Saturday, June 28, 2008

climate review June (B)

-- post revised/updated 7.1 --

The Mississippi rushes through a break in a levee

Events are unfolding. Trendlines are playing out. The 6.19. story in Scientific American confirms the title of the previous post (6.13.). Clairvoyance this isn't: eco-tailspins entail predictable information.

Two items in Scientific American's June issue (vol. 298.6, 2008): Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, wrote (p. 40) "Surging Food Prices and Global Stability". Kudos to Sachs for talking straight. Food prices are up b/c of overpopulation and overconsumption; because of climate shocks (Australia drought & worse to come); because of Gringo choices: subsidized diversion of the corn crop for profitable carbon-intensive ethanol production.

John Broome, professor of moral philosophy at Oxford, wrote (p. 97-102) "The Ethics of Climate Change". Kudos to the SciAm editors for this June cover. The cover title, in fact, is Ethics and Economics of Climate Change. (Broome is an economist-turned-ethicist.)

The June cover subtitle is Balancing Current Costs against Future Well-Being. The June online subtitle is Pay Now or Pay More Later? The article blurb says:

"Weighing our own prosperity against the chances that climate change will diminish the well-being of our grandchildren calls on economists to make hard ethical judgments."

Last term I argued, to no avail, with thick-headed administrators of the Honors College at USF, who reneged on their word to add a Climate Seminar to the Honors curriculum. Their curious argument, elliptically foreshortened, was that climate change is controversial, so only natural scientists should teach it, but social scientists and philosophers have no say. My reply, in a nutshell, had been that the Honors people are behind the times, because the scientific controversy is over (6.22.08 International Herald Tribune; "best quote" below). And because the scientific controversy is over, the debate starts in the social sciences. Trust me, I said. They didn't. You'll see, I said. Now they do. If Sci Am splays Ethics & Economics of Climate on the cover, I'll rest my case. Thanks, John Rennie!

(Fair Warning: on Professor Boone, en plus detail, in the next post)

Local news: Before the rains the Hillsborough River was dry and fish were flopping in the mud. There's not a single solar roof panel in Temple Terrace. This is historic: No solar power in the sunshine state! USF still doesn't have a car pool. I remain the only bicyclist.

Best quote:

A scientific and political consensus now exists on the threat posed to our civilization by climate change. The problem is generating the political will to take the steps necessary to radically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. The present oil shock provides the answer to that problem - if our leaders have the courage to use it.

A. Lieven & A. Roswell, "Three strikes and we're out," IHT 6.22.08


... all-time wildfire record in California 7.1.
... olympic nightmare: red tide in yellow sea 6.30
... fish fade away, crabs take over 6.29.
... no ice at the North Pole this year? 6.27.
... what's really up with north pole sea ice? 6.27.
... climate change imperils native Cal. plants 6.24.
... typhoon fengshen: 700 dead in the Philippines 6.22.
... Mississippi river flood cresting 6.22.
... blistering heat wave continues in California 6.21.
... floodwaters breach levees in Illinois 6.18.
... jellyfish climate proliferation signal nature's out of sync 6.18.
... conflicts fuelled by climate change causing new refugee crisis, warns UN: total up 3m to 37.4m as downward trend reverses -- figures exclude those fleeing natural disasters 6.17.
... record heat wave continues in New York 6.9.
... too late to save Pacific nation Kiribati from submersion 6.6.
... forecast for big sea level rise 4.15.


... N Stern to Washington: 'planet heading toward tipping point' 28.6.
... N Stern: cost of tackling climate change has doubled 26.6.
... warming threatens global security 25.6.
... K Annan calls for 'climate justice' 24.6.
... J. Hansen (I): 'tipping points near on global warming' 24.6.
... J. Hansen (II) warns U.S. Congress: 'this is the last chance' 23.6.
... J. Hansen (III) asking U.S. Congress: 'put oil firms on trial' 23.6.
... K├Ânig Abdullahs Beruhigungstropfen 22.6.
... Saudia Arabia boosts oil supply 6.22.
... federal report: warming = more harmful climate extremes 6.19.
... Australia, Indonesia pledge climate cooperation 6.13.
... progress falters on Bali Roadmap to new climate deal 6.13.
... officials say UN climate talks too slow 6.13.


... tropical deforestation 2008 map 7.1.
... forecast for Dec '08: Oil at $ 170 6.28.
... Oil at $ 143 6.27.
... the floods: a manmade disaster? 6.24.
... consumer confidence sinks to 16 year low 6.24.
... U.S. home prices tumble at record rate 6.24.
... life in U.S. exurbia becomes untenable 6.24.
... T. Friedman: the oil addict-in-chief 6.22.
... high fuel prices put brakes on indie band tours 6.22.
... wind power to drive UK's green revolution 6.21.
... householders could be forced to insulate homes in UK 6.21.
... the big pander to big oil 6.19.
... world population to hit 7 billion in 2012 6.19.
... how the rich confiscate natural beauty from the public 6.17.
... Midwest farmland flooding boosts food prices 6.17.
... world crude oil production has peaked: Pickens 6.17.
... is America's suburban dream collapsing into a nightmare? 6.16.
... how a Midwest flood can drag down a train-less nation 6.15.
... the decline of North Sea oil 6.9.
... Southern California home prices down 27% from '07 levels 6.16.
... Oil at $ 140 6.16.
... a legacy of salt in Uzbekistan 6.15.
... ABC News forum on surviving the century 6.12.
... the destruction of Africa 6.11.
... natural lab shows sea's acid path 6.8.
... China now no. 1. in CO2 emissions; USA in second position 5.31.
... surplus U.S. food supplies dry up 5.2.


... Austria levies carbon tax on fat cars 6.30.
... causal nexus: climate change-drought-wildfires 6.30.
... Amsterdam airport levies carbon tax 6.28.
... M. Davis: humanity's meltdown: farewell to the Holocene 6.26.
... UK's blueprint for a green revolution 6.21.
... G. Monbiot: leave fossil century behind to reach golden age 6.21.
... A. Goodman: weather reports are missing the story 6.19.
... J. Bageant: most Americans are afraid to feel outrage 6.19.
... Congress pushes to keep land untamed 6.16.
... Supreme Court rejects Exxon appeal in human rights case 6.16.
... J. Kunstler: status quo-oh 6.16.
... housing, inflation getting worse, data to show 6.15.
... native Americans: "water is alive; it hears our words" 6.14.
... climate change protesters hijack coal train 6.13.
... E. Savin: the solution: clean energy 6.11.
... US congressman moves to impeach Bush 6.10.
... M. Parry et al.: squaring up to reality 5.29.


... McCain opposes trains 7.1.
... citing need for "assessments," U.S. stops solar energy 6.27.
... global energy demand up 50% until 2028, rely on coal & oil 6.25.
... no end seen on reliance on oil, fossil fuels 6.25.
... Bush calls for offshore drilling 6.18.
... McCain urges end to ban on offshore drilling 6.16.
... Bush regrets almost nothing 6.15.
... Republicans block extra taxes on oil companies 6.10.


... D. Lawrence, "Accelerated arctic land warming and permafrost degradation during rapid sea ice loss" Geophys. Res. Lett. 35 L11506
... R. Kerr, "Variable sun and Maya collapse," Science 292 p. 1293
... "Climate change killed Maya civilization," Nat'l Geogr 5.13
... "Maya may have caused deadly climate change," Nat'l Geogr 2.29
... "Maya civilization done in by brightening of the Sun," Unisci 5.17.
... D. Bielo, "Ice core shows how fast climate changes," Sci Am 6.23.
... "Solar variability and climate change," Geosciences, June
... "Sea level rises and ocean temperatures: 50% higher," 6.19.
... C. Domingues et al. "Improved estimates of upper-ocean warming and multi-decadal sea-level rise," Nature 543, p. 1090-1093
... D. Perovich et al., "Extreme Arctic sea ice melt summer 2007," Geophys Res Letters 35 L11501
... D. Khvorostyanov et al., "Vulnerability of Siberia's frozen carbon stores to future warming," Geophys Res Letters 35 L10703
... G. Brumfiel, "Bleak future for acid oceans: volcanic vents give a glimpse of world w/o corals & other creatures," Nature news 6.6.
... M. Kennedy et al. "Snowball Earth termination by destabilization of equatorial permafrost methane clathrate," Nature 453 p. 642-643
... Wired comment: "Could methane trigger a climate doomsday within a human lifespan?" 5.28.
... M. Lynas: "Climate chaos is inevitable. We can only avert oblivion." 6.12.

Friday, June 13, 2008

when the levee breaks

... by the Led Zep, from Four Symbols 1971

A friend from the Johannes Kepler custodians advised me today,

Don't criticize those who misuse levee funds on waging war; instead look for a home at least 10 ft above sea level. Don't warn of rising waters; instead buy yourself a house boat. Scold the Moron at the Helm from a school in the hills. Return to Bavaria and be 1,000 ft above sea level --

'cos when the levee breaks, it will be you they will crucify, just because you told them.

The advice is appreciated. But shouldn't I stay put as long as there's a chance to co-design climate evolution? Tucking tail, bolting from the Floridian epicenter of the American Disenlightenment, and running for the high ground of a Bavarian shelter would be lame.

Unexcused, only cowards run away.

This is not a jibe at dear friends who did bolt. Canadian friends were blessed with a son: giving birth makes it rational to head north. Sino-Canadian friends of ours left last week: the wife is sickly and needs where there's health care; that is, in China or Canada. All this makes sense.

But I wouldn't have such excuses.

I have this vision: that one day, when I'm old, kids will challenge me:

what did you do, Mad Hun, when it all went down, the data had solidified, and you lived as a philosopher? Where were you, in 2008, when the levees were breached and tipping points were reached?

I hope I can reply: I stood my ground and did my job.

Imagine yourself universalized: imagine everyone bolted and no one worked on the switchover to optimodal lifestyles, in the society that needed it most. Then everything would get worse. Florida's conduct would wreak even greater havoc on the prospects of the territories I love, in Taiwan and in Bavaria.

Taiwan, Kaohsiung county: just see the rice paddies and pepper fields in the river plain between the bamboo forests. Now add three degrees centigrade as annual mean temperature, thanks to Bush. How will rice and pepper grow? Will bamboo still bend? Or will it be splintered and broken in a wasteland?

Germany, free state of Bavaria: just see the Alps, feel their kick-ass mountaineering joy. Envision the likely color change. Thanks to homo gringus flatulens, the green, blue, & snowcapped Bayrischen Alpen will grow yellow, brown, and barren patches. How far will the patches spread over years and along flanks? What will happen to the tall dark stands of trees?

Now imagine the opposite.

Imagine everyone, each in her or his station of life, just did what needed to be done and rationally mirrored Nature's flow. Imagine everyone would do what it takes to evolve; that nobody bolted or wimped out. Imagine everyone would work toward a viable world -- the lawyers would sue the government; the politicians would impeach Bush; the engineers would build green transit; the teachers would teach deep ecology; the parents would look out for the long-term good of their children; the soldiers would quit fighting for oil; the journalists in the US would stop their self-censorship; and the TV-people and evangelicals would apologize for the damage they've done to the American mind.

Imagine philosophy professors who'd start reflecting about the outside instead of just their insides--imagine they'd start reasoning, finally, about the world, and stop thinking so much about mind and speech and books; and they'd write, teach, and question accordingly. Imagine the logicians would start wondering about the logos of the clouds. Imagine the ethicists would start working on rational design, the categorical algorithm of sustainability, and the re-evaluation of values as seen from the optics of life. Imagine the aestheticians would find the balls to tango with ontology and turn to metaphysics. Imagine the metaphysicians would start to learn to think like clouds and explore the matrix of the field. Imagine the social philosophers would map out the American Disenlightenment, and imagine they'd help us to show the fly the way out of the flybottle.

If everyone just did their job as the emerging reality demands it, we would get out of this crisis perfectly alright.


Friday, June 06, 2008

climate review June (A)


Sahara invading southeastern Spain, 6.2.08

It seems the trends visible last year are settling in for the long haul. The crossing of all sustainable thresholds pushes prices ever higher.

System failure has begun.

At least the Paris-based International Energy Agency got down to brass tacks, hammering out a plan for the global energy revolution.

In Germany, the Bonn Climate Change Talks 2008 opened on 6.2.08. It's a conversation about designing the future among 162 nations, or rather, a dispute of 161 nations with the oily, carboniferous USA. The point is to launch the renegotiation phase for Copenhagen 2009. And the point of that is to get everyone up to speed about Kyoto 2
(Kyoto 1 will expire 2012).

In the USA, on the day the Bonn meeting started, the first-ever climate bill reached the Senate floor (S. 3036) and is now being debated. Or rather was. Despite kowtowing to Adam Smith & the Carbon Trading boyz, it had been predicted to fail from the get-go. The Climate-Changer-in-Chief vowed he'd veto a U.S. climate bill.

This is history in the making. After proof positive of anthropogenic climate change passed peer review and was first published in 1981; after the Brundtland people formally defined sustainability in 1987; after the Global Village agreed on climate mitigation at Rio in 1992; after the Kyoto Accord came into Kantian, cosmopolitan being 1997; after all Developed Nations, except the U.S., ratified Kyoto in 2007 -- after all this, the Presidential Neanderthal makes it known he'd veto a climate bill. The U.S. president hates science, or children, and either way, and unimpeached, he represents America in 2008.

And he certainly represents his party: today's headline (6.6.08) is that the Republican Lawmakers Block a U.S. Climate Bill. The poor party of Abraham Lincoln! Consider this stunning decline -- and imagine the Darwin Award in the making! Imagine how the GOP is going to feel a decade from now. Imagine how ashamed children of such GOP members are going to be of their fathers and mothers -- how they will wish, then, they'd been born into different families.

As an anthropological aside, it's noteworthy that the first & failed gringo climate bill had been baptized the US Climate Security Act -- a label befitting the devolving zeitgeist.

The history of the American Disenlightenment is written post by post.

Best quote:

The battles of yesterday were fought over land ... Those of the present center on oil. But those of the future, a future made hotter and dryer by climate change in much of the world, will focus on a much more basic resource: water.

Elisabeth Rosenthal, "Desert is claiming southeast Spain," International Herald Tribune 6.2.

Best picture:

Spitzer telescope unveils highest resolution pic of Milky Way (link)

... vast cracks appear in Arctic ice 5.23.
... satellite pics reveal rapid forest loss in New Guinea 6.2.
... Sahara desert is claiming southeast Spain 6.2.
... water crisis to be biggest world risk 6.5.
... Nepal hard hit by climate change: minister 6.5.
... Schwarzenegger declares drought in California 6.5.

... under pressure, White House issues climate change report 5.30.
... climate science gov link
... here's the report: Scientific Assessment of the Effects of Global Climate Change on the United States (NB: "climate" is censored)
... new round of climate talks open in Germany 6.2.
... UN FCCC Bonn Climate Change talks 2008 (link to site)
... the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 (link library of congress; enter search query 'S.3036,' click on 'bill number')
... trouble with Congress' green gambit 6.2.
... Q & A: The Climate Security Act 6.2.
... US Climate-change bill: how it works and players involved 6.2.
... would cut CO2 and other g-gas emissions by 71% by 2050 6.5.
... Int'l Energy Agency: Energy Technology Perspectives (link)

... U.S. soldiers try to convert Iraqis to Christianity 5.30.
... food prices are rocketing all over Europe 5.31.
... Sen. B. Boxer: a critical week in the global warming debate 6.2.
... last flight of the honey bee? 6.2.
... Iraq death toll 'above highest estimates' 6.2.
... UN blames rich nations for food shortages 6.3.
... biggest jobless jump since 1986 -- Wall Street sinks 6.6.
... Dow Jones falls 400 pts 6.6.
... Oil at $ 139 6.6.
... $ 45 trillion needed to combat global warming 6.6.
... guerrilla gardener movement takes root in LA area 5.29.
... climate findings were distorted in US, probe finds 6.3.
... high gas prices lead to surge in mass transit 6.3.
... end for retard truck Hummer after sales dive 6.4.

... increase in Republican doubt about global warming 5.13.
... Confederate flag to fly over Moron City Tampa 6.2.
... Republican lawmakers block US climate bill 6.6.