Friday, December 31, 2010

Auret van Heerden: Making global labor fair (TED)

Labor activist Auret van Heerden talks about the next frontier of workers' rights -- globalized industries where no single national body can keep workers safe and protected. How can we keep our global supply chains honest? Van Heerden makes the business case for fair labor.

Globalization will some day be a thing of the past due to the costs of transporting goods... however, in the meantime... pay attention to what you buy and from whom. Make sure your buying habits do not support shameless exploitation of slave and child labor.

Stern Review 2006

  • The benefits of strong, early action on climate change outweigh the costs.
  • The scientific evidence points to increasing risks of serious, irreversible impacts from climate change associated with business-as-usual (BAU) paths for emissions.
  • Climate change threatens the basic elements of life for people around the world — access to water, food production, health, and use of land and the environment.
  • The impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed — the poorest countries and people will suffer earliest and most. And if and when the damages appear it will be too late to reverse the process. Thus we are forced to look a long way ahead.
  • Climate change may initially have small positive effects for a few developed countries, but it is likely to be very damaging for the much higher temperature increases expected by mid-to-late century under BAU scenarios.
  • Integrated assessment modelling provides a tool for estimating the total impact on the economy; our estimates suggest that this is likely to be higher than previously suggested.
  • Emissions have been, and continue to be, driven by economic growth; yet stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere is feasible and consistent with continued growth.
  • Central estimates of the annual costs of achieving stabilisation between 500 and 550ppm CO2e are around 1% of global GDP, if we start to take strong action now. [...] It would already be very difficult and costly to aim to stabilise at 450ppm CO2e. If we delay, the opportunity to stabilise at 500-550ppm CO2e may slip away.'[12]  
  • The transition to a low-carbon economy will bring challenges for competitiveness but also opportunities for growth. Policies to support the development of a range of low-carbon and high-efficiency technologies are required urgently.
  • Establishing a carbon price, through tax, trading or regulation, is an essential foundation for climate change policy. Creating a broadly similar carbon price signal around the world, and using carbon finance to accelerate action in developing countries, are urgent priorities for international cooperation.
  • Adaptation policy is crucial for dealing with the unavoidable impacts of climate change, but it has been under-emphasised in many countries.
  • An effective response to climate change will depend on creating the conditions for international collective action.
  • There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change if strong collective action starts now.

Stern Review

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Five years later:
  • The GOP has managed to block significant action toward mitigating climate change here in the US. Hopefully the courts will not block the EPA from taking strong action regulating CO2 emissions. Globally it still looks like BAU.
  • People are suffering and dying daily due to the effects of climate change and weird weather.
  • Dr. Hansen has made a convincing argument that we need to return to 350 ppm or less in the next few decades.
  • World leaders bicker
We have made almost no progress in the 5 years since this review was released. The predictions of 2005 were way too optimistic.
The chaos caused by the blizzards, floods and droughts will have a profound effect on the economy, making it more difficult to address climate change mitigation and adaptation.

For the US, getting our government to stand up to this challenge requires voters to stand up and take notice.
Voters are our only hope.

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

This is one of the many posts by Greenman3610 at this most excellent site: Climate Denial Crock of the Week

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Cary Fowler: One seed at a time, protecting the future of food

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Richard Heinberg's Peak Everything

In 6 parts. Very worthwhile.

Everything seems to boil down to the same thing. Think self sufficient. Think local.

Hitting the walls of our finite world

And those supplies aren’t keeping pace. Conventional oil production has been flat for four years; in that sense, at least, peak oil has arrived. True, alternative sources, like oil from Canada’s tar sands, have continued to grow. But these alternative sources come at relatively high cost, both monetary and environmental.

Also, over the past year, extreme weather — especially severe heat and drought in some important agricultural regions — played an important role in driving up food prices. And, yes, there’s every reason to believe that climate change is making such weather episodes more common.

So what are the implications of the recent rise in commodity prices? It is, as I said, a sign that we’re living in a finite world, one in which resource constraints are becoming increasingly binding. This won’t bring an end to economic growth, let alone a descent into Mad Max-style collapse. It will require that we gradually change the way we live, adapting our economy and our lifestyles to the reality of more expensive resources
The Finite World

I have huge respect for Krugman... but I think he needs to show his work when he claims that our economy can continue to grow in a finite world.
Paul's rosy prediction can happen. There are two ways to grow: by getting bigger or through development. Climate change will force us to stop getting bigger. If we respond correctly, climate change will also force us to develop more efficient and environmentally friendly sources of energy, and encourage people to live more ecofriendly lifestyles.

But throughout history civilizations have collapsed because they ignored the warnings and continued their economic and lifestyle practices even though their resources or economic model could no longer support it.

I love Wikipedia:

It may be that economic growth improves the quality of life up to a point, after which it doesn't improve the quality of life, but rather obstructs sustainable living.[27] Historically, sustained growth has reached its limits (and turned to catastrophic decline) when perturbations to the environmental system last long enough to destabilise the bases of a culture.[27]
Economic growth

And the convergence of climate change with peak everything is going to put enormous strains on everything and everybody.

What's going to happen when gas is routinely $4/gal? For starters, suburban home values will stagnate, or even go down. Imports will get expensive, and people will have less money to buy stuff. That's a recipe for recession.

I think the Locavore movement has great value. As does the self provisioning community.  By being early adopters of this lifestyle we'll be somewhat insulated from some of the worst parts of hitting the walls of our finite world.

There is no Planet B

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

From Snowstorms to Heat Waves, How Global Warming Causes Extreme Weather and Climate Instability

Bear with the request for money, it's worth it.
The East Coast is struggling to recover from the massive blizzard that slammed into hundreds cities and towns from the Carolinas to Maine. The storm was a grimly fitting end to 2010, which was characterized by extreme weather from start to finish with heat waves, floods, volcanoes, blizzards, landslides and droughts. While TV networks closely follow extreme weather events around the world, they rarely make the connection between extreme weather and global warming. We speak with Dr. Paul Epstein of Harvard University’s Center for Health and the Global Environment

Sunday, December 26, 2010

From the NY Times


Bundle Up, It’s Global Warming

Lexington, Mass.


THE earth continues to get warmer, yet it’s feeling a lot colder outside. Over the past few weeks, subzero temperatures in Poland claimed 66 lives; snow arrived in Seattle well before the winter solstice, and fell heavily enough in Minneapolis to make the roof of the Metrodome collapse; and last week blizzards closed Europe’s busiest airports in London and Frankfurt for days, stranding holiday travelers. The snow and record cold have invaded the Eastern United States, with more bad weather predicted.
All of this cold was met with perfect comic timing by the release of a World Meteorological Organization report showing that 2010 will probably be among the three warmest years on record, and 2001 through 2010 the warmest decade on record.
How can we reconcile this? The not-so-obvious short answer is that the overall warming of the atmosphere is actually creating cold-weather extremes. Last winter, too, was exceptionally snowy and cold across the Eastern United States and Eurasia, as were seven of the previous nine winters.
For a more detailed explanation, we must turn our attention to the snow in Siberia.
Annual cycles like El Niño/Southern Oscillation, solar variability and global ocean currents cannot account for recent winter cooling. And though it is well documented that the earth’s frozen areas are in retreat, evidence of thinning Arctic sea ice does not explain why the world’s major cities are having colder winters.
But one phenomenon that may be significant is the way in which seasonal snow cover has continued to increase even as other frozen areas are shrinking. In the past two decades, snow cover has expanded across the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Siberia, just north of a series of exceptionally high mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, the Tien Shan and the Altai.
The high topography of Asia influences the atmosphere in profound ways. The jet stream, a river of fast-flowing air five to seven miles above sea level, bends around Asia’s mountains in a wavelike pattern, much as water in a stream flows around a rock or boulder. The energy from these atmospheric waves, like the energy from a sound wave, propagates both horizontally and vertically.
As global temperatures have warmed and as Arctic sea ice has melted over the past two and a half decades, more moisture has become available to fall as snow over the continents. So the snow cover across Siberia in the fall has steadily increased.
The sun’s energy reflects off the bright white snow and escapes back out to space. As a result, the temperature cools. When snow cover is more abundant in Siberia, it creates an unusually large dome of cold air next to the mountains, and this amplifies the standing waves in the atmosphere, just as a bigger rock in a stream increases the size of the waves of water flowing by.
The increased wave energy in the air spreads both horizontally, around the Northern Hemisphere, and vertically, up into the stratosphere and down toward the earth’s surface. In response, the jet stream, instead of flowing predominantly west to east as usual, meanders more north and south. In winter, this change in flow sends warm air north from the subtropical oceans into Alaska and Greenland, but it also pushes cold air south from the Arctic on the east side of the Rockies. Meanwhile, across Eurasia, cold air from Siberia spills south into East Asia and even southwestward into Europe.
That is why the Eastern United States, Northern Europe and East Asia have experienced extraordinarily snowy and cold winters since the turn of this century. Most forecasts have failed to predict these colder winters, however, because the primary drivers in their models are the oceans, which have been warming even as winters have grown chillier. They haveignored the snow in Siberia.
Last week, the British government asked its chief science adviser for an explanation. My advice to him is to look to the east.
It’s all a snow job by nature. The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.
Judah Cohen is the director of seasonal forecasting at an atmospheric and environmental research firm.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010's world gone wild: Quakes, floods, blizzards


After strong early year blizzards — nicknamed Snowmageddon — paralyzed the U.S. mid-Atlantic and record snowfalls hit Russia and China, the temperature turned to broil.

The year may go down as the hottest on record worldwide or at the very least in the top three, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The average global temperature through the end of October was 58.53 degrees, a shade over the previous record of 2005, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Los Angeles had its hottest day in recorded history on Sept. 27: 113 degrees. In May, 129 set a record for Pakistan and may have been the hottest temperature recorded in an inhabited location.

In the U.S. Southeast, the year began with freezes in Florida that had cold-blooded iguanas becoming comatose and falling off trees. Then it became the hottest summer on record for the region. As the year ended, unusually cold weather was back in force.

Northern Australia had the wettest May-October on record, while the southwestern part of that country had its driest spell on record. And parts of the Amazon River basin struck by drought hit their lowest water levels in recorded history.


Disasters caused $222 billion in economic losses in 2010 — more than Hong Kong's economy — according to Swiss Re. That's more than usual, but not a record, Schraft said. That's because this year's disasters often struck poor areas without heavy insurance, such as Haiti.

Ghulam Ali's three-bedroom, one-story house in northwestern Pakistan collapsed during the floods. To rebuild, he had to borrow 50,000 rupees ($583) from friends and family. It's what many Pakistanis earn in half a year.


A volcano in Iceland paralyzed air traffic for days in Europe, disrupting travel for more than 7 million people. Other volcanoes in the Congo, Guatemala, Ecuador, the Philippines and Indonesia sent people scurrying for safety. New York City had a rare tornado.

A nearly 2-pound hailstone that was 8 inches in diameter fell in South Dakota in July to set a U.S. record. The storm that produced it was one of seven declared disasters for that state this year.

There was not much snow to start the Winter Olympics in a relatively balmy Vancouver, British Columbia, while the U.S. East Coast was snowbound.

In a 24-hour period in October, Indonesia got the trifecta of terra terror: a deadly magnitude 7.7 earthquake, a tsunami that killed more than 500 people and a volcano that caused more than 390,000 people to flee. That's after flooding, landslides and more quakes killed hundreds earlier in the year.

Even the extremes were extreme. This year started with a good sized El Nino weather oscillation that causes all sorts of extremes worldwide. Then later in the year, the world got the mirror image weather system with a strong La Nina, which causes a different set of extremes. Having a year with both a strong El Nino and La Nina is unusual.

And in the United States, FEMA declared a record number of major disasters, 79 as of Dec. 14. The average year has 34.

A list of day-by-day disasters in 2010 compiled by the AP runs 64 printed pages long.

"The extremes are changed in an extreme fashion," said Greg Holland, director of the earth system laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

For example, even though it sounds counterintuitive, global warming likely played a bit of a role in "Snowmageddon" earlier this year, Holland said. That's because with a warmer climate, there's more moisture in the air, which makes storms including blizzards, more intense, he said.

White House science adviser John Holdren said we should get used to climate disasters or do something about global warming: "The science is clear that we can expect more and more of these kinds of damaging events unless and until society's emissions of heat-trapping gases and particles are sharply reduced."

And that's just the "natural disasters." It was also a year of man-made technological catastrophes. BP's busted oil well caused 172 million gallons to gush into the Gulf of Mexico. Mining disasters — men trapped deep in the Earth — caused dozens of deaths in tragic collapses in West Virginia, China and New Zealand. The fortunate miners in Chile who survived 69 days underground provided the feel good story of the year.

In both technological and natural disasters, there's a common theme of "pushing the envelope," Olson said.

Colorado's Bilham said the world's population is moving into riskier megacities on fault zones and flood-prone areas. He figures that 400 million to 500 million people in the world live in large cities prone to major earthquakes.

A Haitian disaster will happen again, Bilham said: "It could be Algiers. it could be Tehran. It could be any one of a dozen cities."
2010's world gone wild: Quakes, floods, blizzards
By SETH BORENSTEIN and JULIE REED BELL, Associated Press Seth Borenstein And Julie Reed Bell, Associated Press – Sun Dec 19, 11:26 am ET

HT comment 127: Deborah Stark

Friday, December 17, 2010

Odd and worse

American companies send jobs overseas, and lay off domestic workers and then wonder why nobody has any money to buy their goods and services.

Money marketers are willing to put the global economy at risk for short term profits in their pockets.

Gas utilities shirk their duty to notify folks where their pipelines are, and save money by failing to maintain their lines. They are willing to let people die to save a dime.

World leaders are willing to sacrifice civilization for political reasons.

Fox news is willing to deceive their viewers about almost everything to make a dime.

Scientists are waffling about the fact that, since the tundra is melting, we have little hope of saving the world unless we start aggressively pulling methane and carbon out of the air. We don't know how to do that yet.

Some people are willing to be seen driving Hummers.

Rachel Botsman: The case for collaborative consumption

Love TED talks!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Climate Change Death Toll

MILAN - Global warming killed 150,000 people in 2000 and the death toll could double again in the next 30 years if current trends are not reversed, the World Health Organization says.
Climate Change Death Toll Put at 150,000 (December 11, 2003 )

LONDON — Climate-change disasters kill around 300,000 people a year and cause about $125 billion in economic losses, mainly from agriculture, a think-tank led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan reported Friday.

The Global Humanitarian Forum also estimated that 325 million people are seriously affected by climate change — a number it says will double by 2030, as more people are hit by natural disasters or suffer environmental degradation caused by climate change.
Climate-change death toll put at 300,000 a year
( 5/29/2009 )

If current climate projections hold true, the forests of the Southwestern United States face a bleak future, with more severe -- and more frequent -- forest fires, higher tree death rates, more insect infestation, and weaker trees. The findings by university and government scientists are published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Continued Death of Forests Predicted in Southwestern US Due to Climate Change (Dec. 14, 2010)

Is there somebody out there willing to blog the climate change death toll (all living things of course, not just people)?

And the hits just keep coming

Methane May Be Building Under Antarctic Ice

HT Prokaryotes comment 5

The articles over at Climate Progress are awesome and the comments are a great source of additional information. Anybody really interested in climate change should read this blog at least daily.

The methane thing scares me a bunch.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More on extinction

Adélie penguins, like other polar species, have always faced daunting challenges. But today, Adélies are confronting conditions for which nothing in their evolutionary history has prepared them. According to Fraser, the colonies around Palmer Station have reached a tipping point: they’ll be gone within his lifetime.
Tragedy in Black and White

Really well written book review... that brought tears to my eyes.

Teaser for Sixth Extinction Documentary from 6thExtinctionDoc on Vimeo.

Here's a short that condenses all that's wrong in under 3 minutes. Share it.

What a way to go
very good documentary (can't embed)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Repost Earth to America

The end of stuff

It's not the end of the world, just the end of consumerism. We are about to wave goodbye to the dream of endless economic growth - always, every year, more stuff. However, we have enough already. We really do.
A change is about to be forced on society because energy consumption pretty much is the economy. And we are about to run short of the cheap energy which has been driving the past century of unchecked economic expansion.

End of consumerism

HT The Oil Drum

Cheap energy is killing the planet, so available or not, we need to stop using it.

Now our 'assets' are millstones around our necks. We were had. We bought the line (well I did anyway) and now we pay the price.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Climate change deal would be 'too late'

Mistake, arctic is likely to be ice free in the summer as soon as 2030.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Must See

From More Ben Santer at Climate Denial Crock of the Week (a must read blog)

Chilling tale of of the war against climate science and scientists.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Odds and ends

Supreme Court takes global warming case that targets power companies
If the court rules that pollution is a form of free speech I'm moving to Canada (or New Zealand).

Fantastic solar plastic breakthrough
I'm waiting for solar paint.

Meet the Anti Christ
Scroll down to the Beck segment. Man these guys are crazy!
Ho Ho Ho Green Dragon. I think it has nice ring to it don't you?.


Each year there are 350,000 people dying due to climate change, with a total death toll by 2020 of five million; each year after that deaths from climate change are likely to be as high as one million people annually--that is unless we take action to soften the blow with immediate and rapid greenhouse gas emission reductions. That's the word from DARA's new Climate Vulnerability Monitor: The State of the Climate Crisis.
Climate Change to Kill 5 Million People Globally by 2020 & It Just Goes Up Each Year After That

Unfortunately it's the least able to protect themselves that die first. Children. Poor children.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's too late?

It’s too late” 2:14 into it:

He seems to have surprised himself when he said it.
Climate Denial Crock of the Week: More on Methane

Everything is happening 50 years early it seems. I don't see enough being said about that.
Met Office: Catastrophic climate change could happen with 50 years, five decades earlier than previously predicted, according to a Met Office report.

The climate has warmed a mere .8 Celsius, and yet we're seeing really scary stuff.

Global warming could kill a million people a year by 2030. So why's the US stalling on a deal that would help countries adapt?

Climate Change: Adapt or Die?

As if we in the US are well prepared to take the hits!

Excellent BBC series (podcast).
What's stopping us?

HT fj3
Climate Progress

Friday, December 3, 2010

Afraid new world

I had a dream of buying a few acres somewhere up north... and that I, and my friends and family would live off the land. I simple life, full of hard work.


Real Estate is still in the toilet. No buyers. No lenders. Owning land might be a very bad idea if you need to move out of the way of climate changes..
Then I noted an article about how "up north" might be impacted by climate change.
Then I saw a map predicting that "up north" area as having much greater warming than the southwest where I live now.  I know it's just a model, and the models still need a lot of work, but it made the point that we don't know where the safe places are going to be.

And it sunk in that we are experiencing abrupt climate change right now... which may become violent climate change in the future.

Which means we need to be mobile and flexible.
Maybe live in a Winnebago. Lease land to farm... maybe something not nearly as idyllic as I had envisioned.
That's not the safe haven I wanted for the younger members of my family to retreat to.

I'm not alone in this realization

So what might the future hold? One thing is clear: We should accustom ourselves to a much more nomadic way of life. Gradual or sudden change in our environment, about which science can do little more than offer a warning, may force unheard-of social and cultural transformations. Suppose a new volcanic eruption makes a place uninhabitable: Where will the inhabitants find a home? In the past, large population movements were spontaneous processes, full of suffering and loss of civilizations. Today, when weapons of mass destruction are available not only to states but even to local groups, humanity simply can’t afford a spontaneous population exchange.

The End of Nature

Meanwhile world leaders spar with each other as if the world's civilization did not hang in the balance. Or do they? Is it all for show? Do they know something we don't? *Shudder*

Oh, and I'm hearing that carbon capture may be required (negative emissions) to keep the warming below catastrophic levels... and we're talking just a few decades here, not the usual far off forgettable 2100.

Be afraid, be very afraid... but not so much that you don't think about what you can do to reduce emissions, create a sustainable culture, and save your families if that fails. World leaders aren't going to do it. We are.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sachs Student Lecture: America's Economic Crisis - Where Do We Go From Here?

Sachs Student Lecture: America's Economic Crisis - Where Do We Go From Here? from Earth Institute on Vimeo.

HT fj3 over at Climate Progress

In the year 2025

Currently we're at .8 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial age. The effects described for 2 degrees in the above documentary are already happening (e.g. bark beetle, melting ice sheets), so all the predictions have been too conservative.

If we continue, business as usual, Earth will have warmed by up to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2025. Hey guys, that's only 15 years... and means that the warming will be nearly double what it is now. If 2010 is any predictor of how bad it can be, we're in for big trouble.
This is beyond an abrupt change, it is violent.

Continuing with a business-as-usual approach to energy use into the foreseeable future could foster a 4 degree C warming, perhaps as early as the 2060s, a package of new papers concludes.

Such a dramatic temperature increase would be expected to trigger extensive, recurring droughts in some parts of the world, flood coastlines as sea levels rise and drastically alter the types of crops that can survive where lands remain arable, notes Mark New of the University of Oxford in England. New contributed to several of the 11 papers in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. The journal issue, officially dated January 13, 2011, has been posted early online to coincide with the November 29 start in Cancun, Mexico of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
World could heat up 4 degrees C in 50 years

Also see (and read the comments too)
Royal Society special issue details ‘hellish vision’ of 7°F (4°C) world — which we may face in the 2060s!

However there are technologies that could save us even if we won't save ourselves.
Helios Project

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Choosing Electricity Generation Technologies

Choosing Electricity Generation Technologies

HT David Roberts @drgrist via twitter

WWII-Style Rationing to Fight Global Warming?

According to the London Daily Telegraph, scientists recommend limiting the use of electricity and stopping economic growth in developed countries.

WWII-Style Rationing to Fight Global Warming?

Stopping economic growth? I doubt any sane person would suggest this! We need a healthy economy to finance the transition off fossil fuels.
But the denier crowd is out to scare you to death. Remember that. They want you to think dealing with climate change is worse than just letting it happen.

But check in at Climate Progress to get an idea of how bad doing nothing can be

Royal Society special issue details ‘hellish vision’ of 7°F (4°C) world — which we may face in the 2060s!

Update... evidently a scientist was stupid enough to suggest this:
In one paper Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said the only way to reduce global emissions enough, while allowing the poor nations to continue to grow, is to halt economic growth in the rich world over the next twenty years.
Cancun climate change summit: scientists call for rationing in developed world

Idiot. How is the technology needed to mitigate excess GHG going to be developed if we crush the "rich world"?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Just walk away?

Stuck in a deep and stubborn recession

Possible peak oil has come and gone without official recognition

Possible abrupt climate change underway

The recession prevents real action on the two fronts we should be addressing with unprecedented vigor. Both fronts have the same enemy: fossil fuels.

We ordinary, working class citizens don't know what peak oil looks like. We did notice the $4/gal spike a couple years back... but that was attributed to speculators. It's a no-brainer that oil will cost more as the demand outstrips supply. There are abundant alternative oil sources, but they cost more to exploit.

Nobody, not even the most educated and insightful climatologist can tell us what abrupt climate change looks like. But I'll go out on a limb and say the onset of melting tundra is what it looks like.

We bought into the American dream. Buy the biggest house you can afford and fill it with stuff. The stuff crusade went crazy. Stuff we bought last month was obsolete. Nobody wanted old stuff, so into the landfills it went. Even the Goodwill got picky. Now we're trapped. Or are we?

Can we just walk away? Gather our like thinking friends and family and migrate north? Sell what we can, leave what won' sell?

HT Lou @9
Facing the consequences

A billion people will lose their homes due to climate change, says report

Still looking out to 2100... need more information about the next two decades.

Jeremy Rifkin on "the empathic civilization"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef on Barefoot Economics, Poverty and Why The U.S. is Becoming an "Underdeveloping Nation"

We speak with the acclaimed Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef. He won the Right Livelihood Award in 1983, two years after the publication of his book Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics. "Economists study and analyze poverty in their nice offices, have all the statistics, make all the models, and are convinced that they know everything that you can know about poverty. But they don’t understand poverty," Max-Neef says.

Stephen Schneider: Waking up to climate change

"There is no such thing as a Republican flood or Democratic wild fire"

Friday, November 26, 2010

Front-Line City in Virginia Tackles Rise in Sea

This from the N.Y. Times.

Who cares about our children and grandchildren

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Good post at Huffpo

The scientific debate is not between deniers and those who can prove that releasing massive amounts of warming gases will make the world warmer. Every major scientific academy in the world, and all the peer-reviewed literature, says global warming denialism is a pseudo-science, on a par with Intelligent Design, homeopathy, or the claim that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. One email from one lousy scientist among tens of thousands doesn't dent that. No: the debate is between the scientists who say the damage we are doing is a disaster, and the scientists who say it is catastrophe.

The Next Crash Will Be Ecological -- and Nature Doesn't Do Bailouts

We need to get the government's attention. Maybe next Earth Day (April 22 2011) we can go on strike.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Abrupt Climate Change?

An abrupt climate change occurs when the climate system is forced to transition to a new state at a rate that is determined by the climate system itself, and which is more rapid than the rate of change of the external forcing.

Potential causes of a sudden transition (tipping points) include
  • methane released by melting tundra
  • decreased albedo due to melting sea ice in the arctic
We have a near record low in actic sea ice in the summer of 2010, and methane bubbling up out of melting tundra. But have we passed tipping points that will radically accelerate climate chaos?
With the dramatic weird weather of 2010 it's so in in your face that you'd have to be asleep to miss the fact that something is happening and it is happening very very fast. Or maybe not. Maybe 2011 will be more normal, and lull us into thinking that global warming is a gradual process, and although it increases the odds of having disruptive weather, it will not suddenly look like we live on a different planet.

It's odd that I can't find any recent reports on our current risk of abrupt climate change. The ones I find seem to be older than 5 years. We all know our climatologists have been very diligent in their efforts to better our understanding of climate, so reports 5 years old could be very stale.

But the truth is out there.
A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice

How bad is it? Please... somebody... tell us? Don't tell us about 2050 or 2100... tell us about 2015, 2020.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Methane leaking out of the permafrost

My worst fear is that we don't act in time to prevent a run-away positive feedback that dooms us.

"In my view, methane is a serious sleeper out there that can pull us over the hump," said Robert Corell, an eminent U.S. climate change researcher and Arctic specialist. Corell, speaking by telephone from a conference in Miami, said he and other U.S. scientists are pushing Washington to deploy satellites to gather more information on methane leaks.

Leaking Siberian ice raises a tricky climate issue [The Associated Press
By ARTHUR MAX Associated Press]

Fabulous article. Read the whole thing.

Lord Nicholas Stern a climate change economist

He sees an opportunity to a new industrial revolution
(video, can't embed:)
Q+A: Guyon Espiner interviews Lord Nicholas Stern

He also sees there will be social, peer pressures to be carbon neutral... like that which occurred with smoking. Boycotts and stuff like that.

HT Grist

I'm starting feel hopeful.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Preparing for peak oil

Gail the Actuary paints a bleak picture
Economic Impact of Peak Oil Part 3: What's Ahead?

I think the consequences of peak oil are going to start very gradually, and the first thing we'll see is prices rise across the board, especially gas at the pump. Alternative sustainable liquid fuels eventually become competitive... and we will adapt to a more expensive and frugal society.

Ludicrous business practices will end. We will not ship raw materials to China for processing, only to have it shipped back as some final product.
Imported products will be too expensive for most of us.
We won't fly much anymore... too pricy. Airlines will go under right and left. We won't take long road trips for the same reason. So we'll stick closer to home. And we'll form barter clubs to help us weather the collapse of parts of our oil dependent economy.

The housing market will not recover. Nobody can afford todays prices because everything else costs so much.  People will start to walk away from their homes. Migrations not seen since the dust bowl of the 1930s will result in huge camps of refugees forming where ever they can survive. You will see Hummers rusting along side the road.
Cholera and other disease will take a toll.
It'll be like a thousand Katrinas. Our governments will not be able to cope.

Carpentry, horticulture, sewing, cooking... the homely skills will be valued.
We won't throw anything away that can be fixed, salvaged or re-purposed. The blacksmith will be the most respected person in town. The glut of horses of 2010 will turn into a shortage.

There may be jolts along the way, but for the most part it will happen over a few decades. The very rich will be able to afford energy. The rest of us, not so much.

In a couple of centuries innovation will allow us to pull out of this dark age. We'll form stable sustainable communities. It will be a good life, but there will be a lot fewer of us.

One thing that must be preserved is the internet. Without it, total collapse of modern civilization is almost assured.

Ok, that's me rambling and speculating...

There are more articulate and expert people who have studied this issue.
Summary of the Four Climate/Energy Descent Scenarios


Thursday, November 18, 2010


Imagine that you live on the 5th floor
And your office is either in your home or on the 2nd floor, or you work for one of the stores on the first floor, or maybe only a block away
And a mini-mall including a mega mart grocery is on the 1st floor
And on the roof you have a small garden where you can grow your own vegetables.
A doc in the box is a block away
A subway/train depot is two blocks away... it will take you where you need to go. It'll take some time, but that's better than sitting in traffic... and besides, gas is $10/gal and you can't afford that.
You don't need to own a car, but you can sign up to share one should you need one. Save up to go somewhere that's not evolved to the point your community has.
Your building has been designed or retrofitted to be energy efficient, so you feel good about the impact you have on the environment.
All the space that used to be paved has been returned to nature. Your community is surrounded by national reserves.
The air is clean
The water is clean
The river bed has not been replaced by a concrete. It's a nice place to picnic or stroll.

Basically the evolved human has encapsulated himself... to minimize his impact on nature. And we're all better off.


This is a world after peak oil. This is a world that has dealt with climate change. This is my dream.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

With a dead ocean comes a dead planet

SEATTLE — States with coastal water that is becoming more acidic because of carbon dioxide should list them as impaired under the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Agency said
EPA: States Should List Coastal Waters As Impaired Due To Rising Ocean Acidification
This is a good start, albeit late.

People often forget how much we depend on the ecosystem to survive. With a dead ocean comes a dead planet.
HT CaliforniaYume via twitter

Off topic for this blog

Pistole had been scheduled to speak to Congress long before John Tyner became a mini-celebrity for recording himself telling TSA agents, "Don't touch my junk." That incident, as well as other revelations about a series of run-ins over the invasive body scans and enhanced pat-down techniques have led to a public outcry against the TSA's new security methods.
TSA Chief to Get Congressional Pat-Down
I just want to mention the TSA issues, groping 3 year olds, threatening folks who find the methods offensive...etc.

Perfect example of a government system gone amok. Have we no shame? Has fear caused us to completely disregard our individual need for dignity and respect? I was put off flying before this, because of the delays... now I wonder what it would take to get my to fly again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Red List

If I had my way the fact that we're killing off species faster than ever before, including all the previous 5 major extinction events, would be front page news, using the largest font, and it would appear every day.
Something like this:
In memoriam:
  • Golden Toad (1989)
  • Zanzibar Leopard (1996)
  • Po'ouli (2004)
  • Madeiran Large White (2007)
  • Pyrenean Ibex (2000)
Extinct in Our Lifetime — 11 Species We've Lost Forever
I don't know who is keeping track of individual extinctions.
But here's a blog Exit Stage Right dedicated to it.

The Sixth Great Extinction: A Status Report [2004]

The average extinction rate is now some 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than the rate that prevailed over the past 60 million years. Throughout most of geological history, new species evolved faster than existing species disappeared, thus continuously increasing the planet's biological diversity. Now evolution is falling behind

The worst impact of climate change may be how humanity reacts to it
In particular it notes that one fifth of the world's remaining tropical forests lie within 50km of human populations that could be inundated if sea levels rise by 1m. These forests would make attractive sources of fuel-wood, building materials, food and other key resources and would be likely to attract a population forced to migrate by rising sea levels. About half of all Alliance for Zero Extinction sites – which contain the last surviving members of certain species – are also in these zones.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

We are killing people

We’ve passed the threshold of safety and security, and each additional ton of carbon, each year emissions rise, each year concentrations do not drop — we are killing people
Copenhagen Prognosis: The ‘Almost Overwhelming Challenge’ Of A Carbon-Free Civilization
Well said!

See also
Why Did The Debt Commission Ignore The Carbon Budget?

And check in at Climate Progress where the comments are especially good

They believe they can fly

Reading the headlines these days, I can’t help but repeat this truism: If you jump off the top of an 80-story building, for 79 floors you can think you’re flying. It’s the sudden stop at the end that tells you you’re not. It’s striking to me how many leaders and nations are behaving today as though they think they can fly — and ignoring that sudden stop at the end that’s sure to come.

Closer to home, America’s climate-deniers mounted an effective disinformation campaign that made “climate change” a four-letter word in the Republican Party. This undermined efforts to get a clean energy bill — the sort that might break our addiction to oil and take money away from the people our soldiers are fighting in the Middle East. And all of this happened in 2010, which is on track to be the Earth’s hottest year on record. So here’s the math: 98 climate scientists out of 100 will tell you that man’s continued carbon emissions pose the risk of disruptive climate change this century. Two out of 100 will tell you it doesn’t. And “conservatives” today tell you to bet on the two. If the climate-deniers are right — but we combat climate change anyway — we’ll have slightly higher energy prices but cleaner air, more renewable energy, a stronger dollar, more innovative industries and enemies with less money. If the deniers are wrong and we do nothing, your kids will meet the sudden stop at the end.
I Believe I Can Fly
Read the whole thing

He mentions

Our priorities now are to mitigate the recession that was set in motion under Bush and to put the country on a path to sustainable economic growth.
Sustainable economic growth can only be achieved by development, not getting bigger.

Six Feet Under

As Glaciers Melt, Scientists Seek New Data on Rising Seas

Scientists are very conservative. They are reticent about predicting how a system will behave unless they have a lot of confidence in their understanding of the underlying processes. But in the coming years, I predict the estimates for sea level rise this century will increase. Because science is a system, and that's how that system works.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Missing the point?

The National Geographic Daily News blog cites a new International Energy Agency report that pins 2006 as the year in which oil production rates attained a pace that will not be again matched. Or, in other words, 2006 was the year of “Peak Oil.” That projection is just one scenario of several looked at by IEA, but in their view this scenario is the most likely outcome.

The Daily News blogger admits that the “peak” is not expected to be followed by significant declines – rather, IEA projects a leveling out of conventional oil production at levels just below 2006′s peak for at least the next 25 years and minor increases in unconventional oil production and minor increases in natural gas liquids production. In short, the IEA’s report more resembles CERA’s undulating plateau story than peak anything. Yet we are told the “age of cheap oil is over” and the consequences of relying on on natural gas liquids and unconventional fuels are “stark.”

A more reasonable characterization of IEA’s most likely scenario is that it estimates oil production will remain steady for the foreseeable future at around the level attained in 2006. Scary? Rioting in the Streets? Stark?

The author of this piece fails to address the fact that  if oil availability plateaus while demand increases (exponentially)  prices will increase until nobody can afford it.
Since everything, and I mean everything, depends on oil to get manufactured and delivered to whomever needs it, as oil prices rise so will everything else. Run-away inflation.

In other words, the author fails to appreciate the exponential function.

It is a well known fact that the United States has been importing Oil since the 1970's because the home oil production cannot meet the rising demand. According to 2009 yearly average, the U.S. Crude Oil consumption is around 21 million barrels a day and home production is only around 5 million. Why are things escalating so fast? Why are resources running out at such speed? We will try to answer these questions on this article. There is no simple answer but it is all pretty much related to one single concept: exponential growth.

United States Oil Consumption and Reserves: A matter of exponential growth and finite resources

And of course this youtube video which I have watched a gazillion times.

At the current pace of research and development, global oil will run out 90 years before replacement technologies are ready, says a new University of California, Davis, study based on stock market expectations
New forecast warns oil will run dry before substitutes roll out

HT The Climate Post: Climate scientists: It’s war