Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

Global warming and local freezing

November 13, 2017

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Source: The Real News Network

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How long can they put their heads in the sand?

November 12, 2017

Double click to enlarge

Source: Real News Network.

“Reality,” according to the SF writer Philip K. Dick, “is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

“You can ignore reality,” the philosopher Ayn Rand reportedly said, “but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”

How long can members of the Trump administration ignore the reality of climate change?

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Believe it or not

October 26, 2017

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The changing politics of climate change

June 2, 2017

Hat tip to kottke.org.

An SF writer’s diagnosis and cure for capitalism

April 27, 2017

In the opening of Kim Stanley Robinson’s new SF novel, New York 2140, two unemployed financial software engineers known as Mutt and Jeff—unemployed because they refuse to design a possibly illegal program for high-speed trading—contemplate a flooded lower Manhattan from atop the former Metropolitan Life building.

One of them says he has figured out what’s wrong with capitalism.

The basic problem with capitalism, he says, is that the forces of the market forces producers to sell products below cost.

How can you sell below cost and survive?  By offloading your costs onto someone else—onto customers, onto neighbors, onto taxpayers, onto the wider community and onto future generations.

This enables an individual enterprise to survive (sometimes), but, in the long run, leads human society into bankruptcy.

In the novel, global warming has taken place, sea levels have risen and lower Manhattan is under water.  Skyscrapers such as the Met Life building are still survive amid a kind of new Venice.  Uptown Manhattan is 50 feet higher in elevation, and is dry.  In the middle is a tidal zone, where the poor and homeless congregate.

Some environmental problems have been solved, or at least are being coped with.  Gasoline, jet fuel and other fossil fuels no longer exist.  Air travel is by dirigible, ocean travel is by sailing ship and land vehicles are electric.   But the financial structure and distribution of income are more or less like they are now.

New skyscrapers—”superscrapers”—in uptown are owned by the world’s wealthy elite, as investments or as one of multiple homes, and are often vacant.

A hurricane late in the novel leaves many homeless.  They try to storm the vacant uptown towers, and are turned back by private security forces, who outgun the New York Police Department.

Rather than attempt a violent revolutionary overthrow, the common people attempt a political and economic jujitsu.

They join in a nationwide debt strike.  On a given day, they stop paying their mortgages, student loans and credit card balances.  The financial system is go highly leveraged with debt upon debt that it comes crashing down, just as in 2008.   So the financiers go to Washington for another bailout, just as they did then.

But this time, the President and Federal Reserve Chairman, who are in on the plan, act differently.  They tell the banks and investment companies that they would be bailed out only on one condition—that the government be given stock of equal value to the bailout, as was done in the bailout of General Motors.   Those who refuse this deal are allowed to fail.

Now the federal government has the authority to force the banks to act as public utilities.  And the huge profits that once flowed to the financial elite now flow to Washington, which makes it possible to adequately fund public education, infrastructure improvement, scientific research and all the other things the country needs.

And so the American people live happily—not ever after and not completely, but for a while.

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U.S. greenhouse emissions have fallen since 2000

January 14, 2017

gdp-ghg-and-co2-emissions

Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses remained level during the administration of George W. Bush and actually fell during the administration of Barack Obama, even though economic output rose.

This means that economic growth doesn’t depend on making global warming worse.  It means that, to the contrary, it is feasible to do something about global climate change.

It won’t mean that the Greenland ice cap will stop melting or the American Southwest will stop suffering from drought or coastal cities such as Miami or Houston will be safe.  It took a long time to create the buildup of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, and it will be a long time before they go away.

The benefit of reducing greenhouse gasses will go to future generations, not to us.  But is good news, just the same.

Part of this is due to technological progress, which has made renewal energy competitive (or more nearly competitive) with fossil fuels.  But credit also is due to the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy under President Bush and especially President Obama.

Sadly, this may all change for the worse under President Donald Trump, who denies the reality of human-made climate change and is filling his administration with climate change deniers.

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North Pole is 50 degrees warmer than usual

December 27, 2016

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The temperature of the Arctic is 50 degrees warmer than usual—so warm that it is off the chart for this map.

A warming Arctic in some ways is a good thing.  It frees up the Arctic Ocean for navigation and (which may or may not be a good thing) opens up the oil and mineral resources of the Arctic for exploitation.

But it disrupts the weather patterns throughout the whole Northern Hemisphere.  A melting Arctic ice cap changes ocean currents and a melting Greenland glacier raises the levels of the sea.

Meanwhile 2016 is on track to replace 2015 as the hottest year on record worldwide.

Stopping greenhouse gasses immediately would not reverse global warming within the lifetime of anyone now alive.   They will affect the world’s atmosphere for a long time to come.

The choice for the world’s policymakers is whether and how much to stop making things worse.   The choice for us, the citizens of free countries, is how much we care about those who will come after us.

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Trump and the coming climate refugee crisis

December 23, 2016
climaterefugeesmap

Click on this for a larger version of the map.

Donald Trump, along with many other Americans, is reluctant to admit refugees from foreign wars.   In Europe, there’s a backlash against admitting refugees.

Of course there might be fewer refugees if the United States and other governments hadn’t destroyed or tried to destroy functioning governments in Iraq, Libya and Syria.   A decade ago, Syria was a country that took in refugees, not a country from which refugees fled.

But within the next 10 years or so, the number of war refugees might be overtaken by the number of climate refugees—families fleeing drought, floods and hurricanes caused by global warming.

Think of the people fleeing New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, or people fleeing the Dust Bowl region in the 1980s.   Think of the crisis in Germany over hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and other war-torn countries in the Middle East.

Now imagine this on a global scale and magnified 10-fold or 100-fold.

Most of the world’s governments, including the USA and China, have been slow to respond to the need to slow down climate change.  But President-elect Donald Trump is committed to policies that will actively make things worse!

Unless something important changes, a global climate refugee crisis is inevitable.

I can’t predict when the climate refugee crisis will hit—whether during the Trump administration or later.

I can predict that when it does, the United States will be the world’s scapegoat for everything bad that happens.

We Americans will deserve the blame for a lot of  it.  We will get the blame for all of it.

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A global view of global warming

November 12, 2016

My friend Hal Bauer recommended this video.  It depicts the reality of global warming—a good basic explanation for someone who hasn’t studied the subject, but with new information to some (including me) who think we are well-informed.

It runs for more than 90 minutes, which is a bit long to watch on a small screen.  But it’s broken up into brief episodes, showing the actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s world travel to educate himself about the subject.

The video ends with the USA and China, the world’s two largest industrial economies and the two largest producers of greenhouse gasses, agreeing in principle do set limits.  This was before the election of Donald Trump, who has said global warming is a hoax promoted by China to undermine the U.S. economy.

∞∞∞

Click on this to view the whole thing.

[Revised 11/15/2016]

A graphic history of global climate change

September 14, 2016

Source: xkcd: Earth Temperature Timeline

A realistic map of Louisiana

August 22, 2016
Walkable, inhabitable land area of Louisiana

Walkable, inhabitable land area of Louisiana

Southern Louisiana, like the Netherlands, is inhabitable because of the actions of humankind.  Just as the Dutch live behind their ocean dikes, Louisianans live behind their river levees.

Inadequate maintenance of the levees by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005 worse than it might have been.

map-of-louisiana-citiesThere is a problem with the levees.  Southern Louisiana is part of the Mississippi River delta, built up of topsoil from a huge drainage area stretching from the Appalachians to the Rockies.  The wandering course of the Mississippi deposited this soil over a wide area.  With the levees, the Mississippi is confined to a narrow channel.  This prevents floods, but also prevents replenishment of the delta.  As a result, much of southern Louisiana, including New Orleans, is slowly sinking, creating a need for even higher levees.

There is a good side to this.  Sinking replaces dry land with swamps and wetlands.  Although swamps and wetlands are not walkable or inhabitable, they provide a buffer against ocean flooding by absorbing the water.

It’s complicated.  Global climate change will generate more floods, and make things even more complicated.

LINKS

Louisiana Loses Its Boot by Brett Carrington for Medium.  The source and explanation of the top map.  Also a good explanation of the need for accurate maps.

Taming the Floods, Dutch-style by Damien Carrington for The Guardian.

Tragedy and hope in Louisiana floods

August 20, 2016
Blue indicates the flooded areas

Blue indicates flooded areas in Baton Rouge

During the past week or so, I’ve been reading about the disastrous floods in south Louisiana, which, according to recent estimates, have left tens of thousands of families homeless and destitute.

Middle-class people, living in places that have never been flooded before, have lose everything and depend for food and shelter on the charity of strangers.

U.S.-declared disaster area

U.S.-declared disaster area

But it is a story not only of disaster, but of hope.  Rod Dreher, a writer for the American Conservative, who lives in that region, tells on his blog how everyone in the community—white, black and Asian, middle-class and poor, Republican and Democrat—have come together to help in the face of the disaster.

Almost everybody in that part of the world owns a boat, and a so-called “Cajun Navy” has rescued many stranded elderly and sick people who otherwise would have lost their lives as well as their property.

The local churches, of many denominations, have been the main organizers of rescue and relief—which is not to say that unbelievers haven’t helped out or that the federal and state governments haven’t done their jobs.

Many people, including Dreher and his wife, have taken strangers into their homes.  Also—

My daughter spent the day at Amite Baptist church preparing meals for people who have no home, while volunteer crews tore out the water-logged carpet and pews.

My boys were part of a crew from their school who have been going out to muck houses of school families who were flooded out. They had to boat in to this one elderly woman’s house (her grandchild goes to the boys’ school) to take out drywall, pull up carpet and floorboards, and suchlike — this, in 91 degree heat, in humidity over 90 percent. While they were there, the elderly lady collapsed with a heat stroke inside the house. My older son called 911, and the crew boated across the water to pick up the paramedics and take them to the house while the others used ice from their coolers to try to keep her alive. They boated her and the paramedics back across the water to the ambulance. The lady made it, thank God, but it was a very close call.

All the boys working on the mucking crew who saved her life learned a valuable lesson today. My boys came home in clothes stinking of sewage water, with aching muscles and stories to tell.

louisiana.flood.eMucking is a dirty job that is necessary to salvage a flooded structure.  It involves getting rid of the filth and mud left by the flood, and everything that is porous, which includes most possessions, and then cleaning up what remains.  Otherwise the building will be destroyed by mildew

And here’s something from the Facebook page of one of Dreher’s friends.

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President Obama’s failure on climate change

July 27, 2016

President Obama was elected in 2008 based on promises to, among other things, do something about global warming.  My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey called my attention to an article highlighting his refusal to act.  Here’s an excerpt:

climatechange91740d8c51000401415d83d7d5ded446Obama has sufficient scientific resources at his command to know exactly what we are doing and failing to do. He came into office with control of both houses of Congress and a clear mandate to act on the climate crisis, with scientists the world over sounding all the necessary alarms.

But in pursuing an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, highlighted by the figurative explosion of fracking and the literal explosions of oil trains and deep sea drilling rigs, Obama has turned the US into the No. 1 producer of fossil fuels in the world.

The value of federal government subsidies for fossil-fuel exploration and production increased by 45 percent under his watch, even as he turned what were once climate “treaty” talks into a subterfuge for global inaction. This, from the guy who ran against “Drill, Baby Drill!”

Source: Truthout

True, Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has enacted regulations classifying greenhouse gasses as pollutants, which are intended to close down aging coal-fired electric power plants.  He has obtained subsidies to promote renewable energy.  And he has set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to be accomplished by future administrations.

But this has been offset by his promotion of the domestic oil and gas industry and his opposition to enforceable international climate treaties.

The problem is that there is no immediate political payoff from trying to slow down global warming.  The climate change that is manifesting itself right now—record-breaking temperatures, floods and droughts—is the result of decisions made or not made 30 or 40 years ago.

What is done—or not done—today about climate change will not change the present situation.  It will only help people 30 or 40 years from now.  There is little political incentive to do that.

Neither democratic government nor free-enterprise economic systems, assuming that this is what we have, would respond to the immediate concerns and wishes of the public, but not to warnings about future problems.  Not that socialist dictatorships have a better record!

The only answer, as I see it, is for climate change activists to do what Naomi Klein describes in her book, This Changes Everything, which is to join up with those who are fighting fossil fuel companies on other grounds—protection of property rights, Indian treaties, public health and the environment, and the authority of local government.

LINK

President Obama’s Lethal Climate Legacy by Zhiwa Woodbury for Truthout.

Will the Arctic be the next big arena of conflict?

December 9, 2015
Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

The warming Arctic is likely to be a new arena of conflict between Russia and the USA.

But unlike in current conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, there will be no question of democracy or a fight against terrorism to cloud the central issue—control of oil and gas resources and transportation routes.

The infrographic by the South China Morning Post provides a good snapshot of the situation.   The potential conflict in the Arctic is even more dangerous than existing conflicts, because of its potential for direct confrontation between the USA and Russia.

The other nations with the greatest physical presence in the Arctic are Canada and Denmark (which controls Greenland).   It will be interesting to see whether they will follow the lead of the United States or try to steer an independent course.

The irony of the situation is that the Arctic is being opened up by global warming, which causes the Arctic ice cap to shrink over time, and that the warming is caused mainly by burning of fossil fuels, but the new oil and gas supplied from the Arctic will make it easier and cheaper to keep on burning fossil fuels.

The best outcome would be for the Arctic powers to agree on sharing and conserving the region’s resources.  That doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.

Melting of the Arctic sea ice

November 25, 2015

Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center.