Tuesday, January 31, 2012


This 1996 piece by the electronic composer Vangelis is set to a marvelous video of the shore off of Oregon. The coastal surf is part of the sound track of this composition built around the acoustic piano.

Oregon's coast is being impacted by global climate change which is now producing permanent dead zones in this offshore area as well as increasing flooding events along the rivers in Western Oregon. The state has responded to these environmental changes by implementing responsive public policies that arise from studies of its emissions, particularly that of the ports and shipping. That portal is here.

A key document in this portal is the Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework, dated December 2010, which lays out a framework for climate risks, surveys the capacity of the state, and outlines needed actions. This kind of tool is the most effective way to set a course of action to rapidly reverse the carbon emissions causing this climate change and the diminishment of diversity in the natural world. This reflects a far more enlightened growth management approach than you'll find in California. Portland, Oregon has been one of the early adopters of limited growth and integrated transit in a famous experiment in urban boundaries, as well as implementing rain garden systems.

Until next month, then.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


The President's State of the Union speech tonight was a true breath of fresh air, especially in its emphasis on the responsibility of all parties to a pact or an effort to put real, factual information on the table, achieve consensus and accept the consequences of their actions.

A very large part of our problem of dealing with global carbon emissions is the subversion of the entire climate change issue by those who would simply deny science, withhold information and abandon all liabilities for actions that continue to create this problem. There's no accountability on the part of the fossil fuel industry for any of the activities that it pursues in the name of providing energy. All risks are denied or minimized, or information is suppressed to escape any of these very real and very major issues surrounding carbon emissions and pollution. It's come to the point where even a simple request for information from the U.S. Department of Energy is being sued over a Freedom of Information Act to force it to comply with the requirements of the U.S. Congress.

At issue in this case is the very intense water usage of power production; specifically the nearly trillion gallons of water used by coal plant cooling systems each year that represents over 2000 gallons for each person in the U.S. The data being withheld is critically needed in order to allow Congress to make policy decisions about the costs and benefits of power production in the US. This is in the name of coal profits, of course.

The oil companies have, for years, also engaged in a concerted effort to suppress information and facts about the impact of greenhouse gasses on the planet's atmosphere and ecosystems. But this creates a liability that may very well come back to haunt these companies and put complete liability exposure at their door. An article by Christine Shearer lays out how this question of deliberate information suppression could play out in the courts.

She starts her timeline of the study of emissions history with:

Research on climate change goes back over a century. Spencer Weart’s The Discovery of Global Warming lays out the long trajectory: from realizing GHGs trap heat and help warm the planet, to identifying them, to tracking GHG emissions into the atmosphere and oceans from the burning of fossil fuels, to measuring the effects.

So none of this is new, the popular climate movement began with Earth Day in 1970 with information that was public knowledge, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created in 1988, and yet the denial of information and deliberate disinformation campaign by the fossil fuel industry has accelerated climate change while at the same time increasing their liability exponentially. In a case in 2008 from Alaska, a city attempted to sue the industry for the damage it had caused to their ability to inhabit their ancestral lands. It becomes a matter of deliberate harm to the entire ecology, for which the industry potentially becomes liable. While it was dismissed, it raises the issue that must be addressed, and that is the willful misleading of public policy in the name of profit, and at the expense of life on this planet.

It would seem that a new page has been turned tonight.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

Today President Obama rejected a permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, amidst growing public outcry and civil disobedience in Washington, D.C. against this project. The extraction process from the tar sands, the piping of crude oil through a major aquifer, the impact of pricing increases in the USA because it's being produced for export, ad infinitum, have given him enough reason to go up against Hillary Clinton's State Department position on this issue.

But that's not really the crux of the issue for the serious environmental protest, primarily that led by Bill McKibben, who takes the stand against the carbon impact of this project and all extractive resources (oil, coal and gas). Reduced to its fundamentals, climate change is being fueled by carbon emissions that continue to increase year over year, even as the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere creates climate change and volatility leading to draught, food instability and increasingly violent and extreme weather that's responsible for tremendous damage globally. The only answer is to stop the use of these fuels before runaway climate change takes place, it's not something that can be "mitigated". The science behind this is now definitive. The time is short.

Orion Magazine has showcased some articles about the ongoing fight by those committed to taking action in the face of a global emergency. Bill McKibben writes about Tim DeChristopher's lone paddle in the oil auction that has landed him in federal prison. McKibben sees this as a beginning of a movement that began coalescing on the first Earth Day in 1970 and that must now move into a more intensive phase.

The Orion interview of Tim DeChristopher is here, a story about "This is What Love Looks Like". It's a beautiful piece about a powerful action that's reverberating through more and more people.

Final 60-day deadline (imposed by a Republican Congress) is 21 February 2012 for Obama to deny the Keystone XL permit. Public actions to support denial are being taken as follows:

Petition and demonstration at the Culver City office of Obama for America, Saturday Feb. 4, 2012, 12 pm
*NOTE* this event has been postponed in favor of a much larger event, keep this OFA page bookmarked for future planning.

Tar Sands Action planning on Facebook

Sierra Club - Beyond Coal

Greenhouse Data Tool - search emission sources in your area

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An Epic Win

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is a non-profit thinktank that has been active for over 30 years. Started up by Amory Lovins, it has established a blueprint for a proactive strategy that can actually get the USA to zero GHG emissions by 2050. It's dubbed "Reinventing Fire". In short, their position is summarized as follows:

Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era offers market-based, actionable solutions integrating transportation, buildings, industry, and electricity. Built on Rocky Mountain Institute's 30 years of research and collaboration in all four sectors, Reinventing Fire maps pathways for running a 158%-bigger U.S. economy in 2050 but needing no oil, no coal, no nuclear energy, one-third less natural gas, and no new inventions. This would cost $5 trillion less than business-as-usual—in addition to the value of avoiding fossil fuels' huge but uncounted external costs.

The overarching issues are examined in a global context. For example, Randy Essex of RMI examines the futility of old-think with respect to oil supplies in the Middle East, coupled with military intervention. This perpetuates a destructive cycle which can be dispensed with by moving to renewable electric supplies.

Moving this strategy to the local level of policy boots-on-the-ground, RMI's Smart Garage Initiative partners with major cities to implement an infrastructure for the support of electric vehicle use. This portion of their strategy is the most effective, immediate and profitable action that can be taken by US industries in order to drastically cut auto and truck emissions. It's the easy one that can get the ball rolling into the major reductions necessary for the USA to bring its carbon emissions down into the unalterable lower limits that will contain climate change.

This kind of leadership by the USA could provoke global consensus on emissions levels and carbon capture, particularly if the old extractive practices are brought to a halt. All it takes is for the big guy to step up to the plate.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Durban's Epic Fail

The UN Climate Change Conference last December unfortunately came to a close with no agreement on global NEA goals. National Emissions Allocations are distributed through a global agreement of quotas of allowed emissions per capita for each country. This was proposed by the Global Commons Institute in 2000, and is conceptually accepted as a methodology by many countries. The NEA- based contraction conversion model applies an emissions cap to each country that declines rapidly over 40 years in order to reach the desired global atmospheric goal of 430 ppmv by 2052 (we're at 395 now). It's a cooperative effort, with developed nations assisting the third world countries in their reduction via the transfer of energy and pollution control technologies. Its strategy is that rapidly developing countries such as China and India must quickly pull back on their increasing emissions, and the UK and USA must simply implement immediate reductions in GHG emissions, period. This proved untenable to developed countries at Durban in December 2011, and so no global agreement was achieved. There is a consensus on the model, however, so the negotiation continues.

The Global Commons Institute [GCI] was founded in 1990. It has developed this emissions management model that has gained support by many countries as a fair and effective model for reducing carbon emissions.

This, tragically, does nothing to stop the growing emissions that threaten runaway climate change within about 5 years. While our governments dither, the natural world dies, and so do we. As it's necessary to have an overarching framework for cooperative effort on the most critical issue ever to face our human society, there are concrete measures that can be taken "at the grassroots" with parallel efforts in five broad areas of implementation. They are goal-focused and can be benchmarked for progress without specific caps in place because they aim for absolute emission reductions/rebuilding natural capital using public policy and economic levers:

1. End earthbound extractive processes

2. Increase carbon sink absorption rapidly

3. Human population reduction (reduces the per capita emission absolute number)

4. Restructure human habitation

5. Redefine quality of human life: eco-centric not human centric

This approach, admittedly treating our current global situation as an emergency, can develop a synergistic integration which reinforces the various actions to create a more rapid reduction than simply trying to reduce the industrial and human impacts of carbon emissions. Nobody needs permission to implement these measures now, and the usual climate deniers can't make a single-issue argument out of this multivalent approach. Particularly since these measures are starting to take hold already; we all know it's necessary so that our planet has a future that embraces humans.