All posts by Robert Hunziker

Capitalism’s Ownership of Global Warming

Capitalism not only owns global warming, there’s a big red mitigation arrow pointed at the heart of today’s rampant capitalism, which is eerily similar to the loosie goosie version of the Roaring Twenties, but with a high tech twist.

After all, somebody’s got to pony-up for climate change/global warming mitigation. Who better than deep pocket capitalists?

For historical perspective:  Today’s brand of capitalism runs circles around the Eisenhower 1950s with its 90% top marginal tax rate amidst harmony and good feelings all across the land, an age of innocence aka Leave It To Beaver.

In sharp contrast to the fifties era of good feelings with its emergence of spanking new suburbia, today’s landscape resembles the film Blade Runner (1982) high-tech, rich, and gleaming in some places but elsewhere (often times right next door) shabby and weakening as America’s middle class fizzles away attached to a ball and chain of indebted servitude.

With increasing frequency as climate mitigation is investigated certain statistics stand out like a throbbing sore thumb:

The top three greenhouse gas emitters— China, the EU and the US—contribute more than half of total global emissions, while the bottom 100 countries only account for 3.5%.  Collectively, the top 10 emitters account for nearly three-quarters (75%) of global emissions. The world can’t possibly successfully tackle the climate change challenge without significant action from these top-emitting countries.1

Interestingly enough, the socio-politico-economic genesis of global warming as of nowadays is known as Late Capitalism, as defined by Ernest Mandel2 or in the parlance: “Increasing commodification and industrialization of more, and more, sectors of human life” as the social fabric splits apart, delineating “haves” versus “have-nots.”

By definition, that socio/economic paradigm brings in its wake division, and fierce alienation.

So, Late Capitalism, what does it look like? According to Oxfam International, a confederation of 20 independent charitable orgs founded in 1942, sixty-two (62) of the richest billionaires held as much wealth in 2016 as 50% of the entire world population. That number dropped to 8 billionaires in 2017 controlling as much wealth as the bottom half of the world. That remarkable ratio is: 8 : 3,600,000,000.

The 2018 numbers are not yet available, but there’s speculation that the number eight (8) will drop, in time, to two (2) people that control as much wealth as one-half (½) of the world. That’s the absolute epitome, the zenith, of Late Capitalism.

It’s little wonder that wealth disparity, flashed all over the place, has become a target in the context of the climate crisis. In that regard, not many people grasp the issue as well as Kevin Anderson of Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research/UK. Tyndall is one of the world’s most prestigious research institutions, and Anderson has a reputation for telling it like it is.

Recently, he spoke at the Oxford Climate Society.

Accordingly, as discussed by Kevin Anderson, knowing that climate change is a serious (existential) threat… what to do… just for starters: (1) The top 10% carbon polluters in the world must cut their CO2 footprint to the same footprint as members of the EU. (2) The remaining 90% of the world makes no reductions. (3) Ipso facto, global CO2 is cut by one-third.

That’s merely a starter, an appetizer for meeting the 2C temperature guardrail as agreed by the nations of the world at Paris 2015. Interestingly, the top 10% polluters are the heart and soul of effective mitigation, which is defined as an “equitable solution,” meaning those who emit the most carbon must carry the heaviest burden. Yet, an equitable solution has not happened, and there are no signals it will happen.

Getting to the heart of the matter, according to Anderson:

The taboo issue of the asymmetric distribution of wealth underpins the international community’s failure to seriously tackle climate change. Only when we acknowledge this can we move from incrementalism to system-change.

Believe it or not (of course, it is true and believable) 1,500 private jets flew attendees to Davos World Economic Forum to discuss, amongst other issues, climate change.

According to Kevin Anderson:

It’s about time we called these people out.

For example, the Davos paradigm, meaning plutocrats taking control, is legitimized (in Anderson’s words) by:

The climate Glitterati, such as, M. Bloomberg, L. DiCaprio, N. Stern, C. Figueres, A. Gore, M. Carney. All of these people have huge carbon footprints, and they fly around the world in private jets to inform us what to do about climate change. They are supported by a whole cadre of senior academics promoting offsetting, negative emissions, geo-engineering, CCS, green growth, etc. These are all ‘an evolution within the system.

Also, annual COP (Conference of the Parties) has been hijacked by climate glitterati-related influencers (COPs are annual UN Climate Change Conferences held to assess progress).

Well, surprise-surprise, not surprised, Royal Dutch Shell had a hand in shaping the Paris Agreement of 2015, and it influenced certain provisions of the “Rulebook” adopted at COP24 in Katowice 2018. This meddling clearly violates the ethics that only member states of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change can determine “texts and rulebooks.” But, it happens with regularity.

At COP 24 in Katowice at a side event organized by the International Emissions Trading Association (a big time biz lobby) Shell’s chief climate adviser, David Hone, publicly announced that Shell should take some credit for inclusion of Article 6 in the Paris Agreement, which enables countries to trade emissions in carbon markets.

Not only, Mr. Hone also took a bow and credit for part of the text in the all-important “Rulebook” adopted at Katowice. By all accounts and according to various environmental groups, big corporations are “greenwashing.”

Fossil fuel companies were significant sponsors at COP24 in Katowice. Their logos were ubiquitous. And, at a mind-blowing out of this world event, the Polish Pavilion was stuffed full of actual lumps of black coal, as samplers.

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda told COP24 delegates:

Using coal is not in contradiction with climate protection in Poland because we can lower the emissions and ensure economic growth at the same time.

What!!! Who falls for this kind of claptrap?

ExxonMobil pledged to cut its methane emissions and contribute funds for a carbon tax campaign in the U.S. Oh, please, stop it! Pseudo solutions like carbon markets and geo-engineering promises (that don’t work to scale) are pushed by corporate interests to legitimatize their current CO2 emissions. Oh, please! It’s a ruse because if you lay claim to geo-engineering technology that fixes CO2 emissions, then you legitimize using as much fossil fuel as your little heart desires. But, the brutal truth is the technology is not perfected.  Not by a long shot. Then what?

Climate change is ultimately a rationing issue. But, so far, forget it:

We’ve had 28 years of abject failure on climate change. It’s not that we haven’t brought emissions down. It’s just that we’ve watched them go up. In fact, since 2000, the rate at which they’ve gone up is even faster than the 1990s. (Kevin Anderson)

According to Anderson, the current CO2 global budget is roughly 700Gt of CO2 maximum to adhere to the Paris Agreement of temps below 2C. Meanwhile, 43Gt of CO2 is emitted per year, which equates to 16 years of current emissions to stay under 2C. Thereafter, and in fact, before then, CO2 emissions must drop to zero. (For the record, this has never happened.)

At the end of the day, the only conceivable way forward to prevent the world from turning into an oven is “system change” via transformation to decarbonized energy supply technologies with deep penetration of efficient technologies and a profound shift in behavior and reframing the value propositions re success and progress, an economic model that fits the purpose of mitigation, like eco-economics.

As for the current economic model of high-end neoliberal capitalism, it must be displaced in favor of eco economics. What are the odds? One hundred percent (100%) it will happen but way too late!

According to Kevin Anderson:

Everything is pointed in the wrong direction… We are guaranteed defeat unless we start to think radically differently.

He concludes:

We have an outside chance of still meeting 2C if society addresses the political, social, and economic implications, as well as the technical ones.

But, what if it’s too late?

Postscript:

Winning slowly is basically the same thing as losing outright. In the face of both triumphant denialism and predatory delay, trying to achieve climate action by doing the same things, the same old ways means defeat. It guarantees defeat.

— Alex Steffen, American award-winning futurist, 2017

  1. World Resources Institute
  2. Late Capitalism, Verso Classics, 1999.

Thwaites Glacier Startles Scientists

“It’s a disturbing discovery,” according to Pietro Milillo, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, who co-authored a recently published study: “Heterogeneous Retreat and Ice Melt of Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica”, Science Advances, Vol. 5, No. 1, January 30, 2019.

It’s only within the past 10 years that NASA’s IceBridge Mission has served as the largest airborne survey of Earth’s polar ice, providing unprecedented three-dimensional views of Antarctica’s ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice. Scientists are now able to peer into glaciers with remarkable accuracy to see what’s happening.

Indeed, scientists are getting an eyeful, and they are discovering the true impact of global warming, which is much more powerful and happening considerably faster than they ever dreamed possible.

After all, the ocean has been absorbing most of the planet’s heat, and that heat finds its way underneath in the water, thus creating gigantic melt holes, like the recently discovered Thwaites Big Cavity. As such, considerable damage is/has been hidden from view.

The new NASA study, utilizing IceBridge, shows a surprising loss of 14B tons of ice in only three years from the Thwaites Glacier, where a humongous hole lurks beneath the glacier’s icy/snowy surface, a massive cavity nearly the size of NYC but hidden within the core of the ice sheet.

Fascinatingly, it’s calculated that Thwaites is responsible for anywhere from 5% to 10% of worldwide annual sea level rise (“SLR”). By the time the monster glacier disappears from the face of the planet, it alone will equal nearly two feet of SLR. But, how soon Thwaites fades away within Antarctica’s mid-summer 24-hour endless sunlight is a big mystery.

Thwaites Glacier is one of West Antarctica’s big kahunas. It’s 100 miles across and 4,000 feet deep. Surprisingly, and disturbingly, it’s melting earlier and much much faster than ever thought possible, which is downright spooky for a humongous icy glacier that has a permanent face in Antarctica ever since the dawn of humanity.

It should be noted that Thwaites, assuming it collapses and triggers a series of collapsing glaciers surrounding it, serves as a major-major backstop to a larger potential catastrophe on West Antarctica. Still, an event that catastrophic would likely happen well beyond current lifetimes. However, on a cautionary note, timelines for climate change have become moving targets, almost always way too timid.

Thwaites is one more crushing example of scientists exclaiming: “Uh-oh, this is happening much faster than we ever thought possible.” That’s become a common acknowledgment by scientists. Climate change is happening faster and faster, surprising scientists, as their “models” get blown away by new data.

It was only 5 years ago when scientists said the Western Antarctica ice sheet “collapse had started” but the same researchers said: “Even though sea level rise could not be stopped (10-13 feet) it is still several centuries off, and potentially up to 1,000 years away.” No sweat!

Now they are sweating.

Making matters dicey-er yet as for urban coastal planners, the United Nations’ IPCC most recent report did not factor in a melting of the Western Antarctica ice sheet into calculations of sea level rise this century.

Surprise, surprise, it’s happening so much faster.

According to the aforementioned study: “The Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE), (Thwaites is one of several glaciers in the embayment) sector of West Antarctica is a dominant contributor to sea level rise at present and for decades to come.”

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that, unfortunately: The fast-flowing main trunk of Thwaites accelerated 33% between 1973-1996, but lo and behold, the rate quadrupled in 2003-2010, flowing at a rate of 9.5 Gt/yr versus 2.2 Gt/yr previously. That’s 4xs faster, blowing away the old 1973-96 rate of 33%. Geologically speaking, Thwaites is a virtual supersonic melt speed demon.

Of course, once there’s a big new discovery (surprise-surprise) like Thwaites, the odds of similar glacier scenarios are quite high. After all, Antarctica is the largest desert in the world covered by a couple miles of ice equivalent to about 200 feet of sea level rise. There are plenty of potential additional scenarios.

With a sense of urgency, the U.S. and Great Britain have announced a $50M joint venture known as the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration to probe the glacier in every conceivable manner to discover ahead of time how precarious it may be.

And, collaterally, whether science has been way too tardy in identifying the risks associated with global warming.

CO2 on Track for Largest Rise in 62 Years

Around the world, atypical climate change grows increasingly threatening to all life on the planet, principally because of excessive CO2 emissions. Paradoxically, this is happening on the heels of the Paris 2015 climate accord among nations of the world.

But, didn’t almost all of the countries of the world pledge to cut back greenhouse gas emissions?

Oh yes, they did, but CO2 emissions set new records year after year after year. Ever since Paris 2015 nothing positive has happened to halt global warming, almost nothing!

Granted, it’s true that renewable installations, especially in China, are hot items but so is fossil fuel usage, which had its largest increase in seven years in 2018. Ya gotta wonder: Where’s Waldo/Paris2015?

By all appearances, pledges to reduce greenhouse gases at Paris 2015 are fatigued because the climate system is staggering and sending early warning signs of rapid deterioration of key ecosystems that support life, which, in large measure, is caused by ever increasing bursts of CO2 emissions.

On January 25, 2019, the prestigious Met Office Hadley Centre/UK issued a dismal CO2 forecast: “Faster CO2 Rise Expected in 2019.”

During 2019, Met Office climate scientists expect to see one of the largest rises in atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration in 62 years.

As of today, 4 years since Paris 2015, CO2 is supposed to be plateauing or leveling, flattish, not roaring ahead in a 62-year ascendency to new record highs as it continues to ratchet up. Something’s horribly amiss about the pledges by countries to reduce CO2 emissions in order to minimize the risks of climate change/global warming. Those pledges are going backwards, falling into a deep black abyss.

Indeed, part of the problem is a function of the failure of natural carbon sinks to draw down CO2 like years past. This problem (gulp-gulp) is a double negative whammy as natural carbon sinks, like tropical rainforests (think the Amazon) and sweeping meadows with tall swaying grasses (think the Russian Steppes), keep humanity humming along in a Goldilocks planet, not too hot, not to cold, but maybe coming to an abrupt end, which implies too much climate stress with subsequent human warfare over depleting food supplies.

Meantime, “Climate Change Thugs” lead some of the world’s most powerful countries and summarily reject Paris 2015. Consequently, the countries that should be leading a WWII-effort Marshall Plan to convert to 75%-100% renewables are knee-deep in obstructionism and antagonism, which goes to prove an ancient Far East maxim: “Disastrous leadership delivers disastrous results.”

In fact, disaster is already staring society right in the face with extra-alarm flashing red lights warning of collapsing food webs in tropical rainforests, which is ample evidence that anthropogenic climate change is already happening right under society’s collective noses.1

It goes without saying that a 40-year study of loss of a major food web in a pristine tropical rainforest, which happens to be a protected nature preserve, is mind-boggling beyond words, stuff that brings on sleepless nights, leaving serious students of climate change speechless.

The scientists of the rainforest study believe they are already seeing today what the IPCC predicted for climate change in 2040. Worse yet, a collapsing pristine rainforest is a powerful harbinger of the unraveling of natural life support ecosystems. Nothing could be worse! Ergo, it is remarkable that major countries ignore this symptom of impending disaster for all, rich and poor alike.

If major countries took the loss of a food web in a pristine rainforest seriously, there would be a declaration of war announced to advance renewable energy ASAP! But, no, there are no major initiatives announced by major countries, nothing on the order of a Marshall Plan.

According to a lead scientist of the rainforest study:

The central question addressed by our research is why simultaneous, long-term declines in arthropods, lizards, frogs, and birds have occurred over the past four decades in the relatively undisturbed rainforests of northeastern Puerto Rico. Our analyses provide strong support for the hypothesis that climate warming has been a major factor driving reductions in arthropod abundance, and that these declines have in turn precipitated decreases in forest insectivores in a classic bottom-up cascade.2

After a certain thermal threshold, insects no longer lay eggs, and their internal chemistry breaks down. This is what happens in the rainforests when global warming cranks up temperatures to 2.0C, or above, which coincidentally is the upper barrier that the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) set as a guardrail to prevent serious consequences of global warming.

The rainforests are living proof of the IPCC warning of a “guardrail at 1.5-2.0C” above pre-industrial temperatures beyond which climate change negatively impacts (destroys) ecosystems that support life.

Indeed, in a separate study of a biosphere reserve in western Mexico, scientists found similar results over a period of 34 years, 1980 to 2014. Temperatures increased by 2.4°C and biomass of insects, and arthropods in general, declined 8-fold, which is a sobering omen of very tough times ahead for any species that depends upon ecosystems for survival, which includes pretty much everybody.

So, as it happens, future climate change is already here 20 years ahead of schedule as found in the planet’s most pristine areas where humans seldom, if ever, tread, and it’s deadly!

Postscript: To get personally involved with an organization that’s meaningful, go to:

World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity wake-up call!

Get informed at:  ScientistsWarning TV

Get involved at:  ScientistsWarning.org.

  1. The referenced study: Bradford C. Lister and Andres Garcia, Climate-Driven Declines in Arthropod Abundance Restructure a Rainforest Food Web, Proceedings of the National Academies.
  2. Ibid.

End Times, Dead Ahead

It is time we consider the implications of it being too late to avert a global environmental catastrophe in the lifetimes of people alive today.

— Jem Bendell, “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy”, July 27th, 2018

In other words, the world is coming to an end.

Of course it is… but when?

Professor Jem Bendell’s brilliant seminal work, “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy” d/d July 27th 2018, claims the time is now, within a decade, not sometime in the distant future. Not only that, he suggests embracing this transcendental experience that’s colloquially known as “End Times.”

Along those lines, a powerful intimately conceived film by ScientistsWarningTV.org produced by Stuart Scott captures Bendell’s inner thoughts about “what’s important” in the face of near extinction:

Bendell’s 15-minute video monologue should be viewed in the context of the current status of the world’s climate crisis, which is a mindboggling steroid-enhanced-CO2-laced trip to nowhere but trouble, and it’s smack dab on target (actually ahead of target) for a grim, bleak world that alters all life and contorts the socio-economic compact, meaning sudden death for the “neoliberal brand” of capitalism, which will not survive once the world comes to accept and recognize its inherent villainy, notably its massive extensive disruption of the earth system of life, or Gaia.

Even worse yet, total annihilation of almost all life is a probability, a scenario that a small minority of scientists embrace. Those scientists believe that an extinction event is baked-in-the-cake, inevitable, inescapable within current lifetimes because of excessive human-caused greenhouse gases such as CO2, which, in turn, disrupts James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, meaning the biosphere has a self-regulatory effect on Earth that sustains life. Destroy one ecosystem and all others will fail in time and most of Earth becomes uninhabitable.

Decidedly, as well as factually, the planet has a long history of uninhabitable epochs known as extinction events (five times in the past), although the past occurrences were much slower than today’s zip zap exponential speedway to obliteration that literally takes one’s breath away! Never before has impending cataclysm been on such a rapid ascent as the 21st century.

On the other hand, who really believes it (“extinction”) will happen? Answer: Almost nobody believes it. As for the world at large, the “big it” isn’t remotely possible. All of which makes Bendell’s essay and monologue so intriguing and compelling as an alternative viewpoint. He embraces the “what if the worst-case scenario” really (surprise, surprise) happens?

Meantime, as things stand today, the world has come to its senses about the relentless severe dangers inherent within excessive CO2 emitted by power plants, cars, trucks, and planes. After all, greenhouse gases cumulate in the stratosphere, similar to layers of heavy woolen blankets, which, in turn, traps global heat which otherwise would escape into outer space, but no, it’s trapped.

Assuredly, excessive greenhouse gases with concomitant global warming compelled a gathering of nations at Paris 2015 in agreement to limit global warming to 1.5-2.0C?

But honestly, come on now! Are humans omnipotent enough to “control the climate” to +1.5-2.0C from baseline post industrial without unintended blowback and/or f/ups of major proportions? Is it really so simple? Answer: No.

Some knowledgeable sources claim it’ll be 10-20 years, or more, before technology is perfected and fully implemented to alter human-caused climate damage with any degree of proficiency, but that presumes an engineered concept sizeable enough in-scale to do the trick, which is the bane of on-going geoengineering efforts.

Although, eleventh-hour rescues seldom succeed within enough time.

Already, the Paris 2015 climate accord is poignant proof that the world recognizes the dangers of abrupt climate change and a lot of very smart people are scared as hell! Still, the problem remains: Nobody seems to know what to do other than theorize, experiment and talk, which is notoriously cheap.

As it happens, nothing of major consequence is being done to stop an extinction event. As of today, fossil fuels emitting CO2 remain at 80-85% of energy consumption1 the same as 50 years ago. Nothing positive has happened for decades!

Come to think of it, is it really too late?

Yes, according to Bendell, it is too late. He carefully reviewed the scientific literature as well as accessing research institutions to get to the bottom of the current status of climate change. What he discovered is basic to his conviction that society is headed for a train wreck of enormous proportions.

Deep Adaptation offers examples of likely outcomes, to wit: “With the power down, soon you wouldn’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend upon your neighbors for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.”

Professor Bendell concludes:

Disruptive impacts from climate change are now inevitable. Geoengineering is likely to be ineffective or counter-productive. Therefore, the mainstream climate policy community now recognizes the need to work much more on adaptation to the effects of climate change… Societies will experience disruptions to their basic functioning within less than ten years due to climate stress. Such disruptions include increased levels of malnutrition, starvation, disease, civil conflict and war – and will not avoid affluent nations.

It goes without saying Bendell’s contention may or may not play out accordingly. And in sharp contrast to his forlorn viewpoint, human ingenuity has been a powerful force over millennia and hopefully comes to the rescue. But then again, it’s human ingenuity that got us into this mess in the first place.

Is it too late?

Ecosystems are already starting to crumble where no people live so nobody sees it. Meanwhile, a lot of very smart well-informed people are scared as hell, but hush-hushed. Indeed, a few scientists, but very few public voices, believe society is fast approaching “lights out.” It’s why Jem Bendell wrote “Deep Adaptation”.

Postscript: The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said mid January 2019 marked the hottest days on record. Authorities are blaming the pounding heat wave for massive die-offs of bats on biblical scale and fish, as well as farms with “fruit still on the trees cooked from the inside out.” Ominous? Oh, Yes!

  1. Source: U.S. EIA, Washington, D.C

Greta “Joan of Arc” Thunberg Shames Leaders at COP24

In 1429 Joan of Arc (17) led French troops to victory over English forces at the Siege of Orleans after she had a vision. Today, eco warrior Greta Thunberg (15) is leading the battle against the ravages of climate change. Greta has vision.  She’s taken the leadership mantle from Joan of Arc whether she knows it or not. Some things in life just happen!

For nearly three decades, the global movement to fix climate change has been stuck in low or no-gear ever since the nations of the world agreed to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 1992 at the Kyoto Protocol. It’s been a dry run ever since, nothing of consequence happens.

Instead, GHGs continue to accumulate, and at an accelerating rate no less, and ecosystems are starting to collapse, e.g., the Arctic is losing its entire infrastructure because of global warming and permafrost regions of the world are collapsing. The consequences are too unnerving to mention! More likely, divine intervention is needed, badly needed.

Fortunately, Joan of Arc’s contemporary counterpart Greta Thunberg has swept onto the scene from Sweden. Her advent is eerily similar to that of Joan of Arc dressed in armor and white garments leading the French against English forces. Hers was a watershed victory for France during the exhausting and horrifically bloody 100-Years War.

Over subsequent weeks Joan led the French forces into a number of stunning victories over the English, and Reims, the traditional city of coronation, was captured in July. Later that month, Charles VII was crowned king of France with Joan of Arc kneeling at his feet.

All of which prompts consideration for whether Greta’s presence and fierce determination can bring tangible results to the climate change fight similar to Saint Joan of Arc’s miraculous victories for France. By all appearances, Greta is the right choice to carry Joan of Arc’s banner into battle circa 2019 and onwards.

Greta is equally committed to justice as Joan of Arc, but it is climate justice rather than recapturing sovereign territory. Several weeks ago Greta went on strike from school to protest, sitting on cobblestones outside parliament in central Stockholm, handing out leaflets to adults, informing them of their failure to fight the climate crisis.

At about that time, after 2 weeks of her attracting global attention from the media, embarrassed Swedish parliamentarians had her moved from parliament to the other side of a public bridge that links parliament island to mainland Stockholm “for public safety reasons.”  But, had it actually been for public safety, they would have moved her on the first day.  Rather, their modus operandi was to remove her resonating protest from official visitors, MPs and Swedish lobbyists.

Previously, Sweden enacted some of the most ambitious climate laws in the world in order to become carbon neutral by 2045, thus beating the climate targets of 2015 Paris. Still, according to Greta: “This is too little too late; it needs to come much faster. Sweden is not a green paradise, it has one of the biggest carbon footprints.”1

Sweden’s carbon neutrality is still partially based upon the dubious principle of “carbon offsets.” As well, they use a 1990 baseline, which is already suspect since the Kyoto Protocols and Paris Accord intend to control temperature rise to 1.5-2o C of the 1850 baseline! Therefore, Sweden’s baseline is missing 140 yrs. Greta says Sweden’s carbon neutrality is, at best, inadequate and pandering to the populace.

Meantime, the climate crisis lingers, not going away, as temperatures continue scorching upwards, and year-over-year CO2 emissions set new records. Still, fossil fuels are 80%-85% of the global energy mix, same as 40-50 years ago. This is 100% proof of an historic non-accomplishment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as well as all of the various COP meetings and all principals so involved.

Not only, but as Greta insinuates, one solution to climate change could be a change in socio-politico-economic systems. Accordingly, Greta claims: “Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury.”

By all appearances, she is an advocate of a more socialized economic mix that favors masses over elite globalists. In the true spirit of an extraordinarily strong climate advocate, she avoids air travel. Greta is truly committed to her passion. How else sit in lonely protests at parliament?

The brutal fact is that ever since the nations of the world agreed to curb greenhouse gases at Kyoto in 1992, CO2 emissions (with one small hiatus) have been accelerating, not decelerating. Like clockwork, COP meetings are followed by increases in CO2 emissions. That’s a bad trend.

Furthermore, CO2 emissions today are 10-15 times more than the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction or the 5th Extinction event 65 million years ago when dinosaurs went down for the count. If dinosaurs couldn’t survive back then, what of Homo sapiens today in the face of greenhouse gases emitting 10-15 times faster?

As a result, today’s extinction rate is at least 1,000 times more powerful than normal background rates of 1-5 species per year. Nowadays, more than 150 species go extinct per day, not 1-5 species per year like yesteryear!

Accordingly the consequences of climate change/global warming, and including vast amounts of chemical toxicity, trounce the rate of the five past extinction events. Today, the climate crisis vis-a-vis past extinction events is literally off the charts!

Greta knows this, and it is why she openly shames adults for messing up the planet. At Katowice, Poland via “ScientistsWarning.org presents Greta Thunberg’s Intervention at COP-24” hosted by Stuart Scott she told the UN secretary general António Guterres:

For 25 years countless people have stood in front of the UN climate conferences, asking our nation’s leaders to stop the emissions. But, clearly, this has not worked since the emissions just continue to rise.

So I will not ask them anything.

Instead, I will ask the media to start treating the crisis as a crisis.

Instead, I will ask the people around the world to realize that our political leaders have failed us.

Because we are facing an existential threat and there is no time to continue down this road of madness… So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again.

We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.

As Greta understands only too well, our biosphere’s ecosystems are under severe stress, but it starts where nobody lives. So people do not see it or sense it until it is too late. After all, who lives in the Arctic, Andes’ glaciers, Patagonia, Antarctica, Tibetan glaciers, Siberian Arctic permafrost, Alaskan permafrost, or in acidic ocean waters… nobody!

Greta Thunberg knows of the potency of risks at hand because she has studied the subject matter, and now that she fully understands the impending doomsday consequences, she has put world leaders and the entire world on notice that “change is coming whether they like it or not.”

Will the world community react in time or will it dilly dally and waste another 30 years holding spectacular COP meetings but failing to cut greenhouse gas emissions?

Postscript: Greta’s full 3-minute speech, or ‘intervention,’ at the UN plenary of the negotiations at COP24 is available here.  She was brought to COP24 by ScientistsWarning.org, whose website allows you to join the worldwide effort to avert an ecological catastrophe in the making, and by ClimateMatters.TV with host Stuart Scott, where one can subscribe for free to a flow of astute video material on the ins and outs of the planet’s current existential predicament.

  1. David Crouch, “The Swedish 15-year-old Who’s Cutting Classes to Fight the Climate Crisis,” Guardian, Sept. 1, 2018.

Is COP24 One More Big Bust?

Two hundred nations at Katowice COP24 Poland just wrapped up two-weeks of climate meetings. If history is a guide, CO2 emissions will continue to accelerate until COP25 next year in Chile. Still, the delegates did adopt a rule book to put Paris ’15 into action, Ahem!

But, hark! There’s a ray of sunshine peering out from behind the Katowice coal-clouded skyline because big money interests may be altering the landscape for combating global warming.

According to reports out of Katowice1 global investors managing $32T issued a “stark warning” that the world faces financial Armageddon worse than 2008 if carbon emissions are not cut, including a phase-out of coal. Wow!

That sets the stage for proving/disproving the old maxim “money talks.” If it does, there’s a glimmer of hope for Miami’s survival.

Accordingly, some of the world’s deepest pocket investors including pension funds, insurers, and asset fund managers exhibited their most impressive intervention ever by insisting that (1) fossil fuel subsidies must end and (2) substantial taxes must be slapped on carbon.

According to the IMF, current subsidies for fossil fuels amount to $5T per year, which makes fossil fuel subsidies alone equivalent to some of the largest economies in the world. Ipso facto, if $5 trillion/year pivots from fossil fuel subsidies to renewable investments, just imagine the impact. By way of comparison, in 2017 total investment in renewables reached $280B.

Of course, the big money interests would also be feathering their own nests by switching fossil fuel subsidies to renewables as the world economy accelerates with the thrust of a space shuttle blast-off, creating jobs, jobs, and more jobs in the Renewable Global Economy.

Thus, a whole new world opens to massive infrastructure investments, accelerating global wealth creation, and the world turns clean, assuming it’s not too late by the time they get serious, a big assumption, indeed.

In stark contrast to that message from 415 financial institutions, ever since Paris 2015, the US, China, and Japan provided $500B in financing for new coal plants. Oops!

The day after the closing of COP24 Mexico announced plans to spend $3.65B to boost crude oil production 45% by 2025. This is comparable to stabbing COP24 in the eye with a sharp stick. Nothing mentioned about renewable energy.

The following statements by big money interests at Katowice tells an interesting story:

“The long-term nature of the challenge has, in our view, met a zombie-like response by many,” said Chris Newton, of IFM Investors, which manages $80Bn and is one of the 415 groups that signed the Global Investor Statement. ‘This is a recipe for disaster as the impacts of climate change can be sudden, severe and catastrophic.”2

“Investment firm Schroders said there could be $32Tn of global economic losses a year in the long term without rapid action. This permanent economic damage would be almost four times the scale of the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis. Standard and Poor’s rating agency also warned leaders: ‘Climate change has already started to alter the functioning of our world.”((Ibid.))

“Thomas DiNapoli, of the $207bn New York State Common Retirement Fund, another signatory, said taking action on global warming not only avoids damage but could boost jobs and growth. ‘The low-carbon economy presents numerous opportunities and investors who ignore the changing world do so at their own peril.”2

Heretofore, the nations of the world have failed miserably for nearly three decades. At COPs there’s always plenty of pomp and ceremony, cocktail parties, caviar, formal dinners, and millions upon millions of dollars spent staying in fancy hotels but nothing positive on CO2 emissions in 26 years, other than increasing public awareness and adding more scientific studies, all of which increasingly point to rapid deterioration of ecosystems around the world, way beyond prior estimates. This trend negatively surprises the scientific community, but it has not moved nation/states to take action.

Thus, the world is at serious risk of collapsing ecosystems, which can happen with remarkable suddenness and without warning. The telltale signals are already present, as lesser species are already going extinct in all-time record numbers, 1,000-10,000 xs the normal background rate. This current rate of extinction makes the dinosaur-era extinction rate 65M yrs ago look like a walk in the park and should be taken very seriously.

In point of fact, climate change/global warming has worsened considerably ever since the Kyoto protocol (1992), aka Conference of the Parties3 or COP3, which was the first agreement to mandate country-by-country reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (“GHG”). Ever since, GHGs have gone straight up (with one small hiatus), not down.

Meanwhile, fossil fuel usage has remained static at approximately 80% of worldwide energy production for the past 40 years. No change, which is the perfect setup for unmitigated climate disaster.

The most recent readings of CO2 shows Mauna Loa (Hawaii) CO2 @ 408.2 ppm as of November 2018 versus 405.12 ppm in November 2017. According to NASA, in 1992 when Kyoto met, CO2 was 356.42 ppm. Consider: Over the past 40,000 years, up until 200 yrs ago, CO2 was 200-300 ppm, the Holocene Age with its Goldilocks Climate not too hot, not too cold but rapidly coming to an end. Then, what?

The global warming risk indicator: In 1850 human-generated CO2 was 50 million tons/yr. Nowadays, it only takes 12 hours, not a year, to put out that same 50 million tons (USGS analysis). Try that one on for size Mister Global Warming!

Here’s the crux of the issue that makes it nearly impossible to tackle the global warming crisis w/o US help (P.S.- the US delegation at COP24 promoted fossil fuels – honestly, they did.): “Ten percent (10%) of the global population (hint-hint- mostly the US) are responsible for 50% of carbon emissions and twenty percent (20%) of global population are responsible for 70% of all global emissions… tells us that we need to be tailoring our policies towards that small group rather than trying to squeeze the emissions out of the majority of world population who are hardly emitting anything at all… if the 10% reduced their carbon footprint to the level of the average European citizen, that would be equivalent to a 1/3rd cut in global emissions, even if the other 90% did nothing… for example, the average Rwanda citizen emits 0.10-0.50 tons CO2 versus the average American at 30-35 tons.”3

As it happens, the rate of CO2 growth is itself growing, having now reached about 2.3 ppm/yr the highest growth rate in modern times. It is not just a “business as usual” scenario. it is worse than that, as we are moving backwards, becoming more and more unsustainable with every year. This shows unequivocally that the efforts undertaken so far to limit GHGs are woefully inadequate.

Every COP meeting since 1992 has been greeted with higher CO2 emissions than the year before, now accelerating faster than ever in paleoclimate history. That locks-in, guarantees big time troubles down the road, when least expected.

Postscript:

For 25 years, countless people have come to the U.N. climate conferences begging our world leaders to stop emissions, and clearly that has not worked as emissions are continuing to rise. So, I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future. I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not.

— Greta Thunberg, 15-year-old Swedish speaker at COP24.

  1. e.g., Damian Carrington’s The Guardian article d/d December 9, 2018: “Tackle Climate or Face Financial Crash, Say World’s Biggest Investors.”
  2. Ibid.
  3. Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research interview with Democracy Now! at COP24.

The Yellow Vest Insurgency: What’s Next?

Paris, France, April 2017: Macron Unveils Assault on Workers’ Rights.

Paris, France, December 2018: A potential worldwide insurgency of the working class starts in France as Yellow Vests occupy the streets.

Some 75% of the French back the gilets jaunes. And this support has held up despite the violence.1

The French Yellow Vests Insurgency may or may not grow into a major threat to the established order; nobody knows for sure how it will play out.

Nevertheless, the undertone has been obvious for some years. Once the world publicly recognized a division between the 1% and everybody else, the stage was set for flare-ups, like the Yellow Vest Insurgency movement, as tens of thousands of people dressed in bright yellow vests hit the streets.

Why would tens of thousands of people wearing bright yellow vests, similar to roadside workers, hit the streets? Answer: They’re pissed off!

And, where do tens of thousands of the yellow vests come from? In 2008 France passed a law requiring all motorists to have high-visibility vests in vehicles as a safety measure should the driver need to exit a vehicle on a roadside. Therefore, everybody with a vehicle in France has a yellow vest.

It goes without saying that, over the past three decades, neoliberal globalization set the table for dissolution of the middle class as wages around the world collapsed into a SE Asian vortex of slave labor. This is the heart of the matter behind the Yellow Vest movement, albeit sparked by the Macron government’s new fuel taxes. This is also the biggest reason why a worldwide revolution of the working classes may actually happen, inclusive of pretty much everybody below the top 1% plus the upper-upper-middle-class.

So far, repercussions have been potent on a worldwide basis. For example, retail stores in Cairo have been ordered by the police not to sell yellow vests. Egypt’s abusive dictator General Abdel Fattah al Sisi is looking over his shoulder at France where Yellow Vests have established a foothold that’s spreading like a house afire.

Without doubt, governments are panicked over the prospect of radicalization of the international working class. In France, working class demands include social equality, wage increases, a halt of militarism, reinstituting the wealth tax, and the overthrow of unpopular governments, making Macron look an awful lot like a modern-day clone of Louis XVI (beheaded in 1793).

Recently, Macron made some concessions to demands of the Yellow Vests. They’re not impressed!

This time, however, is different. The gilets jaunes emerged from nowhere via social media. They are not the product of organized unions or political parties. Their structureless and leaderless nature makes them potent, volatile, and difficult for the police and government to handle. They do not follow the codified rules of protest. Their diverse demands range from an end to the eco-tax to the resignation of Mr. Macron – and even his replacement with a military general. And the government cannot find leaders willing to attend meetings.2

All of which describes the future of revolutionary activity throughout the world. It is seamlessly simple and frighteningly powerful.

In Algeria, protestors donned yellow vests in response to a failing system, as family after family cannot afford the basics of life.

In Tunisia, a new group called “Red Vests” issued a call for protests of a Tunisian political system that promotes “systematic impoverishment.”

In Belgium, police violently cracked down on angry groups of Yellow Vests with similar demands.

In Basra, Iraq Yellow Vests criticize widespread contamination of drinking water and poor city services and corruption under a NATO-backed neocolonial regime. Meanwhile, 243 miles away in Baghdad Yellow Vests hit the streets in sympathy.

“Yellow Vest” has become a catchall for all of the grievances of working people. Indeed, this is how revolts commence in earnest. And, it is indicative of a world order that is edgy, angry, and ready for conflict with the first spark of ignition.

The precursor for the present insurrection was identification of an elite class, or the 1%. Throughout history, revolutions aspire to confrontation once lines of division have been clearly drawn; e.g., the Boston Tea Party, or the fall of the Bastille, or today’s “One Percent,” which clearly divides the world into “haves” and “have-nots.” Certainly, the One Percent is one of the clearest, easiest targets of all time.

Not only a clear division, but years of pent up anger magnifies when people know they’ve been screwed. Under Macron, for example, French subsidies for part-time jobs were slashed, housing aid for low-income people cut, and pension checks axed, as he repealed France’s wealth tax, meaning more goodies for the rich at the expense of everybody else. It doesn’t take an accountant to figure out that the working class ends up subsidizing the wealth tax cut.

Furthermore, once people voice dissent in the streets, like the fuel tax revolt in France, magnification of many other issues come into sharp focus. For example, in France students have walked out of 200 schools to protest reforms to high-stakes baccalaureate exams and new higher-education admission procedures. And, university students are now protesting recent hikes in tuition.

Four words, “Yellow Vests and One-Percent,” have converged in a firestorm of resentfulness of every inequity propagated by the utter failure of elite capitalistic globalism punctuated by its neoliberal tendencies. It’s as if the world has lost its way, directionless meandering that honors wealth creation but nothing else.

Similar to the Arab Spring of 2010, minor events reverberate into major events, which may or may not explode into a massive revolution in protest of a capitalistic system that shamefully rewards the rich by preying on workers of the world. But, social media fights back.

The discontent is all about austerity efforts; for example, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights described the austerity policies in the UK as “punitive, mean spirited and callous… heading towards an alienated society made of dramatically disconnected groups, those living the high life and the very poor, relying on food banks even if in work.”3

Philip Alston’s study of austerity policies and consequences equally applies to major developed countries throughout the world, as “austerity” has been the order of the day in Turkey, Italy, Greece, France, Portugal, Spain, Ireland in large measure to satisfy the EU and IMF that their loans will be repaid. Oh, please!

Still, revolutions take a long time to play out: The American Revolution, 1775-1783; the French Revolution, 1789-1799; the Chinese Communist Revolution, 1945-1950; the Cuban Revolution, 1953-1959; the Spring of Nations Revolutions of 1848-1852 against monarchies in Germany, France, Italy, and Austria.

Revolutions start with a loss of decency. Today, the world is full of indecencies for the “working poor.” The Yellow Vest insurgency is only possible because of a failure of global capitalism to uplift the working class.

Instead, it puts a boot on their necks.

  1. “La République en Flammes”, The Economist, December 8-14, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “UN Special Rapporteur Makes damning Criticism of Austerity”, National Survivor User Network, November 2018.

The Deathly Insect Dilemma

Insect abundance is plummeting with wild abandon, worldwide! Species evolve and go extinct as part of nature’s normal course over thousands and millions of years, but the current rate of devastation is off the charts and downright scary.

Moreover, there is no quick and easy explanation for this sudden emergence of massive loss around the globe. Yet, something is dreadfully horribly wrong. Beyond doubt, it is not normal for 50%-to-90% of a species to drop dead, but that is happening right now from Germany to Australia to Puerto Rico’s tropical rainforest.

Scientists are rattled. The world is largely unaware of the implications because it is all so new. It goes without saying that the risk of loss of insects spells loss of ecosystems necessary for very important stuff, like food production.

Farmland birds that depend upon a diet of insects in Europe have disappeared by >50% in just three decades.  French farmland partridge flocks have crashed by 80%. Nightingale abundance is down by almost 80%. Turtledoves are down nearly 80%.

In Denmark (1) owls, (2) Eurasian hobbies, and (3) Bee-eaters, which subsist on large insects like beetles and dragonflies, have abruptly disappeared. Poof, gone!

Krefeld Entomological Society (est. 1905) in Germany trapped insect samples in 63 nature preserves in Europe representing nearly 17,000 sampling days (equivalent to 46.5 years). Krefeld consistently found massive declines in every kind of habitat they sampled. Up to 80% wipeouts.

As for one example, Krefeld data for hoverflies, a pollinator often mistaken for a bee, registered 17,291 hoverflies from 143 species trapped in a reserve in 1989. Twenty-five years later at the same location, 2,737 individuals from 104 species or down 84%.1

A shortage of insect pollinators in the Maoxian Valley in China has forced farmers to hire human workers at $19 per worker/per day to replace bees. Each worker pollinates 5-to-10 apple trees by hand per day.

Jack Hasenpusch of Australian Insect Farms, which collects swarms of insects, says:

“I’ve been wondering for the last few years why some of the insects have been dropping off … This year has really taken the cake with the lack of insects, it’s left me dumbfounded, I can’t figure out what’s going on.”2

According to entomologist Dr. Cameron Webb / University of Sydney, researchers around the world widely acknowledge the problem of insect decline but are at a loss to explain the causes.

Functional Extinctions

Today’s Sixth Extinction is so prevalent that scientists prefer to designate species loss as “functional extinctions,” which means functionally extinct animals and plants are still present but no longer prevalent enough to affect an ecosystem. Not only, seed dispersal and predation and pollination and other ecological functions are also lost.

“More than three-quarters of the world’s food crops rely at least in part on pollination by insects and other animals.”3

But, already some insect populations have dropped by as much as 90%, e.g.,  (1) the Monarch butterfly in North America and (2) the great yellow bumblebee in Europe.

One of the biggest drivers of decline is loss of wild flowers. Here’s the problem: Low-intensity farming of small fields lined with weeds and flowers (think: “American Gothic” by Grant Wood circa 1930) have been overrun by vast industrial crop monocultures with fields stretching to the distant horizon with not a weed or a flower in sight, which paradoxically serves as evidence that the overused maxim “the good ole days” shows true grit.

Additionally, herbicides like glyphosate (Roundup) allow industrial farming to grow perfect monocultures of crops, as everything else is wiped out. But, where does the glyphosate ultimately go? Breakfast, anyone?

The world is rapidly filling up to its brim with insecticides that are toxic to pollinators. For example, neonicotinoids (agricultural insecticides) are meant to kill specific insect pests but invariably get into plant tissue and nectar and pollen and kills insects carte blanche, across the board. Thus, ironically, farmland ecosystems are poisoned by industrial farming practices.

Neonicotinoids are a divisive issue worldwide: “The European Union today expanded a controversial ban of neonicotinoid pesticides, based on the threat they pose to pollinators. The decision pleased environmental groups and was greeted with trepidation by farming associations, which fear economic harm.”4

As of August 2018, the EPA has scheduled “planned completion” of a “Review of Neonicotinoid Pesticides” for sometime in 2019. A coalition of food safety and environmental groups delivered 219,210 public comments to EPA earlier in the year, urging the agency ban neonicotinoid pesticides, which they view as a leading cause of pollinator decline. Additionally, more than 4.4 million Avaaz members have called for a ban on neonics (Avaaz, est. 2007, is one of the world’s largest most powerful online activist networks).

“People from around the country have made it clear: The EPA must act now to save our pollinators. No matter what Scott Pruitt’s industry friends say, this is a problem we can’t ignore. The health of our food system depends on it,” said U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).5

“Neonics are 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic than DDT,” according to Jean-Marc Bonmatinof of The National Centre for Scientific Research in France.”6

Rachel Carson (Silent Spring, 1962) would be horrified. As far back as the ’60s she warned about indiscriminate use of pesticides and accused the chemical industry of disinformation, and she scolded public officials for accepting the chemical industry’s claims; ultimately, her efforts led to a nationwide ban on DDT and inspiration for creation of the EPA. (The ban on DDT saved America’s national bird since 1782, the bald eagle.)

Similar to concerns about use of synthetic pesticides, sensitivity of insects to global warming has only recently been exposed in new studies published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showing alarming losses of insects in pristine tropical rainforests over a multi-decade study that has rocked the science world.

Over that same 40-year time period, the average high temperature in the rainforest increased by 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Which negatively impacts insects because after a certain thermal threshold insects will no longer lay eggs, and their internal chemistry breaks down.

“Without insects and other land-based arthropods, EO Wilson, the renowned Harvard entomologist, and inventor of sociobiology, estimates that humanity would last all of a few months.”6

Well then, the number of insects still out there qualifies as one of the most puzzling questions of the 21st century.

Postscript:

Our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals — the sixth wave of extinctions in the past half-billion years. We’re currently experiencing the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day.

— The Extinction Crisis, Center for Biological Diversity

Whew!

  1. Gretchen Vogel, “Where Have All The Insects Gone?” Science Magazine, May 10, 2017.
  2. Mark Rigby, “Insect Population Decline Leaves Australian Scientists Scratching For Solutions”, ABC Far North, February 23, 2018.
  3. Pollinators Vital to Our Food Supply Under Threat, FAO/UN).
  4. “European Union Expands Ban of Three Neonicotinoid Pesticides, Science Magazine”, April 27, 2018.
  5. Environment America, News Release, “219,210 Americans Call on EPA to Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides”, April 21, 2018.
  6. Ibid.

Carbon Capture: Does it Work?

Harken! Good news (maybe) “encouraging news” is a better description, as Negative Emissions Technology (“NET”) starts coming into focus. Conceptually, carbon removal or direct air capture removes CO2 from the atmosphere, which would be great for suppressing climate change.

In that regard, Elizabeth Kolbert recently interviewed (Yale Environment 360) Stephen Pacala (Princeton professor) chairman of the US scientific panel studying carbon removal under the auspices of the National Academies. Which means the project has top-notch clearances, in fact, blue chip.

Of course, the big question about direct carbon capture is whether it can fix a very big problem created by humans burning fossil fuels like crazed Madhatters portending an ecological disaster in-waiting because of excessive levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, possibly leading to human extinction way ahead of schedule, too early, or looked at another way, extinction occurring well ahead of scientists’ models. But really, honestly and truly who in his/her right mind “models” human extinction?

Negative Emission Technology -NET- that removes carbon dioxide (“CO2”) from the atmosphere would be a dream come true, assuming it happens fast enough to prevent already-collapsing ecosystems from further total collapse; e.g., permafrost throughout the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the East Siberian Arctic Sea, ESAS, where subsea permafrost covers massive quantities of methane (CH4) in extraordinarily shallow waters. It’s the world’s largest reservoir, and CH4 is the most potent of the greenhouse gases. Problem: The subsea permafrost protective cap is rapidly thinning because of global warming. Already a Russian/American research team has witnessed alarmingly large columns of methane escaping into the atmosphere in the ESAS.

Therefore, the crucial question of the 21st century:  Does technology for carbon removal ultimately measure up to the task at hand, meaning, long-term survival of Homo sapiens?

Answer: Yes~er~no, maybe, depending. After all, it’s not a straight line from concept to actual carbon removal. For example, the infrastructure for effective capture and sequester of carbon is overwhelmingly huge.

According to Wallace Broecker of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in order to capture “current annual CO2 emissions” requires 100,000,000 trailers or carbon removal modules, or using his words: “…one-hundred million units.” He did not specify the size of the “units.”1

One hundred million units, assuming each one is the length of a semi-truck, end-to-end would circumnavigate Earth 44xs and cost trillions of dollars.

Hello… anybody still out there?

Yes, 44xs around Earth. And, if Direct Carbon Removal sounds too good to be true in the first instance… well, yes, maybe as it requires worldwide cooperation and lots of money and land and massive infrastructure almost as much as the fossil fuel industrial complex. Imagine that for size!

And 44xs around the planet is only for current emissions. What about all of the GHGs already up there?

Elizabeth Kolbert’s interview of Dr. Stephen Pacala revealed a couple of important considerations, for example:

  • “Our panel thinks direct air capture could be brought into the marketplace in a heavy way within 10 years’ time.” (Pacala)
  • “Now, in the [2017] tax bill, an entirely Republican bill, they retained subsidies on wind and solar that are 1.9 and 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, and they retained a $7,500 tax credit (drops to $3,750 in 2019) on buying an electric car. Then, last February, a bipartisan act created a $50-per-ton tax credit for carbon capture and storage. That means that the Republican Congress passed subsidies for the entire enchilada. I think it’s very interesting to contemplate why it is that on the one hand we have this political rhetoric, and on the other hand we have this subsidizing of the alternatives.” (Pacala)

According to Pacala, the reason more work is not being done on negative emissions today has everything to do with “the price of carbon, which is inadequate” meaning, in Pacala’s mindset, the best formula for NET success is similar to the success behind solar and wind; meaning, government subsidies until operating costs and production costs fall enough for capitalism’s longstanding shopworn paradigm of mass manufacturing.

According to Pacala:

In the last 15 years, wind and solar went from extremely expensive green luxury items maintained by subsidy to the cheapest forms of energy ever. That happened because government subsidized wind and solar, made a market for it that companies competed over, and they relentlessly drove the cost down. It’s a remarkable achievement – that conservatives should relish – of market success, but through government subsidy.

Effectively, Pacala calls for the free market to handle the impending crisis, and similar to success with solar and wind energy, after a period of government subsidizing, the free market takes over, expanding the market via profitable transactions. All of which brings to mind a question: Who is willing to subsidize, and when? Hello… anybody still out there?

Thus, the very market forces of neoliberalism or gonzo capitalism, which caused the problem to begin with, should now be induced to fix it. Milton “Free Market” Friedman would be proud. How ironic if capitalism profits by removal of carbon that it created in the first instance.

For certain, NET can’t come soon enough. (P.S. It’s not ready for the big time, not yet.) According to knowledgeable sources fossil fuels account for 80% of energy today, which is about the same as 75 years ago, meaning progress has been negligible even with 195 countries agreeing to the Paris climate accord way back in 2015.

In point of fact, the entire world has been alerted to climate change for decades now. Still, no real progress as both renewables and fossil fuels each grow along side one another. Thereby, exposing the vulnerable underbelly of the Paris ‘15 climate accord where countries voluntarily agreed to reduce their emissions. Yes, voluntary.

On October 30 and 31, 2018, the “Negative Emissions Conference: Integrating Industry, Technology and Society for Carbon Drawdown” was held at the Shine Dome, Canberra, focusing on the need to explore and develop a new suite of approaches to address climate change via removal of greenhouse gases.

Here’s a key message from that Conference:

Even rapid decarbonization through emissions reduction will not be sufficient to stabilize climate at the global temperature thresholds of the Paris Agreement. To limit warming at 2 degrees or less requires NETs to draw down past and future emissions and store this carbon in land, ocean, and geological reservoirs…..

However, there is already evidence galore of ecosystems starting to collapse well ahead of reaching the infamous 2C, which is a faux guardrail if only because it creates false comfort for public consumption, meaning people figure if it took a couple hundred years to get to +0.80C above baseline, then we’ve got at least a hundred years to go before 2C becomes relevant. Wrong- A lot of serious, maybe irreparable, ecosystem damage will occur on the way to 2C, and it is happening faster, faster, and faster, making a couple of hundred years ago look very ancient.

Recent studies have highlighted that current NETs, despite their potential, are as yet, not sufficiently mature to be implemented at scale. Key questions exist around the efficacy and scalability of proposed NETs.2

In conclusion, key questions surrounding the efficacy and scalability of “proposed NETs” are likely enough to push back funding by private or sovereign sources, bringing into question how, when, and if any source is willing to commit to billions, and more likely trillions of dollars to capture and sequester carbon?

There is no known response to that question in the public domain.

But, what is known is not encouraging, meaning, world leadership on climate change is, at best, splintered and lackadaisical. Here’s proof: According to the World Bank, fossil fuel energy as a percentage of total energy in 1988 was 79%, the year Dr. James Hansen warned the U.S. Senate, and the world via New York Times’ headlines, that human-caused greenhouse gases had been detected. Today fossil fuels are still approximately 80%. No movement!

And, according to British Petroleum’s 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy: Global oil consumption growth for last year averaged 1.8%, or 1.7 million barrels per day (b/d), above its 10-year average of 1.2% for the third consecutive year. China (500,000 b/d) and the US (190,000 b/d) were the single largest contributors to growth. Fossil fuels retain a hefty leadership position.

After three decades of ongoing brilliant glaring public exposure of a festering problem that could lead to major climate upheaval accompanied by massive starvation and untold deaths, here are the results of how the world has reacted, according to Carl Edward Rasmussen, University of Cambridge, as of September 14, 2018:

What does the data tell us? It shows that all is not well in the state of the atmosphere! In order to prevent further warming, the carbon dioxide levels must not grow any further. On the growth curve, this corresponds to the curve having to settle down to zero ppm/yr. There is absolutely no hint in the data that this is happening. On the contrary, the rate of growth is itself growing, having now reached about 2.3 ppm/y the highest growth rate ever seen in modern times. This is not just a “business as usual” scenario, it is worse than that; we’re actually moving backwards, becoming more and more unsustainable with every year. This shows unequivocally that the efforts undertaken so-far to limit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are woefully inadequate.

It’s been 30 years since Dr. James Hansen testified to the Senate, making NYT headlines the next morning:3

The earth has been warmer in the first five months of this year than in any comparable period since measurements began 130 years ago, and the higher temperatures can now be attributed to a long-expected global warming trend linked to pollution, a space agency scientist reported today.

Postscript:

After spending three or four years interacting with the Bush administration, I realized they were not taking any actions to deal with climate change. So, I decided to give one talk, and then it snowballed into another talk and eventually to even protesting and getting arrested.

— James Hansen- Earth Institute, Columbia University.

  1. Interview of Climatologist Wallace Broecker: “The Deniers Are Going To Go Apeshit. They’re Going to Have a Riot,” YouTube, November 4, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate,” The New York Times, June 24, 1988

Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia

When it comes to planetary carnage, Trump (Amerika’s president) is facing strong competition. Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsonaro aka “Tropical Trump” will likely outdo Amerika’s destroy the EPA Trump. Bolsonaro declared war on the Amazon rain forest. Thus, he’ll likely outpace Trump’s arbitrary efforts at eco annihilation because he has a much bigger target!

The Amazon Rainforest, affectionately known as “the planet’s lungs,” inhales CO2 and exhales precious oxygen (“O”), which serves as a life force for every living being on the planet. As a result, everybody from New Zealand to Finland is impacted by what happens to the global rain forests; unlike Las Vegas, what happens in the tropical rain forest does not stay in the tropical rain forest.

Significantly, a University of Leeds study found forests absorb 35% of human-made fossil fuel emissions (CO2) every year. Dr. Simon Lewis, a tropical ecologist from the University of Leeds and co-author of the study, said trees are much more important to tackling climate change than previously thought. The large uptake of CO2 by forests implies that the world’s agricultural lands, grasslands, desert and tundra each play a more limited role as globally significant carbon dioxide sources or sinks at present. This new information can help pinpoint where actions to conserve carbon sinks are likely to have most impact.1

Coincidentally, at approximately the same time as Bolsonaro won election (October 28th) to the presidency a group of UK scientists issued a Declaration of Rebellion (October 31st ) against the UK government “for criminal inaction in the face of climate change catastrophe and ecological collapse.” Thus, proving that eco turmoil reigns supreme all across the planet, as destructionists versus protectionists factions accelerate on both ends of the biosphere spectrum.

Meanwhile and in consideration of the aforementioned, Bolsonaro’s assault on rainforests is a declaration of war against all of humanity. Informed sources claim Bolsonaro’s deforestation of Amazonia will exceed 3xs current levels of obliteration. That’s impending disaster for global warming and a huge threat to ecosystems and life everywhere.

Bolsonaro’s war plan is exhaustive: (1) expand agriculture into indigenous lands (2) build Amazonia highways  (3) infrastructure projects and (4) major mines, as “Amazonia transforms into a commodity for export.” But, that particular export is much more than a commodity; it is the life support system for the entire planet. Yes, once again with screaming passion: “It’s the life support system for the entire planet!” One more time….

As such, the presidency of Brazil presupposes a special obligation to the world to husband 2/3rds of Amazonia for the benefit of humankind.

However, with the new presidency an ugly situation may develop. A worst-case basis could go so far as the Amazon morphing into a fantasyland with highways, gas stations, fast food, motels, souvenirs, Disneyland guided tours into the dark, deep mysterious forest, photographing indigenous people of 240 known tribes, as they dart from hiding spot to hiding spot. And, that’s only lightweight fantasy stuff whereas the heavyweight climate change consequences will be utterly disastrous for all life on the planet.

To ensure protection of rural properties Bolsonsaro intends to revise the country’s “disarmament law” and allow weapons to be carried for “protection of rural properties.”  Undoubtedly, this will increase violence in Amazonia where there are already thousands of murders per year.

Not only that, Brazil is the world’s deadliest country for eco activists. According to At What Costs? in 2017 fifty-seven (57) activists were murdered. Agribusiness is the most dangerous industry for people who defend forests, rivers, and homesteads. With the Bolsonaro regime in charge a sharp increase in the murder rate is guaranteed. Activists beware!

Bolsonaro is the avatar of nationalism, authoritarianism, racism, misogyny, and anti-free press. Part of Bolsonaro’s raison d’etre involves conspiratorial fear of a global plot to take charge over Amazonia, thereby stepping on Brazilian sovereignty. In point of fact, that would be a blessing for the world.

On the campaign trail he called for an end to all activists and vowed to expel international environmental organizations, like Greenpeace and WWF.  To help enforce law and order, he intends to alter Brazil’s anti-terrorism laws to reclassify as “terrorists” any organization involved in social movements, for example, Brazilia’s Landless Rural Worker’s Movement.

According to WWF, 20% of the Amazon has disappeared in just 50 years. With published numbers like that it’s little wonder that Bolsonaro wants to “ban the World Wildlife Fund from Brazil.”

Inspiring a group of supporters at a final campaign rally, Bolsonaro promised that “red leftist” political rivals “either go overseas or they go to jail… These red outlaws will be banished from our homeland. It will be a cleanup the likes of which has never been seen in Brazilian history.”2

The risks are enormous as deliberate deforestation of sizeable chunks of Amazonia enhances prospects of runaway global warming. Amazonia contains a large stock of carbon that releases greenhouse gases (GHG) with deforestation. Whereas, maintenance of carbon stocks in Amazonia helps considerably to avoid the curse of global warming.

Additionally, Amazonia recycles an enormous amount of water. Brazil’s Southeastern region, including São Paulo as well as neighboring countries, are major recipients of this transport. In fact, on a global scale, Amazonia hydrology impacts water precipitation as far away as the cornfields of Iowa and wheat fields of Canada.

Newly elected President Bolsonaro’s first foreign visits will be to Chile, Israel and the US. He describes them as countries that “share our worldview.”

Accordingly the world’s largest economy, the U.S. and the world’s 5th largest country by population, Brazil, share disdain for science and a nasty distaste for global efforts to confront global warming. The respective leaders are fanatical eco assassins.

Ever since 2016, the outlook for the health of the planet grows worse with every far right election victory. Strangely, citizens impulsively vote for the equivalence of seppuku or Japanese self-inflicted disembowelment.

  1. “Forests Absorb One-Third of Global Fossil Fuel Emissions”, University of Leeds, Environment News, July 15, 2011.
  2. “Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro Threatens Purge of Leftwing ‘Outlaws’”, The Guardian, October 22, 2018.