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".


Saturday, December 18, 2021

A Thirteenth Year - We Dig In

 

The decade-long drought that impacted water supplies and fueled massive forest fires is still with us, although we've been seeing the rain again, a positive development for water storage in our parched land. Our forests have gone up in flames all summer, and the local urban forests and wildlands are dangerously dry. This has made climate change an urgent priority, and our state government in Sacramento is trying to push ahead with progressive policies that will mitigate carbon emissions by 2050. Even though we know that's not even half of what we'll ultimately have to do.

Our state policies have been informed by the UNFCCC COP deliberations, via former Governor Brown and now Governor Newsom. The architecture profession is moving ahead with educating its members and providing resources to bring emissions down from the construction sector.

CarbonPositive: Architecture’s Critical Role at COP26 - a formulation of strategy for the profession."COP is three parallel events. Of course, there are intergovernmental negotiations taking place in areas inaccessible to the public. Next, is the Blue Zone open to UN accredited delegations. Architecture 2030 is admitted as an “observer” organization with access to the Blue Zone. Finally, the Green Zone is open to the public. The Venn diagram of these three events has some overlap, but not much."

65% by 2030 / ZERO by 2040: Top 200 Global Firms and Organizations Lead With 1.5°C Climate Actions. By showing what's possible, we’ll embolden governments to do the same. The top 200 firms responsible for a significant portion of construction worldwide will present the bold actions they are taking to decarbonize the built world in order to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C carbon budget. It's one of the best discussions about the urgency of climate action presented to the public.

Carl Elefante FAIA, FAPT LEED AP a representative of the AIA at COP26, provides a summary of their dialogue over 10 days. "After a lifetime practicing architecture, I am hardwired to look for opportunities. Carbon-budgeting building projects and WLCA present many." His new podcast series from the IHBC raises awareness and understanding of how conservation philosophy and practice contributes towards meeting the challenge of climate change.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Contradiction at COP26

 

Advent is a time of reflection, remorse, and the preparation to move into a necessary future. As our world increasingly faces extreme climate events, we've got to cut emissions drastically within the next few years in order to keep from experiencing the worst impacts of our continuing carbon emissions. 

The biggest disappointment people have after COP26 in Glasgow is that it kept the world on track to blow past 1.5 and possibly even two degrees Celsius of warming, which is not what the Paris Agreement calls for. Given that we are now experiencing environmental collapse at 1C, the future appears dire, and demands increasingly strong countermeasures of resilience. These measures have been published by Ed Mazria FAIA, forty years ago, and was the beginning of the effort to bring the strategies to the construction industry. He has worked with the American Institute of Architecture to move the industry into the forefront of policies and recommendations necessary to forestall the impacts of climate change.

David Attenborough's opening speech at COP26 Glasgow was a clear challenge to the COP26 participants and delegates. He poignantly describes the unraveling processes that are causing destructive climate change. At a 60 minutes interview with Attenborough in 2020, he states: "Our generation has failed. We've allowed climate change to happen".

The UNFCCC provides a review of the processes at COP26 on their website. "A top priority for the UK Presidency and many countries was to finalise the ‘Paris Rulebook’ to fully operationalise the Paris Agreement. The Paris Rulebook sets out the detailed rules and systems to underpin delivery of the Paris Agreement, many of which were agreed at COP24in Poland. However, there were several issues where Parties held such strongly held different views that they had been unable to agree on these at previous COPs."

The Sierra Club has published "Prove Us Wrong": A Roundup of Some of the Best Speeches at COP26.

The Los Angeles Times presented a different view in their editorial. "The Glasgow climate summit brought only incremental progress." The London Greenleft was far more pessimistic about the summit on their blog:

"We saw an insurmountable contradiction and a source of chaos when China and the United States issued a joint statement at the COP. It will be of no use in breaking the deadlock. It is mainly a statement for the sake of appearances. The two great powers have an interest in posing together as the guarantors of the world’s stability and its climate. Perhaps they will try to collaborate on a partial aspect of climate policy (methane emissions?). But the underlying tensions are very strong and tend to deepen the conflicts. In the US, the Democratic majority is hanging by a thread with senior US Senator Joe Manchin (D) being the loyal friend of coal."

"The failure at Glasgow and what needs to happen next", by Peter Kalmus. Peter is a climate scientist at NASA's JPL in Pasadena and the author of “Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution.” And this from Greenpeace -“Scientists have found that governments’ current action plans would cause global temperatures to increase to 2.4 C, which would bring absolute devastation to hundreds of millions of people and ecosystems around the world,” Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, said in an interview at COP26. “So waiting five years to come back to the table is not an option.”

Climate activist Vanessa Nakate of Uganda had this to say near the end of the sessions: "One of the deepest disappointments for the climate-justice movement was the almost total failure to deal with fossil fuels. Negotiators had flirted with confronting the fossil fuel industry head-on — a key issue previous COPs had dodged — only to back off at the last minute. Whereas an early draft had straightforwardly called for a phaseout of coal power and fuel subsidies, the final version suggested only a phasedown of “unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies,” draining the statement of any meaning.

The many voices did not come to a resolution, but the hope is that next year's COP27 will develop some definitive positions.


Sunday, October 31, 2021

Emergency


This is a "climate emergency" declare 11,000 plus scientists from 153 countries. Climate change "chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable" This November 2019 paper was released via Bioscience Magazine.

California is experiencing the specific climate impacts with a long, exceptional drought and massive wildfires, along with a vanishing winter snowpack that normally piles up by the end of winter in the mountainous northern part of the state.

"People regularly discuss California when talking about long-term drought, particularly because the state often experiences prolonged water shortages. Some experts believe that rather than going through brief non-drought periods, the state is actually enduring a so-called emerging megadrought and has been for the last two decades.

Research conducted in 2020 examined nine Western U.S. states and parts of Mexico. The team started by looking at ancient droughts dating back to 800 A.D. It then scrutinized soil moisture records associated with observed weather events from 2000-2018.

Park Williams, a bioclimatologist and associate professor at UCLA involved with the study, remarked, “This drought that we’re in now over the last 22 years has been as severe as the worst 22-year periods of the worst megadroughts that occurred last millennium."

The climate projections for 2500, published in TheConversation, show an Earth that is alien to humans.

Anthropogenic activity is changing Earth's climate and ecosystems in ways that are potentially dangerous and disruptive to humans. Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere continue to rise, ensuring that these changes will be felt for centuries beyond 2100, the current benchmark for projection. Estimating the effects of past, current, and potential future emissions to only 2100 is therefore short-sighted.

These bleak scenarios are well on their way to becoming real in a "business as usual" projection. There does not appear to be a collective will to put the necessary carbon reduction strategies in place to avoid the near-future devastation that humanity, and our ecosystem that supports life, is facing.

 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Realpolitic


The politics of dealing with climate change solutions and the implementation of carbon reduction in various industries around the world has been so difficult that our global emissions have continued to climb, putting the entire world in serious danger. The COP meetings via the UNFCCC have so far failed to produce quantifiable results in the negotiations of the parties, largely due to intransigence by the major nations - US, China, the UK and Russia. The real work to implement these policies hasn't been undertaken as policy. Some groups have begun to put out policy frameworks to move climate change implementation into the real world.


The Wilson Center, is an independent think tank based in Washington, DC that examines specific topics and their global impacts for review by policymakers and organizations and the public. Topics they cover are listed on their website, which are extensive and relevant, such as
Foreign Policy is Climate Policy - a report from the Wilson Center. Published September 2020, Updated March 2021. A part of their report relates to the emergency of carbon reduction in the immediate future.

"A strong warning of the immediate urgency of implementing climate change policies is a call from UN Chief Antonio Guterrez that the planet is heating more quickly than current models have predicted: "Speaking at the launch of a U.N.-backed report summarizing current efforts to tackle climate change, Guterres said recent extreme weather — from Hurricane Ida in the United States to floods in western Europe and the deadly heatwave in the Pacific Northwest — showed no country is safe from climate-related disasters.

“These changes are just the beginning of worse to come,” he said, appealing to governments to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord.“Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we will be unable to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit),” said Guterres. “The consequences will be catastrophic.”

A very specific topic development in another report that has just been issued is the massive threat of climate change.Geostrategic Competition and Climate Change: Avoiding the Unmanageable by Robert S. Litwak on September 15, 2021. "Humanity is at an inflection point as it faces the twin threats of climate change and nuclear war. An historical vignette offers perspective. During the 1985 Geneva summit, President Ronald Reagan privately asked Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev if the two superpowers could suspend their Cold War differences and unite if the Earth was invaded by aliens. Today the world faces the functional equivalent in climate change. The most vital issue in international relations is whether the great powers can take concerted action to avert climate catastrophe—or will allow unconstrained geostrategic competition to undermine that urgent necessity."

Taylor & Francis Online has some comprehensive articles on Environmental Politics. This is an organization that is a reputable international publisher which publishes hundreds of journals and thousands of books. They publish and host some of the top-cited journals in different scientific fields. Their research on sources used by the US congress in their history of climate change debates is outlined in a recent article published on August 25, 2021: Weaponizing economics: Big Oil, economic consultants, and climate policy delay.

"For decades, the fossil fuel industry has hired economic consultants to help weaken and delay US and international climate policy. Among them, the economic consultants of Charles River Associates played a key role, helping to undermine carbon pricing, international climate agreements, and other climate policies from the early 1990s onward. The work of these economists was often portrayed to the public as independent, when in fact it was funded by the fossil fuel industry, and their models were incomplete and biased in favor of continued fossil fuel use. Yet their conclusions often passed without challenge and eventually came to represent a significant part of conventional economic wisdom.

Research on the climate change counter-movement has traditionally focused on documenting the promotion of disinformation regarding climate science (Brulle 2014, Franta 2021). While such disinformation has played a crucial role in delaying effective climate policy, the fossil fuel industry and broader climate change counter-movement have also made frequent use of economic arguments to justify inaction. At the same time, the fossil fuel industry has made substantial investments in influential climate economics programs across the US. Further attention is needed on the role of economists and particular economic paradigms, doctrines, and models within climate politics and the perpetuation of fossil fuels."

The political diplomacy which needs to be carried out by the US is tasked to John Kerry, the US  Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. Key workstreams and focus areas for the Special Presidential Envoy’s team include: constructive engagement in the Paris Agreement and related agreements and processes; driving global greenhouse gas emission reductions so as to keep a 1.5 degree Celsius limit on temperature rise within reach; enhancing adaptation and resilience to climate impacts; climate-aligning financial flows; driving overseas clean energy innovation and competitiveness; and better integrating climate and other areas, including the ocean, biodiversity, the Arctic, and international shipping and aviation activities. This is an extensive policy on the climate crisis which has specific urgent measures for getting to zero carbon. So we shall have to measure the outcomes of COP26 in Glasgow by the implementation of the US policies in the real world.



Monday, August 30, 2021

The Guns of August

 

 


This title seems appropriate, given that it's the name of a book that examines the historic factors leading to the start of WWI.

The IPCC report is a dire warning delivered with an urgency not expressed in previous reports. The key to climate politics is guaranteeing fossil fuel workers no loss in salary as sustainable energy replaces carbon-based fuel – and this would cost “a pittance” says Robert Pollin on the Analysis.news with Paul Jay:

"The U.S. military is the global largest emitter of emissions. The point being, that to finance scale-level investments in a new clean energy economy, which is — and I take that as part of the sixth assessment report. I think it’s more emphasized in that one than prior ones. That is the first project. We can talk about all kinds of new fancy things. But unless we’re willing to cut carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels and transforming into a clean energy system, then there’s nothing really else that we can do.

So we have to stop burning oil, coal, natural gas, and we use the technologies we have that work fine. That is renewable energy and efficiency."

An analysis published by The Conversation in June of 2019 reveals the scope of the US military impact on climate change:

"Greenhouse gas emission accounting usually focuses on how much energy and fuel civilians use. But recent work, including our own, shows that the US military is one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries. If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, sitting between Peru and Portugal."

"It’s no coincidence that US military emissions tend to be overlooked in climate change studies. It’s very difficult to get consistent data from the Pentagon and across US government departments. In fact, the United States insisted on an exemption for reporting military emissions in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This loophole was closed by the Paris Accord."

Another report from about the same time out of Brown University, "Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War", digs into the climate pollution from the U.S. Department of Defence (DOD). This includes the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and other defence agencies. This report is used to compare the emissions from the DOD to the computed emissions projected from the Alberta oilsands.

"This chart also lets you see how the oilsands’ pollution surge has accelerated over time. The oilsands added a half tonne per Canadian in the 15 years up to 2005. Then the industry added twice as much climate pollution per Canadian over the next 12 years.

As a result, the oilsands industry is now a ten times greater climate burden for each Canadian, than the U.S. military is per American."

So the US Military is now eclipsed by Canada's oilsands in Alberta, another massive source of carbon emissions that are not included in the computations for emissions and per capita assignments. This is a very, very serious issue that somehow never gets on the table. Without accurate accounting for all fossil fuel emissions, it's nearly impossible to create an accurate carbon framework back at the UN level. And thus all efforts come to naught.