Cheers: Climate policy procrastination can now celebrate its 30 year anniversary in Australia and the United States. Consequently is should be no surprise that we are now beginning to see statements such as these from the scientific community:
“At this point, we are into damage control”
“The clock has run out in terms of avoiding damaging changes — they have already begun. At this point, we are into damage control.”
~ Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton climate scientist who in 1988 testified together with James Hansen
“We are in serious trouble”
» The Guardian – 6 July 2018:
Global temperature rises could be double those predicted by climate modelling
“Researchers say sea levels could also rise by six metres or more even if 2 degree target of Paris accord met”
For how long must the reality of climate change be described to us before we fully grasp the level of changes that are now required if we want to slow or to stop the rising graphs of global warming?
Climate policy-making in Australia has been paralysed in a game with big industry and big money which favours the destruction of the biosphere for short-sighted monetary gain. The fossil fuel industry’s persuasive lobby-work and strategies with spreading misinformation and lies has positioned Australia at the shameful bottom of a global index of 60 countries’ climate policies and actions.
The absence of proper national climate safety policies during the last decades has in itself become an argument for for politicians to do nothing. Like in the days when everyone was smoking cigarettes, and people would look around at all the people smoking in the room and say: “Everyone is doing it, so it probably can’t be all that bad.”
So in 2017, global GDP grew by 3.7 percent, global energy consumption grew by 2.1 percent, and global carbon emissions from this energy consumption rose 1.4 percent. Consequently, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere increased by 1.9 percent. The CO2 concentration is now almost 50 percent above the level before the fossil energy era began.
Climate conferences and emission reduction goals
As documented on this blogpost, the path to creating consensus in parliaments on taking action on carbon pollution has been paved with pitfalls and deadlocks. It is important to know the history of how this happened and that it wasn’t always like this. Back in the 1980s, when the world’s governments first were made fully aware of the problem with our greenhouse gas emissions, their initial response was that we need to act on this.
The first World Climate Conference was held in 1979 in Geneva, Switzerland. At this conference 39 years ago, scientists expressed concern about the link between greenhouse gases, global warming and climate change.
In 1988, an international conference in Toronto set the first global emission reduction targets, calling for a 20 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions worldwide by the year 2005. The brunt of this was to be borne by developed countries, using 1988 as the base year.
1988 was also the year when NASA-scientist James Hansen testified before the US Senate Energy Committee, alerting his country and the world to the arrival of global warming.
In Australia, CSIRO published this research report on climate change in 1988:
CSIRO about the greenhouse effect in 1988
“In recent years the term greenhouse effect has been used to describe the global warming expected as a result of man-induced changes to concentrations of atmospheric trace gases which absorb in the infrared.
Over the next 40 years it is thought that the greenhouse effect will lead to:
• Global warming of 1.5 to 4.5°C
• World-wide changes in climate
• Changes to rainfall distribution, storm frequency and all other parameters that make up climate
• Warming of the upper layers of the oceans leading to thermal expansion of the water. Coupled with a melting of land-based ice, this is expected to lead to a sea-level rise of botween 2O and 50 cm.
• Higher concentrations of carbon dioxide which, in the absence of competing effects from other sources such as acid rain and ozone, will act as a fertilizer and thus influence plant growth.”
~ Excerpt from ‘Division of Atmospheric Research Research Report 1985–1988’
Together with a governmental Commission for the Future, CSIRO organised two major conferences on climate change three decades ago. The government at the time was very much part of this. Environment minister Graham Richardson opened the 1988-conference with science minister Barry Jones attending as well.
As a result of this conference, climate change was widely publicised in the Australian media. A number of the current affairs television programs took up the issue and the Melbourne-newspaper The Age published a four page lift-out.
In 1989, environment minister Richardson took a submission to federal cabinet proposing a reduction in greenhouse emissions by 20 per cent of 1988 levels by 2005 – the Toronto Target. This was rejected by the economic and resource ministers, but even so, 1989 in Australia did see a greenhouse statement, and research funding, from the Prime Minister.
In the lead-up to a federal election later in the year, the government released a major environment statement, ‘Our Country, Our Future’ in July 1989, covering many traditional “green” issues but giving prominence to climate change. It supported international action, promised to look for ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions – including cooperating with the states on transport use – and provided $350,000 for public awareness and education.
“Changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere are occurring both regionally and globally. Locally these changes have effects on visibility and the quality of the air we breath. At a global level there is now strong evidence that these changes are likely to bring about significant climatic modifications as a result of the greenhouse effect.”
“Confident predictions of how future carbon dioxide emissions will affect the concentration of this gas in the atmosphere rely on an accurate model of carbon dioxide pools and their interactions. For accurate modelling the carbon dioxide concentration prior to 1850 must be known. It was at this time that industrialization and forest felling began to have an impact. Air bubbles trapped in polar ice from as long ago as the 17th century have been analysed by Division scientists in collaboration with scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division. It has been discovered that, prior to 1800, the carbon dioxide concentration was essentially constant at about 280 ppm.”
Three decades down the track, at a Melbourne launch event for a new climate action campaign initiative called Tipping Point, on 28 July 2018, researcher Joan Staples reminded the guests about this forgotten piece of Australian political history.
Staples published her research nine years ago. You can read some of it here:
» APO – 11 November 2009:
Our lost history of climate change
» ‘Climate Change: On For Young and Old’ – 2009:
Australian Government Action in the 1980s
According to Joan Staples, Australia’s slide from being one of the international leaders on climate change in the late 1980s to being one of its worst recalcitrants, first under the Howard Government, and then under Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, with our politicians becoming strangely apathetic and passive, happened due to decisions made outside of Parliament – behind closed doors in the mining and energy industry.
As Colin Mockett explains in this week’s Sustainable Hour, our governments have a close but undisclosed relationsship with the powerful and wealthy players who run the fossil fuel industry – a relationship which is cultivated with dirty deals done in the dark and involves huge sums that has been transferred to offshore accounts and the Cayman Islands.
It is the well-documented ‘revolving-door’ relationship between parliament and the fossil fuel industry that makes our politicians deliberately choose to ignore the climate science and close their eyes to the growing amount of signs around us that show climate change is beginning to have devastating effects on our planet’s eco and weather systems.
The climatic armageddon is no longer hypothetical – climate disruptions such as fires, draughts, hurricanes and extreme weather chaos is everyone’s reality today. Some problems will slowly get worse and worse over the next decades, others will be abrupt.
CO2 measurements are crossing new levels much sooner than expected, and some of the most discouraging news is maybe that the Earth is increasing sensitivity to the changes. When we continue to pump greenhouse gases – including methane, which is a gas with 86 times more greenhouse effect than CO2 over a 10-12 year period – into the atmosphere in ever increasing quantities, the devastating consequences won’t rise little by little in a linear manner. When we trigger tipping points, then others tipping point are drawn with them, with one frightening consequence: collapse of those eco-systems all life depends on, including ourselves.
We are moving alarmingly fast in the wrong direction, heading straight for some of the most dangerous climate ‘tipping points’. Only few Australian journalists seem to get it. One who does is Fairfax Media’s Peter Hannam who wrote this article for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald on 21 June 2018:
— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) June 23, 2018
“The memo’s end goal was clear: create doubt about science where none existed, deceive the media and Congress about the risks of climate change, and block the momentum that was building to address rising emissions through the Kyoto protocol, a precursor to the Paris accord.”
» The Guardian – 16 March 2018:
It’s 50 years since climate change was first seen. Now time is running out
“Making up for years of delay and denial will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. Climate polluters must be held accountable.” Article by Richard Wiles
“How has Australia has managed to find itself behind where it was a quarter of a century ago?”
“There’s something about climate change that almost everyone in Australia has either forgotten or never knew in the first place.
In 1990 Bob Hawke announced his government wanted the country to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by the year 2005.
For a fleeting moment, it seemed the Australian public, politicians and the media were in agreement with the science.
But a new book investigates how the industries that stood to lose the most worked to undermine the science and entirely reshape the story being told to the public.
“We have been propagandised,” says the author, Maria Taylor.”
~ Graham Readfearn in The Guardian
» The Guardian – 6 August 2015:
Australia was ready to act on climate 25 years ago, so what happened next?
“New book investigates how corporate interests and ideologues worked to make Australia doubt what it knew about climate change and its risks.”
This news report looks like 'cli-fi'. But no, this is the world we live in now. The so-called "new normal" of 2018. We have arrived at this point because our governments are run by the dirty polluting industry who causes this havoc. It is time for #CommunityRebellion #StoryChange pic.twitter.com/vmhaYTSpdf
— The Sustainable Hour (@SustainableHour) June 29, 2018
» The New Daily – 29 June 2018:
Army called in to fight ‘apocalyptic’ moorland blaze
» The Guardian – 19 June 2018:
Ex-Nasa scientist: 30 years on, world is failing ‘miserably’ to address climate change
“James Hansen, who gave a climate warning in 1988 Senate testimony, says real hoax is by leaders claiming to take action.”
Warmer temperatures in the summer and associated drier conditions desiccate plant materials and create more vegetation litter, providing more fuel for these fires.#ActOnClimate #ClimateChange https://t.co/Do3wWNKozf
— Paul Dawson (@PaulEDawson) June 29, 2018
What science tells us
While our leaders still in 2018 pretend to be blind and deaf to the science, most other people get it. All you need, really, is to take a glance at one of the climate scientists’ global temperature-rise visualisations such as this one:
– and then we intuitively get it. It is not that hard to understand the science. Six-year old children get it. More so, the youth gets it.
Axios’ visualisation of how our planet is gradually heating up because of our unregulated air pollution speaks its own very clear language about what kind of suicide-ride our irresponsible leaders are taking humanity on.
Our politicians are soon the only ones who has the guts to go on pretending that they don’t understand the science. Or that they don’t trust it. …Or that it doesn’t worry them. …Or whichever silly excuse they make up for not acting on what the science is telling us, and has been telling us for decades, actually more than a century: that we have to stop burning fossil fuels, stop chopping down our forests and destroy the planet’s biosphere with toxic chemicals, fertilisers, plastic. More fundamentally: that we have to change our mentality and consumption into something that isn’t based on growth and pollution.
The rate in which the world’s forests are being lost is in itself absolutely alarming. Global forest cover the size of Italy disappeared in 2017. Last year alone saw 29.4 million hectares of tree cover disappear, close to the record of 29.7 million set in 2016.
How can governments allow this kind of ‘eco-genocide’ to continue at a time when CO2 concentration in the atmosphere keeps rising, and global temperatures with them? We need trees more than ever, and it is our government’s job to ensure they are protected and maintained.
The text that goes along with Axios’ temperature image reads:
“2017 was the third-warmest year on record, and the seven warmest years have occurred since 2010. This chart shows temperature anomalies — which is a departure from an average long-term baseline temperature — for every month since January 1880, compared to the average temperature between the years 1901 and 2000. The data is constructed from thousands of available, quality-controlled land and sea surface temperature readings across the world, and runs through May 2018.”
» Axios – 21 June 2018:
Visualizing global warming month by month for 137 years
“Many of us had hoped to see the rise of CO2 slowing by now, but sadly that isn’t the case.”
~ Ralph Keeling, director of the University of California San Diego’s Scripps CO2 Program, which maintains the Mauna Loa record with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
» Yale Environment – 7 June 2018:
CO2 Levels Break Another Record, Exceeding 411 Parts Per Million
— NOAA NCEI Climate (@NOAANCEIclimate) June 18, 2018
— Kiera (@KieraGorden) December 30, 2017
Critical flaw in the democratic system
But not only that. Our fossil-fixated governments also get away with ignoring the wish of a majority of the population to get this escalating problem with pollution of the atmosphere under control. According to a recent Lowy Institue Poll, 84 per cent of the Australian population wants its government to get on with the renewable energy transition.
Australians said the same four years ago, by the way.
In other words, contrary to the story floating around in media and mainstream, it is not only some tiny minority of treehuggers and green hippies who want to speed up the transition to a low-carbon, circular and regenerative economy. It is actually the vast majority of us all who wants to see this happen.
One poll and survey after the other documents that a majority of the population – in Victoria, in Australia, in country after country all over the world – demands that politicians fix the climate crisis before it gets too late.
Banning the old poisonous, damaging and destructive practices is such an easy thing to do at the national level, if only the politicians would agree that this is what needs to get done. Even at global level. For instance, we saw how it can be done with freon gasses, when scientists discovered that the ozone layer was disintegrating.
Acting through legislation is the easiest thing for any government to do, as long as the political will is there. As the matter of fact, that is exactly what we have governments for: to act and to legislate when there is an evidence-based need for it in order to avoid a catastrophe.
“How much do you have to pay to use the atmosphere as a dump for greenhouse gases? For most people and businesses, it’s totally free. Make polluting expensive, and it would cut the amount of greenhouse gases people spew.
It’s a pattern that runs throughout history. People assume they can pollute for free until the pollution builds up and becomes a serious problem. Then — under duress — they start paying for the trouble. Consider regular old trash. When neighbors live far apart from each other, they can toss garbage out the window without worrying about the consequences. But it’s a different story in cities.”
~ Nathanael Johnson, Grist, 3 July 2018
Declaration for ambition
23 countries recently signed a joint statement – New Zealand, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Holland and the Scandinavian countries among them, even Canada! – where they say they will step up their own efforts to reduce carbon emissions:
» Climate Action – 22 June 2018:
23 nations sign pledge to step up action on climate change
Leading nations have pledged to set more stringent goals and “lead from the front” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before 2020. The joint statement, called a ‘Declaration for Ambition’ was signed by 23 nations.
Why on earth hasn’t a modern, civilised and educated country like Australia signed this declaration?
Well of course, when you know the decade-long history and the influence the coal and gas lobby has on politics, it is obvious why it hasn’t happened – but the question we should be asking ourselves is then: Why are we, the Australian people, passively accepting this?
Or to put the question in a more constructive way: What will it take to make Australia join this ‘Declaration for Ambition’?
The bottom-line answer is public pressure.
Before that, it would help a lot if the Australian climate action movement was able to agree on turning something like that into a common goal to campaign for. And if the nation’s public broadcasters would step in and assist with the education and coverage that is largely missing in Australian mainstream media at the moment.
Millions of Australians watched the successful ABC tv-series called ‘War on Waste’ recently, and many are following up on it with zero waste activities at local level. What Australia needs now is an equivalent ‘War on Pollution’ series from the ABC, which could mobilise and educate us about how we can raise the ambitions to combat carbon emissions and climate pollution.
There is no reason why we should accept that our governments and public broadcasters fail to do their job.
— Terry Hughes (@ProfTerryHughes) June 30, 2018
Failure: Fossil fuel consumption keeps rising
As things develop and the decades go by, it becomes strikingly clear that the sum of all climate activists’ ideas and activities have not been making sufficient impact. Historically, humanity’s dependency on fossil fuels has never been greater than it is today.
The growth of our climate pollution continues, gas consumption most rapidly, because gas increasingly replaces coal. Some energy reports predict that in 30 years from now, annual global greenhouse gas emissions will be between five and 20 per cent higher than today.
That said, renewable energy sources have enjoyed high growth rates in recent years, wind turbines are increasingly being supplemented by solar panels and large-scale solar plants, and batteries are coming in as a game change for the industry. However, overall it is still from a very low base. Even the optimistic Outlook report from BP predicts that China’s wind energy will not exceed 20 per cent of China’s energy consumption by 2050.
Centre for Renewable Energy Development expects renewable energy to cover 30 per cent of China’s energy in 2030, and the same goes for many other countries.
In any case, the bottom-line is that we are still far from the point where even half of energy consumption on the globe comes from renewable energy. Some reports conclude that it won’t be until around 2050 that we reach the 50 per cent mark.
By 2050, wind & solar tech provide almost 50% of total electricity globally with hydro, nuclear & other renewables taking total zero-carbon electricity up to 71%
— BloombergNEF (@BloombergNEF) June 30, 2018
Globally, renewables' share of electricity generation is significant, but with the right policies in place, it can be much more.@IRENA, @IEA & @ren21 provide an overview of how policies can increase the share of renewables https://t.co/mEKTQD6fba pic.twitter.com/YSgN60quTF
— IRENA (@IRENA) June 30, 2018
In Paris, the world agreed that global average warming must be limited to somewhere between 1.5°C and 2°C, but even the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change now states that humanity is producing far too many tonnes of greenhouse gasses for that to be possible.
Investors and banks say they acknowledge the Paris Agreement, but that’s so far turned out to be nothing but empty promises. The reality since 2015 has been that they keep investing in dirty energy projects. The International Energy Agency has estimated that investment in renewable electricity last year was $242 billion, which may sound like a lot, but that’s only half of what was invested in new fossil fuel projects that same year.
Due to rising global electricity demand, largely in emerging economies, the share of fossil fuels in the worldwide power mix has remained constant over the last 20 years, despite the surge in renewables, according to a BP report on global energy data.
We have had years with very low oil prices recently, due to overproduction, and instead of taxing the fossil fuels and using this tax to help companies and individuals transition to cleaner energy, many of the fossil fuels get away with cashing in huge profits while paying zero tax, and their explorations for new fossils is subsidised with taxpayer money.
A small spot on the bright side is that global coal consumption has stagnated and recently, slowly, started to fall, mainly because China and parts of the United States are phasing out coal. Even so, China is still building new coal plants, while at the same time reducing their general levels of utilisation. India and other countries still plan to build many new coal plants.
In Victoria, the Coalition party is still talking about building a new coal-fired power plant after Hazelwood was closed down, and in Federal Government, One Nation and the Coalition teamed up to try and pass a Senate motion demanding we build new coal-burning power stations. It came within two votes of passing.
“Then the Nationals handed their new demands to Turnbull. At the top of the list: a $5 billion fleet of dirty coal and gas power stations,” reported GetUp.
We have already reached a completely unsustainable level of air pollution and climate disruption, and it appears as if we are stuck in a situation where only something close to a true miracle in politics – or a deep economic crisis – will be able to change this condition.
“Pay attention you foolish and stupid people, who have eyes but cannot see, who have ears but cannot hear.”
~ Jeremiah 5:21, The Old Testament
Australia urged to clear the air in the name of public health
» ABC News – 27 June 2018:
Australian climate policy ignoring billions in potential health savings, experts say
“Australia is missing out on billions in short-term health savings that could come with tougher greenhouse emission targets, experts say.”
» The Conversation – 9 October 2015:
Australia’s climate policy is messier than a teenager’s bedroom, but is Turnbull the man to tidy it up?
Ocasio: a breakthrough climate leader
But sometimes in politics, miracles do happen. Our old governments so far have put the future of life on this planet at stake. Voters are increasingly becoming aware that we need a new, younger breed of politicians in charge who will do everything they can to prevent an unmanageable, accelerating climate chaos. We need new eco-conscious statesmen and women who dare to speak about the science and act accordingly…
– which is exactly what happened in New Zealand and is now happening among the Democrats in the US:
“Half measures will not work. The time for slow and incremental efforts has long past.”
~ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, American Democrat
» Huffington Post – 27 June 2018:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Will Be The Leading Democrat On Climate Change
“The progressive newcomer and avowed Democratic Socialist is likely to win in November on the most ambitious climate platform of anyone in her party.”
That is very encouraging.
Margaret Klein Salamon, founder and director of the American organisation The Climate Mobilization, sees this as a big breakthrough for the emergency climate movement:
“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent shockwaves through the Democratic establishment by winning her primary against Joe Crowley, the #4 ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. She is, in all likelihood, going to Congress! And she advocates an emergency mobilization to protect humanity from the climate crisis. She signed our Pledge to Mobilize, and was endorsed by The Climate Mobilization NYC!
From a Huffington Post Article on Ocasio as a breakthrough climate leader today:
“Ocasio-Cortez outlined plans to transition the United States to a 100 percent renewable energy system by 2035…
What sets Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal apart is her plan to meet the target by implementing what she called a “Green New Deal,” a federal plan to spur “the investment of trillions of dollars and the creation of millions of high-wage jobs.”
Though the slogan harks back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1930s New Deal program of infrastructure spending and labor reforms, she compared the program she envisions to the tens of billions of dollars spent on armaments manufacturing and the rebuilding of Europe after World War II.
“The Green New Deal we are proposing will be similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan,” she told HuffPost by email last week. “We must again invest in the development, manufacturing, deployment, and distribution of energy, but this time green energy.”
In 1962, American President John F. Kennedy gave his famous Moon Speech, written by his speechwriter Ted Sorensen. Now we need leaders who are capable of delivering an Earth Speech. Could Ocasio-Cortez become one such leader?
» The New Republic – 4 July 2018:
Can Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Save the Planet?
“Democrats lack an organized plan to stop global warming. Climate scientists say the newcomer has the beginnings of a good one.”
What’s the ‘Green New Deal’? The surprising origins behind a progressive rallying cry.
“It was Thomas Friedman who in 2007 started calling for a “Green New Deal” to end fossil fuel subsidies, tax carbon dioxide emissions, and create lasting incentives for wind and solar energy. At the dawn of the global financial crisis, the “New Deal” concept that Franklin D. Roosevelt coined 76 years earlier to describe the labor reforms and historic spending on infrastructure and armaments that pulled the United States out of the Great Depression proved attractive.”
» Huffington Post – 27 June 2018:
The Surprising Origins Of What Could Be The ‘Medicare For All’ Of Climate Change
“Insurgent progressives are reclaiming a term used, then forgotten, by centrists who seem more concerned about balanced budgets than rising seas.”
“An international team of 80 researchers reported earlier this month that the rate of thaw in Antarctica has tripled over the past decade. The study, published in the journal Nature, showed that Antarctica lost a total of 2.71 trillion metric tons of ice between 1992 and 2017. Half of these losses came in the past five years.”
» Vox – 28 June 2018:
Antarctica has lost 2.71 trillion tons of ice. Here’s what that looks like
Warming emergency at the poles
Clinging to denial will remain the most convenient choice for some people. But here is the problem with science: by time when our scientists are finally 100 per cent certain that the feedback mechanisms have set in, it will be too late to do anything about it.
What is measurable and clear to everyone, though, is that very large and abrupt changes are about to happen at the poles. Both Alaska and Siberia are experiencing historical temperature records. There have been days when it was warmer in Alaska than in Florida.
Scientists who have worked with in this field for decades are surprised how fast these changes are occurring now. Winter temperatures at many places are +10°C higher than the normal average. New records were set in Novosibirsk (30.4°C), Tomsk (31.5°C), and in Tuva Republic (31.7°C). Perma-frost is thawing.
Professor Peter Wadhams from Cambridge University has calculated that the thawing permafrost in only five years alone has the potential to increase the average global temperature by 0.6°C.
If this happens, we can forget everything about the Paris Agreement’s 2°C goal, because what will then happen in the following five years – and beyond – is that the negative feed-back mechanisms go into overdrive and temperatures rise exponentially.
The scientists’ warnings about unstoppable tipping points are ignored at all levels. Nature’s response to the warming curve is not linear. Suddenly the curve begins to rise exponentially. Which is the scary part. What we have triggered could have catastrophic consequences. Human sadness and madness at a global level.
Antarctica is melting three times faster than it was just ten years ago, shedding 200 billions tons of ice into the oceans every year. “The continent’s rate of ice loss is speeding up, which is contributing even more to rising sea levels,” reported The Washington Post:
» The Washington Post – 13 June 2018:
Antarctic ice loss has tripled in a decade. If that continues, we are in serious trouble
“If the acceleration continues, some of scientists’ worst fears about rising oceans could be realized, leaving low-lying cities and communities with less time to prepare than they had hoped.”
» The New York Times – 13 June 2018:
Antarctica Is Melting Three Times as Fast as a Decade Ago
Changing the rules
The journey of restoring the balance in the planet’s eco-systems and stabilising a safe climate begins when we get off fossil fuels – as much as we can – at the individual level.
Reaching our goal of climate safety and stability will not be possible if we only engage in personal and small local projects to reduce emissions. But it looks like we’ll all have to start there, in order to get more people on board by showing in action and investments, not in words, that we are serious about getting off the fossil fuels.
A cross-party parliamentarian ‘Declaration for Ambition’ or ‘Declaration for Climate Emergency’ would help a lot. But changing the laws is soon going to be necessary. Banning all new fossil fuel projects and putting a price on air pollution would be two first logical steps.
In a just world, damaging actions would be liable for criminal prosecution. Right now, our politicians are severely damaging our climate system. But the law system obviously hasn’t been constructed to deal with an unprecedented existential threat at a level, scope and collective participation such as climate change. As much as we can blame our governments, media and the fossil fuel industry for much of the mess we are in now, we also have to acknowledge that everyone who lives in a modern fossil-based society has a personal stake in the ‘crime’ of polluting the air.
Interestingly, Australia’s prime minister is apparently frustrated just as well:
i’ll just leave this here. pic.twitter.com/522AqgHqg4
— simon holmes à court (@simonahac) July 1, 2018
We can of course hope humanity will eventually be able to fix the warming problem with technological solutions. But again, hope is not enough. We can’t trust that is going to be possible.
One of the worst pitfalls is when we begin to think that we don’t have a choice, or that the fight is lost: “It won’t help to do anything because this problem is so big and we are only little.” Or “It’s already too late.”
We all have one important choice to make – and that is the decision about which legacy we wish to leave behind us for our children and future generations.
We know that doing nothing will end up costing society much more than if we pay up now and invest heavily in getting off the fossils. If the Paris Agreement’s goals are to have any chance, we’ll first have to show that we are ready to pay up as individuals, and then we will have to start voting for those new politicians who get this too and who therefore will be creating governmental funding for the action.
But we don’t have to sit passively and wait for that to happen. With consumer awareness pushing the corporate sector to get on board, alongside sub-national actors like states, local governments, small businesses and households, we are still able to stem global emissions enough to prevent high levels of global warming.
We have to stop talking about ‘hope’. To be hoping is being passive. It’s action we need – action in work and investments on an unprecedented scale.
The longer we wait with taking action, our level of efforts have to increase sharply. The longer we wait the more drastic shifts we will have to make for us and our children and their children to have a chance to avert the worst part of this escalating disaster. The longer we wait the more problems we’ll be handing over to our children and future generations to deal with.
New climate policy goals
We don’t know whether we can avert the runaway disaster? But what matters is that we tried our best. We do have that choice – but not for long. We have to shift to a low-carbon lifestyle in less than a decade, and we have to start figuring out how we can quickly sequestrate the CO2 already emitted.
Drawdown with biochar and an increase of Earth’s biomass, regenerative farming, tree-planting, collection of CO2 into stone and algae, and much, much more.
As we have seen during the last 30 years, climate politics are difficult, mostly because it is all about making decisions about unprecedented territory – risk assessments of and decisions about something we have never experienced before. But at the very least, our national climate policy should set goals and deadlines for:
• How soon will we be able to create a global low-emission society? and,
• How soon can we begin to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere at large scale?
Raise our voices
In the light of this, who will agree with me it is time we raise our voices?
Can we not raise our voices? was the title of one of my first blogposts on this blog, when I opened it five years ago. I ask the same question today.
In January 2013, I had been moderating a ‘green economy’ panel at a climate conference in India, and it was in the airport on my way back to Australia I thought I’d start a bit of an online diary and registered the domain name climatesafety.info – where I since then have been publishing more than 400 blogposts and podcasts.
It’s been a great journey of sharing and learning, because from emails, comments and statistics, I know that you, who are reading these lines right now, are on similar journeys of exploring, learning and taking action.
The blogposts and podcasts have been read and listened to from around 60,000 different screens and phones with an average of around 50 different people checking in here each day, sometimes up to 200.
As you will know if you are one of them, my message hasn’t changed since I started. I am still as puzzled as I was five years ago: how come we allow this madness to continue?
My ‘climatic clippings’ on this blog pose a question to those many climate activist groups which say we have to focus on ‘positive messaging’ and stories that create hope and optimism. Because hope is not enough.. We have to know about the science, the political crimes, and we have to raise our voices to demand for some urgency in the decision-making process.
Lot of articles and reports on the climate problem are published and circulated every day. So many that it can be difficult to catch up.
In my blog-series of ‘climatic clippings’, I’ve regularly posted a summary of recent developments with humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases. I’ve been doing this as a way of finding out what the climate situation looks like now, in the next few years in the decades ahead, and to keep asking and chewing on the question: What can we do about it?
I often find stories that show me that we are quite a few who seek answers to that question.
At a symposium in Greece recently, for instance, Christiana Figueres, who was the United Nations’ Executive Secretary of the Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 to 2016, was asked, “What can we do?”, and she replied with the following recipe:
“1) Eradicate meat from our diets
2) Be careful in your methods of transportation
3) If you live in a democracy, vote responsibly (to do otherwise is “collusion with a crime against humanity”) and
4) leverage the power of capital by divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in clean renewables.”
A couple of years ago, I wrote this short suggestion to what it is each of us need to do:
Climatic clippings | June 2018
Want to see 168 years of climate change in two minutes?
Here is our movie, updated through 2017. pic.twitter.com/ppwXgFPGdA
— Robert Rohde (@rarohde) January 18, 2018
» Thomson Reuters Foundation | Global Citizen – 20 June 2018:
‘This Is a Wake-Up Call’: Cities Face Spikes in Extreme Heat and Floods by 2050
“In the next 30 years, cities around the world will face dramatically higher risks from extreme heat, coastal flooding, power blackouts, and food and water shortages unless climate-changing emissions are curbed, urban researchers warned.”
“The predictions of the world’s leading climate scientists have come true, with dire consequence for the planet.”
» Axios – 23 June 2018:
How much Earth has warmed since a NASA scientist’s warning 30 years ago
» Axios – 2 May 2018:
The world is failing to hit its climate targets
“Despite big gains and cost reductions in renewables deployment as well as the expansion of carbon pricing, wringing CO2 out of the global economy on a large scale is not happening nearly fast enough to prevent highly dangerous levels of warming.”
» Axios – 24 June 2018:
How companies are and are not fighting climate change
“Major companies in the U.S. and worldwide are increasingly taking steps to lower the carbon footprint of what they produce, how they ship goods, and the energy they buy. They’re driven by market signals, government mandates, reputational interests, investor pressure and other factors. Here’s a few snapshots of how some major industries are approaching the topic.”
“As many scientists have said, we are buggered, we are rooted, we are stuffed. (…) It is time to act, or die.”
~ Jeremy Buckingham, State MP, The Greens, New South Wales
In June 2018, Jeremy Buckingham decided it was time to give the New South Wales state parliament the bad news. His political opponents were laughing.
Victorian government extends coal mining licenses
Dan Andrews has just extended the coal mining licenses for our two most polluting coal power stations.
On 20 June 2018, Ellen Sandell from The Greens asked the Victorian Premier in Question Time why his Labor Government has extended the coal mining licenses for two of our biggest coal polluters – Yallourn and Loy Yang power stations.
Dan Andrews said he “makes no apologies” for his policies, which let big coal companies mine and burn coal for another 30 years.
“Labor likes to talk about taking action on climate change, but it’s hard to take them seriously when they’re determined to keep burning coal for decades to come. While the rest of the world ditches the dying coal industry, Labor is keeping it on life-support,” said Ellen Sandell, State MP for Melbourne.
“Today, I read reports that Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg would not only welcome a new coal-fired power plant, but that to satisfy coal-huggers like Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly, he’s working out how to get one built in Australia. These spineless coal-huggers are destroying our planet.
When I read this report I not only felt angry, but I felt scared. I’m scared that these climate-denying dinosaurs are in control of Australia’s energy and climate policy. Tony Abbott has the Prime Minister under his thumb, forcing him to roll out the red carpet for coal.
Whether it’s Daniel Andrews extending the life of brown coal in Victoria, Michael Gunner – Labor’s Chief Minister in the Northern Territory – giving the green light to fracking or Bill Shorten having a bet both ways on the giant Adani coal mine, this is what you get when you accept donations from big fossil fuel companies.”
~ Adam Bandt, The Greens
This news report looks like 'cli-fi'. But no, this is the world we live in now. The so-called "new normal" of 2018. We have arrived at this point because our governments are run by the dirty polluting industry who causes this havoc. It is time for #CommunityRebellion #StoryChange pic.twitter.com/vmhaYTSpdf
— The Sustainable Hour (@SustainableHour) June 29, 2018
2018: Climate changes in Australia
“During the past 14 months, the Bureau of Meteorology has recorded below-average rainfall across New South Wales, central Queensland, the north-west of Victoria and into South Australia. NSW has been the hardest hit in 2018. With the exception of the north and south coasts, most of the state has recorded the lowest rainfall in a five-month period since 1900. Soil moisture levels are below average across much of Australia and in its latest winter outlook, the bureau is forecasting warmer and drier than average conditions across large parts of the country. Communities in NSW say people are struggling and the rest of the country is not aware of the extent of the troubles in parts of that state.”
» The Guardian – 10 June 2018:
‘Australia doesn’t realise’: worsening drought pushes farmers to the brink
“Liverpool plains farmer Megan Kuhn says cows are being slaughtered because there is no way of feeding them after years of extreme weather.”
“Only we, the people, can force the necessary change”
“Lawyer Julian Burnside is telling very clearly that politicians around the world including in Australia are criminally liable for transgressing Australian and international law over the treatment of refugees. But nothing will change.
Likewise, the fossil energy industry is criminally liable for lying, creating and funding massive programs of denial and misinformation, and should be accountable for these crimes. They’ve known that what they produce and sell is causing serious damage to the planet since the 1960s, but have wilfully hidden the truth, and continued to profit from their crimes of ecocide, not to mention their lying. But will anything change?
Only we, the people, can force the necessary change by mobilising en mass and demanding that politicians, industry leaders, faith leaders, academics, and influence leaders accept the science and deliver that change. That change will need to be extensive and across all sectors of society otherwise we are all doomed to extinction. I think this could be called an emergency.
This fact needs to be widely known and understood.”
~ David Hood AM, Chairman, Long Future Foundation
$11.9 billion in fuel tax credits
Lock the Gate reports that the Australian Government’s new budget provides a massive forecasted $11.9 billion in fuel tax credits to the mining sector over four years, at the same time as they’ve been given special subsidies for exploration.
Mining and gas have already caused major damage to our water resources:
• Coal seam gas in Queensland is extracting 65,000 million litres of groundwater each year, mostly from the Great Artesian Basin.
• Coal mining in Sydney’s drinking water catchment is reducing water flow into vital water supply dams.
• Mining and gas has contaminated groundwater in the Pilliga and polluted a World Heritage river in the Blue Mountains.
Failing to cut subsidies
“A new report has highlighted how member states of the G7 are failing to cut subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Released ahead of the group’s annual meeting in Canada, it highlights the failure to match words with action on climate change. The major study, led by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), shows the group is still providing an estimated $100 billion in subsidies to the oil, gas and coal sectors. This runs contrary to well-publicised pledges to cut dependence on these carbon-intensive industries and support clean energy.”
» Climate Action – 4 June 2018:
G7 countries still heavily subsidising the fossil fuel industry
“A new report has highlighted how member states of the G7 are failing to cut subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.”
These CO2 levels, according to NOAA's climate department, haven't been seen on Earth in 3 million years, when temperatures were 3.6° to 5.4°F warmer, and sea level was 50 to 80 feet higher than today.#ActOnClimate #climatechange #KeepItInTheGround https://t.co/g8892Egbhm
— Paul Dawson (@PaulEDawson) June 6, 2018
“These CO2 levels, according to NOAA’s climate department, haven’t been seen on Earth in 3 million years, when temperatures were 3.6° to 5.4°F warmer, and sea level was 50 to 80 feet higher than today.”
~ Paul Dawson
During the last 800,000 year methane concentrations have generally varied between 300 & 800 parts per billion.
— Paul Dawson (@PaulEDawson) June 6, 2018
» Climate Central – 10 June 2018:
Antarctic Ocean Discovery Warns of Faster Global Warming
» The Conversation – 26 April 2018:
Melting Arctic sends a message: Climate change is here in a big way
» The New York Times – 17 June 2018:
Deadly Tensions Rise as India’s Water Supply Runs Dangerously Low
» The Guardian – 4 June 2018:
‘Carbon bubble’ could spark global financial crisis, study warns
“Advances in clean energy expected to cause a sudden drop in demand for fossil fuels, leaving companies with trillions in stranded assets.”
» The Guardian – 28 June 2018:
Housing and car industries should be ‘ashamed’ of climate record
“Failure to build energy-efficient homes and clean cars risks UK missing its carbon targets, says government’s climate adviser.”
“Policymakers want to know how much climate change will hurt the economy. They want to know how much policies to fight climate change will cost. Models provide them with answers. Right now, models are (inaccurately) telling them that damage costs will be low and policy costs will be high. Political mobilization on climate change is going to fight a headwind as long as policymakers are getting those answers from models. We need models that negatively weigh uncertainty, properly account for tipping points, incorporate more robust and current technology cost data, better differentiate sectors outside electricity, rigorously price energy efficiency, and include the social and health benefits of decarbonization.”
» Vox – 9 June 2018:
We are almost certainly underestimating the economic risks of climate change
“The models that inform climate policymaking are fatally flawed.”
» TheTyee.ca – 13 Jun 2018:
The Carbon Bubble: Here Come the New Dirty Thirties
“The ugly end days of fossil fuel will mean big trouble for Canadians.”
“…In just the last few decades we’ve come to face a different kind of intellectual and emotional challenge than previous generations, one that artists are increasingly steering into: the certainty that we are destroying our environment, and what might be the ultimate cost of that effort…”
“Once, climate change was a thing to be reckoned with in the future, a coming dystopian storm — science fiction, a term that we often wrap around ourselves like a blanket to protect us from the most horrifying possibilities. But in the first volume of Vollmann’s two-part non-fiction investigation Carbon Ideologies; Powers’ new novel, The Overstory; and Schrader’s film First Reformed, global warming, environmental collapse, and the grim reaper of climate change are not coming attractions. They’re here, now, and if they aren’t reckoned with, then we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves — or, more hauntingly, our children will have no one to blame but us.”
“Urge and apply boycotts, divestment and sanctions”
“Dear fellow climate-concerned citizen,
A catastrophic plus 2°C temperature rise is now unavoidable but decent people are obliged to do everything they can to make the future “less bad” for their children, grandchildren and for future generations.
Arrayed against the young is the sustained mendacity of the neoliberal One Percenters who possess 50% of the world’s wealth.
We need to urgently cut carbon emissions and eventually cease greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in coming decades. Ignored by mainstream media is the need to drawdown atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) from the present dangerous and damaging 410 parts per million CO2 (410 ppm CO2) to a safe and sustainable 300 ppm CO2 i.e. negative GHG emissions.
However a feasible, large-scale mechanisms for doing this, namely Direct Air Capture (DAC), is expensive, leaving future generations with an inescapable present Carbon Debt of about $130 trillion that is remorselessly increasing at about $10 trillion per year.
Young people and those who care for them must
(a) inform everyone they can,
(b) demand rapid cessation of carbon fuel burning,
(c) demand rapid atmospheric CO2 drawdown to a safe and sustainable 300 ppm CO2, and
(d) urge and apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all those people, politicians, parties, companies, corporations and countries disproportionately complicit in the worsening Climate Emergency and Climate Crisis.
There is no Planet B.
(See Gideon Polya: ‘Huge Carbon Debt & Intergenerational Injustice- CO2 Drawdown Necessity, 300.org & 300 ppm CO2 Target’, Countercurrents, 6 June 2018).
Dr Gideon Polya, Melbourne, Australia”
“Reject the NEG”
“Dear Minister Lily D’Ambrosio and Premier Daniel Andrews,
In my view politicians around the world including in Australia are criminally liable for exposing humanity to the calamities and future risks of climate change caused by our society’s greenhouse gas emissions. This situation we are in now could have been avoided, if politicians had put the right policies in place decades ago.
We saw the news on the ABC the other day how the melting Arctic and Antarctic send us a dire message: Climate change is here in a big scary way, and we are almost certainly underestimating the economic risks and critical mental effects of climate change.
We urgently need to transition away from fossil fuels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But the fossil energy industry and its allies and former executives who are now parliamentarians are criminally liable for lying, creating and funding massive programs of denial and misinformation, and should be accountable for these crimes.
They’ve known that what they produce and sell is causing serious damage to the planet since the 1960s, but have wilfully hidden the truth, and continued to profit from their crimes of ecocide, not to mention their lying.
Sadly, our current federal government is nothing but puppets of the fossil energy industry, and their proposed National Energy Guarantee (NEG) is just another way of aiming to delay the inevitable growth of renewables and slow death of the dirty, polluting fossils.
Hence, I fully support Greenpeace’s campaign asking you to reject the NEG when you meet with other State Energy Ministers in August.
The NEG will set an emissions reduction target that is far too low, deter investment in new renewable energy projects and guarantee the use of fossil fuels in Australian energy for far too long.
You’ve helped Victoria on the right path with renewables so far, and I recommend you for that. 96 per cent of Australians want renewable energy as the primary energy source – and I am one of them.
Australians should have the right to access clean, affordable energy. It shouldn’t cost us the Earth to keep the lights on.
You have the power to do the right thing by all of us.
Please, do our State proud, and don’t accept anything less than 100% renewable energy by 2030 at the COAG meeting in August.
I implore you to reject the NEG.
Thank you for taking the time to read my email. I look forward to your response.
Mik Aidt, Geelong
» Greenpeace petition:
Minister Lily D’Ambrosio: Victorians want renewables!
Tell your Energy Minister to reject the NEG! Email D’Ambrosio to reject the National Energy Guarantee and not accept anything less than 100% renewable energy by 2030.
US report about rising sea levels
» Download the Union of Concerned Scientists report:
‘Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate’ (2018)
“Hundreds of thousands of homes are at risk of chronic flooding due to sea level rise over the coming decades. The implications for coastal residents, communities, and the economy are profound.”
Sea level rise and real estate – news from Texas
This analysis looks at what’s at risk for US coastal real estate from sea level rise — and the challenges and choices we face now and in the decades to come.
“More than 5,500 Texas homes will be at risk of chronic flooding from high tides by 2030 assuming aggressive sea level increases, according to the study, which uses data from real estate portal Zillow along with the federal agency National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s estimates for rising sea levels.
The houses at risk represent $1.2 billion in property value contributing about $19 million in property tax revenue put at risk, according to the report.”
“By 2100, the number of at-risk homes — based on intermediate sea level estimates — jumps to 46,187, representing $10.5 billion in lost property value and $185 million in forgone property taxes.”
» Dallas News – 18 June 2018:
Rising sea levels could flood more than 5,500 Texas homes by 2030, new study says
» Hakai Magazine – 18 June 2018:
Virtual Reality Preserves Disappearing Land
“Coastal communities are capturing their cultures and landscapes in virtual reality before sea level rise steals them for good.”
» InsideClimateNews – 18 June 2018:
Coastal Real Estate Worth Billions at Risk of Chronic Flooding as Sea Level Rises
“More than 150,000 homes and businesses could face frequent high-tide flooding within 15 years. That could double by 2045, a new report says.”
How melting glaciers put Arctic ecosystems in danger: https://t.co/k1Mphguc5b
— AJ+ (@ajplus) August 5, 2016
» The Siberian Times – 14 June 2016:
Weather turns tropical across Siberia as abnormal summer heat roasts six regions
» The Independent – 4 June 2016:
Arctic could become ice-free for first time in more than 100,000 years, claims leading scientist
» Scientific American / Climate Central – 14 January 2016:
Warming May Mean Major Thaw for Alaskan Permafrost
“Continued warming is melting down frozen ground, surprising scientists.”
Record on record
“This year, on current trends, will be the hottest year ever measured. The previous record was set in 2015; the one before in 2014.
Fifteen of the 16 warmest years have occurred in the 21st century. Each of the past 14 months has beaten the global monthly temperature record. But you can still hear people repeating the old claim, first proposed by fossil fuel lobbyists, that global warming stopped in 1998.
Arctic sea ice covered a smaller area last winter than in any winter since records began.
In Siberia, an anthrax outbreak is raging through the human and reindeer populations because infected corpses locked in permafrost since the last epidemic in 1941 have thawed.
India has been hammered by cycles of drought and flood, as withering heat parches the soil and torches glaciers in the Himalayas.
Southern and eastern Africa have been pitched into humanitarian emergencies by drought.
“The Arctic is warming twice as quickly as the global average. Sea ice cover in the Arctic has undergone a widely reported decline in recent decades with sea ice extent reducing by around 12% per decade since the satellite record began in 1979.”
» The World Economic Forum – 28 June 2018:
How to talk about climate change: 5 tips from the front lines
“Our research, recently published in Nature Climate Change, describes a series of sudden and catastrophic ecosystem shifts that have occurred recently across Australia. These changes, caused by the combined stress of gradual climate change and extreme weather events, are overwhelming ecosystems’ natural resilience.”
» The Conversation – 6 July 2018:
Ecosystems across Australia are collapsing under climate change