Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Hills of Home

This video from Pentatonix was their big breakout back in 2013 right after Thanksgiving.  They're up there by Mt. Wilson in a forested notch sitting conspicuously on the mountain slopes above Altadena (Pasadena) in the San Gabriel mountains, USA. It's above the Eaton Canyon falls that run fast in the spring from the creek beside the trail. Watch the background in the video, you'll see the skyline of downtown LA, and beyond that, the Pacific ocean. They recorded this on a day with that gorgeous light playing through the clouds on a crisp winter afternoon in a dramatic sky.

It was shot before the drought took hold and seized our hills with its dusty grip of heated breath. Dried, brown vegetation covers the hills now even in December; the trees and shrubs are straggling across the hillocks. We don't see these clouds very often now, it's endless blue hazy sky, sometimes with remnants of smoke from the fires that have scorched the Southern California region for months. Blazing red sunsets from haze and pollution appear all summer and through the winter...

It's been our season of fires, of unrelenting winds from the deserts, and some researchers project that fires driven by Santa Ana winds, and the fires that occur earlier in the year in Southern California, will burn larger areas by midcentury in part due to rising temperatures. Our part in this horrific destruction is the encroaching urban hardscape and structures into areas that can't sustain it, that pave over and smother the very landscape that provides the necessary cycles of water and aquifer retention that we rely on. This, in addition to the warming planet, sets the scene for even worse destruction as well as massive deforestation from the die off of the forests in our mountain ranges. Climate change is now preventing the fall rains from tempering the natural fire cycle.

Climate scientists are sounding the alarm, the global climate changes predicted decades ago are accelerating far more rapidly than even they predicted. We may be facing a dramatic shift in to an uncontrollable climate change feedback from the increasing sensitivity of the planet due to this heat gain from carbon. Unless we can act rapidly, the verdant hills of our home will be gone very soon.

Update 12/26/17: Colorado River flow to decrease by 35 percent or more this century

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Ninth Year - Dry

Our winter rainy season typically starts in November. But what we're experiencing now is a near total lack of rainfall, as well as the very severe late-season winds that are driving destructive fires all over the southern portion of the state. The photo above is from the city of Ojai which was surrounded by the massive Thomas fire starting in late November of this year. This biggest of a number of blazes currently burning in California has torched 270,000 acres, making it the state's third-largest since reliable record-keeping began in 1932. It has caused the evacuation of thousands of people across many coastal cities, and as of right now it's still not contained.

Traditionally this is the season for mudslides and flooding. Until now, no major wildfire has ever burned in California in December, at least since the state began keeping records in 1932. The five largest fires in California history have now occurred since 2000. They are driven by the Santa Ana winds that blow out of central California and the desert in the fall, especially now in our unusually dry December.

California Governor Jerry Brown warned about this in July, long before the October wine country wildfires, the most destructive in state history, and the current Southern California blazes that include the massive Thomas fire in Ventura.“Climate change is real,” he warned a state Senate committee.

Brown has been in the forefront of leadership on climate change in the US, having been involved with multiple global initiatives that have encompassed local government and industry leaders. Many climate change initiatives have started to coalesce in their respective countries, driven by agreements made at the Paris Accord.

In alliance with the Paris Accord of COP 21 in 2015, cities, states and companies in the US have made commitments to climate action at Climate Week in October of 2017 in New York City. There was the launch of the EV100 Alliance, a coalition of global companies, including Unilever, Ikea, DHL and others, that have committed to replacing their fleets with electric vehicles; and governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jerry Brown of California and Jay Inslee from Washington state announced the US Climate Alliance, a group of 14 states and Puerto Rico that are committed to meeting their share of the Paris Agreement, despite President Donald Trump's rejection of the pact.

At COP 23 this November, a coalition of United States governors, mayors and businesses led a separate, informal initiative to act in concert with the Paris Accord by establishing policies and practices that reduce emissions quickly enough to stem the worst impacts of climate change.

California (via Governor Brown - Global Covenant of Mayors) is a member of the new charter initiated in Paris in December 2017 at the One Planet Summit, which is expected to bring about new financing pledges by national governments, while launching initiatives to accelerate access to existing finance.The One Planet Charter builds on the Bonn-Fiji commitment at the COP23 international climate conference in November and sustainable procurement initiatives such as ICLEI's Global Lead City Network on Sustainable Procurement and the 100% Renewable Energy Cities & Regions Campaign, as well as C40 Cities’ Fossil Fuel Free Streets.

The fires that have consumed the state of California are a precursor for even more dangerous and violent climate changes that are disrupting our planet and our communities, inflicting damages that the reinsurance industry and financial bonds are not equipped to handle. There's no time to spare on getting a handle on these critical factors driven by the human emissions causing climate change, and California is necessarily leading the way.

Update 12/19/17: Late-season fires are the new normal in California.

Update 12/21/17: The New Climate Economy - low carbon initiatives provide plentiful economic benefits

Update 12/22/17:  One Planet Summit: an increasing number of creative initiatives for addressing climate change; and a growing sense of urgency.

Update 1/14/18: By 2030 global demand for water is expected to outstrip supply by 40%

Saturday, November 25, 2017


The season of Advent is a quiet Christian meditation on the event of the dawning light of 2000 years ago, symbolized by the lighting of candles on a wreath. Most consider lighting of the first candle to symbolize expectation, called Emmanuel, while the second symbolizes hope, the third joy and the fourth purity. A central candle is lit on the 25th of December in a moment of reverence, as the ascendant light.

As people and governments participating in COP 23 across the globe begin to coalesce into a center of consensus, it's now clear that time grows short to achieve the goals of reducing emissions and pollution in time to forestall the worst ravages of climate change. From coalitions of local governments providing leadership, musicians and scientists acting in concert, the building industry, energy and power suppliers, agriculture and fishing, to the focus on the UN 2030 Agenda, the chorus is rising among the people of our world to animate global climate change response.

ClimateKeys is a local UK initiative launching with over thirty concerts in nine countries during October & November 2017 to raise public engagement with COP23, the 2017 UN climate talks that took place in November. ClimateKeys, founded by Markson Pianos Composer-in-Residence pianist Lola Perrin, features concert pianists and climate change experts collaborating in performances that include a conversation with the audience about positive response to climate change.To date, over a hundred concert musicians and guest speakers in twenty countries have joined ClimateKeys. More concerts are being planned through 2018. A discussion from the UN of its public engagement shows how the UN brings together musicians and climate experts. Their worldwide synopses of talks about climate change take place all over the world, even in the USA.

The SDG Knowledge Hub is an online resource center for news and commentary regarding the implementation of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is managed by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), which is fully responsible for its content. It provides a wide-base resource in all countries for this work in developing the SDG for each and every country.

Paul Hawken has compiled a comprehensive reference book on widely available emission reduction solutions, called Project Drawdown. It examines the actual impact of carbon emissions reduction from all available technologies. Project Drawdown is the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. Paul Hawken did not make or devise the plan—he found the plan because it already exists. He gathered a qualified and diverse group of researchers from around the world to identify, research, and model the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change. What was uncovered is a path forward that can roll back global warming within thirty years. It shows that humanity has the means at hand. Nothing new needs to be invented. The solutions are in place and in action. Their work is to accelerate the knowledge and growth of what is possible. The name Drawdown was chosen because if we do not name the goal, we are unlikely to achieve it.

The light of Emmanuel is the light of knowledge and expectation, the knowing that the work is ahead of us, and understanding that we're now on its path.

Update 11/28/17:  From wisdom - a great grandfather’s perspective

Update 11/29/17:  ClimateTECH: decarbonization is a transformation

Update 12/21/17: Visualizing a future based on different principles

Update 1/22/18: Well-Being Economy Alliance: It's Going to Take a New Economy to Save the Planet

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Momentum to COP 26

COP23 in Bonn has concluded, and the discussions managed to negotiate outcomes agreed to at the UN climate talks. This article by Jocelyn Timperley of Carbon Brief is a succinct summary of the proceedings. She notes a significant comment by  Mohamed Adow, international climate lead at Christian Aid London : "The days when you looked to one country to be able to actually lead the transition are gone. We’re now in a new era, where we are actually seeing more shared distributed leadership emerging, where 200 countries have collectively contributed to the global effort." So the process has now become far more consensus-based.

In another article from Bianca Jagger for Huffpost, the emphasis is that the stakes at COP23 are higher than ever, and time is running out.  At COP 23, James Hansen provided a strong pronouncement on the urgency of the climate change situation, and took clear and unequivocal scientific positions on the danger that the planet is in. This video of his Nov.10 press conference, Scientific Reticence: A Threat to Humanity and Nature, records Jim Hansen, Pam Pearson and Philip Duffy in a dialogue about the rapidly escalating temperatures in the arctic. Their stance is that legal avenues need to be pursued to force goals that reflect science with actions that ensure that the limit of 1.5C temperature is not exceeded, per the agreement struck at COP 21 in Paris.

The big question at COP 23 was the question of who would step into the leadership role that the United States has abdicated on climate change. Perhaps no group has made a bigger splash on the world stage this year than the coalition of United States governors, mayors and businesses who call themselves We Are Still In coalition. Informally led by Gov. Jerry Brown of California; Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, the group has vowed to uphold the Paris agreement and move ahead with policies to fight climate change.This group of state and local officials are determined to begin implementing strategies that bring US emissions to net zero in the near future. It's a big challenge, not just because of Trump's intransigence on the subject, but also the uphill battle with the fossil fuel majors. The tragedy of this is that we're already in the process of ramping up emissions, when we should be moving as quickly as possible to zero. This is why it's critically important to use accurate, scientific data and measurements to make the substance of the negotiations actually work to prevent runaway climate change.

The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Emissions represent what goes into the atmosphere. Concentrations represent what remains in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere and the oceans. About a quarter of the total emissions is taken up by the oceans and another quarter by the biosphere, reducing in this way the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. A separate Emissions Gap Report by UN Environment, released on October 31, tracks the policy commitments made by countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and analyses how these policies will translate into emissions reductions through 2030, clearly outlining the emissions gap and what it would take to bridge it.

"The numbers don't lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed. The last few years have seen enormous uptake of renewable energy, but we must now redouble our efforts to ensure these new low-carbon technologies are able to thrive. We have many of the solutions already to address this challenge. What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.

Together, the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin and Emissions Gap Report provided a scientific base for decision-making at the UN climate change negotiations.

Update 11/20/17: Nations have agreed to launch the next steps toward higher climate action ambition before 2020

Update 11/22/17: Anthony Doerr: We Were Warned 25 years ago

Update 11/25/17: Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, research archives, Nov. 12 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Pilferage Continues

This blog is still comprehensively following an issue that erupted in 2013, and has now grown substantially with the revelation of the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers. 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.

You can see, from a timelapse video in which Google unveils a 3-decade span of the Earth's envelopment by human habitation, that this destruction is relentless. A charted representation of this time lapse of expanding human occupation and its cumulative emissions is also shown in the green LUC area of Aubrey Meyer's chart,above. Its impact is massive, as big as the USA.

It's time for those remaining with a conscience to take action in the public sphere to make these extractive processes accountable for the damage that they do, and restore the natural world that provides life to all of us. The examination of these damages is being followed here. as is the progression of lawsuits against governments that fail to protect humanity from the predations of global wealth.

Update 11/11/17:  The global oligarchy belongs to a new class, untethered to nation or party.

Update 11/12/17:  Naomi Klein in 2013: How science is telling us all to revolt

Update 11/13/17: COP 23 - Making the Carbon Majors Pay for Climate Action (video)

Update 11/14/17: 15,364 scientists from 184 countries signed this emergency statement

Update 11/15/17: COP 23  Addiction to Growth - Root Cause of Climate Change  (video)

Update 11/27/17: Consumerism is the major cause of global warming - NextSystemProject

Update 12/1/17:  Consumption is the bottleneck for sustainable development

Update 10/4/21:  Pandora Papers - Guardian reports

Update 10/4/21:  United States... centers on its expanding complicity in the offshore economy

Update 12/30/21:  Technology can help anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing efforts.

Update 1/1/22:  Malta is a target of an international money laundering crackdown.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Beyond Politics

The organization Plan B. Earth has now initiated a legal challenge to the UK Government regarding its failure to reduce emissions in line with Paris Agreement. The BBC reports former chief scientist Sir David King (above) is backing legal action against the government over its failure to follow up on proposal for binding zero emission target; the filing is online here. On January 29, 2016 at IEA Headquarters, Paris, a Big IdEAs panel was held to discuss “Towards decarbonising the global economy: the direction of travel after COP21” and Sir David King made a comprehensive presentation to those attending the panel. He is an important player in the actions towards holding corporations accountable for the carbon damage that they have done, and deliberately obstructed global efforts to address the emissions issues for decades.

The Union for Concerned Scientists has also known for decades that fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil have spent millions of dollars to delay action on global warming. This organization is standing up against the disinformation campaign in the US with respect to climate change, and lists the organizations that are propagating public denial and misinformation. Now, groundbreaking research by two UCS scientists calculates the actual portions of sea level rise and global temperature increase attributable to specific fossil fuel companies. The peer-reviewed study, authored by Brenda Ekwurzel, James Boneham, Mike Dalton, Rick Heede, Roberto Mera, Myles Allen and Peter Frumhoff and published in Climatic Change, analyzed and quantified the climate change impacts of carbon dioxide and methane emissions traced to each company for two time-periods: 1880 to 2010 and 1980 to 2010. From storms to droughts to wildfires, the impacts of climate change exact enormous costs to taxpayers. This report is a critical step in making fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil pay their fair share.

The UCS is laying the groundwork for "climate attribution" lawsuits in the US, to make the ExxonMobils of the world own up to what they've done and pay their fair share of the costs of preparing for dealing with the damage brought by climate change. Meanwhile,Trump's Environmental Protection Agency condemned scientists for "politicizing" Hurricanes Harvey and Irma by simply mentioning climate change. Officials at three different agencies (EPA, the Department of Energy, and Department of Agriculture) have banned "the double C—word"—climate change—from reports, grant applications, and studies—and shuttered an official climate change office. The DOE has issued official denials about this as policy. The Department of the Interior also cancelled a study looking at health risks for people living near mountaintop removal coal mines. Thus this administration continues the corporate onslaught against nature and all of humanity.

It's no longer politics as usual as the scientists, ecologists and engineers take a stand against governments that are in thrall to corporate profiteering at the cost of our planet and everything living on it.

Update 10/3/17:  Global Legal Action Network is assembling a case against 47 European countries for their contributions to climate change

Update 10/4/17: Climate Shocks May Cost U.S. $1 Billion a Day

Update 10/5/17: Economic Case for Climate Action in the US

Update 10/7/17: A district court judge in North Dakota has barred climate change scientist Dr. James Hansen and other experts from testifying in the landmark trial of Michael Foster, one of the 11 climate activists with the group Climate Direct Action who temporarily halted the flow of tar sands bitumen from Canada into the U.S. in a #ShutItDown action last October.

Update 10/12/17: PM of Dominica to the UK general assembly in Sept. 2017: Carribean nations are suffering catastrophic damages because of climate change, which they have not contributed to.

Update 10/25/17:  CIEL explores and develops new legal tools to counterbalance the power of multinational corporations

Update 10/29/17:  Alleging that the state is violating their constitutional rights by putting fossil fuel production above the safety of their lives,16 young Alaskans filed a constitutional climate change lawsuit against the State of Alaska, Governor Bill Walker, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Larry Hartig, and five state agencies on October 27, 2017.

Update 11/3/17: Global warming is increasingly being fought in the courtroom.

Update 11/15/17: Sir David King: Ministers must tighten UK target or face courts

Update 11/19/17:  Hansen is calling for a wave of lawsuits against governments and fossil fuel companies

Update 12/23/17:  Meet the Lawyer Trying to Make Big Oil Pay for Climate Change

Update 5/12/18:  The environment is finally getting its day in court

Update 10/2/18: Can Climate Litigation Save the World?

Update 10/3/18:  The Fifteen-Year-Old Climate Activist Who is Demanding a New Kind of Politics

Update 10/10/18: Dutch court orders their government to move faster on emissions cuts.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Suppre$$ion of Reality

California and the Brown administration are fighting the anti-science demagoguery coming out of the White House, and now there is deep concern that it is also trying to cover up a federal climate change report. This draft federal report can be found online.

This draft report was obtained by the nonprofit Internet Archive in January and recently published on the New York Times site. Its authors note that thousands of studies, conducted by tens of thousands of scientists, have documented climate changes on land and in the air. “Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change,” they wrote.

The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.

The impacts in California alone are considerable, as the report outlines. Atmospheric rivers that bring extreme precipitation to the West Coast, like the ones last winter that ended California’s drought, are projected to increase in frequency, but will fall more as rain than snow, the report says. That would disrupt California’s highly engineered plumbing system, which relies on the Sierra snowpack to store water for the dry summers. Forest fires have already increased sharply in the West, the report says, and will increase more as the region continues to dry, bringing major ecosystem changes.

A Los Angeles Times editorial raises the issues about climate change risks, which has apparently been leaked by scientists working at the federal level. Their message: anthropogenic climate change is real and happening fast.The changes are already real and the future risks potentially catastrophic. The whole world knows it, and the vast majority of the world is trying to address it. That Trump is not, and that government scientists feel the need to join “deep state” actors in leaking their findings in fear of what the president might do against the nation’s best interests, is damning.

The White House is now reviewing this new report that finds a strong link between climate change and human activity. Scientists are reportedly worried that Trump will suppress this new federal climate report.

Update 8/20/17:  Response ~ The Trump administration has decided to disband the federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment, a group aimed at helping policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government’s climate analysis into long-term planning.

Update 10/3/17: The significant scale of human impact on our planet has changed the course of Earth history per a report from the University of Leicester

Update 10/4/17: Sir David Attenborough - Humans are a 'plague on Earth'

Update 12/23/17: Climate Change Could Bankrupt Us by 2065 (November 2000)

Thursday, August 10, 2017


The state of California has been in the forefront of climate action and the formation of interstate agreements since 2008. By 2013, it had formalized a pact by the Pacific Coast Collaborative that addressed climate change trade policy.  This unprecedented pact between the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington, and the premier of British Columbia had been signed with the intent of forging a clean energy future. Jerry Brown compared California to a lever and quoted a Greek mathematician: “Archimedes said, if you give me a place to stand ... I can move the earth.” Since California has established its place at the forefront of U.S. environmental policies, California has become ready to play a key role in resisting Washington’s hard right turn. It is also a part of the Western Climate Initiative, established during the Obama administration tenure.

Thus the state has become the chief advocate of resistance in the face of the Trump administration's abdication of leadership in global policy on climate change. For the past two years, California Gov. Jerry Brown has been aggressively recruiting other state and local governments to sign on to their own, sub-national climate pact. In early July of this year, as Trump and other world leaders gathered in Hamburg, Germany, for the G20 summit, Gov. Jerry Brown made waves by telling the world that Trump — who has decided to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord — does not speak for most Americans when it comes to dealing with environmental concerns.

At the G20 summit, Brown announced that California would host a global summit on climate change in San Francisco in September of 2018. “All over the world, momentum is building to deal seriously with climate change,” Brown said in a statement. “Despite rejection in Washington, California is all in. We are fully committed to the Under2 Coalition and the Paris Agreement.” The California summit meeting will bring together the leaders of states, cities, businesses and others who made pledges to curb heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Paris accord and the thousands of others who were galvanized by Mr. Trump’s decision. Days after his announcement, the former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg published a letter to the United Nations signed by more than 1,200 mayors, business leaders, university presidents and others declaring “we are still in” the climate deal. The website for the Global Climate Action Summit 2018 is now online.

A week later, Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg announced America’s Pledge climate initiative, a national program of state and local participation in climate policy.  This initiative includes an unprecedented number of U.S. states, cities, businesses, and colleges and universities that have reaffirmed their support for the Paris Agreement through collaborations including the “We Are Still In” declaration, the Climate Mayors coalition of cities, the US Climate Alliance group of states, and others. This is now online and contains the declaration that:

“Today we’re sending a clear message to the world that America’s states, cities and businesses are moving forward with our country’s commitments under the Paris Agreement — with or without Washington,” said Governor Jerry Brown, who was recently named Special Advisor for States and Regions ahead of the United Nations’ 23rd Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23).

Monday, June 26, 2017

Runaway Phase

Facing another very hot summer in Southern California, it's become a rite of spring to dread the inescapable heat waves that now roll in from the hot Arizona desert. What happened to spring and to fall? We now hit a wall of heat in May and don't see relief until nearly the end of October. People's winter wear now consists of a sweater, not a coat. Our landscape and forests are brown and bleached from the lack of water; millions of trees in the Sierras are dying. If we look at our scientific surveys and satellite studies, we see that polar sea ice is now at record lows in the summer.

We are seeing temperatures in the summer that are breaking all previous records. By a lot. If the Earth’s temperature increases by 2 degrees Celsius, the benchmark agreed upon in the landmark Paris climate agreement, the entire Greenland ice sheet could experience the same accelerated melting that the island’s coastal glaciers and ice caps are facing. At this point, Greenland's coastal ice caps have melted past the point of no return. We are losing our planetary ecological home that is supposed to support 7.5 billion of us.

This process is not immediately apparent, but the NASA studies show conclusively that Greenland is melting significantly. There is no question that the scientific consensus is that Earth's climate is warming, and this warming is accelerating. This accelerating meltdown is a critical red flag to our global civilizations, but like the endless wars in the Middle East, it's a profit center for those who mindlessly control fossil fuels and weaponry for money. The military budget for the USA, far exceeding those of all other countries combined, is the match held to the fuse.

This warming process from fossil fuels leads to an unstoppable, runaway climate change that is fueled by the carbon and methane emissons from the ice and permafrost melt at the poles, which is already observable by science teams and satellites, and puts the destruction of our ecosphere and our planet on an irreversible path. The pace at which species disappear is picking up as temperatures rise, and this is devastating in the tropics which are disproportionately impacted. We cannot stop this once it sets in, the processes ignite themselves with monstrous emissions from the melting poles.

So this is how the Anthropocene ends. In a blaze of greed and ignorance.

Update 6/27/17: Tipping points are real: Gradual changes in CO2 levels can induce abrupt climate changes

Update 6/28/17: Climate Change and Devastating Heat Waves

Update 6/29/17: Current emissions could already warm world to dangerous levels: study

Update 6/30/17: The looming catastrophe of feedback emissions

Update 7/1/17:  Seven facts about the Arctic methane timebomb

Update 7/2/17:  Top Scientists Warn of Catastrophic Sea Level Rise

Update 7/3/17: Experts warn: three years to save humanity from climate change

Update 7/4/17:  New study confirms the oceans are warming rapidly

Update 7/5/17: Warming hits 'tipping point' (from 2005)

Update 7/6/17: Hopes of mild climate change dashed by new research

Update 7/7/17:  Rising temperatures are curbing ocean's capacity to store carbon

Update 7/8/17: NOAA Study Confirms Global Warming Speed-Up Is Imminent

Update 7/9/17: High temperatures and extreme weather continue

Update 7/10/17: Earth faces "biological annihilation" in sixth mass extinction, scientists warn

Update 7/18/17: Carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere to avoid extreme climate change

Update 7/20/17: Today's Extreme Heat May Become Norm Within a Decade

Update 7/24/17: It’s fair to say we have passed the point of no return on global warming 

Update 8/24/17: Greenland has warmed 9 degrees F in the last 60 years.

Update 10/10/17: Richard Muller - I Was wrong on Climate Change (Jan 2015)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Age of Consequences

First in a series of three lectures comprising the Cambridge Climate Lecture Series 2017, Baroness Bryony Worthington presents the dilemma that is unfolding now between the science and the politics of climate change dialogue:

"The evidence is clear that we are in an age of consequences...There is a constant stream of information now for those who are tuned to it that show us that many of the impacts that we were expecting to unfold over the second half of this century are starting to be felt now."

It's evident that our human civilization is losing the race to stave off catastrophic climate change in the face of its political inaction, and we need to drastically up our game. That takes us to net zero carbon emissions by the middle of this century, per the Paris agreement of 2015. She observes that the threat of Donald Trump had an impact on the Paris agreement in that it caused that agreement to come into force earlier than it might have otherwise done, thus Trump unwittingly helped bring about ratification.

Overcoming political headwinds involves the "Tragedy of the Commons" wherein inadvertent individual actions add up to destructive impacts that nobody takes responsibility for. A classic example is the Pacific Garbage Patch that exists in the Pacific Ocean that is strangling and poisoning sea life with tons of plastic garbage dumped in the ocean over decades. Except there's a Dutch guy named Boyan Slat who is doing exactly that.

"Tragedy of the Horizon" is a phrase that means that short-term thinking is unfortunately endemic throughout our politics, and also, unfortunately, our financial system. This is leading to very poorly informed decision-making, and where attention to only the bottom line by corporate decsion makers is destructive to the long view that encompasses systemic views of the world and addresses the very serious issues involving climate change. The antidote to this is to create and support independent apolitical institutions, such as universities and research facilities.

A third factor is the fossil fuel industry itself, which has contributed greatly to human civilization and its benefits inasmuch as their profits allow them to now wield a lot of power in the political sphere in the act of protecting their profits. The answer to this is a multivalent approach to problem solutions so that one factor doesn't override the entire dialogue; one simple tool like a carbon tax will not accomplish the necessary means to an end.

Having said all of this, there remains an approach to solving this problem via global scenario planning as it's employed by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), an independent apolitical entity:

RMI will release analysis results describing five scenarios to limit global average temperature increases by the end of the century to approximately 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, a goal that most analysts see as nearly impossible to achieve. According to the United Nations Environment Programme’s recently released Emissions Gap report, even if the pledges made by nations participating in the Paris Agreement are fulfilled, global emissions will put us on a path to temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4°C this century. Limiting temperature increases to less than 1.5°C will require more and deeper change in the years ahead than most analysts contemplate, with shifts not only in the energy sector but also in agriculture and land use. Surprisingly, their assessment indicates that such changes are still within reach, but only if global actions lead to a dramatic acceleration of the energy transition.

Their diagram of positive feedbacks that could accelerate the energy transition shows how multiple actors in many different markets spur the current renewable energy movement. Much of the growth in renewable energy globally is led by private companies and customers, who find compelling economic reasons to make the switch. This is in contrast to a traditional utility responsible for the planning and operation of a grid that supplies power from centrally owned power plants. Instead of large, capital-intensive projects, centralized decision making, and high-risk business-to-business transactions, much of the new energy revolution is diffuse, smaller scale, decentralized, and based on business-to-customer transactions.Renewable resources, on the other hand, are abundantly available worldwide, often in reasonable proximity to demand. RMI’s analysis describes a possible fast track path to a global clean energy future that is led by synergistic and compounding changes in key industries. Rapid scaling of low-cost manufacturing for solar PV, wind, batteries, electric vehicles, and other key technologies is at the heart of this transition.

So this different kind of thinking, in the corporate and political arena, can be driven by a multitude of actions from many players, rather than the top-down assumptions employed by the world's governments. Each player has a significant position and influence in this multi-level sphere of action, and all of them add up to an important resolution of this global problem that we all have to solve. This is a game-solution, not a dictated process, with an outcome that isn't predictable.

This is important because some global corporations have become bigger than many countries, and they have placed themselves beyond the reach of governments and global rule-making bodies. They have so far managed to shirk their responsibilities in solving this problem, but that's no longer an acceptable position because of the damages that they cause to the environment and all the people living in their countries all across the globe. Accountability is about to become the answer to the "Tragedy of the Commons."

Update 5/24/17: California has tried to forge international climate pacts, becoming a significant global player

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Environmental Economics

Let's revisit E.F.Schumacher's eco-bible that was published during the 1973 energy crisis: Small is Beautiful. It was radical for its day, and its time has now arrived, 45 years later and our planet is in crisis from unaddressed carbon emissions. Now our crippled EPA cites the following: economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources, including how markets function and how incentives affect people’s, businesses’ and institutions’ behavior.  Within this discipline, environmental and natural resource economics is the application of the principles of economics to the study of how environmental and natural resources are developed and managed.

Here in the US, we're currently stuck in a high-consumption lifestyle that keeps us from moving ahead with the critically needed structural changes to our economy that would turn upside down the old, polluting and destructive industries that are in the grip of the oil and coal industries. It's the leftover Cold War economy. The waste in these systems is prolific and toxic, and its reduction is a key strategy in the transference to energy sources from natural processes. However, making the transition out of these structures and their grip on our economic system will be the biggest challenge the US has had since World War II and the Sputnik era that put man on the moon. We see ourselves falling behind, without the resolve and initiative that it takes to mobilize a common effort that changes the face of business practices in this country.

The GDP Chimera becomes increasingly irrelevant in the new economy as energy and technology services shift to new business paradigms. This fiscal "measurement" being tossed about these days as a means of allocating global carbon emissions allowances with respect to climate change is unfortunately not an accurate or reliable means of establishing parity in these emission goals. Gross Domestic Product is actually made up of many financial banking ledger tricks, between countries as well as global regions. This economic model can't account for the important factors of ecology, resources and climate stability, because it's anchored to an obsolete framework, the petrodollar that has been sinking in value since clean energy has become cheaper and more available.

Over the past 15 years the United States has decoupled economic growth and carbon emissions, raising the GDP benchmark 30% while reducing energy-related emissions 10%. And climate action has created millions of jobs, including nearly 400,000 in solar power, over 100,000 in wind, and over 2 million related to energy efficiency. The top states for clean energy jobs are spread across the country from coast to coast. New research examines the climate-related risks facing the fossil fuel industry and conclude that the sustainability train has already well and truly left the station -- and is not coming back.

We can't address our predicament without a new worldview. We cannot use the models that caused our crises to solve them. We need to reframe the problem. This is what the most inspiring book published so far this year has done. In Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, Kate Raworth of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute reminds us that economic growth was not, at first, intended to signify wellbeing. It's a move into a sustainable economic framework.

Increasing evidence shows that a strong U.S. economy and a healthy environment are not at odds with each other, according to a new blog by the New Climate Economy on WRI Insights. And a new WRI paper raises an uncomfortable truth: many of today’s business models are not fit for tomorrow’s resource-strained world. It suggests that normalizing the conversation about consumption with companies will set the groundwork for the pursuit of new business models that allow growth within the planet’s limits and generate stakeholder value in new and exciting ways.

Update 5/4/17: From MAHB - What would an alternative to the pro-growth economy look like? In this week's post to the MAHB Blog, we are sharing a project to compile a list of resources and organizations relevant to the discussions of why a new economic system is needed, what might the system look like, and how do we make the necessary transition.

Update 10/10/17: Why capitalism wins. And how a simple accounting move can defeat it. GDP accounting is what keeps capitalism on life support.

Update 2/25/18: GDP overshoot: in biology, it is called cancer.

Update 6/30/20: GEP looks at the contribution of nature to the economy, parallels what GDP does in measuring economic performance

Sunday, February 26, 2017

All for a Buck

Just when the arc of US environmental policy began to align with the outlines of the Paris Agreement of December 2015, a new administration takes office in January of this year, one grounded in the denial of physics and science, and in thrall to the fossil fuel industry. The entire disruption of the UN agreement reeks of global oil deals, with the corporate influences reaching into the new administration as well as the tactics brought to bear at the UN table.

The potential future science advisor to the President, William Happer, is a contrarian Princeton physicist who views climate change as a positive factor. "While he has a distinguished career as an atomic physicist, previously serving the administration of George HW Bush as a science director, the 77-year-old’s views on climate science are outnumbered by all the credible evidence, all the credible science agencies and are also being laughed at by the Earth’s thermometers and its melting ice sheets and glaciers", as the Guardian has pointed out.

This, along with a cabinet full of fossil fuel-related corporate executives, seeks to create a triumvirate of oil deals with Russia and Exxon Mobil. “Imagine how much havoc Putin, Trump, and a new, oily Secretary of State could wreak on future negotiations by coercing other countries not to keep making new pledges to ratchet down their emissions, which is the cornerstone of Paris’s strategy to avoid catastrophic climate change.” per The Energy Mix. Perhaps all this results from pressure by the Russian oligarchs that the President is indebted to?

This is an old relationship going back to 2012, when Rosneft and ExxonMobil had signed an agreement to jointly develop tight oil production technologies in Western Siberia. This will enable the companies to later discuss undertaking joint projects to explore and develop prospective areas with unconventional oil potential in Russia.

The way it plays out is this: Exxon Mobil, under Rex Tillerson, brokered a deal with Russia in 2013 for 60 million acres of Russian land to pump oil out of, but all that Russian oil went through pipelines in the Ukraine, who heavily taxed the proceeds, and were applying for admission into NATO at the time. Putin subsequently invaded Ukraine in 2014, secured the routes to export the oil tax-free by sea, and took control of the port where their Black Sea Naval Fleet is based, by taking the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine by force and not giving it back. This was Hitler-tier imperialism that broke every international law in the free world. After Obama sanctioned Russia for the invasion, they could only pump oil from approximately 3 of those 60 million acres. But now Rex Tillerson is our Secretary of State, and as of today, there’s information circulating that Donald Trump will likely unilaterally remove all sanctions against Russia in the coming days or weeks. Putin will make half a trillion (500 Billion) dollars from that much untapped oil. All pumped tax-free through Crimea, stolen from Ukraine, now owned by Russia. Putin may have subverted our government just to become the richest man in the world.

The Republican congress subsequently has a hand in all this, as it moves to rescind the rule requiring Big Oil to reveal foreign government payments.

Since we now have a corporate takeover of our government for profit, it would appear that our chances for survival on our planet are dim. Unless the denizens of this planet can pull the rug out from under this Strangelovian scenario with extremely cheap local renewable energy that doesn't have to be transported or fought over, we're left to deal with this situation without any help from Houston.

But I think we still have a few smart humans left.

Update 2/27/17:  The timeline

Update 2/28/17:  Rachel Maddow explains it all for you - Wilbur Ross at Nexus of Trump Russian Deal

Update 3/2/17: 5 years ago - USA is moving from democracy to plutocracy and corporatocracy

Update 3/3/17: Relationships Between Team Trump and Russia

Update 3/4/17: How a Russian Steel Oligarch and Putin Ally Is Profiting from the Keystone XL Pipeline

Update 3/5/17: Bill McKibben - complete corruption of the fossil fuel industry

Update 3/6/17: Follow the money: the Time Magazine article of Aug 2016

Update 3/11/17: Trump Begins His War For Oil (with Cheney's fingerprints)

Update 3/12/17: In-Depth: Trump's deep Russian financial connections

Update 3/13/17: Democracy Now: A Corporate Coup d’État by Naomi Klein

Update 3/14/17: Leak reveals Rex Tillerson was director of Bahamas-based US-Russian oil firm

Update 3/17/17: Far-right political leaders praise Putin’s aggressive foreign policy

Update 3/23/17: Mercer and a disruptive candidate: Trade of the Century and a Foundation network

Friday, January 20, 2017

Rest of the World Moves On

Climate action in the US and the Rest of the World (ROW) continues apace, despite the machinations of the new and disorganized Trump administration. The global climate pact in Paris was the result of extraordinary turnarounds by the world’s two greatest greenhouse gas polluters, China and the U.S., which had long resisted climate action. A myriad set of strategies has been set in motion to put the world on the path to net zero emissions.

Six months after the successful Paris Climate Agreement of December 2015, two of the world’s primary city-led climate change and energy initiatives, the EU Covenant of Mayors and the Compact of Mayors, announced the formation of a new, first-of-its-kind global initiative  of cities and local governments leading in the fight against climate change. This single initiative will create the largest global coalition of cities committed to climate leadership, building on the commitments of more than 7,100 cities from 119 countries and six continents, representing more than 600 million inhabitants, over 8% of the world’s population. Then in November of last year, officials from Los Angeles (Mayor Garcetti), New York, Tokyo, Beijing and 82 other major cities — including more than 40 mayors —  met in Mexico City to share ideas about how to reverse course on climate change. The cities belong to C40, a network launched in 2005 to combat climate change. In an analysis released Wednesday, the group said that actions taken over the next four years will determine whether cities do their part  in meeting the goals of the Paris agreement on climate change signed by nearly 200 countries.

Back in December of 2015, the Compact of Mayors and the Covenant of Mayors partnership was founded on the shared goal of supporting cities around the world to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. The core principles of the partnership will be to recognize local governments as key contributors to a global climate solution, work with city networks as critical partners to support participating cities, capture city climate action plans from registration to implementation, and emphasize importance of reducing GHG emissions and fostering local climate resilience. In partnership, the Covenant of Mayors and the Compact of Mayors will work with cities around the world to ensure robust solution agendas, focusing on sectors like transportation and buildings where cities have the greatest control. The partnership will enable the Compact and the Covenant to streamline reporting systems that are working to help cities measure their work.

On December 1, 2016, the former UN climate chief, Christina Figueres, was announced as the vice chair of the new Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. It is expected she will play a key role in running the coalition of more than 7000 mayors.“Cities are where the future is created,” Figueres tweeted after the announcement and said she is looking forward to her role in the new coalition. Figueres will work closely with former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg and EU Commission vice-president Maroš Šefcovic, the co-chairs of the covenant. The Covenant of Mayors information website is here.

Deadline 2020 is the first significant routemap for achieving the Paris Agreement, outlining the pace, scale and prioritization of action needed by C40 member cities over the next 5 years and beyond. This report has been delivered through a collaborative partnership between C40 and Arup, the global consultancy firm. Ove Arup (ARUP) is an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists offering a broad range of professional services and is one of the premier engineering firms for the top major architectural design and planning projects across the planet.

ARUP issued a science-based global carbon reduction effort with the 'Deadline 2020' report. An analysis of the contribution C40 cities can make to delivering the Paris Agreement objective
of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

"This ARUP report has been delivered through a collaborative partnership between C40 and Arup, the global consultancy firm. Arup has worked with C40 since 2009 to develop strategic analysis and research that is central to progressing our understanding of how cities contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. This is why in June 2015, Arup announced a major partnership with C40, committing $1 million of professional support over three years to help cities take meaningful action against climate change. This partnership is founded on Arup’s independent and evidence-based approach, alongside C40’s longstanding belief in “measurement for management”. The partnership supports a strong analytical research agenda while helping city actors to identify opportunities, collaborate and develop practical solutions to accelerate and expand action on climate change."

Update 1/25/17: For Trump's crew, however, the past is forever prologue. If fossil fuel was good in the 18th century, it must be good in the 21st. The battle plan has shifted.

Update 3/5/17: Trump Can’t Stop This: Global Renewable Energy Booms

Update 6/28/17: Highlight the 2020 climate turning point at G-20

Update 7/9/17: G-20 USA in isolation and failed leadership