Thursday, April 20, 2017

Environmental Economics



Let's revisit E.F.Schumacher's eco-bible that was published during the 1973 energy crisis: Small is Beautiful. It was radical for its day, and its time has now arrived, 45 years later and our planet is in crisis from unaddressed carbon emissions. Now our crippled EPA cites the following: economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources, including how markets function and how incentives affect people’s, businesses’ and institutions’ behavior.  Within this discipline, environmental and natural resource economics is the application of the principles of economics to the study of how environmental and natural resources are developed and managed.

Here in the US, we're currently stuck in a high-consumption lifestyle that keeps us from moving ahead with the critically needed structural changes to our economy that would turn upside down the old, polluting and destructive industries that are in the grip of the oil and coal industries. It's the leftover Cold War economy. The waste in these systems is prolific and toxic, and its reduction is a key strategy in the transference to energy sources from natural processes. However, making the transition out of these structures and their grip on our economic system will be the biggest challenge the US has had since World War II and the Sputnik era that put man on the moon. We see ourselves falling behind, without the resolve and initiative that it takes to mobilize a common effort that changes the face of business practices in this country.

The GDP Chimera becomes increasingly irrelevant in the new economy as energy and technology services shift to new business paradigms. This fiscal "measurement" being tossed about these days as a means of allocating global carbon emissions allowances with respect to climate change is unfortunately not an accurate or reliable means of establishing parity in these emission goals. Gross Domestic Product is actually made up of many financial banking ledger tricks, between countries as well as global regions. This economic model can't account for the important factors of ecology, resources and climate stability, because it's anchored to an obsolete framework, the petrodollar that has been sinking in value since clean energy has become cheaper and more available.

Over the past 15 years the United States has decoupled economic growth and carbon emissions, raising the GDP benchmark 30% while reducing energy-related emissions 10%. And climate action has created millions of jobs, including nearly 400,000 in solar power, over 100,000 in wind, and over 2 million related to energy efficiency. The top states for clean energy jobs are spread across the country from coast to coast. New research examines the climate-related risks facing the fossil fuel industry and conclude that the sustainability train has already well and truly left the station -- and is not coming back.

We can't address our predicament without a new worldview. We cannot use the models that caused our crises to solve them. We need to reframe the problem. This is what the most inspiring book published so far this year has done. In Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, Kate Raworth of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute reminds us that economic growth was not, at first, intended to signify wellbeing. It's a move into a sustainable economic framework.

Increasing evidence shows that a strong U.S. economy and a healthy environment are not at odds with each other, according to a new blog by the New Climate Economy on WRI Insights. And a new WRI paper raises an uncomfortable truth: many of today’s business models are not fit for tomorrow’s resource-strained world. It suggests that normalizing the conversation about consumption with companies will set the groundwork for the pursuit of new business models that allow growth within the planet’s limits and generate stakeholder value in new and exciting ways.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

All for a Buck



Just when the arc of US environmental policy began to align with the outlines of the Paris Agreement of December 2015, a new administration takes office in January of this year, one grounded in the denial of physics and science, and in thrall to the fossil fuel industry. The entire disruption of the UN agreement reeks of global oil deals, with the corporate influences reaching into the new administration as well as the tactics brought to bear at the UN table.

The potential future science advisor to the President, William Happer, is a contrarian Princeton physicist who views climate change as a positive factor. "While he has a distinguished career as an atomic physicist, previously serving the administration of George HW Bush as a science director, the 77-year-old’s views on climate science are outnumbered by all the credible evidence, all the credible science agencies and are also being laughed at by the Earth’s thermometers and its melting ice sheets and glaciers", as the Guardian has pointed out.

This, along with a cabinet full of fossil fuel-related corporate executives, seeks to create a triumvirate of oil deals with Russia and Exxon Mobil. “Imagine how much havoc Putin, Trump, and a new, oily Secretary of State could wreak on future negotiations by coercing other countries not to keep making new pledges to ratchet down their emissions, which is the cornerstone of Paris’s strategy to avoid catastrophic climate change.” per The Energy Mix. Perhaps all this results from pressure by the Russian oligarchs that the President is indebted to?

This is an old relationship going back to 2012, when Rosneft and ExxonMobil had signed an agreement to jointly develop tight oil production technologies in Western Siberia. This will enable the companies to later discuss undertaking joint projects to explore and develop prospective areas with unconventional oil potential in Russia.

The way it plays out is this: Exxon Mobil, under Rex Tillerson, brokered a deal with Russia in 2013 for 60 million acres of Russian land to pump oil out of, but all that Russian oil went through pipelines in the Ukraine, who heavily taxed the proceeds, and were applying for admission into NATO at the time. Putin subsequently invaded Ukraine in 2014, secured the routes to export the oil tax-free by sea, and took control of the port where their Black Sea Naval Fleet is based, by taking the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine by force and not giving it back. This was Hitler-tier imperialism that broke every international law in the free world. After Obama sanctioned Russia for the invasion, they could only pump oil from approximately 3 of those 60 million acres. But now Rex Tillerson is our Secretary of State, and as of today, there’s information circulating that Donald Trump will likely unilaterally remove all sanctions against Russia in the coming days or weeks. Putin will make half a trillion (500 Billion) dollars from that much untapped oil. All pumped tax-free through Crimea, stolen from Ukraine, now owned by Russia. Putin may have subverted our government just to become the richest man in the world.

The Republican congress subsequently has a hand in all this, as it moves to rescind the rule requiring Big Oil to reveal foreign government payments.

Since we now have a corporate takeover of our government for profit, it would appear that our chances for survival on our planet are dim. Unless the denizens of this planet can pull the rug out from under this Strangelovian scenario with extremely cheap local renewable energy that doesn't have to be transported or fought over, we're left to deal with this situation without any help from Houston.

But I think we still have a few smart humans left.

Update 2/27/17:  The timeline

Update 2/28/17:  Rachel Maddow explains it all for you - Wilbur Ross at Nexus of Trump Russian Deal

Update 3/2/17: 5 years ago - USA is moving from democracy to plutocracy and corporatocracy

Update 3/3/17: Relationships Between Team Trump and Russia

Update 3/4/17: How a Russian Steel Oligarch and Putin Ally Is Profiting from the Keystone XL Pipeline

Update 3/5/17: Bill McKibben - complete corruption of the fossil fuel industry

Update 3/6/17: Follow the money: the Time Magazine article of Aug 2016

Update 3/11/17: Trump Begins His War For Oil (with Cheney's fingerprints)

Update 3/12/17: In-Depth: Trump's deep Russian financial connections

Update 3/13/17: Democracy Now: A Corporate Coup d’État by Naomi Klein

Update 3/14/17: Leak reveals Rex Tillerson was director of Bahamas-based US-Russian oil firm

Update 3/17/17: Far-right political leaders praise Putin’s aggressive foreign policy

Update 3/23/17: Mercer and a disruptive candidate: Trade of the Century and a Foundation network


Friday, January 20, 2017

Rest of the World Moves On



Climate action in the US and the Rest of the World (ROW) continues apace, despite the machinations of the new and disorganized Trump administration. The global climate pact in Paris was the result of extraordinary turnarounds by the world’s two greatest greenhouse gas polluters, China and the U.S., which had long resisted climate action. A myriad set of strategies has been set in motion to put the world on the path to net zero emissions.

Six months after the successful Paris Climate Agreement of December 2015, two of the world’s primary city-led climate change and energy initiatives, the EU Covenant of Mayors and the Compact of Mayors, announced the formation of a new, first-of-its-kind global initiative  of cities and local governments leading in the fight against climate change. This single initiative will create the largest global coalition of cities committed to climate leadership, building on the commitments of more than 7,100 cities from 119 countries and six continents, representing more than 600 million inhabitants, over 8% of the world’s population. Then in November of last year, officials from Los Angeles (Mayor Garcetti), New York, Tokyo, Beijing and 82 other major cities — including more than 40 mayors —  met in Mexico City to share ideas about how to reverse course on climate change. The cities belong to C40, a network launched in 2005 to combat climate change. In an analysis released Wednesday, the group said that actions taken over the next four years will determine whether cities do their part  in meeting the goals of the Paris agreement on climate change signed by nearly 200 countries.

Back in December of 2015, the Compact of Mayors and the Covenant of Mayors partnership was founded on the shared goal of supporting cities around the world to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. The core principles of the partnership will be to recognize local governments as key contributors to a global climate solution, work with city networks as critical partners to support participating cities, capture city climate action plans from registration to implementation, and emphasize importance of reducing GHG emissions and fostering local climate resilience. In partnership, the Covenant of Mayors and the Compact of Mayors will work with cities around the world to ensure robust solution agendas, focusing on sectors like transportation and buildings where cities have the greatest control. The partnership will enable the Compact and the Covenant to streamline reporting systems that are working to help cities measure their work.

On December 1, 2016, the former UN climate chief, Christina Figueres, was announced as the vice chair of the new Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. It is expected she will play a key role in running the coalition of more than 7000 mayors.“Cities are where the future is created,” Figueres tweeted after the announcement and said she is looking forward to her role in the new coalition. Figueres will work closely with former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg and EU Commission vice-president Maroš Šefcovic, the co-chairs of the covenant. The Covenant of Mayors information website is here.

Deadline 2020 is the first significant routemap for achieving the Paris Agreement, outlining the pace, scale and prioritization of action needed by C40 member cities over the next 5 years and beyond. This report has been delivered through a collaborative partnership between C40 and Arup, the global consultancy firm. Ove Arup (ARUP) is an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists offering a broad range of professional services and is one of the premier engineering firms for the top major architectural design and planning projects across the planet.

ARUP issued a science-based global carbon reduction effort with the 'Deadline 2020' report. An analysis of the contribution C40 cities can make to delivering the Paris Agreement objective
of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

"This ARUP report has been delivered through a collaborative partnership between C40 and Arup, the global consultancy firm. Arup has worked with C40 since 2009 to develop strategic analysis and research that is central to progressing our understanding of how cities contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. This is why in June 2015, Arup announced a major partnership with C40, committing $1 million of professional support over three years to help cities take meaningful action against climate change. This partnership is founded on Arup’s independent and evidence-based approach, alongside C40’s longstanding belief in “measurement for management”. The partnership supports a strong analytical research agenda while helping city actors to identify opportunities, collaborate and develop practical solutions to accelerate and expand action on climate change."

Update 1/25/17: For Trump's crew, however, the past is forever prologue. If fossil fuel was good in the 18th century, it must be good in the 21st. The battle plan has shifted.

Update 3/5/17: Trump Can’t Stop This: Global Renewable Energy Booms


Saturday, December 24, 2016

What Might Have Been



The Bach/Gounod Ave Maria is a paean to the Virgin Mary, beseeching forgiveness for sins committed unto death. The sins against people, and against life on earth. That which we could have forestalled, in grace as put forth in Laudato Si, to protect and care for our home.

Hail, Mary, full of grace
the lord is with thee,
blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus
pray for us sinners, now, and at
the hour of our death.

Not that the effort wasn't made in the USA. The Bernie Sanders program and policy on Climate Change issues, incorporated into the DNC platform in July of this year was to drastically cut carbon pollution, create a clean energy workforce, and impose a carbon tax. The Democratic platform ultimately called for a WWII-Scale Mobilization to solve the climate crisis, which involved the leadership of Bill McKibben in framing the platform.

Yet that was not to be. So, on Dec. 13, 2016 about 400 scientists and environmental activists gathered at Jessie Square Outside Moscone Center in San Francisco to stand up to Trump's position on climate change:

Science is under attack. President-elect Donald Trump is packing his cabinet with unapologetic climate change deniers with close ties to the fossil fuel industry. Last week, Trump falsely claimed that “nobody really knows” if climate change is happening, and then a member of his transition team actually compared modern climate science to the Flat-earth theory.  He has also made it clear that he wants to hand over our public lands and waters to the fossil fuel industry.

And in an unprecedented move, the Trump transition team sent out a questionnaire seeking the names of federal employees who helped implement President Obama’s climate change goals -- a move some called a witch hunt. Meanwhile, climate scientists are furiously working to archive public data because of the concern that it all could be erased under the incoming Trump administration.

Scientists aren’t usually ones to rally in the streets. As Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, said at the rally, "We don't want to be here...we want to be in our labs, we want to be in the field, doing the work that we were trained and educated to do...We are at a moment in time, a moment in history, where we have to do something else as well. And that's stand up and be counted."


So we stand on the edge of a tragic precipice, from which we don't seem to have the ability to engage our vision or embrace our humanity.

Updates 12/26/16:

An open letter to President-Elect Trump and the 115th Congress was sent by more than 2,300 scientists, Nov. 30, 2016

In the aftermath of the election results, a group of 500 women in the sciences has banded together to speak out, Nov. 17, 2016

376 members of the National Academy of Sciences published an open letter to draw attention to the serious risks of climate change, Sept. 20, 2016

Update 12/29/16: Are Climate Scientists Ready for Trump? Maybe not.

Update 12/31/16: Scientists at the plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican on Nov 29, 2016


Sunday, December 18, 2016

An Eighth Year - Some Rain


We've had a recent winter rainstorm now, they're very infrequent in Southern California these days. Finally a series of cool days but not like there used to be. The winters are definitely changing, and this is creating issues around the globe. There's a dialogue emerging in Britain because climate change threatens ability of insurers to manage risk. Earlier this month, ClimateWise, a global network of 29 insurance industry organisations which is convened by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, has warned of the urgent need to address the growing $100 billion annual climate risk 'protection gap' in two new reports; Investing for Resilience and the ClimateWise Principles Independent Review 2016.

Bank of England chief Mark Carney is very clear that he has warned that the fight against climate change will be jeopardized unless companies with big carbon footprints come clean about their exposure to global warming risks.Carney, writing jointly with the former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, said citizens, consumers, businesses, governments and international organizations were all taking action in response to extreme weather events. Bloomberg’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures has published its recommendations for a voluntary disclosure code. It will cover four areas considered by Carney and Bloomberg to be vital to how businesses operate – governance, strategy, risk management and metrics:

The FSB Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) will develop voluntary, consistent climate-related financial risk disclosures for use by companies in providing information to investors, lenders, insurers, and other stakeholders.

The Task Force will consider the physical, liability and transition risks associated with climate change and what constitutes effective financial disclosures across industries.

The work and recommendations of the Task Force will help companies understand what financial markets want from disclosure in order to measure and respond to climate change risks, and encourage firms to align their disclosures with investors’ needs.


Financial disclosure is essential to a market-based solution to climate change. A properly functioning market will price in the risks associated with climate change and reward firms that mitigate them. As its impact becomes more commonplace and public policy responses more active, climate change has become a material risk that isn’t properly disclosed. The areas America could abandon first is discussed by Bloomberg with respect to a managed withdrawal from disaster-prone areas that require frequent financial assistance from FEMA. It's becoming necessary even for the Federal government to limit its exposure to climate change events.

A broader discussion comes from an article published last year in the Financial Times about what's needed to tackle climate change. In his book Why Are We Waiting?, Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern Review on the economics of climate change, lays out the challenges and opportunities with clarity and passion. Again, it's about the cost of not facing this most devastating issue of our time.

Update 12/18/16:  Why Doesn't It Snow in L.A. Anymore?

Update 12/31/16: Projected Sea Level rise in Los Angeles 2100

Update 1/1/2017:  Miami, as we know it today, is not going to exist




Friday, December 2, 2016

It Comes into Force



The Christian season of Advent countenances expectation, hope, joy and purity in the lighting of candles, culminating in a moment of reverence on Christmas Day. The hopes and expectations of the future during this century are now focused on the climate crisis of our time. The Paris climate change deal became international law on November 4, 2016. This milestone comes to pass as we are already approaching the 1.5C limit, and forests across the world are now burning. Glaciers are disappearing along with the water supply for many land-bound countries, and the polar caps are now collapsing and melting at unprecedented rates.

COP22 in Marrakech concluded in early December with a remarkable resolve by many nations to act on climate change issues, particularly fossil fuel emissions. Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa, summed up the central outcomes of the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, along with outlining the next steps for international, national and local climate action. The Marrakech talks may not have tackled the actual gap between global climate goals and fossil fuel production, but individual governments don’t need to wait to show leadership.This means that it's incumbent upon countries, cities and states to do all they possibly can as soon as possible to reach zero emissions. It brings a focus to local governments to act on this policy.

California has been experiencing severe environmental impacts as a result of climate change that exacerbates the drought and reduces water supplies. It has been struggling to maintain water supplies throughout the state. The way water distribution works in California is that the water is pumped from the Bay area via several main aqueducts into the dry metropolitan areas in Southern California. Water allocations from the State Water Project go from there to the southern portion of the state. In addition there's the Colorado River Aqueduct from Lake Mead near Las Vegas, Arizona and also the City of Los Angeles which takes its water from the Owens Valley aqueduct. The allocations for this water are adjudicated by Department of Water Resources in Sacramento among the various water agencies. Their approach has shifted to significant conservation strategies.

Working to make water conservation a way of life, state agencies have released a draft plan for achieving long-term efficient water use and meeting drought preparedness goals that reflect California’s diverse climate, landscape, and demographic conditions. Here's a graphic record of our reservoir levels that are used by many agencies and individuals to track our water reserves. This year, the heavy rains in Northern California helped fill the reservoirs up north, but also allowed the water agencies to start filling the reservoirs in Southern California with a reserve supply via the aqueducts because it's not getting much rain. This system keeps the large coastal cities alive: San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, although they are all now looking at severely restricted water supplies.

Another serious impact has been the health of our forests. The drought and climate change has had a devastating effect on California's forests. After 70 million tree deaths, the worst is "still to come" (as of August 2015). In November 2016, an astounding 102 million trees are now dead in California. There are no easy answers for what to do with them, or how to preserve what's left. And also, what's to become of the giant sequoias? Forest ecologists talk about the unprecedented die-off: "In more than 30 years of studying these trees Stephenson had only seen two die on their feet. Five years into the current drought, he’s now seen dozens of standing dead." Looking to the future of these forests, X-ray technology reveals that California's forests are in for a radical transformation, as well as a future of more forest fires which contribute large quantities of carbon and soot.

Because of these horrible conditions, we come to a reality check: California is about to find out what a truly radical climate policy looks like, as a result of the impact of climate change on the state. SB-32 is a new state law which will now mandate an additional 40 percent cut in emissions by 2030, the most restrictive emissions law in the country. So California, with the sixth largest economy on the planet, out of necessity will be providing leadership to the US and also the other developed countries of the world. And it's just the beginning.

Update 12/2/16:  California climate leadership at COP 22 Marrakech

Update 12/3/16:  Trump campaign is a direct threat to California citizens

Update 12/4/16:  Trump victory is a threat to California's natural resources

Update 12/13/16:   Bill Gates/University of California joint announcement about the start of a billion-dollar fund to invest in transformative energy research and development to reduce the emissions that cause climate change.

Update 12/14/16: California forest dieoff is turning tree-cutters into millionaires

Update 12/15/16: A Tale of two droughts in California

Update 12/15/16:  The last five years were the driest ever documented in downtown L.A. since official records started 140 years ago.

Update 12/20/16: New California Law Recognizes Meadows, Streams As “Green Infrastructure”, Eligible For Public Works Funding

Update 1/20/17: The Great Exception - California and the Trump Administration


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Stranger in a Strange Land



The outline above from the President-elect clearly shows that his motive is purely short-term profit on old dinosaur energy investments, protecting that industry for as long as possible. It would result in the immolation of our earth and its life. It's the whip-and-buggy approach to critical global contemporary energy issues.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" is a 1961 science fiction novel by American author Robert A. Heinlein. It tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who comes to Earth in early adulthood after being born on the planet Mars and raised by Martians. The novel explores his interaction with—and eventual transformation of—terrestrial culture. It is eerily similar in construct to the man who fell into the Presidency two weeks ago. However, Valentine Michael Smith had the intelligence to adapt to his new circumstances, unlike Trump, as well as a similar vast wealth and childlike naïveté.

In December 2015, in Paris, parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on ClimateChange (UNFCCC) adopted the Paris Agreement (UNFCCC, 2015a). Parties agreed to keepthe increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels,and to pursue efforts to stay below 1.5 °C. The agreement officially entered into force on 4 November 2016. Commitment to the Paris Agreement is now stronger than ever; there is an action agenda.

The Obama administration has renewed its commitments to the Paris agreement in the waning days of its tenure,announcing additional commitments to The American Business Act on Climate Pledge. And here's how the Obama administration proposes to reduce greenhouse gases.

Barack Obama's comments on the new media ecosystem: “Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is the consequence of man-made behavior, because that’s what ninety-nine per cent of scientists tell us,” he said. “And then we would have a debate about how to fix it. That’s how, in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, you had Republicans supporting the Clean Air Act and you had a market-based fix for acid rain rather than a command-and-control approach. So you’d argue about means, but there was a baseline of facts that we could all work off of. And now we just don’t have that.”

And now France and the UN tell Trump that action on climate change is unstoppable.

So, this is a portrait of a man who knows nothing about climate change. His typical word salad has to be read to be believed...

Yes, raised by Martians.
#flimflamman

Update 11/27/16:

On Capitol Hill: Blasting Trump's Climate Denialsim

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and cofounder of the Senate Climate Action Task Force

Senator Bernie Sanders, leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus

Senator Barbara Boxer, Ranking Member, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is retiring

Senator Tom Carper will be the new Ranking Member on the Environment and Public Works Committee

Historic Senate Action on the climate issue

Update 11/29/16: Mediaworld - Trump realizes that when you step outside those limits, you can manipulate the media at will because their normal ways of doing things are inadequate to the task. You can take any idea, no matter how preposterous, and make half the country believe it. And when journalists push back, it’ll only make your supporters more firm in their loyalty. 

Update 12/13/16: Echoes of Galileo in the populist retreat from reason: Trump established his anti-science credentials by declaring climate change a Chinese hoax.

Update 12/22/16:  Dr. Peter Carter: A Trump presidency would be the end of the world for the whole world and the end of any future for civilization and the human race.

Update 1/3/17:  Rex Tillerson, Exxon's CEO and Trump’s choice to lead the State Department, is frightening