Category Archives: Fossil Fuel Emissions (FFE)

Maybe Time to Ban Automobile Advertising

More disappointing than watching the Habs lose to Tampa in the Stanley Cup finals were the ads during the games on TV. As Lytton, BC, broke Canada’s all-time temperature record three days in a row and was then wiped off the map by a forest fire, Canada’s public broadcaster promoted resource intensive, space consuming and carbon spewing trucks.

Decades ago when it became clear humanity was hurtling towards a climate crisis, car ads should have been banned. Stopping auto companies’ unrelenting ideological assault on the population is an important, probably necessary, step in moving away from a transport/living system structured around the environmentally destructive private automobile.

CBC’s promotion of gas guzzlers during its most widely viewed programing is a reminder that we aren’t serious about mitigating the climate crisis. That no major group is challenging Canada’s public broadcaster on the issue reflects the ecocidal nature of our political culture.

It’s not just the CBC. Public transit agencies and environmental magazines run car ads. Even lefty university student papers with well-defined ethical advertising guidelines put themselves at the service of the auto industry, which is the largest advertiser.

Few within green groups challenge auto companies’ ideological assault on the population. Even fewer discuss eliminating the private automobile, which devastates health and livability while greatly exacerbating climate and other ecological crises. Civilization could well collapse if we don’t reshape our transport/living system away from the private automobile.

Even if leftists agreed on the need to move beyond the private automobile, accomplishing the task would be a monumental achievement. But, the left is far from clear eyed on the matter, as highlighted indirectly in a recent Z Comm article titled “Degrowth Policies Cannot Avert Climate Crisis. We Need a Green New Deal”. In it Robert Pollin argues that degrowth theoreticians haven’t properly fleshed out their ideas, are not offering a program that would decarbonize quickly enough and that it’s possible to decouple economic growth from GHG emissions.

This may all be true. But the idea of degrowth doesn’t deter other decarbonization efforts and radicals shouldn’t fear the label amidst the ecological calamity. In fact, we’d be better placed today if progressives had begun promoting degrowth a half century ago when it became clear humanity was surpassing earth’s carrying capacity and that civilization was likely to collapse this century. While Pollin hints at it, the most significant issue is decoupling our understanding of growth/GDP from wellness/social utility.

In transport/living systems, degrowth usually makes cities more sustainable, healthy and pleasant. The more transport is structured to utilize shoes, bikes and rail, the fewer the resources expended getting around. At a national level the hyper auto centric US spends about twice the share of its GDP on transport as Japan. Inter-city comparisons are also helpful. People in car-oriented Houston, Dallas and Tampa spend far more than those in New York, Boston or Portland on transport. In more walking and bike-oriented cities such as Copenhagen, Fez or Amsterdam transport expenditures are a fraction of even the least car dependent North American cities.

Looking at the issue on an individual level is also illuminating. I spend a few hundred dollars a year on transport and have easy access to shops, schools, day care, parks, community centres, libraries, etc. while many suburban Montréalers expend 100 times more getting around. They generally spend far more time commuting as well.

Auto centric transport/living systems can be massively degrowthed and decarbonized while improving livability and public health.

(Degrowing the US health system would generate massive social gains as well. Just by adopting Canada’s publicly funded, universal healthcare model the US could shave five points from its GDP and increase life expectancy. Similarly, cutting the US military down to Canada’s per capita size could cut a couple more points off GDP with major social and ecological benefits.)

Progressives need to state clearly that we seek to slash the resources devoted to transport. The private automobile is a mode of transport/living that must be overcome if we are concerned about species survival. Ending our addiction to the private automobile requires radical changes to urban planning, the entire built landscape, laws, transport options, etc. But another obstacle is ideological, the incessant promotion of the idea that a truck or car will make someone ‘manly’, ‘high status’, ‘hip’, etc. A good place to begin resistance to the planet destroying auto companies’ insidious assault on our psyches is by pressuring Canada’s public broadcaster to stop promoting fuel, resource and space intensive trucks.

At least while the Montréal Canadiens are playing.

The post Maybe Time to Ban Automobile Advertising first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Is AltE Truly the Best Solution to Climate Catastrophe?

Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets!… Accumulation for the sake of accumulation, production for the sake of production: this was the historical mission of the bourgeoisie in the period of its domination …

— Karl Marx, Capital, Vol 1, Ch 25

The world is threatened with environmental disaster and capitalists hope to make a killing off of it.  Fossil fuel (FF) companies claim they are “environmentally friendly.”  Other corporations promote nuclear energy, hydro-power (dams), and solar and wind power as the best energy alternatives.

Yet environmentalists have known for decades that reduction of useless and harmful energy is the “greenest” form of energy available.  Over 50 years ago, the first Earth Day recognized this with the slogan “Reduce; Reuse; Recycle.”  Today, corporate “environmentalism” chants “Recycle; Occasionally Reuse; and, Never Utter ‘Reduce.’”  Even mentioning the word “reduce” can be met with howls of derision that “Reduction means ‘austerity,’” as if any type of collective self-control would plunge the world into depths of suffering.

This can lead to a belief that supporting “alternative energy” (AltE) allows everyone on Earth to pursue a lifestyle of endless consumerism.  It avoids the real problem, which is capitalism’s uncontrollable drive for economic growth.

Overproduction for What Purpose?

Acceptance of consumerism hides the twin issues that AltE creates its own disastrous outcomes and that lowering the amount of harmful production would actually improve the quality of life.  Simply decreasing the amount of toxic poisons required for overproduction would cut down on cancers, brain damage, birth defects and immune system disorders.

No one would suffer from the massive toxins that would be eliminated by halting the manufacture of military armaments or disallowing the design of electrical devices to fall apart.  Very few would be inconvenienced by discontinuing lines of luxury items which only the 1% can afford to purchase.

Food illustrates of how lowering production has nothing to do with worsening our lives.  Relying on food produced by local communities instead of food controlled by international corporations would mean eliminating the processing of food until it loses most nutritional value.  It would mean knowing many of the farmers who grow our food instead of transporting it over 2000 miles before it reaches those who eat it.  It would cut out advertising hyper-sugarfied food to kids.

When I first began studying environmentalism over 30 years ago, I remember hearing that if a box of corn flakes costs $1, then 1¢ went to the farmer and $.99 went to the corporations responsible for processing the corn, packaging it, transporting the package and advertising it.  Reduction does not mean “doing without” – it means getting rid of the crap.

Closely linked to food is health.  My book on Cuban Health Care: The Ongoing Revolution points out that the island nation’s life expectancy is longer and infant mortality lower than that in the US while it spends less than 10% per person of what the US does.  Reducing energy devoted to health care does not mean less or worse care.  It means getting rid of the gargantuan unnecessary and expensive components which engulf health care in capitalist society.

Electric vehicles (EVs) embody collective environmental amnesia.  Once upon a time, not too many decades ago, people wrote of walkable/bikeable communities and some even put their dreams to the test.  Well … crush that dream.  Since AltE has become a fad, the idea of redesigning urban space is being dumped so that every person can have at least one EV.  Memory of environmental conservation has fallen into oblivion.

Not Getting Better All the Time

Despite the hype about AltE, capitalist use of energy is expanding, not contracting.  We are constantly told to buy the latest electronic gadget – and the time period between successive versions of gadgets gets shorter and shorter.   AltE exacerbates the crisis of capitalist energy by distracting society from practicing conservation.

The Bitcoin Ponzi scheme reveals the expansion of energy in the service of uselessness.  Jessica McKenzie describes a coal-burning power plant in Dresden, NY.  The plant was shut down because the local community had no use for its energy.  But Bitcoin needed energy to compute its complex algorithms.  So, like Dracula, the coal plant rose from the dead, transformed into a gas burning plant.

What, exactly, are Democratic Party politicians like Joe Biden, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and even Bernie Sanders doing to put the brakes on this expansion of FFs in programs like the Green New Deal (GND)?  Actually, nothing.  As Noam Chomsky points out in his forward to Stan Cox’ The Green New Deal and Beyond, “… the GND does not challenge the fossil-fuel industry.”  Congressional proposals leave out the most critical part of reducing FFs – limiting the total quantity that can be produced.  Instead, they rely on the fantasy that increasing AltE will somehow cause a decrease in FF use.  This is a myth that we know all too well: corporate politicians toss around empty phrases like “net zero” as they further proposals to add AltE to the energy mix in.

Are Problems with AltE “Minimal?”

Despite stated goals to “end” FF production by such-and-such a date, the high heat they generate is essential for producing (1) silicon wafers for solar panels, (2) concrete and steel used in construction of windmills and dams, and (3) plastic coverings for industrial windmill blades.  Every type of AltE requires FFs.  Supporters of AltE often say that it is so much smaller as to pale by comparison to direct use of FFs.

Claiming that the amount of FFs used by AltE is trivial ignores both the quantities actually being used now and, most importantly, the uncontrollable urge of capitalism toward infinite growth.  Hydro-power (dams) is currently the greatest source of AltE and is in line to expand most rapidly.  Ben Gordesky describes research showing that “Canadian large-scale hydro projects have an ongoing carbon footprint that is approximately 40% that of electricity generated by burning natural gas.  These emissions do not include the carbon footprint of dam construction.”  This is not a trivial amount of FFs used by dams, especially since hydropower “is expected to grow by at least 45% by 2040.”

Estimates are that “Solar and wind have a carbon footprint of 4% to 8% of natural gas.”  For the sake of simpler arithmetic, let’s say that hydro, wind and solar average 12.5% of the carbon footprint of FFs (even though is it probably much higher).  Then, let’s say that healthy capitalism grows at least 3% annually (even though the phrase “healthy capitalism” is highly dubious), which means a doubling in size every 25 years.  If AltE requires 12.5% of the equivalent FFs now, then,

  • in 25 years it will require what is twice that, or 25% of current FF use;
  • at 50 years, it again doubles (to four times its current size), requiring 50% of current FF use; and,
  • at 75 years, the economy doubles (to eight times its current size), reaching 100% of current use.

To put it bluntly, reliance on AltE in no way eliminates FF usage – in only 75 years economic growth would return us to current FF levels.

But would we have to wait 75 years to see current levels of FF restored?  For some parts of the economy, the answer is definitely “No.”  As Stan Cox documents, “… the huge increase in mines, smelters, factories and transportation required for this transition [to EVs] would continue heightened CO2 levels long before any emission savings would be realized.”

It might be possible theoretically to concentrate energy to reach the extremely high temperatures necessary for production of wind turbines and silicon wafers for solar arrays.  Relying on Cox’ calculations, expanding infrastructure to reach 100% AltE by 2030 “… would require a 33-fold increase in industrial expansion, far more than has ever been achieved anywhere and would result in complete ecological devastation.  One little fact regarding this quantity of build-up is that 100% RE would require more land space than used for all food production and living areas in the 48 contiguous states.”

Time for Despair?

Is it time to throw up our hands in despair that the only route to preserve humanity is a return to hunter/gatherer existence?  Not really.  Focusing on local, community-based energy can create sufficient production for human needs.

Many underestimate the ability of low tech devices.  When in high school during the 1960s, my science project was a solar oven that could cook via medium heat.  When I returned from college a few years later, my mom intimated that my dad, an engineer, thought that a solar reflector device could not possibly generate much heat.  So, one morning he used it as a greenhouse for his vegetable seedlings.  When he returned later that day, the plants were fried.

Solar power does not require high-tech based on massive arrays.  Few techniques are more powerful at reducing energy than a passive house design or use of passive solar for existing homes.  It is even possible to run a website via low tech solar without destroying farmland for gargantuan solar arrays.

The story of wind power is somewhat different.  Kris De Decker edits Low-Tech Magazine which spans a variety of ways to heat, cool and provide energy.  An outstanding article covers the sharp contrast between ancient wind mills vs. modern industrial wind turbines:

For more than two thousand years, windmills were built from recyclable or reusable materials: wood, stone, brick, canvas, metal…  It’s only since the arrival of plastic composite blades in the 1980s that wind power has become the source of a toxic waste product that ends up in landfills.  New wood production technology and design makes it possible to build larger wind turbines almost entirely out of wood again… This would make the manufacturing of wind turbines largely independent of fossil fuels and mined materials.

A Global Struggle

The obsession of capitalism with expanding production is a social disease that infects every aspect of exploring, mining, transporting, using and disposing of energy infrastructure.  For decades, this has been painfully obvious for FFs and nuclear power.  Except for those who refuse to see, the opposition rippling through AltE is increasingly clear.

The two key words common to all of these efforts is “Stop it!”  A better life for all begins with rejecting the limitless growth of capitalism by developing technologies that minimize mining, processing, over-producing goods with short durations, and transporting products over long distances.  Instead, we must develop locally-based products that have the least harmful effects.  One of the main problems with tunnel visioning on AltE is that how that approach accepts and perpetuates the ideology of greed, which insists that everyone in the US (and, of course, the world) must adopt the consumerist life-style of the upper middle class.

Everyone in the world believes in preserving what they hold sacred.  For most of us, these include sacred places and beings, the inorganic world, creatures that sleep in water or on land, and human Life.  For others, what they hold most sacred is corporate profits.

The post Is AltE Truly the Best Solution to Climate Catastrophe? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Lethal Heat Hits the Planet

The news does not get much worse than a recent scientific report that the planet is trapping twice as much heat as it did only 14 years ago.

If this one report does not turn heads and create a sense of panic to get off fossil fuels, as soon as yesterday, then nothing will ever move the needle to fix the planet’s broken climate system.1

Scientists have been warning about the consequences of human-generated greenhouse gases ever since James Hansen testified before a Congressional committee 33 years ago: “The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.”

In fact, the warnings have been coming for 44 years. Prior to James Hansen’s testimony before the Senate committee, the most publicized report came from the National Academy of Sciences in 1977 when it warned that burning coal would crank up global temperatures to intolerable levels by 2050.

Meanwhile, a well orchestrated core of climate deniers, including many members of the Republican Party, current and past, for decades have worked to create “doubt” about human impact on global warming in order to safeguard the fossil fuel industry and as a consequence block effective governmental policies to halt greenhouse gas emissions.

That type of obstructive behavior was formidably demonstrated only recently by former president Trump along with his entourage, like Pompeo, who shortsightedly celebrated Arctic ice loss in an Arctic Council speech. Unfortunately, he described as a positive event the meltdown of the planet’s greatest safeguard against global warming; i.e., Arctic ice. As the former secretary of state spoke, the planet was in its final throes of losing its biggest, most important giant reflector of incoming solar radiation, which has been around since humans discovered fire but now gone in only a few short decades because of human-generated global warming greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels like oil and natural gas and coal.

The climate denier class, especially in America, carries a heavy burden for the current out of control status of the planet’s climate system. It is beyond shameful that repeated warnings by the nation’s scientists have been ignored for decades, finally leading to the current state of a worldwide climate emergency. Deadly heat is tormenting the world.

Along those lines, Donald Trump’s destruction of environmental agencies and the removal of scientists and destruction of years of irreplaceable scientific data and removal from the Paris climate agreement of 2015 will go down in history as the worst-timed stupidest policies in all of American history.

The shocking Loeb study that lamentably demonstrates a frightening rise in heat absorbed by the planet utilized satellite data via CERES instrumentation that measures how much energy the planet absorbs in the form of sunlight and how much it emits back into space in the form of infrared radiation. This measures “energy imbalance.” Their study found a doubling of the imbalance for the period from 2005 to 2019. That’s exceptionally troubling, almost beyond comprehension, data collection is indicative of a climate system that’s way out of balance as an impending threat to existence.

Meanwhile, making matters doubly bad and emphasizing the fact that the planet is absorbing twice the heat, NASA reported 2020 as the “hottest year ever.” And, by all appearances, 2021 is shaping up to break the records once again, as abnormally high temperatures throughout the planet exceed all-time records. The planet is literally in a burn mode like humanity has never experienced, and nobody is doing anything about this burning dilemma with any sense of global reach. Meanwhile, talk of holding back temperature by controlling emissions at the nation/state level remains, like always, very cheap and ineffective. As well as totally remiss of the big picture of a global mess that requires global unity, or the lights go out fairly soon, here and there all across the land.

Confirmation of the Loeb study’s CERES data was established using Argo, which is an international network of sensors in the world’s oceans used to measure the rate at which the oceans absorb heat. This strengthened and confirmed the CERES data that the planet is trapping twice the amount of heat of 14 years ago.

According to the scientists for the study: “The two very independent ways of looking at changes in Earth’s energy imbalance are in really, really good agreement, and they’re both showing this very large trend,” Norman Loeb, lead author for the new study and principal investigator for CERES at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. 2

Thirty-three years after James Hansen testified to Congress, global carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 70% and have never gone down in any given year, always up, never down. When Hansen testified, fossil fuels were 79% of the world’s energy. It’s 84% today in the face of every wind turbine and solar panel that’s been installed over the past decades ever since Hansen spoke out about the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions.

Frankly, the world is getting what it deserves and what it has failed to recognize in spite of the world’s top scientists’ warnings, a lot of heat!

  1. Norman G. Loeb, et al, Satellite and Ocean Data Reveal Marked Increase in Earth’s Heating Rate, Geophysical Research Letters – Advanced Earth and Space Science, June 15, 2021.
  2. Earth is Trapping Twice as Much Heat as it did in 2005, Space. Com, June 24, 2009.
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Solidarity with Resistance to Extraction

People the world over are opposing fossil fuel extraction in an incalculable number of ways.  It is now clear that burning fossil fuels threatens millions of Life forms and could be laying the foundation for the extermination of Humanity.  But what about “alternative” energy?  As progressives stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those rejecting fossil fuels and nuclear power, should we despise, ignore, or commend those who challenge the menace to their homes and their communities from solar, wind and hydro-power (dams)?  The Green Party of St. Louis/Gateway Green Alliance gave its answer with unanimous approval of a version of the statement below in May, 2021.

*****

Global Conflicts Over Fossil Fuels, Nuclear and Alternative Energy

The monumental increase in the use of energy is provoking conflicts across the Earth.  We express our solidarity with those struggling against extraction, including these examples.

Standing Rock, North Dakota.  We stand in solidarity with the on-going Native American protests at Standing Rock in North Dakota protesting environmentally irresponsible and culturally damaging pipelines that transport crude oil extracted from tar sand, destroying their ancestral lands. So-called “clean” and “renewable” energies depend on the climate killer oil for their production.

Ogoni People vs. Shell.  We stand in solidarity with the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People against Shell. The Niger-Delta was devastated and traditional culture weakened by soil, surface and groundwater contamination that makes farming and fishing impossible.  Local communities still seek to receive denied compensation, clean-up, a share of the profits and a say in decision-making.

Coal extraction in India.  We stand in solidarity with the Centre for Policy Research in India as it opposes efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open 41 new coal mines because burning coal is a major factor in climate change, leads to asthma, premature births, and spreads toxins (including mercury) by air, water and land.

Fracking in Pennsylvania.  We stand in solidarity with the Green Party of Pennsylvania which has opposed fracking since 2008 when it realized that use of volatile chemicals could harm local communities and waterways and contribute to climate instability. Local residents have become ill and major waterways and delicate ecosystems have been damaged.

Nuclear power and Olympic Games.  We stand in solidarity with the No Nukes Action Committee of the Bay Area who are demonstrating against the Olympic Games slated for Tokyo in order to raise awareness of the ongoing disaster of Fukushima nuclear power since nuclear power is deadly and intimately connected with the potential for nuclear war.

Uranium Mining in Africa.  We stand in solidarity with “Solidarity Action for the 21 Villages” in Faléa, Mali against the French multinational COGEMA/Orano. After years of struggle, this NGO defeated a uranium mine through community mobilizing.  Aware of the detrimental effects on health, environment, agricultural land, water sources and cultural heritage, they are still fighting to undo already done infrastructural damage.

Solar arrays in Washington State.  We stand in solidarity with rural Klickitat County, WA residents who are being invaded by industrial solar facilities which would exceed 12,000 acres and undermine wildlife/habitat, ecosystems, ground/water, and food production because solar panels and lithium ion batteries contain carcinogens with no method of disposal or re-cycling and could contribute to wildfires from electrical shortages.

Wind turbines in Broome County NY.  We stand in solidarity with the Broome Tioga Green Party’s fight against industrial wind turbine projects that would increase drilling and mining, dynamite 26 pristine mountain tops, and destroy 120,000 trees while requiring precious minerals and lithium for batteries and being dependent on fossil fuels for their manufacture, maintenance and operation.

Hydro-power in Honduras.  We stand in solidarity with the indigenous Lenca people opposing the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River in Honduras whose leader Berta Cáceres was murdered for uniting different movements to expose how dams destroy farmland, leave forests bare, disturb ancestral burial sites, and deprive communities of water for crops and livestock.

Lithium mining in Thacker Pass.  We stand in solidarity with activists aiming to stop Lithium Americas’ Thacker Pass open-pit mine (Nevada).  Essential for electronic devices including electric cars, the mine would destroy rare old-growth big sagebrush, harm wildlife including many endangered species and lower the water table. Its operation would require massive fossil fuel use and toxic waste ponds.

Cobalt Extraction in DR Congo.  We stand in solidarity with the child laborers slaving and dying in Democratic Republic of Congo cobalt mines.  Cobalt is an essential ingredient for some of the world’s fastest-growing industries—electric cars and electronic devices. It co-occurs with copper mining, used in construction, machinery, transportation and war technology worldwide.

Child Labour in Democratic Republic of Congo

Most of all, we stand in solidarity with thousands upon thousands of communities across the Earth opposing every form of extraction or transmission for energy which seeks to cover up human health and environmental dangers.

*****

The version adopted by the Gateway Green Alliance differs only by referring to its organizational name in the text.  If you would like to join those spreading the word regarding the need to challenge all forms of energy extraction because we can provide better lives for every society on Earth by reducing the global production of energy, please contact the author at the email below.

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The Net Zero Mirage

“Net Zero by 2050” is the rallying cry of scientists and policymakers throughout the world. However, that epithet echoes past decades of climate change/global warming mitigation plans, one after another, all failures.

The world’s continuing failure to come to grips with the dilemma led three notable climate scientists, deeply involved at the highest levels, to publicly ridicule past and future attempts to fix climate change in a blockbuster article entitled:1

That article is a must-read exposé of failed schemes that unintentionally hoodwink the general public, and scientists, and policymakers into believing in the merits of “feel-good proposals to save the planet.” But in reality, the scientists expose these projects as foolhardy, in part, based upon their own personal experience in actually helping to formulate some of the proposals in the first instance.

It is a thought-provoking article that cannot be dismissed, as it essentially implies we’re screwed unless global policymakers face up and react, immediately. They suggests foregoing the conceptual “Net Zero by 2050,” instead cut to the chase by cutting fossil fuels now!

As a follow up to the stirring article, Dr. Alison Green of ScientistsWarning interviewed the authors, May 8th, 2021:

The authors, not pulling any punches, take academia and international policymakers to the woodshed for decades of fairytale fixit schemes that always, always, always hold out hope, great promise to save civilization from burning up in a self-afflicted earthly hades, but never deliver, postage required.

The message behind the scathing article is simple, straightforward: Enough is enough, we’re fooling ourselves and getting nowhere fast, stop the madness, get real. Here’s how the authors see it:

Collectively we three authors of this article must have spent more than 80 years thinking about climate change. Why has it taken us so long to speak out about the obvious dangers of the concept of net zero? In our defence, the premise of net zero is deceptively simple – and we admit that it deceived us.2

A “Net Zero” search on Goggle brings up 1,630,000,000 hits within 0.89 seconds, and that’s just for starters. Deferring to the authors:

We have arrived at the painful realisation that the idea of net zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier ‘burn now, pay later’ approach which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar. It has also hastened the destruction of the natural world by increasing deforestation today, and greatly increases the risk of further devastation in the future.2

Their article goes on to describe “Steps towards Net Zero” starting with James Hansen, as administrator of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies June 1988 testimony to Congress, demonstrating how humans were warming Earth’s climate, famously stating, “The greenhouse (“GHG”) effect has been detected.” Then, four years later at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, all nations pledged to stabilize GHGs and the 1997 Kyoto Summit re-emphasized these goals, but at the time when something very constructive should have, could have been accomplished, the parties failed.  Subsequently fossil fuels never looked back, zooming ahead in the face of nations of the world agreeing to stabilize GHGs but continuing to fail.

As follows, the next approach was to link economic activity to climate change via “Integrated Assessment Models,” which became, and remain to this day, the principal guidance for climate policy, implicitly implying that “market-based” approaches work, thereby removing any requirement for “deep critical thinking.” This has been, and according to the authors, remains a huge mistake.

The next step to solving the problem was introduction of Carbon-Capture and Storage, a feel-good plan for policymakers but one that failed to address increasing levels of fossil fuel usage. By the Copenhagen 2009 summit it was clear that Carbon-Capture and Storage did not exist in the real world; it was another big bust.

Thereafter, a new magic bullet, Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage – BECCS, became the new savior technology, burning biomass instead of coal. However, BECCS, which is very much in favor today, carries manifold issues, including the insanity of burning trees that absorb & store CO2 if left alone.

According to the authors:

Alas, BECCS, just like all the previous solutions, was too good to be true.2

The following information about BECCS was not included in the relevant article but has been included herewith as BECCS has become the rage, especially in the EU, which generates more energy from burning wood than from wind and solar combined. Biomass is now a $50B global industry.

The title of a recent article tells the story of BECCS 3  For example:

Solar panels can produce 100 times as much power per acre as biomass.2

And here’s another snippet:

In February, more than 500 scientists and economists wrote to President Joe Biden and other leaders to warn that converting wood into power is a carbon disaster, a forest destroyer and an absurdly inefficient way to generate energy… Trees are more valuable alive than dead.2

According to Earth Institute, woody biomass power plants actually produce more “global warming CO2” than fossil fuel plants; i.e., 65% more CO2 per megawatt hour than modern coal plants and 285% more CO2 than natural gas. Meanwhile Canada and the U.S. deliver wood to Europe like there’s no tomorrow.

According to LSA – University of Colorado/Boulder: Wood accounts for 79% of biomass production and accounts for 3.2% of energy production. Wood dominates the worldwide biomass industry. Today 50% of EU renewable energy is based upon biomass, and it is on the rise.

For example, in the UK, the Drax Group converted 4 of 6 coal-generating units to biomass, powering 12% of UK electricity for 4 million households. The Drax biomass plant has an enormous appetite for wood; e.g., in less than two hours an entire freight train of wooden pellets goes up in smoke (easily qualifying for Ripley’s Believe It or Not).

According to Drax’s PR department, their operation has slashed CO2 by over 80% since 2012, claiming to be “the largest decarbonization project in Europe.”4 ; however, when scientists analyze Drax’s claims, they do not hold up.

When wood pellets burn, Drax assumes the released carbon is “recaptured instantly by new growth.” That is a fairy tale.

According to John Sherman, an expert on Complex Systems Analysis at MIT: The “carbon debt payback time” for forests in the eastern US, where Drax’s wood pellets originate, compared to burning coal, under the best-case scenario, when all harvested land regrows as a forest, the wood pellet “payback time is 44 to 104 years,” which is mindboggling, thus prompts a query: Whoever did the research on biomass? Fire them!

Study after study proves that “burning coal instead of woody biomass” reduces the impact of CO2 atmospheric emissions. Coal is the clear winner, but problematically coal has already been cast into no-man’s land as a horrific polluter. Therefore, a massive complexity is at work as countries commit to using trees to meet carbon neutral status, but the end results are appallingly diametrical to their own stated intentions, and flat-out wrong.

According to scientist Bill Moomaw, co-author of several IPCC reports and widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on “carbon sinks”:

If we let some of our forests grow, we could remove an additional 10 to 20 percent of what we emit every year. Instead, we’re paying subsidies to have people cut them down, burning them in place of coal, and counting it as zero carbon. 5

Dr. Moomaw led a group of 800 scientists that petitioned the EU parliament in January 2018 to: “End its support for biomass.” Nevertheless, in June 2018, the EU Commission voted to keep biomass listed as a renewable energy, joined in their position by the support of the U.S. and Britain. Is this conclusive proof that policymakers, at their peril, ignore science? Answer: Yes!

Back to the original article for this story, by 2015, with CO2 emissions still skyrocketing, Paris ’15 brought the world together to limit warming to 2°C, hopefully 1.5°C vs. pre-industrial levels. At the end of negotiations, predictably, worldwide media celebrated an alleged marvelous achievement by the nations of the world to limit global warming, actually implying a halt to global warming, full stop at 2°C. Oh, please!

Yet, the bitter truth about Paris ’15:

But dig a little deeper and you could find another emotion lurking within delegates on December 13. Doubt. We struggle to name any climate scientist who at that time thought the Paris Agreement was feasible. We have since been told by some scientists that the Paris Agreement was ‘of course, important for climate justice but unworkable’ and ‘a complete shock, no one thought limiting to 1.5°C was possible’. Rather than being able to limit warming to 1.5°C, a senior academic involved in the IPCC concluded we were heading beyond 3°C by the end of this century.2

But, at the conclusion of Paris ’15 policymakers and the world’s media focused on a celebration with bright colored streamers and champagne popping and lots of backslapping, continuing the false narrative that a fixit was orchestrated by the nations of the world by simply keeping temperatures below 2°C and maybe even 1.5°C. It’s that simple.

But, getting there may be very complex, accordingly, atmospheric CO2 emissions since 2015: 399.89 ppm January 2015 versus 419.05 ppm April 2021 and increasing at twice the rate of the last century, which makes Paris ’15 a laughing stock.

Furthermore, the three author/scientists discount all of the current proposals on the table like Direct Air Capture, BECCS, and Solar Radiation Management to control and reduce the impact of global warming: “The problems come when it is assumed that these can be deployed at vast scale. This effectively serves as a blank cheque for the continued burning of fossil fuels and the acceleration of habitat destruction.”2

Rather than acknowledge the seriousness of our situation, we instead continue to participate in the fantasy of net zero. What will we do when reality bites? The time has come to voice our fears and be honest with wider society. Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate. If we want to keep people safe then large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now. That is the very simple acid test that must be applied to all climate policies. The time for wishful thinking is over.6

  1. “Climate Scientists: Concept of Net Zero is a Dangerous Trap”, The Conversation, April 22, 2021.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “The ‘Green Energy’ That Might Be Ruining the Planet,” Politico, March 26, 2021.
  4. Biomass Energy: Green or Dirty? Environment & Energy – Feature Article, January 8, 2020
  5. Europe’s Renewable Energy Policy is Built on Burning American Trees, Vox, March 4, 2019.
  6. Climate Scientists: “Concept of Net Zero is a Dangerous Trap”, written by: James Dyke/University of Exeter, Robert Watson/University of East Anglia, and Wolfgang Knorr/Lund University.
The post The Net Zero Mirage first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Supporting Brands That Benefit the Environment

Image Source: Unsplash

It’s impossible to ignore the effects of our actions on the environment. According to NASA, we’re dealing with rising global temperatures, warming oceans, glacial retreat, and many other environmental concerns that will have a lasting negative impact on our planet.

Because of this, more companies are taking the initiative to be more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprints. As consumers, getting on board with those companies can make a big difference.

Doing so requires an understanding of which kinds of companies and brands you should be supporting, and why that support can ultimately make a difference in our environmental future.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the industries with the largest carbon footprint, and how you can support the right businesses within those sectors.

Travel and Transportation

It’s estimated that greenhouse gas emissions from transportation make up about 28% of all emissions in the U.S. Unfortunately, that’s also a number that continues to rise.

The biggest contributor to these emissions is the fossil fuels that are burned for almost all of our main methods of transportation, including:

  • Cars
  • Airplanes
  • Trains
  • Trucks
  • Ships

The problem starts with drilling for oil. It requires land clearing which disrupts entire ecosystems in the process. Oil drilling also contributes to dangerous emissions thanks to the extraction process, further contributing to climate change.

The easiest way to support certain transportation brands is to look for those who are “steering” away from traditional fossil fuels. Thankfully, electric vehicles are becoming more popular and prominent. Thanks to advancements in technology, some of today’s EVs can even outperform their gasoline counterparts.

Some of the most notable car manufacturers taking steps toward sustainability through EVs include Tesla, Hyundai, and Chevrolet. Looking for companies that are willing to change their methods is crucial when it comes to helping the environment, and all of these manufacturers have taken a step away from fossil fuels for a more promising future.

Personal Products

The manufacturing industry is another problematic area when it comes to greenhouse emissions. Support for these industries is usually steadfast since they create and produce products most people use daily. Unfortunately, most people don’t give the things they use and wear much thought when it comes to how they were created or sourced.

For example, that new shirt you just bought may not have been sustainably made. It might be a “fast fashion” item that wears out quickly, causing you to get rid of it. The problem is that the U.S. generates 25 billion pounds of textile waste each year, filling our landfills and causing major issues. Choosing to shop with brands that make quality clothing and use sustainable practices can help to combat this problem.

The jewelry you’re looking at in the window of your favorite shop might be pretty on the outside, but the process of sourcing it is certainly less attractive. Some mining tactics harm the environment since they utilize chemical pesticides and plasticizers. Supporting brands that promote ethical jewelry will help to ensure that the mining process was sustainable or the jewelry has been recycled.

The everyday items you use can all have an impact on the environment, including:

  • Hand soap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Toothpaste
  • Wet wipes

Thankfully, some brands offer eco-friendly alternatives for all of these. Doing your research and switching to those brands (and learning about why they’re different), will help you to see how these products traditionally do damage to the planet, and why a change is so important.

Agriculture

You might think agriculture and sustainability go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, it’s an industry that is currently doing more harm than good. The agricultural industry has gotten out of control thanks to endless demands.

The vegetables on your plate may have been grown with pesticides and chemicals to speed up the process. They were likely harvested using large machinery that contributed to carbon emissions. Then, they were probably shipped across the country, contributing to even more emissions.

Instead of going to your local supermarket for things like produce, consider shopping locally at farm markets, or get to know some local growers. When you know the source of your produce, you can take comfort in the fact that it was organically grown and didn’t require hundreds of travel miles to get to you. In this case, supporting smaller businesses and brands is the way to go.

Alternatively, you could decide to grow your produce at home, reaping the benefits of spending time in nature. But, if you want to support businesses and the environment, go local whenever possible.

It can feel overwhelming when you consider how different industries have such a large impact on our planet. By doing your part to support brands that benefit the environment, you’re helping to keep those brands moving forward. As a result, it’s more likely that other businesses will start to follow sustainable practices, and we can see some positive changes in the alarming statistics surrounding the planet.

The post Supporting Brands That Benefit the Environment first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Virtual Bunny Hugging: Boasting About Climate Change Goals

He seemed frustrated.  While Scott Morrison’s international colleagues at the Leaders Summit on Climate were boastful in what their countries would do in decarbonising the global economy, Australia’s feeble contribution was put on offer.  Unable to meet his own vaccination targets, the Australian prime minister has decided to confine the word “target” in other areas of policy to oblivion.  Just as the term “climate change” has been avoided in the bowels of Canberra bureaucracy, meeting environmental objectives set in stone will be shunned.

Ahead of the summit, Nobel Prize laureates had added their names to a letter intending to ruffle summit participants.  Comprising all fields, the 101 signatories urged countries “to act now to avoid a climate catastrophe by stopping the expansion of oil, gas and coal.”  Governments had “lagged, shockingly, behind what science demands and what a growing and powerful people-powered movement knows: urgent action is needed to end the expansion of fossil fuel production; phase out current production; and invest in renewable energy.”

Deficiencies in the current climate change approach were noted: the Paris Agreement, for instance, makes no mention of oil, gas or coal; the fossil fuel industry was intending to expand, with 120% more coal, oil and gas slated for production by 2030. “The solution,” warn the Nobel Laureates, “is clear: fossil fuels must be kept in the ground.”

To Morrison and his cabinet, these voices are mere wiseacres who sip coffee and down the chardonnay with relish, oblivious to dirty realities.  His address to the annual dinner of the Business Council of Australia took the view that Australia would “not achieve net zero in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities.”  Having treated environmental activism as delusionary, he suggested that industries not be taxed, as they provided “livelihoods for millions of Australians off the planet, as our political opponents sought to do when they were given the chance.”

US President Joe Biden had little appetite for such social distinctions in speaking to summit participants.  (Unfortunately for the President, the preceding introduction by Vice President Kamala Harris was echoed on the live stream, one of various glitches marking the meeting.)   After four years of a crockery breaking retreat from the subject of climate change, this new administration was hoping to steal back some ground and jump the queue in combating climate change.  The new target: cutting greenhouse gas emissions by half from 2005 levels by 2030.

Biden wished to construct “a critical infrastructure to produce and deploy clean energy”.  He saw workers in their numbers capping abandoned oil and gas wells and reclaiming abandoned coal mines.  He dreamed of autoworkers in their efforts to build “the next generation of electric vehicles” assisted by electricians and the installing of 500,000 charging stations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken laboured the theme of togetherness in his opening remarks: “We’re in this together. And what each of our nations does or does not do will not only impact people of our country, but people everywhere.”  But Blinken was also keen, at least in terms of language, to seize some ground for US leadership.  “We want every country here to know: We want to work with you to save our planet, and we’re all committed to finding every possible avenue of cooperation on climate change.”

A central part of this policy will involve implementing the Climate Finance Plan, intended to provide and mobilise “financial resources to assist developing countries reduce and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

While solidarity and collaboration were points the Biden administration wished to reiterate, ill-tempered political rivalries were hard to contain.  On April 19, Blinken conceded during his address to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that China was “the largest producer and exporter of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric vehicles.”  It held, he sulkily noted, almost “a third of the world’s renewable energy patents.”

Environmental policy, in other words, had to become the next terrain of competition; in this, a good degree of naked self-interest would be required.  “If we don’t catch up, America will miss the chance to shape the world’s climate future in a way that reflects our interests and values, and we’ll lose out on countless jobs for the American people.”  Forget bleeding heart arguments about solidarity and collective worth: the US, if it was to win “the long-term strategic competition with China” needed to “lead the renewable energy revolution.”

Others in attendance also had their share of chest-thumping ambition. The United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson was all self-praise about his country having the “biggest offshore wind capacity of any country in the word, the Saudi Arabia of wind as I never tire of saying.”  The country was half-way towards carbon neutrality.  He also offered a new target: cutting emissions by 78 percent under 1990 levels by 2035.  Wishing to emphasise his seriousness of it all, Johnson claimed that combating climate change was not “all about some expensive politically correct green act of ‘bunny hugging’.”

Canada also promised a more ambitious emissions reduction target: the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) would be reduced by 40-45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.  “Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan,” stated Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “puts us on track to not just meet but to exceed our 2030 emissions goal – but we were clearly aware that more must be done.”

Brazil’s President and climate change sceptic Jair Bolsonaro chose to keep up appearances with his peers, aligning the posts to meet emissions neutrality by 2050.  This shaved off ten years from the previous objective.  He also promised a doubling of funding for environmental enforcement.  Fine undertakings from a political figure whose policies towards the Amazon rainforest have been vandalising in their destruction.

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also threw in his lot with a goal of securing a 46 percent reduction by 2030. (The previous target had been a more modest 26 percent reduction based on 2013 levels.)  This did little to delight Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor.  “What Japan needs to do now,” he warned, “is to expand its options for technology.”  Any immediate bans on gasoline-powered or diesel cars, for instance, “would limit such options, and could also cause Japan to lose its strengths.”

Toyoda’s sentiments, along with those of Japan’s business lobby Keidanren, would have made much sense to Morrison.  In a speech shorn of ambition, the Australian prime minister began to speak with his microphone muted.  Then came his own version of ambitiousness, certain that Australia’s record on climate change was replete with “setting, achieving and exceeding our commitments”.

It was not long before he was speaking, not to the leaders of the world, but a domestic audience breast fed by the fossil fuel industries.  Australia was “on the pathway to net zero” and intent on getting “there as soon as we possibly can, through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them and the jobs and livelihoods they support and create, especially in our regions.”  His own slew of promises: Australia would invest in clean hydrogen, green steel, energy storage and carbon capture.  The US might well have Silicon Valley, but Australia would, in time, create “Hydrogen Valleys”.

With such unremarkable, even pitiable undertakings, critics could only marvel at a list of initiatives that risk disappearing in the frothy stew.  “Targets on their own, won’t lead to emission cuts,” reflected Greenpeace UK’s head of climate, Kate Blagojevic.  “That takes real policy and money.  And that’s where the whole world is still way off course.”  Ahead of COP26 at Glasgow, Morrison will be hoping that the world remains divided and very much off course.

The post Virtual Bunny Hugging: Boasting About Climate Change Goals first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Rich The Poor and Climate Change

Only the most deluded denier can now question that the global climate is dramatically changing and that the chaos is man-made. Extreme weather events – wildfires, drought, intense heat, hurricanes – are becoming more frequent, the impact on ecosystems and biodiversity, populations and infrastructure devastating. Fueled by the industrialized nations and the lifestyles of the rich, it is developing nations in the global south that are most severely impacted by climate change, with the poorest communities, particularly women and children, hit hardest.

The disruption to weather cycles is caused by global warming (increases in average surface temperature) which results from a buildup of what are commonly called greenhouse gases (GHG). Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), trap heat which would otherwise pass out of Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in a rise in average ground temperature. Burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil) is the primary source of emissions, as well as industrial animal agriculture, which is not only a major source of greenhouse gases, but is having a disastrous impact on the environment more broadly, including deforestation, and air and water pollution.

With 28% of the total, China (population c.1.4 billion) is the world’s biggest producer of GHG emissions; however when measured per capita it ranks only 47th. China is also one of the world’s biggest investors in renewable energy, and plans to produce 35% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. It is the USA (population c.328 million) – the second largest overall polluter – that has the highest per capita emissions in the world, and by some margin. Collectively the top four emitters (China, USA, EU + UK and India) produced 55% of all GHG emissions in the last decade.

No matter where they are produced, GHG emissions effect everyone everywhere. Unsurprisingly the biggest single source, accounting for 73% of emissions is energy consumption from fossil fuels. A study by The Guardian in 2019, found that over a third of “all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane” emissions since 1965 have been produced by just 20 companies: Chevron, BP, Shell and Exxon top the carbon charts, producing over 10% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1965.

Everyone, particularly everyone in developed countries, contributes to the clogging fog of global emissions, but, in addition to the energy corporations, the group burning colossal pyres of fossil fuels and those who are therefore disproportionately responsible for climate change is the wealthy. Research by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), published in September 2020, shows that between 1990 and 2015 (a critical period in the evolution of climate change) when GHG emissions grew by 60%, and cumulative emissions doubled, the richest 10% on the planet (c. 630 million) were responsible for a staggering 52% of the total. As if this isn’t shocking enough, drilling down on the figures reveals that the “richest one percent (c.63 million people)…were responsible for 15% of global emissions during this time.”

This huge increase in emissions depleted “the global 1.5C carbon budget [amount of CO2 the world/country has agreed it can produce to meet warming targets in a particular time period] by nearly a third in those 25 years alone.” In contrast the poorest 50% on the planet (c.3.1 billion people), all of whom live in developing countries, used just 4% of the available carbon budget, producing a mere 7% of cumulative emissions.

From Growth to Social Justice

‘Carbon Inequality’ (differences in expenditure of the agreed carbon budget) reflects and amplifies the broader socio-economic imbalances in the world. In the 1990 – 2015 period global GDP doubled, wealth and income inequality grew, consumption levels increased, and although millions were raised out of the most dire levels of poverty ($1.90/day) the income of around half the world’s population remained at less than $5.50 a day.

Even when the poor see some paltry change in their lives, within the present paradigm the main beneficiaries of growth are always the rich; growth intensifies inequality, concentrating wealth, and with it political/corporate power, in the silk-lined pockets of a tiny percentage of the population: A diminishing few, mainly men, predominantly white, controlling more, consuming more, and greedily depleting the global ‘carbon budget’ at the expense of the rest of the population and future generations.

While the benefits of establishing a carbon budget are debatable, the fact that virtually all of it is eaten up by those responsible for the majority of GHG emissions is particularly unjust. Greenpeace relates that an average citizen (it’s much higher for the rich) in the USA, Canada and Australia emit 150 times the amount of carbon compared to someone in Malawi in Southeast Africa. Adding injury and destruction to insult is the fact that poorer countries and communities, who have done little or nothing to cause climate change, are being most severely impacted by its devastating effects.

The breeding ground for climate injustice and social inequality is the competitive ideology inherent within the global socio-economic order, the values it promotes, the behavior it encourages. Endless consumerism and perpetual economic growth are essential components, but for GHG emissions to stop – not reduce, but stop altogether – this crude idea of development, which is a cornerstone of government policies and business plans around the world, must be rejected, and priority given to creating environmental responsibility, social justice and unity.

The challenge of the age

In December 2015, 194 countries signed up to the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate change agreement, adopted at the Paris climate conference (COP21). The treatise sets out a framework to limit global warming to “well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.” To achieve this target countries have established nationally determined contributions (NDC), but even though some countries have announced headline-grabbing targets (EU to reduce GHG by 40% by 2030 e.g.), in its 2020 Emissions Gap Report, the UN states that not only are polices inconsistent with such figures, but that “countries must collectively increase their NDC ambitions threefold to get on track to a 2°C goal and more than fivefold to get on track to the 1.5°C goal.”

Currently, despite Covid-induced economic and trade restrictions in 2020, GHG emissions are climbing at an average rate of 1.3% per year. By the end of 2019, according to Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NOAA), emissions had increased 41% since 1990. The resulting threat, to ecosystems, animal habitat and human communities, is huge; in a recent report in Frontiers in Conservation Science (FCS), an international group of scientists outline a “ghastly future of mass [animal] extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” because of collective ignorance and inaction, primarily by government and big business. “Future environmental conditions will be far more dangerous than currently believed,” they state, “the scale of the threats… is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts.”

Scientists have been making such warnings for years, but politicians, business leaders, the rich and complacent have routinely ignored them, unprepared to make the necessary sacrifices and changes in approach and behavior required in order to save the planet. FCS makes clear that dealing with the crisis requires fundamental changes to “global capitalism” as well as education and equality. Under the shadow of Covid-19 governments around the world acted, some more effectively than others, but all responded.

The environmental crisis is a great deal more serious. It is the challenge of the age and demands a (UN) coordinated global response. Radical action is needed and urgently, specifically action that brings about changes in behavior among the principle GHG emitters: The rich, the energy companies, big business and the consuming masses within developed nations. Environmentally responsible action by individuals, flying less, using less plastic, eating less animal produce, while important, will not deal with climate change. Systemic change is urgently needed, together with a shift in attitudes away from excess to sufficiency.

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Complex Life Threatened

Throughout the world, scientists are speaking out like never before. They’re talking about an emergency situation of the health of the planet threatening “complex life,” including, by default, human life.

It’s scary stuff. On this subject, America’s green NGOs prefer to address the danger by sticking to a middle ground, don’t scare people, too much doom and gloom backfires, turns people off, it’s counterproductive.

However, emergencies have been happening for some time now. So, it’s kinda hard to ignore. In fact, that’s why it’s so obviously easy to declare emergencies today, yesterday, and the day before yesterday and many yesterdays before that. In other words, the house has been on fire for some time but the fire engines never show up.

A recent fundamental study discusses the all-important issue of failing support of complex life:

Humanity is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity and, with it, Earth’s ability to support complex life. 1

The ramifications are unnerving. Accordingly, Earth’s ability to support complex life is officially at risk. That’s what the scientists are implying within the meaning of the article’s title: “Understanding the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future.”

Indeed, the article identifies a life or death chronology, or summation, of all of the emergencies already underway. That’s real! Moreover, the risk of a “ghastly future” is not taken lightly; rather, the heavily researched article includes high-powered renowned scientists authoring one of the most significant articles of the 21st century, boldly describing risks of an offbeat pathway to a ghastly future, therefore begging the question of what a ghastly future really looks like.

An armchair description of a ghastly future is a planet wheezing, coughing, and gasping for air, searching for non-toxic water, as biodiversity dwindles to nothingness alongside excessive levels of atmospheric CO2-e, bringing on too much heat for complex life to survive. Sound familiar? In part, it is.

Along the way, the irretrievable loss of vertebrates, or complex life forms like wild mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have reduced to 5% of the planet’s total biomass.  The remaining 95%: (1) livestock (59%) and (2) humans (36%). (Bradshaw, et al) How long does that cozy relationship last?

It’ll likely last for decades, maybe, but probably not for centuries. But then again, nobody really knows for sure how long it’ll last. Meanwhile, the human version of complex life resides in comfortable artificial lifestyles framed by cement, steel, glass, wood, and plastic, and surrounded by harmful fertilizers, toxic insecticides, and tons of untested chemicals. There are more than 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S., most of which have not been studied for safety or toxicity to humans. 2

As a consequence of how artificial lifestyles influence how people view the world, it’s no surprise that Disneyland is a huge success, a big hit, with its flawless artificiality that offers a comfort zone for families within its mastery of hilarious bio-diverse imagery, all fake.

But, while Disneyland prospers, biodiversity is on a slippery slope, barely hanging on for dear life at 5% of total biomass. Once that final 5% goes down the drain, which now looks promising, human life will be all that remains along with herds of cows, pens of pigs, and coops of chickens. Phew!

Already, it is mind-blowing that two-thirds of wild vertebrate species have disappeared from the face of the planet within only 50 years, a world-class speed record for extinction events. At that rate, the infamous Anthropocene will usher in the bleakest century since commencement of the Holocene Epoch of the past 10,000-plus years, especially in consideration of the remorseful fact that, over the past 300 years, global wetlands have been reduced to 15% of their original composition.

That one fact alone, as highlighted in the Bradshaw report, describes an enormous hole in the lifeblood of the planet. Wetlands are the “kidneys for the world’s landscape” (a) cleansing water (b) mitigating floods (c) recharging underground aquifers, and (d) providing habitat for biodiversity. What else does that?

Once wetlands are gone, there’s no hope for complex life support systems. And, how will aquifers be recharged? Aquifers are the world’s most important water supply. Yet, NASA says 13 of the planet’s 37 largest aquifers are classified as overstressed because they have almost no new water flowing in to offset usage. No wetlands, no replenishment. Ipso facto, the Middle East is on special alert!

Meanwhile, dying crumbling ecosystems all across the world are dropping like flies with kelp forests down >40%, coral reefs down >50%, and 40% of all plant life endangered, as well as massive insect losses of 70% to 90% in some regions approaching wholesale annihilation. It’s entirely possible that the planet has never before experienced this rate of loss.

Alas, the loss of biodiversity brings a plethora of reductions in associated benefits of a healthy planet: (1) reduced carbon sequestration (CO2-e already at all-time highs), (2) reduced pollination (insect wipe-out), (3) degraded soil (especially Africa), (4) foul air, bad water (especially India), (5) intense flooding (especially America’s Midwest), (6) colossal wildfires (Siberia, California, Amazon, Australia), (7) compromised health (rampaging viruses and 140 million Americans with at least one chronic disease, likely caused, in part, by environmental degradation and too much toxicity).

Barring a universal all-hands-on-deck recovery effort of Earth’s support systems for complex life; e.g., revival of wetlands, it’s difficult to conceive of a future without the protection of Hazmat suits.

Integral to the continual loss of nature’s bounty, an overcrowded planet brings in its wake regenerative resource limitations. Accordingly, some estimates claim 700-800 million people already are currently starving and 1-2 billion malnourished and unable to function fully. Um, does that describe life or is it sub-life?

One of the most telling statistics within the Bradshaw report states: “Simultaneous with population growth, humanity’s consumption as a fraction of Earth’s regenerative capacity has grown from ~ 73% in 1960 to 170% in 2016.” Ipso facto, humans are consuming more than one Earth. How long does that last, especially considering the deflating fact that regeneration turned negative, circa 1970s?

Ecological overshoot is a centerpiece of the loss of biodiversity:

This massive ecological overshoot is largely enabled by the increasing use of fossil fuels. These convenient fuels have allowed us to decouple human demand from biological regeneration: 85% of commercial energy, 65% of fibers, and most plastics are now produced from fossil fuels. Also, food production depends on fossil-fuel input, with every unit of food energy produced requiring a multiple in fossil-fuel energy (e.g., 3 × for high-consuming countries like Canada, Australia, USA, and China; overshootday.org). (Bradshaw, et al).

As loss of biodiversity delves deeper into the lifeblood of the planet, it becomes a festering problem that knows no end. Still:

Stopping biodiversity loss is nowhere close to the top of any country’s priorities, trailing far behind other concerns such as employment, healthcare, economic growth, or currency stability. It is therefore no surprise that none of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020 set at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD.int) 2010 conference was met.  (Bradshaw, et al)

No surprise there.

Making matters much, much worse:

Most of the nature-related United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (e.g., SDGs 6, 13–15) are also on track for failure.  (Bradshaw, et al)

No surprise there.

Even the World Economic Forum, which is captive of dangerous green-washing propaganda, now recognizes biodiversity loss as one of the top threats to the global economy.  (Bradshaw, et al)

No surprise there.

So, where, when, and how are solutions to be found? As stated above, there’s no shortage of ideas, but nobody does the work because solutions are overwhelming, too expensive, too complicated. Yet, plans are underway to send people to Mars!

Meanwhile, the irrepressible global warming fiasco is subject of a spaghetti-type formula of voluntary commitments by nations of the world (Paris 2015) to contain the CO2-e villain, all of which has proven to be nightmarishly inadequate. Human-induced greenhouse gases continue hitting record levels year-over-year. That’s the antithesis of success. According to the Bradshaw report: “Without such commitments, the projected rise of Earth’s temperature will be catastrophic for biodiversity.” Hmm — maybe declare one more emergency. Yes, no?

Alas, it’s difficult to imagine loss of biodiversity beyond what’s already happened with 2/3rds of wild vertebrate life gone in only 40-50 years. Also, not to forget invertebrates. When’s the last time a bug splattered on a windshield anywhere in America?

Looking ahead, the best advice may be to make preparations for universal pandemonium, which coincidentally is the namesake of the Capitol (Pandemonium) of Hell in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, circa 17th century England.

What to do? Maybe forego any new emergency declarations (the current crop of emergencies, like impending loss of The Great Barrier Reef, are already happening and too much to absorb) and remediation plans that go nowhere, leaving behind a stream of broken promises and false hope, especially after so many years of broken promises and protocols and meetings and orgs that go nowhere, but meanwhile, they preach stewardship of the planet. What’s with that?

Postscript: The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its life forms—including humanity—is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well informed experts. (“Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future”)

  1. Corey J.A. Bradshaw, et al, “Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future”, Frontiers in Conservation Science, January 13, 2021.
  2. “It Could Take Centuries for EPA to Test all the Unregulated Chemicals Under a New Landmark Bill”, PBS News Hour, June, 22, 2016.
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An Exhausted Planet Limps Into 2021

Early this new year, the Alliance of World Scientists (13,700 strong) delivered a biting report, not mincing words:

Scientists now find that catastrophic climate change could render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable consequent to continued high emissions, self-reinforcing climate feedback loops and looming tipping points.1

The mission: “We scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat.”

Even though it is very difficult to accept a cartoonish statement that “We Are Destroying Earth,” get accustomed to it because it’s happening but not right before our eyes or under our collective noses. To better understand the carnage, study the science and discover collapsing ecosystems within a chaotically threatened climate system, especially where nobody lives. That’s where it starts and most prominently stands out in full living color for all to see in the Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland, Australia, Siberia, the world’s rainforests, and within the vast expanse of the oceans. Almost nobody lives in those ecosystems. What’s next?

Nascent efforts to stem the impact of a bruised climate system are underway. Increasingly, all across the land, a serious climate emergency is being recognized for what it is. In fact, over the past two years, 10% of the world’s population has declared a climate emergency:

(1) 1,859 jurisdictions in 33 countries have issued climate emergency declarations on behalf of 820 million people. Nearly one billion people “Get it”

(2) 60 million citizens of the UK, or 90% of the UK population, now live in areas where local authorities have declared a climate emergency (Hello XR).

(3) Australia, UK’s stepchild – Over one-third of the population has declared a climate emergency.

(4) The Argentina Senate, representing 45 million people, declared a climate emergency on July 17, 2019.

(5) Canadian assemblies representing nearly 100% of the population declared a climate emergency in 2019-20.

(6) In Italy, nearly 40% of the population via assemblies declared a climate emergency in 2019-2020.

(7) Spain 100%.

(8) The United States 10%, meantime, under Trump’s ironclad directive, the remaining 90% vigorously rejects any consideration whatsoever of climate change.

In sharp contrast to the posturing of the United States pre-January 20th, the Alliance of World Scientists is not pulling any punches about the challenge ahead:

The climate emergency has arrived and is accelerating more rapidly than most scientists anticipated, and many of them are deeply concerned. The adverse effects of climate change are much more severe than expected, and now threaten both the biosphere and humanity.2

Those are heavy words: “…threatening both the biosphere and humanity….” Meaning- “Scientists now find that catastrophic climate change could render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable.”3

Global warming has already made parts of the world hotter than the human body can withstand decades earlier than climate models expected. Measurements at Jacobabad in Pakistan and Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates have both repeatedly spent at least 1 or 2 hours over a deadly threshold.4

As it happens, excessive heat combined with excessive humidity leads to death within 6 hours. Early signs of this are already appearing decades ahead of expectations. After all, the human body has limits. If the temperature/humidity index is extreme enough, even a healthy person seated in the shade with plentiful water to drink will suffer severely or likely die. It’s the Wet-Bulb Temperature WBT. Generally speaking, a threshold is reached when air temperature climbs above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) combined with humidity above 90 percent.

According to scientists, in order to stem the onset of Web-Bulb Temperature peril, CO2 emissions must be sharply reduced, quickly, especially in consideration of the disquieting fact that all five of the hottest years on record have occurred since 2015.

A recent study found extreme humid/heat combinations occurring well beyond prolonged human physiological tolerance for 1-to-2 hours duration concentrated in South Asia, the coastal Middle East, and coastal south of North America.5

Meantime, the main culprit, or CO2, the key driver of global heat recently reached an all-time record high for the Holocene Epoch, which represents 11,700 years of stable climate behavior, the Great Goldilocks Sleep Walk Thru Time Era. That is until excessive levels of CO2 started cranking up global warming, post-1750.

The Alliance of World Scientists’ article declares 2020 as one of the hottest years on record, and it prompted massive extraordinary wildfire activity all across the planet, Siberia, the Western U.S., the Amazon, and Australia. These unprecedented disruptions are indicative of a malfunctioning climate system. Clearly, the planet is sick.

According to the Alliance:

Every effort must be made to reduce emissions and increase removals of atmospheric carbon.3

Along the way, several countries have committed to zero net carbon emissions by 2050-60; however, there is mounting evidence that those goals are inadequate. Rather, new evidence suggests net zero carbon must be achieved by 2030, not 20-30 years later. That’s far too late.

In order to achieve something beyond a mere semblance of climate system balance (if that is even possible) it will be necessary to adhere to the goals of The Bonn Challenge Global Restoration Initiative of 2011 restoring 350 million hectares of forests and lands by 2030. Seventy-four countries have endorsed this nature-based solution.

The Alliance of World Scientists offers solutions to the dilemma:

  • Get off fossil fuels, a top priority.
  • Stop industrial emissions like methane, black carbon (soot) and similar emissions in order to dramatically reduce the rate of warming.
  • Restore natural ecosystems, especially farming, and of special note: “The logging of the Amazon, tropical forests in SE Asia, and other rainforests, including the proposed cutting in the Tongas National Forest of Alaska is especially devastating for the climate.”3
  • Reduce beef and meat products to help reduce methane emissions. Plants are edible and healthier.
  • Transition to a carbon-free economy that reflects our dependence upon the health of the biosphere affectionately referred to as Mother Earth. Adopt eco-economics as a healthy replacement for the neoliberal brand of forever-growth capitalism, cruising along on a golden paved road to never-never land of fantasy and ecstasy.
  • Today’s human population growth rate of 200,000 per day newborns needs to stabilize and decline via support for and education of young women throughout the world.

Accordingly, the Alliance proclaims:

In December 2020, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded for every nation to declare a ‘climate emergency.’ Thus, we call for the U.S. government to proclaim a climate emergency with either Joe Biden declaring a national climate emergency through an executive order or Congress passing major climate mitigation funding and a declaration of a climate emergency  that has been buried in a Congressional committee throughout 2020. One year ago, we were troubled about poor progress on mitigating climate change. We are now alarmed by the failure of sufficient progress during 2020.2

  1. William J. Ripple, et al, The Climate Emergency: 2020 in Review, Scientific American, January 6, 2021.
  2. Scientific American.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “Climate Change Has Already Made Parts of the World Too Hot for Humans”, NewScientist, May 8, 2020.
  5. Colin Raymond, et al, “The Emergence of Heat and Humidity Too Severe for Human Tolerance”, Science Advances, Vol. 6, no. 19, May 8, 2020.
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