16 August 2017

Chinese climate impacts will hit Australian economy

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How hard will climate-change impacts in China hit the Australian economy? It’s a question
rarely asked in Australia, but one the current Senate inquiry into the national security
implications of climate change needs to answer. Two vital questions for Australia are the extent to which climate change impacts in China could damage the Australian economy, and the regional strategic consequences should climate impacts in China undermine domestic political stability.

Australia faces severe consequences if China’s economy grows at a significantly lower rate, or falls into recession. China is Australia’s largest trading partner and overseas market for Australian resources, services and agriculture, representing over a quarter of all Australian exports at $85.9 billion in 2015-2016.

27 July 2017

Paris 1.5-2°C target far from safe, say world-leading scientists

by David Spratt, first published at Renew Economy

The Paris climate agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius (ºC) is well above temperatures experienced during the Holocene — period of human settlement over the last 11,700 years — and is far from safe because “if such temperature levels are allowed to long exist they will spur “slow” amplifying feedbacks… which have potential to run out of humanity’s control.”

That’s the message from some of the world best climate scientists, including former NASA climate chief, James Hansen, in a newly paper, “Young people’s burden: requirement of negative CO2 emissions”, published in Earth System Dynamics this month.

BT_WhySafeTargetsMatter copy

24 July 2017

A failure of imagination on climate risks

By Ian Dunlop and David Spratt
This is an extract from Disaster Alley: Climate change, conflict and risk published recently by Breakthrough.
Download the report
Climate change is an existential risk that could abruptly end human civilisation because of a catastrophic “failure of imagination” by global leaders to understand and act on the science and  evidence before them.

At the London School of Economics in 2008, Queen Elizabeth questioned: “Why did no one foresee the timing, extent and severity of the Global Financial Crisis?” The British Academy answered a year later: “A psychology of denial gripped the financial and corporate world… [it was] the failure of the collective imagination of many bright people… to understand the risks to the system as a whole”.

A “failure of imagination” has also been identified as one of the reasons for the breakdown in US intelligence around the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

A similar failure is occurring with climate change today.

21 June 2017

Climate change an accelerant to instability in unexpected ways

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by Ian Dunlop and David Spratt
This is an extract from Disaster Alley: Climate change, security and risk published today by Breakthrough National Centre from Climate Restoration.
A hotter planet has already taken us close to, or past, tipping points which will generate major changes in global climate systems such as the oceans, polar sea ice and ice sheets and large permafrost carbon stores. The impacts include a hotter and more extreme climate, stronger storms and cyclones, drought and desertification, and coastal inundation.

Climate change impacts basic resources such as food and water, which allow human societies to survive. Scarce resources, declining crop yields and rising prices become catalysts for conflict.

13 June 2017

Will Adani’s coal mine kill 500,000 people?

Credit: J.B. Russell

by Graeme Taylor

If all goes as Adani plans, coal from its proposed mine in Queensland will produce enough air pollution to kill hundreds of thousands of Indians. Given that this risk is not only known but avoidable, would it be fair to say that the businessmen and politicians developing this mine will be guilty of premeditated mass murder? Here are the facts and the competing arguments: you make the call.

Scientists found that air pollution from coal burnt to generate electricity in India causes the premature deaths of 80,000 to 115,000 people per year from chronic lung conditions, respiratory infections, heart diseases, strokes, bronchitis and trachea and lung cancers. 10,000 of these victims are children under the age of 5. In addition every year tens of millions of cases of asthma and other respiratory ailments are linked to coal pollution including 21 million asthma attacks.

29 May 2017

Three-quarters of Australians say climate warming "a catastrophic risk", even as government turns a blind eye

 by David Spratt

Published at RenewEconomy on 29 May 2017




Three in four Australians understand that climate warming poses a “catastrophic risk,” even as the Australian government turns a blind eye. That was the clear result from a new survey for the Global Challenges Forum (GCF), and the publication of its 2017 Global Catastrophic Risk report.

84% of 8000 people surveyed in eight countries for the GCF consider climate change a “global catastrophic risk”. The figure for the Australian sample was 75%.

21 April 2017

A three-track strategy for climate mitigation

by Graeme Taylor

The challenge

In his analysis of the Paris Agreement on mitigating climate change, The Guardian’s George Monbiot said: “By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.” On one hand the outcome was better than predicted as Article 2 states that parties to the agreement will hold global average temperature increases “to well below 2°C” and “pursue efforts” to limit this to 1.5°C.

The "carbon law" for the 2-degree target, from “A roadmap for rapid decarbonization”, Rockström, Gaffney, Rogelj, Meinshausen, Nakicenovic and Schellnhuber, Science 355: 1269-1271, 24 March 2017

01 April 2017

Climate change pushing floods, cyclones to new extremes, with worse to come


 With Australia experiencing the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie and record-breaking rains and severe flooding in south-east Queensland and along the north coast of New South Wales, here’s a look at how global warming has, and will, push floods and cyclones to new extremes.

Flooding extremes

Warm air can be more humid than cold air, that is, it can hold more water vapour in absolute terms. And atmospheric water vapour content increases seven per cent for each 1-degree-Celsius increase in global average temperature, establishing the conditions for more intense rainfall events. 


18 March 2017

Meet Sherri Goodman, who in two words made the military care about climate change


“The Age of Consequences” climate film
and speaking tour

The Buzzfeed story lead says it all: “Meet the woman whose two-word catchphrase made the military care about climate” . That woman is Sherri Goodman, and she will be in Australia in early April. And the film about climate change and the military will be on ABC TV's 4 Corners next Monday night.

The national security dimension of climate change receives little attention in Australia, but is the subject of intense focus overseas, particularly in the United States. Climate change interacts with other pre-existing problems to become an accelerant to instability in unexpected ways. Scarce resources, growing water scarcity, declining crop yields, rising food prices, extreme weather events and health impacts become catalysts for instability and conflict, especially in Asia. This has profound implications for Australia, economically and socially, quite apart from the climate change impact on Australia itself.

17 February 2017

Antarctic tipping points for a multi-metre sea level rise

by David Spratt

First published 23 January 2017; updated 17 February 2017


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OVERVIEW

  • The Amundsen Sea sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has most likely been destabilized and ice retreat is unstoppable for the current conditions.
  • No further acceleration in climate change is necessary to trigger the collapse of the rest of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, with loss of a significant fraction on a decadal to century time scale.
  • Antarctica has the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea-level rise by 2100.
  • A large fraction of West Antarctic basin ice could be gone within two centuries, causing a 3–5 metre sea level rise.
  • Mechanisms similar to those causing deglaciation in West Antarctica are now also found in East Antarctica.
  • Partial deglaciation of the East Antarctic ice sheet is likely for the current level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, contributing to 10 metres of more of sea level rise in the longer run, and 5 metres in the first 200 years.

13 February 2017

Record-busting heat in eastern Australia as climate warming goes extreme


Projected temperatures across Australia for Sunday 5 February 2017
12 FEBRUARY UPDATE:
  • The average maximum temperature across the state of New South Wales broke the record with 42.4C on Friday 10 February, which was then smashed the following day with 44.02C on Saturday 11 February. 
  • On Saturday 11 February, many NSW towns set new benchmarks: Walgett (47.9 C), Taree (45.7C), Port Macquarie (46.5C) and Kempsey (46.4C).
  • All time records were also set in Queensland, including Toowoomba (40.8C), Gatton (45.7), Oakey (42.8C) and Kingaroy (41.6C).
  • In Victoria, Mildura became the first location in the state to record consecutive days above 46C, on 9-10 February.
6 FEBRUARY UPDATE: The Queensland town of Moree has recorded 41 days in a row of temperatures above 35C, absolutely smashing the previous record from 1981-82 of  17 days. 

First posted 5 February 2017

2016 was by far the hottest year in the observation record, with the global average surface temperature 1.24 degrees Celsius (°C) warmer that the late nineteenth century, according to NASA data. This broke the record set just the previous year of 1.12°C, which in turn broke the previous mark set in 2014 of 1.01°C.

11 February 2017

Climate warming unabated, despite media spin

Global average temperature 1880-2016 (NASA)
Climate Nexus

As a result of human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, the planet is warming. Those who deny this fact have pointed to a supposed “pause” in warming to justify opposition to climate action.

In 2015, a study led by NOAA’s Tom Karl was published in Science that flatly refuted the idea of a “pause.” It is one of many. But its high profile made it a target for attack.

28 November 2016

Climate goals abandoned as adaptation gap opens wide

The current climate-making paradigm (top) and the reality of current commitments (bottom)
by David Spratt

Here is a question we need to ask: are climate policy makers actually pursuing the goals they set themselves more than 20 years ago, or have the goals been abandoned, and are we falling fast through an "adaptation gap"?

Like the United Nations, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Conference of the Parties (COP) are diplomatic fora, populated by professional representatives of national ruling elites, and subject to the diplomatic processes of negotiation, trade-offs and deals. Civil society sectors are excluded from formal decision-making.

16 November 2016

From White House to madhouse: climate denial in the era of Donald Trump

by David Spratt

It was appropriate, if disconcerting, that I sat down to read “The Madhouse effect: How climate change denial is threatening our planet, destroying our politics and driving us crazy” (Columbia University Press, New York, 2016) on the day of the US presidential election.

The book, by the eminent American climate scientist Prof. Michael E Mann and Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles, is a short (150 pages plus notes), very readable overview of the climate denial and disinformation machine in the USA that is funded by the fossil fuel industry, with dark tentacles reaching into the highest level of politics, abetted by the conservative media and agents for hire who have peddled their denial across several industries and many decades.

23 September 2016

Why is emergency-scale action necessary?



The world now faces a climate emergency. Our scientists tell us. We know it. Slowly the political elite are realising that the current international climate policy-making paradigm is dying of failure. Recognition of the climate emergency is now written into the platform for the Democratic Party for the 2016 US presidential election.

So how does our scientific understanding guide as to constructing a new way of looking at the challenge, as to what is happening, what is safe, and how we should respond? The Victorian Climate Action Network held a workshop on these questions on 11 September 2016. The slides below were the contribution by David Spratt to the first session, which asked the question ‘Why is emergency-scale action necessary?’

09 September 2016

Unravelling the myth of a "carbon budget" for 1.5C

 
by David Spratt
  • The carbon budget concept carries several and significant uncertainties, many of which are not fully appreciated, and which limit the political usefulness of the method.
  • The published 1.5°C carbon budgets all have an unacceptably high risk — of a one-in-three or greater chance — of exceeding the target temperature. Scenarios with a 50% chance of not exceeding the 1.5°C target have a 33% chance of exceeding 2°C of warming, and a 10% chance of exceeding 3°C of warming.
  • All published 1.5°C emissions-reduction scenarios for this century involve significantly “overshooting” the target for several decades (up to 1.8°C of warming) before returning to the target figure by 2100. 
  • From a sensible risk-management viewpoint, there is no carbon budget available for the 1.5°C target. Thus, achieving 1.5°C in the medium term means drawing down every ton of carbon dioxide emitted from now on.
  • The damage that will eventually be caused by the current level of warming of 1°C is beyond adaptation for many nations and peoples. 1.5°C is not a safe target.

17 August 2016

McKibben: It's time to declare war on climate change

By Jon Queally, EcoWatch

We're under attack, said author and climate campaigner Bill McKibben, and the only way to defeat the enemy is to declare a global war against the destructive practices that threaten the world's imperiled ecosystems and human civilization as we know it.

In a new piece published Monday in The New Republic, the co-founder of the global climate action group 350.org said there is simply no more time to waste and that a full-scale mobilization, like the one orchestrated by the U.S. government during World War II, is now necessary if the adversary—human-caused global warming and the climate change that results—is to be vanquished.

"World War III is well and truly underway," McKibben wrote. "And we are losing."

10 August 2016

How climate change will sink China’s manufacturing heartland

Shenzhen in 2015 (population 10.7 million) at left; and in 1980 (population 58,000). Image: Guardian/David McLeod/Lucien Long
by David Spratt and Shane White

Climate change-driven rising sea levels will inundate China’s key industrial zone on the Zhujiang River Delta/Pearl River Delta (PRD) as the world’s largest and fastest growing urban area draws tens of millions of people into a special economic zone built on soft, unstable land.

Researchers say that by 2050, regional sea-level rises in China’s three most vulnerable regions including the PRD will be half to one metre, and “large areas and a great number of cities…will be beneath the sea water despite of all the present tide-and-flood control facilities”. And that will include China's manufacturing heartland, which is responsible for 40% of the nation's exports.

The PRD, adjacent to Hong Kong and Macau, has been the subject of rapid urban expansion over recent decades, transforming mainly agricultural land into the manufacturing heartland of a global economic superpower.  It is also one of China’s wealthiest areas, and barely above sea level.

02 August 2016

Climate heating is an emergency and an existential threat to human civilisation

In mid-2015, I was one of several people who were interviewed by filmmakers Jordan Osmond and Samuel Alexander for their documentary "A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity". Now the film-makers have kindly made the full interview available....


The interview covers the scientific character of the climate challenge, why it must now be understood as constituting a global emergency, and what that means for the actions we need to take.

20 July 2016

Finding the courage to face the climate emergency: Democratic Party platform recognises crisis

Image: Pixabay/CC0
by Russell Greene

Last weekend in Orlando the platform committee of the Democratic Party added language into their platform acknowledging the official position of the Democratic Party to be that we are in a global climate emergency.  

Further, the platform  acknowledges the scale of the threat to be so large that it will require a leadership response from our country on the scale of our national mobilization to confront the threat of fascism during WWII.  The platform language I offered through an amendment entitled, "Global Climate Leadership", explicitly acknowledges that anything short of that will bring catastrophic consequences to civilization: