Alan Kohler: Why Australia’s emissions reduction target is not enough #ClimateCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #TellTheTruth

Why Australia’s emissions reduction target is not enough

Occasionally you come across something that just stops you in your tracks.

For me, this week, it was a string of words in an editorial in the Australian Financial Review, the nation’s premier financial newspaper, of which I was once the editor:

“… the green-left political fringe’s anti-fossil fuel ideological fixation …”.

The AFR was commenting, disapprovingly, on the deal between the government and the Greens to pass the safeguard mechanism amendments.

This still-great newspaper was making a common, boring mistake – that climate change is just a political/ideological issue, which is possibly understandable given the way politics blankets our lives, and blots out the sun.

But that mistake perpetuates the idea that there are two sides to this subject – for and against (doing something about it). The Left is For, the Right Against.

This is not only very stupid – the result of a deliberate lobbying strategy by the fossil fuel industry to preserve their profits – it’s very dangerous.

Climate change is science, that’s all.

Political and media stupidity and fossil fuel industry rapacity is doom.

Stupidity and rapacity

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its sixth assessment report, a synthesis of five previous reports put together by hundreds of scientists in dozens of countries, working for several years.

The conclusion of the report, in brief, is that on the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions the average temperature will peak at 3.2°C hotter than 1850-1900, and even if there is a dramatic and unlikely cut in global emissions, the earth will be 1.5°C warmer within 10 years.

Here’s what life will be like if 3.2°C happens, according to Professor Mark Howden, director of the ANU Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, a vice-chairman of the IPCC, and co-author of the report, who spoke to me this week.

“There’d be significant, very large increases in impacts, things like heatwaves, fires, on agricultural productivity, our water availability across Southern Australia would shrink dramatically at 3.2°C – it’s already gone down significantly, but it would go down much, much more. We’d be looking at very significant biodiversity losses, so we’d effectively have said goodbye to our coral reefs at around about 2°C and even at 1.5°C, significant damage to our coral reefs. So, quite a lot of very substantial impacts.”

Utterly catastrophic

He was pulling his punches. Three degrees of warming would be utterly catastrophic, resulting in dozens of cities being inundated, with hundreds of millions of refugees. Much of Australia would be uninhabitable or, given humans can pretty much live anywhere, uninsurable.

Here’s a 16-minute YouTube video from The Economist about what 3°C looks like:

So far the earth has warmed 1.24°C which is causing noticeable effects.

Professor Howden goes on: “When we look at what’s happening already, we do see this pattern of increased extreme events, things like increased rainfall intensity, which is directly linked to the temperature of the atmosphere, so we’ve known that relationship between the water holding capacity of the atmosphere (which) goes up exponentially with temperature and so as the atmosphere warms, it can hold exponentially more water and that means that when it rains, you’ve got a lot more water in the atmosphere to dump on you.”

The stretch target of the Paris conference in 2015 was to keep warming to 1.5°C. That has since become the near-universally accepted target of most governments and the purpose of “net zero by 2050”, and is generally regarded as being OK – if we can achieve that, goes the conventional political wisdom, we’ll be fine.

No, we won’t be fine. The increased impact from 1.24°C to 1.5°C is not 20 per cent (the percentage difference between those two numbers) but much more than that because global warming is exponential.

Professor Howden again: “Even at 1.5°C, which people might think is a relatively harmless sort of number, the impacts are severe: Very marked increases in food insecurity, water insecurity, impacts on biodiversity, impacts on water systems, impacts on ocean heatwaves and ocean productivity, so the list goes on and it’s quite well documented that those impacts are actually very substantial.”

From boon to curse

This is all happening because of fossil fuels. They have been a wonderful boon to humanity and to the Australian standard of living, and are now a curse. The world’s assembled scientists tell us we have to stop using them to preserve our way of life, immediately would be good, ASAP will do.

Being anti or pro-fossil fuels is like being for or against water when you’re drowning: Usually good, currently a problem.

Which brings us to Australia’s emissions reduction target, now in law after a deal with the Greens. It’s simply about arithmetic, and the sums are both surprising and challenging.

The Climate Change Bill 2022 targets a 43 per cent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. In 2005, according to government data, Australia’s emissions totalled 621 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, so the 2030 target is 57 per cent of that, or 354m tonnes.

Last year’s emissions were 487m tonnes, 22 per cent below 2005 levels because of a 20 per cent reduction in electricity emissions because of renewables. Also, according to the government data, “land use, land-use change and forestry” (LULUCF) has gone from adding 85m tonnes a year to national emissions to subtracting 39m tonnes.

The safeguard mechanism bill will require the 213 facilities that produce 100,000 tonnes or more of carbon dioxide – that is, those in the safeguard mechanism that the Coalition created.

They are required to cut their emissions by 4.9 per cent a year. Since they produced 137m tonnes of carbon dioxide last year, their collective statutory annual reduction from here will get them to 101m tonnes in 2030 – if they manage it.

In 2005, those 213 facilities emitted 85m tonnes, so in the 17 years since then, their emissions have increased 61 per cent, or 7.1 per cent a year.

From this year, those businesses have to do a 12 per cent per annum turnaround, instantly, and go from increasing their emissions by 7 per cent a year to cutting them by 5 per cent a year. Good luck with that.

Everyone else will have to go from 350m tonnes last year to 253m tonnes in 2030, a reduction of 29 per cent, or 5.3 per cent per annum over the next seven years.

Huge task ahead

So not only do the 213 big emitters face an almost impossible task of cutting emissions by 4.9 per cent a year – having become used to increasing them by 7.1 per cent – everyone else will have to cut by more than that. With agriculture excluded that’s all down to electricity and land use – possible but difficult.

Mark Howden says the task is even greater than I have calculated.

He told me: “The IPCC Synthesis Report states that for a 50:50 chance of keeping to the 1.5°C above pre-industrial level warming target, GHG emissions globally need to reduce by 43 per cent by 2030 against a 2019 baseline.

“Australia’s current policy of 43 per cent reductions by 2030 are set against a 2005 baseline. If we re-calculate to be consistent with the IPCC numbers, we need to be instead aiming by 2030 for about a 53 per cent reduction in GHG emissions compared with 2005 levels.”

That first 43 per cent is a global task, from 2019, for a 50:50 chance of only being a little bit fried, or flooded. Australia’s 43 per cent is from 2005. It’s a coincidence.

I asked Mark Howden whether scientists like him are consciously being careful to temper their language around climate change, and not be too dire about the situation, so people don’t lose hope, and give up.

He replied: “Absolutely, and this report that was just released has elements of both concern or risk, but also strong elements of hope and action. … My view is if you just tell the negative story, the ‘we’re all doomed’ sort of story, it disempowers people, it actually turns people off, stops them engaging, so you have to give them some sort of pathway ahead.”

If delusions and lies were solar panels, we’d be safe.

Alan Kohler is founder of Eureka Report and finance presenter on ABC news. He writes twice a week for The New Daily.

Landmark study projects ‘dramatic’ changes to Southern Ocean by 2050 #Polycrisis #ClimateCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13

Changes to circulation patterns in the Southern Ocean are closely linked to melting ice in Antarctica.(Supplied: Olaf Meynecke)

A “dramatic” change to ocean circulation could unfold in the Southern Ocean over the next three decades with wide-reaching effects on weather and fisheries, according to researchers.

By ABC weather reporter Tyne Logan

The landmark study, published in Nature on Thursday, examined waters at the deepest layers of the ocean that play a crucial role in circulating heat and nutrients around the globe.

Professor Matthew England said the results were both significant and “concerning”, likening their projecting to the premise of The Day After Tomorrow.

The fictional film, which was based on the real-life slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation current, saw polar melting disrupt the North Atlantic current, setting off a chain of events that influenced weather around the globe.

“In our simulation, [the slowing circulation] in the Antarctic outpaces the North Atlantic by two to one,” Dr England said.

“We know so much about the Atlantic overturning and it’s been such an established part of science, so much so that a film has been made about it.

“And here we have an overturning circulation that’s just as important to humanity, where we still don’t understand why things are changing, what the drivers are, and what the future is.”

Freshening the world’s densest waters

The findings of the study all have to do with the production of incredibly dense water, formed around Antarctica, known as Antarctic Bottom Water.

The water is essentially the by-product of sea ice formation around Antarctica, which leaves behind very salty and cold water, which can sink to the deepest layers of the ocean.

It is a key part of the conveyer-belt-like system of underwater currents known as the “overturning circulation”, which cycle heat, carbon, and nutrients around the globe.

The water is essentially the by-product of sea ice formation around Antarctica, which leaves behind very salty and cold water, which can sink to the deepest layers of the ocean.

It is a key part of the conveyer-belt-like system of underwater currents known as the “overturning circulation”, which cycle heat, carbon, and nutrients around the globe.

Oceanographer Adele Morrison says the slowing of the Antarctic overturning circulation would have “huge” impacts on marine life.(Supplied: Australian National University)

But oceanographer Adele Morrison, who was one of the authors of the paper, said simulations had shown the overturning circulation would slow down considerably based on a high-emissions scenario.

“By 2050 we’re looking at a 40 per cent reduction of the abyssal overturning circulation,” Dr Morrison said.

“It’s huge. If we shut down this transport of water around the globe, that has a huge impact on lots of things.”

Melting ice behind change

Dr Morrison said the slowdown was driven almost exclusively by the melting of ice sheets and shelves.

Sea ice formation contributes to the production of Antarctic Bottom Water.(Supplied: Robert Johnson)

“So this puts extra fresh water into the ocean around Antarctica,” she said.

“And it’s this freshwater that reduces the density and lightens the waters around Antarctica.

“Therefore you don’t get as much descending of those dense waters into the abyss, and you get a reduction in the overturning circulation.”

Melting of ice around Antarctica is a direct consequence of climate change.

Potential ‘collapse’ of ecosystems

The overturning currents play a key role in bringing nutrients from the bottom layers of the ocean, where dead marine creatures have sunk to, back toward the surface.

The “overturning circulation” in the Southern Ocean helps move nutrients around the oceans.(Supplied: Alfred-Wegener-Institut; Ulrich Freier/Australian Antarctic Division)

Dr Morrison said slowing the overturning process could have dire consequences for marine life.

“Once you shut down this overturning circulation and its resupply of nutrients, we’re looking at danger of collapse of some of these ecosystems,” she said.

She said this flow-on effect would play out over a much longer time frame.

“We’re studying the dense water formed around Antarctica and its descent into the abyssal ocean,” she said.

“But most of the impacts are then felt when the waters rise back up.

“And so the timescales are a bit slower, more sort of century-type timescales.”

Impacts to rainfall in the Southern Hemisphere

The overturning circulation also has a relationship with climate patterns.

Dr England said a change in overturning in the ocean could lead to less rainfall in the Southern Hemisphere.

A profile photo of Matthew England
Deputy director of the ARC Australian Centre for Excellence Matthew England said the pace at which the circulation was projected to slow was “dramatic”.(Supplied: UNSW)none

He said this was driven by a shift in the position of tropical rainbands.

“Overall, the Southern Hemisphere tends to be a bit drier with this overturning slowing down and the Northern Hemisphere tends to get a bit wetter,” Dr England said.

Like the impacts to marine life, this would happen over a much longer timescale.

Dr Qian Li, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said one of the things that might limit that change was the countering impact of the overturning current in the Northern Hemisphere.

“It depends which magnitude is larger,” she said.

The slowdown of circulation could also promote further ice melt around Antarctica, according to the researchers.

Reducing emissions crucial, say researchers

Dr England said without change to emissions, the downward trajectory would continue.

“That 40 per cent value is not where it stops; we only run the simulations to 2050,” he said.

“So there’s every chance that’s going to be 60 per cent or 80 per cent in the decades that follow 2050.”

The changes to ocean circulation in the Southern Ocean could have wide-reaching impacts for fisheries.(Supplied: Cath Deacon/Australian Antarctic Division)

Dr England said the importance of reversing the trend should not be underestimated.

“All of human civilisation has developed with this overturning circulation,” he said.

“If we switch it off, we fundamentally change the cycling of nutrients through the oceans.

“We could see mass extinction of some species of fish, we could see a loss of fisheries that we rely on for food down the track.”

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Greenpeace Calls on US and Mexico to Defuse Largest Carbon Bomb in North America Permian Basin Climate Bomb #Polycrisis #ClimateCrisis

Greenpeace Calls on US and Mexico to Defuse Largest Carbon Bomb in North America

“The oil and gas industry has lit a fuse on the Permian Basin carbon bomb that threatens to blow up any hope of a livable future,” said one campaigner. “It’s time for Presidents Biden and López Obrador to commit to ending the exploitation and destruction of our communities.”


Ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s Tuesday meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Greenpeace implored the two men to commit to ending all new oil and gas development in the Permian Basin, increasing clean energy investments, and securing a just transition for fossil fuel workers.

As detailed in a recent multimedia report, the Permian Basin—home to two million people in West Texas and southeast New Mexico—was transformed into “the world’s single most prolific oil and gas field” during last decade’s drilling and fracking boom.

A gas station is pictured in front of Navajo Refining on April 23, 2020 in Artesia, New Mexico.
(Photo: Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images)

If fossil fuel executives’ plans to expand extraction in the basin and boost exports from the Gulf Coast are allowed to go forward, experts estimate that nearly 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted by 2050—equivalent to 10% of the world’s remaining “carbon budget,” or the amount of pollution compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels by the century’s end. Meanwhile, a recent study found that the basin’s pipelines are currently leaking 14 times more methane than previously thought.

“Mexico’s updated climate goals can only be attained if both Mexico and the U.S. put an end to exploitation of the Permian Basin,” Gustavo Ampugnani, executive director of Greenpeace Mexico, said Tuesday in a statement. “Greenpeace offices in the two countries will campaign on all fronts until Presidents López Obrador and Biden put their money where their mouths are.”

Green House Gas Emissions are driving Global Warning

According to Greenpeace:

As both nations face increased threats from the climate crisis, leaders from the U.S. and Mexico continue to incentivize the fossil fuel industry to ramp up oil and gas production in the Permian Basin and greenlight polluting fossil fuel infrastructure projects that will lock us into decades of emissions. From drilling and refining operations in Texas, to pipelines carrying Permian oil and gas through Mexico, the fossil fuel industry jeopardizes the health and safety of communities at each stage of the fossil fuel production process.

Last year, the U.S. became the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas. “Around 70% of Mexico’s natural gas supply is being met by U.S. pipeline imports,” Greenpeace noted. “This is not what climate leadership looks like.”

“From drought and record heatwaves to stronger, more frequent storms and flooding, we are living in a climate emergency.”

Prior to last November’s COP27 climate conference—which ended, like the 26 meetings before it, with no blueprint for rapidly cutting off planet-wrecking fossil fuels—the United Nations published reports warning that due to woefully inadequate emissions reductions targets and policies, there is “no credible path to 1.5°C in place,” and only “urgent system-wide transformation” can prevent a cataclysmic temperature rise of nearly 3°C by 2100.

According to the latest data, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide—the three main heat-trapping gases pushing temperatures upward—reached an all-time high in 2021, and greenhouse gas emissions only continued to climb in 2022.

Despite ample evidence that new fossil fuel projects will worsen deadly climate chaos, oil and gas corporations—supported by trillions of dollars in public subsidies each year—are still planning to expand dirty energy production in the coming years, including in the Permian Basin.

“The oil and gas industry has lit a fuse on the Permian Basin carbon bomb that threatens to blow up any hope of a livable future,” John Noel, senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace USA, said Tuesday. “The technology to address the climate crisis already exists. It’s time for Presidents Biden and López Obrador to commit to ending the exploitation and destruction of our communities at the hands of the oil and gas industry.”

“From drought and record heatwaves to stronger, more frequent storms and flooding, we are living in a climate emergency,” Noel added. “Last year, President Biden said that he will treat it as such. It’s time for him to make good on those words by kickstarting a fossil fuel phaseout and declaring a climate emergency.”

Greenpeace’s intervention came as Biden and López Obrador prepared to engage in bilateral talks as part of the so-called “Tres Amigos” summit in Mexico City, which also features Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In the lead-up to the meeting, more than 100 progressive advocacy groups from around North America urged the continent’s heads of government to cooperate on mitigating the climate crisis, ensuring the just treatment of migrants, and reducing gun violence.

Kenny Stancil is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

Meanwhile in Australia

Pitt determined to see Beetaloo emissions bomb detonated in the dying days of the government


Minister Keith Pitt has this morning recommitted the Government to fracking the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin through the funding stream that was previously struck down by the Federal Court.

The Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program will now see $19.4 million in grants awarded to Liberal Party-aligned donor Empire Energy.

Empire Energy, who today have been promised almost $20 million in public money to frack the NT’s Beetaloo Basin, have previously donated $40,000 to the Liberals and $25,000 to NT Labor. Empire’s Chair has personally previously donated over $200,000 to the LNP.

Australian Greens Leader Adam Bandt MP said:

“Scott Morrison is using the dying days of his government to cause as much climate damage as he can, all with Labor’s backing.

“By signing off on NT Labor’s giant climate bomb, the Liberals are putting lives at risk.

“Gas is as dirty as coal, and the Betaloo gas project will be worse for the climate than the Adani coal mine. The NT gas fields contain almost 70 years’ worth of Australia’s total climate pollution, and today Keith Pitt has signed off on detonating that climate bomb.

“The only way we’ll break the bipartisan coal and gas grip on this country is by putting Greens in balance of power.”

Quotes from Greens Resources and Minerals Spokesperson Senator Dorinda Cox:

“Minister Pitt’s decision today is a climate grenade that this government is throwing over their shoulder on the way out. What a desperate act from a dying government. 

“This decision will cause enormous destruction to Country. My heart goes out to people of the ​​Gudanji, Yanyuwa, Garrwa, Jingili, Mudburra and Alawa nations over this dreadful news, who are on the frontline as as the last line of defence for their land, skies and waters.”

“Once again decisions are being made about our land that desecrate our cultural heritage, while simultaneously wrecking the climate for our kids, where mining interests take precedence over Traditional Owners’ right to their land.”

Food brands struggling to weather the ‘polycrisis’ unleashed by war and climate change #Polycrisis #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis #EconomicCrisis #PoliticalCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13

Food brands struggling to weather the ‘polycrisis’ unleashed by war and climate change

A woman walks through a submerged sorghum field after heavy rain in Kournari village, on the outskirts of Ndjamena, Chad, October 26, 2022. REUTERS/Mahamat Ramadan

If you were looking to make a Greek salad in the UK in late February of this year, you would have had to get creative in the kitchen. With national shortages of tomatoes and cucumbers, not to mention peppers and lettuce, salad of any description was proving somewhat of a culinary luxury.

Colder temperatures in Spain, the main supplier of British vegetables, meant that a significant proportion of the country’s vegetable crops had been damaged. Record high energy costs in the UK were also making it prohibitively expensive for domestic producers to heat glasshouses, and thrown into the mix was Brexit. It was a perfect storm of climate change-induced crop failings, war-fuelled energy problems and import dilemmas. The word “polycrisis” encapsulated.

It’s a buzzword that’s making the rounds, with the World Economic Forum (WEF) describing it as “a cluster of related global risks with compounding effects, such that the overall impact exceeds the sum of each part”. Such risks range from the cost-of-living crisis, which the WEF ranks as the most severe global risk within the next two years, to large-scale involuntary migration and erosion of social cohesion. While business and government leaders have been dealing with risks such as geopolitical tension and natural disasters for centuries, others, like ecosystem collapse and the consequences of failing to mitigate climate change, feel more like uncharted territory.

Sitting at the eye of the storm, is the food and agriculture industry. Exceptionally vulnerable to extreme weather and climate change-related events, geopolitical turmoil, natural resource scarcity as well as biodiversity loss, the sector has all manner of challenges to face. Add to that the urgent need to decarbonise, and food sector leaders have their work cut out for them. How are they navigating this crisis agglomeration?

“It depends who you talk to,” says Helle Bank Jorgensen, the chief executive and founder of Toronto-based Competent Boards. The advisory firm offers training around environment, social, governance (ESG) and climate for board directors and senior business professionals. “If you talk to some of those that have started to look a little bit out into the future, they’re probably in a good spot now,” she says – companies that have invested in vertical farming, renewable energy, or water conservation measures, for example. Such forward-thinkers, however, seem to be in fairly short supply.

According to the World Benchmarking Alliance’s 2021 Food and Agriculture Benchmark report, the sector is not on track to realise a sustainable food system, let alone one that is resilient enough to weather repeated global blows such as pandemics, wars and energy crises. The report measured and ranked 350 of the world’s most influential food and agriculture companies, which account for upwards of half of the planet’s food and agriculture revenue, and employ more than 23 million people. Occupying first, second and third places, respectively, were Unilever, Nestlé and Danone.

The benchmark found that just over three-quarters of companies had a sustainability strategy in place, but only 26% had set holistic time-bound targets. What’s more, 80% of companies did not provide any evidence that they are improving accessibility and affordability of nutritious food.

A greenhouse technician harvests greens at a vertical farm in Denver, Colorado, U.S.. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt

“There are a handful of companies that are pushing on, improving their sustainability targets despite the multiple crises we are facing, or perhaps because the effects of climate change, increased poverty and biodiversity loss are becoming ever more apparent,” says Viktoria de Bourbon de Parme, food and agriculture transformation lead at the World Benchmarking Alliance. “(But) the vast majority are holding on to outdated strategies and continuing business as usual.”

Meanwhile, governments are having to bail out food and drink companies due to untenable energy and fertiliser costs, with higher prices inevitably being passed down to consumers. Ruediger Hagedorn, a director at the Consumer Goods Forum who specialises in the end-to-end value chain, says that food and agriculture companies are, on the whole, reasonably prepared for future shocks. What they are not prepared for, he says, is subsequent events, like we have been seeing.

“They have no real master plan, but they are doing a lot of experiments,” says Hagedorn. This includes around shortening the supply chain and local sourcing, where strategies are tested in local markets and then possibly widened out.

Another big trend, he says, is around digitalisation. “The big topic now is ‘real time’. They want to get away from having to wait on stock and inventory updates. Product information management systems (PIMs) and also supply chain and traceability system providers, they’re having a bonanza, it’s a gold rush, because everybody is trying to do something here,” he says. But the hottest tech isn’t blockchain – “that would have been five years ago. They are talking about the cloud. And now, of course, also artificial intelligence.”

Finding the right people to steer the ship is a fundamental challenge, though. As supply chains and operations become more digital, skilled staff are increasingly prized.

“(They don’t want) the kind of logical worker that they’ve had thus far,” says Hagedorn, “the people that have been doing the same job for 20 years. The second thing is that they need people who think more broadly, not just siloed thinkers, but people who see the interconnected ripple effects of any kind of crisis.”

Somali refugees fleeing food scarcity brought on by drought walk outside their makeshift shelters at a refugee camp in Dadaab,, Kenya, January 17, 2023. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Food and agriculture business leaders today also need to fill another big role, says Jorgensen. “The food industry is actually the business of peace,” she says. It’s big shoes to fill but the consequences of being poorly prepared for a world that is in a constant state of polycrisis aren’t pretty. In the next two years, the WEF ranks large-scale involuntary migration as the least severe on its list of 10. But in 10 years, that risk will rise to fifth place. The Institute for Economics and Peace estimates that over one billion people could become climate refugees by 2050. “People invading countries not with arms, but with hunger,” says Hagedorn.

So, with peacebuilding now among the food industry’s many and varied tasks, is the pressure on chief executives, chief sustainability officers and boards going to reach unmanageable levels?

Jorgensen says that it wasn’t so long ago that scrutiny and pressure was reserved for those occupying the top job. These days, not so much. “You have investors now asking ‘how are you dealing with all of these different issues? What does your scenario planning look like? And do you have ESG-, climate-, and biodiversity-competent board members serving, who are able to see all this?’”

In a recent poll, Competent Boards asked business leaders if there would be a “great resignation” of boards, and 59% said “yes” or “maybe”. And revealingly, in answer to the question, “Do you see new competencies, (e.g climate, biodiversity, DE&I, human rights, cyber security etc) as necessary for the future boardroom?”, 100% said “yes”.

It will be a lot to fit onto the CV, but Hagedorn says that in order to attract the right talent, companies are leveraging sustainability. In fact, the pace with which companies are incorporating sustainability is accelerating at an unprecedented rate, he says, but they are reluctant to shout about their successes too soon.

“You will see companies surprisingly coming up with better numbers than they promised. In the past, it was the other way around – they would promise something then never deliver,” he explains. When that sustainability report is released and the numbers are better than promised, however, that is a competitive advantage. “If you have the better report, you attract better talent.”

Sustainability is now seen as a sort of special weapon, the Swiss army knife of strategies, says Hagedorn. Not only can it help you to attract the right talent, but “it can help get fresh capital from investors, it can put the right label on your products… and so on – the list is long.”

In the long-term, a permanent state of polycrisis feels almost inevitable, and Jorgensen stresses that incremental changes to the food system are not going to cut it. “You have a lot of smart people out there that are willing and able and interested (to make change), but we need to ensure that we think in the shorter but definitely also longer term,” she says.

Otherwise Greek salad will likely be the least of our worries.

Sarah LaBrecque is a freelance writer who splits her time between Ottawa, Canada, and Hertfordshire. She writes about sustainable business and ethical living for publications such as the Guardian, Positive News, and for a range of B2B clients.

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Albanese pretending to be tough on emissions #Polycrisis #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis #EconomicCrisis #PoliticalCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #auspol

Albanese is just pretending to be tough on emissions

By Ross GittinsMar 29, 2023

Labor talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. Last week’s ‘‘final warning’’ from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – and the Albanese government’s refusal to be moved by it – should be a gamechanger in our assessment of Labor’s willingness to do what must be done.

The IPCC’s message – driven home by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – was that we’re almost out of time to avoid much of the worst climate change. Whatever plans we had to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must step them up, and speed them up.

Regarding last year’s federal election, the message is that Labor’s plan is complacent and compromised, and the Greens and teals were right to demand much tougher, faster action.

But not only did Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen show no sign of getting the UN’s message, he announced his refusal to negotiate with the Greens to make improvements to his ‘‘safeguard mechanism’’ legislation.

RIP Will Steffen

You need to know that Albanese Labor hates the Greens more than it hates the Liberals. Bowen could have decided to use the need to win the Greens’ support for his bill in the Senate as cover for making the bill stronger than Labor promised in the election campaign.

Instead, he decided to put the interests of our grandchildren second to this fabulous chance to ‘‘wedge’’ the Greens. They could either vote for Labor’s bill as is, or they could join the Coalition in voting it down – just as they did when they voted down Kevin Rudd’s carbon pollution reduction scheme in 2009.

This would leave the government with no means of achieving its target of reducing emissions by 43 per cent by 2030. And, Bowen bellowed in the House, that would be all the Greens’ fault. (It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Bowen and his boss that if they go to the 2025 election having done nothing to fight climate change, blaming it all on the Greens won’t be a good enough excuse.)

But last week showed that the problem with Labor isn’t just its political cynicism and gameplaying. Until last week, it was possible to see the Greens’ demand that no new coal and gas projects be approved as the kind of over the top zealotry you’d expect from those crazies. And, as it happens, the teals.

This is what Guterres said last week in welcoming the IPCC’s final warning. ‘‘The climate time-bomb is ticking.’’ We do have time to defuse it, ‘‘but it will take a quantum leap in climate action’’.

We must ‘‘massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe’’.

He was proposing an ‘‘acceleration agenda’’ with, specifically, ‘‘no new coal and the phasing out of [existing] coal by 2030 in [the rich] countries and 2040 in all other countries. Ending all international public and private funding of coal’’ and ‘‘ceasing all licensing or funding of new oil and gas’’, as already proposed by the International Energy Agency and ‘‘stopping any expansion of existing oil and gas reserves. Shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to a just energy transition’’.

That’s not some crazy greenie, that’s the UN secretary-general.

Yet, the very same week, Bowen had the temerity to claim that stopping new projects would be ‘‘irresponsible’’. That’s now the opposite of the truth.

It’s not by chance that Bowen is the Minister for Climate Change and Energy. It’s not just the Coalition that’s in bed with the fossil fuel industry; Labor is too. Labor just does a better job of covering it up.

Federal Labor will not commit to stopping the proposed 116 new coal and gas projects. When Albanese went to India recently, he took fossil fuel people with him, so they could sell more coal.

The many state Labor governments are committed to approving new projects. That’s another thing that happened last week: on election night in NSW, the new state Labor minister made it clear the Minns government would not be stopping new projects.

Labor wants to be in bed both with those who want real action on climate change and the fossil fuel industries. Someone famous once said, ‘‘No one can serve two masters’’. One of his saintly followers once prayed, ‘‘Lord, make me pure – but not yet’’. That’s Labor.

Which brings us to the safeguard mechanism Labor is refusing to improve. Bowen has conned some conservation groups into supporting his plan because, though it’s not perfect, ‘‘something is better than nothing’’ and ‘‘it’s a start: get it passed, and seek to improve it later’’.

Come in, sucker. What last week shows is that there isn’t time to improve it later. Labor has tried to wedge the Coalition by building its reduction scheme on the base of Tony Abbott’s safeguard mechanism, which was largely for show and did nothing to reduce emissions.

But if Labor is taking over an ineffective scheme from the secret climate change deniers, now’s the time to make it effective, not later. The fact is, the safeguard mechanism is riddled with loopholes.

The first loophole is our fossil fuel exports. Under the UN’s rules, a country is responsible for the emissions that occur on its own territory. Bowen’s renovations would, in theory, reduce the local emissions of our biggest polluting industries. It would also reduce the local emissions from any big new coal and gas export projects.

But it would permit other countries to maintain or increase their emissions from fossil fuels they bought from us. The UN will blame them for those emissions, not us. Great loophole, eh?

Trouble is, greenhouse gas is a global problem, not a local one. And we’re one of the biggest exporters of fossil fuels in the world. We export far more future emissions than we emit ourselves. So, what we do at home doesn’t add to climate change nearly as much as what others do with the coal and gas we sell them.

Bowen’s version of Abbott’s safeguard mechanism has a second major loophole. The big polluters must either progressively reduce their emissions according to the government’s phase-down, or buy the equivalent carbon credit offsets from someone else – often a farmer who’s planted more trees.

First problem is that there’ll be no limit to the extent that a polluter can resort to carbon credits. So it’s possible they’ll continue pumping out greenhouse gases, and mainly just buy credits from elsewhere.

This could lead to far more reliance on credits than the UN agreements envisaged. Credits were supposed to be used mainly by industries, such as cement and steelmaking, that find reducing emissions exceptionally difficult.

The other problem is that a lot of the carbon credit offsets are dodgy they’re not like for like as a substitute for genuine emission reductions.

These were the main loopholes in Bowen’s rejigged safeguards mechanism that the Greens, the teals and Senator David Pocock were hoping to see improved by negotiations with Labor.

They make it debatable whether, in this case, something is better than nothing. One advantage of voting down Bowen’s bill would have been to stop Labor pretending it had done something meaningful about climate change while actually prolonging the future of our fossil fuel industries.

Ross Gittins
Ross Gittins 

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Economics Editor, Sydney Morning Herald.

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Why climate ‘doomers’ are replacing climate ‘deniers’ #Polycrisis #ClimateCrisis #IPCCReport #auspol

Why climate ‘doomers’ are replacing climate ‘deniers’

How U.N. reports and confusing headlines created a generation of people who believe climate change can’t be stopped

The Washington Post illustration; iStock)

When Sean Youra was 26 years old and working as an engineer, he started watching documentaries about climate change. Youra, who was struggling with depression and the loss of a family member, was horrified by what he learned about melting ice and rising extreme weather. He started spending hours on YouTube, watching videos made by fringe scientists who warned that the world was teetering on the edge of societal collapse — or even near-term human extinction. Youra started telling his friends and family that he was convinced that climate change couldn’t be stopped, and humanity was doomed.

In short, he says, he became a climate “doomer.”

“It all compounded and just led me down a very dark path,” he said. “I became very detached and felt like giving up on everything.”

That grim view of the planet’s future is becoming more common. Influenced by a barrage of grim U.N. reports — such as the one published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this week — and negative headlines, a group of people believe that the climate problem cannot, or will not, be solved in time to prevent all-out societal collapse. They are known, colloquially, as climate “doomers.” And some scientists and experts worry that their defeatism — which could undermine efforts to take action — may be just as dangerous as climate denial.

“It’s fair to say that recently many of us climate scientists have spent more time arguing with the doomers than with the deniers,” said Zeke Hausfather, a contributing author to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changeand climate research lead at the payments company Stripe.

There are different flavors of doomers. Some are middle-aged and have been influenced by outspoken scientists — like retired ecologist Guy McPherson — who claim that human extinction, or at least the breakdown of society, is imminent. (“I can’t imagine that there will be a human left on the Earth in 10 years,” McPherson has said.) These doomers drift toward conspiracy theories, sometimes claiming that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is downplaying the seriousness of the issue.

McPherson said in an email that while he’s “no fan of extinction … so called ‘green energy’ based on PV solar panels and wind turbines offers no way out of the ongoing climate emergency.”

Others are young people, active on social media, who have become demoralized by years of negative headlines. “Since about 2019, I have believed that there is little to nothing we can do to reverse climate change on a global scale,” Charles McBryde, a TikToker, said in a video last year.

The origins of doomism stretch back far — McPherson, for example, has been predicting the demise of human civilization for decades — but the mind-set seems to have become markedly more mainstream in the past five years. Jacquelyn Gill, a climate scientist at the University of Maine, says that in 2018 she started hearing different sorts of questions when she spoke at panels or did events online. “I started getting emails from people saying: ‘I’m a young person. Is there even a point in going to college? Will I ever be able to grow up and have kids?’” she said.

Well before the coronavirus pandemic, a few factors combined to make 2018 feel like the year of doom. 2015, 2016 and 2017 had just been the three hottest years on record. Climate protests had begun to spread across the globe, including Greta Thunberg’s School Strike and the U.K.-based protest group known as Extinction Rebellion. In the academic world, British professor of sustainability Jem Bendell wrote a paper called “Deep Adaptation,” which urged readers to prepare for “inevitable near-term societal collapse due to climate change.” (The paper has been widely critiqued by many climate scientists.)

And then the United Nations issued a special report on 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming, released in October 2018, which kicked many people’s climate anxiety into overdrive.

The report, which focused on how an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels might compare to 2 degrees Celsius, included grim predictions like the death of the world’s coral reefs and ice-free summers in the Arctic. But a central message many took from the report — that there were only 12 years left to save the planet — wasn’t even in the report. It came from a Guardian headline.

In three of the four pathways the report charted for limiting warming to 1.5C, the world would have to cut carbon dioxide emissions 40 to 60 percent by 2030. “We have 12 years to limit climate catastrophe,” the Guardian reported, and other outlets soon followed. The phrase soon became an activist rallying cry.

“‘Twelve years to save the planet’ was actually: We have 12 years to cut global emissions in half to stay consistent with a 1.5C scenario,” Hausfather explained. “Then ‘12 years to save the planet’ becomes interpreted by the public as: If we don’t stop climate change in 12 years, something catastrophic happens.”

“It was really a game of telephone,” he added.

Hausfather said part of the problem is that climate targets — say, the goal to limit warming to 1.5C — have become interpreted by the public as climate thresholds, which would drive the planet into a “hothouse” state. In fact, scientists don’t believe there is anything unique about that temperature that will cause runaway tipping points; the landmark IPCC report merely aimed to show the risks of bad impacts are much higher at 2C than at 1.5.

“It’s not like 1.9C is not an existential risk and 2.1C is,” Hausfather said. “It’s more that we’re playing Russian roulette with the climate.” Every increase in temperature, that is, makes the risks of bad impacts that much higher.

Still, scientists who try to clarify those nuances sometimes encounter hostility, particularly online. “If you try to push back on this in any way, you get accused of minimizing the climate crisis,” Gill said. “I’ve been accused of being a shill for the fossil fuel industry.”

The problem with climate “doom” — beyond the toll that it can create on mental health — is that it can cause paralysis. Psychologists have long believed that some amount of hope, combined with a belief that personal actions can make a difference, can keep people engaged on climate change. But, according to a study by researchers at Yale and Colorado State universities, “many Americans who accept that global warming is happening cannot express specific reasons to be hopeful.”

And it’s not just Americans. Andrew Smith, a retired engineer from Yorkshire, England, is slightly turned off by the term “doomer.” It provokes, he says, a sense of being on the fringes of society, or visions of doomsday preppers filling their bunkers with canned food. “For me, a climate doomer is simply a person who’s taken a look at the peer-reviewed science, taken stock of the natural world around them, and come to a conclusion,” he wrote in a message via Twitter. Smith believes that the world is on track to warm 4 to 8 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial times.

Psychological research shows that climate change can alter an individual’s mental health both directly and indirectly, impacting how we respond to this crisis. (Video: John Farrell/The Washington Post, Photo: Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

For some, however, doomism isn’t permanent. Youra, the former engineer, still remembers how strongly he felt that humanity was done for. He believed that the IPCC and other scientists were covering up how bad climate change actually was — and no peer-reviewed research could convince him otherwise. “I think it’s kind of similar to what deniers feel,” he said. “I wasn’t being open-minded.”

In 2018, he briefly considered quitting his job to travel the world — hoping to see what he could before society and the natural world collapsed. Slowly, though, he started getting involved in local climate groups, and when he attended a meeting in Alameda for the California city’s climate plan, something clicked. “I think that for me was key,” he said. “It made me start realizing the power of good policy.” Now 32, he has earned a master’s degree in environmental science and policy and works as the climate action coordinator for the California towns of San Anselmo and Fairfax.

Worry — and even occasional despair — about the climate crisis is normal. Most scientists believe that, without deeper cuts, the world is headed for 2 to 3 degrees Celsius of global warming. But higher temperatures are still possible if humans get unlucky with how the planet responds to higher CO2 levels. Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute, has said that while humans probably won’t go extinct due to climate change, “notgoing extinct” is a low bar.

“It’s a question of risk, not known catastrophe,” Hausfather said.

But finding the balance between constructive worry — that is, concern that motivates you to do something — and a sort of fatalistic doom is difficult. Nowadays, climate scientists try to emphasize that climate change isn’t a pass/fail test: Every tenth and hundredth of a degree of warming avoided matters.

For his part, Youra has advice for those who are suffering from the same sort of fatalism that he once felt. “Stop engaging excessively with negative climate change content online and start engaging in your community,” he said. “You can be one of those voices showing there is support for the solutions.”

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Climate change and global warming

Australia: can we avoid a future that is truly frightening? #AUKUS #IPCCReport #Polycrisis #EcologicalCrisis #ClimateCrisis #EconomicCrisis #PoliticalCrisis #SDGs

Australia: can we avoid a future that is truly frightening?

By Bronwyn Kelly

Mar 28, 2023

The last few months, culminating in the announcement about the AUKUS agreement and the release of the 2023 IPCC Synthesis Report, have probably crystallised for many Australians a realisation that they are headed towards a future that is truly frightening.

Australia along with the rest of the world is facing the prospect of self-harm or even self-annihilation, although the IPCC is of the view that it is not too late to avert the worst of climate change and any sensible person could see that it is certainly not too late to avert a nuclear war.

But how did it come to this? How did we get into this mess in the first place? There are millions of reasons of course, billions of paths that nations have trod that led us here, especially colonial and industrial nations. But Australia’s path to this moment has been locked in by our addiction to a sclerotic political system that is driven by a moribund, inherently discriminatory and fundamentally racist Constitution – a Constitution which does not state the sort of country and society we want to live in, the values we wish to share, the rights we are entitled to as political equals, and the government’s obligations to those who elect them. Australia has a Constitution which provides no voice for the electors. We have no right to have a voice on whether we go to war. No right to set our own preferred future. No right to be listened to when we say we want something done on climate change – or anything else for that matter. The only thing we have is a Constitution that excludes the people from a reasonable share of power in their own democracy and therefore from a reasonable chance of some control over their future.

This powerlessness is something we have done to ourselves through the structure of our polity. We have not done it deliberately of course, but nevertheless we have been steadily consigning ourselves to a fateful future that in all sanity we would not wish to visit on ourselves or our children – ever. This potential fate to which we are now too close for comfort has crept up on Australians like the heat that might creep up on a frog in a very slowly warmed pot – were the frog not to have the sense to jump out. And the path towards this fate, at least in regard to planetary heating, has been steady not because Australians failed to understand the need to do something about it (on the contrary) but because they failed to persuade politicians of the need to do something about it.

It is a matter of record in Lowy Institute polls that in the 16 years between 2006 and 2022 the proportion of Australians who wanted the government to do something to prevent climate change never dropped below 80%. As early as 2006, over 90% wanted the issue to be addressed, with approximately 70% of that group wanting something done immediately “even if this involves significant costs”. So while the people of Australia at the start of the 21stcentury had the foresight to see that it would be in their interest to begin taking steps to stop climate change sooner rather than later “even if this involves significant costs”, or at least consider taking steps “that are low in cost”, successive federal governments failed to establish a plan to prevent or mitigate climate change and conservative governments in particular used any argument they could, no matter how unfounded, to kill off every chance of the Australian people to rise to the challenge of climate change and protect their economic interests and their children’s future. In the last year both major political parties – Labor and Liberal/National – have also done their best to kill off Australia’s independence in sovereignty and our safety from war.

However, this is not to imply that it will be helpful at this time to heap blame on the major parties and to engage in politician bashing (however much some might deserve it). Reacting to the perfidy of their policies that have driven us towards destruction is necessary, of course. But time also needs to be spent urgently on re-thinking the system which has bogged down both politicians and the people of Australia themselves – the system which the powerful have been so easily able to use (and misuse) to create the mess.

The system which has created the mess is the exclusive system of governance embedded in our Constitution. We call it democracy but it is a poor shadow of the idea. Australia’s governance system as it is encoded in the Constitution is nothing more than a system in which the electors are forced to cede all power and control over their lives and futures to the governments they elect. This might seem sensible for the sake of order were it not for the fact that the governments we elect have no reciprocal obligation to us. There is nothing in the Constitution which states that those empowered by it are responsible to the people. They may as well not exist after they have voted. Instead we have a system which locks power in for the tiny few who can hold it at elections and this completely stymies the powerless in their ability to develop a vision for the sort of nation they want to build over the longer term – a nation in which they are political equals and can cooperate in charting the safest path to the future of wellbeing and security they all want.

We have stumbled along for just over 120 years with a Constitution that provides no guidance as to the purpose of the nation and the destiny we wish to share. And unless Australians look beyond the limits of that system, history would strongly suggest that they are likely to be repeatedly drawn back into the vortex of the adversarial and short-term arrangement of politics and elections that ensures power is held totally by a tiny few, excludes the vast majority of Australians, and drives the nation in destructive directions.

On the face of it the current government recognises that this is unworkable. Jim Chalmers recognises that if we are to achieve an acceptable level of wellbeing for all, then an inclusive democracy is essential. “It’s time for democrats to understand that economic inclusion is fundamental to the health of democracies and the safety of nations”, he said in his recent essay, Capitalism After the Crises.

Chalmers wants conversations with the Australian people, particularly on the economy and taxation. But unless we can upgrade our political system to enable more Australians to have a voice beyond a vote and to speak in a coherent fashion about what they want in the future then they will have as little power of persuasion as they have had throughout the 21st century and, accordingly, little if any chance of evading the ghastly future that is now so uncomfortably imminent.

Alongside all the activism and protest that must be organised to help us avert that fate, another more transformative process needs to be organised. This process is one by which we might create a far more productive relationship with politicians – one which compels them to listen respectfully to those who elect them. That can’t be done with the current Constitution. It can only be done if Australians accord themselves a right to express their sovereign will for the future of the nation and to express that in a manner that is coherent enough for politicians to understand when they take their oaths of office.

Put simply, Australians need to organise themselves to be persuasive before it is too late, to think well ahead of their politicians about where they want to go as a nation and lift the sights of those they elect towards that destination. To do this they will need to start again with a constitution that gives them a rightful share of power – because at the moment they have none and this is the cause of the mess. Australians need a people’s constitution. It may take a decade (which is a shame because we really don’t have the luxury of that time) but if we wish to avert the worst of climate change and geopolitical tension then the quickest path through to safety is to build a new governance system of political equality and inclusion. That can be done with a people’s constitution. Find out how at Australian Community Futures Planning.

Bronwyn Kelly’s essay in reply to Jim Chalmers can be accessed here.

Find her new book The People’s Constitution: the path to empowerment of Australians in a 21st century democracy at

Bronwyn Kelly is the Founder of Australian Community Futures Planning and the author of By 2050: planning a better future for our children in 21st century democratic Australia and The People’s Constitution: the path to empowerment of Australians in a 21st century democracy.

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Global population could peak below 9 billion in 2050s #Polycrisis #EcologicalCrisis #ClimateCrisis #Overshoot #Earth4All #Degrowth #IPCCReport

Global population could peak below 9 billion in 2050s 

Read the new report

March 27—In November 2022, the world crossed a milestone of 8 billion people but new analysis suggests the global population could peak just below 9 billion people in 2050 then start falling.  

The new projection is significantly lower than several prominent population estimates, including those of the United Nations. The researchers go further to say that if the world takes a “Giant Leap” in investment in economic development, education and health then global population could peak at 8.5 billion people by the middle of the century.

The new projections by researchers from the Earth4All initiative for the Global Challenges Foundation is published as a working paper People and Planet: 21st Century Sustainable Population Scenarios and Possible Living Standards Within Planetary Boundaries

The team used a new system dynamics model, Earth4All, to explore two scenarios this century. In the first scenario – Too Little Too Late – the world continues to develop economically in a similar way to the last 50 years. Many of the very poorest countries break free from extreme poverty. In this scenario the researchers estimate global population could peak at 8.6 in 2050 before declining to 7 billion in 2100.

In the second scenario, called the Giant Leap, researchers estimate that population peaks at 8,5 billion people by around 2040 and declines to around 6 billion people by the end of the century. This is achieved through unprecedented investment in poverty alleviation – particularly investment in education and health – along with extraordinary policy turnarounds on food and energy security, inequality and gender equity. In this scenario extreme poverty is eliminated in a generation (by 2060) with a marked impact on global population trends. 

The authors argue that other prominent population projections often underplay the importance of rapid economic development.  

“We know rapid economic development in low-income countries has a huge impact on fertility rates. Fertility rates fall as girls get access to education and women are economically empowered and have access to better healthcare,” said Per Espen Stoknes, Earth4All project lead and director of the Centre for Sustainability at Norwegian Business School. 

“Few prominent models simulate population growth, economic development and their connections simultaneously,” comments Beniamino Callegari, an Associate Professor from Kristiania and member of the Earth4All modelling team.  

The analysis uses ten world regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, China and the United States. Currently, population growth is highest in some nations in Africa, such as Angola, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, and Asia, for example Afghanistan.  

“If we assume these countries adopt successful policies for economic development then we can expect population to peak sooner rather than later,” continues Callegari.

The team also analysed the connection between population and exceeding planetary boundaries, which is linked to the carrying capacity of Earth. Contrary to public popular myths, the team found that population size is not the prime driver of exceeding planetary boundaries such as climate change. Rather, it is extremely high material footprint levels among the world’s richest 10% that is destabilising the planet.   

“Humanity’s main problem is luxury carbon and biosphere consumption, not population. The places where population is rising fastest have extremely small environmental footprints per person compared with the places that reached peak population many decades ago.” said Jorgen Randers, one of leading modelers for Earth4All and co-author of The Limits to Growth

According to the team’s demographic projections, the entire population could achieve living conditions exceeding the United Nations minimum level without significant changes in current developmental trends, provided an equal distribution of resources. 

The researchers also concluded that at current population levels it is possible for everyone to escape extreme poverty and pass a minimum threshold for a dignified life with access to food, shelter, energy and other resources. However, this requires a (much more) equal distribution of resources.  

“A good life for all is only possible if the extreme resource use of the wealthy elite is reduced,” concludes Randers.

Figure: Comparing five population scenarios to 2100 (United Nations, Wittgenstein, Lancet, Earth4All – Too Little Too Late, Earth4All – Giant Leap).
Source: Callegari B., Stoknes P.E., People and Planet: 21st century sustainable population scenarios and possible living standards within planetary boundaries.

The report is a Working Paper. It is entitled People and Planet: 21st Century Sustainable Population Scenarios and Possible Living Standards . The report has not been peer-reviewed. 


Authors: Beniamino Callegari and Per Espen Stoknes. The analysis was conducted specifically for the Global Challenges Foundation and is based on the modelling results of the whole Earth4All project team.  


For any media enquires please contact Philippa Baumgartner

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The Best Climate Policy You’ve Probably Never Heard Of #Polycrisis #EcologicalCrisis #ClimateCrisis #EnergyBlind #CapAndRation

The Best Climate Policy You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

By Richard Heinberg, originally published by

Current strategies to combat climate change aren’t working. Carbon emissions are still increasing. But there is a way forward that would actually reduce carbon emissions—a way that’s simple and transparent and that would enable long-term planning for policy makers, as well as greater security for the general public. Spoiler alert: there’s a hitch.

Before exploring this alternative pathway, let’s take a brief look at three current strategies to halt global warming that, despite good intentions, are not working.

Solutions involving energy substitution aren’t working. While the world is increasing the levels of solar and wind power in its overall energy mix, annual growth in total energy usage still exceeds these renewable additions except in years of severe economic recession. Solar and wind are just supplementing, not displacing fossil fuels. So, despite significant spending and policy effort, we’re pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere now than we were just a few years ago (probably just not quite as much more as we would if no substitution efforts had been undertaken).

Divestment isn’t working. The idea is ingenious: if activists can starve the fossil fuel industry of capital by persuading institutional investors to stop buying shares in companies like ExxonMobil, and by talking banks into loaning no more money for extraction projects, then production rates for oil, coal, and natural gas should eventually fall. It’s a worthy effort, but in spite of heartening successes at getting pension funds and university endowments to back away from investments in the oil, coal, and gas industries, those industries are finding plenty of money to fund projects.

Finally, taxing carbon isn’t working. Nearly 50 countries have some form of price on carbon, either through carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes. Economists generally agree that carbon taxes should eventually work; but, so far, the taxes haven’t been high enough, or enacted in enough places, to actually turn the tide. Also, a tax gives no guarantee of actual reduction in fossil fuel usage, since money can simply be created by government borrowing and spending to subsidize the higher cost to fuel purchasers.

Many would argue that these are the best available means for turning the tide against climate change, and that we just need to try harder. Perhaps incremental progress could be made by doubling down on building solar panels, waging divestment campaigns, and lobbying for stiffer carbon taxes. But why not consider a policy that could achieve something beyond incremental success?

Here’s an altogether different approach, one that has received little attention from climate scientists, activists, or policymakers. The essence of the plan is simplicity itself: just directly reduce fossil fuel production and consumption. I mentioned at the outset that there’s a hitch, and I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, let’s explore the idea in a little more detail.

Directly reducing global production of oil, coal, and natural gas might best be accomplished through a process with three concurrent elements.

First element: through international treaty, legally cap the total amount of coal, oil, and natural gas that can be produced globally each year. Then allocate (i.e., ration) production volumes to companies and countries proportionally, based on historic production rates using the last ten years’ averaged production statistics. Each company or country would have the right to trade or sell any part of its annual production quota to any other company or country; thus, the fuel industry as a whole could adjust its investments to take advantage of higher-grade resources or more efficient production techniques. Production caps would decline annually, with the rate of decline set by a global Committee on Climate Change, whose deliberations would be based on scientific consensus, independent of government. Coal would be phased out fastest, then oil, then natural gas (in view of the relative carbon intensity of these fuels).

Second element: tax windfall profits of the fossil fuel industry globally. With production caps in place, prices for coal, oil, and gas would likely rise, with increasing profits (per unit of output) going to fuel industries. Tax those profits at a high rate, and distribute the revenue as rebates to people with low incomes who have no current alternative to fuel usage, and to crucial commercial energy users such as farmers, to help with higher energy bills; also use the revenue to fund energy-efficient and low-carbon alternative energy infrastructure, supplying it preferentially to countries, communities, and households with low incomes. Also use the money to help localities transition to lower-energy and more resilient ways of meeting people’s basic needs for food, housing, and transportation.

Third element: don’t just ration production; ration consumption as well—at the national level. This gets more complicated. Rather than diving into the weeds here, I’ll briefly describe (at the end of this article) an already well-thought-out energy rationing system. Why ration consumption? Because doing so will make it much easier for individuals, businesses, and governments to adapt fairly to changing energy availability. Rationing has a long and mostly successful history in helping societies adapt in times of scarcity, and as a tool in alleviating poverty.

The details remain to be ironed out, and the general proposal I’ve just outlined could be modified in various ways. For example, production permits could be sold rather than allocated, with revenue distributed the same way as windfall profit taxes. What’s important is the basic mechanism: cap and ration fossil fuel production, while also rationing consumption.

Why is cap-and-ration better than just calling for more funding of green infrastructure? Substitution strategies are based on the underlying assumption that reducing fossil fuel consumption will threaten economic growth, while installing more low-carbon energy sources will support economic growth. But will we in fact be able to maintain economic growth by building more solar panels and wind turbines while cutting fossil fuels usage? That’s controversial: many people (including some environmentalists) think renewables aren’t up to the job. Others say renewables can power us to a new age of energy abundance. The approach described here does not take sides in that debate. The fact is, burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases that are triggering catastrophic climate change. Therefore, the important thing is to reduce fossil fuel extraction and combustion. If we can enjoy solar-and-wind-powered economic expansion at the same time, that would certainly make a lot of people happy. But if we can’t, then we should remember that fossil fuels are finite and depleting anyway. We will have to make do with shrinking amounts of them at some point. Why not deliberately engineer the decline now, in time to avert climate catastrophe, and in a way that’s controllable, fair, and predictable? Then, if economic pain actually does ensue from living with less oil, coal, and gas, we can cooperatively limit and manage that pain.

By now you probably see the hitch. Getting the world’s governments to agree on anything at all is challenging, and negotiating a global agreement typically takes years of hard effort. Getting every country to sign up to produce and use less of the very fuels that have driven economic growth over the past century or two would be extraordinarily difficult. In contrast, current global climate agreements have been easier to forge, because they just focus on pledges to lower emissions—and those pledges are hedged on all sides by carbon trading schemes, carbon offsets, and poorly funded aspirational plans for building renewable-energy or carbon-capture infrastructure. The result: actual emissions keep rising.

The challenges in reaching a global cap-and-ration agreement include, for example, convincing fuel exporting nations like Saudi Arabia to give up significant sources of national revenue, or talking coal-dependent nations like China into agreeing to phase out coal more quickly than other fossil fuels. But those are difficulties that will have to be faced one way or another anyway, if real progress (by whatever means) is to be made in lowering global emissions.

Further, a global cap-and-ration agreement would be harder to achieve than a global carbon tax. Yet, it would be arguably far better than a carbon tax, as there could be no gaming of the system by subsidizing fossil fuels on one hand while taxing them on the other. Emissions would decline because fossil fuel production and usage would decline. Simple and foolproof.

After contemplating the likely roadblocks in gaining universal buy-in to a global cap-and-ration scheme, it’s easy to adopt a cynical attitude that says, in effect: “That’s what we’d do if we were a rational species able to think ahead and give up immediate gratification in favor of long-term survival. But we’re not, so we’re headed for climate doom.” As I document in my recent book Powerthe capacity for self-limitation exists everywhere in nature; further, human societies through the ages have found innumerable ways to restrict population growth and consumption of natural resources in order to stay within environmental limits. Sometimes those efforts have been insufficient and societies collapsed as a result, but self-limitation is always a real option nevertheless. So, if we are capable of restraining aspects of our own behavior that are ultimately self-destructive, why aren’t we doing that now with regard to carbon emissions? There are likely many explanations. But one reason may simply be that the single strategy that would actually work to avert catastrophe—cap-and-ration—is not part of the public discussion.

If cap-and-ration is a good idea, then it should occur independently to many people. It already has; in fact, it’s difficult to say who came up with it first. Aspects of cap-and-ration can be found in proposals and publications going back decades, including my 2006 book The Oil Depletion Protocolwhich suggested a global cap-and-ration scheme as a way to avert economic disruption not just from climate change, but from oil depletion as well (the book was based on a proposal by geologist Colin Campbell). Years earlier, British economist David Fleming came up with an energy rationing system called Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs), which I’ll describe below. However, it really matters little who deserves the credit; what’s important is whether the plan is workable.

Current proponents of cap-and-ration (in some form or other) include:

Discussions about cap-and-ration at the governmental level have included officials from Britain and Ireland; but, so far, those talks have been only exploratory, with no commitments for action or even further study.

The purpose of this article is to raise general awareness about cap-and-ration as an option. If there is to be any chance of its implementation, the plan will require the initial buy-in of environmental organizations, then the general public, and finally policy makers.

If cap-and-ration proves to be politically unattainable, then we should be honest with ourselves about the consequences. Without cap-and-ration, the world’s policy makers will most likely continue to dither with proposals that appear to reduce emissions without actually doing so. Horrific consequences from those emissions will ensue. And young people around the world, whose lives will be tragically impacted, will give up on policy solutions and look for other strategies. Some may turn to industrial sabotage as a way to save the last vestiges of a livable climate.

A final, timely note: there are currently calls to embargo Russian oil and gas exports in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. Russia produces roughly a tenth of world oil, so such an embargo would have significant economic and geopolitical implications. From a climate standpoint, choking off Russia’s exports might accomplish approximately what a global production cap would—though not in a context of cooperation and planning, but rather in one of competition and conflict. And there would likely be no effort toward energy equity via consumption rationing, and no mechanism for further production cuts. In short, it’s about as bad a means to cut global oil production as could be imagined, delivering the same pain as a production cap but few of the side benefits and lots of extra risks.

Above, I promised a longer discussion of what might be involved in a national energy consumption rationing program, and that’s probably a good way to end this article. Here is a short description of David Fleming’s Tradable Energy Quotas (with most of the wording borrowed from the TEQs website).

Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs): What They Are and How They Would Work

Rationing of fossil fuel consumption at the national level could be done by way of tradable energy quotas, or TEQs, a system initially suggested by the late British economist David Fleming over two decades ago. TEQs have been discussed and researched by the British government. The system would work as follows.

Each adult would be given an equal free entitlement of TEQs units each week. Other energy users (Government, industry, etc.) would bid for units at auction. When buying fuel or electricity, units corresponding to the amount of energy purchased would be deducted from the buyer’s TEQs account; they would still need to pay for the energy. All fuels and electricity supplies would carry a “carbon rating” in units, with one unit representing one kilogram of carbon dioxide—or the equivalent in other greenhouse gases—released in the fuel’s production and use. This would determine how many units are needed to make an energy purchase (thus giving a competitive advantage to low-carbon energy). If a person used less than their entitlement of units, they could sell the surplus. If they needed more, they could buy them. All buying/selling would take place at a single national price, which would rise and fall in line with demand. The total number of units available would be set out in the annual TEQs Budget, which would be integrated with fossil fuel production caps. Government would itself be bound by the TEQs system; its role would be to support the country in thriving on the available energy. Since the national TEQs price would be determined by national demand, it would be transparently in everyone’s interest to reduce their energy demand, and to work together, encouraging a national sense of common purpose.

Richard Heinberg

Richard is Senior Fellow of Post Carbon Institute, and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He is the author of fourteen books, including some of the seminal works on society’s current energy and environmental sustainability crisis. He has authored hundreds of essays and articles that have appeared in such journals as Nature and The Wall Street Journal; delivered hundreds of lectures on energy and climate issues to audiences on six continents; and has been quoted and interviewed countless times for print, television, and radio. His monthly MuseLetter has been in publication since 1992. Full bio at

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Serious drawbacks of Coal, Oil and Gas #LimitsToGrowth #Polycrisis #Ecologicalcrisis #EconomicCrisis #ClimateCrisis #TellTheTruth #EnergyBlind

It turns out that fossil fuels suffer from a couple of serious drawbacks: depletion and pollution. Coal, oil, and natural gas are finite substances we extract from the Earth’s crust using the low-hanging fruit principle. While we’re not about to run out of these fuels in an absolute sense, the effort required to get them is increasing. We’ve already extracted all the easy stuff, and beyond a certain point it will take more energy to obtain the remaining fuels than they will yield when burned. We haven’t arrived at that point yet, but years before we get to fossil-fuel energy break-even the global industrial system will begin to shudder and shake. And, yes, we may already be at that stage according to some analysts.

By Richard Heinberg

Pollution, the other drawback to fossil fuels, was recognized as a problem many decades ago when coal smoke began to cloud industrial cities like London and Pittsburgh. But it turns out that an invisible and odorless pollutant, carbon dioxide, will have much greater long-term impact than smoke. By burning tens of millions of years’ worth of ancient plant matter in just a couple of centuries, we are releasing hundreds of billions of tons of CO2, changing the chemical composition of the planet’s atmosphere and oceans, causing climate patterns to become more chaotic, and thereby threatening not just global agriculture but the ecological cycles that support myriads of other creatures in addition to ourselves.

If the energy-climate conundrum were all we had to worry about, the obvious answer would be to transition industrial society to operate on other, less problematic energy sources. Unfortunately, it turns out that a full energy transition to renewable alternatives like solar and wind power won’t be easy (for reasons I’ve discussed here, here, and here). But there’s even worse news: the energy-climate problem isn’t our only survival-level ecological dilemma.

As we’ve grown our population and our per capita consumption rates, we’ve been taking habitat away from other organisms. As a result, nature is in full retreat. Vertebrate and invertebrate animal species have suffered average population declines of 70 percent in the past 50 years, and thousands of plant species are endangered as well.

Not only are most people apparently willing to ignore the loss of Earth’s biodiversity as long as the industrial economy can continue to keep them fed, clothed, housed, and entertained, but they are also largely unaware of the exhaustion of the materials that feed the industrial machine. As high-grade ores deplete, miners are forced to dig deeper and process more ore in order to produce the same amounts of copper, iron, aluminum, and dozens of other critical materials. Yet merely the same amounts won’t do: we need to double these amounts every 25 years to enable economic growth at recent rates—and we need loads more materials to build vast numbers of solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries that will be needed to substitute for fossil fuels.

Some scientists use math to determine how close we are to planetary limits. One such effort goes by the name “planetary boundaries”; its main proponents, scientists at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, calculate that, of nine critical global ecological thresholds that might lead to collapse, humanity has already crossed six. A related effort is being undertaken by the Global Footprint Network, which tracks our “ecological footprint”—how much of Earth’s biological regenerative capacity is being used by human society. Our footprint scorecard currently shows humanity using resources as if we lived on 1.75 Earths—which it is only possible to do temporarily by, in effect, robbing future generations.

Altogether, civilization’s survival dilemma in the 21st century is best described by a concept from population ecology—overshoot. This refers to the situation where a crucial resource temporarily becomes more abundant, thereby enabling a group of organisms to grow its population beyond levels that can be sustained over the long run. For a population of field mice in overshoot, the critical resource might consist of small plants whose unusually robust growth has been triggered by high levels of rainfall. For humanity currently, the critical resource is fossil energy. Temporary energy abundance has led to many good things (for some of us, anyway): more food, more people, more commercial products, more knowledge, more comfort, and more convenience. But we are about to become victims of our own success.

Indeed, humanity’s confrontation with limits will make this century pivotal. Whether it’s the rate of emission of greenhouse gases, the proliferation of “forever chemicals,” the depletion of soils and minerals, or the destruction of habitat for other species, in each case we see industrial society plunging headlong over the guardrails. Our collective survival will depend on whether we can restrain population growth, resource extraction, and waste dumping so that we can get onto a path that can be sustained for centuries or millennia. That means de-growing economies, starting with the wealthiest ones like that of the United States.

But culturally we are ill-equipped for this necessary re-adaptation process. Indigenous wisdom, which should be our guide, persists in traditional societies fighting for cultural survival. Everywhere else, the dominant industrial worldview holds that talk of limits is dreary, scary, unimaginative, and uninspiring. Where limits are undeniable, as with carbon emissions and climate change, we try to finesse them with clever math (carbon credits, anyone?) and sophisticated technology.

Further, worsening economic inequality is undermining the social cohesion needed for a cooperative human about-face. Indeed, the people who are empowered to decide what direction society takes are in almost all cases ones who tend to benefit most from overexploitation of resources. They’re the very people least likely to propose measures that would pull us back from the precipice.

The Pleasure and Solace of Loving Limits

We have flown so far from safe boundaries that our only possible landing path entails a crash: the policies required to fully align our industrial system with nature’s sustainable productive capacity would themselves trigger enormous economic and political problems. Imagine the response of American citizens if new regulations required them to cut back on energy and material usage by, say, 50 percent. What would happen to the economy in that scenario? There’s no easy answer to overshoot, when it’s gone to such lengths. This is not to say that activists should stop protesting new fossil fuel production projects, or that planning agencies should stop advocating more energy efficiency and solar panels, or that conservationists should stop protecting creatures and ecosystems. We must do what we can, even if it’s not enough to avert all the environmental, social, and economic crises that we’ve been fomenting with decades of over-consumption.

However, in addition to such worthy efforts, at least some of us can adopt an attitude fundamentally different from the dominant “Star Trek” mindset—an attitude geared to help us find an equitable way through the Great Unravelingthat’s already begun, while laying the conceptual and cultural foundation for a truly sustainable society. The key will be a new(ish) attitude toward limits—a willingness to view them not as restrictions always to be fought against, but as boundaries that enable systems to work.

Sure, limits can sometimes be a straitjacket. Few of us like arbitrary strictures of outmoded custom. But far too little is said about the benefits of nature’s limits—including the starkest limit of all, mortality. It’s sad when loved ones die, and few of us look forward to our own demise; hence the perennial quest for an elixir of eternal life, or at least a cure for cancer. But if nobody died, the planet would quickly fill with humans and empty of all the things that feed and provision us. Death clears space for new life; it is the non-negotiable price of admission to the great banquet of existence.

Denying and fighting limits is hard work. We can afford to relax a bit and learn to better appreciate the immense beauty of the masterpiece that nature creates out of finite resources and lifespans.

In addition to Indigenous thinkers, some ancient Greek and Chinese philosophers understood the value of limits. Stoics like Seneca and Epictetus taught that we should view apparent obstacles as opportunities. They said things like, “You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” In China, at roughly the same time, Taoist sages proclaimed, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Don’t just respect limits; celebrate them and work in harmony with them.

This is a philosophy grounded in nature’s way. Mortality, loss, beauty, and wisdom all arrive in the same package; sadly, many of us stop unwrapping it before we get to the wisdom at the center. Wisdom says: embrace limits even as they snap back, knowing that, in the long run, everything moves toward balance.

It’s a philosophy that’s especially relevant in difficult times, such as ones we are entering, when it may be helpful to remember: this too shall pass. Even the craze for limitlessness has its limits.

Richard Heinberg

Richard is Senior Fellow of Post Carbon Institute, and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He is the author of fourteen books, including some of the seminal works on society’s current energy and environmental sustainability crisis. He has authored hundreds of essays and articles that have appeared in such journals as Nature and The Wall Street Journal; delivered hundreds of lectures on energy and climate issues to audiences on six continents; and has been quoted and interviewed countless times for print, television, and radio. His monthly MuseLetter has been in publication since 1992. Full bio at

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