Sunday, November 19, 2017

Momentum to COP 26

COP23 in Bonn has concluded, and the discussions managed to negotiate outcomes agreed to at the UN climate talks. This article by Jocelyn Timperley of Carbon Brief is a succinct summary of the proceedings. She notes a significant comment by  Mohamed Adow, international climate lead at Christian Aid London : "The days when you looked to one country to be able to actually lead the transition are gone. We’re now in a new era, where we are actually seeing more shared distributed leadership emerging, where 200 countries have collectively contributed to the global effort." So the process has now become far more consensus-based.

In another article from Bianca Jagger for Huffpost, the emphasis is that the stakes at COP23 are higher than ever, and time is running out.  At COP 23, James Hansen provided a strong pronouncement on the urgency of the climate change situation, and took clear and unequivocal scientific positions on the danger that the planet is in. This video of his Nov.10 press conference, Scientific Reticence: A Threat to Humanity and Nature, records Jim Hansen, Pam Pearson and Philip Duffy in a dialogue about the rapidly escalating temperatures in the arctic. Their stance is that legal avenues need to be pursued to force goals that reflect science with actions that ensure that the limit of 1.5C temperature is not exceeded, per the agreement struck at COP 21 in Paris.

The big question at COP 23 was the question of who would step into the leadership role that the United States has abdicated on climate change. Perhaps no group has made a bigger splash on the world stage this year than the coalition of United States governors, mayors and businesses who call themselves

We Are Still In coalition, informally led by Gov. Jerry Brown of California; Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, the group has vowed to uphold the Paris agreement and move ahead with policies to fight climate change.This group of state and local officials are determined to begin implementing strategies that bring US emissions to net zero in the near future. It's a big challenge, not just because of Trump's intransigence on the subject, but also the uphill battle with the fossil fuel majors. The tragedy of this is that we're already in the process of ramping up emissions, when we should be moving as quickly as possible to zero. This is why it's critically important to use accurate, scientific data and measurements to make the substance of the negotiations actually work to prevent runaway climate change.

The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Emissions represent what goes into the atmosphere. Concentrations represent what remains in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere and the oceans. About a quarter of the total emissions is taken up by the oceans and another quarter by the biosphere, reducing in this way the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. A separate Emissions Gap Report by UN Environment, released on October 31, tracks the policy commitments made by countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and analyses how these policies will translate into emissions reductions through 2030, clearly outlining the emissions gap and what it would take to bridge it.

"The numbers don't lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed. The last few years have seen enormous uptake of renewable energy, but we must now redouble our efforts to ensure these new low-carbon technologies are able to thrive. We have many of the solutions already to address this challenge. What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.

Together, the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin and Emissions Gap Report provided a scientific base for decision-making at the UN climate change negotiations.

Update 11/20/17: Nations have agreed to launch the next steps toward higher climate action ambition before 2020

Update 11/22/17: Anthony Doerr: We Were Warned 25 years ago

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Pilferage Continues

This blog is still comprehensively following an issue that erupted in 2013, and has now grown substantially with the revelation of the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers. The impact of this corruption, legal and extralegal, is to undermine the living systems of this planet by the ownership of the vast majority of its resources by the global one percent of wealthy individuals. It's the vision of unlimited growth that drains the resources from people and the planet with expanding extractive, manufacturing and distribution activities.

You can see, from a timelapse video in which Google unveils a 3-decade span of the Earth's envelopment by human habitation, that this destruction is relentless. A charted representation of this time lapse of expanding human occupation and its cumulative emissions is also shown in the green LUC area of Aubrey Meyer's chart,above. Its impact is massive, as big as the USA.

It's time for those remaining with a conscience to take action in the public sphere to make these extractive processes accountable for the damage that they do, and restore the natural world that provides life to all of us. The examination of these damages is being followed here. as is the progression of lawsuits against governments that fail to protect humanity from the predations of global wealth.

Update 11/11/17:  The global oligarchy belongs to a new class, untethered to nation or party.

Update 11/12/17:  Naomi Klein in 2013: How science is telling us all to revolt

Update 11/13/17: COP 23 - Making the Carbon Majors Pay for Climate Action (video)

Update 11/14/17: 15,364 scientists from 184 countries signed this emergency statement

Update 11/15/17: COP 23  Addiction to Growth - Root Cause of Climate Change  (video)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Beyond Politics

The organization Plan B. Earth has now initiated a legal challenge to the UK Government regarding its failure to reduce emissions in line with Paris Agreement. The BBC reports former chief scientist Sir David King (above) is backing legal action against the government over its failure to follow up on proposal for binding zero emission target; the filing is online here. On January 29, 2016 at IEA Headquarters, Paris, a Big IdEAs panel was held to discuss “Towards decarbonising the global economy: the direction of travel after COP21” and Sir David King made a comprehensive presentation to those attending the panel. He is an important player in the actions towards holding corporations accountable for the carbon damage that they have done, and deliberately obstructed global efforts to address the emissions issues for decades.

The Union for Concerned Scientists has also known for decades that fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil have spent millions of dollars to delay action on global warming. This organization is standing up against the disinformation campaign in the US with respect to climate change, and lists the organizations that are propagating public denial and misinformation. Now, groundbreaking research by two UCS scientists calculates the actual portions of sea level rise and global temperature increase attributable to specific fossil fuel companies. The peer-reviewed study, authored by Brenda Ekwurzel, James Boneham, Mike Dalton, Rick Heede, Roberto Mera, Myles Allen and Peter Frumhoff and published in Climatic Change, analyzed and quantified the climate change impacts of carbon dioxide and methane emissions traced to each company for two time-periods: 1880 to 2010 and 1980 to 2010. From storms to droughts to wildfires, the impacts of climate change exact enormous costs to taxpayers. This report is a critical step in making fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil pay their fair share.

The UCS is laying the groundwork for "climate attribution" lawsuits in the US, to make the ExxonMobils of the world own up to what they've done and pay their fair share of the costs of preparing for dealing with the damage brought by climate change. Meanwhile,Trump's Environmental Protection Agency condemned scientists for "politicizing" Hurricanes Harvey and Irma by simply mentioning climate change. Officials at three different agencies (EPA, the Department of Energy, and Department of Agriculture) have banned "the double C—word"—climate change—from reports, grant applications, and studies—and shuttered an official climate change office. The DOE has issued official denials about this as policy. The Department of the Interior also cancelled a study looking at health risks for people living near mountaintop removal coal mines. Thus this administration continues the corporate onslaught against nature and all of humanity.

It's no longer politics as usual as the scientists, ecologists and engineers take a stand against governments that are in thrall to corporate profiteering at the cost of our planet and everything living on it.

Update 10/3/17:  Global Legal Action Network is assembling a case against 47 European countries for their contributions to climate change

Update 10/4/17: Climate Shocks May Cost U.S. $1 Billion a Day

Update 10/5/17: Economic Case for Climate Action in the US

Update 10/7/17: A district court judge in North Dakota has barred climate change scientist Dr. James Hansen and other experts from testifying in the landmark trial of Michael Foster, one of the 11 climate activists with the group Climate Direct Action who temporarily halted the flow of tar sands bitumen from Canada into the U.S. in a #ShutItDown action last October.

Update 10/12/17: PM of Dominica to the UK general assembly in Sept. 2017: Carribean nations are suffering catastrophic damages because of climate change, which they have not contributed to.

Update 10/25/17:  CIEL explores and develops new legal tools to counterbalance the power of multinational corporations

Update 10/29/17:  Alleging that the state is violating their constitutional rights by putting fossil fuel production above the safety of their lives,16 young Alaskans filed a constitutional climate change lawsuit against the State of Alaska, Governor Bill Walker, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Larry Hartig, and five state agencies on October 27, 2017.

Update 11/3/17: Global warming is increasingly being fought in the courtroom.

Update 11/15/17: Sir David King: Ministers must tighten UK target or face courts

Update 11/19/17:  Hansen is calling for a wave of lawsuits against governments and fossil fuel companies

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Suppre$$ion of Reality

California and the Brown administration are fighting the anti-science demagoguery coming out of the White House, and now there is deep concern that it is also trying to cover up a federal climate change report. This draft federal report can be found online.

This draft report was obtained by the nonprofit Internet Archive in January and recently published on the New York Times site. Its authors note that thousands of studies, conducted by tens of thousands of scientists, have documented climate changes on land and in the air. “Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change,” they wrote.

The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.

The impacts in California alone are considerable, as the report outlines. Atmospheric rivers that bring extreme precipitation to the West Coast, like the ones last winter that ended California’s drought, are projected to increase in frequency, but will fall more as rain than snow, the report says. That would disrupt California’s highly engineered plumbing system, which relies on the Sierra snowpack to store water for the dry summers. Forest fires have already increased sharply in the West, the report says, and will increase more as the region continues to dry, bringing major ecosystem changes.

A Los Angeles Times editorial raises the issues about climate change risks, which has apparently been leaked by scientists working at the federal level. Their message: anthropogenic climate change is real and happening fast.The changes are already real and the future risks potentially catastrophic. The whole world knows it, and the vast majority of the world is trying to address it. That Trump is not, and that government scientists feel the need to join “deep state” actors in leaking their findings in fear of what the president might do against the nation’s best interests, is damning.

The White House is now reviewing this new report that finds a strong link between climate change and human activity. Scientists are reportedly worried that Trump will suppress this new federal climate report.

Update 8/20/17:  Response ~ The Trump administration has decided to disband the federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment, a group aimed at helping policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government’s climate analysis into long-term planning.

Update 10/3/17: The significant scale of human impact on our planet has changed the course of Earth history per a report from the University of Leicester

Update 10/4/17: Sir David Attenborough - Humans are a 'plague on Earth'

Thursday, August 10, 2017


The state of California has been in the forefront of climate action and the formation of interstate agreements since 2008. By 2013, it had formalized a pact by the Pacific Coast Collaborative that addressed climate change trade policy.  This unprecedented pact between the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington, and the premier of British Columbia had been signed with the intent of forging a clean energy future. Jerry Brown compared California to a lever and quoted a Greek mathematician: “Archimedes said, if you give me a place to stand ... I can move the earth.” Since California has established its place at the forefront of U.S. environmental policies, California has become ready to play a key role in resisting Washington’s hard right turn. It is also a part of the Western Climate Initiative, established during the Obama administration tenure.

Thus the state has become the chief advocate of resistance in the face of the Trump administration's abdication of leadership in global policy on climate change. For the past two years, California Gov. Jerry Brown has been aggressively recruiting other state and local governments to sign on to their own, sub-national climate pact. In early July of this year, as Trump and other world leaders gathered in Hamburg, Germany, for the G20 summit, Gov. Jerry Brown made waves by telling the world that Trump — who has decided to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord — does not speak for most Americans when it comes to dealing with environmental concerns.

At the G20 summit, Brown announced that California would host a global summit on climate change in San Francisco in September of 2018. “All over the world, momentum is building to deal seriously with climate change,” Brown said in a statement. “Despite rejection in Washington, California is all in. We are fully committed to the Under2 Coalition and the Paris Agreement.” The California summit meeting will bring together the leaders of states, cities, businesses and others who made pledges to curb heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Paris accord and the thousands of others who were galvanized by Mr. Trump’s decision. Days after his announcement, the former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg published a letter to the United Nations signed by more than 1,200 mayors, business leaders, university presidents and others declaring “we are still in” the climate deal. The website for the Global Climate Action Summit 2018 is now online.

A week later, Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg announced America’s Pledge climate initiative, a national program of state and local participation in climate policy.  This initiative includes an unprecedented number of U.S. states, cities, businesses, and colleges and universities that have reaffirmed their support for the Paris Agreement through collaborations including the “We Are Still In” declaration, the Climate Mayors coalition of cities, the US Climate Alliance group of states, and others. This is now online and contains the declaration that:

“Today we’re sending a clear message to the world that America’s states, cities and businesses are moving forward with our country’s commitments under the Paris Agreement — with or without Washington,” said Governor Jerry Brown, who was recently named Special Advisor for States and Regions ahead of the United Nations’ 23rd Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23).

Monday, June 26, 2017

Runaway Phase

Facing another very hot summer in Southern California, it's become a rite of spring to dread the inescapable heat waves that now roll in from the hot Arizona desert. What happened to spring and to fall? We now hit a wall of heat in May and don't see relief until nearly the end of October. People's winter wear now consists of a sweater, not a coat. Our landscape and forests are brown and bleached from the lack of water; millions of trees in the Sierras are dying. If we look at our scientific surveys and satellite studies, we see that polar sea ice is now at record lows in the summer.

We are seeing temperatures in the summer that are breaking all previous records. By a lot. If the Earth’s temperature increases by 2 degrees Celsius, the benchmark agreed upon in the landmark Paris climate agreement, the entire Greenland ice sheet could experience the same accelerated melting that the island’s coastal glaciers and ice caps are facing. At this point, Greenland's coastal ice caps have melted past the point of no return. We are losing our planetary ecological home that is supposed to support 7.5 billion of us.

This process is not immediately apparent, but the NASA studies show conclusively that Greenland is melting significantly. There is no question that the scientific consensus is that Earth's climate is warming, and this warming is accelerating. This accelerating meltdown is a critical red flag to our global civilizations, but like the endless wars in the Middle East, it's a profit center for those who mindlessly control fossil fuels and weaponry for money. The military budget for the USA, far exceeding those of all other countries combined, is the match held to the fuse.

This warming process from fossil fuels leads to an unstoppable, runaway climate change that is fueled by the carbon and methane emissons from the ice and permafrost melt at the poles, which is already observable by science teams and satellites, and puts the destruction of our ecosphere and our planet on an irreversible path. The pace at which species disappear is picking up as temperatures rise, and this is devastating in the tropics which are disproportionately impacted. We cannot stop this once it sets in, the processes ignite themselves with monstrous emissions from the melting poles.

So this is how the Anthropocene ends. In a blaze of greed and ignorance.

Update 6/27/17: Tipping points are real: Gradual changes in CO2 levels can induce abrupt climate changes

Update 6/28/17: Climate Change and Devastating Heat Waves

Update 6/29/17: Current emissions could already warm world to dangerous levels: study

Update 6/30/17: The looming catastrophe of feedback emissions

Update 7/1/17:  Seven facts about the Arctic methane timebomb

Update 7/2/17:  Top Scientists Warn of Catastrophic Sea Level Rise

Update 7/3/17: Experts warn: three years to save humanity from climate change

Update 7/4/17:  New study confirms the oceans are warming rapidly

Update 7/5/17: Warming hits 'tipping point' (from 2005)

Update 7/6/17: Hopes of mild climate change dashed by new research

Update 7/7/17:  Rising temperatures are curbing ocean's capacity to store carbon

Update 7/8/17: NOAA Study Confirms Global Warming Speed-Up Is Imminent

Update 7/9/17: High temperatures and extreme weather continue

Update 7/10/17: Earth faces "biological annihilation" in sixth mass extinction, scientists warn

Update 7/18/17: Carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere to avoid extreme climate change

Update 7/20/17: Today's Extreme Heat May Become Norm Within a Decade

Update 7/24/17: It’s fair to say we have passed the point of no return on global warming 

Update 8/24/17: Greenland has warmed 9 degrees F in the last 60 years.

Update 10/10/17: Richard Muller - I Was wrong on Climate Change (Jan 2015)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Age of Consequences

First in a series of three lectures comprising the Cambridge Climate Lecture Series 2017, Baroness Bryony Worthington presents the dilemma that is unfolding now between the science and the politics of climate change dialogue:

"The evidence is clear that we are in an age of consequences...There is a constant stream of information now for those who are tuned to it that show us that many of the impacts that we were expecting to unfold over the second half of this century are starting to be felt now."

It's evident that our human civilization is losing the race to stave off catastrophic climate change in the face of its political inaction, and we need to drastically up our game. That takes us to net zero carbon emissions by the middle of this century, per the Paris agreement of 2015. She observes that the threat of Donald Trump had an impact on the Paris agreement in that it caused that agreement to come into force earlier than it might have otherwise done, thus Trump unwittingly helped bring about ratification.

Overcoming political headwinds involves the "Tragedy of the Commons" wherein inadvertent individual actions add up to destructive impacts that nobody takes responsibility for. A classic example is the Pacific Garbage Patch that exists in the Pacific Ocean that is strangling and poisoning sea life with tons of plastic garbage dumped in the ocean over decades. Except there's a Dutch guy named Boyan Slat who is doing exactly that.

"Tragedy of the Horizon" is a phrase that means that short-term thinking is unfortunately endemic throughout our politics, and also, unfortunately, our financial system. This is leading to very poorly informed decision-making, and where attention to only the bottom line by corporate decsion makers is destructive to the long view that encompasses systemic views of the world and addresses the very serious issues involving climate change. The antidote to this is to create and support independent apolitical institutions, such as universities and research facilities.

A third factor is the fossil fuel industry itself, which has contributed greatly to human civilization and its benefits inasmuch as their profits allow them to now wield a lot of power in the political sphere in the act of protecting their profits. The answer to this is a multivalent approach to problem solutions so that one factor doesn't override the entire dialogue; one simple tool like a carbon tax will not accomplish the necessary means to an end.

Having said all of this, there remains an approach to solving this problem via global scenario planning as it's employed by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), an independent apolitical entity:

RMI will release analysis results describing five scenarios to limit global average temperature increases by the end of the century to approximately 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, a goal that most analysts see as nearly impossible to achieve. According to the United Nations Environment Programme’s recently released Emissions Gap report, even if the pledges made by nations participating in the Paris Agreement are fulfilled, global emissions will put us on a path to temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4°C this century. Limiting temperature increases to less than 1.5°C will require more and deeper change in the years ahead than most analysts contemplate, with shifts not only in the energy sector but also in agriculture and land use. Surprisingly, their assessment indicates that such changes are still within reach, but only if global actions lead to a dramatic acceleration of the energy transition.

Their diagram of positive feedbacks that could accelerate the energy transition shows how multiple actors in many different markets spur the current renewable energy movement. Much of the growth in renewable energy globally is led by private companies and customers, who find compelling economic reasons to make the switch. This is in contrast to a traditional utility responsible for the planning and operation of a grid that supplies power from centrally owned power plants. Instead of large, capital-intensive projects, centralized decision making, and high-risk business-to-business transactions, much of the new energy revolution is diffuse, smaller scale, decentralized, and based on business-to-customer transactions.Renewable resources, on the other hand, are abundantly available worldwide, often in reasonable proximity to demand. RMI’s analysis describes a possible fast track path to a global clean energy future that is led by synergistic and compounding changes in key industries. Rapid scaling of low-cost manufacturing for solar PV, wind, batteries, electric vehicles, and other key technologies is at the heart of this transition.

So this different kind of thinking, in the corporate and political arena, can be driven by a multitude of actions from many players, rather than the top-down assumptions employed by the world's governments. Each player has a significant position and influence in this multi-level sphere of action, and all of them add up to an important resolution of this global problem that we all have to solve. This is a game-solution, not a dictated process, with an outcome that isn't predictable.

This is important because some global corporations have become bigger than many countries, and they have placed themselves beyond the reach of governments and global rule-making bodies. They have so far managed to shirk their responsibilities in solving this problem, but that's no longer an acceptable position because of the damages that they cause to the environment and all the people living in their countries all across the globe. Accountability is about to become the answer to the "Tragedy of the Commons."

Update 5/24/17: California has tried to forge international climate pacts, becoming a significant global player