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Climate Change and the Challenge to All Forms of Agriculture

CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE CHALLENGE TO ALL FORMS OF AGRICULTURE

We´ve all heard of climate change and probably understand the basics of how excess greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide produced by our society´s burning of fossil fuels is causing the earth´s temperature to rise. We´ve most likely seen maps of what the world will look like when the glaciers and icebergs melt causing the ocean to rise and most of us probably accept that it is a danger to our civilization.

For most people, however, we suffer from a cognitive dissonance that doesn´t allow us to make meaningful changes to our way of life-based on the knowledge that we have. Though the reports and predictions by climate scientists are certainly frightening, they seem like far away and distant possibilities. The 1-2 degrees of temperature change sure don´t feel that extreme, especially as we relax in our air-conditioned homes or drive to work in our air-conditioned cars.

In case you haven´t heard enough of the doomsday facts and figures, here are a few more figures from NASA to put into perspective how far climate change has advanced:

– The loss of ice in Greenland has doubled between 1996 and 2005.
– The ice cover in the Arctic decreases by 13.4% every decade.
– 9 of the 10 warmest years have occurred since the year 2000.
– Carbon dioxide levels in the air are at their highest level in 650,000 years.
– The sea will rise between 7 and 23 inches by the end of this century.

Over 100 million people who live in coastal areas will purportedly be affected by the rising sea levels caused by global warming leading to a serious demographic crisis of climate refugees.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Soft Belly of The Oil Industry: an Upcoming Seneca Collapse? 

The Soft Belly of The Oil Industry: an Upcoming Seneca Collapse? 

 
Ugo Bardi explains his idea of an impending “Seneca Collapse” of the world’s oil industry at the session on climate change of the meeting of the Club of Rome in Vienna, on 10 Nov 2017. What follows are not the exact words said, but a text which maintains the gist of this brief comment. It was focused on the concept that the oil industry has a “soft belly” in the fact that it produces mainly fuel for engines used for transportation. If this market were reduced by the introduction of electric vehicles and other transportation innovations, the whole industry could collapse. That would be a good thing for the earth’s ecosystem and for humankind in general.
 
Dear colleagues, we are having an interesting discussion on how to stop climate change and I think I could add some thoughts of mine on the basis of my recent work that I published in the form of the book titled “The Seneca Effect“.
The problem we have been discussing is how to limit emissions and we saw that it needs to be done fast and even drastically if we want to avoid the worse effects of climate change. Obviously, it is not easy. (image from Skeptical Science)
Most of what has been said today was based on a “top-down” approach, which I may also describe as supply-limiting. That is, we are speaking of a carbon tax, of emission limits, and the like; measures that governments should take in order to limit the production of fossil fuels. I don’t have to tell you that it is an effort that has been ongoing for several years and yet emissions keep growing. It doesn’t seem to work
So,  can we take the opposite approach? That is, look at the demand side in a “bottom-up” approach?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Agriculture and climate change: Is farming really a moveable feast?

Agriculture and climate change: Is farming really a moveable feast?

There is a notion afoot that our agricultural production can simply migrate toward the poles in the face of climate change as areas in lower latitudes overheat and dry up. Few people contemplate what such a move would entail and whether it would actually be feasible.

One assumption behind this falsely reassuring idea is that soil quality is somehow roughly uniform across the planet. But, of course, this is completely false. Soil quality and composition vary widely, often within walking distance on the same farm. Farmers simply moving north (or south in the Southern Hemisphere) in response to climate change will not automatically encounter soil suitable for farming.

We must also consider that lands not previously farmed may very well be forested. Knocking down the trees and clearing the stumps might make such lands arable. But the loss of carbon storage that trees represent would only make climate change worse.

Quite often we think of rural areas as being undeveloped. But nothing could be further from the truth. Agricultural regions have complex networks involving roads, communications and electricity grids, irrigation systems, grain elevators, farm supply and machinery merchants, rail depots, agricultural research stations and field projects, government-sponsored agricultural assistance centers and the specialists attached to them, and entire towns which act as gathering places and service centers for those working in rural communities. All of this would have to be duplicated in newly opened agricultural lands for which pioneering settlers would have to be recruited. These pioneers would have to want to live in previously unsettled or sparsely settled areas with few amenities.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Should we try to fix global warming with fake volcanic eruptions? TBD.

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 sent planet-cooling aerosols into the atmosphere. Photo by Arlan Naeg/AFP/Getty Images.

By Mary Beth Griggs

With heat-trapping carbon emissions on the rise again, researchers are looking for ways to turn down the thermostat while humanity gets itself under control. One potential solution? Try to copy volcanic eruptions. But in addition to adjusting the temperature, such practices could change the frequency of hurricanes, or the location of droughts.

When explosive volcanic eruptions occur — like the one at Mount Pinatubo in 1991 — they send small particles of ash and gas high into the atmosphere. These so-called aerosols block and reflect sunlight, providing a temporary cold compress to the Earth’s rising temperatures.

After years of watching volcanos go through the motions, some researchers are looking into whether they can use that same method to help cool down the planet — an idea known as solar geoengineering. But a set of studies published this month show just how complicated a proposition that might be.

“Sulfur dioxide is emitted by volcanic eruptions. It’s also relatively cheap and relatively common, so it’s the natural candidate for solar geoengineering,” says Anthony Jones, author of a recent Nature Communications study on the subject. “It’s basically copying a volcanic eruption, and then extending the injection of the aerosols into the atmosphere.”

Sulfur dioxide is a common occupant of the dramatic cloud that follows an Earthly eruption, and when it gets into the atmosphere it expands and reacts with other chemicals — including water — to form aerosol particles, which can reflect sunlight back into space and cool the Earth below.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Implementing the Helm Review on the Cost of UK Energy

Implementing the Helm Review on the Cost of UK Energy

The UK Government has made a call for evidence on the Helm Review published on 25th October 2017. At the time the review was published I chose not to share my opinions on the consequences of implementing Helm’s proposals since I believe these may be far reaching and have a large negative impact on UK citizens, businesses and the economy. At the time I did not want to upset the apple cart since I also believe Helm offers the best path forward for so long as the UK Government remains committed to its 2008 Climate Change Act (CCA).  Helm’s proposals will deliver sharply higher energy and electricity prices, carbon reduction and hopefully a functioning energy and electricity system and market. Muddling along as now will also deliver sharply higher prices with no guarantee of carbon reduction and the near certainty of a broken and dysfunctional energy system.

[Inset image is the Coire Glas pumped storage hydro scheme in Scotland, designed to store surplus wind power and provide 30GWh of storage. Still empty after all those years, Coire Glas stands as testimony to renewable fantasy colliding with thermodynamic and economic reality.]

Energy is More than Electricity

Helm’s review was on the cost of UK energy, which encompasses oil, gas, coal, nuclear and renewables. While his review is focussed on electricity he does make sufficient reference to these other energy sources to make clear that his recommendations apply to the whole energy system.

[Inset image is the Coire Glas pumped storage hydro scheme in Scotland, designed to store surplus wind power and provide 30GWh of storage. Still empty after all those years, Coire Glas stands as testimony to renewable fantasy colliding with thermodynamic and economic reality.]

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Natural gas has no climate benefit and may make things worse

Natural gas has no climate benefit and may make things worse

Methane leaks in New Mexico’s oil and gas industry equal 12 coal-fired power plants.

A gas flare at a gas-processing facility in North Dakota. CREDIT: AP/Matthew Brown
A GAS FLARE AT A GAS-PROCESSING FACILITY IN NORTH DAKOTA. CREDIT: AP/MATTHEW BROWNThe evidence is overwhelming that natural gas has no net climate benefit in any timescale that matters to humanity.

In fact, a shocking new study concludes that just the methane emissions escaping from New Mexico’s gas and oil industry are “equivalent to the climate impact of approximately 12 coal-fired power plants.” If the goal is to avoid catastrophic levels of warming, a recent report by U.K. climate researchers finds “categorically no role” to play for new natural gas production.

Sadly, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has just published a “Commentary” on “the environmental case for natural gas,” that ignores or downplays key reasons that greater use of natural gas is bad for the climate.

In the real world, natural gas is not a “bridge” fuel to a carbon-free economy for two key reasons. First, natural gas is mostly methane (CH4), a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period.

That’s why many, many studies find that even a very small leakage rate of methane from the natural gas supply chain (production to delivery to combustion) can have a large climate impact  —  enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas for a long, long time.

Second, other studies find  —  surprise, surprise  —  natural gas plants don’t replace only high-carbon coal plants. They commonly replace very low carbon power sources like solar, wind, nuclear, and even energy efficiency, which is often overlooked as a major alternative to fossil fuels. That means even a very low leakage rate wipes out the climate benefit of fracking.

Humanity Sealed Its Own Fate: 15,000 Scientists Sign A “Doomsday Warning”

Humanity Sealed Its Own Fate: 15,000 Scientists Sign A “Doomsday Warning”

earthquake drought natural disaster

A catastrophic warning about humanity’s impending doom was just signed by 15,000 scientists; they all agree that we’ve already sealed our fate.

The signed letter, which was apparently first written in 1992, claims all of the predictions made by scientists have come true except one. Apart from the hole in the ozone layer, which has now stabilized, every one of the major threats identified in 1992 has worsened.

The prophetic warning letter from 1992 argued human impacts on the natural world were likely to lead to “vast human misery” and a planet that was “irretrievably mutilated.” Climate change, deforestation, loss of access to fresh water, animal species extinctions, and uncontrolled human population growth are all threatening mankind’s and the Earth’s future.

It’s been about 25 years since the first doomsday warning letter was signed and scientists are now saying that the Earth is in even more dire shape.  More than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries said humans had “unleashed a mass extinction event,the sixth in roughly 540 million years.”

The message, which was posted online and is an update to the original Warning from the Union of Concerned Scientists and around 1,700 signatories delivered in 1992.  The World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity was written and spearheaded by the late Henry Kendall, former chair of UCS’s board of directors. But scientists still agree that runaway consumption of natural resources by an exploding population remains the biggest danger facing humankind, say the scientists.

In the more recent doomsday warning, scientists warn that human beings should eat less meat, have fewer kids, consume less, and use green energy to save the planet. In the past 25 years, scientists have pointed out the following:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Runaway Inequality Creates Runaway Global Warming

How Runaway Inequality Creates Runaway Global Warming

How Runaway Inequality Creates Runaway Global Warming

The bottom half of humans own next to nothing, but they own as much as the world’s richest 80 individuals do, because though the bottom half are poor, there are 3.79 billion of them.

The average person among the richest 80 owns 45,750,000 times as much as does the average person among the lower half. In other words: in terms of wealth, the typical one of those hyper-rich equals nearly 46 million of those poor people.

The richest person among the poor half of humanity owns approximately $5,000, but billions of people in the lower half own less than nothing — they’re negative net worth: owing more than they own. However, whatever they own is visible, and easily seizable, either by creditors, or by thieves.

By contrast, the wealth of all billionaires, including of the top 80, is largely secret, lots of it being in shell companies, many offshore, untraceable. Consequently, estimates of the wealth of the richest 80 individuals are probably unrealistically low. This secretiveness is a major reason why the public tolerates being ruled by an aristocracy: they don’t even recognize that they are — they think they live in a democracy, even if they don’t.

The roughly two thousand known billionaires do lots of business with others in the billionaire class, and with politicians whose careers they fund. And they tend to get what they want in the resulting governmental policies.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

People Act Where US Fails On Climate

People Act Where US Fails On Climate

The climate crisis is upon us. It seems that every report on climate conditions has one thing in common: things are worse than predicted. The World Meteorological Report from the end of October shows that Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) are rising at a rapid rate and have passed 400 parts per million. According to Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, “the changes we’re making today are occurring in 100 years, whereas in nature they occur in 10,000 years.”

The United States is experiencing a wide range of climate impacts from major hurricanes in the South to unprecedented numbers of wildfires in the West to crop-destroying drought in the Mid-West. In October, the General Accounting Office reported that the US has spent over $350 billion in the last decade on disaster relief and crop insurance, not counting this year’s hurricanes. These costs will continue and rise.

We are past the time to make a major commitment to the transformation we need to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. Imagine the benefits that such a commitment would have in creating a cleaner environment, better health and more jobs and, if structured in a way that is democratized and benefits the public, in ending environmental racism and economic injustice.

Climate talks in Germany

The 23rd session of climate talks is taking place right now in Bonn, Germany. The United States formally withdrew from its commitment to the Paris climate treaty, but delegations of people from the US are in attendance to show their commitment to addressing the climate crisis. A group of organizations, such as 350.org and Indigenous Environmental Network, presented their climate platform as “the people’s delegation.” They are calling for a just transition to a fossil-free future and an end to market schemes to offset carbon use.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

State of the climate: 2017 shaping up to be warmest ‘non-El Niño’ year

State of the climate: 2017 shaping up to be warmest ‘non-El Niño’ year

Much of the year, though the summer Arctic minimum was only the eighth lowest on record.

2017 is also almost certain to be the warmest year without an El Niño event. When the effects of El Niño and La Niña are removed from the temperature record, the first nine months of 2017 are likely the warmest ever recorded.

Near-record warm temperatures

Ten months in, 2017 is very likely going to be either the second warmest or third warmest year on record, depending on the temperature series used. While there was some speculation earlier in the year that it could challenge 2016 for first place, colder temperatures in the period from June through September have largely eliminated any chance of a new record.

Carbon Brief has examined global temperature data from eight different climate centres around the world, both for the Earth’s surface and the lower troposphere (TLT). Temperatures for the full year of 2017 were estimated using the data available to-date for each dataset, along with projection of the El Niño Index for the remainder of 2017 (see methods at the end of the article for technical details).

The results are shown in the figure below. Annual temperatures from 1979 through 2016 are shown in black for each record, while the likely (95% confidence interval) range of the 2017 annual temperature is shown by the red bar.

The last two records shown, RSS and UAH, come from satellite data and are measuring the atmosphere on average around 5 km up from the surface. While these have similarities to surface temperatures, they are not expected to always respond in the same way to El Niño or other factors.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Centrally Planned UK Generation Scenarios for 2030

Centrally Planned UK Generation Scenarios for 2030

The economies of the European Union have centrally planned energy delivery strategies where the amount of electricity to be generated from a particular source by a particular time is planned in minute detail by legions of civil servants and academics.

This post summarises some of the scenarios for 2030 from The UK Committee on Climate Change and discusses the consequences for the grid, companies and consumers.

Dieter Helm’s recent independent review into the UK’s Cost of Energy (big pdf) provides a stark reminder of the scale of State intervention into the electricity generation sector. Figure 1 (Helm p40) summarises the various State sponsored organisations involved.

Figure 1 17 State-sponsored organisations involved in the centralised planning and delivery of UK electricity supplies.

Helm also reminds us of the Committee on Climate Change (COCC) plan for the UK 2030 (Figure 2) which forms the basis of the analysis presented in this post.

Figure 2 The plan for the fifth carbon budget ~ 2030 (Helm p11) showing scenarios for installed generation capacities.

With four scenarios offered, and 12 months/year to analyse, this presents a total range of 48 monthly scenarios to evaluate. In this post, I have reduced this to 4 monthly scenarios looking at the High Nuclear (High N) and High Renewables (High RE) scenarios for the months of January and July.

Notably the COCC has a low electricity demand scenario simultaneous with the policy of electrifying motor vehicle transport and heating.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Winter is Coming

Winter is Coming

Fall has finally arrived.  It’s November, well past the time of year when we normally see freezing temperatures.  This year was unusually warm, a phrase that is beginning to lose its meaning since most years now are usually warm.  The leaves on the trees are finally turning color.  The nights are going to be freezing this week.  I look over the garden and see a few peppers I missed and remind myself to pick them before nightfall.  I collected masses of dill that reseeded itself from spring plantings.  I’ve learned that if I freeze the dill in tomato sauce I canned this summer the flavor in soup is the same as if it’s been picked fresh.  Good to know these things if you like the taste of fresh dill in winter soup.  I look over the garden and see bunches of herbs I need to pick before the frost or they will be lost to the freeze.  I worry about wasting them, and then I smile, remembering that the plants will give me another crop next year.  I’m still getting used to this experience of bounty from the perennials in the garden.  I’m still conditioned to think of food and herbs as things I purchase from the store, not wanting to waste money by allowing them to go bad.  Store bought food is so easily wasted.  Gardens are more generous!

Most of my life I’ve been a person who worried about waste; don’t waste electricity, don’t waste your food, “There are starving children in China”.  I wonder what was in the news in the 60’s when my mother used this phrase to make us feel guilty for not eating all the food on our plates.  Were there stories of people starving in China?  What happened, I wonder, to all the starving children?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Ecosystem is Breaking Down 

The Ecosystem is Breaking Down 

Photo by Richard Allaway | Public Domain

The ecosystem is the quintessential essence of life on our planet, and this crucial life system is showing signs of breaking down. It is likely a more pressing problem than climate change. Time will tell but time is short.

The ecosystem consists of all living organisms that interact with nonliving components like air, water, and soil contained within the biosphere, which extends from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the mountains. Although unannounced by authorities or professional orgs, it is already becoming evident that the ecosystem is breaking down. Alas, it’s our only ecosystem.

The evidence is too prevalent to ignore. For example, when (1) abundance of insects plummets by 75%, and (2) tropical rainforests mysteriously emit CO2, and (3) Mt Everest’s snow is too toxic to pass EPA drinking water standards, and (4) squid at 1,000 fathoms carry toxic furniture protection chemicals, and (5) ocean oxygen production plummets, then something is wrong, horribly, horribly, horribly wrong. But, nobody has announced it. Global warming gets all of the attention.

All of which begs the question: What does it take to determine when the ecosystem is losing it? After all, it surely looks like it is doing exactly that. For example, the loss of 75% of insect abundance in a landmark study in Germany (referenced in prior articles) released only last month is enough, all by itself, to indicate an extinction event is in the works. That is a monstrous wake up call.

Equally horrifying, recent studies show tropical rainforests emitting more CO2 than automobiles, which is kinda like getting hit repeatedly in the head with a wooden two-by-four, a deadly serious wake up call that says the planet is breaking down.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Museletter #305: Puerto Rico is our Future

Download printable PDF version here (PDF, 93KB)

My hometown of Santa Rosa, California, and surrounding communities were decimated by wildfires during the week of October 9, with entire neighborhoods completely erased. If you want a sense of how bad the fires were, watch this 11-minute video clip put together by three Berkeley firefighters. For a more personal view of the consequences of the fires, check out this webcomic accountby the husband of the Sonoma County Director of Human Services (the couple lost their home). My wife Janet and I voluntarily evacuated our house at 4am on October 10 (we were just outside a mandatory evacuation zone), after bundling our four sleepy chickens into the back of our car. We were among the fortunate ones: we were able to return home late that same day. Meanwhile 19 residents of Santa Rosa had lost their lives (the death toll throughout the region stands at over 40) and hundreds—including many of our friends as well as a former Post Carbon Institute employee and her family—had lost homes and belongings. We’re glad to be spared, and wish the best for those not so fortunate.
Richard

Puerto Rico is our Future

News reports tell of the devastation left by a direct hit from Category 4 Hurricane Maria. Puerto Ricans already coping with damage from Hurricane Irma, which grazed the island just days before, were slammed with an even stronger storm on September 20, bringing more than a foot of rain and maximum sustained winds of at least 140 miles per hour. There is still no electricity—and likely won’t be for weeks or months—in this U.S. territory of 3.4 million people, many of whom also lack running water. Phone and internet service is likewise gone. Nearly all of Puerto Rico’s greenery has been blown away, including trees and food crops.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Do You Really Think Politicians Can Stop Climate Change?

COMMENT: Mr. Armstrong; It appears that politicians are attributing any change in the climate to human activity. They have simply either gone mad or just insane, seriously distorting everything to gain more power and taxes. Now  Christine Lagarde said: “As I’ve said before if we don’t do anything about climate change now, in 50 years’ time we will be toasted, roasted and grilled.” She is not even elected by anyone yet is dictating the trend globally.

PD

REPLY: Yes, the phrase “climate change” has come to mean “blaming humans for changing the climate by using oil and gas and coal.” They act as if the climate should be linear and always the same from one year to the next. They fail to even account for the historical record of ice ages and warming periods long before we started using oil, gas, or coal. There is no doubt that the climate is changing for that is the cyclical nature of all things. The only thing more absurd than blaming humans for “climate change” is assuming politicians can stop it from changing. They cannot find the missing $3 trillion+ from the defense budget no less manage the economy and prevent the business cycle from booms and busts.

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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