Sunday, July 31, 2022

Into the Furnace

 


The screenshot above comes from a video in April of 2019. It's a screen capture of a massive fire in Los Angeles, California near the Getty Center. This video record is documenting the opening of the International Rebellion in London with Jem Bendell leading the protest. "Europe has been experiencing unprecedented heat waves, particularly in the summer of 2018. It has resulted in a drop in food production of 20% and is now getting worse. The video shows a diagram of how these energy emissions are interacting to produce the global heating that we're experiencing. The future of our climate is not now under our control." This rebellion did not produce any policy changes in the UK government, but it became a precursor to the events following, as heat waves began to propagate across the planet in the following years.

Greta Thunberg and Al Gore, two of the world's leading voices in the fight against climate change, publicly reacted to the record-setting heat wave and wildfires gripping Europe in July of this year (2022). "With temperature records being smashed in parts of the United Kingdom and France, Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist, warned that the worst is yet to come. As of Tuesday, at least 1,346 people had died in Spain and Portugal due to the current heat wave, and experts say that figure is expected to rise over the coming days as extreme heat continues to broil places like the U.K., where air conditioning is not common."

Alarm is rising as the fastest growing US cities risk becoming unlivable from the climate crisis. Cities that sprawl in the south-western US have in recent years experienced population booms, with people moving in droves for cheap yet expansive properties, warm winters and plentiful jobs. Large corporations are shifting their bases to states with low taxes and cheaper cost of living.This has been upended with the reality of the climate emergency, with parts of the southwest suffering the worst drought in more than 1,000 years, with record wildfires and extreme heat that is triggering some medical conditions, as well as deaths from heat exposure.

George Monbiot writes that this heatwave has eviscerated the idea that small changes can tackle extreme weather. "We have seen nothing yet. The dangerous heat England is suffering at the moment is already becoming normal in southern Europe, and would be counted among the cooler days during hot periods in parts of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, where heat is becoming a regular threat to life. It cannot now be long, unless immediate and comprehensive measures are taken, before these days of rage become the norm even in our once-temperate climatic zone."

 "The world is burning once again". In another article by Monbiot, he emphasizes that mainstream climate advocates have adapted an approach of incrementalism in climate change which has been wiped out by corporate resistance and the focus on profit above all else. "I feel clearer about what effective political action looks like than I have ever done. But a major question remains. Given that we have left it so late, can we reach the social tipping point before we hit the environmental tipping point?"

It's late in the day, but it's imperative for us and our kids to force our governments and the corporations to take serious measures to stop carbon emissions and ditch the fossil fuel energy immediately. Our survival, and that of the biosphere, depends on our immediate and effective actions.


Update 8/13/22: The World Needs ‘Rapid Climate Cooling’ as 2℃ Overshoot Now Likely

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Great Bear Rainforest

 


The climate-related conservation and resilience policies of many wealthy countries are beginning to emerge. As part of their 2016 Royal Tour, their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge officially endorsed Canada's Great Bear Rainforest under the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy initiative. This initiative is the environmental protection of natural resources across the globe that are made up of countries that are part of the British Commonwealth.

This park encompasses the world’s largest intact coastal temperate rainforest. This unique rainforest has old-growth trees over 800 years old. The Kitlope valley is an important habitat for marbled murrelets, bald eagles, moose, grizzly, black bear, wolf and waterfowl. The Kitlope valley lies within the traditional territory of the Haisla First Nation, based out of Kitamaat Village. It was established in Canada on February 20, 1996, as part of a commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, operated via the Kitlope Heritage Conservancy.

Back in 1791-1795, the Vancouver Expedition explored Canada's western coast under the auspices of the British Royal Navy. In 1793, the explorer Mr. Whidbey discovered the Gardner inlet, and in a verbal description of the shoreline, described it as "a barren waste" that was "nearly destitute of wood and verdure", with only the solid granite mountains in view. Which means that the young trees were not there. Possibly in the intervening 200 years, the temperatures warmed enough that the trees grew rapidly from seed further inland and established a toehold on the steep granite slopes. This item was taken from "British Columbia Coast Names 1592-1906", a very interesting book loaded with excerpts from old manuscripts. (This could be the source of fossil-fuel pushback on climate change using the proliferation of pine forests to show that northern latitudes will benefit from global warming?)

 

I spent a week in the park last month, with a trip into Kitlope aboard a sailing ship. It's a stunning ecology with incredible snowcapped granite mountains covered in forests. There's nothing else like it, the wildlife is abundant in the clear, cold waters and the myriad waterfalls. It reminded me of the Norwegian fijords; there are a few scattered aging structures near the water's edge, without many habitable areas since there's no longer access to these areas except by boat. An account and photos of this experience by Valeria Vergara was published in June of this year. She points out that "in 2020, Raincoast, working closely with First Nations partners, secured the 5300 km2 Kitlope commercial hunting tenure in the Haisla and Xenaksiala homeland. This is part of a bold move initiated in 2005 to end commercial trophy hunting of bears, wolves and other coastal carnivores for entertainment and profit, and to help respect the stewardship of First Nation communities that view trophy hunting as profoundly inconsistent with their teachings and values."

Earlier, in 2015, "as old-growth forest remains an indeterminate definition in forestry regulation, forest companies have arguably continued to log old-growth according to arbitrary discretion. Deforestation, road construction and other operations have changed the local ecological landscape, altering wildlife habitat and affecting the livelihood of local communities. As a result, First Nations, united with environmentalists and NGOs, have been aggressively advocating for forest sustainability while calling governments to determine clearer objectives and improve logging practices." The map above shows how the various areas of the forest are laid out with restrictions on commercial activity as a result of environmental regulations, along with an extensive discussion of the adopted management strategy.

 It's critical for Canada to protect the biodiversity and pristine wilderness that still exists and to push back against several hundred years of exploitation of resources in this forest. By the late 1990's, ancient trees from this forest were being logged to make household items. The eventual agreement between  the First Nations, the forest industry, the government of British Columbia, and partner environmental groups announced a groundbreaking agreement to permanently protect 85% of the forests of the Great Bear from industrial logging in 2016.

This includes the existing Kitasoo Hydropower Project that services the Kitasoo-Xai’xais First Nation community of Klemtu in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest.  Upgrades to existing infrastructure, including active storage at Baron Lake, will allow for greater power output from the facility. This project is a heavily greenwashed upgrade that will transition the plant off of diesel fuel. Further detail from coastal First Nations involves a $4.6 million contribution from BC’s Renewable Energy for Remote Communities program is funding the upgrade that will reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 11,160 tonnes over the facility’s operating life. "The Kitasoo hydroelectric facility – 100 per cent owned by the Nation – has supplied clean power to Klemtu for 40 years, helping it transition from a dependency on dirty diesel fuel. The planned upgrade is the latest step in the Kitasoo/Xai’xais efforts over the past four decades to build energy sovereignty and support community growth." A detailed examination of how this pact resulted from the “War in the Woods” includes a period that saw some of the largest environmental protests in Canada’s history: "What began in the early 1990s as a large-scale mobilization to protect the Clayoquot Sound region of Vancouver morphed into a movement to save all of the Central and North Coast forests of British Columbia, dubbed the “Great Bear Rainforest” in 1997 by environmentalists."

In the article, "The Great Bear loophole: why old growth is still logged in B.C.’s iconic protected rainforest", Jody Holmes, a biologist and project director with the Rainforest Solutions Project, spent years negotiating with the provincial government, forest companies, First Nations and others to help put in place new conservation areas and a different type of logging in the region. She says it is no accident that the iconic tree of the coastal temperate rainforest continues to be targeted.The 2016 agreement, Holmes now laments, “opened up an enormous loophole” that allowed the logging companies “to harvest every last stick of big, older trees,” while simultaneously claiming that they were meeting their conservation targets. “We’ve been pushing back on that for four years with the industry to absolutely no avail. In fact, they are fighting us tooth and claw on this one,” Holmes said. Other aspects of the Great Bear Rainforest agreement have opened up additional loopholes.The biggest of those are allowances that grant companies permission to build roads through nominally protected old-growth forests.


Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Deep Adaptation


 

Jem Bendell is a British professor of sustainability leadership and founder of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) at the University of Cumbria. In 2018, a climate paper by Professor Bendell went viral, being downloaded over a million times. It helped to launch a worldwide movement of people seeking to reduce harm in the face of societal disruption and collapse. Jem explains the concept of Deep Adaptation, how he developed the idea, what it means in practice, what he says to critics, and what his new book on the topic is about.

A published rebuttal to Bendell's original paper, from Jeremy Lent, disputes that collapse is inevitable and that other scenarios should be considered. Bendell's subsequent reply to Jeremy Lent emphasizes that the scale of the necessary changes are more than we can manage:"The wider destruction of the biosphere is itself a horror, is exacerbated by rapid climate change and drives species extinctions. The term “climate breakdown” has become popular in activist rhetoric but is not clear. A climate does not really “breakdown” – it changes. Sometimes it changes so fast that it leads to a breakdown in ecosystems. By which I mean a complex living system such as a forest, wetland, or hillside, shifts from one state to another, with a major change in the wildlife as well as nutrient and water cycling. To say rapid climate change “is merely a symptom of a larger crisis” misrepresents the specific existential threat involved."

Two years after the original 2018 Deep Adaptation paper was released, an updated version is now available, Revised 2nd Edition Released July 27th 2020:

"The approach of the paper is to analyse recent studies on climate change and its implications for our ecosystems, economies and societies, as provided by academic journals and publications direct from research institutes.That synthesis leads to my conclusion there will be a near-term collapse in society with serious ramifications for the lives of readers. The paper does not prove the inevitability of such collapse, which would involve further discussion of social, economic, political and cultural factors, but it proves that such a topic is of urgent importance. The paper reviews some of the reasons why collapse-denial may exist, in particular, in the professions of sustainability research and practice, therefore leading to these arguments having been absent from these reviews."

"It is a truism that we do not know what the future will be. But we can see trends. We do not know if the power of human ingenuity will help sufficiently to change the environmental trajectory we are on. Unfortunately, the recent years of innovation, investment and patenting indicate how human ingenuity has increasingly been channelled into consumerism and financial engineering. We might pray for time. But the evidence before us suggests that we are set for disruptive and probably uncontrollable levels of climate change, bringing starvation, destruction, migration, disease and war (Servigne and Stevens, 2020)."

The Deep Adaptation Forum is here.

 

Update 8/5/22: Don’t be a climate user – an essay on climate science communication

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Horror Show

 


 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has announced a new flagship UN report on climate change, indicating that harmful carbon emissions from 2010-2019 have never been higher in human history. This is proof that the world is on a “fast track” to disaster, António Guterres has warned, with scientists arguing that it’s ‘now or never’ to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

His latest statement opens with:

"We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degree limit agreed in Paris.
Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another.
Simply put, they are lying.
And the results will be catastrophic.
This is a climate emergency." 

In an op-ed article penned for the Washington Post, Mr. Guterres described the latest IPCC report as "a litany of broken climate promises", which revealed a "yawning gap between climate pledges, and reality." This is a major wakeup call for the governments of the world, which need to begin immediate actions on carbon emissions because many current carbon sources are not accounted for. The collective pledges so far would mean a 14 percent increase in emissions.

This plea to the world sets the stage for more urgency of action on carbon emissions, and a political imperative to look at the issue of how all countries of the globe must make drastic reductions in fossil fuel use. There are also questions as to whether the analysis of carbon emissions is accurate, because many of the revised scenarios are projecting more emissions when the models are analyzed, using more data and accounting for a more complete synthesis of elements not previously considered. We are beginning to see that we have actually surpassed the carbon budgets already, and it will bring about massive destructive events in the ecosystem in the coming years. The veil has been lifted, and we must now deal with those realities. "First and foremost, we must triple the speed of the shift to renewable energy. That means moving investments and subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables, now." 

Update 8/5/22: António Guterres is backing windfall taxes on “immoral” oil

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Pandora

 

First it was the Panama Papers. Then we saw the Paradise Papers leak in 2017. Now we have a massive leak, the Pandora Papers, revealing the secret assets of some of the world's most powerful figures. The so-called Pandora Papers consist of millions of leaked financial documents that were reviewed and analyzed for two years by more than a hundred news outlets, including The Washington Post and the BBC, that are part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

"In terms of raw size, the Pandora Papers leak, at 2.94 terabytes, is bigger than both Panama Papers (2.6 terabytes) and Paradise Papers (1.4 terabytes). If you go by the number of files, the Paradise Papers had more — 13.4 million files, compared to Pandora’s 11.9 million.

But there’s more to this leak than just size. The scope of Pandora Papers is far broader than anything ICIJ and its partners have seen before. The leak comes from 14 different offshore service providers and  includes far more beneficial ownership information and politicians and public officials than any previous leak."

This latest trove of data provides a takeaway revealing these secret tax havens in the United States, no longer just "Offshore". South Dakota was spotlighted in the investigation as a leading offshore tax haven that’s been used by current and former world leaders over the years.There were 81 trusts uncovered in South Dakota in the sweeping investigation as well 37 in Florida, 35 in Delaware, 24 in Texas and 14 in Nevada.

The ICIJ reported that state legislation in South Dakota over the years has helped allow for more more secretive investments.Lauren Kohr, senior director of anti-money laundering, Americas, at the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists, said South Dakota, Nevada, Delaware, Arkansas and Wyoming have a reputation as “onshore-offshore states.”

“The Pandora Papers provide details about tens of millions of dollars moved from offshore havens in the Caribbean and Europe into South Dakota,” the ICIJ said.The probe found that the family of Carlos Morales Troncoso, the former vice president of the Dominican Republic, began tucking away its assets in trusts in the Midwest state in 2019.

The family of Ecuador’s newly elected president, Guillermo Lasso, also shifted two offshore companies from Panama to trusts in South Dakota in 2017 after lawmakers passed legislation in Ecuador that made it illegal for public officials to use tax havens for shielding their assets. Lasso told the ICIJ that his previous offshore financial activity was been “legal and legitimate.”

Why is this relevant to the accelerating impact of climate change?  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. The scale of this situation is just absolutely monstrous, and is a lethal threat to the entire biosphere.


Monday, February 28, 2022

Code Red

 


Code Red means that we have an extreme climate emergency all over the planet. This has now been verified with science inputs comprising the latest UN report on the state of climate change and its impacts.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Programme to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

The IPCC does not conduct its own research. It identifies where there is agreement in the scientific community, where there are differences of opinion and where further research is needed. It is a partnership between scientists and policymakers and it is this that makes its work a credible source of information for policymakers. IPCC assessments are produced according to procedures that ensure integrity, in line with the IPCC’s overarching principles of objectivity, openness and transparency. IPCC reports are policy-relevant, but not policy-prescriptive.

The Sixth Assessment is now released, and the UN calls the IPCC issues ‘bleakest warning yet’ on the impacts of climate breakdown. It's Code Red for human driven global heating, warns the UN chief. The New Climate Change Report has come out with far more detail than previously laid out, because there's no avoiding the obvious current disintegration of the climate and our environment. It's ultimately the problem identification that we require to take immediate action to mitigate the most drastic impacts of our degraded planet.

 

The Guardian, a UK news site, has issued many articles on the alarming trends that are now being documented. Their summary of the IPCC climate change report and its significance is comprehensive, as well as bleak when it comes to the sheer urgency of addressing the massive build up of carbon in our ecosystem. The report noted that each additional fraction of warming had serious implications for life on Earth. The report laid out 127 of these threats, including the growing loss of usable farmland and increasing drought, which will threaten the global food supply, rising sea levels and floods, which are already driving tens of thousand of people from their homes, growing numbers of punishing deadly heat waves, and increasing extinction of plant and animal species.

The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F). Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. Risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements. This report has highlighted the extreme urgency with which fossil fuel must be brought to zero emissions; the current deadline is dated approximately by 2030 to preserve the natural world and its processes. 

It doesn't appear at this time that humans can make the 1.5C limit due to the disinformation propagated by the fossil fuel industry that has fatally slowed down human climate action.



Update 4/2/22: It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C

Update 4/4/22:  Earth hurtling toward a dangerous temperature limit, major climate report warns

Update 4/5/22: Climate Code Red


Monday, January 31, 2022

Herman Daly

 


Herman Daly was a Senior Economist in the Environment Department of the World Bank, where he helped to develop policy guidelines related to sustainable development. While there, he was engaged in environmental operations work in Latin America. He is closely associated with theories of a steady-state economy. He was a co-founder and associate editor of the journal, Ecological Economics.In 1989 Daly and John B. Cobb developed the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW), which they proposed as a more valid measure of socio-economic progress than gross domestic product.

The "Mobilization of the Human Family" symposium set up by John Cobb explored a land tax in early 2001 for a discussion a different form of taxation. The intent was to create a white paper for a system of taxes that would balance the needs of the common good with a fair tax system, and new taxes on pollution and depletion of resources. This was triggered by the regressive taxation policies of the Bush administration that began to grow the divide between the wealthy and the middle class. Discussion of this issue was moving apace, until the land value tax existing in Pittsburgh at that time was repealed in the spring. John has since moved on with larger visions of a theology of ecology and the writings of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne. His many books, articles and symposiums framing "new economics" have also been included in the series, "An Introduction to Ecological Economics".

Daly and Cobb co-published a book, "For the Common Good", which talks about redirecting the economy towards community and the environment. Currently, Daly's podcast, The Great Simplification, outlines a way to reform our economic systems to become integrated with the way natural systems work, to formulate a cooperative economic system that works with the energy flows in nature. In what he calls super organism economics, he proposes reforming national accounts. Separate GDP into a cost account and a benefits account so that throughput growth can be stopped when the marginal costs and the marginal benefits get out of sync.

Earlier articles that I've posted about the need to revise the GDP metric, or replace it, are "The GDP Chimera"  (2012) and subsequently, "Gross Domestic Product"  (2014). Scientific American has recently published "GDP Is the Wrong Tool for Measuring What Matters". It’s time to replace gross domestic product with real metrics of well-being and sustainability.

The development of the value assigned to natural systems has been evolving for a long time, with the current thinking laid out in books, two of which are "Value of the Earth" and "Valuing the Earth: Economics, Ecology, Ethic".

 

Update 7/30/22: Back in 2019, in his book “Growth,” Smil called on the world to abandon growth to ensure the habitability of the biosphere

Update 8/2/22:  Herman Daly says GDP metric isn't sustainable

Update 8/3/22:  Economics in a Full World by Herman Daly