By Michael Mann
After years studying the climate, my work has brought me to Sydney where I'm studying the linkages between climate change and extreme weather events.
Prior to beginning my sabbatical stay in Sydney, I took the opportunity this holiday season to vacation in Australia with my family. We went to see the Great Barrier Reef — one of the great wonders of this planet — while we still can. Subject to the twin assaults of warming-caused bleaching and ocean acidification, it will be gone in a matter of decades in the absence of a dramatic reduction in global carbon emissions.
We also travelled to the Blue Mountains, another of Australia's natural wonders, known for its lush temperate rainforests, majestic cliffs and rock formations and panoramic vistas that challenge any the world has to offer. It too is now threatened by climate change.
I witnessed this firsthand.
I did not see vast expanses of rainforest framed by distant blue-tinged mountain ranges. Instead I looked out into smoke-filled valleys, with only the faintest ghosts of distant ridges and peaks in the background. The iconic blue tint (which derives from a haze formed from "terpenes" emitted by the Eucalyptus trees that are so plentiful here) was replaced by a brown haze. The blue sky, too, had been replaced by that brown haze.
The locals, whom I found to be friendly and outgoing, would volunteer that they have never seen anything like this before. Some even uttered the words "climate change" without any prompting.
The songs of Peter Garrett and Midnight Oil I first enjoyed decades ago have taken on a whole new meaning for me now. They seem disturbingly prescient in light of what we are witnessing unfold in Australia.
The brown skies I observed in the Blue Mountains this week are a product of human-caused climate change. Take record heat, combine it with unprecedented drought in already dry regions and you get unprecedented bushfires like the ones engulfing the Blue Mountains and spreading across the continent. It's not complicated.
The smoke is so thick in Katoomba tourists are opting for photos with billboards, rather than the Three Sisters the… https://t.co/YbKl0daL8g— Tom Lowrey (@Tom Lowrey)1577677861.0
The warming of our planet — and the changes in climate associated with it — are due to the fossil fuels we're burning: oil, whether at midnight or any other hour of the day, natural gas, and the biggest culprit of all, coal. That's not complicated either.
When we mine for coal, like the controversial planned Adani coal mine, which would more than double Australia's coal-based carbon emissions, we are literally mining away at our blue skies. The Adani coal mine could rightly be renamed the Blue Sky mine.
In Australia, beds are burning. So are entire towns, irreplaceable forests and endangered and precious animal species such as the koala (arguably the world's only living plush toy) are perishing in massive numbers due to the unprecedented bushfires.
The continent of Australia is figuratively — and in some sense literally — on fire.
Yet the prime minister, Scott Morrison, appears remarkably indifferent to the climate emergency Australia is suffering through, having chosen to vacation in Hawaii as Australians are left to contend with unprecedented heat and bushfires.
Morrison has shown himself to be beholden to coal interests and his administration is considered to have conspired with a small number of petrostates to sabotage the recent UN climate conference in Madrid ("COP25"), seen as a last ditch effort to keep planetary warming below a level (1.5C) considered by many to constitute "dangerous" planetary warming.
But Australians need only wake up in the morning, turn on the television, read the newspaper or look out the window to see what is increasingly obvious to many — for Australia, dangerous climate change is already here. It's simply a matter of how much worse we're willing to allow it to get.
Australia is experiencing a climate emergency. It is literally burning. It needs leadership that is able to recognise that and act. And it needs voters to hold politicians accountable at the ballot box.
Australians must vote out fossil-fuelled politicians who have chosen to be part of the problem and vote in climate champions who are willing to solve it.
Michael E Mann is distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University. His most recent book, with Tom Toles, is The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy (Columbia University Press, 2016).
This article originally appeared in The Guardian and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story.
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By Mike Gaworecki
The eleven-year-old C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group brings together officials from 85 of the world's great cities that collectively represent one quarter of the global economy. The group's focus is spurring urban initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing the health, well-being and economic opportunity of the more 650 million people who call those 85 cities home.
Sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Chinese green-tech developer BYD, the C40 Cities Awards recognized the "best and boldest" work being done by mayors to fight climate change and protect their constituents from climate risks.
"The winning projects show that great progress is being made on every continent, and they serve as an inspiration to other cities," C40 President of the Board and U.N. Secretary General's Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael R. Bloomberg said in a statement. "They also show how cities can help the world meet the ambitious goals set a year ago in Paris."
A panel of former mayors and climate experts selected the ten cities that they felt had adopted the most ambitious and effective urban sustainability programs in the world—and C40 partnered with the Associated Press to capture images of each winning city's projects, allowing you a sneak peek whether you live near one of them or not.
"Today, we celebrate some of the projects that are key to delivering on the world's climate ambition and will help put us on a path to a carbon-safe future," Chuanfu Wang, chairman and president of BYD Co. Ltd, said at the awards ceremony. "We recognise the incredible human power and thoughtful consideration that goes into making these projects reality."
1. Addis Ababa, Ethiopa
The city of Addis Ababa is a winner of the C40 Awards 2016 in the Transportation Category. The Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (LRT) Project has improved the city's public transport system and created more than 6,000 jobs. The cumulative emission reduction potential of the LRT system is forecasted at 1.8 million tCO2e by 2030.
A lady holding her baby wrapped in a white shawl is transported on an Addis Ababa LRT. Mulugeta Ayene / AP Images for C40
An Addis Ababa Light Rail Tram passes through Ethiopia's largest business district Merakto. Mulugeta Ayene / AP Images for C40
Pedestrians look out over commercial and residential buildings on the city skyline. Nearby an Addis Ababa light rail tram passes by.Mulugeta Ayene / AP Images for C40
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Aaron Packard
Bill McKibben is a kind of big deal here in Australia. Big enough that yesterday, we woke up to find him cartooned in the Canberra Times.
Here are two pieces of context you might like with the cartoon:
1. The student sitting at the desk is the Premier of Queensland State, Campbell Newman, who is pushing coal extraction like crazy.
2. The Gonski reference is to the Gonski report, which the Australian government commissioned to review the education system in Australia.
The Do the Math tour of Australia is now well underway and with Sydney under our belts, we're part way through our stop in the nation’s capital, Canberra. It really is hard to keep up with things, but here's a bit of what has gone on.
Within hours of touching down in Sydney, McKibben underwent an Australian baptism by fire, being a panelist on the live TV show Q & A. Despite being dropped straight in the middle of a foreign culture and a few unsavory characters, McKibben easily stood his ground and impressed the audience, both in studio and watching from home, with his depth of knowledge and clear message about climate challenge. In essence, he mopped the floor with them.
The next day, McKibben found himself on another panel, but this time talking to more than 100 financiers from Sydney and Melbourne. After presenting the "math," a lively debate ensued about the possibilities for and limits to divestment and what the carbon bubble means for investors. Changing tack completely, the next stop was to meet with the head of the Uniting Church of New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory, to say a big thank you for being "the first church in the world" to divest their portfolio of fossil fuel holdings. After a quick prayer it was time to move on to the main event of the day, the presentation at the Seymour Center, University of Sydney—which, as you can see in the photograph below, was packed.
Here is a take on the evening from audience member Georgia Bamber:
If ticket sales, packed seats and a rapt audience are anything to go by, Bill McKibben’s first show in Australia was a roaring success. The Seymour Center was abuzz with anticipation at 6 p.m., amazing in light of the fact that we were all there to essentially hear a math lesson.
Despite claims of jetlag, Bill was fantastic. Relaxed and personal, he immediately won the audience over with his charm, intelligence and above all, his passion.
His message to the audience was clear and simple: If the Australian mining industry is allowed to proceed with the massive expansion of coal mining and export that they have planned, the planet will be pushed to warming beyond the point of no return. End of story, no wiggle room. The laws of physics say it is so.
However, gloom and doom about the plight we are in was quickly dispelled as Bill invited young members from Lock the Campus and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition onto the stage to demonstrate his math—using beer. After giggles from the audience and a few sips of beer by Bill and the Lord Mayor of Sydney, everyone was ready to hear the plan of action. Divestment, direct action and perhaps even a little jail time for a few.
The way Bill connected with the audience was incredible. He not only educated the audience but he fired them up and made them feel empowered. I know I walked away from the evening ready to fight the good fight, and I am pretty sure most everybody else did too.
Thank you Bill, for saying what needs to be said.