Thursday, May 24, 2018

Growing Up



From Grist magazine in Nov. 2014: We now know, with a pretty high degree of confidence, that we could tackle climate change if wanted to. All that remains is to decide if we want to.

The good news: There is no substantial technical or economic barrier that would prevent the U.S. from reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, a target that would help put the world on track to limit global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. In fact, there are multiple pathways to that target, each involving a different mix of technologies. Achieving the goal would cost only around 1 percent of GDP a year out through 2050, and if we started now, we could allow infrastructure to turn over at its natural rate, avoiding stranded assets.

The bad news: Pulling it off would require immediate, intelligent, coordinated, vigorously executed policies that sustain themselves over decades.

A summary of strategies for implementation is listed here.

Another easily digested set of strategies are outlined in the Drawdown website that accompanies the companion published textbook. It's a New York Times bestseller.  More detail about the necessary steps are clearly outlined here, a result of Paul Hawken's environmental activism and implementation, released in April 2016.

Unlike most popular books on climate change, it is not a polemic or a collection of anecdotes and exhortations. In fact, with the exception of a few thoughtful essays scattered throughout, it’s basically a reference book: a list of solutions, ranked by potential carbon impact, each with cost estimates and a short description. A set of scenarios show the cumulative potential.

We're seemingly unable to let go of the glittery fossil fuel baubles, and as Grandpa put it: the only person that likes change is a baby with a wet diaper.

But it's not all that difficult. So simple, a child could do it. But we all can't seem to play together in the sandbox, so we march off into oblivion over a few shiny toys.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

Externalities



National governments and subregional agencies are beginning to coalesce around strategies to actually implement the necessary steps towards substantially reducing fossil fuel use as an energy source. They are taking these steps, moving from Paris (COP22) in 2016, to Bonn (COP23) in fall of 2017, and then onto Katowice, Poland (COP24). The recognition that fossil fuels have hidden costs in their production - externalities - is driving more comprehensive agreements between governements and industries. This is being done even with the knowledge that the adopted carbon goals are falling short of the necessary reductions to keep temperatures within the limits that have been agreed to as the carbon emissions reduction targets. The UN and climate scientists have been adamant about the excess emissions that are still being allowed by the adopted targets.

Thousands of government representatives, non-Party stakeholders, members of the press and staff of multilateral organizations are now gathering for the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference from 30 April to 10 May in Bonn, Germany. The Talanoa Dialogue, launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn (COP23) last November, invites everyone to engage in finding a solution, first by preparing submissions in response to three questions: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there? A May 2, 2018 briefing at the global climate action summit in Bonn addressed the participants, showcasing how the real world economy is mobilizing to spur bolder action ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland (COP24) in December 2018.

During this year, governments are charting the road map in Germany's UN Climate Summit for achieving the commitments laid out in the Paris Agreement. The decisions they make will either unlock a sustainable and just future, or they will give Big Polluters free rein to keep polluting and interfering in climate policy. This is a result of the December 2017 meeting of the U.N. climate treaty, when governments agreed to finalize the pathways that will make the Paris Agreement a reality. This agreement came about in spite of the corporate efforts from fossil fuel companies and corporate sponsors that had also descended on Bonn, (COP23) where they were pushing their own agenda behind the scenes, as was reported by Democracy Now! at last years' Climate Change Conference with an interview of "Corporate Accountability" ally Pascoe Sabido (Corporate Europe Observatory, co-author of “Polluting Paris”) and Corporate Accountability Media Director Jesse Bragg. They were interviewed by Amy Goodman.  The interview centered on Corporate Accountability’s most recent report, “Polluting Paris,” the fossil fuel industry’s interference in both EU and U.S. climate policy, and Big Polluters’ fingerprints on this year’s climate talks.

An interview with Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC by Ryan Heath of Politico in December 2017 lays out the growing sense of urgency around the rapid implementation of emissions reductions. She discusses the way she intends to outreach to governments, businesses and other global stakeholders. In the interim, prior to COP24, a Global Climate Action Summit hosted by Governor Jerry Brown and Patricia Espinoza, will take place on September 12-14, 2018 in San Francisco. State and local leaders, businesses, investors, scientists, students, nonprofits and others (“subnational actors”) are a critical part of the climate solution and can help push the world’s leaders to go further, faster.

Some trade and energy agreements are currently being put into play that reflect the need for substantive emissions reductions.In the Clean Energy Package announcement in Brussels on November of 2017, the European Union will start to phase out coal subsidies and reduce its energy usage by 30% before 2030 pursuant to the terms of a major clean energy package. It has come under criticism from Greenpeace for its shortcomings since it allows money to be spent on further coal power supplies.

New research now urges a rethink on global energy subsidies, particularly pointing at fossil fuels. Environmentally, energy subsidies tend to have "substantial carbon footprints" because they tend to favor fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum. As subsidies lower the price of electricity and fuel, they generally lead to higher levels of consumption. They also generally diminish efforts to promote energy efficiency or to conserve energy. Clearly, it would be a major move to eliminate these global energy subsidies, but it would allow governments to put their money towards clean technologies and energy sources that would rapidly reduce the carbon emissions that are wreaking havoc on our planet.

May 2018: Carbon Debitor Excess and Creditor Shortfall

May 2018: All Country List of CO2 emissions in a credit/debit format with share of global budget

Update May 7, 2018: Revolving Door between corporate and public sector for lobbyists

Update May 11, 2018: China wishes to renegotiate & forces U.N. to provide a new draft for COP24

Update May 12, 2018: Arctic sea ice low as UN delegates talk climate in a sweltering Bonn.



Monday, March 26, 2018

The Measure of It



NASA's space and earth science exploration is based here in Pasadena, CA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's facility, which is administered by Caltech. They've launched a satellite in July 2014, Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2. Scientists are studying how carbon moves through Earth’s atmosphere, land and ocean with an array of tools, including a new dataset of the ebbs and flows of carbon in the air. These datasets are run through massive computer models run by NASA, which examines the data and produces visual graphics that show the dynamics that are measured by the instrumentation. One result is the yearly cycle of the earth's biosphere which is the graphic animation above.

"If it weren’t for satellites, we would have very little understanding of the biological activity of the entire Earth," said Josh Fisher, a climate scientist at JPL. "We know from our field studies about how different ecosystems [vary], but we don’t know how robust or representative our studies are at the global scale."

The Landsat missions and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the Terra and Aqua spacecraft allow researchers to study the greenness of vegetation as a proxy for photosynthesis, and therefore carbon dioxide uptake, across the globe. Scientists are also using OCO-2 to take a big-picture look at these small-scale processes, capturing the faint fluorescence given off by terrestrial plants during photosynthesis, Eldering said. With fluorescence, scientists have a new way to observe how active – or not – these green ecosystems are.
Further visual analyses of the CO2 cycle are available from NASA in their press release, which shows the new model of carbon behavior in our atmosphere from Sept. 1, 2014, to Aug. 31, 2015. Such models can be used to better understand and predict where carbon dioxide concentrations could be especially high or low.

NASA is currently developing the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 , or OCO-3, which hopefully will be launched in May of this year and will host the instrument on the International Space Station (ISS) for location on the Japanese Experiment Module Exposed Facility (JEM-EF). Just recently, funding was included in the proposed Federal budget to keep these programs on track, with flat funding for the earth sciences. Lawmakers backed projects that scientists had named as high priorities, but that President Donald Trump’s administration had marked to terminate in 2018. These include four climate-oriented earth science missions: the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem satellite; the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3; the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory Pathfinder; and an Earth-facing camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory.

Update 5/12/18:  OCO-2’s specialized orbiting camera offers the scientific community a powerful new tool.

Update 5/13/18: Trump cancels CMS research funding which analyzes CO2 emissions recorded by OCO-3

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Welcome to the Anthropocene



It could be a short epoch.There is no more room for economic growth on this planet, per a conference from  April 29, 2017.  In this presentation at Columbia University's Low Memorial Library, Stuart Scott lays bare the seriousness of climate change, the 'conspiracy of complacency' in which most of society is engaged, and a simple action to shift the paradigm that is leading humanity to the destruction of the global ecology - called Creation by some, called Nature by others - upon which we all depend. Scott emphasizes the realization by economists that the global operating system of our civilization is seriously flawed, and is known by two names: Money and Economics. Per Dr. Herman Daly, former World Bank senior economist, ecology and ethics are not externalities to an economic system. In this presentation, Scott discusses the update to the original book, "Limits to Growth".

In thinking we were ensuring our survival, we have created the conditions for our own destruction, as is now obvious in the actuality of climate change and of unsustainable production and consumption. Elaborated by Pope Francis, in Laudato Si: "Given the insatiable and irresponsible growth produced over many decades, we need also to think of containing growth by setting some reasonable limits and even retracing our steps before it is too late."

Corporate power is now global, and resistance to it cannot be restricted by national boundaries. Corporations have no regard for nation-states. They assert their power to exploit the land and the people everywhere. They play worker off of worker and nation off of nation. They control the political elites in Ottawa as they do in London, Paris and Washington. The Citizens United decision was the ultimate power play in the US, and our judiciary is not independent. Nor is the media. Try to understand the relationship between money laundering, cyber warfare and influence-peddling...disguise sources of money for political action groups that allow Russian influence on targeted US voting districts. These are proven tactics in European democracies as well. Which is why we see the sudden emergence of "conservative" politicians in the Western democracies that are attempting to tear down democratic processes and actively oppose any actions on climate change with authoritarian controls. And corporations are the "Climate Bad Boys"- in the driver's seat.

Each year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report works with experts and decision-makers across the world to identify and analyse the most pressing risks that we face. The 2018 report from Davos finds that extreme weather events, natural disasters, and failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation are perceived as three of the biggest global risks today. And all of the top risks this year, other than cybersecurity and involuntary migration, are climate or environment related.

To hit the 1.5C optimistic Paris goal, researcher Glenn Peters calculates that—even if emissions flatline now—we’ve used up our quota by 2021. Even if they begin to steeply decline, they’d have to be zero by 2026 for a 66 percent chance of 1.5C of warming. Similar calculations suggest, for a good chance at 2C, we need to be at zero net emissions by 2035. These are not realistic scenarios. Zero carbon emissions by 2026 will only happen if a rogue asteroid wipes out all life on Earth. We are truly up against the wall.

It is worth remembering the results of a government ACD report that leaked in August of 2017. The product of 13 federal agencies, the National Climate Assessment showed that, via their "higher emissions" scenario, the US will experience a stunning 8°F to 10°F warming above where we are now over the interior of the country by 2100.

Update 2/26/18: GDP yardstick is choking us and the planet

Update 2/28/18: A window onto the acquisitive impulses of the jet-posession set, burning resources into the stratosphere

Update 3/3/18: Kevin Anderson: Economics and technology sideline the climate change issues - a failure of honesty (27 min)

Update 3/5/18: Blowback: Humanity Nailed to a Cross of Coal. Exxon knew.

Update 3/9/18: Why economic orthodoxy is a dangerous ideology that is destabilising the planet

Update 3/11/18: Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center: global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Cause and Effect


 The flux of corporeal existence arises from the harmonics of the interactions of everything in the physical world and its energetic structures. The principles of the constructive, anti-entropic processes require that all systems fully account for the energies of mass, motion and light across vast distances that may not actually exist in other dimensions. Living systems operate in this fabric of existence at a scale that reflects the molecular building blocks of DNA strands that emerge as growing organic structures that interact in this system. But a reductionist view is unable to see this.

At its very basic level, "Every action has equal and opposite reaction, acting on two different bodies", which is Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion in his "Principia Mathematica" of 1686. It describes the physical world very well, and until Einstein came along with his theory of special relativity (1905) along with investigating quantum mechanics, these basic concepts prevailed in the Western world.

This kind of understanding in the conscious, energetic realm is reflected in the Buddhist 12 Laws of Karma, including: "Everything in the universe is connected". This is characteristic of all religions, generally assigning this connection to a higher being or form of consciousness that is fundamental to positive outcomes, such as "the mind of the creator". This takes us beyond the simplistic mechanistic views of our post-industrialist civilization and ironically points us towards the findings of quantum mechanics.

There is a new emphasis on this "unified field" approach to the human responsibilities involved with our habitation in our environment. On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si') is the fresh appeal from Pope Francis addressed to "every person living on this planet" for an inclusive dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. Pope Francis calls the Church and the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges and to join him in embarking on a new path. He emphasizes that the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all, and not be subject to the destruction driven by capitalism and corporate global commerce. He's in the Peruvian Amazon right now, and has excoriated the “throwaway culture” that wastes lives and despoils the land. “Gold ... can turn into a false god that demands human sacrifices,” the pope said. “False gods, the idols of avarice, money and power, corrupt everything. They corrupt people and institutions, and they ruin the forest.”

From Gary Hall, a former comedy writer and fierce progressive, past Dean of the Washington National Cathedral (Episcopal) - "America's Church" - and now a pastor in Los Angeles: "Our very environment is changing before our eyes. The folly of our human exploitation of nature is finally catching up with us. The climate change we have brought about through our selfish activity turns out to have real consequences for real people and the real world in the here and now."

Among other things, the backlash to environmental destruction is growing, and people of all beliefs across the planet are becoming open to aligning with natural processes and disposing of fossil fuel energy in order to stop burning carbon and quit trashing our planetary ecosystems with plastic refuse.

Understanding the necessity for reducing the human impact on nature is widespread now, and its solution is a congruence with organic growth. Aubrey Meyer has discussed this in depth in his developed principles behind the well-tempered framework of Contraction and Convergence. This is a proposed framework for the implementation by the UNFCCC which is grounded in the organic structure of Phi, a fundamental reality of the natural world. Its adoption would be a crucial step in the means by which humanity curtails its destructive characteristics and resonates in tune with sustainable ecology.

Update 1/21/18: That Was Easy: In Just 60 Years, Neoliberal Capitalism Has Nearly Broken Planet Earth

Update 1/22/18: Fossil fuel energy sources are the problem

Update 1/23/18: The unexpected math behind Van Gogh's "Starry Night"

Update 1/25/18:  And so where did it come from? Carl Sagan, in "Cosmos" Episode 10 clip (1980) and Cosmic Calendar: We have a choice. We can enhance life and come to know the universe that made us, or we can squander our 15 billion-year heritage in meaningless self destruction.

Update 2/9/18: Panpsychism: Could the force be with us?



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%