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:

17 July 2016

Emergency action is only sane response to escalating climate impacts

Climate emergenecy statement published in "The Age" 23 June 2016. Click to enlarge.

by David Spratt

In 2010, Malcolm Turnbull said: "Our efforts to deal with climate change have been betrayed by a lack of leadership, a political cowardice, the like of which I have never seen...". Nothing has changed. Turnbull has betrayed his own words.

Australians understand an emergency: a situation of threat or escalating threat with severe consequences for life and property that requires urgent preventive intervention.

04 July 2016

What Brexit teaches us about climate change communications

by George Marshall, Climate Outreach

The Remain campaign was an object case in bad communications, one from which there is much to learn. The tragedy for the Remain campaigners is that the principles of good engagement were already well known, not least from the field of climate change communications.  Mistakes are forgivable, but there is no excuse for stumbling down a path that is already littered with the wreckage of previous attempts to motivate public opinion- or then, as your support haemorrhages, doubling down on a losing strategy.

There are many curious parallels between the climate change and referendum debates.  Following the language of social theorist Horst Rittel both issues are "wicked" problems: complex, multifactoral, and contradictory. Both issues struggle through the same cognitive landscape of bias, fear and group loyalty. And campaigners for both issues  have failed to understand the way that people form their opinions.

23 June 2016

Scientists, business leaders and prominent Australians call for emergency climate action

Climate emergenecy statement published in "The Age" 23 June 2016. Click to enlarge.

More than 20 prominent Australians have called for emergency-scale action on climate change in an open letter to the new parliament, published in "The Age" on 23 June.

Signatories run across the political spectrum, and include business leaders, scientists, a former Australian of the Year and a Nobel Laureate.

31 May 2016

"Saving the Reef": The triumph of politics over science?

by David Spratt

The Great Barrier Reef is an election issue.  Labor has just promised $400 million for the Reef. The government had previously committed $170 million, but one of Australia's leading coral researchers says that "Australia's plan for protecting Great Barrier Reef tourism is to pretend climate change isn't it's biggest threat."

Neither of the major parties are opposed to the expansion of coal mining in Australia. The question is whether the policies of either major party will actually "Save the Reef," or is this a case of politics triumphing over science?

09 May 2016

After record, mind-numbing coral bleaching, what would it take to "Save the Reef"?

Charlie Veron has identified a third of all known coral species
by David Spratt

Global warming impacts right now are beyond some of the worst scientific predictions, so what does that mean for aspirations to save the Great Barrier Reef?

On 6 July 2009, Australian Dr Charlie Veron — who has discovered, described and identified about a third of all known coral species — addressed the Royal Society in London and asked: "Is the Great Barrier Reef on death row?" His response: "The answer must be yes… a close look at this question from any rational perspective arrives at the same bottom line: the Great Barrier Reef can indeed be utterly destroyed, and this could easily happen in the lifetime of my children."

It is a devastating answer because corals have been around for almost 500 million years and have formed more fossils than any other species, they are home to one-quarter of marine fish species, and tens of millions of people depend on reef ecosystems for protein and other services. The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is home to 600 different types of corals, and is more biodiverse that any other UNESCO World Heritage site.

03 May 2016

Arctic sea ice is falling off a cliff and it may not survive the summer

Note: Thanks to robertscribbler.com for this excellent post on the eye-popping circumstances of Arctic sea-ice this melt season.
Near zero sea ice by the end of melt season. The dreaded Blue Ocean Event. Something that appears more and more likely to happen during 2016 with each passing day.

These are the kinds of climate-wrecking phase changes in the Arctic people have been worrying about since sea ice extent, area, and volume achieved gut-wrenching plunges during 2007 and 2012. Plunges that were far faster than sea ice melt rates predicted by model runs and by the then scientific consensus on how the Arctic Ocean ice would respond to human-forced warming this Century. For back during the first decade of the the 21st Century the mainstream scientific view was that Arctic sea ice would be about in the range that it is today by around 2070 or 2080. And that we wouldn’t be contemplating the possibility of zero or near zero sea ice until the end of this Century.

16 March 2016

As planet burns hot, new report shows Paris a relic of historic failure

Download 'Climate Reality Check'
Prof. Kevin Anderson of the UK Tyndall Centre for Climate Change is fond of quoting the twentieth century Nobel laureate quantum physicist Richard P. Feynman: “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”

Download report

We fool ourselves if we are not deeply alarmed by the recent news about the state of global warming. According to new data released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii show that carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations jumped by 3.05 parts per million (ppm) during 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of research. 2015 was the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than 2 ppm.

14 March 2016

Mind-blowing February 2016 temperature spike a "climate emergency" says scientist, as extreme events hit Vietnam, Fiji and Zimbabwe

by David Spratt

Where do you start when climate data comes out that scientists simply call "jaw dropping", "alarming", an "ominous milestone", "true shocker" and "quite stunning ... it's completely unprecedented"?

The jaw dropper is the global average temperature for February 2016, released on 11 March by the US government agency NASA. (The raw data is available here.)

11 March 2016

Beware the "fat tail": Climate risk and scientific reticence

by David Spratt

How should we respond to climate change, avoid catastrophe and get back to safer conditions?  The question is often posed in "risk-management" terms, but what does than mean in assessing the risks associated with climate change, the possible impacts and the speed of action required?

We have historically tended to underestimate the rate of climate change impacts.

Too often policy is based on consensus scientific projections that downplay what Prof. Ross Garnaut called the “bad possibilities”, that is, the relatively low-probability outcomes that have very high impacts. These events may be more likely than is often assumed, as Prof. Michael E. Mann explained in reviewing Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet:

03 March 2016

Public ideas leadership on climate? The truth rarely sees the light of day.

by David Spratt

One of the most disturbing aspects of the public discussion of the climate change is its delusional character. The truth rarely sees the light of day.

Propositions that are entirely scientifically valid — such as there being no risk-averse carbon budget remaining for limiting warming to two degrees Celsius, or that the world has already passed a tipping point for a civilisation-threatening sea-level rise of several metres from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet at less than one degree of warming — are rare to non-existent in public discourse in Australia.

26 February 2016

International climate solidarity is more than plane fares and conferences

By Nic Maclellan

For much of the Australian climate movement, international solidarity has focused on travelling to the UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties (COPs), or financing delegates from indigenous communities and the Asia-Pacific region to participate in global summits.

I want to suggest that there are other practical ways that we can work with our counterparts in the Pacific islands region, without just focusing on the COPs.

With the Paris agreement creating the framework for action for the next decade, there will be increasing focus by Pacific Island Countries (PICs) on implementation, and on forcing OECD countries to meet their pledges. This will see increased pressure on Australia through the Pacific Islands Forum.

08 February 2016

Global warming linked to spread of zika virus

Countries Where The Zika Virus Is Spreading. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pan American Health Organization
Scientists believe that record average temperatures may be helping to create an environment that has led to big increases in the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

By Jan Rocha, Climate News Network

The Zika virus, transmitted by the same mosquito as dengue fever, has spread with alarming speed throughout South and Central America – and scientists in Brazil suspect that global warming is exacerbating the problem.

Although the virus, named after the Ugandan forest where it was first identified, usually causes only mild symptoms and often passes undetected, it has been associated with a surge in the number of cases of babies born with microcephaly, which can cause brain damage.

04 February 2016

Building common cause for social movement events

By David Spratt and David McKnight

Mass rallies, marches and protests have been and are a vital feature of social, liberation and democratic movements around the world: campaigning against injustice, exploitation and destruction and for fairness, democracy and conservation. The mass events organised by social movements are a public expression of common purpose and people power, helping to foster alliances, tell the stories of struggle, and demand change at important moments.

They are not just an event in time, but an expression of the political and organisation unity so far achieved, and a vehicle for extending that work. Coalition building is central to building powerful movements. Alliances between unions, religious and community groups, health and other professionals as well as environmental and climate groups are vital.

27 January 2016

Climate and renewables strategy In Victoria will not work without a plan to retire coal

by David Spratt

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews says he wants to be a leader on climate change, but he has no plan to retire dirty coal generators.

Coal generation over-supply is squeezing out significant expansion of renewable energy, so a renewable policy without a coal policy won't guarantee a fall in Victoria's emissions.

And now Alcoa's push for new fossil fuel subsidy would keep brown-coal generators open at expense of investment in renewable energy.