From Design with Nature to Carbon Fee and Dividend
Throughout the last 46 years, I read (and wrote) a lot of words, heard (and gave) a lot of speeches on the environmental crisis, the energy crisis, and climate change.
It is true that a lot has been done to reverse the trend of environmental degradation around the world. Major legislation was passed, like the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970. Additional laws were written, better to regulate polluting and other destructive practices, fuel efficiency standards have been made more strict, a lot of habitats and species have been protected, and the growth of energy conservation and renewable energy technology has been remarkable.
Problem is, these have proven not to be sufficient. They are not of a scale that can really reverse the destructive trend. It is as if humanity continues, systematically to take apart the life-support systems of the planet, almost as if we intended to do so. The conclusion is clear: Words alone are not enough.
More is needed
Last year I discovered Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). This year I joined and got active.
What I like about CCL is that it is on the ground, actively lobbying the people that matter—our elected officials in Washington. I also learned that the most important and most powerful people in a democracy are not the wealthy influencers, the paid lobbyists, nor the politicians themselves.
Those with the power are the people themselves, the electorate—you, me, and all our friends and colleagues. Continue reading
The U.S. presidential election has finally demonstrated that the people have had it. They are rising up in large numbers to let establishment politicians know they won’t take it anymore. The surge of Donald Trump to the head of the Republican Party has confounded nearly everyone. But his populist appeal has won the day—with however crazy the vessel of that anger might be to thinking adults.
The amazing crowds also drawn to Bernie Sanders rallies in the Democratic Party make the same point, with a similar message: We’ve had it with traditional politicians who line their pockets with huge financial gifts from wealthy donors determined to bend public policy toward their greed for money and power.
But in the most important area of all, the first of these protest movements misses the mark while the second is right on target. That is the likelihood of massive environmental, political, and violent disruptions at the hands of global warming. These may bring civilization to the brink of collapse in a few decades, if much more serious action to combat it is not taken now, quickly, and with massive changes in the way that civilization powers itself.
In consequence, a massive set of public protests, demonstrations, gatherings, and stunts is kicking off around the globe this month. BREAKFREE has started a massive global series of actions to convince the world to abandon fossil fuels, leaving them safely in the ground, while switching to energy efficiency and renewable energy. These actions are being taken in the hopes of staving off the scourge of global warming now reaching epic proportions. The severe consequences of rampant, uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions are proceeding unabated—even accelerating—with dire consequences for the future of humanity.
The United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP-21) has convened in Paris this week. The Presidents of France and the United States have stated that the consequences of uncontrolled global warming are likely to be so serious in this century as to adversely change all our ways of life far into the future.
The juxtaposition of COP-21 and the Paris terrorism attacks two weeks earlier lead to thoughts of how these two events might be related.
I have two questions I think should be debated in the global media this week, while international leaders are in Paris, simultaneously dealing with the dual threatening disasters of climate change and terrorism.
- Is it possible that climate change could at some point in the future extinct humanity?
- Is it possible that terrorism could at some point in the future extinct humanity?
Scientific knowledge and experts should be invited to discuss the first question, while political science knowledge and experts in that field should be brought to the second question. Such discussions would likely be very interesting and informative. I think we’d all like to see what the experts conclude.
It is my belief that the answer to both is yes, at least theoretically.
The first “yes” could result from serious and prolonged destruction of the global ecosystem, accompanied by losses of humanity’s edible food production, including losses of fresh water needed to produce that food, accompanied also by personal and military conflicts associated with these changes — likely to result from extreme global warming and the multiple weather and other associated disasters. If this results in sufficient damage to the global life-support system (our biosphere), the result could well be the extinction (or near-extinction) of humanity.
The second “yes” could come should the terrorist state reaches the point and power where it obtains nuclear weapons and uses them to initiate a global thermonuclear war, killing large numbers of humans and producing serious destruction of governmental, industrial, and agricultural systems, coupled with the use of biological weapons and/or intentional or unintentional release of virulent strains of killer bacteria and rapidly spreading viruses affecting the human population, thereby extincting humanity.
I think the likelihood of the first of these extinction scenarios is very much greater than the second one.
A call for action
Updated 3 December 2015
The world is rapidly approaching COP-21, the 21st United Nations “Conference of the Parties,” the climate change convention taking place early December in Paris.
President Obama and other world leaders are preparing actions and arguments toward a truly meaningful new agreement coming out of that meeting — to take really significant steps toward reversing the introduction of greenhouse gases like CO2 into the atmosphere, which are accelerating global warming.
The industrialized nations of the world are emitting most of these gases and have the most power and ability to reverse the trend. So these are the primary parties to the conference. Many of the developing nations of the world will be there as well. It is hoped they will also subscribe to as many greenhouse gas emission strategies as they are able, since we all suffer from global warming effects.
One of the best ways to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions is to replace fossil-fuel-fired power plants with solar-electric- and wind-powered ones, a process that has accelerated in recent years due to falling prices for solar and wind power coupled with rising prices for fossil-fuel sourced grid electricity. There is a growing number of cases in which investment in renewable energy makes much more economic sense than investing in fossil-fuel-sourced power plants.
In the U.S. and a few other countries, however, there are politically conservative opponents to the very essence of COP-21 and its goals. Some use outright anti-science arguments to try and stop the switch away from fossil fuel toward increased energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Others admit that global warming is really happening and a few even accept that much of the increase is human-caused, but they counter with a proposition that making this transition will damage the economy, meaning mainly the profits of the coal, oil, and gas companies.
The truth is that global warming consequences threaten serious damage to the Earth’s life-support system if allowed to continue for a few more decades. This problem, therefore, is an existential one, as U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders claims. It is the most serious problem facing the U.S. and all other nations of the world. (Terrorism is unlikely to cause the extinction of humanity, as long as nuclear weapons are kept away from the terrorists, but global warming, if allowed to continue unabated, surely can.)
In my most recent post to this blog, I pointed out a string of serious statements from scientific organizations and from the U.S. government, warning humanity and the U.S. people about the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to planetary warming. To counter this, now certain, danger, I called for what amounts to a planet-scale uprising. We might call it a “Global Spring.”
Educated and sensible leaders around the world have now, finally, accepted the reality of global warming and the enormous threats it and other Earth-damaging practices have for the future of mankind. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently explained on MSNBC, “Our scientists are telling us to learn how to manage the unavoidable while avoiding the unmanageable.” Because global warming will continue even if we make the reforms, we must work now to accommodate the global warming consequences we cannot escape. We have to stay away from the red lines, the lines humanity might cross that we won’t be able to come back over. Clearly, if we want to “avoid the unmanageable,” those red lines, we have to get really serious about it.
Recently we have seen a string of serious statements from scientific organizations and from the U.S. government, warning humanity and the U.S. people about the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to planetary warming. These emissions come mainly from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas).
Other statements have also been issued concerning the larger and more general threats from a variety of additional environmental changes initiated by human civilization. Taken together, these threats indicate what can only be called a systematic taking apart of our life-support system, however unintended. Such statements have been profiled in three recent blog posts on this site: Continue reading
Breaking News – Part 2
The major news media took little note of a dire report from the largest scientific society on the planet, news about which was posted here 18 March, but fortunately, they finally got the message when yesterday the United Nations issued a sweeping report on the same subject. The U.N. announcement took note of a landmark new publication by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The new report is filled with sobering facts about what is happening to our climate now and offers predictions of what is likely to happen in the future. Coverage of the announcement was extensive in the major news media and many announcements and stories were posted on the internet, as can be seen with a web search on “UN Report On Climate Change 2014.” Continue reading
OPINION & REVIEW
Do you wonder how long the mostly fossil fueled electric utility industry can last, given their immense problems with existing nuclear power plants and the rising costs of planned new nukes? It is true that expensive new sources of petroleum have been found, but these are increasingly remote, difficult to find, hard to reach, and very expensive to extract, pump, and deliver. In consequence, the dollar and environmental costs to produce coal, oil, and even natural gas are rising and will continue to do so indefinitely.
If this were not bad enough, world population keeps growing and gigantic populations, which have been largely poor and in poverty, are increasingly better educated and enjoying better living conditions. The trend is certainly not universal, but the growths in India, China, Indonesia, and elsewhere are certainly noticed in board rooms around the world. The wealthy 1% are greedily and happily looking forward to their further rising incomes as demand soars and prices increase, producing greater profits for the fossil fuel industry. Governments may try to impose strict environmental controls but these are minor impediments in the minds of the wealthy industrialists. Plus, huge infusions of money from industry to political super PACS keep strict pollution laws and carbon taxes to a minimum. Continue reading
Two special postings today. First is a link to a major new AAAS statement on the scientific basis of global warming released today, 18 March 2014. This is followed by a 15 March 2014 short review, contributed to The Future of Humanity by Joe Bish of PMC on a NASA funded study of global industrial civilization’s future prospects.
Here’s the link to the AAAS statement: What scientists know about global warming
The largest scientific society in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS, has assessed the current state of scientific knowledge on global warming. Due in part to concerns over a widespread lack of understanding and misrepresentations on this topic, AAAS has today released to the public a major statement and video about global warming, what its consequences might be, and what humanity needs to know and do about it.
Here’s the link to an earlier report on the NASA-funded study:
On Industrial Civilization Collapse
Editor Note: Sorry, the above link has become broken. We have to wait until the Elsevier journal Ecological Economics publishes the article described below.
The Joe Bish review follows.The study was done by the Universities of Maryland and Minnesota. The main report has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.
From “The Daily Email” of Population Media Center, 15 March 2014, by Joe Bish, Senior Population Communications Associate
At the heart of science is curiosity about the universe in which we live. This is the motivation from which science was born. Curiosity remains the driving motivation behind it today.
Because we are sentient and somewhat intelligent creatures, many of us follow our curiosities with further observation. As children we learned/evolved to explore our world, test our bodies, and learn how best to navigate our surroundings. This process, especially the curiosity part of it, was critical to the proper developments of our bodies, our neurons, our muscles, our coordination, and the learned abilities to walk, talk, and think clearly.