Are you ready? A decade of blackouts ahead

In 2019, millions of Californians experienced a wildfire safety blackout, some for nearly a week at a time, as the troubled utility company Pacific Gas & Electric and other investor-owned utilities grappled with replacing one devastating disaster with another, comparatively manageable one.

2019 was not an anomaly, but the beginning of a new way of life for many California residents. While “de-energization” for fire safety has been state policy for more than a decade, it had never before been used on such a mass scale. According to utility experts, politicians and PG&E, customers can expect many more years of blackouts to come, as fire risk in California’s hills only increases.

“Wildfire blackouts could be California’s new normal for the next 10 to 30 years, or even longer,” senate energy committee chair Lisa Murkowski told a hearing on utility and fire safety in December.

In stark contrast to recent years past, California’s 2019 wildfire season was relatively mild: just 732 structures destroyed, compared to the tens of thousands and dozens killed in 2017 and 2018.

The crisis of 2019’s fire season was less the fires themselves, and more the actions taken that were meant to prevent fires from igniting in the first place. Intended as a measure of last resort, California power utilities conducted nine public safety power shutoffs in the fall of 2019 in an effort to reduce wildfire risk in hot, windy weather conditions – and to reduce liability costs to utilities.

Those costs following deadly wildfires in 2017 and 2018 fires linked to equipment belonging to PG&E, drove the company to file for bankruptcy in 2019, and to reconsider how to manage the grid during future fire weather events.

Bill Johnson, PG&E’s CEO, has at different times claimed his utility – the largest in the state – would resort to blackouts for the next three, five or ten years.

Southern California investor-owned utility San Diego Gas and Electric “is the poster child for safety,” said Michael Wara, the Director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment. SDG&E has been de-energizing its lines during fire weather events for more than a decade.

“Why is it that PG&E thinks it’s going to be able to replicate what San Diego’s done and do even better over a larger area in less time? It’s not impossible, but it’s an enormously challenging task,” said Wara.

PG&E’s post-de-energization reports to the state utilities commission showed a number of hazards after each event, from damaged lines and conductors to fallen trees. After its largest shutoff at the end of October, the utility noted more than 100 individual hazards.

“Would every piece of system damage that they noted have caused a fire? Probably not. But some of them probably would have,” said Wara. “[Public safety power shutoff policy] is so unpopular, and it impacts so many people, I worry we will be pushed to be overly optimistic about other potential avenues for creating safety.”

Despite the widespread shutoffs, PG&E equipment was still tied to igniting several fires in the fall of 2019, including the Kincade fire in Sonoma County, which destroyed 352 structures and burned more than 77,000 acres.

“It’s not clear to me that the system is that much safer than 2017,” Wara said. “The safety that we had this season and the absence of fires during these dangerous wind events was due to the fact that the wires weren’t hot.”

Fire risk in the California hills will rise precipitously through the middle of the century, according to a 2018 report for California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, with big new hazards in areas where high voltage transmission lines run through the mountains and connect California to clean energy out of state.

In the face of that rising danger, the public safety power shutoff is a utility’s fastest and cheapest means of reducing fire risk.

“I want to assure you that we do not expect an annual repeat of what we went through this fall. We are working hard now to narrow the scope and duration of future safety shutoffs and minimize their customer impact as much as possible,” Johnson told the senate hearing.

But he also took credit for the less destructive 2019 fire season: “PG&E’s [public safety power shutoff] program achieved its singular goal: there was no loss of life during wildfires in 2019.”

Not everyone in California is convinced that success is PG&E’s to claim.

Will Abrams and his family lost their home in the 2017 Tubbs fire that destroyed more than 5,600 structures and killed 22 people. They were forced to evacuate again from the 2019 Kincade fire.

“The fact that our firefighters went in and did an amazing job, learned from prior fires and got these more under control shouldn’t be a PG&E victory lap,” said Abrams. “I would argue that the shutoffs provide a disincentive for other mitigation. Because if you can just pull the power, you don’t have to do the vegetation management and the microgrids and all the other stuff you need to do.”

All of that “other stuff” is enormously expensive and labor-intensive and will take years to complete.

And the costs of installing stronger poles and trimming trees will not just be borne by the company’s profits. CEO Johnson has said ratepayers will not be on the hook for the costs associated with the company’s bankruptcy, but they will have to foot some of the bill for grid upgrades and maintenance. Customers saw their rates increase again on 1 January, though not as much as the utility would have liked. PG&E customers already pay some of the highest prices in the country for power, and those prices will only increase.

PG&E expects to reinforce 7,100 miles of line in fire risky areas in the next 12 to 14 years. To date, the utility has completed just 129 miles.

PG&E a ‘convicted felon’ to hold accountable

 

To some, PG&E’s bankruptcy initially seemed like an opportunity to restructure the troubled utility in favor of creating a more reliable and resilient grid to weather future climate change – one that wouldn’t necessitate extensive annual blackouts.

“This bankruptcy represents a closing window of opportunity to change course so that not only is PG&E a proven safe and reliable provider of energy but so the state has a way forward to address wildfires and climate change,” said Abrams, who has filed motions in the case advocating for more significant restructuring and transparency in the process.

But the California governor Gavin Newsom rejected PG&E’s plan to leave bankruptcy, calling it “woefully short” of reorganizing the company “to provide safe, reliable, and affordable service to its customers”.

In 2018, the state legislature passed a bill aimed at heading off that bankruptcy but providing new funding sources for fire-burdened utilities and requiring new wildfire safety plans – which ultimately included de-energization. In 2019, at Newsom’s urging, the legislature passed new legislation that created a wildfire liabilities fund, and placed a June deadline for PG&E to leave bankruptcy.

Critics argued that both bills were essentially bailouts for investor-owned utilities. “I voted no on both of them – I thought that they shifted financial responsibility on to Californians and neglected to raise public safety to the paramount priority,” said assembly member Marc Levine. “Deenergization was a massive failure.”

While California’s fires have been orders of magnitude more destructive than the blackouts, they touch just a fraction of the millions who had their lights turned off in 2019 – making de-energization a hotter problem for politicians and PG&E to solve. They have just a few months before the next fire season begins.

Three new pieces of legislation introduced in the state legislature’s first week back in 2020 aimed at addressing a troubled PG&E, regardless of the bankruptcy’s resolution.

A new proposal from Levine would install a public administrator from the state regulatory commission for a period of six months to oversee all the functions of a floundering investor-owned utility.

“We need to stop treating PG&E like a business to keep solvent and more like a convicted felon that needs to be held accountable,” said Levine.

Assemblymember Kansen Chu authored two bills directly aimed at de-energization which would authorize state regulators to determine if utilities should compensate customers after each power shutoff, and require utilities to support customers who rely on power for medical needs.

“There’s so much aging infrastructure, but that’s not going to be fixed very soon,” Chu said. “In the meantime I want them to be more responsible and more careful with their shutoffs because the first shut off was a disaster.” But leaving the power on in the meantime, said Chu, “is probably more devastating”.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/oct/24/california-wildfires-power-cuts-resilience-zones

Evidence of the slow rolling ecological collapse

Northern California, known for its rugged coastline and ancient redwood forests, boasts an abundance of natural gifts that make this part of the country unique, both on land and in the ocean, where a plethora of sea life attracts divers from around the world.

One of the Pacific’s most renowned features in this part of the country are the lush kelp beds brimming with marine life.

But since 2014, thanks in large part to climate chaos, the bull kelp forests have been decimated, around 90 percent devoured and eaten clean by an invasion of purple sea urchins mowing their way through the kelp and leaving behind what is known as an “urchin barren.”

Purple sea urchins have destroyed about 90 percent of the kelp forests off the Northern California coast.Dr. Cynthia Catton / CDFW

The purple sea urchin is native to the region, but a perfect storm of warming waters and a disease that killed off starfish, its predator, led to an explosion in its population. The urchins’ seemingly insatiable appetite has prevented the kelp beds from fully re-growing.

The effect has been devastating to local divers as they’ve watched their livelihoods and the environment they love, wither away.

On a sunny Saturday morning, a group of divers gathered and geared up to descend into the waters in an ongoing effort to tackle the ever-burgeoning purple urchin population.

Joshua Russo has been spearheading the volunteer effort to remove purple urchins, working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Noyo Center for Marine Science and Reef Check California, to try to mitigate their numbers.

He organizes periodic events for recreational divers, who go into the urchin barrens and remove as many purple sea urchins as they can.

“People have been wanting to do something about this since it first started,” Russo said. “We can finally get in the water and do something as divers, people who care so much about the ocean and what’s in it.”

The divers must have a California fishing license and can remove only up to 40 gallons of urchins a day.

Unlike red urchins, whose insides are consumed as uni in sushi restaurants, the purple variety are in a state of starvation and produce very little edible parts. Instead, they are composted or used as bait to attract fish for photography and fishing, though some people still search through numerous purple urchin shells for small amounts of edible uni.

Progress comes slowly. The ultimate hope is to remove enough purple urchins that the kelp can grow back in small patches and proliferate once again along the coast. The underwater plant is the foundation of the near-shore ecosystem, providing a home and food for many species of fish, crustaceans and other marine life.

“With a loss of kelp, you’re going to have a very, very profound impact on an ecosystem,” said Tristin McHugh, Reef Check California’s north coast regional manager. “It’s like losing your redwoods. What would happen if you saw 90 percent of your redwoods drop dead right now?”

For McHugh and many others, the biggest problem is awareness. Most people don’t even realize what sort of a catastrophe is happening below the sea surface.

“This is the fight of our generation,” she said. “If we can’t set ourselves up right now, there’s going to be nothing for our kids further down the line.”

 

 

from NBC news

Catastrophe is “probable”, and extinction “is possible”.

On any day, between 10,000 and 30,000 bushfires burn around the planet.

Realms as diverse and distant as Siberia, Amazonia, Indonesia, Australia and California are aflame. The advent of “the age of fire” is the bleakest warning yet that humans have breached boundaries we were never meant to cross.

It is time not only to think the unthinkable, but to speak it: that the world economy, civilization, and maybe our very survival as a species are on the line. And it is past time to act.

It isn’t just fires, It’s the incessant knell of unnatural (human-fed) disasters: droughts, floods, vanishing rivers, lakes and glaciers and the rise in billion-dollar weather impacts.

It is the spate of extinctions, the precipitous loss of sea fish, birds and corals, of forests, mammals, frogs, bees and other insects. It is the march of deserts and the waxing of dead zones in the oceans.

It is an avalanche of human chemical emissions poisoning our air, water, food, homes, cities, farms and unborn babies, slaying nine million a year.

It is the probability there will be no Arctic before the end of this century and rising seas expelling 300 million from their homes.

It is the ominous seepage of methane from the world’s oceans, tundra, swamps and fossil fuels, threatening runaway heating of 7 to 10 degrees or more.

It is the drift of billions of tons of soil from lands that feed us into the blind depths of the ocean, placing food security on a knife-edge as farming systems fail amid a turbulent climate and degraded landscapes.

It is the rising toll of noncommunicable diseases killing three people in every four.

It is the $1.8 trillion spent weaponizing nations for the true “war to end all wars”. Unchained by political malice or blunder, robot weapons of mass destruction commanded by artificial intelligence will choose who lives and who dies.

Yet a global citizen movement of scientists, youth, elders and women is demanding urgent action in the face of a growing risk of collapse. Its scientific warnings, Extinction Rebellion and the school strike for climate are flooding the streets of the world’s cities.

Pope Francis plans to add “ecological sin against the common home” to the Catholic catechism. The Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, warns of “abrupt financial collapse” due to climate change. In its annual assessment of catastrophic risks, the Global Economic Forum sees the mounting danger.

Prof Jem Bendell, of the University of Cumbria, UK, is among the voices warning that the collapse of civilization may have begun. Because we cannot easily predict its pace, trajectory or magnitude is no reason for inaction, he says. His paper, Deep Adaptation: a Map for Navigating our Climate Tragedy, predicts: “There will be a near-term collapse in society with serious ramifications for the lives of [citizens].” Catastrophe is “probable”, it added, and extinction “is possible”.

Yet so far only a handful of countries – France, Canada, Britain, Ireland and Argentina – have declared even a climate emergency. Most governments continue to move at a glacial pace and turn a blind eye to the nine other mega-threats threats menacing humanity. Why?

Because a worldwide counter-revolution is underway, intended to paralyze action on climate, environmental loss, extinction, toxic air water and food. It is financed by “dark money” from a terrified fossil fuels sector through shady institutions. It pours hundreds of millions of dollars into global propaganda to discredit climate and environmental science, seduce government and deceive the public.

More sinister still is the growing control of the fossil fuels lobby over governments and the world media – not only in floundering western democracies but also Russia, China, Brazil, India, and Saudi Arabia.

Now a new UN report says fossil corporates plan to ramp up carbon emissions 50% to 120% by 2030 beyond the limit for a safe human future (1.5C degrees). Despite the renewables boom, fossil infrastructure investment has rebounded in 2019 after three years of decline, the International Energy Agency says. On the face of it, the fossil lobby has turned the tide.

There are only three motives to so hazard civilization: greed, malice, and ignorance. Either the returns are so great that fossil executives are willing to cook their own grandchildren, or they are blind to the risks. Since these are technical people, the latter does not ring true: oil majors like Shell and ExxonMobil have revealed in court they understood exactly what they were doing to the planet for nearly 50 years. Ignoring it, they then sought to deceive humanity while ramping up carbon output.

The world is dividing into two opposing movements: the concerned “survivors” – the young, the old, the wise, the educated, the informed and the pragmatic – and the cynics backing the very global system that will precipitate collapse.

Some scientists’ estimates for how many lives collapse will cost range from 50%-90% of the human population. The number is not knowable because human behavior, like war, cannot be foretold. The process starts with famines and water crises, both already in evidence, leading to refugee tsunamis and multiplying conflicts.

As this truth sinks in, the part of humanity committed to survival is seeking legal redress. Columbia Law School documents more than 1,640 ongoing lawsuits against fossil fuel companies and/or governments. But the law is slow, and justice can be bought.

It is time to speak the unspeakable.

Without urgent action to terminate fossil fuel use, return the planet to a state of ecological health and address all 10 mega-threats in an integrated way, our worst fears will become our fate. Collapse becomes inexorable.

Doing nothing or too little sentences humanity to collapse – economic, societal, even existential. It is time to discuss this, openly, honestly, truthfully.

We have only one rational choice: to choose to survive.

This demands all necessary actions – although they spell the end of existing systems of energy, food, water, money, defense, transport and politics – and their replacement with new ones, universally dedicated to a viable, just and sustainable human and planetary future.

Julian Cribb The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/29/countries-from-siberia-to-australia-are-burning-the-age-of-fire-is-the-bleakest-warning-yet?

Let’s quit wasting money on a “spaceforce” and save the earth by planting lots of trees

When it comes to climate change research, most studies bear bad news regarding the looming, very real threat of a warming planet and the resulting devastation that it will bring upon the Earth. But a new study, out Thursday in the journal Science, offers a sliver of hope for the world: A group of researchers based in Switzerland, Italy, and France found that expanding forests, which sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, could seriously make up for humans’ toxic carbon emissions.

In 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s foremost authority on climate, estimated that we’d need to plant 1 billion hectares of forest by 2050 to keep the globe from warming a full 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. (One hectare is about twice the size of a football field.) Not only is that “undoubtedly achievable,” according to the study’s authors, but global tree restoration is “our most effective climate change solution to date.”

In fact, there’s space on the planet for an extra 900 million hectares of canopy cover, the researchers found, which translates to storage for a whopping 205 gigatons of carbon. To put that in perspective, humans emit about 10 gigatons of carbon from burning fossil fuels every year, according to Richard Houghton, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, who was not involved with the study. And overall, there are now about 850 gigatons of carbon in the atmosphere; a tree-planting effort on that scale could, in theory, cut carbon by about 25 percent, according to the authors.

In addition to that, Houghton says, trees are relatively cheap carbon consumers. As he put it, “There are technologies people are working on to take carbon dioxide out of the air. And trees do it — for nothing.”

To make this bold prediction, the researchers identified what tree cover looks like in nearly 80,000 half-hectare plots in existing forests. They then used that data to map how much canopy cover would be possible in other regions — excluding urban or agricultural land — depending on the area’s topography, climate, precipitation levels, and other environmental variables. The result revealed where trees might grow outside of existing forests.

“We know a single tree can capture a lot of carbon. What we don’t know is how many trees the planet can support,” says Jean-François Bastin, an ecologist and postdoc at ETH-Zürich, a university in Zürich, Switzerland, and the study’s lead author, adding, “This gives us an idea.”

They found that all that tree-planting potential isn’t spaced evenly across the globe. Six countries, in fact, hold more than half of the world’s area for potential tree restoration (in this order): Russia, the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and China. The United States alone has room for more than 100 million hectares of additional tree cover — greater than the size of Texas.

The study, however, has its limitations. For one, a global tree-planting effort is somewhat impractical. As the authors write, “it remains unclear what proportion of this land is public or privately owned, and so we cannot identify how much land is truly available for restoration.” Rob Jackson, who chairs the Earth System Science Department and Global Carbon Project at Stanford University and was not involved with the study, agrees that forest management plays an important role in the fight against climate change, but says the paper’s finding that humans could reduce atmospheric carbon by 25 percent by planting trees seemed “unrealistic,” and wondered what kinds of trees would be most effective or how forest restoration may disrupt agriculture.

“Forests and soils are the cheapest and fastest way to remove carbon from the atmosphere — lots of really good opportunities there,” he said. “I get uneasy when we start talking about managing billions of extra acres of land, with one goal in mind: to store carbon.” Bastin, though, says the study is “about respecting the natural ecosystem,” and not simply planting “100 percent tree cover.” He also clarified that planting trees alone cannot fix climate change. The problem is “related to the way we are living on the planet,” he says.

Caveats aside, Houghton sees the study as a useful exercise in what’s possible. “[The study] is setting the limits,” says Houghton. “It’s not telling us at all how to implement it. That what our leaders have to think about.”

From – https://www.motherjones.com/

Time to stop being so timid, time to be bold

Who’s afraid of the Green New Deal?

I’m not.

It’s ambitious, aspirational, improbable, impractical — almost as audacious as putting a man on the moon.

We used to be able to think big. Let’s do it again.

Since the 14-page resolution was introduced in Congress this month by Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), critics have been falling over themselves to denounce the Green New Deal’s policies as prohibitively expensive, totally unworkable or somehow Venezuelan. If those opponents would stop shouting long enough to actually read the document, they’d see that it’s not a compendium of concrete policies at all, but rather a set of goals.

And they are the right goals. The Green New Deal seeks to outline a national project for our time — not just a response to a grave environmental threat, but a framework for enhanced growth, opportunity and fairness.

The laudable aim is to play offense, not defense, in the fight to limit climate change. We are going to have to wage that battle one way or another. Why not do it on our terms, before Miami slips underwater and the yet-unburned parts of California go up in flames?

The best historical analogy is not the New Deal but World War II, when mobilization of the nation’s vast productive capacity not only defeated Germany and Japan but also generated unprecedented domestic economic growth, hugely expanding the middle class. Once again, the planet faces a dire threat. Once again, the United States can help lead the world to victory.

It’s a massive overreach, critics of the Green New Deal say. But any effort to address climate change that is commensurate with the scale of the problem is going to look like an overreach. Worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases — the cause of global warming — are beginning to level off, but they need to start falling, and fast, if we are to spare our grandchildren and great-grandchildren an ecological nightmare.

Can we really shift entirely to clean energy sources within 10 years, as the resolution pledges? Well, certainly not if we don’t try. In 1961, when President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of sending an American to the moon and back by the end of the decade, NASA scientists had only a vague idea how to do such a thing. They figured it out, and succeeded in 1969.

Breakthroughs will be needed, for example, in solar energy technology and battery storage. Why should China — now the world’s biggest producer of solar panels — be allowed to make these innovations and reap the resulting economic benefits? Why not the United States?

It’s too expensive, naysayers complain. They point to a clause in the resolution that calls for “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States” to make them more energy-efficient. That sounds absurd — until you remember the massive blackout drills that took place across the country during World War II. People participated. It was their patriotic duty.

Windows, roofs, doors, appliances — all have to be replaced every once in a while, and all can be made less wasteful of energy. And as for goals such as making sure every American has “high-quality health care” and “affordable, safe and adequate housing,” well, those have been Democratic Party positions for a very long time.

Acting alone would be pointless, skeptics say. Indeed, China is now by far the world’s biggest carbon emitter, with the United States second and India a fast-rising third. What would be the point of going to great effort to reduce U.S. emissions while others just burn more coal?

Think about it, though. We are, after all, the second-biggest emitter, which means that any substantial reduction would indeed have measurable impact. Also, officials in China and India, unlike those in the Trump administration, understand and accept the conclusions of climate scientists. China may be adding coal-fired power plants, but it is also making massive investments in clean energy. Do you really want Beijing to lead the way into the future? Shouldn’t it be Washington?

That’s a rationale for the Green New Deal that the Make America Great Again crowd should embrace. If you believe in American exceptionalism, you believe that the United States has a duty to lead at moments of crisis. This is such a moment.

Look at the big picture. Unless you deny the science of climate change, you have to believe that we need to take bold action.

Stop all the nitpicking.
Enough with the posturing.
Let’s talk about what to do.

By Eugene Robinson Columnist Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/yes-the-green-new-deal-is-audacious-but-we-have-no-choice-but-to-think-big/2019/02/18

 

“I don’t believe in Global Warming”

A big UN report arrived on recently, saying in no uncertain terms that the world has up to two decades to massively cut emissions by transforming the global economy if we want to avoid terrible climate impacts.

Given the implications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) findings — government intervention, progressive social policies, more international aid — it’s perhaps not surprising that those who deny climate change is real or a problem pushed back. It took a few days, but the climate science deniers’ response to the IPCC report is now in full flow.

What we see is three distinct layers of climate science denial at play here:

There’s the ‘this isn’t happening’ sun-spot brigade.

There’s the ‘this is happening but it’s all a Communist ruse’ zealots.

And then there’s the team who reluctantly admit they’ve lost the debate but shoehorn in a number of caveats and excuses to justify why nothing should happen.

‘This isn’t happening’

Over at Steve Bannon’s alt-right hate machine Breibart, James Delingpole calls the IPCC report: “wailing hysteria and worryingly eco-fascistic policy prescriptions”.

Quoting Benny Peiser of the oft-debunked Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), he claims that the climate breakdown “hasn’t been supported by real-world evidence”.

Delingpole draws on an old friend, author Rupert Darwall, to claim that “science” is really just a pretext, devised by “ideological Euro Greenies, to destroy the fossil fuel hegemony of countries like the U.S. and to impose on them a new, eurocentric, renewable energy global tyranny.”

Now in full flow, Delingpole mocks reporting (such as ours) that points to the egregious media coverage in the UK, which favoured Strictly Come Dancing over ecological crisis. He asks, could it be that within the media universe “a few vestiges of the old standards still prevail? That maybe some editors still recognise a complete non-story when they see one?”

The BBC’s editors decided it was a story, but had a slightly odd approach to covering it.

As DeSmog UK pointed out, Newsnight chose to invite on US climate science denier Myron Ebell.

Ebell is the former head of President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team and a Director of the libertarian US think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

His appearance has been heavily slated. Environmental writer Mark Lynas described the interview as “utterly pointless and embarrassing. Car-crash television, and a waste of time that could have been used addressing the real questions.”

“If you want political analysis, ask a policy analyst. If you want propaganda, ask Myron Ebell,” said Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at University College London.

Not to be denied their place in the sun, LBC radio got in on the action, giving a platform to GWPF-founder Lord Nigel Lawson to spout his stock in trade — that all this talk of climate action is just “PC claptrap”.

Not content with giving Nigel Lawson a platform, LBC doubled up by bringing Piers Corbyn on to deny not just climate breakdown — “I’ll challenge the IPCC and the professor just speaking, there is no scientific paper in existence that shows that increases of carbon dioxide worldwide drive world temperature rises” — but that coral reefs were under threat.

The IPCC’s report compiled evidence from more than 6,000 papers. It said 70 to 90 percent of coral reefs would be lost with 1.5C of warming, and almost all with 2C of warming.

‘It’s all a ruse’

Over at Conservative Woman — which regularly runs pieces by Conservative non-woman and GWPF researcher Harry Wilkinson — a headline runs “Top scientist shoots the climate-change alarmists down in flames”. In that article, Wilkinson quotes American climate science denier Richard Lindzen, who the GWPF contrived to give its annual lecture on the day the IPCC report was released.

In an extraordinary talk, Lindzen equates the climate consensus with “the suicide of industrial society”. His talk is a homage to oil and coal arguing: “the power these people desperately seek includes the power to roll back the status and welfare that the ordinary person has acquired and continues to acquire through the fossil fuel generated industrial revolution and return them to their presumably more appropriate status as serfs.”

Lindzen has form. Back in 2017 writing at Merion West, Lindzen argued that believing climate change is largely caused by increases in carbon dioxide is “pretty close to believing in magic.”

In 2015 The Daily Mail reported Lindzen compared people believing in global warming to religious fanatics: “As with any cult, once the mythology of the cult begins falling apart, instead of saying, oh, we were wrong, they get more and more fanatical.”

The Spectator would seem to agree. Its beleaguered editor Fraser Nelson tweeted a sneering comment in support of Ross Clark’s article, in which he states:

“It isn’t hard to spot the problem with issuing frightening-sounding deadlines. If the deadlines come and go, without us managing to lower emissions and yet still life goes on, it makes the people setting the deadlines look rather foolish.”

“It is also somewhat counter-productive. Given the failure of the world to come to an end, it is tempting to say, just as we do when religious cults and other fantasists make doom-laden predictions which fail to come to pass: well, the whole thing must be a hoax. What is the point of listening any further?”

Clark has a long history of climate denial. Back in 2015 he wrote in the Express the sort of paean to fossil fuel capitalism that Richard Lindzen would have been proud of:

“Climate change is not the greatest risk to the world: the biggest danger we face is the economic decline which would result from the loss of the cheap energy which has improved lives beyond all recognition over the past two centuries.”

“You name it: better food, better transport, better medical care. Ultimately, all the fantastic improvements in our lives since 1800 have been down to one thing: our ability to harness energy from fossil fuels.”

In summary: Everything’s getting better forever and ever. Except the IPCC report tells us that’s very much not the case, unless we take radical action. Which is perhaps why, in a second Breitbart article, Delingpole took aim at the organisations charged with implementing this ‘green tyranny’ that would see a move away from fossil fuels — specifically the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) Chief Executive, Chris Stark.

He’s a man full of “revolutionary fervour” for cutting the UK’s emissions and helping the world avoid terrible climate impacts, Delingpole (sort of) writes. “If this doesn’t chill you to the marrow, it should”, apparently.

He’s not the only one that’s scared the CCC might now become empowered. Nick Timothy, a former SPAD for Theresa May who is credited with getting the UK’s Department of Climate Change shut down, urges Telegraph readers to “take back control” from “unaccountable entities” such as the CCC.

And entities such as the Nobel committee, perhaps.

Bjorn Lomborg over at the Wall St Journal took the opportunity to distort the work of just-announced Nobel Prize winner, climate economist, William Nordhaus. Lomborg claims Nordhaus said that “proposed cost of CO2 cuts aren’t worth it”.

But as Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans points out on Twitter, Nordhaus literally wrote in one of his many, many papers on the economic rationale for climate action:

“The future is uncertain so we should have more climate policy, not less.”

In one sense the new ideological discomfort of the shrinking climate denial network is understandable. As the IPCC reports outlines, mass systemic change is required –  a systemic change that is incompatible with the economic system the climate science deniers revere.

‘It’s happening, but…’

The Daily Mail – a bastion of climate science denial under former editor Paul Dacre – started uncharacteristically promisingly with Peter Oborne’s excellent report from Bangladesh, which seems to be based on actual facts and actual reporting and firmly grounded in reality.

But then on Wednesday they had Stephen Glover veer from acknowledging the level of crisis, to arguing that it’s all just too expensive so nothing should be done. He writes:

“This week’s IPCC report judged that global warming must be kept to a maximum of 1.5C warmer than pre-industrial levels, rather than the 2C ceiling previously envisaged. How can scientists be so sure that the lower figure should become the new goal?

“I ask because it carries enormous extra costs. The IPCC estimates that new energy infrastructure — wind, solar and electricity storage — as well as technologies that can capture CO2 from the atmosphere, could cost a jaw dropping £1,800 billion.”

“This will be paid for by the likes of you and me.” He’s not the only one that acknowledges climate change is a problem but isn’t really willing to countenance the solutions.

Rod Liddle in The Sun takes aim first at vegetarians, then at windfarms.

Of the IPCC’s suggestion that we’re going to have to eat a lot less meat, he says: “Climate change is a fact. But when they conflate two issues for reasons of fashion, I begin to smell a rat”.

So Rod isn’t going veggie. But what of another IPCC finding, that the world is going to need a heck of a lot more windfarms? No. He doesn’t fancy that either:

“Wind turbines are a blight on our landscape”, he says, “causing misery wherever they are”.

That’s all pretty normal messaging for newspapers known for objecting to climate policy. But what’s new about the latest spate of climate science denial is its politics.

Having overwhelmingly lost the scientific debate, these groups are now pivoting to a new position which is centered around two ideas: first that the new is too apocalyptic and second that it’s too expensive.

Given what is required is systemic change, they are swiftly changing positions to defend the indefensible — an economic system based on extraction and exploitation of natural resources and mass consumerism that the IPCC tells us must be in its end-phase.

But it’s not all bad…

Amongst the torrent of climate science denial from the usual suspects, there are also a few shoots of refreshing reality appearing.  For instance, the normally obstinate Times runs an editorial that breaks with their own columnist Matt Ridley’s vehement do-nothingery and points to the IPCC report to make his stance look absurd:

“The IPCC report’s authors warn that cutting emissions fast enough to keep the planet sufficiently cool could mean a $2.5 trillion hit to global GDP. Others estimate that switching to electric cars will create new industries worth $7 trillion a year in the US alone. It is true that a revolution will be necessary, but it should be bloodless and it will be good for us. So bring it on.”

By Mike Small at:

https://www.desmog.co.uk/2018/10/11/climate-science-deniers-respond-ipcc-report-anger-fear-and-distortion

OOPS!

21 days over 120 degrees, ya that just happened, what’s next?

Hothouse Earth Is Merely the Beginning of the End Not the end of the planet, but maybe the end of its human inhabitants

“Our future,” scientist James Lovelock has written, “is like that of the passengers on a small pleasure boat sailing quietly above the Niagara Falls, not knowing that the engines are about to fail.”

I thought about Lovelock the other day as I drove across Idaho, watching plumes from a forest fire rise in the distance. My mom and two of my kids were texting me about their experience driving through Redding, the city in Northern California where a “firenado” had devastated the region and accelerated a wildfire that killed six people. Not far away, in Mendocino, the largest fire in California history was burning an area the size of Los Angeles.

On the radio, I listened to reports from around the world: in Athens, Greece, a fire killed 92 people; in Japan, a brutal heat wave claimed 80 lives. This summer, wildfires have been burning in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Germany. There are even wildfires in the Arctic. High temperature records have been shattered all around the globe, including in Death Valley, California, which set the record for the hottest month ever recorded on the planet, with 21 days over 120 degrees. Our world is aflame.

I doubt any of this would surprise Lovelock, who is one of the most original thinkers of the 20th century, as well as one of the most articulate prophets of doom. As an inventor, he created a device that helped detect the growing hole in the ozone layer and jump-start the environmental movement in the 1970s. And as a scientist, he introduced the revolutionary theory known as Gaia — the idea that our entire planet is a kind of super-organism that is, in a sense, “alive.” Once dismissed as New Age quackery, Lovelock’s vision of a self-regulating Earth now underlies virtually all climate science.

And in Lovelock’s view, the Earth’s self-regulating system is seriously out of whack, thanks largely to our 150-year fossil fuel binge. “You could quite seriously look at climate change as a response of the system intended to get rid of an irritating species: us humans,” Lovelock told me in 2007 when I visited him at his house in Devon, England, for a profile in Rolling Stone. “Or at least cut them back to size.”

And Lovelock did not mince words about the future that we are creating for ourselves by ignoring the warning signs on our superheated planet. As I wrote at the time:

In Lovelock’s view, the scale of the catastrophe that awaits us will soon become obvious. By 2020, droughts and other extreme weather will be commonplace. By 2040, the Sahara will be moving into Europe, and Berlin will be as hot as Baghdad. Atlanta will end up a kudzu jungle. Phoenix will become uninhabitable, as will parts of Beijing (desert), Miami (rising seas) and London (floods). Food shortages will drive millions of people north, raising political tensions. “The Chinese have nowhere to go but up into Siberia,” Lovelock says. “How will the Russians feel about that? I fear that war between Russia and China is probably inevitable.” With hardship and mass migrations will come epidemics, which are likely to kill millions. By 2100, Lovelock believes, the Earth’s population will be culled from today’s 6.6 billion to as few as 500 million, with most of the survivors living in the far latitudes – Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Arctic Basin.

A new paper published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences called “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” reached more or less the same conclusion, even if was stated in more general scientific terms (and of course minus any reference to a “culling” of Earth’s population).

The paper, which was widely covered by everyone from USA Today to Al Jazeera, projected a very Lovelock-ian view of our world, arguing that even if we managed to hit the carbon emissions targets set in the Paris Climate Accord, we still might trigger a series of accelerating climate-system feedback loops that would push the climate into a permanent hothouse state, with a warming of four, five or even six degrees Celsius. If that were to happen, the paper argued, “Hothouse Earth is likely to be uncontrollable and dangerous to many, particularly if we transition into it in only a century or two, and it poses severe risks for health, economies, political stability (especially for the most climate vulnerable), and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans.”

The idea that the Earth’s climate system has certain tipping points, or thresholds, is nothing new. Small changes in the temperature of the Southern Ocean, for example, might have big implications for the West Antarctic ice sheet, leading to an ice cliff collapse that could raise sea levels by 10 feet or more in a very short (geologically-speaking) period of time. Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Penn State, has described the Earth’s climate as a highly complex system that, based on small forces that are still only dimly understood, tends to lurch from one steady state to another. “You might think of the climate as a drunk,” Alley wrote in his great book The Two Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future, which was first published in 2000. “When left alone, it sits; when forced to move, it staggers.”

There is no groundbreaking new science in the Hothouse Earth paper. Rather, it’s a synthesis of what is already known and presented in a compelling way. But it is an important reminder of two key attributes of the climate crisis. The first is that the real threat of climate change is not a slow slide into a warmer world; it’s a fast change into a radically different climate. How fast that change could happen, and how radically different it might be, no one can say for sure. But by continuing to dump fossil fuels into the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate, we are rolling the dice. As Columbia University scientist Wally Broecker famously put it, “If you’re living with any angry beast, you shouldn’t poke it with a stick.”

And we are not doing nearly enough to fight it. The Hothouse Earth paper points out — again, in a very Lovelock-ian way — that fighting climate change is not just a matter of reducing carbon pollution in the future, important as that obviously is. It’s about taking active stewardship of the planet now, and thinking more holistically about how to manage it now. Among other things, that means giving up the notion that there is a “solution” for climate change and accepting the idea we are living in a rapidly changing world now. How will we engineer drinking water systems to deal with this? How will we manage forests? How are coastal cities going to adapt to — or intelligently retreat from — rapidly rising seas?

“The heat and fires we’re seeing this summer is worrisome,” Alley tells Rolling Stone, in his typically understated way. “There are certainly human fingerprints on a lot of it.” But, Alley points out, this is just the beginning. As of now, the Earth has warmed just 1 degree Celsius. “Dealing with what we’re seeing now is the easy stuff,” Alley says. “With each additional degree of warming, the impact will be greater.” Alley is most concerned about physical systems with likely tipping points, such as the West Antarctic ice sheet.

He’s also concerned about biological tipping points. “If the oxygen level in oceans drops just a little, it could have a big and immediate impact on sea life,” Alley says. “A fire in Brazil could lead to rainforest being replaced with savannah, which would have all kinds of consequences for biological diversity, as well as for carbon uptake.”

But it’s the tipping point in human systems that worry Alley the most. He points to the recent drought in the Middle East, which was a key driver in the Syrian civil war. “You can see the resilience of different political systems. During the drought, Israel was OK. But Syria was not.”

Maybe this is the summer that we figure out that, as Lovelock put it, our engines are about the fail and we are indeed headed over the falls. But I thought that after Hurricane Katrina, too. And after Sandy. Instead, America elected a president who thinks climate change is a hoax and tweets insanely about how California doesn’t have enough water to fight the fires because it has “diverted” rivers into the Pacific. (As University of California at Merced professor LeRoy Westerling explained to NPR, “Even if you built a massive statewide sprinkler system and drained all of our natural water bodies to operate it, it wouldn’t keep up with evaporation from warmer temperatures from climate change.”)

When I talked to Lovelock in his cottage in Devon 11 years ago, he wasn’t worried about the fate of the planet. “Gaia is a tough bitch,” he told me. Whatever we humans do to it, he argued, it will eventually recover its equilibrium, even if it takes millions of years. What’s at stake, Lovelock believes, is civilization. “I don’t see it being too long before forms of life, based on the idea of [artificial intelligence] and so on, take over and run the planet for heaven knows how long.”

What about humans?  When asked about this recently, Lovelock told the BBC: “Don’t you consider it possible that we’ve had our time?”

By Jeff Goodell for Rolling Stone

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/hothouse-earth-climate-change-