Home » Posts tagged 'climate change'

Tag Archives: climate change

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Economists and climate change: Building castles in the sky

Economists and climate change: Building castles in the sky

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said that “the only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” Unfortunately, when some economists turn their sights on the economics of climate change, their unreliable methods imperil not just the economic life of humankind but its very existence.

I have written previously about this phenomenon in 2007 about how economists underestimate the critical importance of small (by economic value) but critical parts of the economy such as agriculture, forestry, and energy and in 2012 about how unsuited our current infrastructure is to the unfolding climate.

The trouble is that against all evidence, some climate economists keep building castles in the sky. Nobel Prize winner William Nordhaus is among the most prominent economists working on climate change and its economic effects. In short, Nordhaus, who is mentioned both in my 2007 and 2012 pieces, tells us not to worry too much about climate change. It will be cheaper to adapt to it than to prevent it or slow it down.

The problem with Nordhaus’ thinking (and that of many others like him) is that he cannot conceive of abrupt discontinuities in the workings of the planet or the workings of human society. In short, he cannot conceive that climate change could alter our environment so thoroughly and disrupt our agriculture so completely that it would lead to catastrophic results.

It is for this failure of imagination that economist Steven Keen recently took Nordhaus to task, showing through a careful critique of Nordhaus’ equations, that even those equations demonstrate catastrophe ahead when provisioned with the proper numbers and understanding. When Keen adds in what we know about tipping points in the climate system, he finds that Nordhaus’ own equations reveal that “[a]t 3 degrees, damages are 8 times as high.

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

Why Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong

Why Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong 

Bill McKibben, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Greta Thunberg, and Zion Lights of Extinction Rebellion
Climate scientists are speaking out against grossly exaggerated claims about global warming.GETTY

Environmental journalists and advocates have in recent weeks made a number of apocalyptic predictions about the impact of climate change. Bill McKibben suggested climate-driven fires in Australia had made koalas “functionally extinct.” Extinction Rebellion said “Billions will die” and “Life on Earth is dying.” Vice claimed the “collapse of civilization may have already begun.” 

Few have underscored the threat more than student climate activist Greta Thunberg and Green New Deal sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The latter said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” Says Thunberg in her new book, “Around 2030 we will be in a position to set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.” 

Sometimes, scientists themselves make apocalyptic claims. “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that,” if Earth warms four degrees, said one earlier this year. “The potential for multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” saidanother. If sea levels rise as much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts, another scientist said, “It will be an unmanageable problem.” Today In: Business

Apocalyptic statements like these have real-world impacts. In September, a group of British psychologists said children are increasingly suffering from anxiety from the frightening discourse around climate change. In October, an activist with Extinction Rebellion (”XR”) — an environmental group founded in 2018 to commit civil disobedience to draw awareness to the threat its founders and supporters say climate change poses to human existence — and a videographer, were kicked and beaten in a London Tube station by angry commuters. And last week, an XR co-founder said a genocide like the Holocaust was “happening again, on a far greater scale, and in plain sight” from climate change.

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

The Coming Big Freeze

The Coming Big Freeze 

The BIG FREEZE is upon us. The volatility in weather that our computer has been forecasting on a long-term basis should result in this winter being colder than the last. In Britain, the snow has hit an already flood-ravaged country as temperatures plunged to -7C. This is part of the problem we face. The ground freezes down and this prevents winter crops. During the late 1700s, the ground froze to a depth of 2 feet according to John Adams. When John Adams set out to travel to Philadelphia, it was bitterly cold and there was a foot or more of snow that covered the landscape that had blanketed Massachusetts from one end of the province to the other. Beneath the snow, after weeks of severe cold, the ground was frozen solid to a depth of two feet. Packed ice in the road made the journey very hazardous. In a letter to his wife, John Adams wrote:

“Indeed I feel not a little out of Humour, from Indisposition of Body. You know, I cannot pass a Spring, or fall, without an ill Turn — and I have had one these four or five Weeks — a Cold, as usual. Warm Weather, and a little Exercise, with a little Medicine, I suppose will cure me as usual. … Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”

On September 8, 1816, Jefferson described the weather in a letter to Albert Gallatin:

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

Microbes a key factor in climate change

Microbes a key factor in climate change

Preface. The IPCC, like economists, assumes our economy and burning of fossil fuels will grow exponentially until 2100 and beyond, with no limits to growth. But conventional oil peaked and has stayed on a plateau since 2005, so clearly peak global oil production is in sight. As is peak soil, aquifer depletion, biodiversity destruction, and deforestation to name just a few existential threats besides climate change.

The lack of attention to microbes in the IPCC model further weakens their predictions about the trajectory of climate change. As this article notes, diatoms are our friends, they “perform 25–45% of total primary production in the oceans, owing to their prevalence in open-ocean regions when total phytoplankton biomass is maximal. Diatoms have relatively high sinking speeds compared with other phytoplankton groups, and they account for ~40% of particulate carbon export to depth”.

Diatoms didn’t appear until 40 million years ago, and sequester so much carbon that they caused the poles to form ice caps. So certainly scientists should study whether their numbers are decreasing or increasing. But also the IPCC needs to include diatoms and other microbes in their models. It’s a big deal that they haven’t, since microorganisms support the existence of all higher life forms.

* * *

University of New South Wales. 2019. Leaving microbes out of climate change conversation has major consequences, experts warn. Science Daily.

Original article: Cavicchioli, R., et al. 2019. Scientists’ warning to humanity: microorganisms and climate change. Nature Reviews Microbiology.

More than 30 microbiologists from 9 countries have issued a warning to humanity — they are calling for the world to stop ignoring an ‘unseen majority’ in Earth’s biodiversity and ecosystem when addressing climate change.

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

It Bears Repeating: Renewables Alone Won’t End the Climate Crisis

It Bears Repeating: Renewables Alone Won’t End the Climate Crisis

‘We have to look at downsizing, degrowth, using less.’

WindTurbine.jpg
We’ve got a ways to go if we choose to reduce emissions by simply replacing fossil fuels with wind turbines. What also matters: using less energy.Photo via Shutterstock.

Although the media still portrays climate change as some vague threat to “the environment,” it is really a self-made blitzkrieg that is already destabilizing a highly energy-intensive and complex human civilization.

Greta Thunberg has spoken prophetically: our civilized house is on fire. 

But our collective politicians, blinded by ideology and technological illusions, refuse to panic, let alone call the community fire department. 

They behave as though they can just build another house somewhere else on Mars, and then watch the conflagration on Netflix

In that previous analysis, I quoted a Colorado professor, Roger Pielke Jr., who recently noted in Forbes that if we really wanted to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050, and we solely choose wind power as the solution, we’d need to build and deploy 1,500 wind turbines on about 300 square miles every day for the next 30 years.

We can’t do that, of course, because of physics and economics. Pielke was simply illustrating the scale of the challenge if we thought that renewables could do all the work for us.

But a great many readers questioned Pielke’s math; others questioned his motivation. Others questioned my sanity in quoting such a fellow.

Having written about energy for 30 years (and my best scribbling on the matter remains The Energy of Slaves), I thought Pielke’s numbers, which can vary with wind power due to location and size of blades, were largely accurate and conveyed the enormity of the task at hand, especially if we think our energy crisis is just a substitution problem. 

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

The Top 5 Ways We Use Oil & Gas

The Top 5 Ways We Use Oil & Gas

Petchem

If climate change and the use of fossil fuels is starting to worry you, consider this: The lion’s share of the petroleum in the United States is being used just to get around–to get people and things from point A to point B. 

Industrial, residential, commercial and electrical power usage of petroleum pales in comparison.   

Fossil fuels–which include crude oil and other liquids–are refined into petroleum products for a multitude of uses, and last year, the United States consumed over 20 million barrels per day. 

A whopping 69 percent of that was consumed by transportation. Industry, which the masses like to villainize most in terms of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, used only 25 percent. Residential usage accounted for only 3 percent of our petroleum consumption, and commercial, only 2 percent. 

What about electricity? American electricity generation used only 1 percent of those petroleum products. 

Source: EIA

So, for anyone looking to pinpoint where we need to start cheerleading for renewables or fossil-fuels shaming, here are the top 5 uses of petroleum products to help redirect the debate: 

#5 Oceans of Plastic: Still Gas, 0.703M BPD

While primarily referring to methane and ethane, “still gas” is any form or mixture of gases produced in refineries by distillation, cracking, reforming, and other processes. That means it also includes ethylene, normal butane, butylenes, propane, propylene, and others. 

It’s used most as refinery fuel or petrochemical feedstock. 

The conversion factor is 6 million Btus per fuel oil equivalent barrel.

U.S. refineries burned nearly 240 million barrels of still gas in 2018. 

But petrochemicals are one of the largest drivers of global oil demand, so it’s a circular competition here for still gas. 

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

Memo from a Climate Crisis Realist: The Choice before Us

Memo from a Climate Crisis Realist: The Choice before Us

If we don’t take these 11 key steps, we’re kidding ourselves. Second of two.

Earth.png
A rational world with a good grasp of reality would have begun articulating a long-term energy and consumption wind-down strategy 20 or 30 years ago.

That first query was this: The modern world is deeply addicted to fossil fuels and green energy is no substitute. Am I wrong? Read my fact-based argument here.

Today I ask: 

Question 2: Human nature and our methods of governance are proving incapable of saving the world. We need to ‘get real’ about climate science. Am I wrong?

Remember the self-congratulatory hubbub following “successful” negotiation of the Paris climate accord in 2015? Was all that ebullient optimism justified? The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Consider that in the past 50 years, there have been 33 climate conferences and a half dozen such major international agreements — Kyoto, Copenhagen and Paris the most recent — but none has produced even a dimple in the curve of rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. 

And things are not about to change dramatically. The 2019 Energy Information Administration International Energy Outlook reference case projects global energy consumption to increase 45 per cent by 2050. On the plus side, renewables are projected to grow by more than 150 per cent, but, consistent with the trend I rudely pointed out yesterday, the overall increase in demand for energy is expected to be greater than the total contribution from all renewable sources combined. 

Fact: Without a massive rapid course correction, CO2 emissions will continue to climb. This threatens humanity with ecological and social catastrophe as much of Earth becomes uninhabitable.

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

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects

Greta Thunberg appearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on September 18, 2019, based upon a photo by Alden Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects

In her testimony to the US Congress, Greta Thunberg did not prepare a statement for submission to the record. Instead, she submitted the most recent scientific report, issued by the IPCC three weeks earlier. She said simply, “I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to the scientists, and I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take real action. Thank you.”

Alden Meyer, an elder statesman of environmental advocacy that I have been running into at every climate meeting since Rio in 1992, called it the shortest and most powerful testimony he has heard anyone give in Congress during his decades in Washington.

This week another headline blazed across newspapers and social media sites: World Scientists Warn of Climate Emergency.

Reading this newest installment in ecologist William Ripple’s series was a mixed experience for me. On the one hand, I was delighted that he and Chris Wolf at Oregon State, Tom Newsome at the University of Sydney, Phoebe Barnard at Conservation Biology Institute and the University of Capetown, and Bill Moomaw at Tufts were able to enlist 11,258 co-signatories from 153 countries for their paper published in BioScience on November 5th.

The first such warning, organized by Alden Meyer and the Union of Concerned Scientists in 1992, had 1,575 prominent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates, co-sign. The second, by Ripple, Wolf, et al in BioScience in 2017, had 15,364 signatories from 184 countries, which begs the question: Why fewer this year?

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

Air-conditioning the outside—really

Air-conditioning the outside—really

Qatar is both a country and a peninsula which juts out about 100 miles into the Persian Gulf. It is precisely this geography which makes it both one of the hottest and muggiest places on Earth. The average daily high in mid-summer is 108 degrees F (42 degrees C).

With temperatures now exceeding those averages on a regular basis and nighttime temperatures hovering in the 90s in summer, Qatar has begun working on making the outside cooler.

It had to come. As climate change continues to move temperatures up worldwide, those places that were already hot are getting hotter—and unlivable.

Workers on a U.S. military base in Qatar must now follow strict rest regimens so as not to endanger their well-being on hot days. The Washington Post reports:

The U.S. Air Force calls very hot days “black flag days” and limits exposure of troops stationed at al-Udeid Air Base. Personnel conducting patrols or aircraft maintenance work for 20 minutes, then rest for 40 minutes and drink two bottles of water an hour. People doing heavy work in the fire department or aircraft repair may work for only 10 minutes at a time, followed by 50 minutes of rest, according to a spokesman for the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing.

Cooling units along walkways and outdoor seating areas in Qatar’s cities make it possible for people to stroll or relax in the evening without danger of overheating. Qatar is also engineering ways to cool entire open-air stadiums to make them bearable for spectators.

In my previous post I discussed how our ideas of progress are getting in the way of actual progress in human affairs. While Qatar may be making “progress” in cooling technology, I would not consider it a contribution to the overall progress of humankind. It is actually one more example of the limits we face.

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

Don’t Call Me a Pessimist on Climate Change. I Am a Realist

Don’t Call Me a Pessimist on Climate Change. I Am a Realist

To see our fate clearly, we must face these hard facts about energy, growth and governance. Part one of two.

DrWilliamRees.jpg
A smile in the face of reality. UBC ecological economist William E. Rees, co-creator of the ecological footprint concept, has some bad news for techno-optimists. Photo by Martin Dee.

Why is this important? Well, if Greta Thunberg and followers are to inspire more than emotional release about climate change, the world needs to face some hard facts that suggest we are headed toward catastrophe. At the same time, skepticism is the hallmark of good science; realists too must be open to the challenge posed by new facts.

So, today, and in a piece to follow, I present an unpopular but fact-based argument in the form of two “Am I wrong?” queries. If you accept my facts, you will see the massive challenge we face in transforming human assumptions and ways of living on Earth.

I welcome being told what crucial facts I might be missing. Even a realist — perhaps especially a realist in present circumstances — occasionally wants to be proved incorrect.

Question 1: The modern world is deeply addicted to fossil fuels and green energy is no substitute. Am I wrong?

We can probably agree that techno-industrial societies are utterly dependent on abundant cheap energy just to maintain themselves — and even more energy to grow. The simple fact is that 84 per cent of the world’s primary energy today is derived from fossil fuels. 

It should be no surprise, then, that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is the greatest metabolic waste by weight produced by industrial economies. Climate change is a waste management problem!

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

Morgan Stanley: “Climate Will Be A Key Driver Of Asset Prices In The Months And Years Ahead”

Morgan Stanley: “Climate Will Be A Key Driver Of Asset Prices In The Months And Years Ahead”

“Sunday Start”, authored by Morgan Stanley equity strategist, Jessica Alsford

In three weeks, the world’s leaders will begin to gather in Madrid for the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference. The intensity of the global climate strikes this year suggests that the proceedings will be scrutinized as never before. But the decisions made, or not made, will also have repercussions for global markets.

We’re transitioning towards a lower carbon economy, albeit at a slower pace than needed to stay within a two degrees Celsius climate scenario (2DS). For companies that can build offshore wind installations, develop electric vehicles and manufacture renewable diesels, we see potential for material earnings growth. In Decarbonisation: The Race to Net Zero, we estimated that more than US$50 trillion of capital will need to be deployed into renewables, EVs, hydrogen, biofuels and carbon capture and storage over the next 30 years, putting US$3-10 trillion of EBIT up for grabs.

Decarbonising electricity is the largest opportunity to reduce carbon emissions, with the power sector responsible for a quarter of global emissions. Strong renewables growth should be achievable given the significant improvements we’ve seen in solar and wind economics. But costs continue to constrain many other clean technologies, including battery storage, green hydrogen, CCS and biofuels.

If governments are serious about halting climate change, some form of stimulus will be needed.

Subsidies have already been key in industries like renewables. In the US, federal subsidies have helped to drive the transition to renewable energy, which rose from 14% of total power generation capacity in 2000 to 24% in 2018.

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

Fed Warns Climate Change Is A Major Threat To The Economy

Fed Warns Climate Change Is A Major Threat To The Economy

What is a good way for the Fed to deflect attention from the fact that after a decade of liquidity injections it has created the world’s largest asset bubble? Why point to another, even bigger – in its view – threat. And with green bonds, unlimited fiscal deficits and MMT all the rage (if not today, then soon), what better bogeyman for the Fed to wave in front of the public than the hottest topic, so to speak, of the day: climate change.

Speaking at the GARP Global Risk Forum, NY Fed executive vice president Kevin Stiroh warned in his prepared remarks, that climate change – not, say, asset bubbles created by his employer – is a major threat that risk managers can’t ignore.

“The U.S. economy has experienced more than $500 billion in direct losses over the last five years due to climate and weather-related events. In addition, climate change has significant consequences for the U.S. economy and financial sector through slowing productivity growth, asset revaluations and sectoral reallocations of business activity” he

That was how Stiroh framed the one danger that, according to the Fed, is emerging as the biggest threat to the US economy.

But why is the Fed, whose only concern should be the cost of money, suddenly preoccupied with the weather? Because as the EVP says in his speech, “as supervisors, we can consider climate-related risks in terms of both microprudential and macroprudential objectives.”

In other words, it’s only a matter of time before the Fed blames the weather for the next great, “unexpected” crisis… which like the bubbles of 2001 and 2008 was entirely the Fed’s doing.

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

The Climate Crisis Is Real: Here’s the Expert Advice on What We Need to Do

The Climate Crisis Is Real: Here’s the Expert Advice on What We Need to Do

A global primer on next steps, from keeping oil in the ground to changing our diets to shifting to a green economy.

GretaThunbergMarch.jpg
Greta Thunberg helped launch a movement. But dealing with the climate crisis is up to us. Photo by campact Creative Commons licensed.

“The world is waking up,” Thunberg told world leaders at the recent UN Climate Action Summit. “And change is coming whether you like it or not.”

But how long that awakening takes could be decisive for warming this century. A report published ahead of the summit declared that the impacts of climate change are accelerating — global emissions of carbon dioxide grew by 20 per cent between 2015 and 2019, while the average rate of sea level rise has increased to five millimetres per year over roughly the same period.

One author warned that limiting global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius would require tripling current commitments to reduce emissions. To hold temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, global ambition would need to increase by a factor of five.

The debate over whether climate change is happening is over, and the conversation about what should be done is beginning in earnest. We’ve asked experts from around the globe to describe how the world should respond to the threat of climate breakdown. We share their insights here.

The state of the Earth

Nowhere are the effects of climate change more visible than in the Arctic, a region that’s estimated to be warming at least twice as fast as the global average. Arctic sea ice reached its second-lowest extent on record in September 2019.

A new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has revealed the changes that are under way in the oceans and the ice-covered regions of the world, and the message is stark.

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

Has the climate crisis made California too dangerous to live in?

Has the climate crisis made California too dangerous to live in?

As with so many things, Californians are going first where the rest of us will follow .

The San Francisco skyline is shrouded in smoke from wildfires in the north part of the state.
 The San Francisco skyline is shrouded in smoke from wildfires in the north part of the state. Photograph: Jose Carlos Fajardo/Associated Press

Monday morning dawned smoky across much of California, and it dawned scary – over the weekend winds as high as a hundred miles an hour had whipped wildfires through forests and subdivisions.

It wasn’t the first time this had happened – indeed, it’s happened every year for the last three – and this time the flames were licking against communities destroyed in 2017. Reporters spoke to one family that had moved into their rebuilt home on Saturday, only to be immediately evacuated again.

The spectacle was cinematic: at one point, fire jumped the Carquinez Strait at the end of San Francisco Bay, shrouding the bridge on Interstate 80 in smoke and flame.

Even areas that didn’t actually burn felt the effects: Pacific Gas and Electric turned off power to millions, fearful that when the wind tore down its wires they would spark new conflagrations.Advertisement

Three years in a row feels like – well, it starts to feel like the new, and impossible, normal. That’s what the local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, implied this morning when, in the middle of its account of the inferno, it included the following sentence: the fires had “intensified fears that parts of California had become almost too dangerous to inhabit”. Read that again: the local paper is on record stating that part of the state is now so risky that its citizens might have to leave.

On the one hand, this comes as no real surprise. My most recent book, Falter, centered on the notion that the climate crisis was making large swaths of the world increasingly off-limits to humans. Cities in Asia and the Middle East where the temperature now reaches the upper 120s – levels so high that the human body can’t really cool itself; island nations (and Florida beaches) where each high tide washes through the living room or the streets; Arctic villages relocating because, with sea ice vanished, the ocean erodes the shore.

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

Techno-fix futures will only accelerate climate chaos – don’t believe the hype

Techno-fix futures will only accelerate climate chaos – don’t believe the hype

Don’t expect the future to turn out like popular 1960s TV show The Jetsons. 

Thanks to the efforts of climate activists, the climate and ecological emergency has never been more prominent. But acknowledging the problem is just a starting point. Now this momentum must be harnessed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reverse habitat destruction.

To accelerate this transition, we need a vision of the future – and there are many out there. The problem is that some of these visions severely misunderstand and underestimate the nature of the crises we face. If we rally behind the wrong one, we may end up propelling the planet all the more quickly towards destruction.

Building a future in sync with the natural world will not be easy. Our collective imagination is bound to ideas that have delivered us to the cusp of environmental catastrophe. The ways we worktraveleat, and even think are all locked into systems that perpetuate the use of fossil fuels, encroach on the natural world, and exploit wealth and resources from the Global South.

This means that to avoid the worst of climate breakdown, we have to transform every aspect of society as we know it. But to do this well requires deep understanding of why industries have been allowed to pollute the upper atmosphere, and how we can build economic and political infrastructure to stop emitting greenhouse gases and degrading ecosystems.

Worringly, this understanding is sorely lacking in two of the most popular emerging visions of the future – ecomodernism and left accelerationism. In a nutshell, both envisage that technological progress will allow us to address climate and ecological breakdown while also dramatically increasing production and consumption.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase