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