Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Too Little, Too Late

May 20, 2009

From a Time Magazine article by Bryan Walsh

That's where Sterman's research comes in. "There is a profound and fundamental misconception about climate," he says. The problem is that most of us don't really understand how carbon accumulates in the atmosphere. Increasing global temperatures are driven by the increase in the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere. Before the industrial age, the concentration was about 280 parts per million (p.p.m.) of carbon in the atmosphere. After a few centuries of burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels, we've raised that concentration to 387 p.p.m., and it continues to rise by about 2 p.p.m. every year. Many scientists believe that we need to at least stabilize carbon concentrations at 450 p.p.m. to ensure that global temperatures don't increase more than about 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. To do that, we need to reduce global carbon emissions (which hit about 10 billion tons last year) until they are equal to or less than the amount of carbon sequestered by the oceans and plant life (which removed about 4.8 billion tons of carbon last year). It's just like water in a bathtub — unless more water is draining out than flowing in from the tap, eventually the bathtub will overflow.

That means that carbon emissions would need to be cut drastically from current levels. Yet almost all of the subjects in Sterman's study failed to realize that, assuming instead that you could stabilize carbon concentration simply by capping carbon emissions at their current level. That's not the case — and in fact, pursuing such a plan for the future would virtually guarantee that global warming could spin out of control. It may seem to many like good common sense to wait until we see proof of the serious damage global warming is doing before we take action. But it's not — we can't "wait and see" on global warming because the climate has a momentum all its own, and if we wait for decades to finally act to reduce carbon emissions, it could well be too late. Yet this simply isn't understood. Someone as smart as Bill Gates doesn't seem to get it. "Fortunately climate change, although it's a huge challenge, it's a challenge that happens over a long period of time," he said at a forum in Beijing last year. "You know, we have time to work on it." But the truth is we don't.

If élite scientists could simply solve climate change on their own, public misunderstanding wouldn't be such a problem. But they can't. Reducing carbon emissions sharply will require all 6.5 billion (and growing) of us on the planet to hugely change the way we use energy and travel. We'll also need to change the way we vote, rewarding politicians willing to make the tough choices on climate. Instead of a new Manhattan Project — the metaphor often used for global warming — Sterman believes that what is needed is closer to a new civil rights movement, a large-scale campaign that dramatically changes the public's beliefs and behaviors. New groups like Al Gore's We Campaign are aiming for just such a social transformation, but "the reality is that this is even more difficult than civil rights," says Sterman. "Even that took a long time, and we don't have that kind of time with the climate.&quot

This last winter and spring has been colder than usual along the southern shore of Lake Superior.  Everyone around me is breathing a sigh of relief.  See, there’s nothing to worry about!


President Elect Obama

November 5, 2008

While the majority of USians, including myself, are rejoycing at the election of Barack Obama, his election will not effect the coming ecological disaster.  However, it may effect how humanity survives.

Over the last few months, I have become even more pessimistic about our survival.  Within the next four years, the Earth will witness the beginning of the death of the ocean, increasing human starvation, and the beginning waves of eco-refugees. 

The rich will continue to take as much as they can and the poor will continue to die. 

But perhaps it has come down to how we go down.  Will we we die with our heals on the throats of starving children?  Will we die like junkies, taking that last hit of our energy addiction to smooth the way? 

Or is this a man who can pull us together to work toward survival?  I want very much to hope.

Hand Wringing

July 17, 2008

I have a beloved on the West Coast (USA) who says that he has no interest in exploring apocalyptic scenarios.  All that hand wringing is just so much wank; we are too clever, too imaginative, and too driven to allow ourselves to self-destruct.  He believes that there will come a point when concern for our life support system will drive the world to work together to make a change.

When he talks, when he builds visions of global cooperation and responsibility, I believe that we might pull it off.  Maybe those new solar cells will be enough, that and the new batteries, and recycling, we’ll get serious about recycling….

But alone, in the dark of night, or even here, in the morning sun, as cars flash by me on the freeway, I’m very certain that it won’t happen that way. 

“If you’re going to write, then write about solutions,” he says.  I feel guilty because I’m not pouring my heart into making the world change.  I’m only watching: watching as the world spins along, spins away, everyone knowing that this is our place and this is how we are and this is how it will always be.

My beloved who lives in the Midwest says, “You aren’t thinking out of the box.  West Coast is right; if you’re going to complain, you should also offer solutions.  There are solutions, and it won’t get as bad as you think.”

James Lovelock is convinced that the only way the human race will survive is if it fully embraces nuclear power.

Most agrologists think that breadbasket-growing belts won’t disappear, but simply shift.

The Dutch are designing floating homes.

Dr. Dennis M. Bushnell, chief scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center, suggests that “Mega-Engineering” such as sunshades in space, triggering volcanoes, or altering the albedo via nano-particulates will avert severe climate change.

In Collapse, Jarred Diamond suggests that the key is starting early enough and working together. To our advantage, the ideas are out there. Many, many people are working right now on solutions, on adaptations.

These are things that need our attention.

Well, Golly!

July 11, 2008

There was much self-congratulatory back slapping going on at the close of the G-8 summit in Japan.

“Three or four years ago, President Bush was saying global warming didn’t exist. So, in relation to that, we have seen quite a lot of movement. But in relation to what’s needed, it’s way, way, off the mark.”

Max Lawson, Oxfam International

Pretty much what happened was this: The leaders present at the summit agreed that, well, golly, the world does seem to be getting a might warm; we should do something about that.

But world leaders aren’t willing or able to convince their populations that we are living in a time of environmental crisis. The United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain Russia and Japan pledged to “move toward a low-carbon society” by cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. No guidelines were set, nothing really definite, just an agreement that global warming is really happening and we should really do something about it.

The thing is, we humans have a really rotten track record when it comes to this type of thing. Since the Kyoto Protocol, which had an objective of “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” was adopted in 1997, Japan’s, as well as the rest of the world’s, carbon emissions have actually increased.

Even if we, and I mean all of us, working together, are able to curb emissions to the level that this summit envisions, such a small reduction so late in the game will have little effect on the coming crisis. Instead of a 50% reduction by 2050, if we want to avert total ecological disaster, we need to reduce emissions 50% by 2020, and 90% by 2050.

I have little hope that this will happen.

Yvo de Boer, who heads the U.N.-led global negotiations to forge a new climate change treaty, said in an Associated Press telephone interview from his home in the Netherlands: “I don’t find the outcome very significant.” He added that the summit’s vague pledge to work toward slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050 mentioned no baseline, did not appear to be legally binding and was open to vastly different interpretations.

We will continue on, as we are, wringing our hands and watching in confoundment as the world changes, as the species die, as the oceans warm and acidify, as human populations starve and civilizations disintegrate. It will happen so fast that it will take our breath away.

Water, Water Everywhere, And Not A Drop To Drink

April 14, 2008

Back in September of 2007, the IPCC said that the effects of climate change are being felt sooner than anticipated.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which is a co-founder of the IPCC, said: “Unchecked climate change will be an environmental and economic catastrophe but above all it will be a human tragedy. Seven of the world’s most populous countries are located in Asia and future population growth over the next 50 years is projected to increase India, Pakistan and Bangladesh’s populations by 570 million, 200 million and 130 million respectively”.

IPCC Technical Paper on Climate Change and Water, released on Wednesday 9th April 2008 states:

Globally, the negative impacts of future climate change on freshwater systems are expected to outweigh the benefits.

Changes in water quantity and quality due to climate change are expected to affect food availability, stability, access and utilization.

Current water management practices may not be robust enough to cope with the impacts of climate change on water supply reliability, flood risk, health, agriculture, energy and aquatic ecosystems.