Monday, February 23, 2015

The Sound of Silence

"Fools," said I, "you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

Many more conservative voices are beginning to join the chorus of progressive warnings over the impact of the changes taking place on our planet. The small voices we heard forty years ago are swelling in alarm at the rapid shifts that we're seeing now in climatology, oceanography, geography and the enlarging drought plagued lands across the continents. The willful blindness of governments and industries about the impact of fossil fuels are beginning to crumble. Willful blindness is a legal concept which means, if there's information that you could know and you should know but you somehow manage not to know, the law deems that you're willfully blind. 

Or perhaps we now see that we're suffering a collective form of implicatory denial because of the overwhelming risks clearly before us, and now that denial is no longer possible or realistic. It has become too evident that swift changes must come and are coming to our economy because of the clear impact that carbon emissions are having on our planet.

The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies now hosts a website for their project on Climate Change Communication: Bridging Science and Society. It consists of research, outreach and a synopsis of possible actions that people can take to speak out and take action on restricting the carbon emissions that are changing our planetary systems and degrading the ecology that supports life.

A group that's spending millions of dollars to actively promote the need for engagement in the discussion of climate risk is the Risky Business Project, whose members are presenting research to business groups that highlights how the effects of climate change, like increased flooding, as in the streets of Queens, N.Y., could hurt business and the economy. This group uses the Clinton Global Initiative as a platform to influence public policy.

The Aspen Ideas Festival this coming June will engage conversation on this critically important issue, including "Our Environmental Future" which is a look at the manifestations of climate change as seen through extinction, drought, and natural resource development, juxtaposed with the trailblazing technologies and ideas that can reverse trends and rethink human interaction.  The Aspen Institute mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. It's influential on public policy through the press and the Atlantic Magazine.

The sound of silence has begun to shatter.

Update 2/25/15: Denial dries up: Americans finally seeing the light on climate change

Thursday, February 19, 2015

California Climate Leadership?

On Feb 10, several members from the California State Senate introduced a package of legislative proposals that will strengthen California's leadership in powering a new clean-energy economy. The proposals include historic benchmarks for pollution reduction, energy efficiency, and petroleum use that will spur innovation and investment and maintain California's lead in creating jobs in the advanced energy sector. This will be the first series of bills introduced by Senate Democrats to combat climate change and preserve the environment.

Details of the proposals along with bill language, charts, articles, and statements from a broad coalition of supporters are online at the State Senate page.

Our Governor Jerry Brown wishes to attend COP 21, as the state's big utility providers are all aware. Brown hopes climate policy advances in California and other states can be used to pressure heads of state during international climate talks in Paris in December. Per the Sacramento Bee, “We call this policy the road to Paris, because the governor wants a seat at the table in Paris,” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. “We want to be supportive – we told them that – but we’ve got to have a policy that provides balance.”

The Bee goes on to note: One month after Gov. Jerry Brown proposed dramatically expanding California’s greenhouse gas reduction laws, California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León announced legislation on Feb. 10 to enact the proposal. In a move to blunt opposition from business interests and moderate Democrats, de León cast the package of environmental measures as a jobs program. The legislative package includes measures to cut petroleum use in half by 2030 and to expand, from one-third to one-half, the proportion of electricity California derives from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Yet the Governor got called out on his environmental grandstanding by a protest march this Feb 7, which calls for a ban on the increased fracking that is taking place in the state and poisoning groundwater supplies during a historic drought.

Across the country, Governor Jerry Brown benefits from the widely-held notion that he is a leader on climate issues, a legacy from his ecologically-framed "Governor Moonbeam" first two terms of 1974 - 1982. But over the last four years, Governor Brown has not delivered on his promise to put our water and health first in order to carry California into a new clean-energy economy. Instead, he’s chosen to expand extreme oil and gas extraction, which harms our communities and undermines his own greenhouse gas reduction goals for California. In March of last year, a protest march was held in Sacramento to urge the Governor to end fracking, and this issue has created tremendous public opposition activity to oppose the expansion of this destructive technology.

So, his new moniker has become "Big Oil Brown" to note the shift, and he is also favoring legislation that will drain water from the San Francisco Bay area with gigantic twin tunnels to direct water to the central valley agriculture community. For which the voters in Southern California are being asked to disproportionately to pay the bill. It's tragic that his legacy now consists of unsound environmental practices that directly counter his political posturing for the global climate movement, and critically undermines his credibility with the climate leadership in the US and throughout Europe.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Remember Me

A paean to the natural world, Vangelis' "Beautiful Planet Earth" is included in this gorgeous production that revels in the natural environment as it exists with us in this moment. Vangelis has been celebrating our planet and its creatures with music for over 45 years now, and as the hymn begins to fade and its notes dim, perhaps now we shall conscript it to memory?

L'Apocalypse Des Animaux is Vangelis' masterpiece recording for a French ecological/wildlife film documentary series by director Frederic Rossif, produced in 1972. Over forty years have gone by since the recording of the remarkable beauty of each of the tracks that make up this, Vangelis' second solo album, after leaving the progressive rock band, Aphrodite's Child.

Especially poignant are the atmospheric 10-minute epic, "Creation du Monde" (Creation of the World), the liquid "La Mer Recommence" (The sea begins once again) and the three most luminous tracks of the album: "La Mort du Loup" (The death of the wolf), "Le singe bleu" (The blue monkey) and one of Vangelis' most eternal works, "La Petite Fille de la Mer" (The little girl from the sea.)

Hymne is a resplendent track in the Opera Sauvage (L'Enfant) released in 1979 as the score for the nature documentary by the same title, again by French filmmaker Rossif. Years ago,“Hymne” was used by a Barilla commercial in Italy.Since then, it became the “Barilla song” for all things Italian, as well as for a Gallo wine commercial in the US in the 1980's.

This music penetrates our consciousness with the harmonic flows of natural rhythm and its rich textures, now beginning to thin and fray. As these notes echo and fade into the dimmer recesses of memory, we come starkly to the realization of what we have wrought and its implications for the future of life as we know it. Scientists, who have documented these changes and their human sources for decades, are now sharing their grieving process. Their failure to give a vehement, clear voice to the lost regenerative power of natural things has hurt deeply.

"I don't know of a single scientist that's not having an emotional reaction to what is being lost," Parmesan said in the National Wildlife Federation's 2012 report. "It's gotten to be so depressing that I'm not sure I'm going to go back to this particular site again," she said in reference to an ocean reef she had studied since 2002, "because I just know I'm going to see more and more of the coral dead, and bleached, and covered with brown algae."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Casablanca - We'll always have Paris

News has hit the wire that the planet is rapidly becoming hotter than ever, and the destruction of our ecosystem, water supplies and food continue unabated. My astonishment at the lack of response or concern by the international leadership is also laced with grief. The chart above (Time history of atmospheric CO2) shows the definitive science research on the atmospheric carbon that our post-industrial civilization as punched into the atmosphere, creating unprecedented rapid heating in the atmosphere and the oceans.

Welcome to the anthropocene. Could be a short epoch.

A rational response to the predicament that we're creating for ourselves, coming from some industry groups, is encouraging. The rapid ramping down of fossil fuel use, as well as a severe reduction in our human impact over the next few decades is the only thing that might get us out of this jam; a WW II style global mobilization. A couple of examples of these include:

Does 2015 mark the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era? It seems to be the earliest indications of a remarkable progression in the necessary rapid reduction in fossil fuel use, as Architecture 2030 lays out in its notations of remarkable changes.

The Rocky Mountain Institute in partnership with the Carbon War Room summarizes the Top 10 Clean Energy Developments of 2014. It notes some significant changes in the approach to energy development over the last few years, providing a means of alternative investment in renewable and non-carbon fuels.

Aside from that, we shall have to see if Casablanca really does happen in Paris.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Music for Generational Change

The music produced on a violin has, for centuries, been expressed through classical composition and techniques.The long history of music since the violin was invented in the early 16th century in Italy reveals how a variety of musical interpretations have evolved on this instrument. It continues with modern compositions today.

Instruments of approximately 300 years of age, especially those made in Italy by Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù, are the most sought after instruments (for both collectors and performers). The Ave Maria (Bach - Gounod) clip above is performed on the ex-Napoleon/Molitor Stradivari Violin.

There has been an effort, examined on this website from a French violin maker, to illustrate the charted climate variations during the last 600 years with a violin. The composition expresses the graphics of the rising global temperatures in an intuitive movement showing this progression using an electric violin. It's a direct evocation of the changes experienced on this planet through the sonic rendition of the historic temperature cycles.

The expression of harmonic scales and integral ratios of the octaves underlie a deeper understanding of the structure of music that explores the fundamental behavior of all other materials and living things and their relationship with the interconnecting energies of the physical world. It's the sonic mathematical equivalent of quantum physics and the geometry of shape, size, relative position of figures and the properties of space, just as colors are a song in light, seen across the spectrum as a rainbow.

It's all harmonics.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Sixth Year - The Rains Came

A dent in our drought, thanks to the Pineapple Express that developed suddenly in December, has appeared, and our gardens and hills are beginning to revive in the rain. The high-pressure ridge over California that prevented the storms from coming in has apparently dissipated.

"We've had a few weather systems come through," said Leslie Wanek, a meteorologist in Salt Lake City at the regional headquarters of the National Weather Service. "But it just keeps rebuilding there. It's kind of a mystery about why. Why is the global atmospheric pattern stuck like this?"

This resilient ridge has actually altered the geography in California, and has displayed some unusual warming in the local weather, based upon computer simulations.

Using these climate model simulations, we found that the human emission of greenhouse gases has very likely tripled the likelihood of experiencing large-scale atmospheric conditions similar to those observed in 2013.

This rainy season is just a small dent in this long-term drought, and we need a lot of rain to recover. Groundwater reserves throughout the state are drastically depleted and need years of good rain to recover.

The climate change that has heated up the atmosphere apparently contributed to the lessening precipitation all across the globe, it's not an isolated phenomenon. That, along with the increased human consumption and pollution of rivers and waterways, is a recipie for stressed landscapes and scarce water. While our public policies around the world have moved towards "resilient design" to cope with this new climate, it's imperative that we rapidly take the steps necessary to reduce emissions to zero before climate change becomes irreversible.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Foreshadowing

This Advent season, we will have the gathering of world representatives for COP 20 in Lima, Peru in order to forge a consensus on the framework for a global climate agreement to be finalized in December 2015. Last September there was a preliminary UN conversation in Washington, D.C. along with several parallel conferences and the People's Climate March taking place worldwide. One notable presentation for the Club of Rome was a presentation by David Wasdell, the Director of the Apollo-Gaia Project which is part of the Meridian Programme in the United Kingdom. It was called, "Beyond the Summit,Sensitivity, Target Temperature & the Carbon Budget".

In the presentation, Wasdell is adamant about the clear and present danger of our current global carbon emission path: 

It is now abundantly clear that limiting temperature change to 2°C cannot be achieved by emissions reductions on their own. There is no available carbon budget. Emissions must be reduced to zero in the shortest possible time and the existing stock of atmospheric greenhouse gasses must be drastically reduced. Moreover, the 2°C target has been set far too high and must be lowered from 2°C through 1.5°C to a mere 1°C in order to avoid dangerous climate change, and comply with the global commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In conclusion - Ending the Addiction: an Inspirational Challenge

This is therefore a call for global transformation. It is a call to break free from our addiction to fossil energy. It is a call to break free from the fossilized slavery at the very heart of human civilization. We must end fossil slavery now. That is the imperative of the strategic agenda.

This conclusion that we have already exceeded our carbon emissions budget under which we have a habitable planet is grounded in Wasdell's systemic calculations of the global sensitivity factor, which has been omitted in previous IPCC calculations and studies along with the feedback mechanism from arctic melting. He takes a very deterministic stance on this factor, sounding the alarm on its critical importance in the climate picture as well as its omission from the models used by the IPCC.

Wasdell notes in an earlier paper that the IPCC models are minimally computed in the AR4 report, and this remains uncorrected in the AR5 models recommending the 2°C upper bound, estimating the 2.6 RCP scenario of a remaining 250 Gt C carbon emission budget. The IPCC AR5 report does state that the Climate Sensitivity factor is important, but it lies within a range of consensus. So Wasdell's position is that the budget really needs to be at zero as soon as possible, setting that point at about 2050; therefore the current models are horribly in error and will only produce a lethal future scenario for our planet if they're adopted in Paris at COP 21. The Precautionary limit should be 1°C to allow for the probable overshoot in accomplishing this goal. That is merely a path on the way back to a safer level of 350 PPMV for the atmospheric concentration of carbon which should be established by 2100 if we want our civilization to continue.

The further path - back to the natural atmospheric carbon concentration of 280 PPMV - that we experienced prior to the Industrial Revolution in 1800 is a task for our descendants (if we have them) in the next century beyond 2100.

The practical reality is that these agreements don't forge the necessary action. Historically, the goals recede in the face of economics and pragmatic local policies. According to Rob Stavins, the Paris agreement could provide a post-Kyoto framework that finally gets the world on track for an eventual climate fix. “The way to judge the negotiations coming out of Paris is whether or not the structure is a sound foundation for meaningful long-term reductions.”