Wednesday, January 16, 2019

It's Complicated

For those who want to really understand what's happening with big private money driving political demagoguery that disrupts the rule of law, get your hands on the book, Dark Money, by Jane Mayer. This documents in depth what has been shifting the political climate in our country to the point that democracy is now in danger via billions of dollars of undisclosed private money. An excerpt:

Lewis Powell, a corporate attorney who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon, was the author of a brilliant battle plan detailing how conservative business interests could reclaim American politics. In 1971, he issued a memo to the business community to fight back against liberal policies.

"He urged America's capitalists to wage "guerilla warfare" agains those seeking to "insidiously" undermine corporate America. Conservatives must capture public opinion, he argued, by exerting influence over the institutions that shape it, which he identified as academia, the media, the churches and the courts. He argued that conservatives should control the political debate at its source by demanding "balance" in textbooks, television shows, and news coverage. Donors, he argued, should demand a say in university hiring and curriculum and "press vigorously in all political arenas." The key to victory, he predicted, was "careful long-range planning and implementation" backed by a "scale of financing available only through joint effort."

Thus was kicked off the conservative think tank structures funded by the Kochs and the ALEC corporate network which has proceeded to do exactly that. So what we have now is a corporate coup fronted by a carney barker. They are dismantling the government agencies and eliminating their tax liabilities, with the intent of removing Medicare and Social Security safety nets, as is laid out in detail in Mayer's book.  There are all the covert strategies outlined in there as well.

The strategy applies *in spades* to the climate change issue, because all of these billionaires, thinktanks and agencies that are heavily invested in fossil fuels, which rely on being extracted and burned to retain their value. Bill McKibben understood this early on as he discussed the Rockefeller Foundation grant that supported his position.

 "For example, Trump may be uniquely hostile to the rule of law, ethics in public service, and a free press. But the assault on our democracy didn’t start with his election. He is as much a symptom as a cause of what ails us. Think of our body politic like a human body, with our constitutional checks and balances, democratic norms and institutions, and well-informed citizenry all acting as an immune system protecting us from the disease of authoritarianism. Over many years, our defenses were worn down by a small group of right-wing billionaires—people like the Mercer family and Charles and David Koch—who spent a lot of time and money building an alternative reality where science is denied, lies masquerade as truth, and paranoia flourishes. By undermining the common factual framework that allows a free people to deliberate together and make the important decisions of self-governance, they opened the way for the infection of Russian propaganda and Trumpian lies to take hold. They've used their money and influence to capture our political system, impose a right-wing agenda, and disenfranchise millions of Americans."

The informal system of offshoring wealth to avoid taxes by these big money entities has been extensively documented. It helps to remember that many of them are financially bigger than most countries in the world, hence have a place at the table of the formation of global trade policies that undermine the ability of these governments to defend their citizens from destructive profit schemes embedded in these trade agreements which state that they overrule local governance policies and don't offer a means of recourse. Hence the emergence of conservative populists in governments across the globe that promise to enforce geographical borders and retain local economies and jobs. Unfortunately these populists devolve into the corruption of cronyism and self-dealing, directed by the big money that drives their real agenda - an escape from taxes and undermining the social support systems. The government budget allocations are then driven to military budgets that feed the corporate contracts and instigation of wars for profit, usually the fossil fuel and weapons industries.

From Insurge: "We are currently in the midst of a global phase-shift signalling that the prevailing order, paradigm and value-system are outmoded and unsustainable. The breakdown of the global system has led to a heightened state and speed of indeterminacy across political, economic, cultural and ideological structures and sub-systems. We experience this in the increasing confusion across all these systems, particularly expressed in the ‘post-truth’ dislocation of our prevailing information systems."

Again, from Insurge: "When NATO intervened in Libya, when the US and UK backed Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate aerial bombardment of Yemen, it only destabilised the region further. The arc of collapse across the Middle East and North Africa resulted from a fatal combination: an earth system crisis, compounded by short-sighted and self-serving responses from human systems...The earth system crisis that erupted in Syria triggered a wave of human system destabilisation of which Brexit was merely the first eruption. And so the Syria crisis is indeed a taste of things to come. Europe is already a post-peak oil continent, whose domestic fossil resources are in decline."

So you can see that the systemic implementation of global trade policies are driven by energy costs and those that profit from them. This has the tragic consequence of planetary destruction from carbon emissions because of the embedded fiscal profiteering in these influential industries and the big money of the one percent. They are defending a system that is structured to run on fossil fuel investments that have to be burned to provide the cash flow for these profits. Which is a major factor in the failure of the COP processes that are dwarfed by the annual build-up of atmospheric carbon emissions. In some respects the Paris Agreement hinted at a potential step change but this moment of hope has quickly given way to Byzantine technocracy the rulebook, stocktaking, financial scams and corporate disinformation that undermines the world's governments that are trying to create a global agreement.

Update 1/17/19: How the forever-war crowd holds the reins on US foreign policy and its budget

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Timeline is now Zero

Climate change segment from Aaron Sorkins "Newsroom" drama

 Its Not Stopping: New York Times Opinon, December 29, 2018: Going Nowhere Fast on Climate, Year After Year

Three decades after a top climate scientist warned Congress of the dangers of global warming, greenhouse gas emissions keep rising and so do global temperatures.
By Paul Bledsoe, who lectures on environmental policy at American University.

Thirty years ago, a NASA scientist, James Hansen, told lawmakers at a Senate hearing that “global warming is now large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause-and-effect relationship with the greenhouse effect.” He added that there “is only 1 percent chance of accidental warming of this magnitude.”

By that, he meant that humans were responsible.

His testimony made headlines around the United States and the world. But in the time since, greenhouse gas emissions, the global temperature average and cost of climate-related heat, wildfires, droughts, flooding and hurricanes have continued to rise.

This fall, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming report warning that if emissions continue to rise at their present rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, resulting in the flooding of coastlines, the killing of coral reefs worldwide, and more catastrophic droughts and wildfires.

To avoid this, greenhouse gas emissions would need to fall by nearly half from 2010 levels in the next 12 years and reach a net of zero by 2050. But in the United States, the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, President Trump continues to question the science of climate change, and his administration is rolling back emissions limits on power plants and fuel economy standards on cars and light trucks, while pushing to accelerate the use of fossil fuels. Other major nations around the world aren’t cutting emissions quickly enough, either.

So what has happened over the last 30 years? Progress has been made in fits and starts, but not nearly enough has been done to confront the planet-altering magnitude of what we have unleashed. Here’s a timeline of those events.

Update 1/14/19: Update 1/14/19: Silent Spring - Why it’s time to think about human extinction | Dr David Suzuki on economic growth and why we can still change this

Update 1/15/19: A Planet in Crisis -The Heat’s On Us  by Dahr Jamail

Monday, December 24, 2018

Peace on Earth

In these desperate, chaotic times of Trump's descent, I'm offering a moment of quiet respite so that we can briefly put down our burdens and regenerate in the intricate peace of Bach's music. This performance is an unusual, contemporary approach to the classic "Ave Maria".

For the moment, the less said about the regressive politics going on around us, as well as the ineffectualness of the global approaches to climate change, the better.

Hope for the future is a fragile thing, and its cultivation is the arrow pointing to a better world built by all of us.

"Although we are all born with intrinsic hope, it’s easy to forget. Because we usually focus on problems and difficulties, we can fail to appreciate the miracle of life and become blind to its potentials and possibilities. By concentrating on the negative, we don’t see the positive. By emphasizing what we lack and what we want, we ignore what we already have, and don’t consider what could be."

So this is a small opportunity to look over the view of the world ahead of us, and to ask of ourselves if we can sustain a vision of collaboration and abundant life; the emblematic female grace described by this hymn:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and in the hour of our death.

Update 12/24/18: Let’s pretend that She is inviting (insisting?) that we weave ourselves into the mystery of existence and give up the illusion of our separation.

Update 12/25/18: Lola Perrin's Climate Keys

Update 12/25/18:  The Key Point that has been missed however is that the 'Hemiola' also gives rise to φ (Phi) & thus the subtly breathtaking 'dominance' of the 'Feminine Principle' or σοφία (sophia or 'wisdom')

Update 12/25/18: Emerging from the 'Tao', is the 'feminine principle'

Update 12/25/18:  The derivation of Phi in the feminine principle

Update 12/26/18: Scientists shouldn’t bring emotion or family or humanity into their work... It’s unprofessional! It’s irrelevant! And, of course, it’s feminine.

Update 12/27/18: Science & Spirituality in a Changing World: David Bohm

Update 12/28/18:  Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads Maya Angelou’s Stunning Humanist Poem That Flew to Space, Inspired by Carl Sagan

Monday, December 17, 2018

A Tenth Year - A Rainstorm

Los Angeles experienced a good storm last month, about two inches. But that was it. Nothing much in our forecast for December. Very much like the 2016 winter, in which California was still in drought, although that season eventually produced four inches above average later in the season. The Earth System Science Education Alliance has a page that shows how the precipitation and temperature changes have shifted over the last 100 years, with a warming trend as well as a much more variable precipitation profile that has a moving average of less rainfall.

Climate change has forced big changes in the way that water is used and conserved all over California. For example, at UC Santa Barbara, the use of recycled water for irrigation has drastically reduced potable water consumption. The campus utilizes treated water from Goleta Sanitary District and uses it for irrigation, rather than dumping it into the ocean. 90% of the campus landscape is irrigated with recycled water, which saves 19.5 million gallons of potable water annually. UCSB has also seen significant water use savings through efficiency improvements in the use of industrial water and restroom retrofits. UCSB is also exploring many other alternative ways to conserve the water that it gets from local rainfall, which is reliant upon the Lake Cachuma supply, rather than the State Water Project which imports water from the Bay Delta.

Compare these efforts to some of the residential areas in adjacent Montecito, which have in the past resorted to trucking in water to keep the massive lawns and plantings from dying due to the lack of rainfall in the area. However, the storm in January of this year damaged the Montecito water distribution, as well as destroyed much of the landscaping and some structures with the devastating mudflows. Much of the water supply infrastructure will need to be reconstructed, as well as establishing reliable new water supply going forward. This storm produced destructive mudflows because of the earlier Thomas Fire burn in 2017.  The recovery from the damage to the infrastructure will take most of 2018. This has led to a dialogue with neighboring Santa Barbara, and involves purchasing water from their desalination plant, which was reactivated in 2015. This plant currently provides about 30 percent of Santa Barbara's annual potable water demand since being started up again in 2017.

The complexity of climate change impacts is proving to be a major challenge all over the state, inasmuch as this major damage occurred in a wealthy area which will be able to recover from the extensive destruction that took place. It exemplifies the scale of damages that is starting to impact all of California's cities, as well as the expenses and logistics of preparing for a very dry future which is our new normal.

Update 12/17/18: Sierra Nevada snowpack on track to shrink up to 79% by the end of the century, new study finds

Update 12/18/18:  Experts say the state must take a new approach to managing water in the future.

Update 12/23/18: How do we cope with demands for water as we enter an era of scarcity?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Pedal to the Metal

It's now become urgent to put policies into place where they have the highest probability of reducing carbon emissions very rapidly, given that we are at the threshold of of irreversible climate change. Here's a review about a new book from veteran energy analyst Hal Harvey that simplifies decarbonization. Basically it boils down to implementing specific large impact strategies in the top 20 carbon-emitting countries.

As David Roberts says in his review:

The overall message is that climate policy doesn’t have to mean doing everything possible, everywhere possible. It’s mainly about applying a toolbox of 10 energy policies to four economic sectors in the 20 top-emitting countries, plus a bunch of carbon pricing and land-use reform. That will get us most of the way there, and it’s a tractable task.

Policymakers at every level — perhaps even some of those newly elected Democratic governors — will find the book a practical help. It tailors recommendations to different geographies and levels of economic development and gets into nitty-gritty design issues for each policy.

And it reminds them again and again: focus. There are about a dozen policies that work, but “there’s a fast fall-off after that dozen,” Harvey says. “There’s tons of things that sound good but just don’t make much of a difference.”

 It's up to the citizens of these countries to elect policymakers and government officials that will make these actions a priority, going up against the corporate positions of denial and minimization for their own profit. We are seeing movements building towards that kind of accountability, such as Plan B in the UK, which leads in the use of lawsuits to hold corporations accountable for their climate impact, and the Extinction Rebellion movement that is igniting across Europe.

Whether this wave of activism has an influence in the upcoming COP24 climate change dialogue in Katowice this December remains to be seen, but we're entering a critical period of time where the most effective actions undertaken by the largest emitters will have a measurable impact on this global threat to our existence.

Update 12/16/18: What Can We Do?

Friday, November 23, 2018

US Climate Assessment

The U.S. Global Change Research Program is pleased to announce the release of two major reports:

Fourth National Climate Assessment (

NCA4 Vol II, Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States, assesses a range of potential climate change-related impacts, with an aim to help decision makers better identify risks that could be avoided or reduced. The assessment follows Vol I, the Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), which was released in November 2017. Together, these reports meet the requirements of the Global Change Research Act, which mandates a quadrennial assessment of our understanding of global change and its impacts on the United States. NCA4 Vol II can be viewed on its interactive website at

2nd State of the Carbon Cycle Report (


SOCCR2 represents an important technical contribution to USGCRP’s sustained assessment process. The report provides an overview of how human and natural processes are affecting the global and North American carbon cycle, emphasizing advances in the understanding of carbon cycle science and associated human dimensions. Read the report at

 U.S. Global Change Research Program
1800 G Street NW, Suite 9100
Washington, DC 20006

Update 11/23/18: Climate report says damages are 'intensifying across the country'

Update 11/24/18: U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy

Update 11/25/18: A Grave Climate Warning, Buried on Black Friday

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Reckoning

Bill McKibben has just published an article in the New Yorker: How Extreme Weather is Shrinking the Planet. With wildfires, heat waves and rising sea levels, large tracts of the earth are at risk of becoming uninhabitable. But the fossil-fuel industry continues its assault on the facts. However, the impacts of our changing climate have now hit home with a vengeance, and it's our collective responsibility to deal with its causes and the consequences of our civilization's activities on our planet.

With the Camp Fire in northern California two-thirds contained, the Woolsey Fire in southern California all but extinguished and a sky-cleansing rain, with possible flash floods forecast for Northern California today or tomorrow, Californians are now facing a grim reality: these staggering catastrophes are becoming routine. They've been dubbed the "new abnormal". By the century’s end, simultaneous disasters—three or more at once—could in fact be California’s norm, unless aggressive measures are taken, according to a major paper published this November in the journal Nature Climate Change.

California climate policies are currently shifting rapidly to address the impacts of climate change, as well as establishing carbon-neutral strategies as a result of these catastrophic events. These extremes are now occurring regularly, as well as the impact of a drier climate that reduces the availability of water in the state, which is also happening across the entire US southwest.

But the real work lies ahead in an immediate, aggressive reduction in the carbon dioxide emissions across the planet, in order to keep the temperature changes below the 1.5C threshold as negotiated via the UN Climate Change secretariat through the annual COP meetings. At the Global Climate Action Summit, which concluded in San Francisco this last September, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said: “This Summit and its Call to Action make an important contribution towards achieving our collective goal: to keep global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement. It will encourage governments worldwide to step up their actions, demonstrating the vital role that states and regions, cities, companies, investors, and civil society are playing to tackle climate change.”

This summit was a preparation for the upcoming COP24 that will be held in Katowice, Poland this year on December 2 - 14. At this time, more commitments from all countries and worldwide corporations will need to be made so that global actions can be undertaken which moves our civilization into a radically different mode of energy use, transportation and building construction. Our forests on all continents must be restored and allowed to expand into healthy ecosystems as part of the climate mitigation that will have to happen. The preparatory dialogue for this collective action is being supported by some of the major corporations, as well. They are prepared to participate in Katowice and implement the necessary actions according to the framework and goals outlined at COP24. A good example is Iberdrola, a leading renewable energy company that exemplifies the benefits of moving rapidly to a non-carbon based economy.

It will take an enormous, unprecedented effort by all countries and corporate entities to engage in immediate and very radical transformations of our economy and our way of living in concert with the natural environment. It's the biggest challenge that humanity has ever faced, and will reflect our collective ability to undertake actions that regenerate our planet and reconfigure our cities to reduce humanity's footprint in favor of natural processes.

Update 12/13/18: Many mega-projects simply aren’t worth the risk to investors, host nations, or the environment.

Update 12/16/18: Major companies like McKinsey are pursuing business in countries with little regard for human rights.