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What If Preventing Collapse Isn’t Profitable?

What If Preventing Collapse Isn’t Profitable?

The real downside of the green-profit narrative has been that it created the assumption in many people’s minds that the solution to climate change and other environmental dilemmas is technical, and that policy makers and industrialists will implement it for us, so that the way we live doesn’t need to change in any fundamental way. That’s never been true.

Smoky skies from the northern California wildfires casts a reddish color in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (Photo: Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

Smoky skies from the northern California wildfires casts a reddish color in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (Photo: Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

The notion that modern industrial civilization is fundamentally unsustainable and is therefore likely to collapse at some point is not a new one. Even before the Limits to Growth report of 1972, many ecologists were concerned that our continual expansion of population and consumption, based on the ever-increasing rate at which we burn finite supplies of fossil fuels, would eventually lead to crises of resource depletion and pollution (including climate change) as well as catastrophic loss of wild nature. Dystopian outcomes would inevitably follow.

This apprehension led environmentalists to strategize ways to avert collapse. The obvious solution was, in large measure, to persuade policy makers to curtail growth in population and consumption, while mandating a phase-out of fossil fuels. But convincing political and business leaders to do these things proved difficult-to-impossible.

It’s time to ask: is there something fundamentally wrong with the eco-opportunity message?”

The folks in charge used the following arguments to justify their refusal to act.

Population Growth: The choice of whether or not to reproduce is a basic human right, said the authorities. Seeking to interfere with that right also violates religious freedoms. Besides, population growth helps economic growth (see “Economic Growth,” below).

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

Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions are Fate

Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions are Fate

Mill, Halsey, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

I developed a model of Global Warming based on the anthropogenic perturbation of the Carbon Cycle. The essence of this model is a rate equation for the evolution of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere.

The interesting results from this model are projected trends for the CO2 concentration and the average global temperature during the next century. The character of those trends — whether rapid rises, shallow plateaus, or diminishment into the future — depend crucially on the magnitude of our civilization’s emissions of CO2, and whether those anthropogenic emissions increase or decrease with time. In the real world at present, they are increasing.

I have now been able to include the effect of linearly increasing or decreasing anthropogenic emissions into my Carbon Balance Model, which has been significantly improved.

This model also includes the effect of the increase in the rate at which atmospheric CO2 is absorbed by photosynthesis and the surface waters of the oceans, because those absorption rates are increasingly stimulated by the higher levels of CO2 in the air. This process of absorption-enhancement cannot continue indefinitely as the atmospheric CO2 concentration increases, but at what point of elevated CO2 concentration it saturates and then absorption largely shuts down, is unknown.

The third process included in the model is that of the slow absorption of atmospheric CO2 by the chemical reactions of weathering on the surfaces of rocks and soils. CO2 not “quickly” scavenged from the air by photosynthesis or the surface waters of the oceans will stay airborne for 12,000 to 14,000 years. The ~2,500ppm spike of atmospheric CO2 that occurred 55.5 million years ago took 200,000 years to clear away.

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Catastrophic Hurricanes Are the ‘New Normal,’ and They Will Cost Trillions

Catastrophic Hurricanes Are the ‘New Normal,’ and They Will Cost Trillions

Taxpayers and already struggling communities are largely bearing the brunt of the costs for climate change-fueled disasters created by big oil and big business.
Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 11

“We got a little bit lucky,” said President Donald Trump about the storm which killed at least six people in Louisiana, ripped apart buildings, left more than half a million homes without power, and triggered a chemical fire from an industrial plant over Lake Charles.

Of course, Trump was glad he didn’t have to postpone his speech at the Republican National Convention.

But while Hurricane Laura did not, thankfully, produce the catastrophic storm surge some predicted—weakening into a tropical storm—it represents an unmistakably escalating trend of extreme weather events due to increasing global temperatures.

Hurricane Laura had followed hot on the heels of Hurricane Marco. The Atlantic hurricane season has already broken records with 13 named storms, which meteorologists consider well above-normal activity.

Recently published scientific studies suggest that the devastation wrought by Laura, and the potential catastrophe only narrowly avoided, are likely to become a ‘new normal’ if we continue to pump carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Billion dollar disasters

Earlier in August, the US-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) published a major report on exactly this issue, titled Climate Change-Fueled Weather Disasters: Costs to State and Local Economies.

The report brought together data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters database with other studies, to build a stark picture of what we now know about extreme weather risks.

The report points out that since 1980, the number of extreme weather events per year in the United States has increased fourfold, with annual direct cost of these disasters increasing fivefold.

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Climate explained: why carbon dioxide has such outsized influence on Earth’s climate

I heard that carbon dioxide makes up 0.04% of the world’s atmosphere. Not 0.4% or 4%, but 0.04%! How can it be so important in global warming if it’s such a small percentage?

I am often asked how carbon dioxide can have an important effect on global climate when its concentration is so small – just 0.041% of Earth’s atmosphere. And human activities are responsible for just 32% of that amount.

I study the importance of atmospheric gases for air pollution and climate change. The key to carbon dioxide’s strong influence on climate is its ability to absorb heat emitted from our planet’s surface, keeping it from escaping out to space.

The ‘Keeling Curve,’ named for scientist Charles David Keeling, tracks the accumulation of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, measured in parts per million. Scripps Institution of OceanographyCC BY

Early greenhouse science

The scientists who first identified carbon dioxide’s importance for climate in the 1850s were also surprised by its influence. Working separately, John Tyndall in England and Eunice Foote in the United States found that carbon dioxide, water vapor and methane all absorbed heat, while more abundant gases did not.

Scientists had already calculated that the Earth was about 59 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) warmer than it should be, given the amount of sunlight reaching its surface. The best explanation for that discrepancy was that the atmosphere retained heat to warm the planet.

Tyndall and Foote showed that nitrogen and oxygen, which together account for 99% of the atmosphere, had essentially no influence on Earth’s temperature because they did not absorb heat. Rather, they found that gases present in much smaller concentrations were entirely responsible for maintaining temperatures that made the Earth habitable, by trapping heat to create a natural greenhouse effect.

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

Is there a limit to optimism when it comes to climate change?

Is there a limit to optimism when it comes to climate change?

<p><em>Photo by Lance Cheung/USDA</em></p>

Photo by Lance Cheung/USDA

‘We’re doomed’: a common refrain in casual conversation about climate change. It signals an awareness that we cannot, strictly speaking, avert climate change. It is already here. All we can hope for is to minimise climate change by keeping global average temperature changes to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in order to avoid rending consequences to global civilisation. It is still physically possible, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in a 2018 special report – but ‘realising 1.5°C-consistent pathways would require rapid and systemic changes on unprecedented scales’.

Physical possibility aside, the observant and informed layperson can be forgiven her doubts on the question of political possibility. What should be the message from the climate scientist, the environmental activist, the conscientious politician, the ardent planner – those daunted but committed to pulling out all the stops? It is the single most important issue facing the community of climate-concerned Earthlings. We know what is happening. We know what to do. The remaining question is how to convince ourselves to do it.

We are, I believe, witnessing the emergence of two kinds of responses. One camp – let us call its members ‘the optimists’ – believes that foremost in our minds ought to be the strict possibility of surmounting the challenge ahead. Yes, it is also possible that we will fail, but why think about that? To doubt is to risk a self-fulfilling prophecy. William James captured the essence of this thought in his lecture ‘The Will to Believe’ (1896): occasionally, when faced with a salto mortale (or critical step), ‘faith creates its own verification’ where doubt would cause one to lose one’s footing.

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

Nobel prize-winning economics of climate change is misleading and dangerous – here’s why

Nobel prize-winning economics of climate change is misleading and dangerous – here’s why

While climate scientists warn that climate change could be catastrophic, economists such as 2018 Nobel prize winner William Nordhaus assert that it will be nowhere near as damaging. In a 2018 paper published after he was awarded the prize, Nordhaus claimed that 3°C of warming would reduce global GDP by just 2.1%, compared to what it would be in the total absence of climate change. Even a 6°C increase in global temperature, he claimed, would reduce GDP by just 8.5%.

If you find reassurance in those mild estimates of damage, be warned. In a newly published paper, I have demonstrated that the data on which these estimates are based relies upon seriously flawed assumptions.

If you find reassurance in those mild estimates of damage, be warned. In a newly published paper, I have demonstrated that the data on which these estimates are based relies upon seriously flawed assumptions.

Nordhaus’s celebrated work, which, according to the Nobel committee, has “brought us considerably closer to answering the question of how we can achieve sustained and sustainable global economic growth”, gives governments a reason to give climate change a low priority.

His estimates imply that the costs of addressing climate change exceed the benefits until global warming reaches 4°C, and that a mild carbon tax will be sufficient to stabilise temperatures at this level at an overall cost of less than 4% of GDP in 120 year’s time. Unfortunately, these numbers are based on empirical estimates that are not merely wrong, but irrelevant.

Nordhaus (and about 20 like-minded economists) used two main methods to derive sanguine estimates of the economic consequences of climate change: the “enumerative method” and the “statistical method”. But my research shows neither stand up to scrutiny.

The ‘enumerative method’

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Big Oil’s Backers Are Jumping Ship — and That’s Good for the Planet

Big Oil’s Backers Are Jumping Ship — and That’s Good for the Planet

Investors, banks and even some oil and gas companies are breaking ranks on the future of high-emission energy.

The oil lobby’s political friends are melting away faster than an Alberta glacier. Every crack in that coalition is a foothold for a green and just recovery from the pandemic.

The latest sign was ExxonMobil being dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average on the same day that Storebrand, a major European investor, announced it was blacklisting the company over its anti-climate lobbying.

The Dow Jones Average is an index that tracks 30 large, publicly traded “blue chip” (read: financially sound) companies. Exxon and its predecessor companies had been part of the Dow Jones index since 1928, so that snub had to sting.

But Storebrand’s new climate policy is even more important.

The company is a major asset manager, with US$91 billion in investments. It announced that it would divest from companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron that are actively lobbying against the Paris Agreement or climate regulations.

“We are not only vulnerable to the systemic disruptions that climate change will unleash on ecosystems, societies and our own portfolio companies,” said Storebrand CEO Jan Erik Saugestad. “We also have a key role to play in accelerating the de-carbonization of the global economy.”

Storebrand also blacklisted companies that get more than five per cent of their revenues from coal or oilsands. Major investors like BlackrockDeutsche BankHSBC and the Norwegian Oil Fund have announced similar exclusions as they, too, reduce their exposure to fossil fuels.

Yet Storebrand has consistently been about five years ahead of its peers on climate action, so expect “no lobbying against climate policy” to become the new norm amongst mainstream investors.

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

Whatever Happened to the Green New Deal?

Whatever Happened to the Green New Deal?

The Green New Deal was the signature issue of the Green Party in the 2010s. Howie Hawkins was the first US candidate to campaign for a Green New Deal in 2010 running for New York governor. The Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016, Jill Stein, made “A Green New Deal for America” the theme of her two campaigns.

The ecosocialist Green New Deal proposed by the Green Party’s 2020 presidential candidate, Howie Hawkins, is a 10-year, $27.5 trillion a program to achieve zero-to-negation carbon emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030. It also includes an additional $1.4 trillion a year for an Economic Bill of Rights to a guaranteed job, a guaranteed income above poverty, affordable housing, Medicare for All, lifelong tuition-free public education, and a secure retirement by doubling Social Security benefits.

This ecosocialist approach features extensive public ownership and planning, particularly in the energy, transportation, and manufacturing sectors, in order to achieve its goals in a decade. To support the conversion of industrialized, pesticide-dependent corporate agriculture to organic farms owned by working farmers that rebuild carbon-capturing living soils, the ecosocialist Green New Deal provides income guarantees, parity pricing and supply management for all agricultural products in order to ensure that working farmers and farmworkers have decent incomes and economic security.

The ecosocialist approach recognizes that capitalism’s destruction of the climate and exploitation of people are part of the same process. It recognizes that in order to harmonize society with nature we must harmonize human with human by ending economic exploitation and all forms of oppression. It calls for an ecosocialist economic democracy that meets the basic needs of all within ecological limits.

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What Kind of a World do We Want? (…really?)

What Kind of a World do We Want? (…really?)

Although this question is both enduring and familiar, its present urgency is fully accentuated in a typically brilliant, but viscerally terrifying, exposition by Noam Chomsky on the current frangible condition of the world, and its near-term prognosis. However, I am also reminded of the strapline from the International Permaculture Conference, held in London in 2015, offering the intention and perhaps the means for “Designing the world we want.”

Chomsky never pulls a punch, as he strikes at layer on peeling layer of mendacity and fragility, from a prevailing framework whose groans, under the cumulative stresses of “growth”, should be heard as cries of threatening systemic collapse. The intermeshing quality of the world’s many woes has been conveyed by the term “changing climate” (i.e. climate change per se being just one item on the list), and amid a morass of such magnitude, positives are apt to remain obscured and muffled. Thus acknowledged, there could hardly be a better time than now, for a recasting of the world, having decided how we want it to be, in the broadest context, while there is still sufficient residual integrity to the whole that change might yet be managed, and full collapse is not yet inevitable, or already crumbling out of our hands.

It is no surprise that Covid-19 is a principal feature on the current global stage, and is probably the major focus of our concerns and attentions just now. While we cannot know how exactly everything will pan out, it is likely that the virus will be with us for some time, and we are entering a period of “recalibration” rather than a Post-Covid “back to normal”. Hence, focussing more on local and community resilience increasingly seems to make sense. We will certainly need to share support with our family, neighbours and friends, in the time to come.

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The Criminology of Global Warming

The Criminology of Global Warming

Pulp mill, Longview, Washington. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Some – like Exxon since 1957 – have been aware that the world is facing global warming that has all the signs to render earth uninhabitable. At least with United Nations’ IPPC and NASA reporting on global warming, others have realised that we also face an unprecedented threat. Potentially, all of this is an issue of criminology. Somewhat similar to biology and psychology, criminology is the science of crime and criminal behaviour. Global warming can be seen from an environmental, geological, atmospheric, capitalist, etc. perspective, but it can also be seen as an issue of criminology.

Like lawyers and judges, etc., criminologists also prefer tide and often somewhat legalistic definitions to work with. For them, global warming is simply defined as the rising of the earth’s temperature. At the same time, climate change is seen as the inter-related effects of rising temperatures on our environment and on human beings.

Criminology comes into play when global warming is caused by harmful behaviour that contributes to the problem. It also comes in when human, state or corporate actions prevent responses to global warming. At the centre of criminology is the idea that a corporation or someone can commit a wrong. In a second step, criminology stresses that these wrongs demand a response.

One might simply argue that a crime is what the law defines as a crime. The l’idée fixe of malum prohibitum is, for example, that something is not so much a crime because it is inherently wrong, but because the laws of a state prohibit it. This idea lets some off the hook – for example, those who perpetrated the Holocaust. Nazi Germany certainly did not have a law that states, if you kill communists, trade unionists, democrats, homosexuals, Gipsies, and Jews, you will be punished. Instead, the opposite was the case. Auschwitz fulfilled every single regulation down to the German building code.

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How does it feel living in a crypt? Impressions after one year

How does it feel living in a crypt? Impressions after one year

 In “The Outsider” (1926), H. P. Lovecraft tell the story of someone who lives underground and who discovers his true nature only when he comes out of his crypt and sees his own image in a mirror. That’s not exactly my case, but it is true that I have been living underground for more than a year, by now. It has been a good experience

Last year, I published a post on Cassandra’s Legacy describing my experience with living in an underground apartment in Florence, chosen as my new home with the specific idea of resisting to the summer heat waves, intensifying every year because of global warming. After about one year, I can confirm that it was a good idea and I can add some more details. Below, I reproduce last year’s post. 

First of all, I can confirm that an underground apartment is way better than any other kind of homes in the hot summers of central Italy. This year, summer is not being so terrible as last year, but we are in the midst of heat wave that will last at least one more week, probably more. Right now, the thermometer inside my apartment marks 26.2 C, which is a nice temperature. Outside, it is hot and damp, a climate unsuitable for human beings. 

Then, of course, I also spent a winter in this apartment. It is not very small, about 140 square meters, but it was possible to heat it at a very reasonable price using the existing gas-powered system. Nothing fancy, here, but the apartment has three sides against the rock of the hill, so there was very little dispersion of heat. 

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

Climate scientists should admit failure and move on – writes Dr Wolfgang Knorr

Climate scientists should admit failure and move on – writes Dr Wolfgang Knorr

TIME FOR ACCEPTANCE

The climate crisis demands new ways of thinking – scientists should be first to admit failure and move on.

A universal policy failure
Inarguably, one of the most significant and long-lasting legacies of the 50-year old Apollo programme was the life-changing experience its astronauts had upon viewing the earth from the vantage point of another celestial body. The vision they described of its fragile and delicate beauty is all the more striking and poignant at this moment in climate emergency.

We, that is to say, humanity has this beautiful planet, home now to 7 billion people with nowhere else to go, and are running a reckless experiment, that has taken the Earth system right out of the mode of operation it has been running in for millions of years. Climate and earth scientists should be and should have been the first to see the utter insanity of this hellishly dangerous undertaking.

But in some strange way, and despite the warnings over the past decades of many individuals such as Roger Revelle, Jim Hansen, Kevin Anderson, to name but a few,–– it appears the latest generation of protesters, from Fridays for Future to Extinction Rebellion – have done far more to hammer home the real message that climate crisis cannot be taken lightly, and is urgently and ultimately a most horrifying question of life and death. We do not know when it will happen and who will be hit first, but one thing is certain: if we do not change course quickly, things can get very nasty indeed.

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Bigger cuts for Manchester – in its annual greenhouse gas emissions

Bigger cuts for Manchester – in its annual greenhouse gas emissions

Manchester now needs to make bigger cuts to its annual greenhouse gas emissions: A commentary on Manchester Climate Change Agency’s Annual Report

A brief Annual Report for 2020 has been issued by Manchester Climate Change Agency. It is not a long report so we encourage you to read it. However, we make the following comments.

A little background

The report is from the Manchester Climate Change Partnership. This is the arms length agency set up, but woefully under-resourced, by Manchester City Council. In principle that distance does give some scope for taking an independent line from the council, but the Partnership also has to keep the council “on-side”. For that reason independent critical voices are vital.

The introduction to the report refers to a letter the Partnership sent to the council. It makes the point that the Covid-19 pandemic gives us the

“… opportunity to reimagine the world we live in; the opportunity for citizens’ quality of life, health and wellbeing to become the overriding aim of politicians, business and community leaders; the opportunity to fundamentally reshape the global economy so it acts in the interests of people, planet and profits, and; the opportunity to ensure we can get on track to meet the 1.5-2°C aim of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.”

We agree. However, the council’s failure to seize the opportunity to put into place emergency and experimental mobility lanes for cyclists and other non-motorised road users, except within the city centre, would seem to indicate a reluctance to really seize the opportunity referred to. We will return to consider why actions are not meeting the scale of the climate challenge below.

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Guest post: Why low-end ‘climate sensitivity’ can now be ruled out

Guest post: Why low-end ‘climate sensitivity’ can now be ruled out

After four years of labour and detailed discussions by an international team of scientists, we are able to quantify better than ever before how the world’s surface temperature responds to increasing CO2 levels. 

Our findings, published in Reviews of Geophysics, narrow the likely range in “equilibrium climate sensitivity” (ECS) – a measure of how much the world can be expected to warm for a doubling of CO2 above pre-industrial levels.

Constraining ECS has remained a holy grail in climate science ever since US meteorologist Jules Charney suggested a possible range of 1.5C to 4.5C in his 1979 report. His estimate was largely based on the world’s first two global climate models, which gave different estimates of 2C and 4C when they performed a simple experiment where atmospheric CO2 levels were doubled.

Since then, despite more than 40 years of research, much improved understanding of atmospheric processes, as well as many more detailed observations, this range has stubbornly persisted. 

Now, bringing together evidence from observed warming, Earth’s distant past and climate models, as well as advances in our scientific understanding of the climate, our findings suggest that the range of ECS is likely to be between 2.6C and 4.1C. 

This narrowed range indicates that human society will not be able to rely on a low sensitivity to give us more time to tackle climate change. But the silver lining to this cloud is that our findings also suggest that very high ECS estimates are unlikely. 

Stubbornly wide range

How sensitive the Earth’s climate is to increasing atmospheric CO2 is a fundamental question for climate science. It essentially dictates how much the Earth’s surface will warm in response to human-caused CO2 emissions.

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‘Overt Bastardization of the Truth’: Valve Turner Listed as ‘Extremist’ by U.S. Government Faces Upcoming Trial

‘Overt Bastardization of the Truth’: Valve Turner Listed as ‘Extremist’ by U.S. Government Faces Upcoming Trial

The valve turners recently listed by Homeland Security as “extremists” believe their action of shutting down 15 percent of the daily U.S. oil supply on Oct. 11, 2016 was their only option of fighting the climate crisis.

Valve turner Ken Ward of Climate Direct Action is going to trial this spring for the third time. He is charged with burglary and sabotage. EcoWatch teamed up with Ward and his attorney Lauren Regan, the executive director and co-founder of Civil Liberties Defense Center, on EcoWatch Live to share what this trial means for climate activists and why the U.S. government is listing some of these peaceful activists alongside mass murderers and white supremacists.

Watch the interview here:

“In a fairly short period of time, after making some phone calls to pipeline companies, we broke in to enclosures, cut some chains, closed what are called safety block valves and closed down all five pipelines that carry tar sands oil from Canada into the U.S.,” Ward said of the October 2016 direct action. It “might count as the most significant thing I’ve ever done on climate.”

Ward, who has been working in energy policy since 1978, including a variety of strategic approaches to climate change says “what sociologists and political scientists are demonstrating is that faced with this kind of situation, faced with an intractable political environment, where powerful industries have billions to spend … the single most effective thing that you can do is do engage in nonviolent direct action.”

Five members of Climate Direct Action are seen before a coordinated effort to turn off valves on a pipeline in four states. Climate Direct Action

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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