020 is the "last chance" to bring the world together to tackle climate change to protect communities and nature.
Climate change and damage to nature are already having "dire consequences", the leaders of government agencies Natural England and the Environment Agency said.
In an article on the Green Alliance website, Natural England chairman Tony Juniper and the Environment Agency's Emma Howard Boyd pointed to the recent flooding which saw hundreds evacuated at Fishlake, Doncaster, with some people still out of their homes.
And a report in October on the state of nature in the UK found two-fifths (41%) of the country's wildlife species had declined over the past 50 years and 13% of the species tracked were threatened with extinction in England.
"It's clear that 2020 is our last chance to bring the world together to take decisive action on climate change in order to protect our communities and reverse the alarming loss of wildlife we have witnessed in recent years," Mr Juniper and Ms Howard Boyd wrote.

Categories: External websites

(AU) The Year The Reserve Bank Sounded The Climate Change Alarm

Lethal Heating - 31 December, 2019 - 04:00
Sydney Morning HeraldMatt Wade

When our buttoned-down economic guardians at the Reserve Bank describe something as a "serious challenge" and a "systemic risk" it’s time to pay attention.
Those are just some of the strident terms it chose to use this year about the threat of climate change.
Amid the fractious national debate over climate policy in 2019 the Reserve made two striking interventions.
Reserve Bank deputy governor, Dr Guy Debelle. Credit:NineThe first came in March when the RBA’s deputy governor, Guy Debelle, broke new ground for the bank with a speech titled "Climate change and the economy."
The tone was measured but the message was pointed: climate change will have a deep economic impact and the earlier policymakers and business take action to address the challenge, the lower the economic costs.
Debelle said few forces now at work in the economy "have the scale, persistence and systemic risk of climate change".
Strong words for a central banker.
He explained how the effects of global warming would amount to an economic double whammy.

Three Australian fire chiefs claim Australia's worsening bushfire seasons are linked to climate change and have called for strong leadership to tackle the problem.

Both the physical impact of climate change, such as more frequent extreme weather events, and the transition to a low-carbon economy through new regulations or price mechanisms were "likely to have first-order economic effects".Debelle said Australia’s financial stability "will be better served by an orderly transition rather than an abrupt disorderly one".But he warned the "trend changes" to the economy caused by climate change probably won’t be smooth.
"There is likely to be volatility around the trend, with the potential for damaging outcomes from spikes above the trend," Debelle said.
It showed climate change will now factor in the way the Reserve manages its core responsibilities, which includes setting interest rates and overseeing Australia’s financial stability.
"We are trying to learn and benefit as much as possible from the expertise of others to understand and contribute to the discussion around the serious challenge of climate change," said Debelle.
The Reserve Bank’s second strike came in October when it included a special section on risks posed by climate change in its half-yearly review of financial stability.
"Climate change is exposing financial institutions and the financial system more broadly to risks that will rise over time, if not addressed," it said.
Those risks are notoriously difficult for businesses to assess because of their long-term nature and complexity. The possibility that governments will change climate-related policies in future adds to the uncertainty.
The October report said the crucial insurance sector is most directly exposed to the physical impacts of climate change. It pointed out that insurance claims for natural disasters in the current decade have been more than double those in the previous decade, after adjusting for inflation, and that is "likely to grow over time".
The Reserve warned that climate change will expose more assets owned by households and businesses to increased physical risk "such as property located in bushfire-prone or coastal areas".
But the challenge of accurately pricing that risk will create an economy-wide dilemma.
"If insurers under-price these risks, it could threaten their viability in the event of extreme weather events resulting in very large losses," the report said.
"On the other hand, over-pricing would impede the risk pooling function provided by insurance and unduly limit economic activity."
The report even canvassed the possibility that businesses and households could lose access to insurance altogether in some cases.
"Even if correctly priced, more of these risks may become uninsurable, forcing households, businesses or governments to bear this risk," it said.
A number of other economic analysts think climate change will eventually render many properties too expensive to insure, although the shift could play out over some decades.
Home and businesses were heavily affected in Bilpin during fires in December. Credit: Nick MoirA report released this month by the Australia Institute, a progressive think tank, said a large number of Australian properties will likely become uninsurable due to the effects of climate change. And that will, in turn, affect property values.
"There are frightening projections about increased frequency of natural disasters and it seems likely that many properties will become prohibitively expensive to insure, or insurance won’t be offered," said report’s author, Mark Ogge.
A host of perverse economic incentives for property holders would result, says Ogge. It may even require an expensive "managed retreat" from some inhabited areas.
Ogge argues a National Climate Disaster Fund should be established to reduce the cost burden on households and taxpayers of natural disaster response and recovery.
But the Insurance Council of Australia says claims that parts of Australia will inevitably become uninsurable or unaffordable due to climate change "fail to recognise that mitigation and adaptation can prevent some of the worst impacts of extreme weather".
A statement on climate change and insurance issued by the council a few weeks after RBA’s Financial Stability Review said no area of Australia should be uninsurable provided "governments invest appropriately in permanent mitigation and resilience measures to protect communities from known and projected risks, including the impact of climate change."

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The Year In Climate Change: Leaders Keep Ignoring The Science, And This Is Not Fine

Lethal Heating - 30 December, 2019 - 04:00

Commentary: My world's on fire, how 'bout yours?

I think about the "This Is Fine" dog a lot. You know the one: Animated yellow dog, staring into the middle distance, cup of coffee in its hand, engulfed by flames. In the original webcomic, a 2013 six-panel piece by artist KC Green, the dog does nothing to avert the obviously catastrophic situation it finds itself in. Instead, it remarks "This is fine" as its skin melts away and its eyeballs seep out of its head like goo.In 2019, it seems prescient. But the fire isn't contained to one tiny room anymore.
Now the world is on fire. In July, the Earth sweltered through its hottest month on record. The Amazon roasted in August, with more than 80,000 fires reported in Brazil alone. California was ablaze in November, cutting power and forcing residents to flee their homes. The Arctic burned. Australia suffered through unprecedented bushfires. The record books are being constantly updated.
Despite this, carbon emissions, primarily from the fossil fuel industry, continue to rise across the globe, with no signs of slowing down. If we are to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, things need to change dramatically. And yet many huge emitters are not on track to meet their 2030 pledges as set out by the United Nations. Against the backdrop of fire and smoke, leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations in the world seemingly just sip their coffees and put their feet up.
This is fine.
***In KC Green's 2013 comic, the dog eventually melts away in the fire. KC Green/GunshowBut in 2019 there was something of a reckoning.
It arrived in the form of a pig-tailed, 16-year-old girl with a two-by-two cardboard sign. In striking black letters, her sign read: "Skolstrejk fӧr klimatet." Starting in August 2018, Greta Thunberg began this "School Strike For Climate," sign in hand, sitting on the concrete outside the Swedish parliament, demanding action on climate change. She drew worldwide attention. By the end of 2018, students had held strikes in over 270 cities across the world.
It was the beginning of a movement that continued to gather momentum through the year. In September, 7 million people took to the streets again for global climate protests, timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Summit. The protests saw Thunberg, and other student activists around the world, pleading with policymakers and governments to combat the climate crisis.
Thunberg's movement saw her named Time's Person of the Year in 2019. More importantly, it inspired discussions around climate change to escalate, becoming more urgent and more aggressive. The language began to change. We stopped talking about climate change and started talking about the climate crisis. States, countries and scientists declared a "climate emergency," leading the Oxford Dictionary to award the term its word of the year, as usage soared 10,796%.
This is not fine.
It's not fine, and I'm struggling to breathe.
As CNET's science editor, I spend many hours a month reading climate change studies, but for the first time in my life, I can feel the effects of climate change. I can look out my window and see them in the thick, gray smoke clouds settling over the horizon.
After bushfires torched 164,000 hectares of forest north west of Sydney in November, a dense veil of smoke blanketed the city for weeks. In the harbor, the white sails of the Opera House were consumed by a veil of smoke and the steel beams of the Harbour Bridge seemed to fade into the haze.
Former fire service chief Greg Mullins warned Australia's federal government the 2019 bushfire season could be "catastrophic" in April and again in May, suggesting climate change had worsened drought conditions and could cause mega fires the service "just can't put out." By spring, those fires started burning. It's now the middle of summer. They are still burning.
Scarily, this feels like the new normal. As the planet gets hotter, it makes extreme climate events like the bushfires more and more likely. I check the Air Quality Index (AQI) three or four times a day, hoping the particle pollution is rated as anything other than "hazardous." When the bushfires began in early November, Google saw a dramatic spike in searches for "air quality."
Living and working in the inner city has been giving me (and countless others) mild respiratory trouble, but it's nothing compared with where the fires have been raging. Hundreds have lost their homes. Six people lost their lives.
The Sydney Opera House, blanketed by smoke. James D. Morgan/GettyAs the crisis worsened, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pushed the climate crisis to the side. "There is a time and a place to debate controversial issues and important issues, right now it's important to focus on the needs of Australians who need our help," he said in November. In December, as the intensity and scale of the fires continued to increase, Morrison fled, reportedly taking a business class flight to Hawaii for a holiday.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, slammed those raising concerns about climate change during the crisis, calling senators from the left Greens party "inner-city raving lunatics."
Many of those who had lost their homes did not agree, protesting outside New South Wales' Parliament House with buckets of ash in their hand days after the statement was made. After tipping the charred remains of his two-bedroom home onto the ground, one protestor declared that now was exactly the time to be talking about climate change.
Those protestors don't believe the carbon dioxide we're pumping into the air started the fires. But they believe it is exacerbating them. Climate change is making the bushfire season longer. It seems many politicians disagree.
In the wake of the bushfires, Morrison said there was no scientific evidence linking the bushfires with carbon emissions and climate change. There is.
And former deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, claimed the fires were the result of changes in the sun's magnetic field. At best, that's poor understanding of the science. At worst, it's a blatant lie.
None of this is fine.
***Climate culture warThis year the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released two special reports focused on how climate change affects the land and how climate change affects the oceans and cryosphere. In May, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a damning analysis of the world's ecosystems, suggesting the climate crisis could leave up to 1 million species extinct.
More dire warnings were heard during the UN Climate Change Summit in September and December's Climate Change Conference in Madrid. Every week -- no, every day -- there is a new peer-reviewed scientific paper in the world's most prestigious science journals. The pages of Nature, Science, The Lancet and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences are stacked with new reports, revised estimates and terrifying models of future calamity.
All this research features the expertise of hundreds of scientists and researchers, using tens of thousands of sources to provide the most comprehensive, up-to-the-minute examination of the planet we can muster. They keep gathering data, it keeps telling them the same things. There is a consensus: Humans are accelerating global warming.
"The world is not ending due to climate change," says Katrin Meissner, director of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales. "The planet will survive and life on the planet will survive. But ... climate change will endanger health, livelihoods, food security, drinking water supply, and ecosystems.
"The changes won't be easily reversible, some will certainly be irreversible on the timescales of human lives, and the changes won't necessarily happen smoothly."
Almost as soon as scientists began sounding the alarm, science has been under attack. In 2019, the internet is awash with climate denialism. You only need to read the comments on CNET's coverage of the Amazon fires, or our reporting on the latest climate research, to see the extent of the pushback. My Gmail inbox is tortured. Facebook posts, Twitter threads and TikTok videos are war zones.
Worryingly, over the past 12 months, we've seen those attacks come not just from message boards and anonymous Twitter users, but from some of the most powerful people in the world.
Arguments have been weaponized on both sides of the political spectrum. US President Donald Trump is taking jabs at Greta Thunberg, sarcastically describing her as a "very happy young girl looking forward to a bright future." Extinction Rebellion activists shut down the London Underground in October, leading to nasty clashes with commuters and law enforcement. It's no longer believers versus denialists -- it's left versus right.
In 2019, the climate crisis has become firmly entrenched as a battleground in the never-ending culture wars. Environmental policies are being wound back in the US, Brazil and China. The US has pulled out of the UN Paris Agreement that calls for nations to plan and mitigate the effects of global warming.
Greta Thunberg has continued to call for action on climate change, taking her sign on a global tour. Fabrice Coffrini/GettyCarbon emissions are irrelevant. Glacier collapse is trivial. Rising sea levels are being ignored. Science is dying a slow death and faith is being eroded by politicians looking to score points over their opposition. It's been happening for years, but in 2019 it was more obvious than ever.
When Thunberg spoke before the US congress in September, her message was simple: "I don't want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to the scientists."
The overwhelming majority of those scientists make it crystal clear: Unless we reduce our emissions -- dramatically and rapidly -- we will find ourselves living on a planet hotter than ever before. The next decade looms as one of the most important to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
We are only just beginning to understand what a hotter Earth looks like, the extreme weather events we will experience, the health problems that will arise and the vast changes to the land and the ocean the children will inherit.
In 2019, their voices swelled. They started shouting. They took placards and signs and descended upon government buildings, parks, streets and cities. Their message was resoundingly clear.
This is not fine.

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Climate Science Discoveries Of The Decade: New Risks Scientists Warned About In The 2010s

Lethal Heating - 30 December, 2019 - 04:00
InsideClimate NewsBob Berwyn

A decade of ice, ocean and atmospheric studies found systems nearing dangerous tipping points. As the evidence mounted, countries worldwide began to see the risk.
Researching the Petermann Glacier. Whitney Shefte/Washington Post via Getty ImagesThe 2010s may go down in environmental history as the decade when the fingerprints of climate change became evident in extreme weather events, from heat waves to destructive storms, and climate tipping points once thought to be far off were found to be much closer.
It was the decade when governments worldwide woke up to the risk and signed the Paris climate agreement, yet still failed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions at the pace and scale needed. And when climate scientists, seeing the evidence before them, cast away their reluctance to publicly advocate for action.
The sum of the decade's climate science research, compiled in a series of reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), suggests global warming is pushing many planetary systems toward a breakdown.
New studies showed polar ice caps melting and sea level rising much faster than just 10 years ago. Ocean researchers showed how marine heat waves kill corals and force fish to move northward, affecting food supplies for millions of people in developing countries. They tracked changes to crucial ocean currents and concluded that hurricanes will intensify faster in a warming world.
Together, the research showed how important it will be to cap the global temperature rise as far below 2 degrees Celsius—the Paris Agreement goal—as possible.

Feedback Loops on the Greenland Ice Sheet
At the start of the decade, it was unclear how fast the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets would melt. As recently as the 1990s, melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet was balanced by the buildup of new snow and ice, offering some hope that sea level rise would be slow, allowing coastal communities time to adapt.
By the end of 2019, a study published in the scientific journal Nature showed the Greenland Ice Sheet was melting seven times faster than it had been in the 1990s. That's on pace with the IPCC's worst-case climate scenario, with Greenland alone contributing 2 to 5 inches of sea level rise by 2100. Another study, looking at evidence in fossilized shells, showed temperatures are very near a threshold that will melt most of the ice sheet.

Scientists discovered feedback loops and new ways earth's systems interact to melt the ice. Global warming is expanding ice slabs beneath Greenland's snowy areas, hastening runoff and sea level rise. In Antarctica, they showed how global warming is shifting winds and pushing warmer water under floating ice shelves—both of which could contribute to rapid disintegration of ice shelves with a subsequent surge of sea level rise.
"The rate and magnitude of Greenland Ice Sheet mass loss, and of ice loss globally, has been dramatic," said Twila Moon, a climate researcher with the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

How Sea Ice Loss Influences the Atmosphere
Many studies in the second half of the decade showed how important it is to keep the global temperature rise as far below 2 degrees Celsius as possible to avoid triggering tipping points that would have cascading consequences. Arctic sea ice is one of the big concerns.
Even now, in its diminished state, the summer Arctic sea ice is a 1.6 million square-mile shield that reflects incoming solar radiation back to space. The more it melts, the more darker-colored ocean can absorb heat, speeding up the planet's overall warming.
At 2 degrees Celsius warming, Arctic Ocean sea ice will probably melt completely, said National Snow and Ice Data Center climate researcher Walt Meier. "Some ice probably will persist if warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius," Meier said. He noted that research has suggested the ice could recover fairly quickly—if greenhouse gas concentrations are reduced enough to drop the temperature.

One intriguing question has been how the loss of Arctic sea ice will affect weather patterns in North America, Europe and Asia.
Melting that much of Earth's icebox could alter wind patterns that shunt weather systems around the Northern Hemisphere, scientists reasoned early in the decade. A study in 2012 suggested a mechanism: Sea ice melt alters the jet stream by reducing the temperature contrast between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes. As the jet stream weakens, it enables areas of rainy weather or hot, dry conditions to linger longer over a given area, leading to extreme rainfall or heat waves and drought.
As the decade ended, studies seemed to support that early conclusion. Research published by Michael Mann, Stefan Rahmstorf and others showed how heat waves, floods and wildfires are linked with a jet stream pattern that, in turn, is related to an over-heated Arctic. In a climate warmed by greenhouse gases, the jet stream is more likely to set up in a pattern that causes extremes to linger longer over Europe and North America.

Arctic Melting Also Effects Ocean Currents
Another major advance in climate research this decade relates to how the melting Arctic will affect a key Atlantic Ocean current that balances Earth's climate by carrying warm, salty water north in the upper layers of the ocean and colder water southward in the ocean depths.
Early in the decade, scientists were still speculating about whether such a slowdown was happening, but now, "for the first time the IPCC has confirmed that the AMOC has slowed down, as predicted by models," Rahmstorf said.
Slowing of the AMOC, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, has been identified as one of the main tipping points in the planet's climate system. Changes in the circulation "have been responsible for some of the strongest and most rapid climate shifts during the Quaternary Period (the past 2.6 million years)," one study said.
There are already signs that the weakening of the Atlantic circulation is having an effect on U.S. fisheries and storms. Ice melting off Greenland as the Arctic warms is believed to play a key role. Credit: NASATotal collapse of the current, still seen as unlikely, would raise sea level by 30 inches around the North Atlantic, but even a slowdown will have a similar effect, to a lesser degree.
"The current is balanced, in part, by the slope of the sea surface as it climbs away from the East coast toward the center of the North Atlantic Ocean gyre," explained Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann. "If the current slows, that slope must decrease, which is accomplished by the sea surface rising along the coast. That can add as much as an extra foot to sea level rise over the next century over parts of the East Coast."
The slowdown will likely push tropical rainfall belts southward, disrupting agriculture and ocean ecosystems. A study in 2016 showed how global warming is shifting other currents in ways that could bring more intense storms to land areas, like the rainstorms that brought record flooding to Japan.

Marine Heat Waves Drive Ecosystem Tipping Points
Scientists have long known that the oceans are absorbing about 93 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases, but it wasn't until the last few years that they showed how that's manifesting in marine heat waves that are driving some ocean ecosystems to tipping points.
The most visible might be the mass die-offs of coral reefs in 2015 and 2016 as the oceans seethed at near record warmth for months on end.
The impacts of another marine heat wave, known as the Pacific warm blob, cascaded through Pacific Ocean ecosystems in 2014 and 2015, causing widespread disruption to the food chain and promoting toxic algae blooms. Another began forming in the Pacific in 2019.

Marine heat waves don't just affect the water. The Pacific warm blob was also linked with California's extreme drought that pushed some inland forest ecosystems past the brink. The large area of stagnant heat over the ocean blocked cooler marine air from reaching the coast, enabling the heat to build up.
Since the 1920s, marine heat waves have become 34 percent more frequent, and research shows about 87 percent of them can be attributed to human-caused global warming.

Potential for West Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapse
At the start of the 2010s, scientists were just beginning to understand how vulnerable parts of Antarctica are to human-caused global warming. New studies this past decade showed that what was once considered a nearly invincible fortress of ice is crumbling at the edges.
Just a little more warming could push parts of the Antarctic ice sheets past a tipping point that would raise sea level faster and higher than anticipated by the climate assessments commonly used for coastal planning around the world.
"I'd say one of the big things this decade includes the potential collapse of West Antarctica, based on new research," said University of Colorado climate scientist Mike MacFerrin. "Just this year, we have evidence that Antarctica's recent speedup of ice loss is, in fact, human-caused."

Concerns about an abrupt collapse of parts of Antarctica's ice shelves intensified in 2016 with a study suggesting that water from surface melting could seep deep into the ice, refreeze and split off huge slabs of the shelves in a relatively short time. Radar surveys showing the thinning of the Thwaites Glacier helped trigger a massive international research effort to track the melting in that area, and scientists are also watching the Pine Island Glacier for signs of disintegration.
The worst-case tipping point scenarios shouldn't be off the table, said Jason Box, a  climate scientist with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.
Box said the research showing destabilization of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is a key climate science advance of this past decade "that should have been like a real wake-up call moment," he said.

Connecting Climate Change to Weather Extremes
Only a few years ago, scientists were reluctant to connect any specific extreme weather event to global warming.
In 2011 and 2012, Rahmstorf and other scientists triggered debates when they wrote that there was strong evidence linking specific events or an increase in their numbers to the human influence on climate. Since then, scientists who specialize in attribution research have found global warming fingerprints on nearly every heat wave they've studied.
"Looking back over the past decade, it's astonishing how firmly we've moved out to the tails of the probability distribution. Extremes are common and are commonly attributed to human activities," said Oregon State University climate researcher Philip Mote. "We're living the worst-case scenario."

One area of research during the 2010s with ominous findings was how global warming affects the intensity tropical storms, including North Atlantic hurricanes that affect the densely populated East Coast of the U.S. A 2016 study tracked a persistent shift of storm tracks toward that area.
"We've seen extreme events, with every major ocean basin having at least one big, catastrophic hurricane in the last few years," said NOAA climate scientist Deke Arndt. "We had Dorian and Michael, with rapid intensification so early in its development and close to the equator," he said. "Every basin has come up with monstrous storms."

Seeing the Risks, More Scientists Are Speaking Out
The 2010s may also be remembered as the decade when scientists cast away their reluctance to advocate for political and social changes.
The research on global warming is now so compelling that "a growing number of scientists are starting to make increasingly direct, pointed, and public statements about climate change risks to society," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
"My sense is that a key reason for this is the widening gap between physical reality and political reality," he said. "There is a growing sense that society is careening toward the abyss while we're collectively arguing about whether we should hit the brakes.
"Scientists who work in the climate domain are particularly, sometimes painfully, aware of the consequences that lie ahead if we continue on our current trajectory. And we're also aware that the emissions targets set forth in the Paris Agreement remain largely aspirational; we're currently still on a path to blow right past them."

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Satellites Show Glaciers Rapidly Shrinking From Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 30 December, 2019 - 04:00

The Earth's glaciers are in rapid retreat.
New results relying on five decades of satellite observations show extensive changes to glaciers at the Earth's north and south poles, a result of global warming.
Much of the data comes courtesy of the long-running Landsat mission, which is a series of Earth observation satellites managed by NASA and the United States Geological Survey. Having decades of data from a single line of similar satellites makes it much easier to see change over time. But other satellites are spotting changes as well, sometimes on timescales as short as a year or two.

Meltwater pools on the surface of Petermann Glacier in Greenland as seen by Landsat in June 2019. (Image credit: NASA/USGS)Landsat images of glaciers photographed between 1972 and 2019 allowed glaciologist Mark Fahnestock of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, to create six-second time-lapse films showing changes in the ice.
"We now have this long, detailed record that allows us to look at what's happened in Alaska," Fahnestock said in a NASA statement. "When you play these movies, you get a sense of how dynamic these systems are and how unsteady the ice flow is."
Glaciers respond to global warming in different ways. For example, Alaska's Columbia glacier was pretty stable when the first Landsat satellite peered at it in 1972. It began a quick retreat in the mid-1980s; it now is 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) upstream from its first observed position nearly 48 years ago. Meanwhile, the nearby Hubbard Glacier has only moved three miles (five km) in the same 48 years, but a 2019 image showed a large area in the glacier where ice broke off. That "calving embayment," as geologists term it, is likely a sign of rapid change on the horizon.
"That calving embayment is the first sign of weakness from Hubbard glacier in almost 50 years — it's been advancing through the historical record," Fahnestock said, warning that the Columbia glacier showed similar signs of weakening before its rapid retreat decades ago.

The NASA-USGS Landsat program has been keeping its eyes on Earth's glaciers and ice sheets since 1972.
Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Michalea King, a doctoral student in earth sciences at Ohio State University, examined similar Landsat images from Greenland as far back as 1985 to see how global warming affected 200 glaciers there. These glaciers have retreated an average of three miles (five km) over the period of satellite observations that King studied.
"These glaciers are calving more ice into the ocean than they were in the past," King said in the same statement. "There is a very clear relationship between the retreat, and increasing ice mass losses from these glaciers, during the 1985-through-present record."
The glacial retreat is also causing different sorts of lakes to appear over time on the surface of the glacier and underground. James Lea, a glaciologist at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, found surface meltwater lakes on Greenland glaciers of up to three miles (five km) across. Lea used measurements gathered by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the NASA-led Terra satellite for every day of every melt season over the last 20 years.
"We looked at how many lakes there are per year across the ice sheet and found an increasing trend over the last 20 years: a 27% increase in lakes," Lea said in the same statement. "We're also getting more and more lakes at higher elevations — areas that we weren't expecting to see lakes in until 2050 or 2060."
The change is so rapid that sometimes differences show up in just a year or two. For example, Devon Dunmire of the University of Colorado, Boulder, used microwave radar images from the European Space Agency's Sentinel-1 satellite to peer beneath the ice. Dunmire spotted lakes in the George VI and Wilkins ice shelves near the Antarctica peninsula, including a few that remained liquid during winter.
"Not much is known about distribution and quantity of these subsurface lakes, but this water appears to be prevalent on the ice shelf near the Antarctic peninsula," said Dunmire, who is a graduate student in atmospheric and oceanic sciences, in the same statement. "It's an important component to understand, because meltwater has been shown to destabilize ice shelves."
The scientists presented their work at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco on Dec. 9.

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The Big Science And Environment Stories Of 2019

Lethal Heating - 29 December, 2019 - 04:00
BBC News - Paul Rincon

This year, millions of people around the world mobilised in protest to highlight the dire emergency facing our planet. Could 2019 prove to be the year when talk turned to action on the climate crisis? We looked back at some of the biggest stories of the year in science and the environment.

The year the world woke up?
Greta Thunberg (centre) is surrounded by demonstrators at a climate strike march in Vancouver, Canada in October. ReutersIn 2019, the reaction to the ongoing climate crisis switched up another gear. Inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, the climate strike movement exploded this year. Millions took part in mass protests during the course of the year in countries as diverse as Australia, Uganda, Colombia, Japan, Germany and the UK.
Greta chose to make a statement when she sailed - rather than flew - to a UN climate meeting in New York. Summing up the trajectory for many who have joined popular climate movements, she told chief environment correspondent Justin Rowlatt: "I felt like I was the only one who cared about the climate and ecological crisis... it makes me feel good that I'm not alone in this fight."

 Greta Thunberg: "I feel like what I am doing is meaningful."

The UK's Extinction Rebellion (XR) was making its point through non-violent direct action in 2019. The group, which aims to compel government action on climate change, occupied five prominent sites across central London in April 2019. Notably, they parked a pink boat in the middle of busy Oxford Circus bearing the phrase "Tell the Truth".
This year also saw the UK's Parliament - along with individual councils around the country - declare a climate emergency, granting what had been one of XR's key demands.
But there were also setbacks to political efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The US - one of the world's top emitters - began the process of pulling out of the Paris Agreement. This deal was conceived in 2015 with the intention of keeping the global average temperature to below 2C. President Donald Trump said the pact was bad for the US economy and jobs.
This year's UN climate meeting - COP25 - ended in a deal many described as disappointing. The result means that the onus now falls on the UK to resolve many of the most challenging questions at COP26 in Glasgow in 2020.

'Ring of fire'
The first ever picture of a black hole: It's surrounded by a halo of bright gas pulled in by the hole's gravity. EHT CollaborationIn April, astronomers released the much anticipated first image of a black hole. This is a region of space from which nothing, not even light, can escape. The picture was taken by a network of eight telescopes across the world and shows what was described as "the heavyweight champion of black holes".
The 40 billion km-wide, spacetime-warping monster features an intense halo, or "ring of fire", around the black hole caused by superheated gas falling in.
The image caused a sensation and raised the profile of one computer scientist working on the project. 29-year-old Dr Katie Bouman helped develop an algorithm that allowed the image to be created. A picture of her with hands clasped over her mouth, barely containing her excitement at the astronomical picture on her laptop, quickly went viral.
But her fame led to trolling, with some accusing her of hogging credit for a male colleague's work. That team member, Dr Andrew Chael, quickly came to her defence. In an interview for the BBC 100 Women series, Dr Bouman said: "At first I was really taken aback by it. But... I do think it is important that we highlight the women in these roles."

Katie Bouman: "I wasn't expecting the attention I got."

Land and oceans under threat
Two major reports from the UN's climate science body revealed in sharp relief the extent to which humanity is ravaging Earth's land surface and her oceans. The first of these documents from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) warned that we must stop abusing the land if catastrophic climate change is to be avoided.
The report outlined how our actions were degrading soils, expanding deserts, flattening forests and driving other species to the brink of extinction. Scientists involved in the UN process also explained that switching to a plant-based diet could help combat climate change.
Even 1.5C of warming could devastate coral reefs. Getty ImagesThe second report, dealing with the world's oceans and frozen regions, detailed how waters are rising, ice is melting and species are being forced to move. As co-ordinating lead author Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso said, "The blue planet is in serious danger right now, suffering many insults from many different directions and it's our fault." The authors believe that the changes we've set in motion are coming back to haunt us. Sea level rise will have profound consequences for low-lying coastal areas where almost 700 million people live.

Far-out fly-by
NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI/Roman Tkachenko On 1 January, Nasa's New Horizons spacecraft made the most distant ever exploration of a Solar System object. Launched all the way back in 2006, it performed its primary task - a flyby study of the Pluto system - in 2015. But with plenty of gas still in the tank, mission scientists directed the spacecraft towards a new target, an object called 2014 MU 69.
MU 69, later dubbed Ultima Thule, and more recently Arrokoth, may be fairly typical of the primitive, icy objects occupying a distant zone of our Solar System known as the Kuiper Belt.
There are hundreds of thousands of objects out there like it, and their frigid state holds clues to how all planetary bodies came into being some 4.6 billion years ago.
Earlier this year, scientists presented details of what they had found at a major conference in Houston. They had determined that Arrokoth's two lobes formed when distinct objects collided at just 2-3m/s, about the speed you would run into a wall, according to team member Kirby Runyon.

Greenland's record melt
Climate scientist Steffen Olsen took this picture while travelling across melted sea ice in north-west Greenland. Steffen OlsenIn September, former UK chief scientist Sir David King said he was scared by the faster-than-expected pace of climate-related changes. One of the most shocking examples this year of the extreme events Sir David spoke of was surely the record ice melt in Greenland.
In June, temperatures soared well above normal levels in the Danish territory, causing about half its ice sheet surface to experience some melting. As David Shukman reported on his trip to the region, during 2019 alone, it lost enough ice to raise the average global sea level by more than a millimetre.
Underlining the rapid nature of the change, he returned to a glacier he had filmed in 2004 to find that it had thinned by as much as 100m over the period.

A visit to the Sermilik glacier, which is rapidly melting.

Greenland's ice sheet stores so much frozen water that if the whole of it melted, it would raise sea levels worldwide by up to 7m. Although that would take hundreds or thousands of years, polar scientists told the American Geophysical Union meeting in December that Greenland was losing its ice seven times faster than in the 1990s.
Prof Andy Shepherd, of Leeds University, said: "The simple formula is that around the planet, six million people are brought into a flooding situation for every centimetre of sea-level rise."

Rocks from space
3D model of the asteroid Bennu, created using data from Nasa's Osiris-Rex mission. NASAWhile civilisation-threatening asteroids are a staple of the movies, the probability of a sizeable space rock hitting our planet is very low. But as the dinosaurs found out, the risk does increase with time. Some 19,000 near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) are being monitored, but many lurk undetected by telescopes, so there is always potential for a bolt-from-the-blue.
In March, Nasa scientists told the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) that a big fireball had exploded in Earth's atmosphere at the end of 2018. The space rock barrelled in without warning and detonated with 10 times the energy released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
A video showing the smoke trail from the #Meteor over the Bering Strait last December, produced using data from @JMA_kishou's #Himawari satellite.
The orange meteor trail in the middle, shadow above-left.

Hi-res copy: https://t.co/EXn8sFb556 pic.twitter.com/X54InkvMnl— Simon Proud (@simon_sat) March 19, 2019Luckily, the rock blew up over the sea off Russia's remote Kamchatka Peninsula. But an outburst that size could have had serious consequences had it occurred nearer the ground, over a densely populated area.
Then in July, an asteroid the size of a football field buzzed Earth, coming within 65,000km of our planet's surface - about a fifth the distance to the Moon. The 100m-wide rock was detected just days before it passed Earth.
Meanwhile, two robotic spacecraft have been examining different NEAs close-up. Scientists working on Japan's Hayabusa mission reported that their asteroid, Ryugu, was made of rubble blasted off a bigger object. And the US Osiris-Rex spacecraft detected plumes of particles erupting from the surface of its target, Bennu.

'Dirty secret' boosts warming
Electrical switchgear the world over often uses SF6 to prevent fires. Getty ImagesThe gas sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) isn't a household name. But as the most powerful greenhouse gas known to science, it could play an increasingly important role in discussions about climate change.
As environment correspondent Matt McGrath reported in September, levels are on the rise as an unintended consequence of the boom in green energy. The cheap, non-flammable gas is used to prevent short circuits and fires in electrical switches and circuit breakers known collectively as "switchgear".
As more wind turbines are built around the world, more of these electrical safety devices are being installed. The vast majority use SF6.
Although overall atmospheric concentrations are small for now, the global installed base of SF6 is expected to grow by 75% by 2030. Worryingly, there's no natural mechanism that destroys or absorbs the gas once it's been released.

Reigning supreme
GoogleQuantum computers hold huge promise. The "classical" machines we use today compute in much the same way as we do by hand. Quantum computers promise faster speeds and the ability to solve problems that are beyond even the most powerful conventional types. But scientists have struggled to build devices with enough units of information (quantum bits) to make them competitive with classical computers.
A quantum machine had not surpassed a conventional one until this year. In October, Google announced that its advanced quantum processor, Sycamore, had achieved "quantum supremacy" for the first time. Researchers said it had performed a specific task in 200 seconds that would take the world's best supercomputer 10,000 years to complete.
IBM, which has been working on quantum computers of its own, questioned some of Google's figures. But the achievement represents an important step towards fulfilling some of the predictions.

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Report Shows 2019 Global Climate Problems

Lethal Heating - 29 December, 2019 - 04:00
Canberra Times - Emily Beament, Press Association

Devastating Queensland floods are among climate disasters on every continent in 2019, a report says.Australia was among every populated continent in 2019 hit by climate change-related extreme weather events, harming and displacing millions of people and costing billions, a new report by Christian Aid says.
A report from the charity identifies 15 of the most destructive droughts, floods, fires, typhoons and cyclones of the past year, which each caused damage of more than a $US1 billion ($A1.4 billion).
All of the disasters identified in the Counting the Cost report, including floods and bushfires in Australia, are linked with human-caused climate change, Christian Aid said on Thursday.
In some cases, studies have shown that climate change made them more likely or stronger, such as Cyclone Idai in Africa and floods in India and the US.
In others, the event was the result of shifts in weather patterns, such as higher temperatures and reduced rainfall making wildfires more likely, or warmer water temperatures that "supercharged" tropical storms.
"If anything, 2019 saw even more profound extreme weather events around the world than last year, including wildfires from the Amazon through to the Arctic, devastating out-of-season, simultaneous wildfires in California and Australia, winter heatwaves and devastating superstorms," Professor Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Centre at Pennsylvania State University, said.
"With each day now we are seemingly reminded of the cost of climate inaction in the form of ever-threatening climate change-spiked weather extremes."
Of the 15 events identified in the report, seven cost more than $US10 billion each, the charity said, and warned that the figures were likely to be an underestimate as in some cases they only include insured losses.
The most financially costly disasters identified by the report were wildfires in California, which caused $US25 billion in damage, followed by Typhoon Hagibis in Japan, which cost $US15 billion.
The next most financially costly were floods in the American Midwest in March ($US12.5 billion) and in China between June and August ($US12 billion, the report said.
The events with the greatest loss of life were floods in northern India which killed 1,900 and Cyclone Idai, which killed 1,300, Christian Aid said.
Cyclone Fani in India and Bangladesh in May displaced 3.4 million people.
The UK did not escape the weather extremes, with Storm Eberhard hitting the country along with Belgium and the Netherlands in early March, before moving east to affect Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine.
The storm caused damage across Europe costing $US1 billion to $US1.7 billion.
Analysis suggests severe wind storms will be increasingly likely to hit Europe as temperatures rise, and in the UK insurance claims from these kind of storms could increase by 50 per cent in some parts of the country.
The UK is set to host key UN climate talks in Glasgow in November next year.
At the talks, countries will be under pressure to increase their ambition in cutting greenhouse gases, to meet promises under the international Paris Agreement on climate change to curb temperature rises to 1.5C or 2C to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.
Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid's global climate lead and report co-author, said 2020 will be a "huge year" for how the world responds to the growing climate crisis.
"We have the biggest summit since the Paris Agreement was signed five years ago taking place in Glasgow, where countries must commit to further cut their emissions in line with the 1.5C temperature limit, and boost funding for poor countries suffering from the kind of impacts seen in this report.
"Last year, emissions continued to rise, so it's essential that nations prepare these new and enhanced pledges for action to the Paris Agreement as soon as possible."

The 15 climate-related extreme weather events identified in the report are:
  • January: Argentina and Uruguay, floods $US2.5 billion, five killed;
  • January-February: Australia, floods $US1.9 billion, three killed;
  • March: Europe, Storm Eberhard $US1-1.7 billion, four killed;
  • March: Southern Africa, Cyclone Idai $US2 billion, 1,300 killed;
  • March-June: Midwest and South US, floods $US12.5 billion, three killed;
  • March-April: Iran, floods $US8.3 billion, 78 killed;
  • May: India and Bangladesh, Cyclone Fani $US8.1 billion, 89 killed;
  • June-August: China, floods $US12 billion, 300 killed;
  • June-October: North India, floods $US10 billion, 1,900 killed;
  • August: China, Typhoon Lekima $US10 billion, 101 killed;
  • September-October: Japan, Typhoon Faxai $US5-$US9 billion, three killed) and Hagibis ($US15 billion, 98 killed);
  • September: North America, Hurricane Dorian $US11.4 billion, 673 killed;
  • September: Spain, floods $US2.4 billion, seven killed;
  • September: Texas, US, Tropical Storm Imelda, $US8 billion, five killed.
  • October-November: California, US, fires $US25 billion, three killed.
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