Saturday, December 24, 2022

Harmonics of the Shift

The critically important task for us at this time is dealing with the necessity of stopping carbon emissions from human activity almost immediately. The situation facing all of us is how to find the way to stop carbon emissions as soon as we can. The current level of carbon emissions can't continue because we've nearly crossed the climate thresholds that mark irreversible damage to the biosphere that can't be undone.

We are beginning to see a changing policy environment which is leading the manufacturing and supply chains to provide electrified buildings and electric cars, as well as power generation with wind turbines and solar panels. This is a necessarily massive shift, which will take decades to completely implement, but that can be an achievable effort by the first world countries to shut down their historically excessive carbon emissions. We're twenty years behind in this necessary effort, so it has become more difficult to accomplish. But it's still achievable if it's done as a rapid global effort to repair the damage that human civilization has done.

But can we do this in time? That task of rapid electrification that's facing us is daunting. America’s next big climate conundrum is the slow electric transmission project implementation that hinders rapid adaptation. It begins to look like the electric grid infrastructure will necessarily have to be rebuilt so that the added new clean power can take the place of fossil fuels without destabilizing the whole grid.

Congress has now passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and expanded the tax credits available to incentivize low-carbon electricity. Economics, policy, and public demand are now all aligned in favor of clean energy. This is just the first step in necessary legislation to implement solar and wind power and adapt the grid to handle this new energy. "If not addressed, transmission project delays caused by factors like an onerous permitting process could dramatically hamper America’s clean energy rollout and thus its ability to cut pollution fast enough to meet the country’s Paris commitments."

We need more than hope, we must begin significant work to change our way of life.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

A Fourteenth Year - Exceptional Drought



The western United States' drought continues to worsen. The garden is dry as a bone, and the watering restrictions make it difficult to keep the plants going. We are allowed to water our trees, which are struggling. That this is the inexorable result of burning of fossil fuels is no longer any doubt. It will continue to worsen, and in an accelerating pace. The heating of our planet will continue because the carbon content of the atmosphere is approaching levels not seen in millions of years, and emissions show no sign of slowing.

Exposing Massive Threats from Permian Basin Development: The six-part Permian Climate Bomb series explores the ongoing oil, gas and petrochemical boom in the Permian Basin, a story of runaway toxic infrastructure, environmental injustice and climate overshoot. 

"This series analyzes the climate, public health, economic and social impacts of the Permian fracking boom. It illuminates the Permian Basin's link to environmental injustice and petrochemical expansion on the Gulf Coast. The report also follows the flow of Permian hydrocarbons to export markets. Finally, it gives voice to the impact fossil fuel infrastructure places on communities, spotlighting the individuals confronting the oil and gas industry in the region."

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Darkness Descends


 The Christian season of Advent countenances expectation, hope, joy and purity in the lighting of candles, culminating in a moment of reverence on Christmas Day. The hopes and expectations of the future during this century are continuing to be focused on the climate crisis of our time. It becomes more and more fraught as the COP climate summits pass without concrete actions and benchmarks.

The Wilson Center is a think tank that provides input and public education on policy positions. In its Environmental Change and Security Program, it lays out some high-level issues and possible engagement strategies on climate change as it is dealt with at the global level. The video interview with Ruth Greenspan Bell makes a very clear position that the US has damaged its influence and negotiating strategies with the four year intransigence of the Trump administration. Not only that, but as a result we have now lost the Arctic. As in "finis".

Her article in The Daily Climate makes the argument that the COP process via the UN hasn't produced any substantive agreements or strategies for reducing the carbon emissions that are destroying planetary systems.

"Carbon emissions might have been worse without this annual attention [COP meetings], but it’s hard to escape that the current pathway is essentially business as usual.

What is the return on value of almost 30 years of meetings? We’ve seen record-breaking increases in global average atmospheric carbon dioxide and little progress toward concrete support for poor countries that suffer the most from the climate’s radical changes, though they contributed the least to the destruction.

It might be time to strip away the parts of this annual ritual that have value and jettison the rest."

Emily Atkin is a blogger on Substack who is an environmental reporter and writer, best known for founding the weekly climate newsletter HEATED. It is dedicated to original accountability reporting and analysis on the climate crisis. Her article, "How fossil fuel influence choked climate talks" is very clear about how the climate talks have broken down because of interference by the fossil fuel companies. She has provided further background in the links below her article, it's very dismal. Her summation of COP27 is:

"We are fast-approaching the deadline for limiting warming to safe levels. Yet we are still living in a political and media environment where the vast majority of people don’t mention fossil fuels when they talk about climate change.

That’s not a coincidence; it’s by design. The fossil fuel industry is fighting tooth and nail to deny the truth of their responsibility. As long as they’re allowed at global climate talks, that’s what they’ll continue to do."

The biggest fear is that the fossil fuel corporations will completely derail any global consensus about how to stop the carbon emissions that are so destructive to our ecosystem. This isn't some kind of normal negotiation which allows for "compromise". It is complete and utter destruction of the biosphere; there can be no compromise on the goals and methods. 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Dawning of the Light

Ahead of COP27 in Egypt, it has dawned on everyone in the climate modeling refinement and measured data from all over the world that there isn't any more room in the carbon allowance space to stay within the parameters agreed to by the UNFCCC to keep the warming of the planet below 1.5C. This problem is particularly wicked because emissions have not even peaked yet, according to the stats provided by the EIA. World energy use via fossil fuels simply keeps increasing.

"UN finds ‘no credible pathway to 1.5C in place’ in the current climate crisis. Current pledges for action by 2030, if delivered in full, would mean a rise in global heating of about 2.5C and catastrophic extreme weather around the world. A rise of 1C to date has caused climate disasters in locations from Pakistan to Puerto Rico."

It remains to be seen if COP27 in Egypt in November brings any action to bear on carbon reduction processes or practices. It doesn't seem like things are going to change much. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has said she will skip next month's COP27 talks in Egypt, criticising the global summit as a forum for addressing climate change.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Building Industry Climate Action


The building industry is currently leading its climate action by developing standards and practices that decarbonize the physical construction of new and existing structures and infrastructure, as well as electrifying all energy use. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is currently developing its national design criteria via the Committee on The Environment (COTE).

The basis for this approach is a published study done by the Worthen Foundation, for use by the industry: 

"Reducing and eliminating carbon emissions from the built environment — building decarbonization — is one of the best opportunities to combat climate change today. The built environment contributes approximately 40% of overall climate emissions, and the technologies necessary to decarbonize buildings are already proven. The William J. Worthen Foundation's Building Decarbonization Practice Guide is a free resource for design professionals, developers, funders, and policymakers, showing the steps that are required today to create a zero carbon future."

The AIA is developing the framework for building decarbonization and electrification for use by the profession, in concert with Architecture 2030.

"To support the 2030 Challenge, the American Institute of Architects created the 2030 Commitment Program, aimed at transforming the practice of architecture to respond to the climate crisis in a way that is holistic, firm-wide, project-based, and data-driven. Over 400 A/E/P firms have adopted the 2030 Commitment, and firms from all over the country have been tracking and reporting projects since 2010, with over 2.7 billion ft2 of project work reported in 2016 alone."

The architecture profession isn't waiting around for the US to adopt a formal framework along with the other countries around the globe, it's been underway for years now. The AIA is developing coursework for professionals that provide the resources and training necessary to meet the framework objectives.AIA California is leading this charge with developing coursework and Building Code revisions so that adoption is rapid and comprehensive.

"According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the time for climate action is now. Architects play a crucial role in mitigating and adapting to climate change through sustainable and resilient design. Energy efficiency and renewable energy, materials transparency, the protection of water resources, and other sustainability strategies support mitigation by conserving resources and reducing carbon emissions."

The AIA was in attendance at COP26 and will also be present at COP27 in Egypt this November.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Climate Change: New Risks



Our warming planet is impacting the built environment as well as the natural systems, which are beginning to disintegrate. It's not just the increasing impact of burning forests and major flooding on structures that result in ongoing severe damage to entire communities now. It means that structures and traffic infrastructure will necessarily reduce their carbon content in the larger efforts to combat the increasing "forcing" of carbon emissions globally. The American Institute of Architects has taken an aggressive position on this with its 2030 Challenge, which changes how building types and construction materials are used in new construction.

This involves revising the building codes to raise the bar for decarbonization of the entire supply chain for construction and development. California is currently in the process of doing this. The insurance industry is also looking at increased risks for climate change damages, which will only increase. On the proactive side of this action is a shift in the professional liabilities involved with the design of building projects and infrastructure development. This is known as the "standard of care" that applies to licensed professionals. 

"A new report released by the Scalable Climate Action Group within the institute’s Strategic Council looks at levers of change that can potentially bring about widespread climate-change actions. These levers include climate literacy; environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investments; and policy changes. Also on the list is professional liability associated with neglecting climate concerns during design."

This reflects a changing policy environment which is leading the manufacturing and supply chains to provide electrified buildings and electric cars, as well as power generation with wind turbines and solar panels. This is a necessarily massive shift, which will take decades to completely implement, but that can be an achievable effort by the first world countries to shut down their historically excessive carbon emissions. We're twenty years behind in this necessary effort, so it has become more difficult to accomplish. But it's still achievable if it's done as a rapid global effort to repair the damage that human civilization has done.

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