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Australia Only Nation To Join US At Pro-Coal Event At COP24 Climate Talks

Lethal Heating - 18 hours 25 min ago
The Guardian

Country’s stance described as ‘a slap in the face of our Pacific island neighbours’
Patrick Suckling (sitting on panel right), Australia’s ambassador for the environment, waits as protesters disrupt an event at the COP24 climate change summit in Katowice, Poland. Photograph: Łukasz Kalinowski / Rex / Shutterstock Australia has reaffirmed its commitment to coal – and its unwavering support for the United States – by appearing at a US government-run event promoting the use of fossil fuels at the United Nations climate talks in Poland.
Australia was the only country apart from the host represented at the event, entitled “US innovative technologies spur economic dynamism”, designed to “showcase ways to use fossil fuels as cleanly and efficiently as possible, as well as the use of emission-free nuclear energy”.
Its panel discussion was disrupted for several minutes by dozens of protesters who stood up suddenly during speeches, unfurling a banner reading “Keep it in the ground” while singing and chanting “Shame on you”.
Patrick Suckling, Australia’s ambassador for the environment, and the head of the country’s negotiating delegation at the climate talks, spoke on the panel. His nameplate bore a US flag.
“Actions speak loudly,” he said, “and as we’ve been hearing, the United States has been a powerhouse … in different approaches to energy security while seeking emissions reductions.
“Australia has a technology-neutral approach to emissions reduction. It’s important that we do so, we need to pull every lever to reduce emissions. We need to be open to innovation and new technologies providing multiple pathways for energy security and emissions reductions.”
Suckling said Australia would continue to invest in low-emissions innovations, including doubling its innovation investment by 2020. But he said carbon capture and storage – “a proven technology” – was important in any model for emissions reduction, and that the technology had broad applications across industries.
But Simon Bradshaw, Oxfam Australia’s climate change policy adviser, said it was “extremely disappointing” to see Australia line up behind the US in pushing a pro-coal ideas.
“It is a slap in the face of our Pacific island neighbours, for whom bringing an end to the fossil fuel era is matter of survival, and who are working with determination to catalyse stronger international efforts to confront the climate crisis. And it is firmly against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Australians.”
Bradshaw said continuing to use coal was not only uneconomic, but would “be measured in more lives lost, entrenched poverty, rising global hunger, and more people displaced from their land and homes”.
He said the advice of the IPCC showed emphatically there was no space for new coal and that Australia’s position on coal was isolating it from the rest of the world.
The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 48 countries most acutely affected by climate change, has committed to achieving 100% renewable energy production by the middle of the century at the latest. Other developed countries, including the UK, France, Canada and New Zealand, have committed to phasing out coal power by 2030.
Wells Griffith, a Trump administration adviser speaking alongside Suckling on the panel, said the US would continue extracting fossil fuels, and warned against “alarmism” about climate change.
“We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice their economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability,” he said.
But the panel’s premise – that fossil fuels can be made “clean” through innovation – stands at odds with the recommendations of climate scientists who argue that countries should transition to renewable energy sources as soon as possible or risk catastrophic levels of global warming by the end of the century.
Also at the UN climate talks in Poland, two new reports have cast Australia as a global laggard on addressing climate change.
The Climate Change Performance Index, compiled by the Climate Action Network, ranked Australia 55 out of 60 countries for its actions on climate change. The index ranks countries according to their climate policies, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Sweden and Morocco are the leading countries on the list, though no nation is clearly on a below-2 degrees pathway. India, ranked 11, and China, ranked 33, both improved their rankings significantly, having significantly increased their use of renewable energy. The US and Saudi Arabia are 59th and 60th respectively on the list.
“Australia is at the bottom of the class when it comes to climate policy performance,” said Richie Merzian, climate and energy program director at the Australia Institute. “After four years of rising emissions, and a relative absence of climate policy, it is no surprise.”
Merzian said the government was “openly and unapologetically defending the coal industry” despite overwhelming scientific consensus that rapid decarbonisation needed to occur worldwide.
Separately, the Climate Action Tracker has updated its assessment of Australia’s efforts, saying the country’s “climate policy has further deteriorated in the past year, as it focuses on propping up the coal industry and ditches efforts to reduce emissions”.
“The Australian government has turned its back on global climate action by dismissing the findings of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C and announcing it would no longer provide funds to the Green Climate Fund,” the assessment said.
Emissions from fossil fuels and industry have been increasing by about 2% a year since 2014 in Australia. The assessment argues that Australia’s Paris agreement target was “insufficient” but Australia still won’t meet it.
“While the federal government continues to repeatedly state that Australia is on track to meet its 2030 target “in a canter” the Climate Action Tracker is not aware of any scientific basis, published by any analyst or government agency, to support this. ”

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'Fake Action': Australia's Secret Path To Hitting Paris Climate Goals

Lethal Heating - 18 hours 25 min ago
FairfaxPeter Hannam

Australia could use a little-known loophole to help meet up to half its Paris climate commitments in a move that analysts warn could undermine the global accord.
Neither Environment Minister Melissa Price nor Labor will rule out counting Australia's expected credits from beating its 2020 goal under the soon-to-be-superseded Kyoto Protocol against its 2030 Paris pledge.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Environment Minister Melissa Price have a 300-million tonne carbon surplus in their back pockets. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
The analysts say such a move by Australia would encourage other nations to follow suit.
One ex-member of Australia's negotiating team said the government had considered using the credits for some time even though it went against the spirit of the Paris accord signed in 2015. While not formally on the agenda at the current climate talks in Poland, the issue of Kyoto credits is expected to be discussed in coming days.
Ms Price, who is attending the summit in the city of Katowice, has put the expected surplus by 2020 - when the Paris agreement kicks in - at 294 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent.
However, consultancy Climate Analytics calculated the final figure will be at least 333 million tonnes. If accounting around land use changes - including tree planting and land clearing - is settled in Australia's favour, the surplus could swell to 400 million tonnes.
Australia's current pledge under the Paris agreement is to cut emissions 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2030.
Unless other nations object to the use of carryover credits, it could then meet the target with just a 15 per cent cut - a much easier task.
"This appears to be the 'canter' the government keeps talking about," said Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics. "It is fake action and would be rorting the planet, and will undermine real action in Australia."


Carryover estimates are based on data provided by Australia to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the end of 2017.
Ms Price declined to directly answer questions about how it will use any Kyoto carryover.
"The government is interested in working with international partners in the development of our strategy, through consultations with G20 countries that have completed their strategies or those currently in [a] planning or development phase," said Ms Price.
A spokespeson for the Environment Department reiterated that the projected 2013-2020 "over-achievement" was at 294 million tonnes, but added that emissions projections for 2018 were "currently under preparation".
"The Australian government is committed to the Paris Agreement," the spokesperson said. "Our priority at [Katowice] is to secure agreement on a comprehensive Rulebook to guide the implementation [of the Paris pact].

'Fatal undermining'
Richie Merzian, who was part of Australia's climate negotiations team for nine years before joining think tank The Australia Institute in April, said the government had long considered deploying a Kyoto surplus towards its Paris target.
"It was certainly part of their train of thinking," Mr Merzian said. "It could be they were banking on this."
"You're basically getting away without reducing your emissions," he said.
Use of any credits would be consistent with Australia's past approach of booking any "over-achievement" towards its next emissions goal. Germany, the UK and three other European nations cancelled 635 million tonnes of credits from the first Kyoto period at the Paris talks in 2015 but Australia kept its 128 million-tonne surplus.
Mr Hare said while the Polish talks may not rule directly on the carryover issue, backroom debate would no doubt include the issue given its importance. New Zealand is among others facing similar decisions to Australia's.
"It is no exaggeration to suggest that if this approach is allowed it would lead ultimately lead to a fatal undermining of any integrity in accounting for the implementation of the Paris Agreement," he said. "There would be little recourse against others opening up loopholes."
Most of Australia's emissions reductions in the past couple of decades have stemmed from tighter restrictions in Queensland that curbed deforestation after 2006.
Activists dressed in polar bear costumes protest on the sidelines of the COP24 climate talks now taking place in the Polish city of Katowice. Credit: APLabor caution
Mark Butler, Labor's climate spokesman, declined to rule out using Kyoto credits if the ALP wins office next year.
"Labor will take advice from relevant agencies and experts," he told the Herald.
Labor has pledged to lift Australia's current Paris pledge to a 45 per cent economy-wide reduction from 2005-level emissions by 2030.
"Regardless of how Kyoto units are treated in future, Australia has to take strong action to cut pollution and transition our economy to clean energy," Mr Butler said.
Adam Bandt, the Greens' climate spokesman, said the public expected “a government of climate deniers to use dodgy accounting to shirk their climate responsibilities, but not Labor".
“Labor needs to follow the lead of many other developed countries and immediately rule out using carryover credits to meet our measly Paris obligations if it wins office," he said.
Emma Herd, chief executive of the Investor Group on Climate Change, said any weakening of emissions targets would sap investments needed to tranform the economy to net-zero emissions by mid-century.
"To secure the long-term prosperity of Australia, targets need to be in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement - limiting warming to 1.5 degrees and well below 2 degrees," Ms Herd said.
"The longer we delay credible taking action, the harder the economic adjustment will be and Australia will continue to lose the opportunity to unlock the benefits of investment in clean energy and other low carbon opportunities.”


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Australia's Silence During Climate Change Debate Shocks COP24 Delegates

Lethal Heating - 11 December, 2018 - 05:00
The Guardian

Country accused of tacitly supporting oil allies’ rejection of the latest science
Greenpeace activists project words “No hope without climate action” on the roof of the venue of the COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland. Australia stood on the sidelines of a heated debate.Photograph: Janis Laizans/Reuters As four of the world’s largest oil and gas producers blocked UN climate talks from “welcoming” a key scientific report on global warming, Australia’s silence during a key debate is being viewed as tacit support for the four oil allies: the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait.
The end of the first week of the UN climate talks – known as COP24 – in Katowice, Poland, has been mired by protracted debate over whether the conference should “welcome” or “note” a key report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The IPCC’s 1.5 degrees report, released in October, warned the world would have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 45% by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5C and potentially avoid some of the worst effects of climate change, including a dramatically increased risk of drought, flood, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
The UN climate conference commissioned the IPCC report, but when that body went to “welcome” the report’s findings and commit to continuing its work, four nations – the US, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia, all major oil and gas producers – refused to accept the wording, insisting instead that the convention simply “note” the findings.
Negotiators spent two and a half hours trying to hammer out a compromise without success.
The apparently minor semantic debate has significant consequences, and the deadlock ensures the debate will spill into the second critical week of negotiations, with key government ministers set to arrive in Katowice.
Most of the world’s countries spoke out in fierce opposition to the oil allies’ position.
The push to adopt the wording “welcome” was led by the Maldives, leader of the alliance of small island states, of which Australia’s Pacific island neighbours are members.
They were backed by a broad swathe of support, including from the EU, the bloc of 47 least developed countries, the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean, African, American and European nations, and Pacific countries such as the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu.
Australia did not speak during the at-times heated debate, a silence noted by many countries on the floor of the conference, Dr Bill Hare, the managing director of Climate Analytics and a lead author on previous IPCC reports, told Guardian Australia.
“Australia’s silence in the face of this attack yesterday shocked many countries and is widely seen as de facto support for the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait’s refusal to welcome the IPCC report,” Hare said.
Richie Merzian, climate and energy program director at the Australia Institute, said widespread goodwill across the Katowice talks was being undermined by “a handful of countries” trying to disconnect the science and urgency from the implementation of the Paris agreement.
“It is disappointing but not surprising that Australia kept its head down during the debate … by remaining silent and not putting a position forward, Australia has tacitly supported the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia’s rejection of the latest science on climate change.”
Merzian said Australia’s regional neighbours, including New Zealand and Pacific islands, had voiced strong support for the IPCC’s report, which was a key outcome of the Paris agreement.
“A number of delegates privately shared their frustration that countries like Australia stood on the sidelines while Trump’s, Putin’s and King Salman’s representatives laid waste to the fundamental climate science.”
Hare said the interests of the fossil fuel industry were seeking to thwart the conference’s drive towards larger emissions cuts.
“The fossil fuel interest – coal, oil and gas – campaign against the IPCC 1.5 report and science continues to play out in the climate talks, but even those countries [opposing welcoming the report] are being hit by the impacts of only one degree of warming.
“The big challenge now is for the Polish presidency to set aside its obsession with coal, get out of the way and allow full acknowledgement of the IPCC 1.5C report, and its implications for increasing the ambition of all countries, in the conclusion of COP24 later this week.”
Australia’s environment minister, Melissa Price, arrived in Katowice on Sunday, with negotiations set to resume Monday morning.
“The government is committed to the Paris agreement and our emissions reduction targets,” she said before leaving Australia. “Australia’s participation in the Paris agreement and in COP24 is in our national interest, in the interests of the Indo-Pacific region, and the international community as a whole.”
Price said a priority for Australia at COP24 was to ensure a robust framework of rules to govern the reporting of Paris agreement targets. “Australia’s emissions reporting is of an exceptionally high standard and we are advocating for rules that bring other countries up to the standard to which we adhere.”
The latest Australian government figures, released last month, show the country’s carbon emissions continue to rise, at a rate significantly higher than recent years.
Australia’s emissions, seasonally adjusted, increased 1.3% over the past quarter. Excluding emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (for which the calculations are controversial), they are at a record high.

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The Numbers Don’t Lie So Why Aren’t We Doing More To Halt Climate Change?

Lethal Heating - 11 December, 2018 - 05:00
Fairfax -  Nicole Hasham

In the third part of The Future Fix, we examine the "far away" threat of climate change. The science is unequivocal. So why are our politicians so resistant to taking real action? And what about us?
           Matthew Absalom-WongEven veteran scientists hardened by decades of climate scepticism could hardly believe their ears. Environment Minister Melissa Price, responding to a bombshell report that distilled 6000 scientific papers, said the experts had it wrong.Phasing out coal within three decades to avert calamitous global warming? That was “drawing a long bow”, Price said of the recommendation by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Sure, the experts predict food shortages, lost livelihoods and stunted economies. Cyclones and droughts will hit with frightening regularity. Bleaching will annihilate the Great Barrier Reef.But Price made “no apology” for her government’s decision to dump efforts to cut pollution from electricity generation. Lower power bills were more important. And after all, she said, Australia is just a tiny contributor to global emissions.
Around the country, scientists wrung their hands in despair. World-renowned reef biologist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg was, to put it mildly, “disappointed”.
“The numbers don’t lie. It’s very clear we have to phase out fossil fuels by mid-century,” he said.
“We need a leadership that embraces the future and sets us on a new course.
The naturalist Sir David Attenborough reinforced the message this week when he told the UN climate summit in Poland that “if we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon”.
For at least two decades, scientific evidence on climate change has been unequivocal. By burning fossil fuels on a massive scale, humans have changed the climate system. And after years of torpor, we have left ourselves only a short window of time to avoid damage on a cataclysmic scale.
Australia, already the world’s driest inhabited continent, is uniquely vulnerable. And yet real action here, as in much of the world, is elusive.In fact, on current trajectories Australia, and the world, is heading in the wrong direction. The International Energy Agency says last year’s emissions from energy alone – coal, gas, oil, renewables and nuclear – rose 1.4 per cent to a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes. This is the equivalent of adding 170 million cars to the road. The agency expects that emissions in 2018 will be higher still. Official data shows that Australia’s annual carbon emissions climbed for the fourth year running in the year to June 2017 – up by 0.7 per cent to 550 million tonnes.
The recent release of Labor’s climate change action policy for electricity, and the looming federal election, have thrust the issue to the political forefront once more.
So where does Australia sit on climate action? Where are we winning, what is holding us back, and what can we all do to help get truly serious about cutting our greenhouse gas emissions?
Saskia Cook-Knowles of Port Kembla High School was one of thousands of students demanding action on climate change in November. Credit: APOpinion polls show most Australians accept that climate change is happening, that humans have caused it and that they want action. It certainly emerged as a hotly contested issue in the Wentworth by-election in October, with winning candidate Kerryn Phelps advocating stronger action. But that doesn’t mean everyone is frantically cutting their carbon footprint and lobbying leaders for policy change. People do not always respond to existential threats in rational ways.
The Australian Psychological Society’s Susie Burke says humans tend to distance themselves from daunting problems, and see climate change as something happening to someone else, in a faraway place.
“Many people ... might not be feeling the impact here and now. We tend to discount problems we think are far away in time or place, we are more likely to respond to threats that are close to us,” Dr Burke said.“Our brain is relatively unchanged from a time when survival was based on [attending to] an imminent threat. It’s not a particularly well-suited mechanism for huge threats like climate change.”
The residents of the world’s lowest-lying nations, such as Kiribati, may be less sanguine. So too are many younger Australians, who will be more exposed to the consequences – thousands of them went on strike from school in November to protest at government inaction.
Other people may just feel guilty about contributing to the problem, or for failing to act. They may distract themselves, or concentrate on other demands for their energy – family, health, money, job security and “what we are going to eat for dinner”, she says.

Only a tiny proportion of people truly deny the scientific reality of climate change. But this vocal and sometimes rich and powerful group – including corporations with fossil-fuel interests – can muddy the public debate with misinformation.
“Whenever people perceive there might be some uncertainty about something, it tends to have a slowing effect on people’s preparedness to do something urgent,” Dr Burke says.
Psychologists say a lack of knowledge, social pressure to consume, financial constraints and a resistance to changing our world view can also play a role in preventing climate action.
Some citizens may mistrust scientists or politicians. And in other cases, people might make a relatively minor effort to help the environment, such as recycling, and decide they are off the hook for more dramatic changes in their lifestyle.
Then-treasurer Scott Morrison brought coal to Parliament in 2017 to show Coalition support for mining the fossil fuel. Credit: Alex EllinghausenMarket forces and technology are already pushing Australia’s electricity mix from coal to renewables, which made up about 17 per cent of the electricity mix last year and which are growing exponentially. Individuals and communities are working at the grassroots to cut emissions. But for Australia, and the world, to make the drastic transition outlined by the IPCC, governments must be willing to pull policy levers.
Unfortunately for Australia, more than a decade of so-called “climate wars” has left a policy paralysis. Driven by short-term interests, power struggles, politicking and blind ideology, the nation’s leaders have fought over and dumped a raft of promising emissions-curbing measures.
The Coalition’s National Energy Guarantee aimed to reduce emissions while providing a reliable mix of renewables, coal and gas. While heavily criticised for its lack of emissions ambition, it offered a solid policy framework upon which more progressive future governments could build."The real political obstacle is 'culture war stuff’."The plan was consigned to landfill in August after climate-sceptic MPs on the government’s backbench rallied against it, saying it would harm the economy, kill the coal industry and fail to rein in prices.
The MPs apparently overlooked the colossal costs of not acting on climate change and the benefits to be gained by decarbonising the economy.Academic and former Climate Change Authority board member John Quiggin says the falling cost of renewables also renders the Coalition’s economic-harm argument irrelevant.
The real political obstacle, Quiggin says, is “culture war stuff”.
“It’s become part of people’s political identity ... So in that context there is very little point in presenting [denialists] with charts and graphs and scientific reports,” he says.
“[They] don’t want to do anything, they don’t like environmentalists and are therefore choosing to either deny the climate science or put forward some other spurious reason for doing nothing.”The powerful influence of fossil fuel companies has also been blamed for climate inaction in politics. The industry makes generous donations to political parties, and a revolving door between major political parties and coal and gas companies – Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s chief of staff John Kunkel is a former Minerals Council of Australia executive – means coal lobbyists know how the system works and have the ear of many a politician.
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The Greens say political parties are too reliant on fossil fuel money, and the donations must be banned if Australia is to shift to a clean economy. At the very least, the Greens argue, donations should be made public before elections, not afterwards.
Quiggin says Australia’s best hope for climate progress is a Labor government elected for at least two terms, giving it a chance to implement its policy of a 45 per cent emissions cut across the economy. (Labor, which is currently leading in the polls, said in November that it would seek to revive the National Energy Guarantee but with a much higher emissions reduction goal of 45 per cent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.)
In the meantime, the Coalition might realise that climate inaction is “a losing issue” with voters, Quiggin says.


Australians will choose how to tackle climate change targets at the next federal election, but are our politicians going far enough to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050? 

If politics is holding back real progress on climate change, then the media must take some responsibility. In Australia, it’s the political debate around climate policy that tends to dominate mainstream news coverage, notes the University of Sydney’s Benedetta Brevini. She says that compared with Europe, some Australian news outlets also give far more oxygen to the climate-sceptic agenda.
Mainstream coverage of climate change is also usually episodic and event-driven, focusing on natural disasters or the release of major climate reports rather than delivering “a long-term discussion [in which] you can keep informing the public slowly but constantly”.
“That is not great for explaining to the public what [climate change] actually means, the impact on the environment and giving voice to scientists,” she says.
She thinks the media should tell positive stories of people, communities and governments making a difference.
“The idea is to give people hope that [the problem] can be controlled ... that there is still room for adaptation and mitigation.”
A car-charging station at Tesla's wind and solar battery plant outside of Jamestown, South Australia. Credit: AAPAs the transition from coal and gas to renewable energy gathers pace, storing electricity and connecting it to the grid so it can be delivered on demand is the next challenge.
Australia is on the cusp of an energy storage boom, says the Climate Council, as states invest in grid-scale battery storage, including Tesla’s huge lithium-ion battery in South Australia. The federal government’s Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro expansion – effectively, a giant battery – also promises to firm up the intermittent power generated by wind and solar.

Other technologies show promise but need work. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is exploring tidal energy. The national science agency CSIRO says wave (as in, ocean) energy could contribute up to 11 per cent of Australia’s energy – enough to power Melbourne. Geoscience Australia says geothermal energy, leveraging the heat that occurs naturally in the Earth, has “significant potential”.
The federal government’s top scientist, Alan Finkel, says Australia could slash global carbon emissions and create a multibillion-dollar export industry by developing hydrogen to replace fossil fuels.
The transition has its challenges. Nuclear power, for example, has struggled to win over the community on environmental and ethical grounds. And even when clean-energy technology works, producing it at scale is not always economical.
The number of electric cars on Australian roads has increased by 160 per cent in the past five years, but that is well behind much of the developed world.Australia’s reliance on road transport is another big issue: it’s one of the reasons our per capita emissions are higher than those of most other countries. Road, rail and domestic aviation and shipping are our second-largest sources of greenhouse gas pollution after electricity production, says the Climate Council. It is also the fastest-growing source of emissions, climbing 62.9 per cent since 1990.
The number of electric cars on Australian roads has increased by 160 per cent in the past five years, but that is well behind much of the developed world.
France and Britain will end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040, and Norway and the Netherlands aim to do so by 2025. Policies such as these obviously fast-track the electric vehicle revolution but the government has shown no signs of replicating them.
The first LNG cargo leaving Chevron's Gorgon project in WA. Credit: BloombergThere’s a twist too: the IPCC says that, to meet the 1.5-degree warming limit, nations not only have to slash emissions but actively remove greenhouse pollution from the air using so-called negative emissions technologies. For now, these methods are mostly unproven at scale.
Carbon capture and storage involves trapping greenhouse gases at the point of emission, such as at a coal plant, then storing it, often underground in geological formations. Globally, fewer than 20 large-scale projects use it.
The most advanced domestic venture is at Chevron's Gorgon natural gas project in Western Australia – a huge carbon polluter – which aims to capture carbon dioxide from a gas field and inject it into undersea storage. But the injection has been delayed due to technical issues for almost two years.
Sundrop tomato farm in Port Augusta uses solar power and desalinated water.Meanwhile, on a patch of dry red earth at Port Augusta, a revolution is quietly growing. From the South Australian desert sprout juicy red tomatoes, watered and nurtured by the power of the sun.
There is no fresh water here and the heat can be merciless. But Sundrop Farms has shown that, with the right technology and a dose of belief, humans can find ways to live and eat without hurting the planet.
“What we are doing is really innovative not only in Australian terms but international terms,” says chief executive Steve Marafiote.
You can use solar or other solutions that can help reduce your operating expenses … but also deliver an environmental impact.Conceived a decade ago, the hydroponic operation runs mostly on solar thermal power. A field of 24,000 mirrors beam energy to a 127-metre-high tower. The resulting energy heats a huge reservoir of water that warms and cools vast greenhouses. The energy also turns seawater pumped from the nearby Spencer Gulf into freshwater via an onsite desalination plant.
Sundrop Farms delivers up to 17,000 tonnes of truss tomatoes each year to supermarkets – about 15 per cent of Australian supply.
Marafiote says the project, which has a tiny carbon footprint, proves the benefits of “thinking about things differently”.
“You can use solar or other solutions that can help reduce your operating expenses … but also deliver an environmental impact,” he says.
The Sundrop tomato farm is just one example of enterprising people successfully tackling climate change in Australia – and without a major disruption to our way of life. “It resonates incredibly well with consumers,” says Marafiote. “They are eating produce at its best.”
The 20-hectare Sundrop farm uses solar power and desalinated water from the Spencer Gulf.

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Climate Change: COP24 Fails To Adopt Key Scientific Report

Lethal Heating - 11 December, 2018 - 05:00
BBC - Matt McGrath

Efforts to find compromise language failed and the text was dropped. IISD/ENB - Kiara WorthAttempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed. The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October.
Scientists and many delegates in Poland were shocked as the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to this meeting "welcoming" the report.
It was the 2015 climate conference that had commissioned the landmark study.
The report said that the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3C this century rather than 1.5C.
Keeping to the preferred target would need "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society". If warming was to be kept to 1.5C this century, then emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be reduced by 45% by 2030.
The report, launched in Incheon in South Korea, had an immediate impact winning praise from politicians all over the world.
Climate protestors marching in Katowice outside COP24. Getty ImagesBut negotiators here ran into serious trouble when Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and Kuwait objected to the conference "welcoming" the document.
Instead they wanted to support a much more lukewarm phrase, that the conference would "take note" of the report.
Saudi Arabia had fought until the last minute in Korea to limit the conclusions of the document. Eventually they gave in. But it now seems that they have brought their objections to Poland.
The dispute dragged on as huddles of negotiators met in corners of the plenary session here, trying to agree a compromise wording.
None was forthcoming.
With no consensus, under UN rules the passage of text had to be dropped.
Many countries expressed frustration and disappointment at the outcome.
"It's not about one word or another, it is us being in a position to welcome a report we commissioned in the first place," said Ruenna Haynes from St Kitts and Nevis.
"If there is anything ludicrous about the discussion it's that we can't welcome the report," she said to spontaneous applause.
Scientists and campaigners were also extremely disappointed by the outcome.
"We are really angry and find it atrocious that some countries dismiss the messages and the consequences that we are facing, by not accepting what is unequivocal and not acting upon it," said Yamide Dagnet from the World Resources Institute, and a former climate negotiator for the UK.
Others noted that Saudi Arabia and the US had supported the report when it was launched in October. It appears that the Saudis and the US baulked at the political implications of the UN body putting the IPCC report at its heart.
"Climate science is not a political football," said Camilla Born, from climate think tank E3G.
"All the worlds governments - Saudi included - agreed the 1.5C report and we deserve the truth. Saudi can't argue with physics, the climate will keep on changing."
Many delegates are now hoping that ministers, who arrive on Monday, will try and revive efforts to put this key report at the heart of the conference.
"We hope that the rest of the world will rally and we get a decisive response to the report," said Yamide Dagnet.
"I sincerely hope that all countries will fight that we don't leave COP24 having missed a moment of history."

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US And Russia Ally With Saudi Arabia To Water Down Climate Pledge

Lethal Heating - 10 December, 2018 - 13:06
The Guardian |

Move shocks delegates at UN conference as ministers fly in for final week of climate talks
Protesters on Sunday in Katowice, which is hosting the UN climate conference.Photograph: Sadak Souici/Le Pictorium/Barcroft ImagesThe US and Russia have thrown climate talks into disarray by allying with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to water down approval of a landmark report on the need to keep global warming below 1.5C.
After a heated two-and-a-half-hour debate on Saturday night, the backwards step by the four major oil producers shocked delegates at the UN climate conference in Katowice as ministers flew in for the final week of high-level discussions.
It has also raised fears among scientists that the US president, Donald Trump, is going from passively withdrawing from climate talks to actively undermining them alongside a coalition of climate deniers.
Two months ago, representatives from the world’s governments hugged after agreeing on the 1.5C report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), commissioned to spell out the dire consequences should that level of warming be exceeded and how it can be avoided.
Reaching a global consensus was a painstaking process involving thousands of scientists sifting through years of research and diplomats working through the night to ensure the wording was acceptable to all nations.
But when it was submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on Saturday, the four oil allies – with Saudi Arabia as the most obdurate – rejected a motion to “welcome” the study. Instead, they said it should merely be “noted”, which would make it much easier for governments to ignore. The motion has not yet been able to pass as a result of the lack of consensus.
It opened up a rift at the talks that will be hard to close in the coming five days. During the plenary, the EU, a bloc of the 47 least developed countries, as well as African and Latin and South American nations, all spoke in favour of the report. Several denounced the four countries trying to dilute its importance.
Rueanna Haynes, a delegate for St Kitts and Nevis, told the plenary it was “ludicrous” not to welcome a report that UN member nations had commissioned two years earlier and to hold up crucial talks over two words.
“It’s very frustrating that we are not able to take into account the report’s findings: we are talking about the future of the world – it sounds like hyperbole when I say it, but that’s how serious it is,” she told the Guardian. “I would say that this issue has to be resolved. This is going to drag out and the success of the COP is going to hang on this as well as other issues.”
Scientists were also outraged. “It is troubling. Saudi Arabia has always had bad behaviour in climate talks, but it could be overruled when it was alone or just with Kuwait. That it has now been joined by the US and Russia is much more dangerous,” said Alden Meyer, the director of strategy and policy in the Union of Concerned Scientists.
He said the shift in the US position would be embarrassing for the country if it persisted. “Donald Trump is the denier-in-chief. He takes a personal interest in dissing scientists,” said Meyer. “But the science won’t go away. The law of thermodynamics can’t be ignored.”
Climate campaigners said the four blocking governments had been overrun by fossil-fuel interests and were trying to sideline the study.
May Boeve, the executive director of the activist group 350.org, said: “Deliberately ignoring the IPCC report would be wholly irresponsible and 350.org stands with the rest of world in condemning these climate deniers … and the vested fossil fuel interests behind them.”
Ministers have only five days to establish a rulebook for the Paris agreement. A wild card is the role of the host nation, Poland – the most coal-dependant nation in Europe – which will chair the final week of the meeting.
“The big challenge now is for the Polish presidency to set aside its obsession with coal, get out of the way and allow full acknowledgement of the IPCC 1.5C report, and its implications for increasing the ambition of all countries, in the conclusion of COP24 later this week,” said Bill Hare, the managing director of Climate Analytics.
As well as acceptance of the report, there are several other potential fights brewing regarding transparency rules for reporting emissions and proposals for wealthy high emitters to provide financial support to poorer nations struggling to adapt.

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First-Ever Everest Drill: World’s Highest Glacier More Sensitive To Climate Change Than Expected

Lethal Heating - 10 December, 2018 - 05:00
OnlineKhabar - Abhaya Raj Joshi 



Scientists who recently completed the first-ever expedition to drill the world’s highest glacier have bad news ahead of the UN climate change Conference of Parties meeting in Poland. Glaciers on the Himalayas, the main source of rivers that sustain billions of people in Asia, may be more sensitve to tempereture rise than expected.
Though a lot of studies have been carried out on the surface of the Khumbu, whose ice is sourced in the Western Cwm of Mount Everest, and other glaciers in the region, nothing was known about what was going on inside ‘the highest glacier in the world’, said Katie Miles, the lead author of a recent paper that described the work carried out by members of the EverDrill Project between 2017 and 2018.
The group spent two seasons (six to eight weeks each) drilling 27 boreholes using a jet of hot, pressurised water to cut into the ice–the longest hole was 192m deep. Photo: Katie Miles The group spent two seasons (six to eight weeks each) drilling 27 boreholes using a jet of hot, pressurised water to cut into the ice–the longest hole was 192m deep.
“These boreholes are the deepest, and most spatially extensive achieved to date in the Himalaya using hot-water drilling,” says Miles.
Its internal structure was then documented using a 360-degree camera.
The Khumbu Glacier (Wikicommons) Once the boreholes were drilled, the team measured ice temperatures by installing strings of pre-built thermistor sensors linked to data-loggers located at the surface.
The set of equipment was left onsite for six months and collected in November 2017.
Warm ice raises concern
Illustrative long profile of Khumbu Glacier showing the ice temperature values recorded by each thermistor within the three boreholes. From: Nature The researchers found that the ice inside the Khumbu glacier recorded a minimum temperature of only −3.3 °C, with even the coldest ice being a full 2 °C warmer than the mean annual air temperature. The temperature recorded suggests that ice inside the glacier may be ‘warm.’
According to Miles, ‘cold’ ice, found in the poles, records below-the-melting-point temperature (around -15 15°C), and it does not melt when the temperature increases slightly–they just become less cold (say around –14°C). But in the case of ‘warm ice'(say around -3°C) found inside the Khumbu glacier, when the temperature increases by 1°C, the ice reaches a temperature of -2°C–perilously close to its melting point.
“It has been shown that air temperature increases are amplified at high elevations, and this study also suggests the same,” says Miles. She says that there is evidence that a global temperature rise of 1.5°C has been predicted to result in a 2.1°C warming across High Mountain Asia. “In the context of the study, such a rise would mean a significant loss of ice mass across the region,” she says.
Miles suggests that if other glaciers in the Himalayas are also experiencing a similar phenomenon, they could be losing mass at a rapid rate. Photo: Katie MilesMiles suggests that if other glaciers in the Himalayas are also experiencing a similar phenomenon, they could be losing mass at a rapid rate. “If that is happening, then the volume of meltwater will increase until the glaciers lose its mass,” she says. This might result in an increased flow of water downstream. But later on, it may dry up once the ‘peak water’ mark is reached. This will have huge effects on Nepal, a country that is so relient on hydropower.
Miles, however, cautions that the what is happening in Khumbu may not be representative of all glaciers in the Himalayas. Khumbu and many other Himalayan glaciers are covered with debris, which act as a blanket over the glacier. This debris insulates the glacier from warmer air temperatures, reducing melt rates. But the debris gets thinner on glaciers located on higher altitudes.
“These ice temperatures will now be fed into an ice flow model to better predict how the Khumbu glacier will respond to projected climate warming in the future,” she says.
Meanwhile, the Nepali delegation heading to Poland says it will raise the issue of melting glaciers with utmost priority at COP 24. National Climate Change focal person and Joint Secretary Maheshwor Dhakal says, “Melting glaciers will have devastating effects on people living downstream. We will raise the issue with utmost priority at COP.”

This story is part of Onlinekhabar’s coverage on climate change under the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership, a collaboration between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.

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Warm Ice In Mount Everest’s Glaciers Makes Them More Sensitive To Climate Change – New Research

Lethal Heating - 10 December, 2018 - 05:00
The Conversation

Katie Miles, Author provided Often when the topic of glaciers and climate change is discussed, focus shifts to those in Greenland and Antarctica. But there are glaciers elsewhere too, such as in the Himalayas, which play a vital part in supplying water to people who live downstream. Now, our research has found that these glaciers may react more sensitively to predicted future climate change than previously thought, which could lead to them melting at a faster rate.
In 2017 and 2018, our EverDrill research team travelled to Nepal, to measure ice temperatures (using a converted pressure washer) on the Khumbu Glacier. Khumbu, whose ice is sourced in the Western Cwm of Mount Everest, flows down the flanks of the mountain from around 7,000 to 4,900 metres above sea level. Along with many other glaciers in the Everest region and across High Mountain Asia, the meltwater from Khumbu contributes to the water resources of huge populations in the mountain foothills.
We spent two field seasons (six to eight weeks each) drilling boreholes using a jet of hot, pressurised water to incise into the ice. In total we drilled 27 boreholes, ranging between 1-192m deep, across five sites. These boreholes are the first, deepest, and most spatially extensive achieved to date in the Himalaya using hot-water drilling.
Once the boreholes were drilled, we measured ice temperatures by installing strings of pre-built thermistor sensors linked to data-loggers located at the surface. We left them for six months and collected the data on a return trip in November 2017.
Katie Miles starts to drill a borehole into Khumbu Glacier in May 2018. Katie Miles, Author providedThe main finding from this research was that the ice was warmer than we expected, with the coldest ice measuring –3.3°C. As the ice is formed on the flanks of Mount Everest, where the mean annual air temperature is –13°C at 7,000 metres elevation, we might have expected the ice to be at this temperature. Our borehole data reveal that this was not the case. Not only was the ice not this cold in our boreholes, but ice temperatures also increased towards the glacier terminus.

Cold and warm ice
Why does it matter that we found warmer ice temperatures than we expected? Glaciologists acknowledge two thermal types of ice: “Cold” ice and “warm” ice. Cold ice is below the melting-point temperature, so when additional heat is applied (from the sun or warmer air temperatures), the ice simply becomes less cold (going from –15°C to –14°C, for example). Warm ice, alternatively, is at the melting-point temperature, so any heat input melts the ice to become water.
In short, this means that Khumbu will respond more sensitively to any future additional heat inputs, such as warming air temperatures. It has been shown that air temperature increases are amplified at high elevations. For example, a global temperature rise of +1.5°C has been predicted to result in a +2.1°C warming across High Mountain Asia and a significant loss of ice mass across the region. As these glaciers melt and recede, their contribution to water resources will initially increase. However, as the volume of ice mass remaining decreases, this contribution will steadily decline. While the timescale over which this might occur is unknown, predictions suggest that “peak water” may be reached as soon as the middle of this century. Our finding of warm ice within Khumbu supports the predicted sensitivity of such glaciers to warming air temperatures.
The Everdrill research team. Katie Miles, Author providedBut it’s not all bad news for the region’s glaciers. First, we don’t know if the temperatures we measured on Khumbu are representative of all glaciers in the area. More measurements are needed on other glaciers to determine this. Second, Khumbu and many other Himalayan glaciers are debris-covered glaciers, which contain a surface layer of rocks and boulders that typically increases in thickness towards the terminus, up to several metres depth. This debris layer complicates the amount of ice surface melt that is produced: where the layer is thick, it acts like a blanket and insulates the glacier from warmer air temperatures, reducing melt rates.
However, this insulation of the lower glacier also results in the location of maximum melt shifting further up the glacier, to where the debris cover is thinner. In this area, the glacier melts by surface lowering, which in an extreme future scenario could lead to the detachment of the lower glacier, forming a new terminus at this higher elevation. While the lower, detached ice would become stagnant, it would still be protected from instant melting by its debris blanket. The new terminus above this would not, and melt rates could increase. Yet, our deepest borehole in this area of surface lowering was 192 metres, and did not reach the bed so the ice thicknesses remains unknown – but it could be that there is plenty of ice left in Khumbu to stop this happening.
These ice temperatures will now be fed into an ice flow model to better predict how the Khumbu Glacier will respond to climate warming and contribute to river discharges in the future. Meanwhile, we are still collecting temperature data to analyse and better understand how the highest glaciers in the world will be affected by climate change.

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In Mount Everest Region, World's Highest Glaciers Are Melting, Receding

Lethal Heating - 10 December, 2018 - 05:00
InsideCimate NewsKunda Dixit, Nepali Times*

In this photo essay, the editor of the Nepali Times describes the dramatic changes underway in the ice and snow of the Himalayan Mountains.


For many tourists trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp, the trip is an adventure of a lifetime. The thin clear air, stark landscape and ice-tipped peaks pierce the inky sky providing Instagram backdrops.
However, what is stunning scenery to tourists is for climate scientists an apocalyptic sight. They see dramatic evidence all around of a rapidly warming atmosphere.
Visitors returning to the Everest region after many years will notice changes in the landscape: large lakes where there were none; glacial ice replaced by ponds, boulders and sand; the snowline moving up the mountains; and glaciers that have receded and shrunk.



All these features are visible from ground level right from the start of the trek in Lukla. The banks of the Bhote Kosi, part of the river system that drains the slopes of the Himalayas in Nepal and Tibet, still bear the scars of a deadly flash flood in 1985 that washed off a long section of the Everest Trail and the hydropower plant in the village of Thame. The flood was caused by an avalanche into the Dig Tso, a glacial lake.
Further up, near the village of Tengboche, the Imja Khola bears signs of another huge glacial lake outburst flood that thundered down the western flank of Ama Dablam in 1977. And below the formidable south face of Lhotse is Imja Tso, a lake 2 kilometers long that has formed and grown in the last 30 years. It does not exist on trekking maps from the 1980s. All these lakes were formed and enlarged as a result of global warming melting the ice.
Imja Tso, a glacial lake, did not exist on trekking maps 30 years ago. Today it is 2 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide. Credit: Kunda Dixit/Nepali Times"When I look at the Nepal Himalaya, we can see this is global climate change impact on fast-forward," said Dipak Gyawali of the Nepali Water Conservation Foundation and the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology
Green and blue meltpools on the North Ama Dablam Glacier, where the vanishing icefall has exposed the eroded bedrock below. Credit: Kunda Dixit/Nepali Times
The Lobuje Icefall is now a hanging glacier, having retreated above the cliff. Credit: Kunda Dixit/Nepali TimesThe terminal moraine of the Khumbu Glacier looms 400 meters above Dughla, a rest stop for climbers. This is the debris bulldozed down from Mount Everest and surrounding peaks over millions of years and represents the extent of the glacier's advance in the last Ice Age. Today, the surface ice on the world's highest glacier is all but gone due to natural and anthropogenic warming.
Khumbu Glacier, the world's highest glacier, has retreated as the planet has warmed. Its lower portion is largely covered by debris. Credit: NASA Landsat 8 image by Jesse Allen and Robert SimmonFor a dramatic glimpse of how global warming is changing the Himalayan landscape, there is nothing like the aerial perspective. The barren beauty foretells of a time when this terrain will be stripped of much of what remains of its ice cover.
The Khumbu Icefall carries debris and ice from the Western Cwm to the Khumbu Glacier, 1,000 meters below. Credit: Kunda Dixit/Nepali TimesThe Khumbu Icefall funnels ice from the Western Cwm below Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse to the glacier below. The ice here has receded at an average of 30 meters per year in the past 20 years, but it has also shrunk vertically, losing up to 50 meters in thickness. Everest Base Camp was at 5,330 meters when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Mount Everest in 1953; today it is at 5,270 meters.
A map shows base camp and how a key climbing route up Mount Everest changed after a deadly avalanche in 2014. Credit: Gregory Leonard, with data by Digital Globe and Mark Fahey/USGS, via NASAThe glacier is also getting flatter: the darker debris makes the ice beneath melt faster near Base Camp, but the thicker layers of boulders and sand further down insulate the ice. Glaciologists say this flatter profile means the ice moves slower, leading to more ponding and more rapid melting of the ice underneath.
The velocity of the glacier is about 70 meters per year at Base Camp, and it slows to about 10 meters per year further below. It's zero at the terminus at 4,900 meters. This means the ice is decelerating as it is squeezed, and the pressure is being released by the melting of the ice mass.
Khumbu Glacier is receding at about 30 meters per year and shrinking: Base Camp is now 50 meters lower than when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Mount Everest in 1953. Credit: Kunda Dixit/Nepali TimesResearchers monitoring the supraglacial ponds say their area has grown by 70 percent in the past 10 years alone. The ponds are fringed by ice cliffs and caves that accelerate the melting. The melted ice has carved an outflow channel through the left lateral moraine, so there is no large glacial lake on the Khumbu like elsewhere in Nepal.
Scientists conclude that the Khumbu Glacier is not about to vanish, and the Icefall is not going to turn into a waterfall any time soon. However, the permanent ice catchment of the glacier above 6,000 meters could start to deplete under a worst-case scenario of 5 degrees Celsius warming.

*This photo essay was shot and written by Kunda Dixit, editor and publisher of the Nepali Times, and first appeared in that publication. 

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We Are Not All Doomed. Not Yet

Lethal Heating - 9 December, 2018 - 05:00
The Guardian

This week’s Upside digest looks at the ways to tackle climate change and rediscover our natural spaces
Lost country ... Ramblers mapping old pathways in England. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian As the world’s leaders converged on Katowice, Poland, for this year’s UN climate change conference, the mood was sombre. How could it be anything other, when in the opening keynote one of the world’s foremost naturalists said we were all pretty much doomed?
While the numbers do not make for happy reading, there are plenty of people trying to do something about them. Our reporter Leyland Cecco writes this week from the Canadian west, where the province of British Columbia has come up with an innovative response to the global carbon splurge.
The Trans Canada Highway in British Columbia. Photograph: Bert Klassen/Alamy Luxembourg, meanwhile, has come up with a different idea for tackling greenhouse gas emissions (and city tailbacks), following an example set two years ago by Tallinn, as our Europe correspondent Daniel Boffey found out.
Pioneering startups are playing their part in using technology to combat environmental degradation. In France, Morphosis aims to reduce e-waste – discarded old electronics – by making sure their rare metals are recycled and reused. In Cameroon, Save Our Agriculture improves food security through aquaponics, a farming method where fish nourish the plants that in turn filter their water.
And in the UK, a small army of ramblers is determined to push back against human incursions into the countryside by rediscovering long-lost footpaths buried under decades of manmade eyesores.
Just what we need: new ways to get lost.

What we liked
In Greece, marine divers are volunteering to clear the surrounding oceans from plastic litter. With the longest coastline in the EU, they are slowly but surely reclaiming their natural habitat, NPR reports.
The charity Beam is trying to get the UK’s homeless population back into employment through crowdfunding. Candidates are referred by homelessness charities, and Beam then mentors each one to develop a career plan, which the public can fund via their website, receiving updates on their training and progress.
Finally, a US-based startup, Ecovative, is harnessing the power of the humble mushroom to create natural, biodegradable packaging and materials for potential use in industry.

What we heard
"Carbon taxes are really the only way forward; it’s simple economics,” one reader commenting on our carbon tax story. "I love the public footpaths in Britain and I used to love the public rights of way in London, but those have almost all disappeared,” one reader says about our lost footpaths.Links
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Why 2019 Could Be The Warmest Yet

Lethal Heating - 9 December, 2018 - 05:00
NEWS.com.au - Stephanie Bedo

Extreme weather and warming temperatures are putting us on track to face the hottest year in human history.


Heatwaves - Natures Silent Killer
Heatwaves, tropical cyclones, a high fire risk and what scientists are warning to be the hottest year in human history.
This is what Australia is in for in the new year — and it looks like the severe weather system that will cause all of that is already taking hold now.
The Climate Prediction Centre in the US says there is an 80 per cent chance a full-fledged El Nino has already started.
But while the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has us on “alert” for El Nino, it says the system that brings with it hot temperatures hasn’t formed just yet.
As a result of global warming, weather experts are predicting 2019 could be the hottest year ever as temperatures continue to climb.
The 20 warmest years have all been in the past 22 years, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), with the top four in the past four years.
It’s recent “State of the Global Climate” report warns if El Nino develops, 2019 is likely to be warmer than 2018.
Across the world 1600 people died from heatwaves this year.
And no one under the age of 32 has ever experienced a cooler-than-average month.
“Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference to human health and access to food and fresh water, to the extinction of animals and plants, to the survival of coral reefs and marine life,’’ WMO deputy secretary-general Elena Manaenkova said.
BOM’s latest “El Nino — Southern Oscillation” report has said we don’t have an El Nino yet.
Australia is on El Nino alert.
Picture: BOM
2019 could be the hottest year yet.
Picture: John Grainger Source: News Corp Australia
“Trade winds weakened in the last fortnight, leading to further warming in the tropical Pacific Ocean, but collectively, the atmosphere has yet to show a consistent El Nino signal,” it said.
“This suggests that the tropical Pacific atmosphere and ocean have yet to couple (reinforce each other), a process that would sustain an El Nino, and result in widespread global impacts.
“El Nino effects in Australia over summer typically include higher fire risk, greater chance of heatwaves and fewer tropical cyclones.”
A recent report on El Nino’s impacts on temperature, rain and fire in a warming climate suggests these will get worse as the climate continues to get warmer.
There have been 27 El Nino events since 1900, with seven of Australia’s 10 driest years on record during one of those events.
Events can last for as little as six months or as long as two years, occurring every three to five years.
A recent report in the Medical Journal of Australia highlighted how the climate was threatening Australian lives, with heat stress alone costing $616 per employed person per year.
“The first 10 months of 2018 could be described as the world’s climate on steroids, wreaking havoc across the world, continuing the relentless march of setting new temperature extremes, rainfall records, increases in severe tropical cyclones, droughts, fires and sea level rise,” report co-author Dr Liz Hanna said.
“Climate change can be linked to the deepening consequences, the rising human toll, loss of human lives and livelihoods, and further erosion of our children’s future.
“Australia’s climate mayhem, which saw last summer’s extreme heat and drought conditions across NSW and QLD, or the current wild weather stretching form Cairns down to the NSW mid coast, are not isolated events. This pattern is occurring all over the globe. No one can continue to pretend this is ‘normal variability’.”

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Morrison's Big Stick On Energy Defies What A True Liberal Believes In

Lethal Heating - 9 December, 2018 - 05:00
FairfaxJohn Hewson*

A fundamental element of the collapse in the electoral standing of the Liberal Party, perhaps even more important than the disunity, disloyalty, and factionalism, certainly of greater longer-term significance, is how it has completely lost sight of what a Liberal stands for, what a Liberal believes in.
It is fashionable, of course, in Liberal circles, to attempt to draw some “authenticity” by reference to Menzies. Let me suggest that Menzies would be turning in his grave with the policy drift of the current lot of politicians presenting under the Liberal banner.
An abuse of power ... and an anti-Liberal intervention in the market. Credit: James DaviesLiberals have traditionally believed in small government, low regulation, and reliance on markets and market processes. It is therefore most concerning that these defining beliefs have been so easily jettisoned, as a short-term political expedient, in what is just the last manifestation, but just one of many, of what they claim as an “energy policy”.The “true” Liberal response to the climate challenge would and should be – and has been on a couple of previous, but opportunistic, occasions, under the likes of Howard and Turnbull – to put a price on carbon via a “pure” emissions-trading scheme. This would be the most cost-effective response by charging, in simple terms, polluters for their pollution.
It is a particular, and indefensible, inequity in our present system to see those who pollute our rivers, or dump asbestos on a vacant lot, and so on, charged, fined, even jailed, for such activities, yet a coal-fired power plant can pump alarming quantities of CO2 into our atmosphere and be “protected” in doing so.The two key elements of the Morrison government’s so-called energy policy are very anti-Liberal, indeed, socialist – leaning on, bullying, intimidating, otherwise attempting to regulate power prices, and the “Big Stick” of threatening forced divestiture of some of the assets of the “gentailers” (principally AGL, Energy Australia and Origin) if they “fail to comply”.
In the minds of some in the government, a parallel is being drawn between the activities and abuses of the Big Three power companies and the Big Four banks, not just in terms of their electoral unpopularity, but also particularly in the sense of their exercise of oligopolistic market power, and abuses of their “social licences”.
However, this may work in crude, point-scoring, electoral terms, but it is probably unwise to exaggerate, as more detailed analysis of their actual relative price-fixing activities and profitability (against assets and equity) may suggest some caution.Morrison’s short-term difficulty, having sold Energy Minister Angus Taylor as “minister for getting electricity prices down”, is that, even at their “toughest”, they are unlikely to have much discernible impact on power bills by the time of the next election. But they will have sold out on their traditional beliefs and standing to do so.
The concept of forced “divestiture” not only burns their credibility as traditional Liberals, but would represent a significant and, to most, an indefensible abuse of executive government power.This issue has been floated before and formally assessed by parliamentary committees considering the Misuse of Market Power Bill in 2014, by the Harper Review of Competition Policy, the Australian  Competition and Consumer Commission, the Law Council, and others – and generally rejected.The parliamentary committee referred to “disadvantages outweighing potential advantages”, risking “significant disruption and economic damage, with unpredictable consequences for competition”.The Harper Review, building on the earlier Hilmer and Dawson reviews, expressed concern about the likely impact on the efficiency of the businesses and potential harm to consumers. More recently, Harper has criticised the “hasty” introduction of the divestiture power in relation to the energy sector, "arguing that the aim of market intervention should be to block anti-competitive conduct, not to restructure the industry”.
The ACCC described it as “an extreme measure”, preferring other “means to restore competition to a level which serves consumers well”. The Law Council has described it a “truly draconian”, carrying a “serious risk that it will create several less efficient businesses”. Lawyers Ashurst have described it as “an extraordinary and invasive power”.
Overseas evidence suggests that such a power has only ever been used sparingly in the US, and not yet in the EU and Canada, even though the power exists.All this would lead you to conclude that this latest manifestation of an “energy policy” by a Liberal-controlled government, dumping virtually all that it once believed in, and advocated for, and adopting all that it once abhorred, has been simply proffered out of political desperation, risking very serious potential consequences for the power sector, that is of such fundamental significance to our broader industrial base and to households.
All this also seems so inconsistent with Morrison’s recent speech dubbed his “Sermon on the Murray”, apparently built in the Menzies tradition. Has he really lost all sense of what it means to be a Liberal? Or will he say or do anything, including jettisoning all previous beliefs, just to win?Voters will probably ensure that he forfeits his right to govern.

*John Hewson is a professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU, and a former federal Liberal leader.

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Malcolm Turnbull Asked To Front Reef Inquiry

Lethal Heating - 8 December, 2018 - 05:00
FairfaxPeter Hannam

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has been asked to front the Senate inquiry into his government's controversial $443 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation early next year.
The request comes as state and federal environment ministers meeting in Canberra on Friday failed to agree on the wording over climate action, and a separate report identified a heavy environmental toll if the Galilee Basin coal mines including Adani's proposed Carmichael project proceed.
Malcolm Turnbull is not about to leave centre stage. Credit: Janie BarrettMr Turnbull has been offered any dates "that would be appropriate between now and early February", and at "your preferred location" for a public hearing into the controversial grant to the non-profit organisation announced last April.
The former prime minister's attendance is voluntary and it is understood he is the final witness the committee wants to interview. The inquiry has also won an extension to provide its final report by February 13.
The grant surprised even the foundation, which at that point had just six full-time employees. It also bypassed established government agencies such as the CSIRO and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
Meanwhile at a meeting of environment ministers in Canberra, the Labor-led state and territory ministers criticised Melissa Price, the federal Environment Minister, for again omitting climate change from the agenda of the regular gathering.
"The science is frightening, unequivocal and clear - we are running out of time," the Labor ministers said in a statement. "We must take swift and strong measures to reduce emissions now."
"Yet the response of successive Liberal prime ministers has been one of delusion and deliberate inaction - and it is unacceptable that any action on climate change has again been left off the agenda at today’s meeting of environment ministers," they said.
Ms Price later told journalists that the ministers had had "a very good conversation", but could not agree on common wording. The minister will attend global climate talks in Poland from Sunday.
The environment ministers also secured only an agreement in principle over a national waste policy to deal with the country's mounting recycling issues after China limited waste imports.
NSW, Queensland and Victoria agreed to work together "to deliver real outcomes when it comes to waste", Gabrielle Upton, NSW Environment Minister, said.
"We disagree on many things, but on this issue, urgent national action is required," Ms Upton said. "The Commonwealth is now locked into playing a clearer real role in terms of leadership and funding."
Separately, the federal government has its "bioregional assessment" of the cumulative impacts on groundwater, creeks and rivers from opening central Queensland's Galilee Basin for mining.
Despite only modelling seven of 17 proposed coal and gas developments - including the Adani mine - the report predicted widespread impacts over 1.4 million hectares and as much as 6285 kilometres of streams.
“Given that the Suttor River is the target of Adani’s plans to extract up to 12.5 billion litres of water per year, this should be enough to ensure that project is rejected once and for all," Lock the Gate, an anti-mining group, said in a statement.
“It’s clear from this analysis that mining the Galilee Basin will have a very significant and irreversible impact on our water resources," including damaging as many as 181 wetlands, the group said.
Leeanne Enoch, Queensland's Environment Minister, said the Palaszczuk government "takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously and makes its decisions based on the best available science".
“At this point in time, the government is undertaking the work to allow consideration of the declaration of a cumulative management area over the Galilee Basin," Ms Enoch said.
“This allows government to consider the combined impacts of projects.”
Carmel Flint, a spokeswoman for Lock the Gate, said water was "the key to survival in such a dry region".
"The full scale of the water impacts exposed here should lead to urgent action by the Queensland government to reject the final water management plan which Adani are seeking to have approved before Christmas," she said.

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Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga Says Australia's Climate Change Inaction Undermines Its 'Pacific Pivot'

Lethal Heating - 8 December, 2018 - 05:00
ABCStephen Dziedzic

The Prime Minister of Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga has warned Australia that its "Pacific pivot" risks being fatally undermined by its climate change policies ahead of crucial talks in Poland.


Mr Sopoaga says there's no point talking about economic growth unless climate change is addressed (The World)

Key points
  • Tuvalu's PM made the comments ahead of COP24, the most important climate talks since the Paris agreement
  • He says Australia's return to the Pacific undermined by climate change inaction
  • Tuvalu is particularly vulnerable to climate change, being made up of low-lying atolls
Australia has unveiled an ambitious suite of policies to cement its position in the region and push back against China, including a massive new infrastructure bank and an ambitious move to electrify much of Papua New Guinea.
But Mr Sopoaga has declared climate change could "totally destroy" his tiny Pacific nation, and he called on Australia to help fight it by blocking the contentious Adani coal mine in Queensland and making deeper cuts to carbon emissions.
"We cannot be regional partners under this step-up initiative — genuine and durable partners — unless the Government of Australia takes a more progressive response to climate change," Mr Sopoaga said.
"They know very well that we will not be happy as a partner, to move forward, unless they are serious."

Tuvalu's low-lying atolls are particularly vulnerable
Fuel drums are being used as sea walls to provide protection against coastal erosion in southern Funafuti, Tuvalu. (Oxfam: Rodney Dekker)Delegates from almost 200 countries are gathering in the city of Katowice for the COP24 talks, the most important UN meeting on global warming since the landmark Paris deal.
The talks are designed to get all 195 countries to agree to a binding set of conventions in order to reduce carbon emissions.
Tuvalu is made up of nine low-lying coral atolls and its highest point is only 4.5 metres above sea level, making it particularly vulnerable to climate change.
US President Donald Trump has already pulled the US out of Paris and Mr Sopoaga warned the world risked "going backwards" unless countries made concrete commitments to cut pollution.
He also revealed all Pacific nations — including Australia and New Zealand — would sign a "new declaration" on climate change during the talks in Poland.
"The idea is to further project to our world the necessity and imperative of collective actions against climate change," Mr Sopoaga told the ABC.
"There's no point of talking about economic growth unless you deal with the issue of climate change and sea level rise."Pacific nations tip-toe around Canberra
Abbot Point is located about two hours south of Townsville, near vast coal reserves Adani is looking to exploit. (Supplied)Some Pacific nations have been pushing for the declaration to specifically call for coal mining to be phased out.
But Mr Sopoaga indicated Pacific nations had agreed to use softer language in order to get Australia on board.
"It will focus on the necessity of moving to renewable-energy-based economies which is safe and friendly to the environment, and impress on all parties the need to develop renewable technology," he said.
Mr Sopoaga wasn't purely critical of Australia — he praised Prime Minister Scott Morrison for resisting calls to get out of the Paris deal, and said Australia was "seriously looking" at taking a more ambitious approach on renewable energy.
But he pleaded with the Coalition to prevent Indian company Adani from pressing ahead with its plan to open a new coal mine in Queensland, although the project has been scaled down.
"This will only go into causing a lot of serious damage to the environment, and eventually causing destruction to the people of the Pacific", Mr Sopoaga said."So it is my strong prayer that Australia will reconsider opening this new coal mine."

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The 'Great Dying': Rapid Warming Caused Largest Extinction Event Ever, Report Says

Lethal Heating - 8 December, 2018 - 05:00
The Guardian

Up to 96% of all marine species and more than two-thirds of terrestrial species perished 252m years ago
A model in the study mimicking conditions in the Permian period suggests marine animals essentially suffocated in the warming waters. Photograph: John Raoux/APRapid global warming caused the largest extinction event in the Earth’s history, which wiped out the vast majority of marine and terrestrial animals on the planet, scientists have found.
The mass extinction, known as the “great dying”, occurred around 252m years ago and marked the end of the Permian geologic period. The study of sediments and fossilized creatures show the event was the single greatest calamity ever to befall life on Earth, eclipsing even the extinction of the dinosaurs 65m years ago.
Up to 96% of all marine species perished while more than two-thirds of terrestrial species disappeared. The cataclysm was so severe it wiped out most of the planet’s trees, insects, plants, lizards and even microbes.
Scientists have theorized causes for the extinction, such as a giant asteroid impact. But US researchers now say they have pinpointed the demise of marine life to a spike in Earth’s temperatures, warning that present-day global warming will also have severe ramifications for life on the planet.
“It was a huge event. In the last half a billion years of life on the planet, it was the worst extinction,” said Curtis Deutsch, an oceanography expert who co-authored the research, published on Thursday, with his University of Washington colleague Justin Penn along with Stanford University scientists Jonathan Payne and Erik Sperling.
The researchers used paleoceanographic records and built a model to analyse changes in animal metabolism, ocean and climate conditions. When they used the model to mimic conditions at the end of the Permian period, they found it matched the extinction records.
According to the study, this suggests that marine animals essentially suffocated as warming waters lacked the oxygen required for survival. “For the first time, we’ve got a whole lot of confidence that this is what happened,” said Deutsch. “It’s a very strong argument that rising temperatures and oxygen depletion were to blame.”
The great dying event, which occurred over an uncertain timeframe of possibly hundreds of years, saw Earth’s temperatures increase by around 10C (18F). Oceans lost around 80% of their oxygen, with parts of the seafloor becoming completely oxygen-free. Scientists believe this warming was caused by a huge spike in greenhouse gas emissions, potentially caused by volcanic activity.
The new research, published in Science, found that the drop in oxygen levels was particularly deadly for marine animals living closer to the poles. Experiments that varied oxygen and temperature levels for modern marine species, including shellfish, corals and sharks, helped “bridge the gap” to what the model found, Payne said.
“This really would be a terrible, terrible time to be around on the planet,” he added. “It shows us that when the climate and ocean chemistry changes quickly, you can reach a point where species don’t survive. It took millions of years to recover from the Permian event, which is essentially permanent from the perspective of human timescales.”
Over the past century, the modern world has warmed by around 1C due to the release of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, rather than from volcanic eruptions.
This warming is already causing punishing heatwaves, flooding and wildfires around the world, with scientists warning that the temperature rise could reach 3C or more by the end of the century unless there are immediate, radical reductions in emissions.
At the same time, Earth’s species are undergoing what some experts have termed the “sixth great extinction” due to habitat loss, poaching, pollution and climate change.
“It does terrify me to think we are on a trajectory similar to the Permian because we really don’t want to be on that trajectory,” Payne said. “It doesn’t look like we will warm by around 10C and we haven’t lost that amount of biodiversity yet. But even getting halfway there would be something to be very concerned about. The magnitude of change we are currently experiencing is fairly large.”
Deutsch said: “We are about a 10th of the way to the Permian. Once you get to 3-4C of warming, that’s a significant fraction and life in the ocean is in big trouble, to put it bluntly. There are big implications for humans’ domination of the Earth and its ecosystems.”
Deutsch added that the only way to avoid a mass aquatic die-off in the oceans was to reduce carbon emissions, given there is no viable way to ameliorate the impact of climate change in the oceans using other measures.
The research group “provide convincing evidence that warmer temperatures and associated lower oxygen levels in the ocean are sufficient to explain the observed extinctions we see in the fossil record”, said Pamela Grothe, a paleoclimate scientist at the University of Mary Washington.
“The past holds the key to the future,” she added. “Our current rates of carbon dioxide emissions is instantaneous geologically speaking and we are already seeing warming ocean temperatures and lower oxygen in many regions, currently affecting marine ecosystems.
“If we continue in the trajectory we are on with current emission rates, this study highlights the potential that we may see similar rates of extinction in marine species as in the end of the Permian.”

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France’s Protesters Are Part Of A Global Backlash Against Climate-Change Taxes

Lethal Heating - 7 December, 2018 - 05:00
Washington PostSteven Mufson | James McAuley


French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Dec. 4 that fuel tax hikes would be suspended in response to nationwide anger that he said has “deep roots.” (Reuters)
The single most effective weapon in the fight against climate change is the tax code — imposing costs on those who emit greenhouse gases, economists say. But as French President Emmanuel Macron learned over the past three weeks, implementing such taxes can be politically explosive.On Tuesday, France delayed for six months a plan to raise already steep taxes on diesel fuel by 24 cents a gallon and gasoline by about 12 cents a gallon. Macron argued that the taxes were needed to curb climate change by weaning motorists off petroleum products, but violent demonstrations in the streets of Paris and other French cities forced him to backtrack — at least for now.“No tax is worth putting in danger the unity of the nation,” said Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, who was trotted out to announce the concession.It was a setback for the French president, who has been trying to carry the torch of climate action in the wake of the Paris accords of December 2015. “When we talk about the actions of the nation in response to the challenges of climate change, we have to say that we have done little,” he said last week.Macron is hardly alone in his frustration. Leaders in the United States, Canada, Australia and elsewhere have found their carbon pricing efforts running into fierce opposition. But the French reversal was particularly disheartening for climate-policy experts, because it came just as delegates from around the world were gathering in Katowice, Poland, for a major conference designed to advance climate measures.
“Like everywhere else, the question in France is how to find a way of combining ecology and equality,” said Bruno Cautrès, a researcher at the Paris Institute of Political Studies. “Citizens mostly see punitive public policies when it comes to the environment: taxes, more taxes and more taxes after that. No one has the solution, and we can only see the disaster that’s just occurred in France on this question.”Yellow-vested demonstrators block a fuel depot Tuesday in Le Mans, France. (David Vincent/AP)“Higher taxes on energy have always been a hard sell, politically,” said N. Gregory Mankiw, an economics professor at Harvard University and advocate of carbon taxes. “The members of the American Economic Association are convinced of their virtue. But the median citizen is not.”In the United States — where energy-related taxes are among the lowest in the developed world — politicians, their constituents and their donors have repeatedly made that clear.President Bill Clinton proposed a tax on the heat content of fuels as part of his first budget in 1993. Known as the BTU tax, for British thermal unit, it would have raised $70 billion over five years while increasing gasoline prices no more than 7.5 cents a gallon.But Clinton was forced to retreat in the face of a rebellion in his own party. “I’m not going to vote for a BTU tax in committee or on the floor, ever, anywhere. Period. Exclamation point,” said then-Sen. David L. Boren (D-Okla.). The state of Washington has also tried — and failed twice — to win support for a carbon tax or carbon “fee.” In 2016, the state’s voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have balanced a carbon tax with other tax cuts. In 2018, a wider coalition sought backing for an initiative that would have poured fee revenue into clean energy projects, job retraining and early retirement plans for affected workers. The fee would have started at $15 a ton and gone up $2 a ton for 10 years. It, too, failed.A worker removes graffiti reading "Macron resignation" from the Arc de Triomphe following protests in Paris. (Thibault Camus/AP)To be sure, some climate-conscious countries have adopted carbon taxes, including Chile, Spain, Ukraine, Ireland and nations in Scandinavia. Others have adopted cap-and-trade programs that effectively put prices on carbon emissions.Only around 12 percent of global emissions are covered by pricing programs such as taxes on the carbon content of fossil fuels or permit trading programs that put a price on emissions, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Policy experts say that to some extent the prospects of carbon taxes may depend on what happens to the money raised.Using the revenue for deficit reduction, as was planned in France, is a no-no.“Even in the best of times, carbon taxes must be carefully crafted to avoid political pitfalls,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former Senate Finance Committee staffer and Clinton White House climate adviser. “In particular, much of the revenue raised must be recycled back to middle-income workers. Macron’s approach put the money toward deficit reduction, stoking already simmering class grievances.”Last year, a group of economists and policy experts — including former treasury secretaries James A. Baker III and Lawrence H. Summers and former secretary of state George P. Shultz — advocated a tax-and-dividend approach. It would feature a carbon tax of $40 a ton, affecting coal, oil and natural gas. The revenue would be used to pay dividends to households. Progressive tax rates would mean more money for lower- and middle-income earners.“Because the revenue is rebated equally to everyone, most people will get more back than they pay in carbon taxes,” said Mankiw, who is part of the group. “So if people understood the plan, and believed it would be carried out as written, it should be politically popular.”So far the group, called the Climate Leadership Council, has not been able to generate much support from members of Congress.But Canada is about to offer a test case.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled a “backstop” carbon tax of $20 a ton, to take effect in January, for the four Canadian provinces that do not already have one.Trudeau was elected partly on a promise of this sort of measure, but it’s costing him more political capital than expected. Conservative premiers oppose the plan, which looks set to become an election issue.Trudeau’s policy, however, is designed to withstand criticism. About 90 percent of the revenue from the backstop tax will be paid back to Canadians in the form of annual “climate action incentive” payments. Because of the progressive tax rates, about 70 percent of Canadians will get back more than they paid. If they choose to be more energy efficient, they could save even more money.The first checks will arrive shortly before Canadian elections.Climate policy doesn’t only suffer from lack of enthusiasm. It also arouses the ire of right-wing populist movements.Many of the people most angry at Macron’s tax come from right-wing rural areas. The German right-wing opposition party Alternative for Germany has called climate change a hoax. And in Brazil, a new populist president had indicated he will develop, not preserve, the Amazon forests that pull CO2 out of the air and pump out oxygen.President Trump, who has said he does not believe climate science, also took to Twitter to say Macron’s setback showed Trump was right to spurn the Paris climate agreement.“I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago. The Paris Agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters in the world,” he wrote. “American taxpayers — and American workers — shouldn’t pay to clean up others countries’ pollution.”Fuel taxes, however, generate revenue that stays inside home countries without going to pay for others’ pollution. And the Paris agreement placed much greater responsibilities on developing countries than ever before.A member of Trump’s beachhead transition team at the Energy Department also took to Twitter to celebrate the collapse of Macron’s fuel tax plan.“It’s easy for politicians like #Macron to lecture us about #ClimateChange because the elites don’t notice the economic hit. Working class people do. Working class French people are ANGRY about unnecessarily higher fuel taxes that are only a #virtuesignal,” wrote Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research — a group funded in the past by Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute and Exxon Mobil.Jason Bordoff, director of the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy, said the celebration “would be reading too much into what’s happening in France.” That’s because Macron was already seen as favoring the rich over the working class, he said.Nicolas Hulot, a popular climate change activist and Macron’s former environment minister, made national headlines in August when he resigned from Macron’s cabinet during a live radio broadcast. His reason: that the French government was more word than deed when it came to fighting climate change.On the heels of the French government’s abrupt reversal on fuel taxes Tuesday, Hulot praised what he couched as a necessary political maneuver, albeit one that was not good for the environment.“I welcome a necessary, inescapable, courageous and common sense decision in the current context, which saddens everyone,” he said, speaking on France’s RTL radio. But, he added, there would probably be consequences from the popular uprisings against the diesel taxes, which the government has now suspended for six months.“All that is not good news for the climate,” he said. The key, said Hulot, is not to impose action on climate change in a technocratic way, in a way that ordinary people do not understand. “The ecological challenge shouldn’t be against the French,” he said. “We need every Frenchwoman and Frenchman. On that, there is obviously a huge amount of misperceptions and misunderstandings.”
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The Guardian View On Climate Change: Too Much, Too Soon

Lethal Heating - 7 December, 2018 - 05:00
The Guardian - Editorial

We are losing the war against climate change; the use of fossil fuels is driving higher carbon emissions when they need to be coming down
Steam and smoke rise from the coal-fired Belchatow power station in Poland.Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesOutside of the desperate and the deluded, everyone knows that the world is in the early stages of a truly catastrophic climate change. As Sir David Attenborough told the UN climate change conference in Poland, “the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon”. We have even worked out, with scrupulous care, what we must do to avoid this or to mitigate the effects of climate change. We know what to do. We can see how to do it. There’s only one problem: we do almost nothing.
Figures released today by the University of East Anglia for the conference in Katowice show that global carbon emissions will be higher than ever before this year. In fact they will rise by nearly 3%, an astonishing and terrifying annual figure at a time when the need to diminish them has never been more urgent. The main driver of this growth has been the increased use of coal, which is rapidly approaching its previous peak level, from 2013. There is a particular irony in that this conference is being held in Poland, a country that still derives 80% of its electricity from coal, even if this is less grossly polluting than it was in the Communist era. In fact emissions there are down 30% from their peak in 1988. But far more must be done. To limit global warming to the Paris agreement goal of 1.5C, CO2 emissions would need to decline by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by around 2050.
All this destructive activity far outweighs the progress that has been made on the use of renewable resources. That is considerable, but so long as renewables are understood only as a pastime for the rich, they will be wholly insufficient to meet the problems before us. The Paris goal often looks like a drunkard’s resolution that everything will be different as soon as tomorrow comes. Everything has stayed much the same, and the balance of expert opinion is that three degrees is now more likely than the target figure of half that.
It’s not just coal. China is now the biggest emitter of carbon, followed by the US and the EU as a whole, then India, Russia, and Japan. Oil use continues to grow. The worldwide demand for energy is outpacing efforts to deal its climate-altering side effects. In a characteristically greedy and destructive way, the Trump administration proposes to destroy one of the last great Arctic wildlife reserves in order to drill for oil there. The great oil-producing nations of Saudi Arabia and Iran both figure among the top 10 carbon-emitting countries despite having hardly any other components to their economies. Add to this the effects of deforestation in the Amazon, which will accelerate under the Bolsonaro government, and the future looks unimaginably grim. Climate change will exacerbate, as it already does, the world’s existing political and economic divisions.
The most worrying feature of the latest UN report is the suggestion that the relatively good performance of the years 2014-16 in reducing carbon emissions was the result of an economic slowdown. The political consequences of the resulting discontent are with us still. They produced Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro and gravely weakened the EU. All those factors make a sane policy on climate change less likely. The purely physical feedback loops that drive climate change, such as the reduction of reflective ice surface, are now well enough understood. But it may be that the long-term message of the years since the Paris summit is that this understanding is not enough. We must also learn somehow to disrupt the political and economic feedback loops which are driving our civilisation to the brink of catastrophe.

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Save Millions Of Lives By Tackling Climate Change, Says WHO

Lethal Heating - 7 December, 2018 - 05:00
The Guardian

Global warming and fossil fuel pollution already killing many, UN climate summit told
Hanhan, three, receives nebuliser therapy after a Beijing red alert for air pollution in 2015.
Photograph: Jason Lee/ReutersTackling climate change would save at least a million lives a year, the World Health Organization has told the UN climate summit in Poland, making it a moral imperative.
Cutting fossil fuel burning not only slows global warming but slashes air pollution, which causes millions of early deaths a year, the WHO says. In a report requested by UN climate summit leaders, the WHO says the economic benefits of improved health are more than double the costs of cutting emissions, and even higher in India and China, which are plagued by toxic air.
“The global public health community is getting very impatient,” said María Neira, WHO director of public and environmental health. “If you don’t think you need to take action for the sake of climate change, make sure when you think about the planet you incorporate a couple of lungs, a brain and a heart. It is not just about saving the planet in the future, it is about protecting the health of the people right now.”
The damage caused by coal, oil and gas pollution is “outrageous”, she said. “There are words not included in the documents at [the climate summit]: asthma, lung cancer, stroke, heart disease – they need to be incorporated in all the decision-making processes.”
“Morally, delaying the [clean energy] transition is being responsible for millions of deaths every year,” Neira said. “[Leaders] need to ask themselves how many deaths are [they] willing to accept. When health is taken into account, climate action is an opportunity, not a cost.”
Air pollution is the best known impact of fossil fuel use, and climate change damages health through heatwaves, storms, floods and droughts, increased spread of infectious disease and the destruction of health facilities. Global warming is also damaging crops and reducing their nutritional value, with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization now reporting a rise in the number of hungry people going up after decades of decline.
“We now have scientific evidence that people are suffering and dying from climate change,” said Prof Kristie Ebi, at the University of Washington and lead author on the recent intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) report, that warned that the global temperature rise must be kept to 1.5C to protect hundreds of millions of people from harm. Another major recent report concluded that climate change is already a health emergency.
Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, at the World Health Organization and also an IPCC report author, said doctors needed to press hard for climate action: “The health profession is the single most trusted profession in the world.” Just 0.5% of multilateral climate finance is currently going to healthcare, he said. Organizations representing more than five million doctors, nurses and public health professionals from 120 countries have issued a call to action to the climate summit in Poland.
Tirig and her sister Saua in Somalia. Their family was forced to leave their home in search of water and food.Photograph: Kate Holt/UNICEF“We should no longer be talking about the cost of [cutting emissions], we should talk about the benefits to people’s health of investing in what needs to be done,” Campbell-Lendrum said.
“At the moment we pretend that polluting [fossil] fuels are cheap fuels, only because we don’t include the cost of them to our health and economy.” The IMF estimates these subsidies to the fossil fuel industry to be $5tn a year, more than all governments currently spend on healthcare.
Almost 200 nations are meeting in Katowice, Poland, for two weeks, aiming to turn the carbon-cutting vision set in Paris in 2015 into a reality, as well as increasing the ambition and speed of action and the funding needed. Current pledges leaving the world on track for a disastrous 3C of warming.

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Climate Denial Was The Crucible For Trumpism

Lethal Heating - 6 December, 2018 - 05:00
New York TimesPaul Krugman

It’s where the conspiracy theorizing and menacing of critics began.

Vice President Mike Pence and President Trump during a briefing about Hurricane Florence in the Oval Office on Sept. 11, 2018. Credit Pete Marovich for The New York TimesMany observers seem baffled by Republican fealty to Donald Trump — the party’s willingness to back him on all fronts, even after severe defeats in the midterm elections. What kind of party would show such support for a leader who is not only evidently corrupt and seemingly in the pocket of foreign dictators, but also routinely denies facts and tries to criminalize anyone who points them out?
The answer is, the kind of the party that, long before Trump came on the scene, committed itself to denying the facts on climate change and criminalizing the scientists reporting those facts.The G.O.P. wasn’t always an anti-environment, anti-science party. George H.W. Bush introduced the cap-and-trade program that largely controlled the problem of acid rain. As late as 2008, John McCain called for a similar program to limit emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.But McCain’s party was already well along in the process of becoming what it is today — a party that is not only completely dominated by climate deniers, but is hostile to science in general, that demonizes and tries to destroy scientists who challenge its dogma.Trump fits right in with this mind-set. In fact, when you review the history of Republican climate denial, it looks a lot like Trumpism. Climate denial, you might say, was the crucible in which the essential elements of Trumpism were formed.Take Trump’s dismissal of all negative information about his actions and their consequences as either fake news invented by hostile media or the products of a sinister “deep state.” That kind of conspiracy theorizing has long been standard practice among climate deniers, who began calling the evidence for global warming — evidence that has convinced 97 percent of climate scientists — a “gigantic hoax” 15 years ago.What was the evidence for this vast conspiracy? A lot of it rested on, you guessed it, hacked emails. The credulousness of all too many journalists about the supposed misconduct revealed by “Climategate,” a pseudo-scandal that relied on selective, out-of-context quotes from emails at a British university, prefigured the disastrous media handling of hacked Democratic emails in 2016. (All we learned from those emails was that scientists are people — occasionally snappish, and given to talking in professional shorthand that hostile outsiders can willfully misinterpret.)Oh, and what is supposed to be motivating the thousands of scientists perpetrating this hoax? We’ve become accustomed to the spectacle of Donald Trump, the most corrupt president in history leading the most corrupt administration of modern times, routinely calling his opponents and critics “crooked.” Much the same thing happens in climate debate.The truth is that most prominent climate deniers are basically paid to take that position, receiving large amounts of money from fossil-fuel companies. But after the release of the recent National Climate Assessment detailing the damage we can expect from global warming, a parade of Republicans went on TV to declare that scientists were only saying these things “for the money.” Projection much?Finally, Trump has brought a new level of menace to American politics, inciting his followers to violence against critics and trying to order the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey.But climate scientists have faced harassment and threats, up to and including death threats, for years. And they’ve also faced efforts by politicians to, in effect, criminalize their work. Most famously, Michael E. Mann, creator of the famous “hockey stick” graph, was for years the target of an anti-climate science jihad by Ken Cuccinelli, at the time Virginia’s attorney general.And on it goes. Recently a judge in Arizona, responding to a suit from a group linked to the Koch brothers (and obviously not understanding how research works), ordered the release of all emails from climate scientists at the University of Arizona. To forestall the inevitable selective misrepresentation, Mann has released all the emails he exchanged with his Arizona colleagues, with explanatory context.There are three important morals to this story.First, if we fail to meet the challenge of climate change, with catastrophic results — which seems all too likely — it won’t be the result of an innocent failure to understand what was at stake. It will, instead, be a disaster brought on by corruption, willful ignorance, conspiracy theorizing and intimidation.Second, that corruption isn’t a problem of “politicians” or the “political system.” It’s specifically a problem of the Republican Party, which has burrowed ever deeper into climate denial even as the damage from a warming planet becomes more and more obvious.Third, we can now see climate denial as part of a broader moral rot. Donald Trump isn’t an aberration, he’s the culmination of where his party has been going for years. You could say that Trumpism is just the application of the depravity of climate denial to every aspect of politics. And there’s no end to the depravity in sight.

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The Energy 202: Trump Officials Mount Full-Court Press Against Their Own Climate Report

Lethal Heating - 6 December, 2018 - 05:00
Washington PostDino Grandoni

President Trump speaks during an interview with Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey in the Oval Office on Tuesday. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)The White House press secretary said it was "not based on facts."
The secretary of the interior said it focused only on the "worst scenarios."
And President Trump said that when it comes to the devastating effects of climate change described in it, "a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we're not necessarily such believers."
The publication Friday of a major climate report written by 13 federal agencies has prompted a series of high-level Trump administration officials, including the president himself, to mount a full-court press questioning its findings.
The fourth National Climate Assessment says the effects of rising temperatures, including more heat waves, coastal floods and forest fires, could collectively strip the United States of one-tenth of its gross domestic product by the end of the century.  Already, the authors argue global warming “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.”
The conclusions of the congressionally mandated report run counter to much of the rhetoric that has come from Trump's political appointees, who have tried to ramp up extraction of fossil fuels nationwide while often downplaying, or sometimes outright dismissing, their contributions to global warming.
Trump officials chose to publish the climate assessment on the Friday after Thanksgiving, when many Americans are busy shopping or spending time with family instead of reading the news.
But instead of being buried on Black Friday, the report has stayed in the headlines into the middle of this week. That's partially because its findings were particularly dire. But it's also because Trump officials chose to play them down.
Trump officials claimed the climate report focused on only worst-case scenarios, even as scientists who wrote the document said that is not true.
Appearing on an NBC affiliate in Sacramento while touring fire damage in California, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke did acknowledge "the temperatures have risen" and the fire season "has gotten longer."
But he added: “It appears they took the worst scenarios and they built predictions on that. It should be more probability, but we’re looking at it.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the chief spokeswoman for the White House, expanded on that point during a press conference Tuesday.
"You have to look at the fact that this report is based on the most extreme model scenario, which contradicts long-established trends," she said. "Modeling the climate is extremely complicated science that is never exact."
Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Texas Tech University Climate Science Center and one of the more than 300 co-authors of the climate assessment, responded to Sanders on Twitter by saying "we considered many scenarios." The report indeed considered several scenarios, including the worst-case ones.


White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attacked the Trump administration's own climate report, calling it "extreme" and "not based on facts." (Reuters)
And the most robust dismissal of his own government's report came from the president himself.
During an interview Tuesday with The Post's Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, Trump said he does not count himself among the “believers” who see the problem of climate change as dire and caused by humans.
“As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it,” he said.
Instead of addressing the root cause of recent rising temperatures — the buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activity — Trump riffed on a number of other environmental problems, including the accumulation of trash in the oceans and smog-forming pollution in the air around the world.
“You look at our air and our water and it’s right now at a record clean. But when you look at China and you look at parts of Asia and you look at South America, and when you look at many other places in this world, including Russia , including many other places, the air is incredibly dirty, and when you’re talking about an atmosphere, oceans are very small,” Trump said. “And it blows over and it sails over. I mean we take thousands of tons of garbage off our beaches all the time that comes over from Asia. It just flows right down the Pacific. It flows and we say, ‘Where does this come from?’ And it takes many people, to start off with.”
Trump's response left some climate scientists baffled. “How can one possibly respond to this?" Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, told The Post.
The response to the report from Republicans outside of the executive branch was not universally dismissive. On Twitter, Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina called the climate report "a glaring reminder of the long-term risks of climate change" while Sen. Susan Collins of Maine urged the Trump administration "to take a harder look at the consequences of inaction." Both senators are up for reelection in swing states in 2020.

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