21 May 2019

“Climate emergency”: Evolution of a global campaign

Rally, Parliament House, Canberra, 3 February 2009
 by David Spratt

In a matter of months, the language of climate emergency has exploded into public space in a spectacular way, with national, regional and governments adopting the term.

Last Friday The Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner issued new language guidelines to her staff:
Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favoured over “global warming”, although the original terms are not banned. “We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” said Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity”... The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, talked of the “climate crisis” in September, adding: “We face a direct existential threat.”
Just a year ago, such language was rarely, if ever, heard in the media, among politicians and policymakers, or from professional climate advocates. So how did we get to here?

23 April 2019

Support for action surges, majority say we face climate emergency

by David Spratt

In the first-ever poll of its kind, new research from The Australia Institute (TAI) has found that a clear majority of Australians agree the nation ‘is facing a climate emergency’ requiring emergency action and that, in response, governments should “mobilise all of society” like they did during the world wars.

It is an extraordinary finding that shows public sentiment is well ahead of the major political parties, and ahead of the large climate advocacy organisations.

22 April 2019

Is the Australian Public Service fit-for-purpose to handle existential climate risk?

by Ian Dunlop and David Spratt, first published at Pearls and Irritations

Credit: One World House
The first duty of a government is to “protect the people”, their safety and well-being. Nowhere is this duty more important than in addressing climate change, which now constitutes a near-term existential threat to human civilisation. It is an open, and pressing, question whether the Australian Public Service (APS), and particularly the intelligence services, currently have the capacity to properly consider and assess the climate threat to the people of Australia, and to offer sound advice on action to minimise that threat.

17 April 2019

Battle for climate emergency action starts on the Home Front


 Former Australian defence and security experts say if we are serious about national security then we must decarbonise our economy within a decade.

A new powerful and eye-opening short documentary series presents some of Australia's former security, defence and political leaders who warn us that climate change is 'a catalyst for conflict' and a 'threat multiplier' as it fuels instability in the world’s most vulnerable regions.

08 April 2019

Existential risk, Neoliberalism and UN Climate Policymaking (2)

On the current high-emissions scenario (RCP 8.5), most of the tropical zone experiences many months each year of deadly heat, beyond the capacity of humans to survive in the outdoors. Source: Global risk of deadly heat
International climate policymaking has failed to avoid a path of catastrophic global warming. Two often-overlooked causes of this failure are how climate-science knowledge has been produced and utilised by the United Nation’s twin climate bodies and how those organisations function.
Part 2 of 2
| Read Part 1.

by David Spratt

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produces science synthesis reports for the primary purpose of informing policymaking, specifically that of the UNFCCC. This may be termed “regulatory science” (as opposed to “research science”), which Sheila Jasanoff describes as one that “straddles the dividing line between science and policy” (9) as scientists and regulators try to provide answers to policy-relevant questions. In this engagement between science and politics, say Kate Dooley and co-authors, “science is seen neither as an objective truth, nor as only driven by social interests, but as being co-produced through the interaction of natural and social orders”.

Existential risk, Neoliberalism and UN Climate Policymaking (1)


International climate policymaking has failed to avoid a path of catastrophic global warming. Two often-overlooked causes of this failure are how climate-science knowledge has been produced and utilised by the United Nation’s twin climate bodies and how those organisations function.
Part 1 of 2
| Read Part 2.

by David Spratt

It is now widely understood that human-induced climate change this century is an existential risk to human civilisation. Unless carbon emissions are rapidly reduced to zero, it is likely that global warming will either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.
While policymakers talk about holding warming to 1.5°C to 2°C above the pre-industrial level—a very unsafe goal given that dangerous climate-system tipping points are being activated now at just 1°C of warming—by their lack of action they are in fact setting Earth on a much higher warming path that will destroy many cities, nations and peoples, and many, if not most, species.

25 March 2019

New study shows IPCC is underselling climate change


Note: Last year, we published a detailed report on scientific reticence, What Lies Beneath: The underestimation of existential risk, particularly as it applies to the IPCC reports. So this new study adds to the body of knowledge about conservatism in this field. - David. 
 A new study has revealed that the language used by the global climate change watchdog, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is overly conservative – and therefore the threats are much greater than the Panel's reports suggest.

Published in the journal BioScience, the team of scientists from the University of Adelaide, Flinders University, the University of Bristol (UK), and the Spanish National Research Council has analysed the language used in the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report (from 2014).

08 March 2019

SHOCK, HORROR: Poll finds strong majority support for declaring a climate emergency

Panel discussion at the City of Darebin's climate emergency conference, September 2018. Photo: John Englart.
by David Spratt, published at RenewEconomy on 8 March 2019


In five countries —  Australia, the USA, Canada, the UK and Switzerland  — an impressive 382 local government authorities covering more than 33 million people have recognised or declared a climate emergency. And now polling conducted in Melbourne shows that a sizeable majority in that city support declaring a climate emergency.

That will be a shock for some of Australia’s largest climate advocacy organisations, who have steadfastly refused to use the climate emergency framing, saying that such language is not plausible, is not supported by market research or that appeals to fear do not work.

Perhaps they should tell that to David Wallace-Wells, the author of the just released book, “The Uninhabitable Earth”, which is destined to become a runaway best seller.

18 February 2019

With climate protection, Labor can turn the table on government’s fear agenda

 
French Polynesian President Edouard Fritch and Australian Foreign Minister,Marise Payne leave their handprints during the signing of the Boe Declaration in September 2018 at the Pacific Islands Forum

by David Spratt

National security is a defensive issue for opposition leader Bill Shorten and the Australian Labor  Party. Their approach is to mimic the government at almost every step, lest a crack of difference between the two parties becomes a conservative wedge. We saw this again last week with the fear campaign on the medivac law.

But Labor can turn the table on the government’s security agenda by framing climate change action as the duty of government to protect the people — their livelihood, security and health — from the greatest risk of all to their future well-being and human security.

It will take courage from Labor, but the crushing impacts of climate change — devastating floods in Queensland, destruction of precious World Heritage forest in Tasmania, vital river systems without water, and an extraordinary, month-long, record-breaking heatwave blanketing most of Australia —  are the material conditions on which a new climate and human security narrative can be built.

17 February 2019

Best climate video ever? A Swedish Teenager's Compelling Plea on Climate

On an email list I am on,  this video was described as "the best climate video ever".  Best ever?  I don't know, but it's very, very good. A must watch. -- David

14 January 2019

COP24: Capricious foes, Big Sister and high-carbon plutocrats

Note: If you want to know what really went on at the December UN climate policy talks in Katowice, Poland, Prof. Kevin Anderson, with his characteristic direct and insightful analysis, tells it like it is: the good, the bad and the ugly.  This article was first published at kevinanderson.infohttps://kevinanderson.info/blog/capricious-foes-big-sister-high-carbon-plutocrats-irreverent-musings-from-katowices-cop24/. Kevin described it as “irreverent musings from Katowice’s COP24”, but it is more than that!
by Kevin Anderson

Four weeks on and the allure of Christmas and New Year festivities fade into the grey light of a Manchester January – a fine backdrop for revisiting December’s COP24.

An Orwellian tale: myths & hidden enemies

A quick glance at COP24 suggests three steps forward and two steps back. But whilst to the naïve optimist this may sound like progress, in reality it’s yet another retrograde bound towards a climate abyss. As government negotiators play poker with the beauty of three billion years of evolution, climate change emissions march on. This year with a stride 2.7% longer than last year – which itself was 1.6% longer than the year before. Whilst the reality is that every COP marks another step backwards, the hype of these extravaganzas gives the impression that we’re forging a pathway towards a decarbonised future.

10 December 2018

Big oil and gas nations sideline the science at Katowice, even as emissions rise and warming accelerates

By David Spratt

Delegates at COP24, Katowice. Credit: IISD/ENB - Kiara Worth
Just as four big oil and gas producers block the UN climate policymaking conference in Katowice, Poland from welcoming a report on the science of the 1.5 degree Celsius (°C) target which it had commissioned three years earlier in Paris, new evidence has emerged of the striking contradiction between word and deed at the 24th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP24).

In a deadly diplomatic strike, big fossil fuel nations took a key scientific report out of the Katowice text, replacing acknowledgement of the report’s compelling case for accelerated action, with a more ambiguous formulation which merely notes the report’s existence.

Objections from Saudi Arabia, the US, Kuwait and Russia to wording to "welcome" the 1.5°C report was enough to sideline it, with Saudi Arabia threatening to disrupt the last stretch of negotiations between ministers this week if the word “welcome” was not replaced by “note”.

20 November 2018

Blue Carbon: an effective climate mitigation and drawdown tool?

by Alia Armistead


Blue carbon is increasingly being championed by organisations and governments as a tool for climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as addressing multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What is blue carbon, how much potential does it actually have, and how could we use it?

22 October 2018

World acknowledges unprecedented climate challenge, so what should a Labor federal government do?

by David Spratt,  published at RenewEconomy


Quite suddenly, in the wake of the recent IPCC report, it's become commonplace to talk about a global climate emergency. Al Gore told PBS on 12 October: “We have a global emergency. You use a phrase like that and some people immediately say, ‘okay calm down, it can’t be that bad.’ But it it is."

On 9 October, a stunning editorial was published in the UK. “The Guardian view on climate change: a global emergency” opened with the sentence: “Climate change is an existential to the human race.” A year ago, that would have been extraordinary, but no longer. (An existential risk is one that poses permanent large negative consequences to humanity which can never be undone, or an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.)

15 October 2018

New IPCC climate report actually understates threat, researchers say

Aftermath of Hurricane Michael, Florida, October 2018
By Scott Waldman, first published at E&E News

The United Nations climate report released this week had some stunning revelations, claiming that the 2020s could be one of humanity's last chances to avert devastating impacts. But some say its authors were being too cautious.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states in plain language that averting a climate crisis will require a wholesale reinvention of the global economy. By 2040, the report predicts, there could be global food shortages, the inundation of coastal cities and a refugee crisis unlike the world has ever seen.

10 October 2018

The UN chief calls for emergency climate action, but what does that actually mean in practice?

by David Spratt

Download guide as PDF
“We face a direct existential threat” on climate for “the emergency we face”, UN Secretary General António Guterres told the world on 10 September. This was a most powerful voice in the rising chorus of recognition that existential climate risks requiring a global emergency response.

But what does an emergency response mean in practice?

The Melbourne-based Breakthrough - National Centre for Climate Restoration has just published a short guide to answer that question. Here is what is says.

Understanding climate emergency mode

Many of us have experienced emergency situations such as bushfires, floods or cyclones where, for the duration, nothing else matters as much as responding to the crisis. If we want to survive, or help others effectively, we don’t rush thoughtlessly in, but focus on a plan of action, implemented with thought and all possible care and speed to protect others and get to safety. Everyone chips in, with all hands on deck.

03 October 2018

How to communicate the climate emergency

Download guide as PDF
What are effective ways of engaging people in conversation about the gathering climate crisis and the need for an emergency response? Let's start with some key content:

1. Urgency and courage   
 

The Earth is already too hot: we are in danger now, not just in the future. Warming will accelerate, and 1.5°C is only a decade away, yet annual emissions are still growing and the current, post-Paris emissions trajectory will result in catastrophic warming. The Great Barrier Reef and other coral systems are dying. We are greatly exceeding Earth’s limits, and food and water shortages are contributing to conflicts and forced migration.

19 September 2018

IPCC's political fix on 1.5°C will undermine its credibility

by David Spratt

[updated 19 September 2018]


The forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on 1.5°C will suggest a significant "carbon budget" for the 1.5°C climate warming target, in a political fix that will further undermine the organisation's credibility.

The report will use unwisely low assumptions about the Earth's climate sensitivity to pull a rabbit out of a hat: a carbon budget that from any sensible risk-management perspective simply does not exist. The political effect will be to say that the climate crisis is less bad than it is, and that we can "allow" more fossil fuel emissions.

In fact, recent research shows that climate sensitivity is higher that the median used in recent IPCC reports, but now the 1.5°C report will go in the opposite direction. The final report will likely have an even higher 1.5°C "carbon budget" figure than in the drafts leaked in recent months.

This is a scandalous outcome that may finish the IPCC as a credible and dispassionate compiler of climate science research.   A report released on 20 August, What Lies Beneath: The understatement of existential climate risk, shows that IPCC reports tend toward reticence and caution, erring on the side of “least drama”, exhibiting a preference for conservative projections and scholarly reticence, and downplaying the more extreme and more damaging outcomes, such they are now becoming dangerously misleading with the acceleration of climate impacts globally.

13 September 2018

When we look at the crisis rationally, the only logical response is to declare a climate emergency

Participants in this week's Darebin Climate Emergency conference in Melboure.
Photo: John Englart
by Paul Gilding

People engaged in the climate debate are often bewildered by society’s lack of response. How can we ignore such overwhelming evidence of an existential threat to social and economic stability?

Given human history, we should never have expected anything else. Humans have a consistent tendency that when change is uncomfortable we delay action until a threat becomes a crisis. The scale of the threat or the existence of powerful evidence makes little difference.

There are countless examples – personal health issues, a business’ declining success, or global financial and credit risks. Historically, though, World War Two (WWII ) remains the best analogy.

20 August 2018

Take unprecedented action or bear the consequences, says eminent scientist and advisor

By David Spratt and Ian Dunlop

“Climate change is now reaching the end-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences.”

Those are the challenging words from Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, for twenty years the head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and a senior advisor to Pope Francis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Union.  In the foreword to a new report, Schellnhuber says the issue now "is the very survival of our civilisation, where conventional means of analysis may become useless”.

The report, What Lies Beneath: The understatement of existential climate risk, is released today by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration.