Category - Global Warming

Scrap fossil fuel subsidies now and bring in carbon tax, says World Bank chief

Jim Yong Kim calls for five-point plan to deliver low-carbon growth, including removal of incentives to exploit oil, gas and coal

The Guardian, By Larry Elliott, April 13

Poor countries are feeling “the boot of climate change on their neck”, the president of the World Bank has said, as he called for a carbon tax and the immediate scrapping of subsidies for fossil fuels to hold back global warming.

Jim Yong Kim said awareness of the impact of extreme weather events that have been linked to rising temperatures was more marked in developing nations than in rich western countries, and backed for the adoption of a five-point plan to deliver low-carbon growth.

Speaking to the Guardian ahead of this week’s half-yearly meeting of the World Bank in Washington DC, Kim said he had been impressed by the energy of the divestment campaigns on university campuses in the US, aimed at persuading investors to remove their funds from fossil fuel companies.

The Age: Record sea-surface temperatures in Pacific point to record warmth in 2015 and 2016

Is the future of America a crummy service job stamping on a human face, forever?

Vox, By Dylan Matthews, April 10

Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton don’t agree on much, but they both strongly believe more Americans should be working in low-wage, unpleasant jobs.

Paul devoted a large chunk of his announcement speech Tuesday to celebrating the “dignity of work,” endorsing the notion that work is a force that gives us meaning, rather than a means by which to stay alive. “Self-esteem can’t be given; it must be earned,” he declared. “Work is not punishment; work is the reward.”

Clinton is less blunt, but her campaign is expected to place a heavy emphasis on policies to get women into the workforce and encourage two-earner families, such as child care subsidies or paid parental leave.

The implication is clear: there are people, particularly women, who aren’t working but should be, and the government should be doing all it can to push them to take jobs.

These ideas address real problems: the labor market is rife with gender inequities, and efforts to make the choice to work as viable for women as it is for men are admirable and necessary. So are programs to help people living in concentrated poverty with little or no connection to the formal labor market find employment. And the US still needs to create 4 million jobs to fully recover from the recession.

But while there are problems to be solved, there’s also a reality to be acknowledged. America is a very, very rich society. The richest the world has ever known. For many Americans — particularly Americans with children — working a low-wage, physical job with little job security and unpredictable hours is a deeply unpleasant way to spend your life. Maybe more work isn’t always the answer.


Econospeak: UBI Caritas (the best things in life are free)

The miraculous Max Sawicky resumes wrestling with Universal Basic Income at MaxSpeak. This time the incitement comes from Dylan Matthews at Vox, who argues that a secondary benefit of basic income would be that “it enables a transition to a world of less work and greater leisure.”

That would indeed be a good thing. But as the Sandwichman pointed out two weeks ago, advocates for basic income seemingly make exactly the opposite argument. Guy Standing, co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network, cited a recent experiment in India — and earlier experiments in North America and Europe — as evidence for the claim that a basic income guarantee “would not reduce labor supply… The simple fact is that people with basic security work harder and more productively, not less.”

[…]

In my view, that only addresses one side of “the need”. The other side is the need to reduce superfluous production and consumption. We have long since passed the point where capital “diminishes labour time in the necessary form so as to increase it in the superfluous form; hence posits the superfluous in growing measure as a condition – question of life or death – for the necessary.”

Currently, world-wide carbon emissions per year are roughly double what can be re-absorbed by oceans and plants. This is not to say that the re-absorption by oceans is harmless –it leads to acidification. But clearly more than half of the emissions are superfluous to sustainability. Lo and behold, carbon emission increase in virtual lockstep with hours of work. In the U.S., the correlation between the two has been about 95% over the last quarter century.

… but who decides what’s superfluous?


Max Speak, You Listen!: Work makes Fritos

Florida Supreme Court to Review Solar Energy Ballot Initiative

Broward/Palm Beach New Times, By Kyle Swenson, March 30

The statewide push to get a solar power proposal on the 2016 ballot recently hit a milestone. Backers of the proposal announced last week that they’d secured enough initial signatures to send the proposal to the Florida Supreme Court. It’s an important first step for backers of the proposal, which seeks to cut-out Florida’s powerful utility companies from the solar equation. Considering the opposition the utilities have mounted against efforts to set up a progressive policy for sun power in the Sunshine State, many solar industry folks feel the ballot is the state’s best shot.

In a release last week, Floridians for Solar Choice announced they had secured 72,000 verified signatures for their proposal. Under state law, the language of the ballot proposal will now be shipped off to the State Attorney’s office. The office will then request an “advisory opinion” from the state Supreme Court to verify the legal language of the proposal.

According to a county-by-county break down of those first signatures from the Division of Elections, it appears a good portion of the proposal’s support is coming from Broward. The county notched 10,287 signatures as of March 23. Palm Beach accounted for 4,704 signatures.

“After a short and unnecessary delay, we are thrilled to reach this important milestone. It shows broad support among Florida’ families and businesses for removing barriers to commerce in solar power,” Tory Perfetti, chairman for Floridians for Solar Choice, announced in a press release last week. “Further, we look forward to working with the Attorney General and her professional staff to quickly move this petition to the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion.”

If the highest court OKs the language, the ballot’s backers will need to hit the road and gather an additional 600,000 signatures before February 2016.


Reuters: Florida ballot drive seeks to boost solar energy in Sunshine State, January 14

Florida law prohibits third party sale of electricity by anyone other than the state’s utility companies, such as Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy.

California governor orders first ever water restrictions

The governor of California has implemented the first mandatory water restrictions in the state’s history.

BBC, April 2

The order implements a 25% reduction in water usage for cities and towns across the parched state.

Vast areas of government-owned lawns will be replaced by drought-tolerant landscaping, and towns will be banned from watering ornamental grass.

Last year, Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed a state of emergency after years of drought.

The snow in the mountains is at its lowest level since records began, so water supplies from melting snow will be lower than normal in coming months.

“We are standing on dried grass, and we should be standing in five feet of snow,” said Mr Brown, speaking in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Global warming is now slowing down the circulation of the oceans — with potentially dire consequences

Washington Post, By Chris Mooney, March 23

Welcome to this week’s installment of “Don’t Mess with Geophysics.”

Last week, we learned about the possible destabilization of the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica, which could unleash over 11 feet of sea level rise in coming centuries.

And now this week brings news of another potential mega-scale perturbation. According to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a group of co-authors, we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that, among other planetary roles, helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the U.S. east coast. The consequences could be dire – including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston.
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Chile wildfires damage unique flora, fauna

AFP, March 22

Massive wildfires raging in drought-stricken southern Chile have wiped out hundreds of plant species, and are now threatening animal life as well, officials warned.

“We are witnessing a massive environmental catastrophe” in southern Chile, Accion Ecologica chief Luis Mariano Rendon told AFP from Mexico.

“There have been whole species lost, such as the Araucaria araucana (monkey puzzle tree). They are trees that take hundreds of years to reach maturity. So this is a practically irreparable loss for current generations.”

[…]

Fires advancing for several days in the country’s south have ravaged more than 3,700 hectares (9,100 acres) of forest, and have been contained but not put out entirely, firefighters said.

There are still 25 active fires, affecting 11,428 hectares of trees and brush, according to the national emergency office ONEMI.

McConnell Urges States to Help Thwart Obama’s ‘War on Coal’

New York Times, By Coral Davenport, March 19

Washington — Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has begun an aggressive campaign to block President Obama’s climate change agenda in statehouses and courtrooms across the country, arenas far beyond Mr. McConnell’s official reach and authority.

The campaign of Mr. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is aimed at stopping a set of Environmental Protection Agency regulations requiring states to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Once enacted, the rules could shutter hundreds of coal-fired plants in what Mr. Obama has promoted as a transformation of the nation’s energy economy away from fossil fuels and toward sources like wind and solar power. Mr. McConnell, whose home state is one of the nation’s largest coal producers, has vowed to fight the rules.

Since Mr. McConnell is limited in how he can use his role in the Senate to block regulations, he has taken the unusual step of reaching out to governors with a legal blueprint for them to follow to stop the rules in their states. Mr. McConnell’s Senate staff, led by his longtime senior energy adviser, Neil Chatterjee, is coordinating with lawyers and lobbying firms to try to ensure that the state plans are tangled up in legal delays.

Al Jazeera: A frenzy over fracking in Washington
NBC: California Governor Calls Out McConnell for Coal Letter – video; “…borderline immoral”

Amazon rainforest losing capacity to fight climate change as trees die

The Amazon rainforest is losing its ability to absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as trees are dying, which could have negative implication on climate change across the globe.

A study led by the University of Leeds revealed that tree growth in the Amazon rainforest has declined by one-third since the 1980s and that the net uptake of carbon dioxide in the rainforest has dropped by half.

For the first time in history, carbon dioxide absorption by the Amazon rainforest has been surpassed by fossil fuel emissions in Latin America, the study found. Historically, the rainforest absorbed about 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.
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UN: World could face 40 percent water shortfall by 2030

Population growth and climate change will increase global water demand, leaving short supply if usage does not change

Al Jazeera, March 20

The world could suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water in just 15 years unless countries dramatically change their use of the resource, a United Nations report warned Friday.

Many underground water reserves are already running low, while rainfall patterns are predicted to become more erratic with climate change. As the world’s population grows to an expected 9 billion by 2050, more groundwater will be needed for farming, industry and personal consumption.

With “business as usual” the world is facing a “collapse in our global socioeconomic system,” Richard Connor, lead author of the report, told Reuters.

The report predicts global water demand will increase 55 percent by 2050, while reserves dwindle. If current usage trends don’t change, the world will have only 60 percent of the water it needs in 2030, it said.


Al Jazeera: Water rationing may become a way of life in California drought

Florida employee ‘punished for using phrase climate change’

In a complaint against the state, worker says he was accused of violating policy and instructed to get a mental health evaluation after mentioning climate change

The Guardian, By Katherine Krueger, March 19

New York – An employee of Florida’s environmental protection department was forced to take a leave of absence and seek a mental health evaluation for violating governor Rick Scott’s unwritten ban on using the phrases “climate change” or “global warming” under any circumstance, according to a complaint filed against the state.

Longtime employee Barton Bibler reportedly included an explicit mention of climate change in his official notes from a Florida Coastal Managers Forum meeting in late February, during which climate change, rising sea levels and the possible environmental impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline were discussed.

On 9 March, Bibler received a formal reprimand for “misrepresenting that ‘the official meeting agenda included climate change’”, according to a statement from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Peer), a nationwide non-profit that champions public employees’ rights and providers resources and guidance to whistleblowers using its network of members across the country.

Bibler was instructed to stay away from the office for two days and told he could return to work only after a mental health evaluation from his doctor verified his “fitness for duty”, the complaint said. In the letter to Florida’s inspector general, Candie Fuller, the state’s Peer director calls for a full investigation to the matter.

‘People had no idea’: Pam devastates Vanuatu

The Australian, By Pia Akerman & Rachel Baxendale, March 16

Aid has begun arriving on the cyclone battered Vanuatu archipelago but early reports of damage from category five Cyclone Pam are bad, as aid workers say their efforts are being hampered by the scale of the disaster.

A pilot who flew over Erromango island and landed on Tanna, told the Red Cross that residents were worried about access to clean drinking water, that all communications were out, and that their communities looked “flattened”.

“What he told me is that he could land – that was the first positive,” said Aurelia Balpe, Head of the Pacific office for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “But as they flew in and out they saw lots of trees uprooted and, what was most striking, all corrugated iron structures were destroyed as far as they eye could see.

“And all concrete structures that he saw no longer had a roof.”

CNN: ‘Unbelievable destruction’ reported in Tropical Cyclone Pam’s wake
News.com.au: Vanuatu: Cyclone Pam brings ‘catastrophic’ death, destruction
CNN images: Tropical Cyclone Pam hits Vanuatu
The Telegraph: Dozens feared dead after Super Cyclone Pam slams into Vanuatu, in pictures
The Atlantic: A Cyclone Destroys a Nation
ABC.net: Tropical Cyclone Pam: Death toll may rise after worst natural disaster in ‘living memory’


Cyclone Pam hits New Zealand

Stuff.co.nz, March 16

The threat of high winds, heavy rain and big seas remains as Cyclone Pam lies to the northeast of East Cape on Monday morning.

MetService said Pam was expected to lie about 150km east of East Cape by noon, then move away from the New Zealand coastline towards the Chatham Islands.

Gisborne was braced for the storm, which is expected to peak around midday.

“We’ve had a reasonable amount of rain already and the wind looks like it’s trying to pick up,” Gisborne manager emergency management Richard Steele said about 8am.

There were no reports of any damage.


Cyclone Pam slows as it hits New Zealand

3 News, March 16

A downgraded but still immensely powerful Tropical Cyclone Pam has slowed on its way to northeastern New Zealand, and forecasters now say it will hit hard around midday.

The cyclone which devastated Vanuatu has been reduced from the maximum category five to a category three storm.

But, RadioLIVE’s weatherman Richard Green says it is still likely to be packing winds up to 160km/h, which are capable of major damage.

He says winds pushed ahead of Pam have been recorded at Cape Reinga in the past few hours, gusting up to 130km/h.

“It’s seen some big gusts in the last few hours, and even though we should see it easing for parts of the Northland, it looks a little more [rough] further south – particularly in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and the eastern Bay of Plenty.”

The Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Group Emergency Coordination Centre was activated at 5am this morning to support the response to Cyclone Pam.

Iditarod start moved north due to lack of snow

Snow trucked in, starting place moved north for famed Iditarod dog sled race amid unusually warm and dry Alaska winter

Al Jazeera / AP, March 8

A lack of snow has forced the Iditarod dog sled race to relocate its traditional start on Monday from Anchorage to Fairbanks, for the second time in the history of the event.

A stalled jet stream pushed Arctic air and snow into the U.S. Midwest and the East Coast, but kept Alaska fairly warm and dry this winter, especially south of the Alaska Range where the Iditarod was due to begin. Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, received only about a third of its normal winter snowfall, making for treacherous trail conditions and forcing race officials to make the course adjustment.

On Saturday, snow was trucked into Anchorage for the ceremonial start, which is a show for fans who can’t make it to the actual race’s rugged thousand-mile trail that will stretch from Fairbanks to Nome this year.

City crews overnight delivered up to 350 dump truck loads of snow and spread it out over city blocks so the show could go on. City maintenance workers stockpiled snow from neighborhoods the past few months and kept it for winter events, culminating with the Iditarod, said Paul VanLandingham with the public works department.

The festivities started Saturday morning in very un-Iditarod-like conditions — almost 40 degrees with a light rain falling before the start.

How to Die of Dumb

Truthout, By William Rivers Pitt, March 8

Sen. James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma since 1994, took to the floor of the Senate the other day with a snowball in a bag. Because it was cold in Washington DC, he said, because there was snow on the ground, that proves climate change is a hoax. “In case we had forgotten,” he said, pulling the snowball from the sack, “because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, do you know what this is? It’s a snowball, just from outside here. It’s very, very cold out.” He went on to denounce what he called the “hysteria on global warming,” and then threw the snowball at the presiding officer.

James Inhofe – who believes snow in DC disproves climate change – is the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, because of course he is. He won with 57 percent of the vote in his last re-election campaign, because of course he did.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky since 1984, has been urging state officials all across the US to refuse to comply with the new EPA rule on carbon emissions that was championed by the Obama administration. The rule requires existing power plants to cut their carbon emissions by 30 percent, based on the 2005 requirements, by the year 2030. Senator McConnell is having none of it. “Think twice,” he said, “before submitting a state plan, which could lock you in to federal enforcement and expose you to lawsuits, when the administration is standing on shaky legal ground and when, without your support, it won’t be able to demonstrate the capacity to carry out such political extremism.”
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Not Guilty: Flood Wall Street Protesters Vindicated By Manhattan Court

Judge rules NYPD violated demonstrators’ First Amendment rights

Common Dreams, By Sarah Lazare, March 6

In a ruling on Thursday hailed as a vindication, a Manhattan court has determined ten climate activists “not guilty” on charges related to a thousands-strong climate protest that “flooded Wall Street” in New York City’s financial district in September of last year.

Over 100 people—including one dressed as a polar bear—were arrested at the civil disobedience, which took direct aim at the role of capitalism in driving global warming and overall planetary destruction. Timed to coincide with a United Nations summit of heads of state and corporate leaders, the direct action followed the People’s Climate March, which featured over 400,000 participants and was led by communities from the front-lines of the climate crisis.

[…]

According to a statement from protesters, New York City Criminal Court Judge Robert Mandelbaum ruled that the dispersal order issued by the New York Police Department constituted an unlawful violation of demonstrators’ First Amendment rights.

Going beyond the “not guilty” ruling, however, Mandelbaum also took judicial notice of the fact that climate change is real, human-made, and requires drastic action. Defense Attorney Martin Stolar said that this acknowledgment is “unprecedented and has significance for future litigation involving climate change.”

El Nino declared as climate scientists watch on with ‘amazement’

Sydney Morning Herald, By Peter Hannam, March 6

Unusual warming of waters in the central equatorial Pacific has prompted the US government to declare an El Nino event and predict a better-than-even chance that it will linger through the middle of the year.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the above-average sea-surface temperatures had exceeded key thresholds, triggering the declaration of the “long-anticipated” El Nino.

However, the location of the main warming – about 10 degrees west of the International Dateline rather than to the east – and its timing early in the year are puzzling climate experts looking for similar events.

“Climate scientists are monitoring this with amazement,” said Cai Wenju, a principal CSIRO research scientist who has published widely on the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern. “We only understand what we have seen.”

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