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

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

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

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)