Climate Change Fails to Make G8 Agenda, Report Finds 80 Percent of Fossil Fuels Need to Stay in the Ground
By Andy Rowell
As world leaders gather at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, tackling climate change is not even on the agenda.
In fact the opposite will happen: Canada will use the meeting to push for the expansion of the tar sands. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper will lobby President Obama over the Keystone XL pipeline during the summit.
But a new report has been released by scientists that once again reveals the total folly of carrying on our fossil fuel dependence.
Australia’s Climate Commission, the official body that advises the country’s government, has just issued a stark warning that a whopping 80 percent of global fossil fuel reserves will have to stay in the ground, if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.
It was only two years ago that the country’s Climate Commission released its first major report, The Critical Decade. And although we are only a quarter of the way through the decade, the Commission says that its original forecasts are now a reality and the scientific consensus is even stronger. The need for action is even greater.
In the last two years there have been more and more extreme weather events. “While extreme weather events have always occurred naturally, the global climate system is hotter and wetter than it was 50 years ago. This has loaded the dice toward more frequent and forceful extreme weather events,” says the report.
Since the first report, Australia has experienced record temperatures. As the report says, “The Australian summer of 2012/2013 was remarkable in the number of high temperature records that were set and the intensity and extent of the extreme heat. The number of record hot days has more than doubled in Australia in the last 50 years.”
And it is not just in Australia. Professor Will Steffen, one of the co-authors of the report, points out that there have been “Heatwaves in Europe, heatwaves in Russia, heatwaves in the U.S. during the last decade.” There has been “Heavy rainfall, a warming climate, more evaporation from the ocean, more water vapor in the atmosphere and more rain,” he said.
Professor Steffen argues that, by the end of this decade, global emissions need to be coming down. “We have to get global emissions trending downward by the end of the decade to have any reasonable chance of meeting that two degree target. We need to make the right investment decisions,” he said.
That means that we cannot carry on investing in fossil fuels, regardless of whether it is Australian coal, Canadian tar sands or American shale gas. “We have to leave most of the fossil fuels in the ground and of course that has obvious implications for investment decisions this decade,” concluded Professor Steffen.
Another co-author of the report, Professor Lesley Hughes, says the math is simple. “In order to achieve that goal of stabilising the climate at two degrees or less, we simply have to leave about 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground,” she argues. “We cannot afford to burn them and still have a stable and safe climate.”
Such is the madness of the climate politics in Australia that the report could well be the last from the Commission. If Opposition leader Tony Abbott wins the election he has said he will scrap the Commission.
Meanwhile, at the G8, the report should make some sobering bed-time reading for the world leaders. And if President Obama needed a report to justify saying "No to KXL," this is it. Because that is exactly the type of investment decision the scientists are talking about.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.