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NASA climate chief: Labor’s targets a ‘recipe for disaster’ (Australia)

David Spratt, Crikey
When James Hansen talks climate change, people listen. The head of climate studies at NASA, Hansen first gave evidence on the issue to the US Congress in 1988, and is now an eminent scientist and a prominent public advocate.

In new research just out, Hansen concludes that at the current temperature, no “cushion” is left to avoid dangerous climate change, and that the Australian government target goals “… of limiting human-made warming to 2° and CO2 to 450 ppm are prescriptions for disaster”.

The question Hansen raises is direct and brutal in its implications: is the planet already entering a zone of dangerous climate change?

With Arctic sea-ice in a “death spiral”, Greenland in 2010 melting at an unprecedented rate, a seemingly extraordinary number of extreme climate events in the past year from the Russian fires to the Pakistan floods, and 18 countries setting temperature records, have we already gone too far for a safe climate?

In a draft of a new research paper, Hansen and his collaborator Makiko Sato has opened a new debate about what might be the conditions for a safe climate; that is, one in which people and nations can continue to live where and as they have been, with secure food production, and in a bio-diverse environment.
(27 January 2011)

A carbon tax … and then?
David Spratt, Climate Action Centre
… The danger in the next period is that the climate debate in Australia, and political metrics as to the success of climate policy ,will be reduced to a single-lens focus on carbon pricing. This would be a catastrophe because a price, its starting range and implementation timetable are not easy, nor a silver bullet. A serious conversation about energy efficiency and mitigation programmes is under way, recognising that many of the past initiatives at state and federal level have been ad hoc, contradictory, inefficient and at times counterproductive. They have been turned on and off for little reason, often more concerned with householder appeal than efficacy.

… Reality check

The question is whether what is on the public agenda, and a similar scale of action globally, would be enough to save us from a climate catastrophe. Most advocates for the transition to a more climate-friendly society have largely wrapped their advocacy in upbeat rhetoric. Understanding investment riskmanagement will drive green business, and the move to a cleanenergy economy is a win-win, with new jobs, new industries and a better environment. Hardly any cost at all. Part of this happyclappy advocacy is driven by the marketing and communications consultants whose habitat is increasingly to be found high in branches of many NGOs. People don’t want to hear bad news stories, so the story goes, and will be empowered by simple, positive messages about a rosy future. Think polar bears, bright-coloured corals and wind turbines sleek against a blue sky. The question is whether what they are advocating will make a rosy world.

The problem is that much of the grim reality being told to us by climate scientists is put to one side. It is sobering when committed climate activists with whom I work tell me they have ‘stopped reading the science’ because its too depressing. Some NGO leaders act as if they never understood it in the first place. Only by honestly engaging with the science can we identify what we need to do, and how quickly. The fact is that we are going to suffer dislocation and disruption to stop living in a fossil-fuel dependent world and build a new one from the ground up.

… Speed is of the essence in acting to reverse direction. The planet stands on the edge of a precipice beyond which human actions may no longer be able to control in a meaningful way the trajectory of the climate system, or the fate of human life in a rapidly degrading natural world. This requires emergency action, and probably ten per cent or more of world production will be required for a sustained period to build a new global energy system and economy. In the transport sector alone, it would mean amongst the many changes an end to virtually all air travel and air-freight (because there are no viable, large-scale energy substitutes on the horizon) with enormous consequences for the global economy, mass tourism and even Australia’s university sector with its newfound dependence on overseas student fees. Think of the global shipment of freight without oil. And that is the challenge in just one part of one sector. It will not be happyclappy, win-win, but challenging and difficult. And absolutely necessary.
(December 2010)
Suggested by EB contributor Bill Henderson who writes:
“It is a little too long to copy and based upon Aussie politics but please if you just have the time to read one thing this weekend Spratt’s latest doc is quotable from every para, the cartoons are incendiary, the bottom line so important that every climate activist, every ENGO talking head, should be forwarding to local policy shapers, media and publics.

In BC in 2007 we ignored Spratt/Sutton in favour of a puny carbon tax, the promise of government carbon neutrality , and the promise of WCI increasing action to reduce emissions in the future. Not only did we not awaken the public to the real challenge – to be more truthful, we helped Campbell contain climate change action, a real challenge to his neolib agenda.

Spratt concludes by quoting his fellow Aussie Ian Dunlop:

Honesty about this challenge is essential, otherwise we will never develop realistic solutions.

We face nothing less than a global emergency which must be addressed with a global emergency response, akin to national mobilisations pre-WWII or the Marshall Plan … This is not extremist nonsense, but a call echoed by an increasing numbers of world leaders as the science becomes better understood….

In the face of catastrophic risk, emission reduction targets should be based on the latest, considered, science, not on a political view of the art-of-the-possible.

Hansen, Spratt, Anderson (the inadequacy of our favoured response) and many others might be wrong, and there may be no feasible path other than waiting for a Katrina (or a Gulf conflagration in the previous example), but don’t you think a fuller debate on possible Plan Bs shouldn’t be happening? Do informed Canadian publics who you would mix with even know who David Spratt is?

Let me ask you: Do Richard Heinberg, Dave Roberts, Lindsay Curren, Rob Hopkins or Kurt Cobb, for example know who Spratt is or what he is saying about climate change and Plan B? Peak oil, the ‘silent crisis’ and climate change require more than transition strategies or, when they fail, Plan Z.”

Mass Tree Deaths Prompt Fears of Amazon ‘Climate Tipping Point’

Damian Carrington, The Guardian/UK
Billions of trees died in the record drought that struck the Amazon in 2010, raising fears that the vast forest is on the verge of a tipping point, where it will stop absorbing greenhouse gas emissions and instead increase them.

[Aerial view of a drought-affected area within the Amazon basin in Manaus, Brazil. (Photograph: Rodrigo Baleia/LatinContent/Getty Images)]Aerial view of a drought-affected area within the Amazon basin in Manaus, Brazil. (Photograph: Rodrigo Baleia/LatinContent/Getty Images)
The dense forests of the Amazon soak up more than one-quarter of the world’s atmospheric carbon, making it a critically important buffer against global warming. But if the Amazon switches from a carbon sink to a carbon source that prompts further droughts and mass tree deaths, such a feedback loop could cause runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences.

“Put starkly, current emissions pathways risk playing Russian roulette with the world’s largest forest,” said tropical forest expert Simon Lewis
(4 February 2011)

Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Asteroid Headed For Earth

The Onion
In a strong rebuke of President Obama and his domestic agenda, all 242 House Republicans voted Wednesday to repeal the Asteroid Destruction and American Preservation Act, which was signed into law last year to destroy the immense asteroid currently hurtling toward Earth.

The $440 billion legislation, which would send a dozen high-thrust plasma impactor probes to shatter the massive asteroid before it strikes the planet, would affect more than 300 million Americans and is strongly opposed by the GOP.

“The voters sent us to Washington to stand up for individual liberty, not big government,” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said at a press conference. “Obama’s plan would take away citizens’ fundamental freedoms, forcing each of us into hastily built concrete bunkers and empowering the federal government to ration our access to food, water, and potassium iodide tablets while underground.”

“We believe that the decisions of how to deal with the massive asteroid are best left to the individual,” King added.

Repealing the act, which opponents have branded ‘Obamastroid,’ has been the cornerstone of the GOP agenda since the law’s passage last August.
(2 February 2011)
Parody. -BA

Climate Communications and Behavior Change

Social Capital Project, The Resource Innovation Group

Cara Pike, Bob Doppelt, Meredith Herr

Drawing on extensive global warming, behavior change, and communications research and practitioner expertise, the Climate Communications and Behavior Change guide distills this information into tools and recommendations that climate leaders can easily apply.

It illustrates the challenges with existing communications efforts and provides tips on how to frame and deliver outreach efforts in a way that motivates changes in thinking and behavior. The guide also offers detailed advice and tips on how to frame global warming communications and promote behavior change in ways that resonate with a range of audience segments.

Available as a 54-page View PDF / Download PDF
(12 April 2010)
Recommended by David MacLeod:

I have thought a lot about the communication/behavior change problem, and have read a fair amount. After a very brief skim of this document, it looks to me to be one of the most well thought out approaches along with being chock full of great practical suggestions. This looks to me like an essential blueprint that should be studied closely and applied widely!

It’s a 54 page pdf document to download. Read this document, and share it with your circles of influence!

Reckless practices in the banking and oil industries

Andrew Simms, Guardian
70 months and counting …

Reckless practices in the banking and oil industries are tying us together in what Ban Ki-moon calls a ‘global suicide pact’

Capital One’s advert for its World Mastercard is quite emphatic: “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, there’s no limit.” That kind of certainty normally comes wrapped in fundamentalist religion. It could be the magical thinking of an economic system drifted dangerously far from its real world roots, or just the “bring it on” machismo of banks desperate to forget the consequences of reckless lending.

Either way, it neatly illustrates Ban Ki-moon’s suspicion that the world’s economic model is an ecological “global suicide pact”. Whichever data set you refer to, his concern is well grounded. Last year was either the equal warmest year on record, or second warmest.

But, given that the model for the world economy has also been something of a suicide note, you’d expect a growing clamour for system change. But, you’d be quite wrong.

… This month – number 70 in this countdown for action on climate change – saw BP publish its latest, industry standard projections of future fossil fuel demand and production. They predict that global carbon emissions will keep rising until at least 2030, in spite of the fact that to prevent dangerous climate change they should already be reducing. Presented in numbing pages of graphs and tables, this is the “global suicide pact” written invisibly into the world’s economic model referred to by Ban Ki-moon. And it will remain so, until we can break the spell of magical thinking which allows us to believe that, economically and environmentally, there are no limits.

70 months and counting …
(1 February 2011)