When it comes to the science and impacts of climate change, it was another one of those weeks were you had to read things twice to make sure you were reading things correctly.
Let me start off with this from the Guardian: “Right now, the Earth’s average surface temperature is hotter than it’s been in thousands of years; potentially even longer.” Wow! Thousands of years! I have directly lifted the following copy - “Stunning,” “wow,” “shocker,” “bombshell,” “astronomical,” “insane,” “unprecedented”– these are some of the words climate scientists have used to describe the record-shattering global surface temperatures in February 2016. The story goes on: “ It’s difficult to see any ‘pause’ or slowdown in the global warming over the past 50 years. To put the current temperatures into context, prior to last October, monthly global surface temperatures had not been more than 0.96°C hotter than the 1951–1980 average, according to Nasa. The past 5 months have been 1.06°C, 1.03°C, 1.10°C, 1.14°C, and 1.35°C hotter than that average, absolutely destroying previous records.” Again Wow.
Then I saw these two graphs pop up on Twitter this week. They are the sea water temperatures in Sydney and Melbourne. Just look at the black line - that’s this year. You can work the rest out for yourself.
So…. it comes as no surprise to then read something like this in the New York Times…. “The nations of the world agreed years ago to try to limit global warming to a level they hoped would prove somewhat tolerable. But leading climate scientists warned on Tuesday that permitting a warming of that magnitude would actually be quite dangerous. The likely consequences would include killer storms stronger than any in modern times, the disintegration of large parts of the polar ice sheets and a rise of the sea sufficient to begin drowning the world’s coastal cities before the end of this century, the scientists declared.” “We’re in danger of handing young people a situation that’s out of their control,” said James E. Hansen, the retired NASA climate scientist who led the new research. “The findings were released Tuesday morning by a European science journal, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Specifically, the authors believe that fresh water pouring into the oceans from melting land ice will set off a feedback loop that will cause parts of the great ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica to disintegrate rapidly. That claim has intrigued some experts who say the paper may help explain puzzling episodes in Earth’s past when geological evidence suggests the climate underwent drastic shifts.” And then this, also from the Guardian: “Sea levels could rise far more rapidly than expected in coming decades, according to new research that reveals Antarctica’s vast ice cap is less stable than previously thought. The UN’s climate science body had predicted up to a metre of sea level rise this century - but it did not anticipate any significant contribution from Antarctica, where increasing snowfall was expected to keep the ice sheet in balance. According a study, published in the journal Nature, collapsing Antarctic ice sheets are expected to double sea-level rise to two metres by 2100, if carbon emissions are not cut. As well as rising seas, climate change is also causing storms to become fiercer, forming a highly destructive combination for low-lying cities like New York, Mumbai and Guangzhou.
No wonder then the UK's leading health institutions have this week launched a new alliance, calling on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to urgently strengthen the National Health Servcies' ability to respond to worsening climate-related health impacts. According to Business Green, the group, which includes the British Medical Association, the Lancet, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the Royal College of General Practitioners, and the Climate and Health Council, said its aim was to "encourage stronger, smarter approaches to tackling climate change that protect and promote public health, whilst also reducing the burden on health services”. The group said it was "united by a shared understanding that climate change poses an unacceptable threat to the well-being of our patients and the British public and risks undermining the broader social determinants of health".
There was some good news this week. The President of the United States of America and China announced another significant step in their joint climate efforts, the White House said in a statement. The United States and China will sign the Paris Agreement on April 22nd and take their respective domestic steps in order to join the Agreement as early as possible this year. They encourage other Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to do the same, with a view to bringing the Paris Agreement into force as early as possible. The Presidents further express their commitment to work together and with others to promote the full implementation of the Paris Agreement to win the fight against the climate threat.
Over in the UK, green financing and cash for climate-friendly infrastructure projects will be a priority for September’s G20 meeting in China, the governor of the Bank of England said on Wednesday. Climate Change News said Mark Carney told a gathering of leading bankers in London 2016 was the year to “mainstream” finance tools like green bonds, a market that grew to US$65 billion in 2015. “It’s a fundamental issue that will go straight up to leaders this year,” said Carney, who surprised many analysts with his strong call for climate action last year. Later this year, a taskforce set up by the Financial Stability Board, which Carney chairs, is primed to recommend companies offer more details about their exposure to oil, gas and coal assets.
The BBC reported global investment in renewable energy hit a record US$285.9bn (£202.3bn) in 2015, beating the previous high of $278.5bn set in 2011, a study shows. “The 10th Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment also showed that investment in developing nations exceeded that in developed countries. In another first, more new renewables capacity than fossil-fuel generation came online during 2015. But it warned that much more had to be done to avoid dangerous climate change.” Meanwhile, China is planning to increase total wind power capacity by 22 per cent this year, reiterating the government’s plans to keep renewable energy development high. The news was published on the country’s (Mandarin) National Energy Administration website. Bloomberg Business, which translated the statement, said that the Chinese Government is aiming to develop 30.83 GW of wind power this year, which is relatively in line with the 33 GW the country developed in 2015. Reporting on the story out of China came from Clean Technica.
It was no wonder then when the ANZ announced it is absorbing a bigger than expected loss as a result of lending to the mining industry. According to Guardian, this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg as coal and other fossil fuels go into structural decline, based on their discussions with some financial analysts. “ANZ announced to the Australian stock exchange on Thursday that over the past month, conditions have changed such that expected costs associated with lending to the mining and resources sector would increase from a projected $800m to more than $900m.
That’s just the beginning.
Note: Andrew Woodward is the endorsed Australian Labor Party Candidate for Warringah but contributes this column as a Climate Reality Leader and as such its content is strictly politically non-partisan.
This Week in Climate Change (formally The Week That Was), a weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm