Monthly Archives: January 2015
by Michael Mariotte
Just in case there was any doubt, “Americans ‘overwhelmingly’ prefer solar and wind energy to coal, oil, and nuclear energy, according to a Harvard political scientist who has conducted a comprehensive survey of attitudes toward energy and climate for the last 12 years.” So begins a New Year’s Day column in Forbes by Jeff McMahon that a lot of people missed–for most people, New Year’s Day is not prime time for reading about energy issues.
It’s not even close. 80% of the American people want solar and wind to increase a lot, and another 10% want it to increase somewhat (The other 10% probably earn their living either directly or indirectly from the nuclear and fossil fuel industries, or perhaps live in caves and don’t want electricity, or maybe just lie to pollsters). Continue reading
“No one knows what will happen to civilization if planetary conditions continue to change…”
From Jo Bish of Population Media Center About PMC
Late last week, Science Magazine published a paper titled “Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet.” In short, the paper is an updated version of a 2009 effort, and contends that humans have now forced transgression of four out of nine “planetary boundaries”: extinction rates; deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertiliser) into the ocean.
Of course, it seems the only thing humans discard faster than banal consumer widgets are serious, scientifically-backed warnings about our highly-advanced skills of fouling our own nest. This is not altogether surprising when factions of the scientific community itself work overtime to sow doubt about limits to growth. For example, Dot Earth has given a platform to a set of authors, including the infamous Erle Ellis (Overpopulation Is Not The Problem), who gaudily assert that “The key to better environmental outcomes is not in ending human alteration of environments but in anticipating and mitigating their negative consequences.” Fortunately, Dot Earth also includes a rebuttal by the paper’s lead authors. Below is an article I found in the Sydney Morning Herald, covering the new Science report. Immediately below is the abstract.
The planetary boundaries framework defines a safe operating space for humanity based on the intrinsic biophysical processes that regulate the stability of the Earth System. Here, we revise and update the planetary boundaries framework, with a focus on the underpinning biophysical science, based on targeted input from expert research communities and on more general scientific advances over the past 5 years. Several of the boundaries now have a two-tier approach, reflecting the importance of cross-scale interactions and the regional-level heterogeneity of the processes that underpin the boundaries. Two core boundaries-climate change and biosphere integrity-have been identified, each of which has the potential on its own to drive the Earth System into a new state should they be substantially and persistently transgressed.
Link to the Science Article:
The new Year in America brings in a new Congress, largely dedicated to the proposition that climate change is not human-induced, nor is it an urgent problem, so there is no need in the minds of a powerful faction of the Republican Party for major climate reform legislation. This is but another threat to the future welfare of the human species.
Fortunately, however, at least for the next couple of years, we have a President in place who can veto the worst anti-environment legislation that might come up, perhaps starting off with the Keystone XL pipeline legislation expected to arrive at his desk early this year. However, the future of civilization is in growing jeopardy, mostly from the continued human-induced degradation of our climate. It’s not just the climate of the US. It’s everyone’s climate. The dire prospects for the air we breathe is not something the younger generation likes to hear or think much about, especially if they have or expect to have children and grandchildren of their own who will suffer most from the currently underwhelming action to reverse climate degradation. There’s enough bad news in the world these days.
Oldsters such as myself, have lived through the promising 70s, when so much hopeful environmental legislation was passed, creating national environmental agencies of government and some improvements in state and local laws aimed to protect natural resources directly benefitting humans. In spite of all the optimism back then, now we see that those efforts have largely failed. The reason is a decades-long lack of focused attention to the implementation of those laws and bold actions of the environmental agencies on a scale sufficient to make a real difference.
The governmental bodies set up to police our environmental assets and protect them from serious abuse and degradation have been infiltrated or even taken over by corporate interests which increasingly see nature as little more than their own resource base from which whatever desired can be taken and used for financial profit and enhanced power, regardless of the damage, depletion, and contamination of those resources and related assets.
At least in America, however, we do have three branches of government designed to protect us from the menace of a powerful few taking value and sustenance from the seemingly weak many. These are the Executive Branches, the Legislative Branches, and the Judicial Branches at national, state, and local levels of government.
As environmental law professor and author of a new book on the subject, Mary Christina Wood points out, the failure of one of these branches to take action to reverse a trend affecting the future welfare of the citizens who elected them does not mean the other two branches cannot take action.
Fortunately, as I mentioned, President Obama has already taken serious action and is poised to take further steps. (For example the agreement between two of the most climate-disrupting nations in the world, China and the U.S., to halt carbon and other climate altering emissions, new fuel efficiency standards, EPA rules to cut light duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 2016 in the U.S, and other actions, plus his threatened veto of the Keystone XL pipeline legislation.)
But what about the third branch of government, the Judiciary? Some interesting actions in this sector were begun several years ago and are currently being amped up in a big way this year. 18 year old Kelsey Juliana from Eugene, Oregon has joined as co-plaintiff in a law suit spearheaded by Our Children’s Trust claiming that Oregon is not doing all it can to slow down global warming and protect the future.
Population and Sustainability Director, Center for Biological Diversity
From Huff Post Green, Updated: 12/30/2014 5:59 pm EST
RM: Thanks to Joe Bish of Population Media Center for bringing this to our attention.
As you’re poring over your resolutions this week, add this one—somewhere between saving money and learning a new skill—Share the planet.
This year has been full of bad news for the planet, from our dietary habits making climate goals impossible to the loss of half of all wildlife over the past four decades. Even fireflies had a bad year. On top of that, we added more than 77 million people to our population in 2014. That’s like adding another California, Florida, and New York to the world in a single year.
And we’re not done yet — not even close. In the first month of 2015, 4.3 people will be born worldwide every second. By mid-century, it’s estimated that we’ll be ringing in the New Year with almost 10 billion of our closest friends. There’s not enough champagne to go around (especially since climate change may bring the end of wine from the Champagne region).