Category Archives: Paris 2015

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.

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

Agreed Rules, COP24 and Climate Change Protest

If children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we can all do together if we really wanted to.

Greta Thunberg at COP24, December 2018

The world, if it goes off in a burn, will do so courtesy of the rules – or their elastic interpretation.  It was a fine show of contradiction at Katowice, and the Polish hospitality did not deter the 14,000 delegates drawn from 195 countries from bringing forth a beast of regulation to delight climate change bureaucrats for years.  Everyone clapped themselves in way emetic to any bystander suspicious about what had actually been achieved.  The question to ask, of course, is whether this fluffy, self-congratulatory exercise makes it past the canapés and becomes a genuine policy document.

Little progress was actually made on the issue of commitments to cut emissions, even if there was, in principle, an agreement on a set of rules to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement. As things stand, the planet is set to reach 3°C, while the Paris Agreement stresses the need to keep matters manageable to an increase of 1.5°C, which would lead to more modest environmental destruction. Considerable troubling silences persist on the issue of technicalities.  What, for instance, constitutes a suitable, measurable reduction in emissions or who monitors a country’s progress.

There were certain concessions.  Poorer states received more solid reassurances of assistance from wealthier states to deal with greenhouse-gas emissions and attendant environmental challenges.  China was pressed into accepting certain uniform guidelines to measure those emissions.  States who cannot follow the “rules” to reduce emissions must explain why and show a pathway to redress that failure, more a case of nudging than punishment.

Coal advocates would not, however, have left COP24 dispirited.  Poland’s own president, Andrzej Duda, gave a rumbustious display of refusal: his country, with 80 percent of its energy derived from coal, could not be asked to abandon 200 years’ worth of reserves before the idealistic abstinence of any green lobby.  Poland, not the planet, came first.

Michal Kurtyka, COP24’s chair and secretary of state in the Ministry of Environment, saw little by way of contradiction in a performance run by the Polish Coal Miners Band during the talks, nor coal displays in the foyer greeting guests.  It would have been silly, surmised Kurtyka, to dismiss the coal industry.  “There are also energy companies of course engaging in a path of sustainable development.”

But a certain smell lingered at COP24, the sense that the conference had been sponsored by the very same entities whose behaviour was to be controlled and, in the future, abolished altogether.  Kurtyka did little to dispel the aroma.  “I don’t sense that there is a problem with anybody’s participation, provided that we have the same goal.”

The climate change talks were also being held, as it were, in the den of fossil fuel symbolism.  Katowice was made by the legacy of coal rich reserves discovered in the mid-eighteenth century. Such delightful irony, as well, that the city could play host both to such a conference and the largest coal company in the European Union.

This did not deter Joanna Flisowska, a Katowice native and policy coordinator on coal for Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.  “We can be such a bright example for the transition away from coal if only we could put effort into using these opportunities.”

On other fronts, the climate change lobby has taken something of a battering.  France’s Emmanuel Macron granted some concession to massive protests against fuel-tax rises supposedly designed to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.  Living standards have squared off against environmental policies.

The result of the foot dragging has been to illustrate a growing divide between citizen and government official.  “Hope,” claimed a despondent May Boeve, executive director of the climate change campaign group 350.org, “now rests on the shoulders of the many people who are rising to take action: the inspiring children who started an unprecedented wave of strikes in school to support a fossil-free [sic] future; the 1,000-plus institutions that committed to pull their money out of coal, oil, and gas, and the many communities worldwide who keep resisting fossil fuel development.”

Australia is particularly illustrative of this point, something emphasised by Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter.  “The divide between the Government and the young people of Australia is probably the greatest it’s been since those huge protests of the Vietnam War era, and I think it’s for a similar reason.”

Students of varying ages certainly add to Ritter’s suggestions, with thousands of Australian school children taking to the streets in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Coffs Harbour and Bendigo, to name but a spread of Australian cities, insisting that Prime Minister Scott Morrison heed their calls.  “The politicians aren’t listening to us when we try to ask nicely for what we want and for what we need,” suggested an irate Castlemaine student Harriet O’Shea Carre.  “So now we have to go to extreme lengths and miss out on school.”

It was, however, a 15-year-old Swede by the name of Greta Thunberg, whose single person vigil outside Sweden’s parliament building featured the sign “school strike for climate change”.  Three weeks were spent sitting in front of the Parliament during school hours, though she did return to classes for four days, using Friday as her weekly day of protest.

At Katowice, she made her own mark, a scolding aunt in the body of a disturbed teenager.  “You are not mature enough to tell it like is,” she told delegates in her capacity as a representative of Climate Justice Now. “Even that burden you leave us children.”

Thunberg is right about one fundamental point.  “You have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again.”  But to ignore the future in favour of the present, to cobble together an ineffectual regime that privileges current living standards in the hope that devastation can be postponed, is an inherent condition of the species.  Fiddling as the planet burns will continue.

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.

Veneration Of Power Leading To Climate Catastrophe

In a recent media alert, we presented a few rules that journalists must follow if they are to be regarded as a safe pair of hands by editors and corporate media owners. One of these rules is that ‘we’ in the West are assumed to be ‘the good guys’. This seriously damaging narrative, flying in the face of historical evidence and endlessly crushing state policies, ensures that the public is kept ignorant and pacified. The consequences have been deadly for millions of the West’s victims around the world, and now mean climate catastrophe that could end human civilisation.

First, take the recent devout coverage following the death of George Herbert Walker Bush, US President from 1989-1993, and Vice-President under Ronald Reagan from 1981-1989. When a (former) Western leader dies, the raw propaganda is often at its most fawning and servile. On Bush’s death, ‘mainstream’ media outlets broadcast and published eulogies and fanciful words of praise, divorced from reality. For example, BBC News channelled former President Barack Obama:

George HW Bush’s life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey.

The Clintons – like the Bush dynasty, part of the US ruling class – added their own gushing propaganda tribute:

Few Americans have been – or will ever be – able to match President Bush’s record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it.

Referring to the massive US attack following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, ‘impartial’ BBC News launched into full-blown Orwellian newspeak:

The subsequent battle proved to be a triumph for American military expertise and a major boost for the nation’s morale.

Likewise, the Guardian‘s obituary described Bush Senior’s devastation of Iraq as ‘triumphant’; ‘the president did not put a foot wrong’; ‘his most impressive achievement’; ‘Bush’s masterly management of the first Iraq war’; and so on, in an elite-friendly script that was essentially a press release from the very centre of US power.

The cruel reality of Bush’s ‘most impressive achievement’, as we noted in a 2002 media alert, was that Iraq’s entire civilian infrastructure was targeted and largely destroyed under the rain of bombs. All of Iraq’s eleven major electrical power plants, as well as 119 substations, were destroyed. 90 per cent of electricity generation was out of service within hours; within days, all power generation in the country had ceased. Eight multi-purpose dams were repeatedly hit and destroyed, wrecking flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation and hydroelectric power. Four of Iraq’s seven major water pumping stations were destroyed. According to Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and coordinator of a Harvard study team on Iraq, the allied bombardment:

effectively terminated everything vital to human survival in Iraq – electricity, water, sewage systems, agriculture, industry and health care.1

Under the 88,500 tons of bombs – the equivalent of seven Hiroshimas – that followed the launch of the air campaign on January 17, 1991, and the ground attack that followed, 150,000 Iraqi troops and 50,000 civilians were killed. The Guardian‘s glowing obituary omitted all of these brutal facts. The Observer, the Guardian‘s Sunday sister paper, sang from the same hymn sheet, describing the former head of the CIA and US president as:

an American patriot with a deep sense of duty.

The guff piece was written by serial propagandist Simon Tisdall who has variously been a foreign leader writer, foreign editor and US editor for the Guardian. Tisdall waxed that:

Bush set great store by civility in public life. As Republican candidate in 1988 he called for a “kinder, gentler nation”. He was, quintessentially, a decent man, with a taste for the lifestyle of an English country gentleman.

Bush’s ‘most admirable quality’, opined the Guardian man, was ‘his deep sense of public duty and service.’ That word ‘service’ again, repeated over and over like a mantra. But who was really being served by Bush’s violence?

The Guardian devoted a section of its website to Bush Sr, featuring headlines such as:

A different command”. How Bush’s war shaped his work for peace’

a man of the highest character’

The “dear dad” dedicated to faith, family and country’

Steady hand during collapse of communism’

“Dear Bill.” Clinton heralds letter from Bush as source of lasting friendship

When Official Enemies portray their Glorious Leaders in this way, western commentators routinely sneer with derision. Al Abunimah, editor of Electronic Intifada, highlighted the above litany of nonsense in a single tweet, and rightly scorned the Guardian as ‘a bastion of regime propaganda and sycophancy to powerful elites.’

Meanwhile, BBC News, like the rest of the corporate media, virtually canonised Bush as a saintly agent of Western benevolence. Even his ‘service dog’ Sully paid a ‘touching last tribute‘, sleeping beside the late President’s casket. We were to understand that Sully was heart-broken after long years spent devotedly serving his ‘master’. In fact, he had been assigned to assist Bush in the summer of 2018, just a few months ago.

By glaring contrast, a Morning Star editorial gave an honest assessment of Bush Sr’s contribution to the world, summed up as:

A lifetime in the service of imperialism.

Nathan Robinson, editor of Current Affairs, listed numerous appalling crimes and abuses of human rights carried out by Bush, almost entirely buried by sycophantic journalists on his death, and concluded:

Coverage of George H.W. Bush’s death proves that Noam Chomsky’s media theory is completely true.

‘Mainstream’ media professionals do not know, or do not care, what Bush actually did in his life. Perhaps they also assume that the public do not know or care either. Obedient journalists have simply buried the destruction and mass death wreaked on Iraq in the Gulf War. In his Bush obituary, Nick Bryant, the New York-based BBC News correspondent, brushed all this away and stuck to the standard deception of ‘mistakes were made’ in Iraq. By ‘mistakes’, Bryant meant that the US encouraged the Kurds and Shia-dominated south to revolt against Saddam Hussein, but then failed to offer sufficient backing. Under BBC ‘journalism’, Bush’s ‘mistakes’ do not include mass killing and destruction. That is simply unthinkable.

The truth is that the corporate media, the BBC very much included, do not care about the deadly effect of mass sanctions and infrastructure destruction on Iraq through the 1990s, up to the 2003 Iraq War. Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, reported that 4,000 more children under five were dying every month in Iraq than would have died before Western sanctions were imposed. A total of half a million children under five died, amongst a total death toll of over one million Iraqis. There is clearly no need or desire for western corporate media to dwell on Bush Sr’s role in such horrors.

Nor do corporate journalists care about his service to death, torture, secret assassinations, and propping up of dictators in his role as head of the CIA. They do not care that, as Vice-President, Bush refused to apologise for the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 over the Persian Gulf by the US warship Vincennes on July 3, 1988. All 290 people on board the plane were killed, including 66 children. Instead, he said callously:

I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are. … I’m not an apologize-for America kind of guy.

Clearly, most corporate journalists do not care that Bush shares responsibility for the multiple bloodbaths that soaked Latin America in the 1980s. They do not care that Bush was, as historian Greg Grandin notes, an ‘icon’ of ‘brutal US oppression in the Third World’. They do not care that Bush invaded Panama in 1989, in the biggest deployment of US force since the Vietnam War, ostensibly to capture former US ally Manuel Noriega on charges of drug trafficking. US planes heavily bombed populated areas, resulting in the estimated deaths of 3,000 Panamanians. Grandin says that the ‘lasting impact of the Panama invasion’ is the US wars that followed in subsequent decades. On Bush’s death, the corporate media did their job of whitewashing his blood-soaked legacy; just as they covered for his crimes when he was in power.

‘Climate Catastrophe Now Inevitable’

All this matters because the media’s veneration of Bush, and western leaders generally, is a glaring symptom of a deep truth about the corporate media: their primary function is to project a severely distorted view of world events, one that embodies state and corporate priorities rooted in power and short-term profit at any cost.

The public is perennially starved of rational facts about the real state of the planet, and the greed-driven policies that hold sway over electorates and even over global ecosystems. The appalling consequence is that we are now certainly headed for climate catastrophe. Even a few within the corporate media have started to admit as much. Science writer Robin McKie noted in the Guardian that:

Climate catastrophe is now looking inevitable.

McKie added that the US has produced around one third of the carbon dioxide responsible for global warming:

Yet it has essentially done nothing to check its annual rises in output. Lobbying by the fossil fuel industry has proved highly effective at blocking political change – a point most recently demonstrated by groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute, which helped persuade President Trump to pull out of the Paris agreement, thus dashing the planet’s last hope of ecological salvation.

He cited environmentalist Bill McKibben:

The coalition [fossil fuel lobby] used its power to slow us down precisely at the moment when we needed to speed up. As a result, the particular politics of one country for one half-century will have changed the geological history of the Earth.

Global carbon emissions reached a new high in 2018. In other words, nothing of real significance has been achieved in thirty years of supposedly trying to cut emissions – other than making the problem very much worse – and we now only have a decade to completely turn things around. The blocking effects by powerful industry lobbies and corporate-captured political ‘leaders’, hugely underreported by the corporate media, are a disaster for the human race. Stefan Rahmstorf, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, highlighted a new analysis of carbon emissions by the Carbon Research Project and said:

See how easily we could have solved the climate crisis if we had started in 2000! Only 4% reduction per year. Now we need 18% per year. You can thank climate deniers, lobby groups and cowardly politicians for this delay.

Kevin Anderson of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Research concurred:

Spot on by [Rahmstorf]. The academic community also take some responsibility for all too often remaining quiet about completely irresponsible decisions. Just listen to the roar of complicit silence over the UK’s shale gas plans, the new oil platform, airport & road expansion.

Renowned climate scientist Michael Mann declared:

We’ve got a LOT of work to do folks. After flat-lining for 3 years, CO2 emissions have now ticked up two years straight. This is no time for climate change denying/delaying politicians. We must vote them out & elect in their place politicians who will LEAD on climate.

He added:

It is no longer enough for politicians to just say the right things about climate change. They must demonstrate a commitment to meaningful actions & specific policies aimed at rapid reductions in carbon emissions. We are now officially starting to run out of time…

Julia Steinberger, Associate Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Leeds, put the scale of the challenge succinctly:

If people had ANY idea of the harm and loss that is coming our way with #ClimateBreakdown, they would stop driving, flying, eating meat, overheating and overconsuming pretty much instantly, and work tirelessly to build new low carbon societies.

Instead, powerful industry lobbies are working tirelessly to block the radical action that is required.

A new Met Office study shows that the UK summer heatwave this year was made thirty times more likely by the human impact on climate. Met Office scientist Peter Stott issued a deadly warning:

Humanity just won’t be able to cope with the world we are heading for.

Last year, Arctic News editor Sam Carana pointed out the dangers of methane, a highly potent global warming gas:

As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, it seems inevitable that more and more methane will rise from its seafloor and enter the atmosphere, at first strongly warming up the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean itself – thus causing further methane eruptions – and eventually warming up the atmosphere across the globe.

A giant ‘burp’ of methane gas could happen suddenly and increase global temperatures rapidly. If this sounds like a scare story, Harold Wanless, Professor of Geology and a specialist in sea level rise at the University of Miami, puts it in perspective:

Scientists tend to be pretty conservative. We don’t like to scare people, and we don’t like to step out of our little predictable boxes. But I suspect the situation is going to spin out of hand pretty quickly. If you look at the history of warming periods, things can move pretty fast, and when that happens that’s when you get extinction events.

I would not discount the possibility that it could happen in the next ten years.

In summary, scientists are calling for immediate large cuts in carbon emissions. Given the normally conservative pronouncements by overly cautious experts, such warnings should stop us all in our tracks. Climate scientists are virtually screaming at those running our political and economic systems to make drastic changes now.

However, at the start of a new UN climate conference in Poland, the follow-up to the 2015 Paris summit, a BBC News article observed starkly:

The gap between what countries say they are doing and what needs to be done has never been wider.

In other words, the dangers of rapid and cataclysmic global warming are now so glaring that some degree of urgency is being communicated occasionally, very occasionally, from within the corporate media. It would hurt establishment media credibility too much in the eyes of the public were that otherwise.

Safe ‘national treasure’ David Attenborough has become more outspoken of late. He addressed the UN conference:

We’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.

He told the BBC:

All over the world there are people who are suffering as a consequence [of climate change] whose voices have not been heard.

Last week, the Daily Mirror went as far as putting Attenborough’s warning on its front page:

Time Is Running Out To Save Planet

But the daily diet of ‘news’ pumped out by the major news media is still a massive distraction from the huge widespread changes in society, politics and the economy that are needed immediately. Why is the climate crisis not a vital component, perhaps even the primary component, of news reporting on the economy, business, commerce, politics, and Parliament? Why is it usually restricted to science and environment ‘stories’? For instance, how often does the BBC’s business editor, Simon Jack, address the climate crisis in his reports? Never, if our occasional sampling is indicative. Nor does he ever respond to our polite challenges to do so. The same applied to the recently departed BBC economics editor, Kamal Ahmed. This is a gross dereliction of duty by the BBC to the public who pays for it.

Are we supposed to obsess over slight changes in interest rates, currency exchange rates, the FTSE 100 index, and the size of the UK economy, even while the planet’s natural resources are plundered, ecosystems collapse, and the mass loss of species accelerates? Why are these much latter, more crucial numbers and facts about the state of the planet not routinely cited in corporate media reporting on the state of business and the economy? Perhaps we are supposed to regard the number of rivets on the Titanic a reliable measure of the ship’s robustness, even as it plummets beneath the waves.

Just consider the US news media reporting on the appalling forest wildfires in California last month. Although scientists have stated clearly that climate change is a significant factor in these catastrophic wildfires, national US television networks made the link with climate in less than four per cent of their reports on the calamity. We are not aware of any similar study of UK television coverage. But it was certainly apparent that BBC News at Ten made very little mention of the links between global warming and the Californian wildfires, just as climate was glaringly absent from its coverage of this summer’s drought in the UK.

It is true that the burgeoning grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion, and the remarkable 15-year-old Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, are not entirely absent from news coverage. But, given the stakes, their activism and their urgent messages to society as a whole would be making headlines every day in a sane media system. Extinction Rebellion are calling for peaceful mass civil disobedience to demand:

an immediate reversal of climate-toxic policies, net-zero emissions by 2025 and the establishment of a citizen’s assembly to oversee the radical changes necessary to halt global warming.

During one recent climate protest that blocked five major bridges in central London, one protester said:

We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed.

Extinction Rebellion issued a stark warning:

Our aims may be ambitious. But we are striving for nothing less than the fate of our planet.

The inspiring clip that goes along with these words depicts suffragettes, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many others pushing for positive changes in the world. Thunberg has explained in very simple and powerful terms how and why she became so motivated to do something about climate change. It happened in school at the age of nine:

They [teachers] were always talking about how we should turn off lights, save water, not throw out food. I asked why and they explained about climate change. And I thought this was very strange. If humans could really change the climate, everyone would be talking about it and people wouldn’t be talking about anything else. But this wasn’t happening.

Now, at 15, her commitment to go on school strike to devote herself to climate activism is an inspiration to many around the world, including the Extinction Rebellion movement. She has a succinct riposte to those who accuse her of neglecting her education:

Some say I should be in school. But why should any young person be made to study for a future when no one is doing enough to save that future? What is the point of learning facts when the most important facts given by the finest scientists are ignored by our politicians?

The time has passed for the public to rely on political leaders taking the right steps to tackle the climate crisis. As Thunberg said in her speech to the UN climate conference:

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 ever, it is up to each one of us to ensure that this change happens.

  1. Quoted Mark Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, Zed Books, 1995.

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

Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!

World greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020, or it’s lights out!

That’s the message from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which has come out from under the shadows of Paris 2015 swinging like a heavyweight champion boxer, and, in fact, they’ve taken the gloves off in preparation for bare-knuckled fisticuffs.

The world’s leading scientists met at the Forty-Eighth Session of the IPCC and First Joint Session of Working Groups I, II, and III, 1-5 October 2018 in Incheon, Republic of Korea and openly declared that civilization is on track for collapse because of reckless use of fossil fuels, unless the beast is corralled, meaning start reacting now, no more waiting around!

Peak emissions must be achieved by 2020, a slap in the face wake-up call issued by the gathering of scientists in South Korea, They intend to change the course of history, or so they claim. Along those lines, 1.5C is an absolute guardrail not to be crossed (not their words but it’s what their analysis implies). Not a bad idea and worthy of deeper analysis, and it is much stronger than previous pronouncements.

At first blush, peak GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by 2020 seems nearly impossible to achieve, but it’s a decent idea and jam-packed full of strong motivation, like all hell breaks lose without immediacy of action. In a BBC interview, Heleen de Coninck, a Dutch climate scientist, said:

The decisions we make now about whether we let 1.5 or 2 degrees or more happen will change the world enormously.

In years past, the IPCC viewed the next century as the timeline for deep reckoning when the climate monster would be most threatening. That’s been amended in a big way. Now, trouble is only decades away, and maybe only a few, not several.

According to Bloomberg News, the dictum issued by IPCC to avoid outright catastrophe the world community must invest $2.4 T (trillion) in clean energy every year through 2035 and cut coal-fired power down to as close to zero as possible by 2050.

Also, it’s absolutely necessary to quickly develop functioning technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, an enormous undertaking that might or might not work. Nobody knows because it’s never been done to scale. It may require almost as much infrastructure as needed by the fossil fuel industry to emit the CO2 in the first instance. In a word, overwhelming!

Or, looked at another way, according to the renowned physicist Klaus Lackner’s analysis of what’s required for direct carbon removal:

If you built a hundred million trailer-size units you could actually keep up with current emissions.1

Ergo, one hundred million trailer-sized units, assuming 55-foot trailers (the size of each carbon removal apparatus), end-to-end would extend 42xs around the planet. Oops… on to another subject!

According to Bloomberg/NEF (New Energy Finance- BNEF), world investment in clean energy during the first six months of 2018 was $138.2B, and last year the number was $333.5B of which China accounted for $132.6B. It’s taken more than a decade to get up to $300B/yr. and now they insist it goes to $2.4Trillion/yr. And, it sounds as if it must happen almost immediately. Good luck with that!

However, BNEF has qualms about the reality of enough political mojo for that to happen. For example, as things stand today, world energy research orgs forecast future energy mix as: “Coal is expected to remain the largest source of power globally” into the near future. Cough, cough!

In order to curb fossil fuel use, the IPCC generals (climate scientists) leading the charge to world salvation insist that the world community invest $2.4T per year for the next 17 years. That means renewable investments need to increase 7-fold/yr., and that brings to mind a slew of numbing questions, including:

(1) Is it possible to achieve $2.4T/yr. without a worldwide “Marshall Plan” type of collaboration among all nations, especially the big boys/gals?

(2) Do renewable manufacturers have enough capacity?

(3) Where will the funds come from to finance $2.4T/yr.?

(4) Who’ll take charge and organize the worldwide effort?

(5) Will the United States participate? It is the second largest emitter of carbon in the world, keeping in mind the Trump administration is all-in 100% behind fossil fuels and a very strong advocate of “clean coal,” one of the biggest all-time hyperboles. Which is so utterly stupid that it is nearly impossible to quantify its ranking amongst leading lame brain statements of all time.

Meanwhile, the U.S. pokes a very big fat stick into the spokes of the IPCC’s wheelhouse. As long as Trump and Co. remains in charge, climate change is off the table, no discussion, no collaboration with the world, leading to another question: (6) Who will replace the enormous shortfall of funding of the United States?

Furthermore, the authors of the report assume world governments will embrace their sense of urgency; however, that’s likely an uphill battle in spite of their extreme dire warnings; e.g., (1) count Trump out of the mix; (2) Jair Bolsonaro, who leads the polls for the first round in Brazil’s presidency, threatens to withdraw the country from the Paris climate agreement, and he intends to open up the rainforest wide-open to agribusiness; (3) the UK is pushing ahead with gas fracking; (4) Norway is exploring for oil in the Arctic; (5) Germany (renewables galore Germany? hmm) wants to tear down Hambach forest to extract coal; (6) Russia’s Putin makes Trump look like a lightweight. Where does the rubber meet the road?

The IPCC report says global emissions must be cut 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 (whew!), requiring rapid, far-reaching transitions in “all aspects of society.” Every country in the world will require an entire suite of new regulations and behavioral changes. Which is one more reason why the U.S. will not participate, as Trump and Co. are regulatory assassins, not conformists. And, as for Putin, well, forget it.

Bottom line: The IPCC group better kick butt and get moving asap because irreversible tipping points that fuel runaway global warming, or cause similar levels of crises, are already popping up all over the place: (1) Alaska permafrost erupting, (2) Siberian permafrost erupting, (3) Arctic ice loss threatens massive GHG breakout, (4) West Antarctica ice sheets dropping like flies, (5) Totten Glacier/East Antarctica moving way too fast for comfort, (6) melting headwater glaciers endanger major rivers of the world like Lancang in China, (7) the Amazon Rainforest mind-blowing triple-100-yr. droughts all w/i 10 yrs., (8) the Colorado River Basin down 40%, (9) ocean plankton down 45%, (10) Great Barrier Reef major die-offs, (11) loss of glacial water towers in Andes, (12) ocean acidification threatens sea life, (13) depletion of Great Kelp ocean forests, and more and more. The number of vulnerable ecosystems overwhelms the imagination. It is staggering!

In fact, ecosystems are under stress like never before throughout human history, ever since fire was first discovered. It’s little wonder that the world’s scientists are putting out a clarion call to save civilization. Here’s guessing they experience sleepless nights, night after night after night for too long now. It gets tiring. They’re likely fed up, fired up, and mad!

Of note: It’s important to realize that only scientists see the advent of ecosystem deterioration/collapse. Because it happens where nobody lives and nobody travels, with the exception of an occasional scientist on expedition, assuming they can be pulled away from “modeling” on PCs.

As for one helpful solution, maybe invite America’s Congress to ride along on a field trip to sensitive ecosystems that are starting to collapse or, in fact, already collapsing. Simply have a congress person throw a dart at the globe and then go to wherever the dart sticks… odds are very good that they’ll hit a collapsing ecosystem, or at the least, an ecosystem that is getting ready to collapse, assuming the dart misses the big population regions where no major ecosystem collapses occur in plain sight because people don’t huddle together to live in Antarctica, the Arctic, the Amazon rainforest, the ocean (2/3rds of the planet), or Siberian permafrost.

Postscript:

According to EarthJustice, Brett Kavanaugh sided with corporations/industry to remove EPA protections for clean air and water in 89% of his cases, and 96% of his cases ruled against wildlife protections, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Now he’s a member of the Supremes! Ipso facto, bad beginnings make for bad endings!

  1. Elizabeth Kolbert, “Can Carbon-Dioxide Removal Save the World?” The New Yorker, November 20, 2017.

Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?

The Paris Agreement of 2015 remarkably brought together all of the nations of the world, except for the United States after Trump cancelled, in a concerted effort to combat the dire consequences of global warming, which on a worst-worst-worst case basis could lead to human extinction; although, not many climate scientists discuss that possibility.

But, it really could happen.

But then again, when?

Meanwhile, the Paris Agreement is constantly being scrutinized because it is well understood that if the science about the timing of not exceeding 1.5C, or maybe 2C, is correct, then humanity doesn’t have many shots, or much time, at fixing this monster before it grows totally out of control, and then human extinction will reluctantly need to be factored into climate models… for the first time ever! Nobody wants that to happen.

Meantime, climate complexities, as they relate to the Agreement, are starting to throw poisoned darts at Paris/2015 and hitting bull’s-eyes.

After all, since the very beginning, the Agreement was not on solid footing, as, for example: Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s foremost climate scientists, “nailed it” when, immediately on the heels of the climate accord, he said:

It’s a fraud really, a fake. It’s just bullshit….

The famous or infamous, depending upon one’s viewpoint, Paris Agreement uses “linear relationships” in calculating cumulative CO2 emissions and global temps with the goal of holding temp increases to less than 2C vis-à-vis pre-industrial but preferably below 1.5C. Otherwise, all hell breaks loose. Disconcertingly, some climate scientists take issue with the data assumptions in Paris/2015, as way too timid. (See Postscript for alarming current status report on atmospheric CO2)

In that regard, a new study has already plugged some of the holes in the Paris Agreement, or maybe drilled new holes, by looking at “non-linear feedback” phenomena of CO2 and methane emissions via permafrost, which is seldom, if ever, considered in projections of future global warming. Hmm!

For example, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) recently published in Nature Geoscience: T. Gasser et al, “Path-dependent reductions in CO2 emission budgets caused by permafrost carbon release“, Nature Geoscience (2018).

The upshot of the study’s inclusion of permafrost into Paris emission budgets demonstrates that Paris climate targets could/might/most likely will be exceeded “sooner than expected.” That’s not good, especially for policymakers, meaning nation/states, which use Paris/2015 as a roadmap for cutting CO2 emissions.

Significantly, the IIASA study is not “crying wolf.” Aesop’s fabled Boy Who Cried Wolf is nowhere to be found in this grisly tale.

Above and beyond that IIASA study, the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology also published a study dated July 2018: Edward Comyn-Platt et al, “Carbon budgets for 1.5 and 2 °C targets lowered by natural wetland and permafrost feedbacks”, Nature Geoscience (2018).

Somewhat similar to IIASA’s findings, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology analyzed wetlands and permafrost, concluding: Global fossil fuel emissions will have to be reduced by up to 20% more than previous estimates to achieve Paris temp targets because of natural greenhouse gas emissions from permafrost.

Arithmetically, a reduction of 20% is equivalent to 5-6 years of current human-caused carbon emissions. That’s a lot! Hence, it throws off calculations for every country’s voluntary plans to cut emissions (Paris/2015 cuts are voluntary, not mandated… Oh, well! C’est la vie!)

As such, nations to the Agreement need to go back to the drawing boards. Will they?

And, as for further dispensing of The Boy Who Cried Wolf analogy, a third permafrost study was released September 4, 2018: S. Serikova et al. “High riverine CO2 emissions at the permafrost boundary of Western Siberia“, Nature Geoscience (2018).

This study demonstrates how Western Siberian rivers actively process and release a large portion of the carbon received from degrading permafrost, an unexpected finding that emphasizes how changes in the Arctic exert strong negative influence on the climate system with far-reaching consequences for the world.

All of the above-mentioned deficiencies in the science utilized for the Paris Agreement makes the original analyses suspect, or when looked at from another angle, gives the entire Agreement a bad odor. (Recall that Dr. Hansen called it “bullshit.”) In other words, by all appearances, if nations actually follow the precepts of Paris/2015, they’ll come up short. Not good and extremely perilous.

The Paris/2015 complexities are only too obvious, and as such it is incumbent upon the nations of the world to achieve much, much deeper cutbacks than ever realized in CO2 emissions (as well as remove CO2 from the atmosphere, hopefully, fingers crossed, knock on wood, but who knows?) in order to prevent the onset of a hothouse planet scorching crops across the mid latitudes and thus forcing humanity into a massive panic mode that would likely make the French Revolution look like a cake walk. Back in the day (18th Century) heads rolled by the thousands (elite aristocrats, which were standout targets at the time) along the Place de la Concorde where today the Obelisk of Luxor marks one of humanity’s bloodiest spots of final resting.

After all, somebody has to pay the price when society turns upside down because of massive starvation that drives humanity into a state of utter madness. Unfortunately for rich people, their gated communities happen to be low-hanging fruit and easy, predictable targets for release of pent up anger by masses toppling iron gates, similar to the storming of the Bastille (1789). Sorry, but that’s just the way it is when the going gets rough and tough with starving pissed off people.

Of interest, all of today’s teeth-gnashing over global warming was foreseen as far back as 1975 by Wally Broecker (Columbia Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory), whose paper in August 1975 “Are We on The Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming” published in Science was the first official use of the term “global warming,” as he correctly predicted an overall 20th Century global warming of 0.8ºC due to CO2, and he worried about the consequences for agriculture and sea level rise, meaning more trouble to come in the 21st Century.

How does Broecker weigh in on today’s global warming juggernaut?

Here’s Broecker, “the grandfather of global warming,” quoted in 2017:

In 1950s, when I was in graduate school, we got 15 percent of our energy from renewables and nuclear, and 85 percent from fossil fuels. Today it’s the same. Both of them have been increasing at 3 percent a year. Renewables and nuclear are not changing in their percentage share. And in order to stop the CO2 from rising we have to go to a factor-of-ten reduction in fossil-fuel burning — at least a factor of ten. And that means changing all the world’s infrastructure.”1

That’s a Bunyanesque task.

Is the world up to it? Hmm.

So far, in spite of worldwide agreement to do something to prevent global warming’s most destructive potential, or, God forbid, human extinction, the outlook as of today is downright dismal; in fact, really lousy! Prepare to batten down the hatches! (See Postscript)

In a nutshell:   “The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, commenting: “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”

Wait ‘til the aftershock hits humanity.

Postscript:

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 -0- ppm/y. 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 green house gases such as carbon dioxide are woefully inadequate.

Carl Edward Rasmussen, University of Cambridge, September 14, 2018

  1. David Wallace-Wells, “The Man Who Coined the Term ‘global Warming’ on the Worst-Case Scenario for Planet Earth,” Daily Intelligencer, July 19, 2017.