Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Science/Technology

 


The largest database on earth, Google, has now trained its sights on our planet, using its developed Google Earth platform to integrate information across time and place to show how we have RADICALLY changed this planet in a few centuries, and not for the better. The Google maps are now integrated with satellite databases to render the changes in our planet over a timescape of 35 years or so. Its very simple to jump to the navigation dashboard and view the resulting videos.

From Google: 

"As far as we know, Timelapse in Google Earth is the largest video on the planet, of our planet. And creating it required out-of-this-world collaboration. This work was possible because of the U.S. government and European Union’s commitments to open and accessible data. Not to mention their herculean efforts to launch rockets, rovers, satellites and astronauts into space in the spirit of knowledge and exploration. Timelapse in Google Earth simply wouldn’t have been possible without NASA and the United States Geological Survey’s Landsat program, the world’s first (and longest-running) civilian Earth observation program, and the European Union’s Copernicus program with its Sentinel satellites."

 From Tom's Guide:

"Try it for yourself, and you may not like what you see. Watching the Timelapse unfold is a pretty shocking experience, especially in areas such as the Amazon rainforest, where untold devastation is happening as land is deforested and repurposed for farming. Seeing just much the ice is melting in places like Antarctica and Alaska is similarly depressing.

Naturally, Google will be updating Timelapse every year from now on, and it promises to keep it updated for at least another decade. That way, we’ll be able to continue to see how our planet is changing, and what human beings are doing to continually mess the whole place up."

This new time-based planetary exploration takes the standard NASA time lapse to a new dimension, which shows the changes in nature as well as the expansion of urban sprawl. Previously, this time-lapse video crammed 20 years of Earth into just a few minutes. Google helped scientists learn a lot more about global warming and how the earth is changing.

Fortunately, with the new Biden administration preparing to address the climate issues with tremendous reserves of science analysis and highly structured data, there's a ray of hope that capitalist "business as usual" is no longer the prevailing norm. There's now hope for a livable future, with a focus on competent solutions to the horrific global problems that threaten the planet's existence.


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Ecocide

 


The idea of ecocide first gained vital worldwide consideration in 1972, when Swedish prime minister, Olof Palme, addressing the UN Stockholm Convention on the Human Setting, referred to as for a global crime of ecocide, primarily in response to US use of chemical weapons within the Vietnam Battle. Nevertheless, when the Rome Statute was ratified in 1998, creating the ICC, environmental crimes weren’t included. In 2010, lawyer and environmental campaigner Polly Higgins lobbied the UN to create a global crime of ecocide. Though the UN rejected her argument, in 2016 the ICC mentioned it might assess cases of environmental destruction as ‘crimes in opposition to humanity’.

Because the detrimental results of worldwide warming have intensified, so too has political momentum in favor of criminalizing ecosystem destruction. In 2019, island-states Vanuatu and the Maldives urged the ICC’s Meeting of States Events to recognize the crime of ecocide. This name was echoed by Swedish parliamentarians, who requested SEF to draft a definition of ecocide.

Philippe Sands, QC, an international law specialist, professor and author, went on a rare lockdown trip on Nov. 20, 2020 to attend a ceremony in Germany marking the 75th anniversary of the opening day of the Nuremberg trials.The commemoration was held in the historic wood-panelled courtroom 600 of the Palace of Justice, where the trials of Nazi leaders, which established the principles of international justice, were heard. Sands was invited by the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to the event, which opened with an address from Ben Ferencz, the last living Nuremburg prosecutor, now aged 100.

A documentary about Ben Ferencz and his astonishing 75-year career arc is available via streaming on Netflix, "Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz". He was part of the Allied troops in 1945 with the US Army that liberated the concentration camps. As part of his work with the Army, he participated in the horrific task of removing and identifying the skeletal corpses in these camps that he is still unable to talk about today.

Ferencz says the legacy of the trials remains to be seen. “Hopefully, it will recognise that the crimes described in the case were so horrendous that we cannot risk repeating them anywhere at any time.”

Despite the ongoing violence in the world, Phillipe Sands, who is co-chair of a panel drafting a legal definition of ecocide as a potential international crime, says “the ideas that came from [the trials] inspire us to look to the future”. “It’s a long game,” he says. “The revolution doesn’t happen overnight – we will get there.”

"Ecocide - Voices from Paradise"  is a video that successfully illustrates how willful ignorance continues the damage begun by an oil spill. Extras include a featurette on efforts to make ecocide an international crime. 

The cause of Ecocide has been taken up by Extinction Rebellion and also led by Jonathan Fuller's activism protests towards the reporting done by the BBC.  He wrote an article last year on what has changed in the media's reporting of the climate and ecological crisis. Jon Fuller's twitter feed can be found extensively on Twitter, and the Extinction Rebellion site is here.

 

Update 3/6/21: Indigenous groups sue French retailer over destruction of Amazon rainforest


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A New Day

 

January 6, 2021
Commentary from Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Governor of California

 


January 20, 2021  The color of womanpower!



Friday, December 18, 2020

A Twelfth Year - Bone Dry

 


Typically Southern California's wet winter weather sets in during the month of November. This year, there has been NO RAIN. It's an ugly portent for our future, with an ominous potential for even worse wildfires than we have seen this past year. Visions of water rationing and massive rate increases are now in the offing.

It's imperative for global cooperation to happen right now for potentially getting to zero carbon emissions. ""This decade is a moment of choice unlike any we have ever lived," says  Christiana Figueres, the architect of the historic 2015 Paris Agreement.  The daughter of Costa Rica's beloved President José Figueres Ferrer,  she shares how her father's unwillingness to lose the country he loved  taught her how stubborn optimism can catalyze action and change. With an  unshakeable determination to fight for the generations that will come  after us, Figueres describes what stubborn optimism is (and isn't) --  and urges everyone to envision and work for the future they want for  humanity."

The United Nations, United Kingdom and France were proud to co-host the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 on Nov. 1 - 12, in partnership with Chile and Italy. This is a monumental step on the road to the UK-hosted COP26 next November in Glasgow. The COP26 summit brought parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The COP26 Presidency will demonstrate the urgency and the opportunities of the journey towards a zero carbon economy and the power of international cooperation to address the gravest challenges the world faces.

Many countries are also still pouring money into high-CO2 activities as they strive to recover from the coronavirus crisis and recession. Guterres noted that G20 countries were spending 50% more in their stimulus packages on fossil fuels and CO2-intensive sectors than they were on low-CO2 energy.


The UK will stop funding overseas fossil fuel projects.“This is unacceptable,” Guterres told the online Climate Ambition Summit, co-hosted by the UN, the UK and France. “The trillions of dollars needed for Covid recovery is money that we are borrowing from future generations. This is a moral test. We cannot use these resources to lock in policies that burden future generations with a mountain of debt on a broken planet.”

More than 70 world leaders, civil society activists, business chiefs and city mayors attended the Climate Ambition Summit, which marks five years since the landmark Paris climate agreement.
 

The US awaits the re-entry to the Paris Climate Agreement in January, when the Biden administration plans to officially align its climate policies with the global agreement. Although California is not waiting for federal policy to take effect. It has positioned itself for leadership in climate policy. Other states are beginning to implement different aspects of getting off of fossil fuels. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced that over the next five years, the state’s $226 billion employee pension fund would divest fossil fuel stocks and shares of other companies that do not meet the fund’s new target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. This is a huge win in the divestment space.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Gloaming

 

 

It's time now to prepare for and remember the year-ago promise of Advent with the knowing that forces are coalescing around the globe and in the US which are countermanding the denial and obstruction we see at the highest levels of global climate interaction. Groundwork has been laid, players identified, and industries have begun mobilization.

A year ago, John Kerry, the former senator and secretary of state, formed a new bipartisan coalition of world leaders, military brass and Hollywood celebrities to push for public action to combat climate change.The name, World War Zero, is supposed to evoke both the national security threat posed by the earth’s warming and the type of wartime mobilization that Mr. Kerry argued would be needed to stop the rise in carbon emissions before 2050. The star-studded group is supposed to win over those skeptical of the policies that would be needed to accomplish that. Now, under the nascent Biden administration cabinet, these policies are stirring to life with the appointment of Kerry as special presidential envoy for climate.

This clears the way for the US to rejoin the Paris Agreement of COP21 and establish leadership on building a future of zero carbon with the worldwide community of nations. The number of commitments to reach net zero emissions has doubled in less than a year, with many in the Race to Zero by 2050. According to a report by the Data-Driven EnviroLab and the NewClimate Institute, published during Climate Week NYC, that includes cities and regions covering more than the combined GDP of Japan, India and the UK, and companies with a combined revenue of over $11.4 trillion (equivalent to more than half of the US GDP). This shows that climate action has continued unimpeded by Covid-19. This joins with work in place and underway by the private foundations of Michael Bloomberg, Al Gore and Bill Gates, among many others, that have been focused on seeding efforts to implement carbon neutrality in time to avoid the worst of the impacts of climate change, which is set at a maximum of 1.5C by the Paris Agreement.

The architecture profession, along with the construction industry in the US, has risen to the challenge of implementing the requirements of carbon net zero in its construction practices. The American Institute of Architects (AIA), in concert with Architecture 2030, has incorporated tools and strategies for the industry to begin moving ahead with immediate carbon reduction in its construction materials and practices as well as significant carbon sequestration. The basis for this work is the 2017 Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), Volume I, a comprehensive, multi-year scientific analysis under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Very specifically, this work done by the AIA involves the evolution of its Committee on the Environment (COTE) into an overarching Framework for Design Excellence which guides the design and construction of resilient and carbon neutral projects. This goes beyond the operational carbon reduction used by the US Green Building criteria (LEED) and encompasses embodied carbon as well as water re-use and building electrification. The site and its landscaping are also contributors to carbon absorption.

The goals are that these strategies, as well as a calculation for embodied carbon in a project will bring the construction industry into closer compliance with global carbon emissions requirements. The EC3 tool is the first free tool that allows for supply chain specific analysis of embodied carbon data, utilizing the first searchable and sortable database of all United States and Canadian Environmental Product Declarations for concrete, steel, wood, glass, aluminum, insulation, gypsum, carpet and ceiling tiles.

Because the building sector is currently responsible for 39% of global energy related carbon emissions: 28% from operational emissions, from energy needed to heat, cool and power them, and the remaining 11% from materials and construction, the World Green Building Council has a call to action with the new requirements:

  • By 2030, all new buildings, infrastructure and renovations will have at least 40% less embodied carbon with significant upfront carbon reduction, and all new buildings are net zero operational carbon.
  • By 2050, new buildings, infrastructure and renovations will have net zero embodied carbon, and all buildings, including existing buildings must be net zero operational carbon. 

So we embark on a new course together with the world community to put actual practices in place for the reduction of carbon emissions to zero and a new sensibility for the value of the natural world no longer at the mercy of GDP economics.

 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Dead Reckoning

 


The determination of the the lethal turning point on carbon emissions has become fraught with the recent admission by the IPCC that existing models have not accounted for the feedback effects from nature as the planet warms. The speed with which the carbon emissions are ramping up, and the "drift" from this has made it abundantly clear that we are experiencing a climate emergency that current models didn't predict. In order to have any impact on future solutions the course correction involved makes it necessary to head for zero carbon by 2036.

Rolling Stone has authored a special issue featuring a biography of Greta Thunberg, the young girl who has famously made it her mission to force her elders to actually do something about the carbon emissions, the lack of a carbon framework not withstanding. The image above is their magazine cover.

The Guardian's view on the climate catastrophe facing Earth - an editorial - echoes the critique of our current situation:

"The scientists had been charged by the IPCC, which had been set up two years earlier, with establishing whether climate change was a real prospect and, if it was, to look at the main drivers of that threat. They concluded, in a report released in August 1990, that the menace was real and that coal, gas and oil would be the principal causes of global heating. Unless controls were imposed on their consumption, temperature rises of 0.3C a decade would be occurring in the 21st century, bringing havoc in their wake.

Three decades later, it is clear that we have recklessly ignored that warning. Fossil fuels still supply 80% of the world’s energy, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue to rise and global temperatures are still increasing. According to Met Office statistics, there was a 0.14C increase in global temperatures in the decade that followed publication of the first assessment report. This was then followed by a 0.2C increase in each of the following two decades. The world could easily heat by 3C by the end of the century at this rate, warn scientists."

James Hansen calls out the still-increasing carbon emissions which currently have not decreased at all, despite his advocacy for over 30 years while he was with the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. Our planet is in deep peril, after complete inaction after his June 23, 1988 white paper that raised the alarm about carbon emissions. The subsequent Kyoto Protocol was finally amended in 1997 and was signed by President Clinton, only to have George W. Bush withdraw the United States from the Kyoto Protocol in Mar. 2001 due to Senate opposition.

The climate policy push is at risk of stalling on a national level as well. The U.K. scaled back plans to put environment at the center of its budget in April. Spain, which has made climate change a central part of its political agenda, halted all legislative activity for at least two weeks and declared a  state of emergency in early March due to COVID-19. Despite the temporary setbacks, European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen said in March that the European Union remains committed to its Green Deal, a moonshot plan to make the bloc carbon neutral by 2050.

Per Scientific American, leaders in the U.S. must shift their mindset from one focused on an end goal of “decarbonizing ourselves by 2050 and pressuring other countries to do the same” to one of “scaling up every necessary clean system (by much sooner than 2050, so each has time to roll out fully around the world once cheap enough) to make decarbonization affordable worldwide.”



 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Deforestation

 

Carbon sequestration is an important part of the equation for reducing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere in accordance with the Paris Agreement. One aspect of this agreement has just been addressed by California Governor Gavin Newsom. One of the main causes of global climate change is the destruction of natural ecosystems — for example, deforestation and unsustainable land conversion for agriculture. Deforestation destroys 13 million hectares (32 million acres) of forest every year — an area the size of North Carolina — adding more carbon to the atmosphere than the sum total of all the cars and trucks in the world.

California and the U.S. Forest Service have established a shared long-term strategy to manage forests and rangelands, Office of the Governor Reports. This agreement will improve coordination to reduce wildfire risks on federal and state lands. Funding is included in the federal Great American Outdoors Act recently signed on August 4 by the President of the United States. A summary is here.

The press release is as follows:

A historical transition toward unnaturally dense forests, a century of fire suppression and climate change resulting in warmer, hotter and drier conditions have left the majority of California’s forestland highly vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire and in need of active, science-based management. Since the federal government owns nearly 58 percent of California’s 33 million acres of forestlands, while the state owns 3 percent, joint state-federal management is crucial to California’s overall forest health and wildfire resilience.

Improved coordination also is key since nearly half of the state dollars invested in fuels management in recent years was spent on federal land. 

“Wildfires don’t stop at jurisdictional boundaries. As we respond to wildfires in real-time this summer, improving coordination between the major stewards of California’s forested land will help us protect communities and restore forest health across California,” Governor Gavin Newsom said. “We are grateful to secure the U.S. Forest Service’s commitment to help us more effectively address the scale of California’s current wildfire crisis.”

“Collaboration between state and federal agencies on issues of forest health and resiliency is critical,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “The Forest Service is fortunate to collaborate on restoration projects across the state and share science and research to address issues to help care for the land and serve people. We are excited to expand our partnership with California to enhance our collaboration though this Shared Stewardship agreement with California.”

The Shared Stewardship Agreement builds on existing coordination between state and federal agencies, and outlines six core principles and nine specific actions that will drive improved state-federal collaboration.

“In a key step to improve stewardship of California’s forests, the Newsom Administration and the U.S. Forest Service today announced a new joint state-federal initiative to reduce wildfire risks, restore watersheds, protect habitat and biological diversity, and help the state meet its climate objectives.  The Agreement for Shared Stewardship of California’s Forest and Rangelands includes a commitment by the federal government to match California’s goal of reducing wildfire risks on 500,000 acres of forest land per year. To protect public safety and ecology, experts agree that at least one million acres of California forest and wildlands must be treated annually across jurisdictions.