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Introduction: The Green Transition and the Next System

When the Global Climate Action Summit convenes in San Francisco on September 12, 2018, one goal will be to affirm that the world beyond the Trumpian miasma is “still in” the Paris Accords. But the Summit seeks also to “demonstrate that stronger commitments are necessary, desirable and achievable.”

This convening is commendable and very important. It is also an opportunity for we, the people, to be crystal clear about what we expect of those in power: these “stronger commitments” must at long last be commitments to actions fully responsive to the desperate situation the world now confronts.

Many climate scientists and others have reached the conclusion that, because we have dithered so long, we now face the prospect of both extreme impacts from global warming and ocean acidification and, eventually, extreme rates of emission reduction. Every year of more procrastination makes both more difficult.

Major climate impacts are now inevitable. Global temperature has already increased by 1°C, with huge consequences. Another 0.5°C is essentially baked in. The odds are that we will easily exceed 2°C global average warming in this century. Right now, we have no means in place to prevent a warming of twice that.

We know what must be done if governments seriously want to halt warming at or below 2°C. Computer models indicate that to meet the goal of staying below 2°C warming, the United States should now be reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions somewhere between 7 percent and 15 percent a year, every year between now and mid-century. Such sustained declines are unprecedented, and the longer we wait to start, the steeper they must be.

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Methane and climate: 10 things you should know

Methane and climate: 10 things you should know

The graph above shows methane concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere over the past 10,000+ years: 8000 BCE to 2018 CE.  The units are parts per billion (ppb).  The year 1800 is marked with a circle.

Note the ominous spike.  As a result of increasing human-caused emissions, atmospheric methane levels today are two-and-a-half times higher than in 1800.  After thousands of years of relatively stable concentrations, we have driven the trendline to near-vertical.

Here are 10 things you should know about methane and the climate:

1. Methane (CH4) is one of the three main greenhouse gases, along with carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O).

2. Methane is responsible for roughly 20% of warming, while carbon dioxide is responsible for roughly 70%, and nitrous oxide the remaining 10%.

3. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG).  Pound for pound, it is 28 times more effective at trapping heat than is carbon dioxide.  Though humans emit more carbon dioxide than methane, each tonne of the latter traps more heat.

4. Fossil-fuel production is the largest single source.  Natural gas is largely made up of methane (about 90%).  When energy companies drill wells, “frac” wells, and pump natural gas through vast distribution networks some of that methane escapes.  (In the US alone, there are 500,000 natural gas wells, more than 3 million kilometers of pipes, and millions of valves, fittings, and compressors; see reports here and here.)  Oil and coal production also release methane—often vented into the atmosphere from coal mines and oil wells.  Fossil-fuel production is responsible for about 19% of total (human-caused and natural) methane emissions.  (An excellent article by Saunois et al. is the source for this percentage and many other facts in this blog post.)  In Canada, policies to reduce energy-sector methane emissions by 40 percent will be phased in over the next seven years, but implementation of those policies has been repeatedly delayed.

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Climate Change: What About the Marxists?

Climate Change: What About the Marxists?

Photo Source Akuppa John Wigham | CC BY 2.0

Author John Steinbeck in 1962 asked, “Why must progress look so much like destruction?” (1) In fact, ever-expanding production of things – progress, in other words – promotes destruction in the form of climate change. Perpetrators of boundless production dominate in our governments and society, and so climate change has advanced. The story might have been different had capitalism never existed.

Cuban president Fidel Castro said as much on June 12, 1992. He was addressing the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development – known as the “Earth Summit” – in Rio de Janeiro.

Castro declared that, “An important biological species — humankind— is at risk of disappearing due to the rapid and progressive elimination of its natural habitat. We are becoming aware of this problem when it is almost too late to prevent it.” He mentioned that “consumer societies … consume two-thirds of all metals and three-fourths of the energy produced worldwide. They have poisoned the seas and the rivers … They have saturated the atmosphere with gases, altering climatic conditions with the catastrophic effects we are already beginning to suffer … Tomorrow will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago.”

At the Earth Summit that day, 154 nations signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Now, however, “the Earth System may be approaching a planetary threshold that could lock in a continuing rapid pathway toward much hotter conditions—Hothouse Earth. This pathway would be propelled by strong, intrinsic, biogeophysical feedbacks difficult to influence by human actions.”  This was according to a scientific paper published August 6 bythe National Academy of Sciences.

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Old TV Broadcast That Warns Of The End Of Civilization In 2040 Found As The Elite Warn Earth’s Landscape “Set to Undergo Major Transformation”

Old TV Broadcast That Warns Of The End Of Civilization In 2040 Found As The Elite Warn Earth’s Landscape “Set to Undergo Major Transformation”

An old television broadcast from 1973 has been discovered that warns that things will start getting really bad on this planet around the year 2020 and that our current civilization will come to an end in 2040.  The 1973 television broadcast focused on an MIT computer model known as “World One” that attempted to predict what growing pollution and population levels would mean for our planet if nothing was done.  This computer model was funded by the Club of Rome, and these days the exact same people are still trying to scare us into giving up our national sovereignty “for the good of the planet” so that they can implement their “New World Order”.  They hope to convince all of us that we are facing “global problems” that require “global solutions”, and they are convinced that power is better off in the hands of global policy-making institutions such as the United Nations.If you would like to watch the doomsday television broadcast from 1973 that was recently unearthed, you can find it right here.  If the MIT computer model is correct, things should start getting really, really bad over the next few years, and without a doubt it is entirely possible that we could see that happen.

But even if the MIT model is proven correct, the goals of those that funded it are deeply insidious.  The Club of Rome was founded by some of the top globalists on the entire planet, and their ultimate goal is “a New World Order with corporations managing everything.”  The following comes from WND

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Carbon price wars–BC, Ontario or Quebec?

Carbon price wars–BC, Ontario or Quebec?

The question of how the Canadian provinces should deal with the issue of greenhouse  gas emissions continues to be contentious and occasionally acrimonious.

The new provincial government of Ontario has declared its intention to cancel that province’s cap-and-trade system—referring to it as “a punishing, regressive tax that forces low-and middle-income families to pay more.” A week ago the province of Alberta threatened to pull out of the Federal government’s carbon pricing scheme after progress on building the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline ground to a halt. Progressive Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has vowed to shut down carbon pricing asserting: “Conservatives know that carbon tax isn’t just bad for big business; it’s bad for everyone. And that’s why, come 2019, my first act as prime minister will be to get rid of it once and for all.”[1]

So is it?  Bad for everyone?

There is no question that pricing carbon works. Over 51 countries and subnational jurisdictions are now operating carbon pricing systems, or planning to do so.[2]  A report last year by two of the world’s top  economists was clear: “A well-designed carbon price is an indispensable part of a strategy for reducing emissions in a efficient way.[3]

Earlier this year, Environment and Climate Change Canada published the results of a modeling exercise which showed that a carbon pricing system applied across Canada would reduce greenhouse gas pollution by between 80 and 90 million tonnes by 2022–making a significant contribution to meeting Canada’s Paris Agreement target of a 30% reduction over the period 2005 to 2030. [4]

But some forms of carbon pricing systems seem to work a lot better than others. Can we learn a few lessons and draw some conclusions by looking at the performance of the four Canadian provinces where carbon prices have been introduced: Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia?  Of the four, British Columbia’s revenue-neutral carbon pricing system is widely regarded as a major success.[5]  But the latest data on Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions paint a rather different picture.

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A Pyrrhic Climate

A Pyrrhic Climate

What does it mean to fight and win an impossible war?

Battle of Chancellorsville, by Kurz and Allison, 1889

Arecent debate in twitter’s climate community illuminated a schism between those arguing that mitigating climate change is impossible and those exhorting others to continue to “fight” climate change. While the debate yielded no definitive answers, it brought up important questions for those who’ve focused their life on addressing this issue.

What does it mean to “fight” climate change today? Is mitigation really impossible? How would we know? If we want any chance of winning the fight, we have to confront which parts of it may be “impossible” to win and we have to have a sense of what it really means to “fight climate change.”

Let’s start with what’s impossible. Take one sector of the economy that needs to be decarbonized: food. Food is heavily petroleum dependent in growing, processing, and in its complex supply chains. Basically every single calorie consumed by someone in the Global North (and much of the South) is derived from petroleum, either at the point of production or by being moved around in planes, trains, and ships. What would it take to decarbonize industrial agriculture?

First, we would have to stop using petroleum-based fertilizers and petroleum-derived pesticides. The implication of that is: we’ll have a lot less food in the world. That’s just a reality of farming. High, dense food production relies on lots of petroleum inputs. I’ve worked on farms. There’s lots of pests and an increasing number due to climate change, and the soil is now weak thanks to industrial ag. For all the talk of agroecology (which is great!), we can’t get around those realities easily. It also means food will be regionally and seasonally dependent. E.g., no more avocados in most of the Global North. Millennials’ one consolation in the world, gone.

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Culture and Behavior May Clue Climate Change Response

Culture and Behavior May Clue Climate Change Response

Photo Source Dan Costin | CC BY 2.0

Behavior acculturated to ancestral norms, originally necessitated by occupation, is the focus of a new study in China with interesting ramifications for climate change.  In general, farming requires more stable relationships than, say, herding with the constant movement of animals.  Now the authors have taken farming a step further:

They observed that northerners were three times more likely than southerners to push an obstructing chair in a Starbucks out of the way; southerners eased themselves around in order not to inconvenience whosoever had placed the chairs.  The behaviors were true to type as northerners are considered brash and aggressive, while southerners are conflict averse and deferential.

The authors ascribe the behavior to ancestral occupation.  Wheat is farmed in the north, and such dry-land farming is more individualized than rice farming in the south.  The latter requires complex irrigation systems for paddies and forces cooperation and coordination among multiple families.  The interdependence also means it is crucial not to offend anyone.  This ancestral culture prevailed despite the fact that most descendants were no longer farmers.

The question of which people change their environment and who change themselves is an important one at a time when the world has to face the existential challenge of climate change.  In the last couple of years we have seen a cooperative Europe facing a quintessential maverick, as in Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump lives in his own world ignoring the mounting research and irrefragable evidence for climate change with its human fingerprint that can no longer be disputed.  Worse still are the consequences and the inevitable danger of conflict fueled by resource needs.  Thus the melting of Arctic ice has made possible new sea pathways, opening up oil and gas exploration, and pitting Russia, the U.S., Canada and other Arctic countries against each other.

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Climate change, water and the infrastructure problem

Climate change, water and the infrastructure problem

I was watching an episode of the science-fiction noir thriller “The Expanse” recently. Set hundreds of years in the future, the United Nations has now become the world government and its main rival is Mars, a former Earth colony. The UN is still in New York City and a new fancier UN building is now tucked safely behind a vast seawall that protects the city from rising water resulting from climate change.

It’s a world that looks like an extension of our own, but one that has survived the twin existential threats of climate change and resource depletion. But will it be so easy to update our infrastructure to overcome these threats?

The naive notion that we can, for example, “just use more air conditioning” as the globe warms betrays a perplexing misunderstanding of what we face. Even if one ignores the insanity of burning more climate-warming fossil fuels to make electricity for more air-conditioning, there is the embedded assumption that our current infrastructure with only minor modifications will withstand the pressures placed upon it in a future transformed by climate change and other depredations.

That assumption doesn’t square with the facts. Take, for instance, the Miami, Florida water system. One would think that Miami’s first task in adapting to climate change would be to defend its shores against sea-level rise. But it turns out that the most troublesome effect of sea-level rise is sea water infiltration into the aquifer which supplies the city’s water.

Once that happens the city would have to adopt desalination for its water supply, a process that currently costs two and one-half times more than current water purification processes. And, of course, desalinating water for a city as large as Miami, a city of more than 400,000 who consume 330 million gallons per day, would require a huge, expensive new infrastructure.

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Workers’ Power vs. Climate Destroyers: What It Will Take to Save the Planet

Workers’ Power vs. Climate Destroyers: What It Will Take to Save the Planet

Humanity faces a multi-faceted crisis. Endless wars of imperial aggression, both overt and covert– from Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan to Yemen, Palestine and Central and South America. These conflagrations compel those at the bottom of the economic pyramid to fight and die to protect the wealth and privileges of those at the top. These wars destroy human beings and our natural environment, but also opportunities and resources that could be allocated to human betterment. Nuclear arsenals remain on hair trigger alert, with fearsome destructive potential, one accident or a single myopic policy decision away from wiping out the entire human race. Economic inequality, having already reached obscene proportions, is showing no sign of slowing down or reversing course. Racism, xenophobia, sexism and other forms of hate-filled discrimination are used to distract and divide those victimized by the current state of affairs and to hinder a united fight by all of the oppressed against our common oppressors.

And then there’s the matter of climate Armageddon. The world is heating up as a result of economic and energy policy choices. These choices have maximized profits for the 1% while threatening the very biosphere we all depend on for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We know that the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting additional carbon in our atmosphere are driving rapid planetary warming. We know this, not because a majority of climate scientists believe it to be true – that’s not how science works; after all, majorities of scientists have been wrong on occasion. We know this crisis is real because a substantial amount of data has been collectedthat corroborates the climate change hypothesis, and because key scientific predictions based on the theory of human-accelerated climate change have been born out by evidence and experience. Climate change has been directly implicated in:

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The road away from fossil fuels

The road away from fossil fuels

Katowice. Photo by Jadwiga (Flickr)

President Andrzej Duda’s authoritarian government can expect a rough political ride in December, when politicians, diplomats and campaigners stream into Katowice, Poland, for the next UN summit on climate change.

Poland’s so-called climate policy – to aim for “carbon neutrality” by discounting emissions from the coal industry with carbon sucked up by its forests – will face richly-deserved criticism. How loudly that will be heard on the streets is a different matter: Poland’s parliament has banned “spontaneous” gatherings in Katowice during the summit.

Donald Trump, who last year withdrew the US from the 2015 Paris agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will also be the target of derision, not only from demonstrators but from some politicians inside the talks. The main business at Katowice (the 24th conference of parties to the 1992 Rio climate convention, or COP24) will be to finalise a “rulebook” to monitor government promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions (“nationally determined contributions” or NDCs) made in Paris.

The Paris agreement acknowledged that global temperatures should be kept “well below” 2 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels, and that 1.5 degrees is preferable. Campaigners use every phrase in the document to challenge pro-fossil-fuel policies; to resist attempts to make the global south pay the price for warming; and to promote “just transition” that combines the move from fossil fuels with struggles for social justice.

While fighting all these battles, it’s important not to neglect the larger picture. The Paris agreement is most significant not as a beacon around which the world can gather to stop climate change, but as the outcome of a disastrous process of failure to reverse the growth of fossil fuel consumption, the main cause of warming. At Paris, the idea of binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions was finally abandoned, in favour of voluntary commitments.

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Seawalls for oil refineries and other ironies of climate change adaptation

Seawalls for oil refineries and other ironies of climate change adaptation

A friend of mine includes a saying with each of his emails that goes like this: “It shouldn’t be easier to imagine the end of civilization than the end of air conditioning.” But in most depictions of the end of civilization at the cinema these days, the air conditioning (or heat, if it is winter) is going full blast until the very moment of civilization’s demise.

What he is alluding to, of course, is that we can’t imagine ourselves giving up much of anything even in the face of the biggest man-made threat to human survival ever, namely, climate change. To make sure that we don’t have to, the oil industry is championing a plan that will use federal money to build a seawall along the Texas coast in order to protect—you guessed it—oil refineries, a large number of which are located near the water’s edge.

It will protect a lot of other stuff as well. But the irony is not lost on the reporter of the linked piece who in droll understatement writes: “But the idea of taxpayers around the country paying to protect refineries worth billions, and in a state where top politicians still dispute climate change’s validity, doesn’t sit well with some.”

Elsewhere, efficient use of water, especially in agriculture, is deemed wise policy as water demand rises and water supply becomes more uncertain in the face of climate change. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states the following on its website:

Agriculture is a major user of ground and surface water in the United States, accounting for approximately 80 percent of the Nation’s consumptive water use and over 90 percent in many Western States. Efficient irrigation systems and water management practices can help maintain farm profitability in an era of increasingly limited and more costly water supplies.

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The 1.5 Generation

Grist / Amelia Bates

My generation is radically remaking climate activism. Will it be enough?

My generation, the millennials, will never know a time when climate change wasn’t a grave threat.

Back in 1988, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere crossed the 350 parts per million level when I was still watching Sesame Street and digging up worms in the backyard. Scientists consider that mark the maximum threshold compatible with a stable climate and suitable for human life on Earth. That same year, NASA researcher James Hansen told the U.S. Senate he was 99 percent confident global warming was already taking place. The public started taking notice, but little was done to address the accelerating crisis.

Earlier this year, scientists in Hawaii and California confirmed that our planet’s level of atmospheric CO2 had surpassed 411 ppm. It’s at the highest concentration in human history — not just over the past 100 years or so of modern recordkeeping, or since the Industrial Revolution, or since the invention of agriculture around 9000 B.C. There’s more of the planet’s main greenhouse gas in the atmosphere since before our species evolved from our distant primate cousins millions of years ago.

The average global temperature is on course to rise 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels in the coming decades, escalating the risks of irreversible and widespread sea-level rise and more frequent extreme weather — blistering heat waves, punishing hurricanes, and ravaging wildfires. So it’s no exaggeration to say that my generation is up against seemingly impossible odds.

For years, environmental activists have told us that we could make progress by tinkering with the status quo, that a big part of halting warming is buying the right car, clothes, and moisturizer; avoiding the dirty products; and reforming the way consumer goods are made. And still, the world’s emissions keep climbing.

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Disruptive Markets–What Sustainability Really Means For Business

Disruptive Markets–What Sustainability Really Means For Business

Many look around at today’s crises – climate change spinning out of control, inequality driving political instability and our oceans filling with plastic – and despair at the prospects for serious change. Most then try to apportion blame or at least seek to understand why. Business blames consumers. NGOs blame business. Everyone blames politicians.

Almost everyone who is engaged and thoughtful on this, even inside companies, at some level blame capitalism, markets and big business. This is well justified given, after all, it has been the delivery vehicle for all these crises.

But where does that leave us? As a campaigner who has spent 40+ years on these issues, I’m not satisfied with just a problem diagnosis, I need a way forward, a credible path to success. When talking about risks to the future of civilisation, accepting failure is not really a strategic option.

I don’t disagree that capitalism has been the problem. I emphasise capitalism rather than Western free markets – just take a look at China where capitalism took hold and delivered an epidemic of pollution that nearly overwhelmed the country – and still may.

But problem accepted, we have to find a way forward and I would argue that some form of the market system, if guided or constrained by policy, is our best and probably only hope of moving fast enough.

I do not argue this from a love of markets or an inherent belief in the philosophies espoused by many of that system’s advocates. I approach this as a person who lives and breathes the fear of global collapse and I can’t see another viable way forward.

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Exclusive: Shell Took 16 Years To Warn Shareholders of Climate Risks, Despite Knowing in Private All Along

Exclusive: Shell Took 16 Years To Warn Shareholders of Climate Risks, Despite Knowing in Private All Along

It took oil company Shell more than 16 years to directly warn its shareholders that climate policy posed a financial risk to the company’s business model despite knowing — in private and for decades — about the relationship between its products and climate change.

Shell started commissioning confidential work about the impact of burning fossil fuels on the global climate as early as 1981. However, analysis by DeSmog UK and DeSmog found that Shell did not start mentioning the possibility of climate change to shareholders in annual reports before 1991 — 10 years after the company started a research stream to study climate change.

Analysis of Shell’s annual reports and financial records at the time show the company did not give a clear warning to its shareholders about the financial risks “related to the impact of climate change” and attached to their investments until 2004.

DeSmog UK and DeSmog have worked through Shell companies’ annual reports submitted to the UK’s Companies House and 10-K’s and 20-F forms filed under the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) throughout the 1990s and early 2000s to compare what the company knew in private at the end of the 1980s and what it told its shareholders about the environmental and financial risks attached to their investment during the following decade.

Early Days

What Shell knew about climate change at the end of the 1980s is well-established and revealed in a confidential report commissioned by and for Shell called “The Greenhouse Effect”.

The report was dated 1988 and made public for the first time this year after being uncovered by Jelmer Mommers of De Correspondent and published on Climate Files. It reveals the company’s examination of climate change had already been ongoing for at least seven years.

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Extinction and Responsibility: Why Climate Disaster Might Heal Us Even As it Kills Us

Extinction and Responsibility: Why Climate Disaster Might Heal Us Even As it Kills Us

If climate disaster has left us with no future do we still feel responsible to the earth that outlives us? Or do we say “who cares?”

If we say “who cares?” then our sense of responsibility was never anything more than a moral rule, a business deal of sorts, where we agreed to behave honorably as long as we were allowed to project our egos into future generations. But I think real empathy for a world without us is still possible, and I think it matters in some way that can’t be calculated on a strictly transactional basis.

The possibility of near-term extinction is new, but the underlying dilemma this presents is as old as the Big Bang, or older. Death is death. It comes to the individual as surely as it comes to the species, the planet, and the exploding universe itself. What’s different now is only this onrushing inability to avoidfacing this fact. And I think this is a good thing, because it forces a confrontation with the many reductive delusions that have limited our creative participation in the world, which is our responsibility to something more than ourselves. The chief among these limitations has been a strict and too literal image of who we are, an identity that keeps us trapped in a solipsistic circle.

This is especially true in America, where even in 1838, broad-minded Emerson stood out as an exception:

“This country has not fulfilled what seemed the reasonable expectation of mankind. Men looked, when all feudal straps and bandages were snapped asunder, that nature, too long the mother of dwarfs, should reimburse itself by a brood of Titans, who should laugh and leap in the continent, and run up the mountains of the West with the errand of genius and of love.

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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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