Articles, papers, comments, opinions and new ideas worth sharing

Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for this month

Subhankar Banerjee, Paul Brown, Rod Bastanmehr, Omar Rashid Chowhdury, (9), Rob Dietz, Brendan Fischer, Suzanne Goldenberg, Kristen Gwynne, Chris Hedges, Steve Horn, Tom Kenworthy, Michael T. Klare, Tara Lohan, Gene Wesley Marshall, Dan O'Neill, Dr. Frederica Perera, Dr Gideon Polya (2), Ed Struzik,Sophie Yeo

Subhankar Banerjee, The Climate Time Bomb That Will Cost Us $60 Trillion  The Climate Time Bomb That Will Cost Us $60 Trillion
Paul Brown, Sprawl Is Good? How Suburban Developments Can Use Solar to Transform Our Energy Future  Sprawl Is Good? How Suburban Developments Can Use Solar to Transform Our Energy Future
Rod Bastanmehr, Extreme Heat Waves to Quadruple by 2040, According to New Study Extreme Heat Waves to Quadruple by 2040, According to New Study
Omar Rashid Chowhdury, Arctice Methane Time Bomb And Emission Economy  Arctice Methane Time Bomb And Emission Economy, Climate Crisis Increases Risk Of War And Civil Unrest 56 Percent Climate Crisis Increases Risk Of War And Civil Unrest 56 Percent, Warming Oceans Impact Breeding Patterns And Habitat Of Marine Life  Warming Oceans Impact Breeding Patterns And Habitat Of Marine Life, State Of The Climate Report Reveals A World On The Brink  State Of The Climate Report Reveals A World On The Brink, Dust Accelerates Melting Of Himalayan Glaciers  Dust Accelerates Melting Of Himalayan Glaciers, Arctic Ocean More Vulnerable ToClimate Change Than Antarctic Ocean  Arctic Ocean More Vulnerable ToClimate Change Than Antarctic Ocean, Arctic Sea Ice Reflectivity Declining For Three Decades  Arctic Sea Ice Reflectivity Declining For Three Decades, Glaciers Feeding Ganga And Indus Will Decrease As Himalaya Glacial Melt Set To Peak By 2070  Glaciers Feeding Ganga And Indus Will Decrease As Himalaya Glacial Melt Set To Peak By 2070, Soil Biodiversity Crucial To Fight Climate Crisis  Soil Biodiversity Crucial To Fight Climate Crisis, Human Activity Is The Cause Of Global Warming, Scientists Now Surer Than Ever  Human Activity Is The Cause Of Global Warming, Scientists Now Surer Than Ever
Rob Dietz, Dan O'Neill How Our Growth-Hungry Economy Has Devastated the Planet -- And How We Can Change Course  How Our Growth-Hungry Economy Has Devastated the Planet -- And How We Can Change Course
Brendan Fischer, Our Biggest Enviro Threat? 77 ALEC Bills in 2013 Advance a Big Oil, Big Ag Agenda  Our Biggest Enviro Threat? 77 ALEC Bills in 2013 Advance a Big Oil, Big Ag Agenda
Suzanne Goldenberg, Obama Expresses Reservations About Keystone XL Pipeline  Obama Expresses Reservations About Keystone XL Pipeline
Kristen Gwynne, Does Climate Change Contribute to Human Violence?  Does Climate Change Contribute to Human Violence?
Chris Hedges, The Myth of Human Progress   The Myth of Human Progress
Steve Horn, How the Right-Wing's Infamous ALEC Is Attacking Renewable Energy Initiatives How the Right-Wing's Infamous ALEC Is Attacking Renewable Energy Initiatives
Tom Kenworthy Nation on Fire: Climate Change and the Burning of America  Nation on Fire: Climate Change and the Burning of America
Michael T. Klare, The Third Carbon Age: How To Fry A Planet  The Third Carbon Age: How To Fry A Planet
Tara Lohan, Fossil Fuels’ Deadly Summer and the Growing Resistance  Fossil Fuels’ Deadly Summer and the Growing Resistance
Gene Wesley Marshall, It's Time for the Global Warming Prophets to Speak Up  It's Time for the Global Warming Prophets to Speak Up
Rob Dietz, Dan O'Neill How Our Growth-Hungry Economy Has Devastated the Planet -- And How We Can Change Course  How Our Growth-Hungry Economy Has Devastated the Planet -- And How We Can Change Course
Dr. Frederica Perera, Climate Change And Our Children  Climate Change And Our Children
Dr Gideon Polya, Gigantic Cost Of Requisite Climate Change Action Threatens Massive Intergenerational Inequity And Intergenerational Injustice  Gigantic Cost Of Requisite Climate Change Action Threatens Massive Intergenerational Inequity And Intergenerational Injustice
Dr Gideon Polya, 100 Ideas For Climate Change Activists Trying To Save The Biosphere And Humanity  100 Ideas For Climate Change Activists Trying To Save The Biosphere And Humanity
Ed Struzik, With Tar Sands Development, Growing Concern On Water Use  With Tar Sands Development, Growing Concern On Water Use
Sophie Yeo, Humanity Has Exhausted The Earth's Natural Resources  Humanity Has Exhausted The Earth's Natural Resources

Articles and papers from authors

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 July 27, 2013  
Arctice Methane Time Bomb And Emission Economy
by Omar Rashid Chowhdury,

As the Arctic is agonized with thawing permafrost and a probable resultant release of methane with an economic cost the size of the 2012 global economy (1) a storm is likely brewing in both environmental and global economic offing. A largely unexplored reserve of methane resides within the binds of the Arctic permafrost. The sheer economic effect of the released methane can be both devastating and radical.

The Arctic was found, in a study by Eric Kort back in April 2012 as part of HIAPER Pole-to-Pole Observations (HIPPO) airborne campaign, to be emitting methane. The scenario even back then looked threatening. The methane level was about one-half percent larger than normal background levels, Korts team found during five HIPPO flights at low altitudes over the remote Arctic Ocean, north of Chukchi and Beaufort Seas from 2009 and 2010. They specified the source of the emission to be the ocean surface, through cracks in the Arctic sea ice and areas of partial sea ice cover. Seawater exposed through the cracks interacts with the air and allow the methane in the surface waters to escape in the atmosphere. (2)

Kort hinted biological production from living things in Arctic surface waters to be the culprit, and spoke of the possibility of increasing methane production as large areas of sea ice melt and expose more ocean water. "While the methane levels we detected weren't particularly large, the potential source region, the Arctic Ocean, is vast, so our finding could represent a noticeable new global source of methane," said Kort. "As Arctic sea ice cover continues to decline in a warming climate, this source of methane may well increase. It's important that we recognize the potential contribution from this source of methane to avoid falsely interpreting any changes observed in Arctic methane levels in the future." (3)

The prediction has now indeed come to be devastatingly true with unearthing of a $60 trillion economic cost of the emission below the East Siberian Sea, as said a commenting piece in the journal Nature. "The global impact of a warming Arctic is an economic time-bomb," said Whiteman, who is Professor of sustainability, management and climate change at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). (4)

The study brings to notice significant economic and social impact of the Arctic methane release. Arguments for a warmer Arctic that generally center on easier oil and gas drilling, opening up of new commercial shipping routes and billion dollar investments meet a deep abyss as melting Arctic permafrost poses a far greater and deeper global impact with a $60 trillion tag.

Adding ocean acidification makes the scenario even bleaker. The Arctic, accounting for about 25 percent of the global net carbon sink, has the potential to change the world climate. It has been a carbon sink since the end of the last ice age. With world warming, the Arctic that once acted as a sink is now reverting into a source of carbon in atmosphere (5). Irony indeed!

But the irony does not conclude. In the face of a world economic crisis, the Arctic carbon crisis signifies the deeper conflicts and contradictions within the prevalent global system. The capital that plunders, pollutes, burns and blunders with the global resources and in the process jeopardizes the environment is trying desperately to shake off the crisis. Money in the name of ‘bail outs’ are being pumped in and meaner manacles of extortion in the name of ‘austerity measures’ are being forced upon the masses. The amount of money that has been extensively squandered to bail out Spain, Greece and Ireland could well be covered with the economic cost of the Arctic methane emission. But, it turns out those $60 trillion are, according to conventional economics, going to be a mere ‘loss’. The world wide crisis that capital is going through is only going to be intensified with this “development”.

Desertification, soil degradation, water scarcity are global problems. While it’s difficult to find money to face these problems a larger problem with price tag of $60 trillion is being created. Bloody wars that cost billions are fought while financial help for Syrian refugees is scarcely found, Palestinians desperately try to rejuvenate a dying economy, and millions suffer from AIDS, malnutrition and hunger. Millions still struggle in a world of illiteracy and ignorance. With $60 trillion funding schools and other educational programs and salaries of teachers can easily be assumed. Dire poverty reigns supreme in most parts of the world and real wages are getting reduced alarmingly. The same is with the issue of better source of nutrition for the children of the world. But the world property and distribution system is indifferent to these questions. It simply “creates” a $60 trillion ‘Pandora’s box’ with ‘promises’ of more hunger, scarcity, death and destruction.

Investments in food production, renewable resources, disaster forecast and control, education and agriculture that can practically save millions of lives could also be made with $60 trillion that is going to turn into mere trash at the cost of ecological, humane and resource damage. The world financial institutions are, broadly and fundamentally, indifferently ‘unaware’ of this looming crisis while these interests keep on preaching prescriptions of ‘prosperity’ and ‘poverty reduction’, and a part of it funds climate crisis denial game.

The Arctic methane emission may well be a slap in the face of climate crisis deniers. Those who even went as far as to claim positive economic results of a warm Arctic, may well have a tongue-bite with these recent data.

The Arctic emission crisis, primarily a product of the ever-increasing global warming process, has its roots into a desperate extraction and extortion effort by the dominant global system. The system has achieved mammoth technological advancements that surpass myth and imagination, generating an increasingly rapid, destructive and invading profit making process that conspires to conquer the whole world. In its wake this process has uncompromisingly polluted the world resources and environmental processes. It has expanded inexhaustibly and has resorted newer processes to create profit as more contradictions have surfaced to terminate the older ones. From manufacture it has resorted to financialization, speculation a part of its modus operandi, all the while indifferently destroying the ecology.

Although the system has been able to mitigate its ‘losses’ by resorting to more aggressive assaults on ecology and ecological processes and social resources, all the while creating dormant conditions that have increasingly limited the system’s capacity to mitigate these ‘losses’. Now the dormant conditions have finally begun to work in subtle ways, which naturalists term as nature’s reprisal. But it’s, the “output” that the humanity now finds, is a product of the global economic system.

The system that singularly runs for profit is now at a stage where it creates more loss and destruction than it profits. It’s its structural contradiction. As the basic forces driving and supporting the structure tend to act against each other the system desperately strives to invent and engage auxiliary forces. In its ‘endeavor’ the system creates more mayhem, as the hurriedly invented auxiliary mechanisms often act against the basic conditions for existence of the system. The Arctic methane emission crisis is a result of that global crisis of the prevalent system, as is the world financial crisis. Both crises have been generated in the womb of the system itself as manifestations of deepening contradictions within the system and are interconnected.

Economic impact of the emission in Arctic will be disturbing and deteriorating the conditions of existence of the system and the social structure that it has created. As always, those in the periphery will suffer the most. With the Arctic warming violent changes in the climate will be observed along with more frequent disasters. The tremors of trillions turning to trash will be felt worldwide.

As the periphery will suffer so will the center that depends on it. The center will find itself more at odds with itself as the world economy goes through recession with an addition of $60 trillion economic cost. The system will impose more desperate, destructive measures to come to terms with the crisis of its own making, which it will miserably fail to do.

The Arctic methane emission will have grave ramifications for the present system both in economic and societal terms. And that future may well be knocking at the doors.

(Omar Rashid Chowdhury is a student of Civil Engineering in Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology)


1. “Cost of Arctic Methane Release Could Be $60 Trillion, The ‘Size of Global Economy’ in 2012”,, 25 Jul. 2013

2. “Study finds surprising Arctic methane emission source”, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, ScienceDaily, 24 Apr. 2012. Web. 26 Jul. 2013

3. ibid.

4. University of Cambridge (2013, July 24). Cost of Arctic methane release could be 'size of global economy', experts warn. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2013, from /releases/2013/07/130724134256.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=

5. Ecological Society of America (2009, October 15). “Arctic Has Potential To Alter Earth's Climate: Arctic Land And Seas Account For Up To 25 Percent Of World's Carbon Sink”. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2013, from /releases/2009/10/091014144729.htm

Journal Reference:

1. E. A. Kort, S. C. Wofsy, B. C. Daube, M. Diao, J. W. Elkins, R. S. Gao, E. J. Hintsa, D. F. Hurst, R. Jimenez, F. L. Moore, J. R. Spackman, M. A. Zondlo. Atmospheric observations of Arctic Ocean methane emissions up to 82° north. Nature Geoscience, 2012; DOI: 10.138/ngeo1452

2. Gail Whiteman, Chris Hope, Peter Wadhams. Climate science: Vast costs of Arctic change. Nature, 2013; 499 (7459): 401 DOI: 10.1038/499401a

  Read Arctice Methane Time Bomb And Emission Economy
  August 1, 2013  
Gigantic Cost Of Requisite Climate Change Action Threatens Massive Intergenerational Inequity And Intergenerational Injustice
by Dr Gideon Polya ,

Climate change inaction is threatening massive intergenerational inequity and intergenerational injustice Despoilation of the environment due to greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and resultant climate change are the legacies to future generations of current climate criminal, carbon pollution profligacy and climate change inaction. However a huge violation of intergenerational equity and intergenerational justice (and hence intergenerational inequity and intergenerational injustice)  is the immense cost of reversing 2 centuries of fossil fuel burning by biochar-based return of the  atmospheric CO2 concentration to the pre-industrial 300 ppm  from the current 400 ppm, this being variously estimated below at $13 trillion to $53 trillion (US dollars)  or 15-62% of the current world annual GDP of $85 trillion. The good news is that these numbers, while daunting, show that it is still possible to save the world from climate genocide. However massive predicted methane release from the warming Arctic means that we are doomed unless there is extremely rapid action to stop further Arctic warming and disastrous  man-made climate change.

Eminent US climate scientist Dr James Hansen (former head, NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies and adjunct professor at 96-Nobel Laureate Columbia University) has commented on this key intergenerational equity and intergenerational justice issue in arguing for a progressive and effective Carbon Tax with the proceeds being paid directly to the public (?carbon fee and dividend?: ?Fee and dividend can begin with the countries now considering cap and trade. Other countries will either agree to a carbon fee or have duties placed on their products that are made with fossil fuels. As the carbon price rises, most coal, tar sands and oil shale will be left in the ground. The marketplace will determine the roles of energy efficiency, renewable energy and nuclear power in our clean energy future. Cap and trade with offsets, in contrast, is astoundingly ineffective. Global emissions rose rapidly in response to Kyoto , as expected, because fossil fuels remained the cheapest energy. Cap and trade is an inefficient compromise, paying off numerous special interests. It must be replaced with an honest approach, raising the price of carbon emissions and leaving the dirtiest fossil fuels in the ground. Are we going to stand up and give global politicians a hard slap in the face, to make them face the truth? It will take a lot of us ? probably in the streets. Or are we going to let them continue to kid themselves and us and cheat our children and grandchildren? Intergenerational inequity is a moral issue. Just as when Abraham Lincoln faced slavery and when Winston Churchill faced Nazism, the time for compromises and half-measures is over. Can we find a leader who understands the core issue and will lead?? [1].

The key issue is that fossil fuel users are not paying the true price of fossil fuel burning for present and future generations. As Dr Hansen states: ?Fossil fuels are cheapest because they are not made to pay for their effects on human health, the environment and future climate?  [1]. A study commissioned by the Ontario Government, Canada , found that the true price of coal-based power in Ontario taking environmental and health impacts into account is 4-5 times the actual market price. Paul Gipe on Ontario coal burning-based deaths (2005):  ? Ontario 's ruling party swept to power in the fall of 2003 on a series of promises. One of the most far reaching was its proposal to close the province's coal-fired power plants by 2007. They argued that it was necessary to close the plants to protect the health of Ontario residents who lived downwind. Critics, notably in North America 's fossil-fuel industry, have labeled this unrealistic if not foolhardy. Ontario generates nearly 27 TWh per year from 6,450 MW of coal-fired power plants, almost one-fifth of total provincial generation? Despite these and other limitations, the study provides sufficient economic grounds for the province to close the coal plants because of the plants' excessive environmental and social costs. Coal plants kill 668 people per year in Ontario , says the report, and cause 1,100 emergency room visits, and more than 300,000 minor illnesses per year. These and previous findings by the Ontario Medical Association were the rationale used by Ontario 's ruling party in arriving at its campaign promise? The study estimated that the total net present value of coal-fired generation is costing Ontario $0.164 CAD/kWh. Environmental and health costs accounted for 77% to total generation costs? [2, 3].

It is future generations who will have to pick up the cost of this huge hidden current subsidy of fossil fuel burning.  There are various ways of assessing this ever-increasing carbon debt and ever-increasing intergenerational inequity and intergenerational injustice as outlined below.

1. The cost of sequestering generated CO2 as biochar.

Top climate scientists and biologists say that the atmospheric  CO2 concentration must be rapidly returned from the present circa 400 ppm CO2 to about 300 ppm CO2 for a safe planet for all peoples and all species [4]. Currently, apart from re-afforestation, a major way of returning atmospheric CO2 back to 300 ppm CO2 is through producing biochar (carbon, charcoal,  C) through anaerobic pyrolysis of cellulosic  biomass waste in renewable energy-driven microwave furnaces at 500-700C. With  existing  agricultural  and forestry waste this could achieve about 9 Gt C per year, roughly the same as the annual industrial output of carbon into the atmosphere [5].

The cost of conversion of cellulosic waste to biochar in the US mid-West is about $49-$74 per tonne CO2 as compared to $210-$303 per tonne CO2 in the UK [6]. The current price of Australian thermal coal is about $90-$105 per tonne of coal  [7]. Assuming a price of $100 per tonne of coal,   and assuming an average 70% carbon content by weight (about 60% for brown coal and 80% for black coal) the price would be ($100/tonne coal) x (tonne coal/0.7 tonne carbon) x (12 tonne carbon/44 tonne CO2) =  $39.0 per tonne of CO2 on eventual combustion. It can thus be estimated that  for every $1 received for coal by the coal industry our children, grandchildren and further generations will have to spend about $1.3 - $1.9 at present prices converting the consequent CO2 back to biochar at the US mid-West cost of biochar (or about $5.4-$7.8  on the UK-based cost basis) .

One can similarly determine that the biochar production-related debt for future generations for every $1 received by the gas-based electricity industry. Thus the current wholesale price of electricity  in Queensland, Australia  is $50 per MWh  and a modern gas turbine gas-fired power station  generates about 0.65  tonnes  CO2/MWh  or  about ($50/ MWh) x (1 MWh/ 0.65 tonnes CO2)  = $77 per tonne CO2.  Accordingly for every $1 received by the gas-based electricity industry, the cost at present prices of  converting the resultant CO2 back to biochar   will be about $0.6-$1.0 at present prices for  the US mid-West  and  $2.7-$3.9 for the UK .

2. The biochar-based cost of returning  the atmosphere to 300 ppm CO2.

There are now about 700  billion tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere  and the additional CO2 that has increased the atmospheric CO2 from the preindustrial circa 300 ppm to a current 400 ppm is 0.25 x 700 billion tonnes = 175 billion tonnes CO2. The cost of returning the atmospheric CO2 back to 300 ppm CO2 via biochar production and storage is accordingly $8.6 trillion to $13.0 trillion (based on the cost of US mid-West biochar production and storage ) or $36.8 trillion to $53.0 trillion (based on the cost of UK biochar production and storage).   To put these numbers into an economic context, the Gross World Product (GWP), the combined gross national product of all the countries in the world  (that,  because imports and exports balance exactly when considering the whole world, also equals the total global gross domestic product , GDP) totalled about US$85.0 trillion in 2012.

Thus the immense cost of reversing 2 centuries of fossil fuel burning by biochar-based return of the  atmospheric CO2 concentration to the pre-industrial 300 ppm  from the current 400 ppm is  $13 trillion to $53 trillion. or 15-62% of the current world annual GDP of US$85 trillion. While this is an immense cost, a positive view of these estimates is that they  show that it is still possible to save the world from disaster.

3. $390 trillion to $1,590 trillion biochar-based bill for tackling Arctic methane leakage.

Dr Chris Hope (Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, UK) (in collaboration  with colleagues) has estimated the cost of a predicted 50 billion tonne methane leakage from the warming Arctic in coming decades: ?The $60 trillion is the impact that this extra emission of methane, about 50 billion tonnes of it, it's the extra impact it would have over the whole time period that that methane would stay in the atmosphere and across all the countries of the world. So, methane typically stays in the atmosphere about 10 years or so and its effects would carry on probably for another 30, 40, 50 years after that. So what we're talking about is the extra impacts over that sort of time period, all discounted, brought back to a present day value and the mean value we get for that is about $60 trillion extra, which is roughly the size of the world economy in one year at the moment? [8, 9].

However methane (CH4) has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) 105 times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2) on a 20 year time frame and taking aerosol impacts into account. [10, 11]. Accordingly this predicted 50 billion tonnes of CH4 is equivalent  to 50 x 105 = 5,250 billion tonnes CO2-equivalent (CO2-e ) and the cost of $13 trillion to $53 trillion for 175 billion tonnes CO2 (see item  #2) translates conservatively to $390 trillion to $1,590 trillion for conversion of 5,250 billion tonnes of CO2-e via CO2  to biochar . This estimate represents about 5 to 20 years of  world GDP and tells even the most optimistic person that we are doomed unless radical action is taken now to stop Arctic warming immediately (for an alphabetical  compendium of related views see the website  ?Are we doomed?? [12]).

4. $150 per tonne CO2-e Carbon Tax to help stop fossil fuel burning.

What is required to save the world  is rapid transition to 100% renewable energy or non-carbon energy (solar PV, concentrated solar thermal, wind, wave, geothermal),  massive re-afforestation and massive CO2 sequestration as biochar, coupled with rapid cessation of population growth, deforestation, and of agricultural and industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. As outlined by top climate economists like Dr Chris Hope (89-Nobel-Laureate University of Cambridge ) [8]  and top climate scientists  like Dr James Hansen (NASA and 96-Nobel-Laureate Columbia University) [1], a market-based mechanism to promote this is an appropriately  tough Carbon Price.

Top climate economists and top climate scientists  have slammed the Cap-and Trade, Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) approach for being (a) empirically unsuccessful, (b) accordingly  utterly counterproductive, and (c) inherently  fraudulent in that particular governments would be selling something that they have no right to sell, namely licences to pollute the one common atmosphere of all countries of the world . In short, the ETS approach is an elaborate con designed to enrich  dishonest, climate criminal  politicians and corporations at the expense of the environment, Humanity and the Biosphere.

Climate criminal Australia is one of the world's worst annual per capita GHG polluters with an annual per capita Domestic GHG pollution of about 25 tonnes CO2-e per person per year (as compared to 6.7  for the world) and an annual per capita Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution of 74  tonnes CO2-e per person per year. The Australian Liberal Party-National Party Coalition Opposition and the Australian Labor Party Government  (collectively  known as the Lib-Labs or the Liberal-Laborals) have exactly the same disastrous policy of a derisory ?5% off  2000 GHG pollution by 2020? coupled with unlimited coal, gas and iron ore exports that will see Australia exceed by a factor of three (3) the whole world's 2010-2050 terminal GHG pollution budget of 600 billion tonnes of CO2 that must not be exceeded if are to have a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2C temperature rise [13, 14, 15].  In order to have a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2C temperature rise the world must cease fossil fuel burning within 5- 16 years [16, 17].

The Australian Labor Government adopted a Carbon Tax-ETS plan but recently terminated the Carbon Tax for dishonest political reasons and will revert to an ETS in mid-2014 with the Carbon Price collapsing from about $25 per tonne CO2-e to about $6 per tonne CO2-e. The Opposition rejects the Carbon Tax and ETS approaches and has a much-too-little-too-late  Direct Action plan involving subsidies for dirty industry  willing to clean up somewhat. Dr Chris Hope ( Judge Business School , University of Cambridge , UK ) has slammed  both the ETS and Direct Action approaches in the following recent interview:

?EMMA ALBERICI [ABC]: But specifically on the reason it was initially conceived, has the EU [ETS] system actually worked, eight years after it was launched? Has it managed to reduce carbon emissions in the European region?

CHRIS HOPE: It's very hard to say because it's very hard to work out what the emissions would've been without the emissions trading scheme, because as you know, we've been through in Europe quite a severe recession as a result of the financial crisis of 2007 onwards and so it's very hard to see what the emissions would've been. But I think most people would say that it has been nowhere near as successful at reducing emissions as we would've hoped it would be and as a sensible carbon tax at a sensible level of maybe $100 per tonne of carbon dioxide would be.

EMMA ALBERICI: And we're running out of time, but I also wanted to ask you because our Opposition conservative Coalition favours a direct action plan involving the buying of emissions reductions through a series of government grants. Is that a system you're familiar with anywhere else in the world and does it work?

CHRIS HOPE: It's a system effectively of giving subsidies to people not to emit pollution. It's a very bad system. The last thing you want to be doing is subsidising people who are doing bad things. What you want to do is use the polluter-pays principle, make sure that anybody who is emitting pollution pays for the damage that that pollution is causing. And the best estimate that we have for the damage that's being caused by carbon dioxide emissions is about $100 worth of damage for every tonne of carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere. That's the carbon price you should be setting and it should be set ideally as a carbon tax which is charged on every tonne of emissions and increases over time.? [8].

 Indeed Dr Chris Hope advocates a Carbon  Tax of $150 per tonne CO2-e, stating (2011): ?If the best current scientific and economic evidence is to be believed, and climate change could be a real and serious problem, the appropriate response is to institute  today a climate change tax equal to the mean estimate of the damage caused by a tonne of CO2. emissions. The raw calculations from the default PASGE09 model suggest that tax should be about $100 per tonne of CO2 in the EU. But correcting for the limited time horizon of the model, and bringing the calculations forward to 2102, in year 2012 dollars, brings the suggested tax up to about $150 per tonne of CO2.? [18]. I have estimated a $150 per tonne CO2-e  cost of (1) $12 billion per year of Australian subsidies for fossil fuel burning and (2) about 10,000 Australian deaths annually associated with pollutants from carbon burning  [19].  

Unfortunately, the Western democracies like climate criminal Australia have become Murdochracies, Lobbyocracies and Corporatocracies in which Big Money buys politicians, parties, policies, public perception of reality, votes and political power. The Corporatist West resolutely refuses to take requisite action on climate change. Corporate and Corporatist Mainstream media resolutely refuse to report reality, this disastrous failure being exemplified by the taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting  Corporation (the ABC, Australia's equivalent of the UK BBC) that has an appalling record of censoring, incorrect reportage and lying by omission [20, 21].


Failure of the world to tackle man-made climate change massively  violates i ntergenerational equity and intergenerational justice. The cost of reversing 2 centuries of fossil fuel burning by means of biochar-based return of the  atmospheric CO2 concentration to the pre-industrial 300 ppm  from the current 400 ppm has been estimated at $13 trillion to $53 trillion (US dollars)  or 15-62% of the current world annual GDP of $85 trillion. These  numbers, while horrifying ,  nevertheless show that it is still conceivable (albeit unlikely) that we could  save the world from climate disaster. However massive predicted methane release from the warming Arctic in coming decades means that we are doomed unless there is extremely rapid action to stop further Arctic warming and disastrous  man-made climate change.

The climate criminal older generation still refuses to act and accordingly young people must seize their future by rejecting the terracidal  neoliberals dominating Western politics and by boycotting all corporations, countries, people, politicians, parties and policies  linked to the worsening climate genocide. In practice, at the ballot box, that means that young people must vote 1 Socialist or vote 1 Green to help save Humanity and the Biosphere. The world is badly running out of time to act on the worsening climate emergency.


  Read Gigantic Cost Of Requisite Climate Change Action Threatens  Massive Intergenerational Inequity And Intergenerational Injustice
 August 1, 2013  
Climate Change And Our Children
by Dr. Frederica Perera ,,

President Obama announced recently that, given Congress's refusal to act, he will use his administrative power to reduce CO2 emissions from power plants and encourage renewable energy. As he said in his State of the Union Address in February, "For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change." The latest report that the average daily CO2 concentration exceeded 400 parts per million—a milestone signaling major climate change—should concentrate our collective mind on this issue and prompt wider action.

Here's why children are key to winning the climate argument and why action is needed now. The developing fetus and child are more biologically and psychologically vulnerable to the many direct and indirect effects of climate change and fossil fuel combustion, its major human source. These effects include increased incidence of malnutrition and infectious disease, physical and psychological trauma from extreme weather-related disasters, heat stress, respiratory disease, reproductive and developmental disorders, and cancer. Early impairment and disease can affect the physical and psychological health and well-being of children over their entire life-course. Effects of in utero and postnatal exposure to both toxic and psychological stressors may be inherited transgenerationally, impacting the health of future generations.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 88 percent of the existing global burden of disease due to climate change occurs in children less than five years of age. Although children everywhere are affected, most of the impact is felt in populations of low socioeconomic status, squarely raising the issue of environmental justice. The impacts will continue to grow under the projected trajectory of climate change and fossil fuel emissions.

While there are few quantitative estimates of the proportion of childhood morbidity and mortality due to human-induced climate change, there is scientific agreement that both direct and indirect effects of climate change have already taken a significant toll on children and are predicted to increase dramatically unless action is taken. WHO estimates climate change could be causing more than 150,000 deaths annually and approximately five million years lost due to ill-health, disability, or early death every year as a result of increasing incidences of malnutrition and just a few diseases considered. These estimates could more than double by 2030 in the absence of meaningful action.

Malnutrition and infectious disease represent the largest share of the burden of childhood disease and death attributed to climate change. Children are more vulnerable than adults to famine and nutritional deprivation since they require three to four times the amount of food on a body weight basis than adults. Children's immature immune systems make them more susceptible to infectious disease pathogens due to crop and water contamination from storms and floods, as well as to vector-borne diseases (e.g., malaria and dengue fever) which are increasing in certain regions due to climate change. Illnesses attributed to salmonella, a food-borne infectious disease, also have risen with higher temperatures across much of continental Europe.

Weather-related disasters (floods, droughts, cyclones, hurricanes), which have increased in frequency and intensity as a result of climate change, have directly affected an estimated 66.5 million children worldwide, 600,000 of whom died every year from 1990 to 2000. The number of children affected is predicted to more than double, rising to 175 million a year in the next decade. Children are highly vulnerable both to physical trauma, stress, drowning, and displacement due to floods and to famines associated with drought. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina forced one million people in New Orleans from their homes and left 372,000 children without schools. Higher rates of anxiety and depression have been found among children affected by this disaster.

Direct effects of heat waves on infants and children include hyperthermia, heat stress, renal disease, and respiratory illness to which infants and children are especially vulnerable due to their immature regulatory systems.

Because of their higher respiratory rate and immature metabolic/detoxification, DNA repair, and immune systems, children are also more vulnerable to air pollutants released by fossil fuel burning (particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, mercury, sulfur and nitrogen oxides) as well as ozone and pollens that are increased by higher temperatures. We and other scientists have found that even relatively low levels of these pollutants are linked to lower birth weight, deficits in lung function, respiratory symptoms, childhood asthma, bronchitis, developmental disorders, and increased risk of cancer. Exposure to air pollution in childhood can result in a reduction in lung function and ultimately increased risk of chronic respiratory illness and greater susceptibility to cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

To be effective, prevention and adaptation strategies to climate change must be centered on the needs of our children—present and future. Reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, McKinsey, and researchers at Stanford University indicate that the cost of acting broadly to reduce emissions from power generation and transport, make buildings, and appliances more efficient, and invest in alternative fuels and technologies is modest compared with the benefits to our children and their future. We must do it "for their sake."

Dr. Frederica Perera is a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. Perera is internationally recognized for pioneering the field of molecular epidemiology, utilizing biomarkers to understand links between environmental exposures and disease.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

  Read Climate Change And Our Children
  August 2, 2013  
Climate Crisis Increases Risk Of War And Civil Unrest 56 Percent

Violence will rise with climate crisis, increasing between now and 2050 with warmer temperatures and extreme rainfall patterns, said scientists.

Scientists have analyzed data from studies on a wide range of issues including ancient wars, road rage, and even pitchers throwing at batters in Major League Baseball, to quantify the potential influence of climate warming on human conflict.

The incidence of war and civil unrest may increase by as much as 56 percent in the next four decades due to warmer temperature and extreme rainfall patterns predicted by climate change scientists, they said.

Researchers from Princeton University and the University of California-Berkeley report in the journal Science that even slight spikes in temperature and precipitation have greatly increased the risk of personal violence and social upheaval throughout human history. Projected onto an Earth that is expected to warm by 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, the authors suggest that more human conflict is a likely outcome of climate change.

The researchers analyzed 60 studies from a number of disciplines -- including archaeology, criminology, economics and psychology -- that have explored the connection between weather and violence in various parts of the world from about 10,000 BCE to the present day. During an 18-month period, the Princeton-Berkeley researchers reviewed those studies' data -- and often re-crunched raw numbers -- to calculate the risk that violence would rise under hotter and wetter conditions.

They found that while climate is not the sole or primary cause of violence, it undeniably exacerbates existing social and interpersonal tension in all societies, regardless of wealth or stability.

The scientists found that 1 standard-deviation shift -- the amount of change from the local norm -- in heat or rainfall boosts the risk of a riot, civil war or ethnic conflict by an average of 14 percent. There is a 4 percent chance of a similarly sized upward creep in heat or rain sparking person-on-person violence such as rape, murder and assault. The researchers report that climate-change models predict an average of 2 to 4 standard-deviation shifts in global climate conditions by 2050.

Establishing a correlation between violence and climate change now allows policymakers and researchers to examine what causes it and how to intervene, said lead author Solomon Hsiang, who conducted the work as a postdoctoral research associate in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy in Princeton 's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

"We think that by collecting all the research together now, we're pretty clearly establishing that there is a causal relationship between the climate and human conflict," Hsiang said. "People have been skeptical up to now of an individual study here or there. But considering the body of work together, we can now show that these patterns are extremely general. It's more of the rule than the exception.

"Whether there is a relationship between climate and conflict is not the question anymore. We now want to understand what's causing it," Hsiang said. "Once we understand what causes this correlation we can think about designing effective policies or institutions to manage or interrupt the link between climate and conflict."

The existing research had essentially shown an overall link between climate conditions and these conflicts, but that link needed to be extracted from reams of figures from various disciplines in order for the research to reach general conclusions, said Hsiang, now an assistant professor at Berkeley 's Goldman School of Public Policy. Hsiang worked with co-first author Marshall Burke, a doctoral candidate in Berkeley 's Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, and Edward Miguel, the Oxfam Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics at Berkeley .

"We attained a huge amount of the data that was available and we used the same method on all of the data so that we could directly compare studies," Hsiang said. "Once we did that, we saw that all of the results were actually highly consistent -- previously they just weren't being analyzed in a consistent way."

The researchers examined three categories of conflict: "personal violence and crime," which includes murder, assault, rape and domestic violence; "intergroup violence and political instability," such as civil wars, riots, ethnic violence and land invasions; and "institutional breakdowns," which are abrupt and major changes in governing institutions or, in extreme cases, the collapse of entire civilizations.

Extreme climatic conditions amplified violence in all three categories, regardless of geography, societal wealth or the time in history. An aberrant climate coincided with incidents including spikes in domestic violence in India and Australia; increased assaults and murders in the United States and Tanzania; ethnic violence in Europe and South Asia; land invasions in Brazil; police using force in the Netherlands; civil conflicts throughout the tropics; the collapse of ancient empires; and wars and displacement in Middle-Ages Europe.

"We find the same pattern over and over again, regardless of whether we look at data from Brazil , Somalia , China or the United States ," Miguel said. "We often think of modern society as largely independent of the environment, due to technological advances, but our findings challenge that notion. The climate appears to be a critical factor sustaining peace and wellbeing across human societies."

And the climate does not have to deviate much to upset that peace and wellbeing, Burke said. The 1 standard-deviation shift he and his co-authors uncovered equates to a seemingly paltry change in weather: it's roughly equal to warming an African country by 0.35°C, or by 0.63°F, for an entire year, or warming a county in the United States by 2.9°C, or by 5.2°F, for a given month.

"These are pretty moderate changes, but they have a sizable impact on those societies," Burke said. Many global climate models project global temperature increases of at least 2 degrees Celsius over the next several decades, which, when combined with the Princeton-Berkeley findings, suggest that warming at that level could increase the risk of civil war in many countries by more than 50 percent, the researchers said.

The factors that interact with climate to produce chaos and discord are varied. A popular theory is that drought and flooding cripple an economy, especially one based on agriculture or that is already weak. When people look for someone to blame, governmental leaders have a target on their backs, as do any people with whom there is existing tension, such as an ethnic minority or a migrant group from stricken hinterlands.

But sometimes heat just makes people more aggressive. The researchers found that personal violence was far more influenced by a leap in temperature. Hsiang and his colleagues cite studies that equate excessive heat with spikes of violence in the United States and other stable, wealthy countries. For example, a 1994 study found that two groups of police officers undergoing the exact same simulation training were more likely to draw their weapons if the room was uncomfortably warm.

"There's a large amount of evidence that environmental conditions actually change a person's perception of their own condition, or they also can change the likelihood of people using violence or aggressive action to accomplish some goal," Hsiang said.

"Our study is not saying that climate is the only cause of conflict, and there's no conflict that we think should be wholly attributed to some specific climatic event," he said. "Every conflict has roots in interpersonal and intergroup relations. What we're trying to point out is that climate is one of the critical factors the affect how things escalate, and if they escalate to the point of violence."

Story Source:

The story is based on materials provided by Princeton University . The original article was written by Morgan Kelly.

Journal Reference:

Solomon M. Hsiang, Marshall Burke, and Edward Miguel. Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict. Science, 1 August 2013 DOI: 10.1126/science.1235367


Princeton University (2013, August 1). Cool heads likely won't prevail in a hotter, wetter world: Climate change will likely exacerbate violence. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2013, from­ /releases/2013/08/130801142422.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=

  Read Climate Crisis Increases Risk Of War And Civil Unrest 56 Percent
  August 7, 2013  
Warming Oceans Impact Breeding Patterns And Habitat Of Marine Life

Warming oceans are causing marine species to change breeding times and shift homes with expected substantial consequences for the broader marine landscape, according to a new global study.

The three-year research project, funded by the National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in California, has shown widespread systemic shifts in measures such as distribution of species and phenology -- the timing of nature's calendar -- on a scale comparable to or greater than those observed on land.

The report, Global imprint of climate change on marine life, will form part of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change Assessment Report due for publication in 2014, and is published in this month's Nature Climate Change. It was undertaken by eminent scientists at 17 institutions across the world, including the University of Queensland, Plymouth University, Aberystwyth University, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).

One of the lead authors of the report, Professor Camille Parmesan, National Marine Aquarium Chair in Public Understanding of Oceans and Human Health within Plymouth University's Marine Institute, said the study offered a "very simple, but important message."

Professor Parmesan said: "This is the first comprehensive documentation of what is happening in our marine systems in relation to climate change. What it reveals is that the changes that are occurring on land are being matched by the oceans. And far from being a buffer and displaying more minor changes, what we're seeing is a far stronger response from the oceans."

The research team assembled a large database of 1,735 changes in marine life from the global peer-reviewed literature which helped them investigate impacts of climate change. The team found that 81% of changes were in a direction consistent with climate change.

The evidence showed that the leading edge or 'front line' of some marine species, such as phytoplankton, zooplankton and bony fish, is moving towards the poles at the average rate of 72km per decade, which is considerably faster than the terrestrial average of 6km per decade -- and this despite the fact that sea surface temperatures are warming three times slower than land temperatures.

They also found that spring phenology in the oceans had advanced by more than four days, nearly twice the figure for phenological advancement on land. The strength of response varied among species, but again, the research showed the greatest response in invertebrate zooplankton and larval bony fish, up to 11 days in advancement.
Professor Mike Burrows at SAMS said: "Most of the effects we saw were as expected from changes in climate. So, most shifts in the distributions of, say, fishes and corals, were towards the poles, and most events in springtime, like spawning, were earlier."

Some of the most convincing evidence that climate change is the primary driver behind the observed changes could be found in footprints that showed, for example, opposing responses in warm-water and cold-water species within a community; and similar responses from discrete populations at the same range edge.

Dr Pippa Moore, Lecturer in Aquatic Biology from Aberystwyth University, said: "Our research has shown that a wide range of marine organisms, which inhabit the intertidal to the deep-sea, and are found from the poles to the tropics, have responded to recent climate change by changing their distribution, phenology or demography.

"These results highlight the urgent need for governments around the globe to develop adaptive management plans to ensure the continued sustainability of the world's oceans and the goods and services they provide to human society."

Story Source:

The story is based on materials provided by University of Plymouth, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:
Elvira S. Poloczanska, Christopher J. Brown, William J. Sydeman, Wolfgang Kiessling, David S. Schoeman, Pippa J. Moore, Keith Brander, John F. Bruno, Lauren B. Buckley, Michael T. Burrows, Carlos M. Duarte, Benjamin S. Halpern, Johnna Holding, Carrie V. Kappel, Mary I. O’Connor, John M. Pandolfi, Camille Parmesan, Franklin Schwing, Sarah Ann Thompson, Anthony J. Richardson. Global imprint of climate change on marine life. Nature Climate Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1958

University of Plymouth (2013, August 4). Global investigation reveals true scale of ocean warming. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 5, 2013, from /releases/2013/08/130804144456.htm

  Read Warming Oceans Impact Breeding Patterns And Habitat Of Marine Life
 August 8, 2013  
State Of The Climate Report Reveals A World On The Brink

Worldwide, 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record according to the 2012 State of the Climate report, which has been compiled by 384 scientists from 52 countries. The peer-reviewed report, with scientists from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville , N.C. , serving as lead editors, has been released on August 6, 2013 by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). *

The 2012 State of the Climate provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on land, sea, ice, and sky. 

In 2012, conditions in the Arctic were a major climate-incident. The region experienced unprecedented change and broke several related records. Sea ice shrank to its smallest ?summer minimum? extent since satellite records began 34 years ago. In addition, more than 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet showed some form of melt during the summer, four times greater than the 1981?2010 average melt extent.

Temperature in 2012 compared to the 1981-2010 average.

Temperature in 2012 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Credit: NOAA, based on NCDC data.

The report used dozens of climate indicators to track and identify changes and overall trends to the global climate system. These indicators include greenhouse gas concentrations, temperature of the lower and upper atmosphere, cloud cover, sea surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean salinity, sea ice extent and snow cover. Each indicator includes thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets.


  • Warm temperature trends continue near Earth's surface: Four major independent datasets show 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record, ranking either 8th or 9th, depending upon the dataset used. The United States and Argentina had their warmest year on record.
  • La Niña dissipates into neutral conditions:  A weak La Niña dissipated during spring 2012 and, for the first time in several years, neither El Niño nor La Niña, which can dominate regional weather and climate conditions around the globe, prevailed for the majority of the year. 
  • The Arctic continues to warm; sea ice extent reaches record low: The Arctic continued to warm at about twice the rate compared with lower latitudes. Minimum Arctic sea ice extent in September and Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in June each reached new record lows. Arctic sea ice minimum extent (1.32 million square miles, September 16) was the lowest of the satellite era. This is 18 percent lower than the previous record low extent of 1.61 million square miles that occurred in 2007 and 54 percent lower than the record high minimum ice extent of 2.90 million square miles that occurred in 1980. The temperature of permafrost, or permanently frozen land, reached record-high values in northernmost Alaska . A new melt extent record occurred July 11?12 on the Greenland ice sheet when 97 percent of the ice sheet showed some form of melt, four times greater than the average melt this time of year.
  • Antarctica sea ice extent reaches record high: The Antarctic maximum sea ice extent reached a record high of 7.51 million square miles on September 26. This is 0.5 percent higher than the previous record high extent of 7.47 million square miles that occurred in 2006 and seven percent higher than the record low maximum sea ice extent of 6.96 million square miles that occurred in 1986.
  • Sea surface temperatures increase: Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2012 was among the 11 warmest on record.  After a 30-year period from 1970 to 1999 of rising global sea surface temperatures, the period 2000?2012 exhibited little trend. Part of this difference is linked to the prevalence of La Niña-like conditions during the 21st century, which typically lead to lower global sea surface temperatures.
  • Ocean heat content remains near record levels: Heat content in the upper 2,300 feet, or a little less than one-half mile, of the ocean remained near record high levels in 2012. Overall increases from 2011 to 2012 occurred between depths of 2,300 to 6,600 feet and even in the deep ocean.
  • Sea level reaches record high: Following sharp decreases in global sea level in the first half of 2011 that were linked to the effects of La Niña, sea levels rebounded to reach record highs in 2012. Globally, sea level has been increasing at an average rate of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year over the past two decades.

Sea ice concentration reached a new record low in mid-September 2012.

Sea ice concentration reached a new record low in mid-September 2012. Credit: NOAA, based on NSIDC data.

Ocean salinity trends continue: Continuing a trend that began in 2004, oceans were saltier than average in areas of high evaporation, including the central tropical North Pacific, and fresher than average in areas of high precipitation, including the north central Indian Ocean, suggesting that precipitation is increasing in already rainy areas and evaporation is intensifying in drier locations.

  • Tropical cyclones near average: Global tropical cyclone activity during 2012 was near average, with a total of 84 storms, compared with the 1981?2010 average of 89. Similar to 2010 and 2011, the North Atlantic was the only hurricane basin that experienced above-normal activity.
  • Greenhouse gases climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2012. Following a slight decline in manmade emissions associated with the global economic downturn, global CO 2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production reached a record high in 2011 of 9.5 ± 0.5 petagrams (1,000,000,000,000,000 grams) of carbon , and a new record of 9.7 ± 0.5 petagrams of carbon  is estimated for 2012. Atmospheric CO 2 concentrations increased by 2.1 ppm in 2012, reaching a global average of 392.6 ppm for the year. In spring 2012, for the first time, the atmospheric CO 2 concentration exceeded 400 ppm at several Arctic observational sites.
  • Cool temperature trends continue in Earth's lower stratosphere: The average lower stratospheric temperature, about six to ten miles above the Earth's surface, for 2012 was record to near-record cold, depending on the dataset. Increasing greenhouse gases and decline of stratospheric ozone tend to cool the stratosphere while warming the planet near-surface layers.

?Many of the events that made 2012 such an interesting year are part of the long-term trends we see in a changing and varying climate ? carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place," said Acting NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. ?This annual report is well-researched, well-respected, and well-used; it is a superb example of the timely, actionable climate information that people need from NOAA to help prepare for extremes in our ever-changing environment."

The 2012 State of the Climate report is peer-reviewed and published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society . This year marks the 23rd edition of the report, which is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, the business sector, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making. The full report can be viewed online.

* US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, August 6, 2013, ?2012 was one of the 10 warmest years on record globally?,

  Read State Of The Climate Report Reveals A World On The Brink
 August 9, 2013  
Dust Accelerates Melting Of Himalayan Glaciers

Ramesh Singh at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences of Chapman University in California said: Dust enhances water vapor and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere resulting in the warming up of the troposphere, especially in the western parts of the Himalayan region accelerating the melting of glaciers.

He added that pollution in the Indo-Gangetic plains from industrial activities, biomass burning and sometimes forest fires further contributed to the warming of troposphere and the Himalayan snow/glaciers.

A Davos datelined report in the Nepalese daily The Himalayan said:

Ramesh Singh was professor of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur. He was asked by the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences (IACS) to submit a detailed proposal bringing out objectives of a working group to study the impact of dust and black carbon from forest fires on the accelerated melting of snow and glaciers on the Himalayas.

While at Kanpur, Singh used optical and microwave remote sensing satellite data extensively over the Himalayan region. He also had a research project for three years jointly with the Snow and Avalanche Institute in Manali under the Defense Ministry.

While analyzing the satellite data, Singh noticed during the winter season a vast pool of atmospheric pollution over the Indo-Gangetic plains reaching to the Himalayan foothills.

“The dust which is very common in the western parts of India almost every year (during April-June) reaches to the western parts of the Himalayas,” Singh told news agency IANS.

In the eastern parts of the Himalayan region, black carbon from the forest fires in countries on the eastern India “deposits on the snow/glaciers of the Himalayan and Tibetan region”, Singh said.

According to Singh, it is difficult to say which one affects the glaciers most — black carbon or the dust.

“In theory, black carbon is a lot more effective but generally the dust concentration is much higher than black carbon and therefore dust can have larger impact,” he said.

"It really depends on the relative concentrations of dust and black carbon and a coordinated study is needed to understand this", said Singh.

The IACS has proposed to set up a working group to study the impact of dust and black carbon from forest fires on the accelerated melting of snow and glaciers on the Himalayas.

The decision was taken at a recent meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

It should be mentioned that cryosphere collectively describes the portions of the Earth’s surface where water is in the form of ice, snow, glaciers and frozen ground. The IACS was created in 2007 as a separate body within the International Union of Geology and Geophysics (IUGG) to promote research in this area.

  Read Dust Accelerates Melting Of Himalayan Glaciers
 August 9, 2013  
Arctic Ocean More Vulnerable ToClimate Change Than Antarctic Ocean
by ,

The Arctic Ocean is more vulnerable to human-induced changes than the Antarctic Ocean according to a study done by a team of scientists. The results were published in Nature's Scientific Reports.[1]

Moreover, another study has found rapid thawing of Arctic sea ice is affecting virtually every species of Arctic wildlife. Loss of algae and plankton is threatening Arctic food chain.[2]

The vulnerable Arctic

After comparing sites in both oceans, scientists have found the Arctic site to be more acidic, warmer during the summer months, and have fewer nutrients. These disparities account for the differences in vulnerability.

The team of scientists included Dalhousie University Oceanography Professor Helmuth Thomas and recent Dalhousie Oceanography PhD graduate Elizabeth Shadwick.

The polar oceans are sensitive to increasing global temperature and increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The impact of climate change is expected to be particularly large in ice-covered regions. Up until this project, the Arctic and Southern Oceans remained under-studied at the annual scale compared to other oceans, with the majority of observations restricted to the ice-free summer and autumn seasons.

"Thanks to this research, we now better understand the interplay of various climate and biogeochemical drivers in controlling ocean pH and carbonate saturation state in polar regions," said Dr. Helmuth Thomas. "Climate and biogeochemical conditions make the marine Arctic ecosystem more vulnerable than the Antarctic ecosystem, with potentially severe consequences for peoples living at the Arctic coastline."

The team compared two high-resolution observational data sets of complete annual cycles for sites in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans (Amundsen Gulf and Prydz Bay , respectively).

The scientists found that the Arctic site experienced greater seasonal warming (10 vs 3 degrees Celsius), and freshening (by 3 vs 2 salinity units), had lower alkalinity (2220 vs 2320 µmol/kg), and lower summer pH (8.15 vs 8.5), than the Antarctic site.

The Arctic carbon system showed smaller seasonal changes than the Antarctic system. The team assumes excess surface nutrients in the Antarctic may help reduce the extent of ocean acidification in that area and the Arctic system may be more vulnerable to anticipated future changes in ocean pH and the carbonate saturation state.

Some carbonate shell forming species play crucial roles in polar foodwebs, and are relevant to human food supply. The team expects changes in pH and the carbonate saturation state to have detrimental effects for carbonate shell forming species and therefore potentially for human food supply. The team expects to see these effects decades earlier in the populated Arctic regions than in the unpopulated Antarctic regions.

Threatened Arctic food chain

The polar bear has less chance of catching seals due to melting Arctic ice.

Tim Radford reported:

The loss of Arctic sea ice is bad news for the Pacific walrus and polar bears, but the real problems begin at the base of the food chain.

Since the end of the last century, more than two million square kilometers of sea ice have disappeared, and the loss of summer ice is accelerating. Researchers call this ?a stunning loss of habitat for sea ice algae and sub-ice plankton which together account for 57% of the total annual primary production in the Arctic Ocean .?

Eric Post, a biologist at Penn State University in the US, and colleagues report in Science that the seasonal timing of the ice algae bloom is critical to the successful reproduction of the zooplankton copepods (small crustaceans) that graze on the algae, and the bloom in phytoplankton that follows the normal seasonal retreat of the sea ice delivers food for the copepod offspring.

These two ?pulses? in productivity in the Arctic are the basis of the food web for all the higher creatures. The copepod explosion provides breakfast, lunch and supper for whales, seabirds, small fish, crustaceans and so on.

But the fact that the total area under ice each summer has been shrinking at 86,000 square kilometers a year, and the annual ice melt season has been extended by at least 20 days, could have profound consequences for the entire ecosystem, and for the big, warm-blooded creatures at the top of the food chain.

?Our team set out to explore the domino effects of sea ice loss on marine mammals, as well as on land dwelling species living adjacent to the ice,? said Post. The ice shelf is a habitat for large mammals: as the ice thins and dwindles so does the habitat, and therefore the hunting opportunities.

Walruses forage for food in shallow waters, and use the sea ice to rest, and to dive from, between foraging. As the ice melts and retreats from the shoreline the ice edge moves over deeper waters, and the walrus community increasingly has to crowd together on the shoreline rather than the ice, making the spread of infection easier, and increasing the dangers of trampling for the young.

As the ice retreats, polar bears have less access to seal populations ? and supplies of blubber ? and they too have begun to mingle populations: there have been increasing reports of hybridisation with grizzly bears.

Because sea ice in Arctic Canada is decreasing, there is a greater likelihood of contact between eastern and western Arctic seal populations, and a greater chance that phocine distemper virus will spread from the eastern seals to the western population.

Sea ice loss could affect the populations of Arctic fox and wolf because the loss of ice will increase genetic isolation, and the warming of the land surfaces in the Arctic is beginning to alter the vegetation, with consequences for caribou and other grazers.

Another important consequence of sea ice loss is a change in the Arctic albedo ? the measure of radiation that normally bounces off the ice and back into space, keeping the Arctic cold.

In Nature Climate Change, Aku Riihelä of the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Helsinki and colleagues report that they looked at satellite data from 1989 to 2002, during the summer months, for both open water and sea ice regions of the Arctic .

They found that all albedo trends show a significant reduction, which is another way of saying that more sunlight is being absorbed into the land and ocean of the Arctic , which will accelerate the rate of warming and the loss of further ice.

The consequences of this for the whole Arctic ecosystem will be considerable, warns Professor Post. As the seas open, they become accessible to shipping traffic and drilling rigs, and any increase in this could affect both terrestrial and marine creatures, among them the bowhead whales and the Pacific walrus.

?By viewing sea ice as essential habitat and a substrate for important species interactions, rather than as a lifeless blank surface, its loss as a result of warming becomes a rather stunning prospect,? he says.


[1] Story Source:

The story is based on materials provided by Dalhousie University , via Newswise.

Journal Reference:

E. H. Shadwick, T. W. Trull, H. Thomas, J. A. E. Gibson. Vulnerability of Polar Oceans to Anthropogenic Acidification: Comparison of Arctic and Antarctic Seasonal Cycles. Scientific Reports, 2013; 3 DOI: 10.1038/srep02339


Dalhousie University (2013, August 6). Arctic Ocean more vulnerable to human-induced changes than Antarctic Ocean . ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from­ /releases/2013/08/130806155545.htm

[2] Responding to Climate Change, August 8, 2013, Loss of algae and plankton threatens Arctic food chain, . This article was produced by the Climate News Network.

  Read Arctic Ocean More Vulnerable ToClimate Change Than Antarctic Ocean
  August 9, 2013  
The Third Carbon Age: How To Fry A Planet
by Michael T. Klare,

The Third Carbon Age: Don’t for a Second Imagine We’re Heading for an Era of Renewable Energy

When it comes to energy and economics in the climate-change era, nothing is what it seems. Most of us believe (or want to believe) that the second carbon era, the Age of Oil, will soon be superseded by the Age of Renewables, just as oil had long since superseded the Age of Coal. President Obama offered exactly this vision in a much-praised June address on climate change. True, fossil fuels will be needed a little bit longer, he indicated, but soon enough they will be overtaken by renewable forms of energy.

Many other experts share this view, assuring us that increased reliance on “clean” natural gas combined with expanded investments in wind and solar power will permit a smooth transition to a green energy future in which humanity will no longer be pouring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. All this sounds promising indeed. There is only one fly in the ointment: it is not, in fact, the path we are presently headed down. The energy industry is not investing in any significant way in renewables. Instead, it is pouring its historic profits into new fossil-fuel projects, mainly involving the exploitation of what are called “unconventional” oil and gas reserves.

The result is indisputable: humanity is not entering a period that will be dominated by renewables. Instead, it is pioneering the third great carbon era, the Age of Unconventional Oil and Gas.

That we are embarking on a new carbon era is increasingly evident and should unnerve us all. Hydro-fracking -- the use of high-pressure water columns to shatter underground shale formations and liberate the oil and natural gas supplies trapped within them -- is being undertaken in ever more regions of the United States and in a growing number of foreign countries. In the meantime, the exploitation of carbon-dirty heavy oil and tar sands formations is accelerating in Canada, Venezuela, and elsewhere.

It’s true that ever more wind farms and solar arrays are being built, but here’s the kicker: investment in unconventional fossil-fuel extraction and distribution is now expected to outpace spending on renewables by a ratio of at least three-to-one in the decades ahead.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an inter-governmental research organization based in Paris, cumulative worldwide investment in new fossil-fuel extraction and processing will total an estimated $22.87 trillion between 2012 and 2035, while investment in renewables, hydropower, and nuclear energy will amount to only $7.32 trillion. In these years, investment in oil alone, at an estimated $10.32 trillion, is expected to exceed spending on wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels, hydro, nuclear, and every other form of renewable energy combined.

In addition, as the IEA explains, an ever-increasing share of that staggering investment in fossil fuels will be devoted to unconventional forms of oil and gas: Canadian tar sands, Venezuelan extra-heavy crude, shale oil and gas, Arctic and deep-offshore energy deposits, and other hydrocarbons derived from previously inaccessible reserves of energy. The explanation for this is simple enough. The world’s supply of conventional oil and gas -- fuels derived from easily accessible reservoirs and requiring a minimum of processing -- is rapidly disappearing. With global demand for fossil fuels expected to rise by 26% between now and 2035, more and more of the world’s energy supply will have to be provided by unconventional fuels.

In such a world, one thing is guaranteed: global carbon emissions will soar far beyond our current worst-case assumptions, meaning intense heat waves will become commonplace and our few remaining wilderness areas will be eviscerated. Planet Earth will be a far -- possibly unimaginably -- harsher and more blistering place. In that light, it’s worth exploring in greater depth just how we ended up in such a predicament, one carbon age at a time.

The First Carbon Era

The first carbon era began in the late eighteenth century, with the introduction of coal-powered steam engines and their widespread application to all manner of industrial enterprises. Initially used to power textile mills and industrial plants, coal was also employed in transportation (steam-powered ships and railroads), mining, and the large-scale production of iron. Indeed, what we now call the Industrial Revolution was largely comprised of the widening application of coal and steam power to productive activities. Eventually, coal would also be used to generate electricity, a field in which it remains dominant today.

This was the era in which vast armies of hard-pressed workers built continent-spanning railroads and mammoth textile mills as factory towns proliferated and cities grew. It was the era, above all, of the expansion of the British Empire. For a time, Great Britain was the biggest producer and consumer of coal, the world’s leading manufacturer, its top industrial innovator, and its dominant power -- and all of these attributes were inextricably connected. By mastering the technology of coal, a small island off the coast of Europe was able to accumulate vast wealth, develop the world’s most advanced weaponry, and control the global sea-lanes.

The same coal technology that gave Britain such global advantages also brought great misery in its wake. As noted by energy analyst Paul Roberts in The End of Oil, the coal then being consumed in England was of the brown lignite variety, “chock full of sulfur and other impurities.” When burned, “it produced an acrid, choking smoke that stung the eyes and lungs and blackened walls and clothes.” By the end of the nineteenth century, the air in London and other coal-powered cities was so polluted that “trees died, marble facades dissolved, and respiratory ailments became epidemic.”

For Great Britain and other early industrial powers, the substitution of oil and gas for coal was a godsend, allowing improved air quality, the restoration of cities, and a reduction in respiratory ailments. In many parts of the world, of course, the Age of Coal is not over. In China and India, among other places, coal remains the principal source of energy, condemning their cities and populations to a twenty-first-century version of nineteenth-century London and Manchester.

The Second Carbon Era

The Age of Oil got its start in 1859 when commercial production began in western Pennsylvania, but only truly took off after World War II, with the explosive growth of automobile ownership. Before 1940, oil played an important role in illumination and lubrication, among other applications, but remained subordinate to coal; after the war, oil became the world’s principal source of energy. From 10 million barrels per day in 1950, global consumption soared to 77 million in 2000, a half-century bacchanalia of fossil fuel burning.

Driving the global ascendancy of petroleum was its close association with the internal combustion engine (ICE). Due to oil’s superior portability and energy intensity (that is, the amount of energy it releases per unit of volume), it makes the ideal fuel for mobile, versatile ICEs. Just as coal rose to prominence by fueling steam engines, so oil came to prominence by fueling the world’s growing fleets of cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships. Today, petroleum supplies about 97% of all energy used in transportation worldwide.

Oil’s prominence was also assured by its growing utilization in agriculture and warfare. In a relatively short period of time, oil-powered tractors and other agricultural machines replaced animals as the primary source of power on farms around the world. A similar transition occurred on the modern battlefield, with oil-powered tanks and planes replacing the cavalry as the main source of offensive power.

These were the years of mass automobile ownership, continent-spanning highways, endless suburbs, giant malls, cheap flights, mechanized agriculture, artificial fibers, and -- above all else -- the global expansion of American power. Because the United States possessed mammoth reserves of oil, was the first to master the technology of oil extraction and refining, and the most successful at utilizing petroleum in transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, and war, it emerged as the richest and most powerful country of the twenty-first century, a saga told with great relish by energy historian Daniel Yergin in The Prize. Thanks to the technology of oil, the U.S. was able to accumulate staggering levels of wealth, deploy armies and military bases to every continent, and control the global air and sea-lanes -- extending its power to every corner of the planet.

However, just as Britain experienced negative consequences from its excessive reliance on coal, so the United States -- and the rest of the world -- has suffered in various ways from its reliance on oil. To ensure the safety of its overseas sources of supply, Washington has established tortuous relationships with foreign oil suppliers and has fought several costly, debilitating wars in the Persian Gulf region, a sordid history I recount in Blood and Oil. Overreliance on motor vehicles for personal and commercial transportation has left the country ill-equipped to deal with periodic supply disruptions and price spikes. Most of all, the vast increase in oil consumption -- here and elsewhere -- has produced a corresponding increase in carbon dioxide emissions, accelerating planetary warming (a process begun during the first carbon era) and exposing the country to the ever more devastating effects of climate change.

The Age of Unconventional Oil and Gas

The explosive growth of automotive and aviation travel, the suburbanization of significant parts of the planet, the mechanization of agriculture and warfare, the global supremacy of the United States, and the onset of climate change: these were the hallmarks of the exploitation of conventional petroleum. At present, most of the world’s oil is still obtained from a few hundred giant onshore fields in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Venezuela, among other countries; some additional oil is acquired from offshore fields in the North Sea, the Gulf of Guinea, and the Gulf of Mexico. This oil comes out of the ground in liquid form and requires relatively little processing before being refined into commercial fuels.

But such conventional oil is disappearing. According to the IEA, the major fields that currently provide the lion’s share of global petroleum will lose two-thirds of their production over the next 25 years, with their net output plunging from 68 million barrels per day in 2009 to a mere 26 million barrels in 2035. The IEA assures us that new oil will be found to replace those lost supplies, but most of this will be of an unconventional nature. In the coming decades, unconventional oils will account for a growing share of the global petroleum inventory, eventually becoming our main source of supply.

The same is true for natural gas, the second most important source of world energy. The global supply of conventional gas, like conventional oil, is shrinking, and we are becoming increasingly dependent on unconventional sources of supply -- especially from the Arctic, the deep oceans, and shale rock via hydraulic fracturing.

In certain ways, unconventional hydrocarbons are akin to conventional fuels. Both are largely composed of hydrogen and carbon, and can be burned to produce heat and energy. But in time the differences between them will make an ever-greater difference to us. Unconventional fuels -- especially heavy oils and tar sands -- tend to possess a higher proportion of carbon to hydrogen than conventional oil, and so release more carbon dioxide when burned. Arctic and deep-offshore oil require more energy to extract, and so produce higher carbon emissions in their very production.

“Many new breeds of petroleum fuels are nothing like conventional oil,” Deborah Gordon, a specialist on the topic at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in 2012. “Unconventional oils tend to be heavy, complex, carbon laden, and locked up deep in the earth, tightly trapped between or bound to sand, tar, and rock.”

By far the most worrisome consequence of the distinctive nature of unconventional fuels is their extreme impact on the environment. Because they are often characterized by higher ratios of carbon to hydrogen, and generally require more energy to extract and be converted into usable materials, they produce more carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy released. In addition, the process that produces shale gas, hailed as a “clean” fossil fuel, is believed by many scientists to cause widespread releases of methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas.

All of this means that, as the consumption of fossil fuels grows, increasing, not decreasing, amounts of CO2 and methane will be released into the atmosphere and, instead of slowing, global warming will speed up.

And here’s another problem associated with the third carbon age: the production of unconventional oil and gas turns out to require vast amounts of water -- for fracking operations, to extract tar sands and extra-heavy oil, and to facilitate the transport and refining of such fuels. This is producing a growing threat of water contamination, especially in areas of intense fracking and tar sands production, along with competition over access to water supplies among drillers, farmers, municipal water authorities, and others. As climate change intensifies, drought will become the norm in many areas and so this competition will only grow fiercer.

Along with these and other environmental impacts, the transition from conventional to unconventional fuels will have economic and geopolitical consequences hard to fully assess at this moment. As a start, the exploitation of unconventional oil and gas reserves from previously inaccessible regions involves the introduction of novel production technologies, including deep-sea and Arctic drilling, hydro-fracking, and tar-sands upgrading. One result has been a shakeup in the global energy industry, with the emergence of innovative companies possessing the skills and determination to exploit the new unconventional resources -- much as occurred during the early years of the petroleum era when new firms arose to exploit the world’s oil reserves.

This has been especially evident in the development of shale oil and gas. In many cases, the breakthrough technologies in this field were devised and deployed by smaller, risk-taking firms like Cabot Oil and Gas, Devon Energy Corporation, Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation, and XTO Energy. These and similar companies pioneered the use of hydro-fracking to extract oil and gas from shale formations in Arkansas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas, and later sparked a stampede by larger energy firms to obtain stakes of their own in these areas. To augment those stakes, the giant firms are gobbling up many of the smaller and mid-sized ones. Among the most conspicuous takeovers was ExxonMobil’s 2009 purchase of XTO for $41 billion.

That deal highlights an especially worrisome feature of this new era: the deployment of massive funds by giant energy firms and their financial backers to acquire stakes in the production of unconventional forms of oil and gas -- in amounts far exceeding comparable investments in either conventional hydrocarbons or renewable energy. It’s clear that, for these companies, unconventional energy is the next big thing and, as among the most profitable firms in history, they are prepared to spend astronomical sums to ensure that they continue to be so. If this means investment in renewable energy is shortchanged, so be it. “Without a concerted policymaking effort” to favor the development of renewables, Carnegie’s Gordon warns, future investments in the energy field “will likely continue to flow disproportionately toward unconventional oil.”

In other words, there will be an increasingly entrenched institutional bias among energy firms, banks, lending agencies, and governments toward next-generation fossil-fuel production, only increasing the difficulty of establishing national and international curbs on carbon emissions. This is evident, for example, in the Obama administration’s undiminished support for deep-offshore drilling and shale gas development, despite its purported commitment to reduce carbon emissions. It is likewise evident in the growing international interest in the development of shale and heavy-oil reserves, even as fresh investment in green energy is being cut back.

As in the environmental and economic fields, the transition from conventional to unconventional oil and gas will have a substantial, if still largely undefined, impact on political and military affairs.

U.S. and Canadian companies are playing a decisive role in the development of many of the vital new unconventional fossil-fuel technologies; in addition, some of the world’s largest unconventional oil and gas reserves are located in North America. The effect of this is to bolster U.S. global power at the expense of rival energy producers like Russia and Venezuela, which face rising competition from North American companies, and energy-importing states like China and India, which lack the resources and technology to produce unconventional fuels.

At the same time, Washington appears more inclined to counter the rise of China by seeking to dominate the global sea lanes and bolster its military ties with regional allies like Australia, India, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. Many factors are contributing to this strategic shift, but from their statements it is clear enough that top American officials see it as stemming in significant part from America’s growing self-sufficiency in energy production and its early mastery of the latest production technologies.

“America’s new energy posture allows us to engage [the world] from a position of greater strength,” National Security Advisor Tom Donilon asserted in an April speech at Columbia University. “Increasing U.S. energy supplies act as a cushion that helps reduce our vulnerability to global supply disruptions [and] affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.”

For the time being, the U.S. leaders can afford to boast of their “stronger hand” in world affairs, as no other country possesses the capabilities to exploit unconventional resources on such a large scale. By seeking to extract geopolitical benefits from a growing world reliance on such fuels, however, Washington inevitably invites countermoves of various sorts. Rival powers, fearful and resentful of its geopolitical assertiveness, will bolster their capacity to resist American power -- a trend already evident in China’s accelerating naval and missile buildup.

At the same time, other states will seek to develop their own capacity to exploit unconventional resources in what might be considered a fossil-fuels version of an arms race. This will require considerable effort, but such resources are widely distributed across the planet and in time other major producers of unconventional fuels are bound to emerge, challenging America’s advantage in this realm (even as they increase the staying power and global destructiveness of the third age of carbon). Sooner or later, much of international relations will revolve around these issues.

Surviving the Third Carbon Era

Barring unforeseen shifts in global policies and behavior, the world will become increasingly dependent on the exploitation of unconventional energy. This, in turn, means an increase in the buildup of greenhouse gases with little possibility of averting the onset of catastrophic climate effects. Yes, we will also witness progress in the development and installation of renewable forms of energy, but these will play a subordinate role to the development of unconventional oil and gas.

Life in the third carbon era will not be without its benefits. Those who rely on fossil fuels for transportation, heating, and the like can perhaps take comfort from the fact that oil and natural gas will not run out soon, as was predicted by many energy analysts in the early years of this century. Banks, the energy corporations, and other economic interests will undoubtedly amass staggering profits from the explosive expansion of the unconventional oil business and global increases in the consumption of these fuels. But most of us won’t be rewarded. Quite the opposite. Instead, we’ll experience the discomfort and suffering accompanying the heating of the planet, the scarcity of contested water supplies in many regions, and the evisceration of the natural landscape.

What can be done to cut short the third carbon era and avert the worst of these outcomes? Calling for greater investment in green energy is essential but insufficient at a moment when the powers that be are emphasizing the development of unconventional fuels. Campaigning for curbs on carbon emissions is necessary, but will undoubtedly prove problematic, given an increasingly deeply embedded institutional bias toward unconventional energy.

Needed, in addition to such efforts, is a drive to expose the distinctiveness and the dangers of unconventional energy and to demonize those who choose to invest in these fuels rather than their green alternatives. Some efforts of this sort are already underway, including student-initiated campaigns to persuade or compel college and university trustees to divest from any investments in fossil-fuel companies. These, however, still fall short of a systemic drive to identify and resist those responsible for our growing reliance on unconventional fuels.

For all President Obama’s talk of a green technology revolution, we remain deeply entrenched in a world dominated by fossil fuels, with the only true revolution now underway involving the shift from one class of such fuels to another. Without a doubt, this is a formula for global catastrophe. To survive this era, humanity must become much smarter about this new kind of energy and then take the steps necessary to compress the third carbon era and hasten in the Age of Renewables before we burn ourselves off this planet.

Michael Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left, just published in paperback by Picador. A documentary movie based on his book Blood and Oil can be previewed and ordered at You can follow Klare on Facebook by clicking here.

Copyright 2013 Michael Klare

  Read The Third Carbon Age: How To Fry A Planet
  August 10, 2013  
100 Ideas For Climate Change Activists Trying To Save The Biosphere And Humanity
by Dr Gideon Polya ,

Around the world there are many climate change activists passionately committed to effective world action over the worsening threat from man-made climate change to species, ecosystems, the Biosphere and Humanity. However those who are scientifically trained despair over the huge gap between the dire reality of worsening climate change as perceived by scientists and the short-term, business as usual (BAU) policies of populist politicians and their largely ignorant and wishful thinking electorates [1].   

Thus the recent pre-election decision in Australia of Labor Prime Minister Kevin ?I love coal? Rudd to terminate the Carbon Tax, slashing the Carbon Price from $25 per tonne CO2-e to an EU $6 per tonne CO2-e found immediate electoral approval.  In contrast,  a risk avoidance-based estimate of $7.6 million for the value of a statistical life, Australian annual subsidies of $11 billion for fossil fuel burning, 9,600 annual Australian carbon pollution-related deaths and Australia's annual Domestic GHG pollution (2009) of 552 million tonnes CO2-e  yield a Carbon Price of $7.6 million x 9,600 annual deaths = $73 billion + $11 billion = $84 billion / 552 million tonnes CO 2 -e  = $152/tonne CO 2 -e ( = $562 /tonne C) [2, 3]. Climate economist Dr Chris Hope (the University of Cambridge, UK)  argues for a Carbon Price of $150 per tonne CO2-e [4].

Both the WBGU (which advises the German Government on climate change) and  the Australian Climate Commission (which advises the Australian Government)  both estimate that  for a 75% chance of avoiding a disastrous 2 degree Centigrade  temperature rise the World can now emit no more than 0.6 trillion tonnes of CO2 before reaching zero emissions in about 2050 [5,6].  At current rates of pollution this terminal GHG pollution budget will be exceeded in 16 years according to the Australian Climate Commission [6]. However, using the latest data from the World Bank, the US Energy Information Administration and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space studies, I have estimated that the world has only 5 years left before this terminal budget is exceeded [7].

The acute seriousness of the present situation is revealed by the following dire estimations. The atmospheric consequence of 2 centuries of fossil fuel burning has been the increase in atmospheric CO2 from 280 ppm to a current 400 ppm. Top climate scientists and biologists argue that for a safe and sustainable  planet there must be a return of atmospheric CO2 concentration to about 300 ppm CO2.  The major means of doing this are through cessation of greenhouse gas pollution,  re-afforestation and conversion of agricultural and forestry cellulosic biomass waste  to biochar (charcoal, carbon) through anaerobic pyrolysis (heating at 500-700C  in the absence of oxygen). The atmosphere contains  about 700 billion tonnes of CO2 and hence reducing the CO2 from 400 ppm to 300 ppm means removing one quarter of the atmospheric  CO2 i.e. removal of 175 billion tonnes CO2.   The cost of  removal of 175 billion tonnes CO2 as biochar has been estimated at $13 trillion to $53 trillion (US dollars)  or 15-62% of the current world annual GDP of $85 trillion [8]. There is no indication (except from some warming-threatened island states and some prescient countries e.g. Denmark , Germany , Scotland , and China ) that the world is prepared to take serious action [1, 9] .  

However it gets even worse.  Methane (CH4) has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) 105 times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2) on a 20 year time frame and taking aerosol impacts into account. Accordingly, the 50 billion tonnes of CH4 predicted to be released from the Arctic Ocean seabed in coming decades [10] is equivalent  to 50 x 105 = 5,250 billion tonnes CO2-equivalent (CO2-e ) and the cost of $13 trillion to $53 trillion for 175 billion tonnes CO2 translates conservatively to $390 trillion to $1,590 trillion for conversion of 5,250 billion tonnes of CO2-e via CO2  to biochar . This estimate represents about 5 to 20 years of  world GDP and tells even the most optimistic person that we are doomed unless radical action is taken now to stop Arctic warming immediately [8].

We are badly running out of time to tackle the steadily worsening climate crisis. The worsening climate crisis appears daunting but while there is life there is hope, but what can decent people do individually or collectively?  Below in 23 Sections is a collection of about 100 useful ideas for climate change campaigners trying to save the Biosphere.

1. Big Picture .

1.1. The Climate Emergency actions urgently required include:

 (a) . Change of societal philosophy to one of scientific risk management and biological sustainability with complete cessation of species extinctions and zero tolerance for lying.

(b). Urgent reduction of atmospheric CO2 to a safe level of about 300 ppm as recommended by leading climate and biological scientists.

(c). Rapid switch to the best non-carbon and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as coal burning-based power) and to energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-afforestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, unsustainable deforestation, methanogenic livestock production  and population growth. [11].

2. ABC of climate change activism - Activism bottom-line.

2.1  Successful ?isms and ?ists have an ABC strategy involving Accountability (negative feedback for non-adherence), Badge (symbol) and Credo (brief statement of position). Environmental-ism requires (A) accountability e.g. holding people, politicians, countries and corporations accountable by boycotts, divestment, sanctions, exposure and scorn, (B) wearing a badge at all times (e.g., as I do, ?300 ppm CO2?) and (C) a simple credo e.g. ?For a safe planet for all peoples and all species we must urgently return the atmospheric  CO2 from the present 400 ppm CO2 to the safe and sustainable pre-industrial 300 ppm CO2?.

3. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

3.1 Cessation of species extinction, unsustainable deforestation and fossil fuel burning means climate activists should urge and apply where practicable Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all  people, politicians, parties, candidates, corporations and countries involved in destruction of the Biosphere ? indeed, anything less makes one complicit in ecocide and terracide.

4. Business.

4.1 Climate campaigners must document and inform business about the short  term  unsustainability of the carbon economy and a mounting Carbon Debt.

4.2. Climate campaigners must spread the message ?No jobs on a dead planet?.

4.3 Climate activists are obliged to be honest with business over deficient market-based government interventions that are evidently about being seen to do something rather than actually tackling climate change (e.g. in Australia a Carbon Tax that taxes industrial and domestic consumers and then returns most of the receipts in what is known in biochemistry as a ?:futile cycle?; an EU ETS that has not been shown to be effective and has a Carbon Price of $6 per tonne CO2-e  as compared to estimates of a required $150 per tonne CO2-e; the Coalition Direct Action plan in Australia that is too little too late and amounts to intervening in the market to subsidize polluters).

4.4 Climate campaigners should maker common cause with business that is positive  towards climate action (e.g. superannuation and managed funds, renewable energy industry, agri-business that will compete with fossil fuel burners for allowable GHG pollution).  

5. Children.

Hundreds of millions of children are already the victims of the worsening climate crisis and it is estimated that 6 billion under-5 year old infants will die avoidably this century due to unaddressed climate change. All children are acutely threatened by man-made climate change. Some ideas for climate action re children:

5.1 Carefully-designed, ethical, science-informed (e.g. Climate Commission-informed), clear summaries of the climate crisis and solutions should be provided to all primary school children as a booklet, book mark, and refrigerator magnet.

5.2 Carefully-designed, ethical, science-informed, clear summaries of the climate crisis and solutions should be provided to all secondary school children as a booklet, book mark, and refrigerator magnet.

5.3 Green apparel as a badge of environmental concern (children can declare themselves for their future; make every day St Patrick's Day).

5.4 Carefully-designed, ethical, science-informed, clear summaries of the climate crisis and solutions should be provided to all parents, school teachers, clergy, sports coaches, music teachers and indeed all those involved with children activities.

5.5  Smart ways of explaining to children that we have just One Planet and that any species extinction is unacceptable.

5.6 Awards to children (from badges to books) for good works for the Biosphere.

5.7. Local, state, national and global awards for outstanding environmentalism by children.

5.8 Children must be ethically encouraged to boycott ecocidal and terracidal products and  services.

5.9 Children should be ethically encouraged to ask what their elders are doing in the War on the Planet. and instructed about the terms intergenerational equity, intergenerational justice, intergenerational inequity and intergenerational injustice.

5.10 Climate activists  must educate and mobilize children who have the time and energy  to help save their world.

5.11 Children and young people in general  instructed about intergenerational equity, intergenerational justice, intergenerational inequity and intergenerational injustice.

5.12 Just as a children were ethically instructed about the consequences of nuclear war in ?When the wind blows? by Raymond Briggs (1982), so they should be similarly made aware of the consequences of climate change inaction.  

6. Churches (from Agnosticism to Zoroastrianism).

 Religious and other philosophical organizations   (e.g. the Humanists) have a moral message and according to Australian PM Kevin ?I love coal? Rudd ?climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our time?. Some ideas for climate action re religious organizations:

6.1 Religious and related organizations should be sensibly apprised in all kinds of ways about the climate emergency and solutions.

6.2 Religious and related organizations should be encouraged to divest from anti-Biosphere enterprises (e.g. a number of mainline Protestant churches in New England , USA , are divesting from coal and gas companies).

6.3. Religious and related organizations must be strongly encouraged to publicly address the immense moral failure of ecocide and terracide.

6.4 Churches and other organizations should be encouraged to publicly declare for the Biosphere (just as St Paul 's Cathedral at one of the Melbourne CBD's busiest intersections draped itself with a huge sign for Australian Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks saying ?Bring David Hicks Home?).

6.5 Churches and other organizations must be made to appreciate that for (a) atheists the closest one gets to any notion of ?purpose? is defiance - through preservation of the Biosphere and creation of Beauty and Truth - of the Second Law of Thermodynamics that states that disorder (entropy, S) inevitably increases, and (b)  for theists destruction of the Biosphere in whole or in part is Blasphemy.

6.6 Climate activists must present the argument that ?Go forth and multiply? and remorseless exploitation of nature were sensible strategies for warring Bronze Age tribes but suicidal in a crowed world.

6.7 Climate activists should document how Business As Usual (BAU) by rich, high footprint polluters is violating the human rights of threatened, low footprint  Developing World people (e.g. Islands States , mega-Delta states).

6.8 ?Thou shalt not kill? but 18 million die avoidably each year on Spaceship Earth with the First World in charge of the flight deck (see Gideon Polya, ?Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950?, now available for free perusal on the web) with 5 million dying each year from carbon burning pollutants (4.5 million) or from climate change (0.5 million).

6.9 Religious ideas of an approach to ?equity? are grossly violated when one considers wealth distribution as reflected in annual per capita GHG pollution e.g. (in tonnes CO2-e per person per year): 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), less than 3 (many African and Island countries), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; or 74 in 2010 if Australia's huge Exported GHG pollution is included).

6.10 Religion is about just human interactions yet estimates from Dr James Lovelock FRS and Professor Kevin Anderson of only 0.5 billion survivors of climate change inaction this century translate to a climate genocide involving avoidable deaths of 10 billion people this century, this including roughly twice the present population of particular mainly non-European groups, specifically 6 billion under-5 year old infants, 3 billion Muslims in a terminal Muslim Holocaust, 2 billion Indians, 1.3 billion non-Arab Africans, 0.5 billion Bengalis, 0.3 billion Pakistanis and 0.3 billion Bangladeshis [12].  

7. Economy.

7.1 Climate campaigners must inform everyone about the unsustainability of the carbon economy.

7.2. Climate campaigners must argue and disseminate spread the message ?No jobs on a dead planet?.

7.3 Climate activists must document and educate about the need for 100% renewable energy with energy storage for 24/7 baseload operation.

7.4 Climate campaign must lead a public discussion about rich social humanist alternatives to the currently dominant Gadarene neoliberal approach of remorseless resource exploitation to extinction.

7.5  While it is important for a country to have high technology industry (e.g. a car industry) for skills, economic security and strategic security reasons, climate change activists must argue that fossil-fuelled vehicles are an environmental and health disaster and that alternatives in highly urbanized, developed  countries like Australia are renewable energy-powered electric vehicles, renewable energy-powered  rail mass transit of goods and people, cessation of highway construction, shifting of high technology industry from indulgent cars to manufacture of renewable energy units, and housing growth upwards rather than the existing remorseless spread of individual homes into well-watered agricultural lands.

8. Education.

Rational risk management crucial for societal safety successively involves (a) accurate data, (b) scientific analysis (this involving the critical testing of potentially falsifiable hypotheses) , and (c) systemic change to minimize risk. Education and accurate informing are accordingly  crucial for rational risk management in general and in particular  for saving the Biosphere, of which most is severely threatened by man-made climate change.

8.1 Carefully-designed, ethical, science-informed (e.g. Climate Commission-informed), clear summaries of the climate crisis and solutions should be provided to all primary school, secondary school and tertiary students and teachers.

8.2  Where practicable and reasonable, Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) should be applied against all  schools,  teachers, academics, media, politicians, people, parties and corporations giving false instruction about the worsening climate crisis and otherwise involved in destruction of the Biosphere.

8.3 Climate campaigners must insist that false instruction of children on the climate crisis is intellectual child abuse.

8.4 Climate campaigners should be actively involved in public education about the worsening climate crisis via talks and distribution of carefully-designed literature to schools, universities, political parties, community organizations and businesses.

9. Elderly.

Older people are frailer and more susceptible t heat stress and dehydration through decreased effectiveness of internal warning systems.

9.1 Climate campaigners should inform elderly people and organizations for older people of the 3 Ds for why older people should be   climate change activists: (1) Depreciation of their assets and superannuation in an unsustainable  carbon economy, (2) Death of elderly people from heat stress and dehydration, and (3) their Descendants will hate them for what they have done to the planet.

9.2 Climate campaigners must inform older people about intergenerational equity, intergenerational justice, intergenerational inequity and intergenerational injustice in which they are complicit in relation to present children.

9.3 Climate activists  must educate and mobilize everyone they can including retired people with time to do likewise.

10. Farmers.

World Bank analysts have recently re-assessed annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution as 64 Gt CO2-e, about 50% bigger than the 42 Gt CO2-e hitherto thought and that the livestock contribution is over 51% of the bigger figure (major element: 20 year time frame considered for CH4 GWP) [13]. Conversely, landowners have potentially a major source of income from biochar production using agricultural and forestry waste [14].

10.1 Climate campaigners should make common cause with farmers who are in essence in competition with the fossil fuel industry for allowable GHG pollution of the atmosphere (100% renewable energy is cheap and achievable  but a vegan economy while desirable is culturally very difficult).

10.2 Climate activists should recognize that they generate GHGs by driving cars while livestock farmers generate GHGs through stock belching (eructation) ? we are all in this  together and particular  groups cannot be singled out for carrying a ?green? burden.

10.3 Climate campaigners should argue for landowner involvement in the massive biochar production from agricultural and forestry waste that is crucial for lowering  atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm.

10.4  Climate campaigners must make  common cause with farmers and landowners opposed to destruction of agricultural land,  bush and aquifers for coal and gas production.

10.5 Climate campaigners must insist on retention of sufficient water for sustainable sustenance of wild ecosystems and encourage farmers to grow low water-demand crops including  novel  high-value crops (e.g. arid region sandalwood; see the huge pharmacological reference text, Gideon Polya, ?Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds. A pharmacological reference guide to sites of action and biological effects? [15]).

10.6 Climate activists must oppose the food-for-fuel obscenity if mandated biofuel that is driving up food prices and thus causing malnourishment and starvation in impoverished countries [16].

10.7  Climate campaigners should inform society of the huge carbon debt associated with most crop-based biofuel production.

10.8 Climate activism on a crowded planet implies efficient food production  but 7 kg grain is required to generate 1 kg of beef as compared to 2 for fish aquaculture.

11. Forestry.

11.1 Climate campaigners should argue for landowner involvement in the massive biochar production from agricultural and forestry waste that potentially can equal annual industrial carbon output and is required for lowering  atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm.

11.2  Climate campaigners must oppose non-sustainable deforestation and ecosystem destruction.

11.3 Climate campaigners must insist on ethical environmental timber production and certification.

11.4 Climate campaigners must oppose destruction of endangered forest systems.

11.5  Climate campaigners must oppose destruction of South East Australian Eucalyptus regnans -dominated forests that are the best forest carbon sinks in the world.

12. Health.

It is estimated that 5 million people die avoidably each year from climate change (0.5 million) and carbon burning pollutants (4.5 million) [17]. It is estimated that about 10,000 Australians die each from carbon burning pollutants (excluding  bush fires), the breakdown being 5,000 (coal burning for power), 2,000 (vehicle exhaust) and 3,000 (other burning) [2]. The climate criminals and carbon criminals are killing their fellow citizens and fellow human beings. Indeed Professor David Shearman (Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Adelaide ) has put it very succinctly: ? Community concerns over unconventional gas (shale and coal seam) mining in Australia are increasing. These concerns relate to water and air pollution, land usage, fugitive emissions and to inadequate assessment and regulation. The environmental impacts have potentially serious human health consequences? The International Energy Agency has expressed concern about gas replacing renewable energy sources. This would delay any chance of early curtailment of greenhouse emissions. Climate change is accepted as a huge threat to health world wide ? [19].

12.1 Climate campaigners must inform all medical practitioners, specialists, nurses and paramedical professionals and their organizations about the worsening climate crisis and the severe health implications.

12.2  Climate activists  must educate and mobilize all health professionals to inform their patients, staff and associates of the worsening climate crisis.

12.3  Climate campaigners must document and demand immediate action on carbon burning-related mortality and morbidity.

13. Indigenous people.

13.1  Climate campaigners must demand major involvement of Indigenous people in preservation of what remains of wild nature.

13.2  Climate campaigners should argue for Indigenous employment in the biochar-based removal of damaging introduced plant pests  (e.g. the introduced acacia Mimosa pigra and Gamba grass, Andropogon gayanus , in the Northern Territory of Australia).

13.3 The massive and continuing species extinctions in North America and Australia in particular argue for a philosophic  accommodation with conservation and sustainability values of the Indigenous Peoples under whom species complexity and ecosystems survived happily for thousands of years before European invasion.

14. Landowners.

14.1 Climate campaigners should argue for landowner involvement in the massive biochar production from agricultural and forestry waste that potentially can equal annual industrial carbon output and is required for lowering  atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm.

14.2 Climate campaigners should argue for biochar-based removal of damaging introduced plant pests  (e.g. the thorny Giant  Sensitive Tree,   Mimosa pigra ,  and Gamba grass, Andropogon gayanus , in the Northern Territory of Australia).

14.3  Climate activists  should make common cause with Indigenous Australians for animal and plant species retention, ecosystem retention, and biochar-based removal of pest plant species (e.g. Mimosa pigra and Gamba grass, Andropogon gayanus , in the Northern Territory if Australia) (as opposed to CO2-releasing burn-off).

15. Law.

15.1 While climate change campaigners can merely correct false Mainstream media and politician assertions, such incorrect assertions by corporations (e.g. about ?clean gas? and ?clean coal?) can violate  laws dictating that corporate advertising must not  ?mislead? and  should be subject to formal complaints by climate change activists.

15.2 Expert climate change campaigners should assist anti-gas and anti-coal  community groups with authoritative information and expert witness assistance (e.g. see [20]).

15.3 Carbon polluting economic activity directly or indirectly threatening endangered species should be prohibited and exposed by climate  change campaigners (e.g. Australia as a leader in annual per capita GHG pollution disproportionately  contributes to the successive  threats to Antarctic sea ice,  phytoplankton, krill and krill-eating species like whales. Australia had already by 2011 exceeded its ?fair share? of the world's terminal GHG pollution budget that must not be exceeded if we are to have a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2C temperature rise [7].

15.4  Climate change campaigners must expose the horrendous intergenerational equity, intergenerational justice, intergenerational inequity and intergenerational injustice implicit in the huge GHG pollution debt that  will have to be met by future generations (which may, one supposes, consider looking to carbon economy-based superannuation funds and accumulated assets as sources of revenue to pay the debt [8].

16. Market-based solutions.

Market-based approaches to tackling climate change via various Carbon Price mechanisms can be seriously flawed exercises in corporate and political spin. Climate change campaigners must avoid being sucked into flawed proposals of dishonest corporatist politicians.

16.1 Climate change campaigners can comfortably support the Fee-and-Dividend Carbon Tax approach that imposes a tax on fossil fuels at the mine gate and  then hands the  receipts to the citizenry. Suitable tweaking of the tax can allow a societally  comfortable transition to clean energy.

16.2 Many Australian climate change activists have been compromised by accepting a dodgy Carbon Tax on the basis that ?something is better than nothing?. The Australian Labor Government's Carbon Tax exempts coal and gas producers except for transport (already highly subsidized) and fugitive emissions.  However the Government understates gas leakage as 0.12% (rather than the science-based estimates of 3.3%-7.9% of gas produced) and under-estimates the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of methane (CH4, the bulk of natural gas) as 21 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2) (whereas it is actually 105 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas (GHG) on a 20 year time frame and considering aerosol impacts). This leads to an immense Carbon Tax Scandal in which a pro-gas Labor Government understates the Carbon Tax obligations of the corporate gas producers by a factor of 137-329, collecting a mere $21 million annually rather than the science-indicated  Carbon Tax obligation of about $3-7 billion each year from leakage of natural gas (fugitive emissions) [21]. Further, the Carbon Tax ($23 per tonne CO2-e) is applied to industrial and domestic consumers, and collects about $10 billion which is then mostly returned to these consumers in a ?futile cycle?. The Australian Carbon Tax was cynical spin for political reasons.

16.3 Climate change activists must recognize that it is estimated that an Australian  Carbon Tax of circa $23/tonne CO2-e will encourage gas-fired power, $70/tonne CO 2 -e will encourage wind and about $200/tonne CO 2 -e will encourage concentrated solar thermal installation - indeed the Australian Government hopes  for a Carbon Tax-driven coal to gas transition but (a)  gas can be dirtier  than coal GHG-wise depending upon the degree of CH4 leakage and (b) the Australian Government has decided to slash the Carbon Price in 2014 from $25 per tonne CO2-e to about $6 per tonne CO2-e.

16.4 Climate change campaigners should recognize the true cost of fossil fuel-based power taking environmental  impacts and human mortality into account. Thus in Ontario , Canada , the market price of coal burning-based power  was estimated at  4-5 times lower than this true price. The Australian Carbon Price based on fossil fuel subsidies and carbon burning-related deaths is about $150 per tonne CO2-e - a risk avoidance-based  estimate of $7.6 million for the value of a statistical life, Australian annual subsidies of $11 billion for fossil fuel burning, 9,600 annual Australian carbon pollution-related deaths and Australia's annual Domestic GHG pollution (2009) of 552 million tonnes CO 2 -e  yields a Carbon Price of $7.6 million x 9,600 annual deaths = $73 billion + $11 billion = $84 billion / 552 million tonnes CO 2 -e  = $152/tonne CO 2 -e ( = $562 /tonne C) [2]. 

16.5 Australian PM Kevin ?I love coal? Rudd slashed the Carbon Price in 2014 from $25 per tonne CO2-e to about $6 per tonne CO2-e. However Dr Chris Hope ( Judge Business School , University of Cambridge , UK ) has estimated that a Carbon Price of $150 per tonne CO2-e is required for effective climate change action [4].

16.6  Climate change activists must recognize that the ETS  approach involves setting a Cap on pollution and establishing a "market" for licences to pollute. However this is seen as an immense political confidence trick because (1) the ETS  approach has not been empirically shown to reduce GHG pollution, (2) this approach is accordingly counterproductive , and (3)  it involves a national government, e.g. the Australian Government, fraudulently selling licences to pollute the one common atmosphere of all countries  in the world.  

17. Media.

Under the dominant neoliberal agenda, the Western democracies have become Murdochracies, Lobbyocracies and Corporatocracies in which Big Money trumps science, perverts rational risk management and  buys people, politicians, parties, policies, public perception of reality, votes and political power. Rational risk management crucial for societal safety successively involves (a) accurate data, (b) scientific analysis (this involving the critical testing of potentially falsifiable hypotheses), and (c) systemic change to minimize risk. However Corporatocracy has perverted this to (a) lies, ?received wisdom?, censorship, self-censorship, and intimidation, (b) anti-science spin involving selective use of asserted facts to support a partisan position, and (c) blame and shame to the exclusion of rational systemic change.

17.1 Climate change campaigners should urge the boycott of anti-science, climate change denialist Murdoch media (e.g. claims that a new Ice Age is approaching [22])  [23].

17.2 Climate change activists need  public fact-checking compendia to publicly deal with anti-science malreportage purveyed by Mainstream media (e.g. for such compilations  see [24, 25]).

17.3 Climate change campaigners need an alternative to lying Mainstream media e.g. a very cheap option of a daily on-line newspaper that briefly summarizes the daily national and international news and then gives authoritative, science-informed  reportage of climate and environment news together with related articles contributed pro bono publico by scientists and science-informed  economics and other experts e.g. a news summary and climate- and environment-oriented version of respectable Alternative Media such as New Matilda and Green Left Weekly (Australia), MWC News (Canada), Counterpunch and Democracy Now (US), Bellaciao (Europe) and Countercurrents (India).  .

17.4  Climate change activists need a well-archived and accessible repository for authoritative, science-informed  accounts relating to the worsening climate crisis and the species extinction disaster (simpler examples include the and Yarra Valley Climate Action Group websites; the  Australian Climate Emergency Network (CEN) has an e-mail-linked daily updating system for its climate activist  membership).

17.5 Climate change campaigners should present the science-based reality without self-censorship and not run scared of neoliberal Mainstream media, politician and corporate  predilections.

18. Politics.

18.1 Climate change campaigners should try to be politically neutral but when political parties have ecocidal and terracidal policies they should say so. Thus in Australia, one of the world's worst annual per capita GHG polluters, the 2 major parties, the Liberal Party-National Party Coalition and the Australian Labor Party, have essentially the same disastrous policy of  ?5% off Domestic GHG pollution by 2020? coupled with unlimited coal, gas and iron ore exports ? climate change activists  should be honest in their condemnation of this neoliberal climate change inaction.

18.2 Conversely,  the ethical pro-environment positions of the Greens and the often marginal Socialists in the West deserve frank approval from climate change campaigners.   

19. Publicity.

19.1 A well-indexed, high quality, science-informed, environment-oriented,  on-line newspaper would be a crucial aid to climate action campaigners and might even be quoted by the Mainstream media.  

19.2 Climate change campaigners should contribute their science-informed opinions to Mainstream and Alternative media blogs.

19.3  Climate change campaigners should contribute their science-informed analyses and opinions as articles to Mainstream and Alternative media hard-copy and on-line magazines.

19.4 Publicity gold for climate change campaigners are powerful quotations from eminent scientists that should be collected in alphabetical on-line compendia (e.g. see [1, 26] ).

19.5 Climate change  campaigners can  ?bear witness?: to their science-based moral position by wearing a badge (e.g. ?300 ppm CO2?) (see points #1 and #2 above; [26]).

19.6. Climate change campaigners should seek to get genuine (as opposed to ?greenwash?)  celebrity, politician, organizational  and corporate  public backing for urgent climate change action.

20. Species extinction.

The species extinction rate is now  100-1,000 times greater than normal [27]. This mass extinction event is due to human impact that now includes a worsening  climate change component  as species move polewards. .

19.1 Climate change campaigners must expose this disaster of the Anthropocene Era.

19.2 Climate change campaigners must be resolute in opposing any threats to critical ecosystems and endangered species.

19.3 Climate change campaigners can cogently argue that in addition to aesthetic and ?do not destroy what you cannot replace? arguments, animals, plant, fungi and bacteria represent  sources of biologically active compounds of actual or potential utility to humanity (see my huge pharmacological reference text, Gideon Polya, ?Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds. A pharmacological reference guide to sites of action and biological effects?).

21. Subsidies.

21.1 The Australian Conservation Foundation has very properly reported $12 billion in annual subsidies for fossil fuel burning in Australia [28]. Climate change campaigners must expose all such abuses that give the lie to governments  claiming to be ?tackling climate change?.

21.2  Climate change campaigners must expose and protest huge hidden subsidies for fossil  fuel and carbon burning implicit in associated mortality totalling 4.5 million such deaths annually worldwide [17, 18] and about 10,000 annually in Australia [2].

22. Transitions  from coal burning.

22.1 Climate change campaigners must expose the reality that gas is not clean, it is dirty, 1 tonne of methane (CH4) generating 2.8 tonnes CO2 on combustion. Gas burning is cleaner than coal burning in terms of twice the MWh/tonne CO2  emitted and less health damaging pollutants but gas is not necessarily cleaner than coal burning GHG-wise.  Thus methane (CH4) leaks (3.3% in the US; 7.9% from fracking shale deposits) and is 105 times worse than CO2 as a GHG on a 20 year time frame taking aerosol impacts into account, this meaning that a Carbon Tax-driven coal to gas transition could double electric power industry-derived GHG pollution (if shale gas is used). A coal-to-gas transition is contraindicated [29].  

22.2 Climate change campaigners must expose the reality missing from much public discussion of the nuclear option that is non-renewable and in the context of a carbon economy is a major  CO2 polluter. The overall nuclear cycle produces CO2 from mining, transport, processing and enrichment, cement production for power station construction, disposal of waste and ultimately decommissioning of power stations. Further, when limited high quality uranium oxide reserves are used up, use of low grade ores may mean that a new  nuclear power station could release the same CO2/MWh as a new gas-fired power station. Thorium-based nuclear power is cleaner and safer than uranium-based power. Fast breeder reactors have been advocated as a highly efficient option but there are major fears relating to expense, security, nuclear terrorism and predicted severe human rights impacts of a plutonium economy. A former proponent, Dr James Lovelock FRS, now argues that we have run out of time for the nuclear stop-gap solution and he now advocates the biochar option for drawing down atmospheric CO2.

22.3 Climate change campaigners must back the proof of principle  Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) plan for 100% renewable stationary energy for Australia by 2020 (Zero Carbon Australia by 2020, ZCA 2020) which  involves 40% wind energy, 60% concentrated solar thermal (CST) with molten salts energy storage for 24/7 baseload power, biomass and hydroelectric backup (for days of no wind and low sunshine) and a HV DC and HC AC national power grid. The BZE scheme was costed at $370 billion over 10 years, with roughly half spent on CST, one quarter on wind and one quarter on the national electricity grid [30].  

22.4 Climate change campaigners must also advance as a proof of principle  the scheme for 100% renewable energy for Australia that has been set out by top electrical engineer Professor Peter Seligman (a major player in development of the bionic ear). Professor Seligman's scheme, set out in his book ?Australian sustainable energy  - by the numbers?, involves wind, solar thermal, other back-up energy sources, hydrological energy storage (in dams on the Nullabor Plain in Southern Australia), an HV AC and HV DC electricity transmission grid and a cost over 20 years of $253 billion [31].

22.5 Climate change campaigners must back wind power and oppose anti-science attacks on this vital, mature technology . Ignoring cost-increasing energy storage and transmission grid costs and cost-decreasing economies of scale for a 2- to 10-fold size increase, here are 2 similar cost estimates for installation of wind power for 80% of Australia's projected 325,000 GWh of annual electrical energy by 2020: (1) 90,000 MW capacity, 260,000 GWh/year, $200 billion/10 years (10-fold scale-up from GL Garrad Hassan) and (2) 96,000 MW, 260,000 GWh/year, $144 billion (2-fold scale up from BZE ) [29].

22.6 Climate change campaigners must expose the reality that science-demanded  reduction  of atmospheric CO2 from current 400 ppm to 300 ppm requires ?negative GHG emissions ? that can be achieved by cessation of GHG pollution ASAP and CO2 reduction though re-afforestation, renewable energy-driven CO2 trapping in alkaline solutions, and biochar (as much as 12 billion tonnes carbon  as biochar can be fixed annually globally from renewable energy-driven anaerobic pyrolysis  of existing agricultural and forestry cellulosic waste).

22.7 Climate change campaigners must back massive re-afforestation (SE Australian native forests are the World's best forest carbon sinks; 14 M ha, 25.5 Gt CO 2 , 460 Mt CO2/yr avoided for next 100 years if retained). Sir Nicholas Stern: only $20 billion pa to halve annual global deforestation.

23. Wildlife and wild nature.

23.1 Wildlife is hugely threatened by increasing human impact, introduced feral pests and worsening climate change [27]. Climate change campaigners must insist on wildlife protection from all malignant agencies.

23.2 Climate change campaigners should educate the public about the surprising and important finding by Dr Andrew Balmford and numerous colleagues in a key paper in Science entitled ? Economic Reasons for Conserving Wild Nature?(2002) that : ?Evidence has been accumulating that such [wild nature] systems generate marked economic benefits, which the available data suggest exceed those obtained from continued habitat conversion. We estimate that the overall benefit:cost ratio of an effective global program for the conservation of remaining wild nature is at least 100:1? [32].


The World is badly running out of time to deal with man-made climate change. Decent people are obliged to act before it is too late. People around the world who care for their children, their grandchildren,  intergenerational equity and intergenerational justice must do what they can as suggested above and, most importantly,  tell everyone they can.   


References. [1]. ?Are we doomed? Too late to save earth? ?,: .

[2]. Gideon Polya, ?Australian carbon burning-related deaths and carbon burning subsidies => minimum Carbon Price of A$562 per tonne carbon (C) or A$152 per tonne CO2-e ?, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: .  

[3]. Section E, ?2011 Climate Change Course?: .

[4]. Chris Hope, ?How high should climate change taxes be??, Working Paper Series, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, 9.2011: .

[5]. WBGU, ?Solving the climate dilemma: the budget approach?: .

[6]. Australian Climate Commission, ?The critical decade 2013: a summary of climate change science, risks and responses?, 2013: ).  

[7]. Gideon Polya, " Doha climate change inaction. Only 5 years left to act", MWC News, 9 December 2012:  .

[8].  Gideon Polya,? Gigantic cost of requisite climate change action threatens  massive intergenerational inequity and intergenerational injustice ?,  Countercurrents, 1 August 2013: .

[9]. ?100% renewable energy by 2020?: .

[10]. Gail Whiteman, Chris Hope and Peter Wadhams, ?Vast costs of Arctic change?, Nature, 499, 25 July 2013:  and .

[11]. ?Climate emergency facts and required actions?, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: .

[12]. ?Climate genocide?: .

[13]. Robert Goodland and Jeff Anfang. ?Livestock and climate change. What if the key actors in climate change are ? cows, pigs and chickens??, World Watch, November/December 2009: .

[14]. ?Forest biomass-derived Biochar can profitably reduce global warming and bushfire risk?, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group:  .

[15]. Gideon Polya, ?Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds. A pharmacological reference guide to sites of action and biological effects? (Taylor & Franccis, CRC Press, London & New York , 2003).

[16].  ?Biofuel genocide?: .

[17]. DARA, ?Climate Vulnerability Monitor. A guide to the cold callus of a hot planet?, 2012: .

[18]. Reuters, ?100 mln to die by 2030 if world fails to act on climate?, 28 September 2012: .

[19]. David Shearman, ?Dealing with the health risks of unconventional gas?, The Conversation, 28 November 2012: .

[20]. Gideon Polya, ? Expert witness testimony to stop gas-fired power plant installation ? , Countercurrents, 14 June 2013: ).

[21]. Gideon Polya, ? Australia 's Carbon Tax scandal?, MWC News, 23 November 2012: ).

[22]. ?Sorry to ruin the fun but an ice age cometh?, The Australian, 23 April 2008: .  

[23]. ?Boycott Murdoch Media?: .

[24]. ?ABC Fact-checking Unit & incorrect reportage by the ABC?:   .

[25]. ?ABC censorship & malreportage?  .

[26].  ? ? return atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm?,  .

[27]. Phillip Levin, Donald Levin, ?The real biodiversity crisis?, American Scientist, January-February 2002: .

  [28].  Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), ? Australia spends $11 billion more encouraging pollution than cleaning it up?, 1 March 2011: .

[29].  ?2011 climate change course?: .

[30]. Beyond Zero Emissions Zero (BZE), Zero Carbon Australia by 2020 Report (BZE ZCA2020 Report), 2010: .

[31]. Peter Seligman, ?Australian sustainable energy ? by the numbers?, Melbourne Energy Institute, University of Melbourne , 2010: .

[32]. A. Balmford, A. Bruner, P. Cooper, R. Costanza, S. Farber, R. E. Green, M. Jenkins, P. Jefferiss, V. Jessamy, J. Madden, K. Munro, N. Myers, S. Naeem, J. Paavola, M. Rayment, S. Trumper and R. K. Turner. 2002. Economic reasons for conserving wild nature. Science 297 : 950-953: .

Dr Gideon Polya has been teaching science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has published ?Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950? (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: ); see also his contributions ?Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality? in ?Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics? (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007: ) and ?Ongoing Palestinian Genocide? in ?The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: ). He has published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book ?Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History? (see: ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the ?forgotten? World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya's huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: and .

  Read 100 Ideas For Climate Change Activists Trying To Save The Biosphere And Humanity
  August 11, 2013  
Arctic Sea Ice Reflectivity Declining For Three Decades
by ,

The albedo or reflectivity of the Arctic sea ice has declined over the past three decades, finds a study done by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The study findings have been published in the journal Nature Climate Change on August 4, 2013.

During summer months, the albedo in the Arctic sea ice zone regulates the radiation balance in the region, which is why albedo is crucial to the Arctic climate. A decline in albedo means that a greater percentage of solar radiation energy is absorbed by the ice, thus accelerating its melt rate.

The study examined a 28-year time series (1982-2009), which was composed of measurements taken by weather satellites passing over the polar region. The time series was produced in the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites Satellite Application Facility on Climate Monitoring (EUMETSAT CM SAF) project. The Finnish Meteorological Institute is a partner on the project, overseeing development of the albedo time series.

The trends revealed by the data were clear: The average albedo in the northern area of the Arctic Ocean, including open water and sea ice, is declining in all summer months (May-August). This is primarily due to a shrinking of the ice cap.

When the analysis was confined to the area covered by ice, an equivalent decline in albedo was found during June-August. This means that the average reflectivity of remaining sea ice has also declined during the study period. The rate of decline in albedo in the sea ice zone during August was approximately 3% per decade.

The study also determined the factors that had the greatest impact on the decline in sea ice albedo. The findings revealed that a reduction in ice cap concentration was the most significant factor. Other major factors were an increase in air temperatures and longer melting periods. A diminishing albedo in Arctic sea ice can be considered both the cause and effect of changes in sea ice.

Story Source:
The story is based on materials provided by Finnish Meteorological Institute.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.
Journal Reference:
Aku Riihelä, Terhikki Manninen, Vesa Laine. Observed changes in the albedo of the Arctic sea-ice zone for the period 1982–2009. Nature Climate Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1963
Finnish Meteorological Institute (2013, August 8). Three-decade decline in reflectivity of Arctic sea ice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 11, 2013, from /releases/2013/08/130808091924.htm

  Read Arctic Sea Ice Reflectivity Declining For Three Decades
  August 12, 2013  
Glaciers Feeding Ganga And Indus Will Decrease As Himalaya Glacial Melt Set To Peak By 2070

Himalaya glaciers are vital sources of fresh water for Bangladesh , China , India , Nepal and Pakistan

The size of the glaciers in the watershed of the Indus and the Ganges will decrease during the 21st century as Himalaya glacial melting will peak around 2070, said scientists. The phenomenon will impact Bangladesh , China , India , Nepal and Pakistan .

An article by Kieran Cooke [1] said:

The river systems fed by the Himalaya glaciers are a vital source of water, food and energy for hundreds of millions of people downstream in the adjoining areas.

Trying to predict the impact of climate change on glaciers in such a large and inaccessible area as the Himalayas ? with research made more difficult by bitter intra-regional rivalries ? is no easy task.

The article produced by the Climate News Network said:

While some studies say rising temperatures in the mountains and the melt of glaciers will lead to falling river levels downstream and drought in what is one of the most densely populated regions on the planet, other reports paint a more sanguine picture.

In a study in the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists say that in two of the region's most important river basins ? the Ganges and the Indus ? water levels are unlikely to drop over the next century.

This contrasts with earlier studies ? including one by the same authors ? suggesting water levels in these rivers would drop significantly by 2050, threatening the livelihoods of millions.

The article carried by Responding to Climate Change on said:

The new report, Rising river flows throughout the twenty-first century in two Himalayan glacierized watersheds, says that in some parts of the Himalayan region, river flow losses as a result of less glacial meltwater will be compensated by an increase in monsoon rains.

The lead author of the report is Dr Walter Immerzeel, a mountain hydrology and climate change specialist at Utrecht University  and at present, a visiting scientist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal .

Four years ago Immerzeel and his colleagues published a report predicting a considerable drop in water levels in the same rivers by 2050.

?We are now using a more advanced glacier model that takes into consideration how slowly glaciers respond to climate change? says Dr Immerzeel.

Marc Bierkens, professor of Hydrology at Utrecht and a report co-author, says the modelling research shows the size of the glaciers in the watershed of the Indus and the Ganges will decrease during the 21st century.

?Yet, surprisingly enough, water discharge in this region is increasing, rather than decreasing. The reasons vary greatly from one watershed to another.?

Rainfall impacts

Bierkens told Climate News Network that the latest research findings were the result of using a more sophisticated ice model together with a new set of climate models and the fact that, especially in the western Himalayas , the increase in rainfall with height is larger than previously thought.

To understand the impact of climate change on river discharge, researchers created computer models of glacier movements and water balance in both the Indus and the Ganges watersheds.

The models indicated that in the eastern watershed ? in Langtang in Nepal where the Ganges has its source ? the relatively smaller glaciers melt quite quickly but an increase in monsoon rains leads to a growth in water discharge.

In the western watershed ? in Baltoro in Pakistan where the Indus has its source ? the climate is dryer and colder and has much larger glaciers.

The models show discharges in the area are increasing, mainly as a result of more glacial melting. Such melting, says the study, will peak around 2070 and thereafter drop but will be compensated for by an increase in precipitation.

?While the results of the research predict a somber future for the Himalayan glaciers, they offer some good news for water and food security in India , Bangladesh and Pakistan ? says a report summary.

Everest's glacial retreat

Everest's shrinking glaciers (Pic: Ed King)

Citing researchers' report at the American Geophysical Union's meeting in Cancun , Mexico , another article by Tim Radford [2] said:

Mount Everest , the world's highest peak, is beginning to lose its snow and ice.

After studies of satellite imagery of the mountain and the Sagarmatha National Park the scientists reported:

The Everest region in the Himalayas has been warming, and snow precipitation declining, for the last 20 years.

Everest glaciers have shrunk by 13% in the last 50 years and the snowline has moved 180 meters uphill. As the glaciers dwindle, the rocks and debris they carry are being exposed: the debris-covered sections of the glaciers have increased by 17% since the 1960s.

The article produced by the Climate News Network said:

Once again, the researchers suspect that human-induced climate change may be responsible: this connection however is much harder to establish. But the majority of glaciers in the region are retreating at an ever-faster rate.

?The Himalayan glaciers and ice caps are considered a water tower for Asia , since they store and supply water downstream during the dry season?, said the scientist Sudeep Thakuri.

?Downstream populations are dependent on melt water for agriculture, drinking and power production.?

The Rockies

The article carried by Responding to Climate Change said:

Around 20% of the snow cover in North America 's greatest mountain range has been lost ? because of warmer springs in the last three decades.

Scientists from the American Geophysical Union and the US Geological Survey report that they had established a pattern of snowfall in the northern and southern Rockies : when the snowpack was large in the northern Rockies , it might be correspondingly meagre in the southern mountains and vice versa. But since the 1980s, snowpack declines have occurred simultaneously along the entire length of the Rocky Mountains , with unusually severe declines in the north.

Now research has begun to establish the cause. Researchers write in Geophysical Research Letters that, using monthly data collected from 1895 to 2011, they have been able to tease apart the different influences of winter temperatures, spring warming and overall precipitation on the April volume of the snowpack.

?Snow deficits were consistent throughout the Rockies due to lack of precipitation during the cool seasons during the 1930s ? coinciding with the Dust Bowl era.

?From 1980 on, warmer spring temperatures melted snowpack throughout the Rockies early, regardless of winter precipitation,? said Greg Pederson of the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center in Bozeman , Montana .

?The model in turn shows temperature as the major driving factor in snowpack declines over the past 30 years.?

Runoff from the Rocky Mountain snows accounts for 60 to 80% of the annual water supply for more than 70 million people in the western US. The timing of snowmelt affects the levels of water available for crop irrigation and hydro-electric power. It can also influence the risk of regional floods and bush fires.

Tim Radford's article said:

The researchers blame both natural variation ? the influence of cyclic Pacific Ocean phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña, for example ? and global warming from human activity for the change.

Snowline heads uphill

?Regardless of the ultimate causes, continuation of present snowpack trends in the Rocky Mountains will pose difficult challenges for watershed management and conventional water planning in the American West?, said co-author Julio Betancourt.


[1] August 12, 2013 ,

[2] May 15, 2013 , ?Scientists report glacial retreat in Mount Everest region?,

  Read Glaciers Feeding Ganga And Indus Will Decrease As Himalaya Glacial Melt Set To Peak By 2070
  August 14, 2013  
Soil Biodiversity Crucial To Fight Climate Crisis

Maintaining healthy soil biodiversity can play an important role in optimizing land management programs to reap benefits from the living soil, said scientists at the University of Manchester and Lancaster.

In one of the largest studies of its kind, a team of researchers from across Europe looked at soil life in 60 sites across four countries, the UK, Sweden, Greece and the Czech Republic, to assess the role of soil food webs in nutrient cycles in agricultural soils.

The study shows for the first time that there is a strong link between soil organisms and the overall functioning of ecosystems.

The findings, published in the latest edition of the journal PNAS, extend the understanding about the factors that regulate soil biodiversity.

The scientists say more research on soil food webs -- the community of organisms living all or part of their lives in the soil -- and their response to land use and climate change could also improve predictions of climate change impacts on ecosystems.

Soil food webs describe the community of organisms living all or part of their lives in the soil and their complex living system interacting with other substances such as carbon and nitrogen.

Until now most studies which have investigated the reduction of soil biodiversity and the way this affects carbon and nitrogen cycling have been laboratory-based or focused on one group of organisms in the soil rather than the wider picture. This is the first time researchers have looked at the entire community of organisms. The team explored soil found under land used in various ways including intensive wheat rotation farming and permanent grassland. It found there were consistent links between soil organisms and soil food web properties and ecosystem functioning on a large scale, across European countries.

Dr Franciska De vries, from the University of Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences who was lead author of the research, said: "We found that the condition of the soil was less tied to how the land was used and more influenced by the soil food web properties.

"Soils contain a vast diversity of organisms which are crucially important for humans. These organisms help capture carbon dioxide (CO2) which is crucial for helping to reduce global warming and climate change.

"This research highlights the importance of soil organisms and demonstrates that there is a whole world beneath our feet, inhabited by small creatures that we can't even see most of the time. By liberating nitrogen for plant growth and locking up carbon in the soil they play an important role in supporting life on Earth."

The researchers hope the findings will help in predicting how land use and climate change will impact on ecosystems and looking at ways to minimize negative changes.

Dr De vries, from The University of Manchester who carried out the research while at Lancaster University, said: "Soil biodiversity is under threat by a range of pressures such as urbanization, climate change, pollution and expanding production of food, fiber and biofuel but the topic remains severely understudied.

"We hope that this research will in the longer term will help us to devise ways for farmers, landowners and conservation agencies to optimize the way they manage land to reap benefits from the living soil and reduce carbon emissions."

Story Source:
The story is based on materials provided by Manchester University, via AlphaGalileo.
Journal Reference:
Franciska T. de Vries, Elisa Thébault, Mira Liiri, Klaus Birkhofer, Maria A. Tsiafouli, Lisa Bjørnlund, Helene Bracht Jørgensen, Mark Vincent Brady, Søren Christensen, Peter C. de Ruiter, Tina d’Hertefeldt, Jan Frouz, Katarina Hedlund, Lia Hemerik, W. H. Gera Hol, Stefan Hotes, Simon R. Mortimer, Heikki Setälä, Stefanos P. Sgardelis, Karoline Uteseny, Wim H. van der Putten, Volkmar Wolters, and Richard D. Bardgett. Soil food web properties explain ecosystem services across European land use systems. PNAS, August 12, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1305198110
Manchester University (2013, August 12). Soil biodiversity will be crucial to future land management and response to climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 14, 2013, from /releases/2013/08/130812154228.htm

  Read Soil Biodiversity Crucial To Fight Climate Crisis
  August 14, 2013  
With Tar Sands Development, Growing Concern On Water Use
by Ed Struzik, Yale Environment 360,

Environmental questions about Canada’s massive tar sands development have long centered on greenhouse gas emissions. Now there are mounting concerns about the huge volumes of water used by the oil industry and the impact on the vast Mackenzie River Basin.

Opposition to the mining of Alberta’s tar sands — and the Keystone and Gateway pipelines that would carry their oil to the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean — has largely been focused on the project’s greenhouse gas emissions and threats to pristine environments along the pipeline rights-of-way.

But another serious issue is coming to the fore — the massive amounts of freshwater being used by the industry. In 2011, companies mining the tar sands siphoned approximately 370 million cubic meters of water from the Athabasca River alone, which was heated or converted into steam to separate the viscous oil, or bitumen, from sand formations. That quantity exceeds the amount of water that the city of Toronto, with a population 2.8 million people, uses annually.

But unlike Torontonians, tar sands companies pay nothing for this water. All they need is a license from the province of Alberta. Nor do they clean it after recycling it and pumping it back into underground aquifers or into tailings ponds, which now cover 170 square kilometers — 66 square miles — of territory in northern Alberta.

A growing number of scientists and economists believe the tar sands industry has already reached a tipping point in its dependence on both surface and groundwater. They contend that the timing and magnitude of these diversions are drying up wetlands, disrupting water flows, and potentially threatening riparian habitats thousands of miles downstream along the Mackenzie River basin, which drains 20 per cent of Canada.

“Nowhere in the world are we seeing this amount of groundwater being used for industrial development,” says William Donahue, a freshwater scientist, lawyer, and special advisor to Water Matters, an Alberta-based think tank. “The scale of these withdrawals is massive and totally unsustainable.”

Henry Vaux, a natural resource economist at the University of California, Riverside, and lead author of a recent report on the Mackenzie River Basin by the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy, says it’s time that the tar sands industry’s exploitation of water be addressed.

“It’s an alarming scenario,” says Vaux, whose report links heavy water use by the tar sands to potentially harmful changes in the Mackenzie River Basin, including water pollution, wetlands destruction, and changes in drainage patterns in the Mackenzie headwaters. “Given the rate of expansion in the industry, it’s going to get a lot worse.”

To produce a barrel of oil from the tar sands, the industry says it typically needs between 0.4 and 3.1 barrels of freshwater. In 2008, the tar sands produced 1.31 million barrels of oil per day. That is expected to more than double to three million barrels a day in 2018, further straining water supplies on the Athabasca River and aquifers in northern Alberta. In addition to withdrawing water from other sources, tar sands operations are authorized to divert 652 million cubic meters of water from the Athabasca, double the current volume of withdrawals.

Until several years ago, most tar sands bitumen was obtained through open pit mining, which requires the draining of wetlands, the diversion of streams, the clearcutting of forests, and the removal of soil and overburden. At last count more than 400 square miles of land were being mined in this way. The bitumen-laden sands are then transported to an extraction plant, where hot water is used to separate out the oil.

In recent years, however, in situ mining of tar sands — which involves injecting steam into tar sands deposits too deep to be surface-mined — has escalated. The oil is recovered through an assisted-gravity draining process in which steam and solvents are pumped into the upper portion of the tar sands reservoir. There, the bitumen warms and thins and then drains down into the lower part of the reservoir before being pumped back to the surface.

Open-pit tar sands operations return almost none of the water they use back to the natural cycle because it is toxic and therefore subject to a zero discharge policy. Although a large percentage of the wastewater is recycled, most of it eventually ends up in tailings ponds. Wastewater from in situ injected into the deeper aquifers.

Steve Wallace, head of the province of Alberta’s groundwater management unit, says that the industry’s withdrawal of water from the Athabasca River amounts to about one percent of river flow, although that figure is expected to grow to 2.5 percent as production increases. He acknowledged that this percentage is often much higher in periods of low flow, and a report by the non-profit Pembina Institute said tar sands operations could eventually consume 25 percent of the river’s water during periods of low flow.

Wallace says that major progress has been made in storing and conserving water in the tar sands region since the provincial government enacted new rules in 2006. One of those rules caps the amount of water the industry can use in times of low flow. Last year, Alberta and the Canadian government announced a joint plan to bolster environmental monitoring of water, air, and terrestrial pollution in the tar sands region by 2015.

Industry and government officials have long contended that the contaminants in the tailings ponds are not leaching into the groundwater, as some scientists, conservationists, and aboriginal leaders claim. But the government of Alberta has an inadequate number of groundwater monitoring wells in the tar sands regions. And as a recent Royal Society of Canada expert panel reported, there is also no regional hydrogeological framework in place to assess the cumulative impacts of the oil sands industry on groundwater quality.

But the evidence suggests that surface and groundwater supplies are being tainted. An internal government memo prepared for Canada’s Natural Resources Minister in June 2012 describes how geoscientist Martine Savard and 18 colleagues detected “potentially harmful, mining-related organic acid contaminants in the groundwater outside a long-established... tailings pond.” In the study, Savard and colleagues suggest that acids may be reaching the Athabasca River in small amounts.

Donahue of Water Matters points out that cleaning up contaminated groundwater is sometimes impossible or prohibitively expensive due to the complexity of aquifers and the dynamic nature of underground channels — something that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has learned in attempting to clean up many Superfund sites.

Henry Vaux of the University of California, Riverside suggests that the potential for a collapse, or breach, of one of the tailings ponds dikes is another significant threat.

“One of those dikes is eventually going to let go; there is no such thing as a dike that lasts forever,” he says. “If that happens in the wintertime when the Athabasca River is covered in ice, there is no way of remediating the situation. The polluted water is going to flow a long way.”

In recent weeks, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has been unable to stop leaks from an underground oil blowout at an in situ operation. The leak has been contaminating a lake, a forest, and wetlands at its operations at Cold Lake.

In July, Peter Lee of Global Forest Watch Canada and Kevin Timoney of Treeline Ecological Research released a study showing that the province’s records on environmental contamination in the tar sands are incomplete and riddled with errors. Enforcement action, they say, was taken in less than one percent of the more than 4,000 cases where a tar sands facility violated an operating condition.

Water economist David Zetland, who writes the blog Aguanomics, supports the Keystone XL pipeline project because he believes tar sands oil is going to be transported one way or another; the pipeline, he argues, is better than using trucks or trains. But he believes that permitting the tar sands industry to use water for free and allowing companies to reinject polluted water back into the ground or into tailings ponds is a major mistake.

“Those days of abundant [water] supplies are coming to an end, even in Canada,” said Zetland. “The solution is to make people pay for water.”

In an intriguing development earlier this year, a pair of satellites operated by NASA and the German Aerospace Center showed that the tar sands region and a large area downstream of it showed up as a zone of significant water loss. The twin satellites are part of a program known as GRACE, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, which measures Earth's gravity field in a way that, among other things, allows scientists to better estimate gains and losses in water storage, including groundwater.

James Famiglietti, director of the University of California Center for Hydrologic Modeling and author of a map of the depletion zone, cautioned that more work needs to be done to determine what is causing the depletion. Among possible causes are the over-use of water by the tar sands industry, but also post-glacial rebound, which is active in the region, as well as declines in groundwater reserves because of climate change. But Famiglietti noted, “If the volume of water used in the oil sands production is as large as is the industry says that it is, it is very likely that the GRACE satellites will detect it.”

Even some people associated with the industry are warning of a potential supply shortage as production triples. Clement Bowman is a former vice-president of Esso Petroleum, a former president of the Alberta Research Council, and one-time research manager of tar sands giant Syncrude Canada. He recently co-authored a paper in which he and his colleagues examined water quantity and quality problems in Canada’s tar sands.

“Water issues, such as large-scale water usage and troublesome polluted water disposal concerns connected to Canada’s oil sands industries, must be resolved,” Bowman and his co-authors say. They conclude that charging for water and trading water rights are the best way to ensure water security for the industry, while balancing environmental and social impacts. The status quo, they write, “does not encourage private companies to develop and employ new technologies related to water reduction.”

Vaux is doubtful that the Albert government will be willing to put a price on water. “People in government and industry go silent the moment you raise the subject,” he points out.

What is needed, Vaux says, are performance bonds in which industry sets aside money to clean up future environmental damage . Vaux also contends that given the piecemeal and often self-regulated system that now exists, the federal Canadian government, the Alberta government, the Northwest Territories, and aboriginal communities downstream need to embrace a coordinated, science-based approach to water management in the tar sands region.

“The issue of water in the Mackenzie Basin is one that does not get enough attention,” he says. “It’s a shame because so much territory is affected by the diversions. It’s not just northern Alberta, it’s a river basin system that supports indigenous people and fish and wildlife habitats all the way to the Beaufort Sea.”

Canadian author and photographer Ed Struzik has been writing on the Arctic for three decades. In previous articles for Yale Environment 360, he has written about the potential environmental risks of Canada’s proposed Northern Pipeline and explored what he described as the Canadian government’s assault on environmental regulations.

© 2008-2013 Yale University

  Read With Tar Sands Development, Growing Concern On Water Use
  August 17, 2013  
Human Activity Is The Cause Of Global Warming, Scientists Now Surer Than Ever

Human activity is causing global warming. Now, climate scientists are surer than ever. Leaked drafts of a major UN report show this.

However, scientists are finding it harder than expected to predict the impact in specific regions in coming decades.

Reuters reported that drafts by the UN panel of experts, due to be published next month, say it is at least 95 percent likely that human activities – chiefly the burning of fossil fuels – are the main cause of warming since the 1950s. This was up from at least 90 percent in the last report in 2007, 66 percent in 2001, and over 50 in 1995.

The scientists are steadily squeezing out the arguments by a small minority of scientists that natural variations in the climate might be to blame.

That shifts the debate onto the extent of temperature rises and the likely impacts, from manageable to catastrophic.

“We have got quite a bit more certain that climate change … is largely manmade,” said Reto Knutti, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. “We’re less certain than many would hope about the local impacts.”

And gauging how warming would affect nature, from crops to fish stocks, was also proving hard since it goes far beyond physics. “You can’t write an equation for a tree,” he said.
The IPCC report, the first of three to be released in 2013 and 2014, will face intense scrutiny, particularly after the panel admitted a mistake in the 2007 study which wrongly predicted that all Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035.

Experts say the error far overestimated the melt and might have been based on a misreading of 2350.

The new study will state with greater confidence than in 2007 that rising manmade GHG emissions have already meant more heatwaves.

But it is likely to play down some tentative findings from 2007, such as that human activities have contributed to more droughts.

The report will flag a high risk that global temperatures will increase this century by more than that level, and will say that evidence of rising sea levels is now “unequivocal”.

The scientists say it is proving harder to pinpoint local impacts in coming decades in a way that would help planners.

Drew Shindell, a NASA climate scientist, said the relative lack of progress in regional predictions was the main disappointment of climate science since 2007.

The panel will try to explain why global temperatures, while still increasing, have risen more slowly since about 1998 even though greenhouse gas concentrations have hit repeated record highs in that time, led by industrial emissions by China and other emerging nations.

An IPCC draft says there is “medium confidence” that the slowing of the rise is “due in roughly equal measure” to natural variations in the weather and to other factors affecting energy reaching the Earth’s surface.

Scientists believe causes could include: greater-than-expected quantities of ash from volcanoes, which dims sunlight; a decline in heat from the sun during a current 11-year solar cycle; more heat being absorbed by the deep oceans; or the possibility that the climate may be less sensitive than expected to a build-up of carbon dioxide.

“It might be down to minor contributions that all add up,” said Gabriele Hegerl, a professor at Edinburgh University. Or maybe, scientists say, the latest decade is just a blip.

The main scenarios in the draft, using more complex computer models than in 2007 and taking account of more factors, show that temperatures could rise anywhere from a fraction of 1 degree Celsius to almost 5C this century, a wider range at both ends than in 2007.

The low end, however, is because the IPCC has added what diplomats say is an improbable scenario for radical government action – not considered in 2007 – that would require cuts in global greenhouse gases to zero by about 2070.
Temperatures have already risen by 0.8C since the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.

Experts say that the big advance in the report, due for a final edit by governments and scientists in Stockholm from Sept. 23-26, is simply greater confidence about the science of global warming, rather than revolutionary new findings.

“Overall our understanding has strengthened,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor at Princeton University, pointing to areas including sea level rise.

An IPCC draft projects seas will rise by between 29 and 82 cm by the late 21st century – above the estimates of 18 to 59 cm in the last report, which did not fully account for changes in Antarctica and Greenland.

The report slightly tones down past tentative findings that more intense tropical cyclone are linked to human activities.

Warmer air can contain more moisture, however, making downpours more likely in future.

“There is widespread agreement among hurricane scientists that rainfall associated with hurricanes will increase noticeably with global warming,” said Kerry Emanuel, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“But measuring rainfall is very tricky,” he said

  Read Human Activity Is The Cause Of Global Warming, Scientists Now Surer Than Ever
  August 21, 2013  
Humanity Has Exhausted The Earth's Natural Resources
by Sophie Yeo ,

According to Global Footprint Network, the world had yielded up all the resources it can afford for the year by 20 August, meaning that for the remaining four months, the planet is operating in overdraft: the resources being drawn upon can no longer be replenished.

This means that the earth can no longer regenerate its resources at the speed at which humanity is using them, leading to the cumulative depletion of the worlds forests and fisheries, for example, along with a diminished capability for the earth to absorb waste CO2.

It is not a day that can be marked in a calendar, because it is never quite certain on what day of the year it will fall.

It has been slowly advancing year on year by approximately three days. In 1993, it fell on 21 October. By 2003, it had crept forward a month to 22 September.

Supply has not always outstripped demand. In the early 1960s, humanity was only using two thirds of the world's natural resources. It was only in the 1970s that increased carbon emissions and human demand for resources began outstripping what the planet could renewably produce.

Unsustainable levels

Since then, humanity's ?ecological footprint? has continued to stamp over the earth's natural resources with ever increasing gusto.

The loss of resources means that the earth's capacity to absorb the carbon dioxide produced by the high levels of consumption is reduced, which contributes to climate change.

But climate change is only one of the effects of the depletion of the earth's resources ? albeit one where, according to research by Johan Rockström, humanity has already severely overstepped the planet's natural boundaries.

Talking about his theory of planetary boundaries, Rockström said in a statement, ?The human pressure on the Earth System has reached a scale where abrupt global environmental change can no longer be excluded.

?To continue to live and operate safely, humanity has to stay away from critical ?hard-wired' thresholds in the Earth's environment, and respect the nature of the planet's climatic, geophysical, atmospheric and ecological processes.?

The cumulative consumption of nature has also led to the fisheries collapsing, food shortages, degraded land productivity and the build-up of carbon dioxide in the oceans.

It also has an economic and political impact, leading to higher commodity prices and civil unrest.

According to the Global Footprint Network, if the current trend for overexploitation continues, then resource constraints will become a prime factor determining economic success or crisis this century, and that an oncoming crash could be hard to reverse unless decisions are taken quickly.

?Facing such constraints has direct impacts on people. Lower-income populations have a hard time competing with the rest of the world for resources,? said Mathis Wackernagel, Network President and the co-creator of the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric.

Method of calculating

The Global Footprint Network calculates the ecological footprint of over 230 countries, territories and regions, and measures the area each country requires to produce the resources it uses and absorb its waste, which it then compares to the area available.

The consumption of each individual nation is calculated by adding imports to and extracting exports from its national production.

Based on these calculations, humanity needs 1.5 planets to sustain its current consumption habits, though this figure varies wildly between different countries.

China , for instance, has the largest ecological footprint, but on a per capita basis it falls slightly beneath the average; if everybody on earth lived as a resident of China lives, only 1.2 planets would be required.

Qatar , on the other hand, has the highest per capita rate of consumption, with each individual requiring the resources of 6.5 planets.

Global Footprint Network predicts that earths will be required by the middle of the century to feed the demands of a growing population with accelerating patterns of consumption.

* August 20, 2013, ?Planet Earth's natural resources in ?overdraft' warn campaigners?,

  Read Humanity Has Exhausted The Earth's Natural Resources
 January 16, 2013  
It's Time for the Global Warming Prophets to Speak Up
by Gene Wesley Marshall, AlterNet

This article was published in partnership with

A prophet is a visionary who sees what is happening in history more clearly than most of the people who are the companions of this awakening person.  A prophet sees the future more clearly, not in the sense of predicting what is going to happen, but in the sense of clarity about the options for human action that can be taken now and the probable outcomes of those actions or inactions.  Being a global warming prophet today means getting the full extent to this problem stated in the kind of poetry that convicts the soul and enlivens the feet. 

Burning fossil fuels is a “crime” of massive destruction against the planet and all its life forms, including humanity.

This is the core truth that a global warming prophet needs to cry out for “as long as it takes” for humanity to hear it and live it.  Global warming deniers are rejecting this truth because it calls into question almost everything they believe, as well as entails a serious challenge to the self-interests that are protected by believing this truth to be false.  Their very “self” is called in question.  That is why their resistance is so strong.

Fossil fuel companies have already found and are planning to sell and put into the atmosphere three or more times as much carbon as required to set in motion unstoppable disasters.  Yet their business plans show no interest in leaving some of that resource in the ground.  Rather, they are making plans to find more.  They are willing to extend their drilling to the depths of the oceans or to the most sensitive wilderness areas no matter what the consequences will be to those places or to the long range effects of burning that fuel.

A global warming prophet needs to point out that this makes those companies criminals – not against our inadequate current laws, but against humanity, the planet, and plain common sense.

To the somewhat more innocent general population, the global warming prophet must keep elaborating the following: “The Seas will rise, the hurricanes will become stronger and stronger.  Eastern Seaboard cities of the US will become uninhabitable, washed to their deaths by so many floods that rebuilding is futile.  Currently inhabited low-lying islands will disappear entirely.  Bread baskets of rich agricultural land will become deserts.   Previously dry places will become lakes.  Floods and droughts will appear where they never experienced before.”   Perhaps such language will get and is getting some people’s attention.  But more is required.  The case needs to be made that denying global warming, or the extent of its consequences, or the human agency in causing the CO2 buildup is a crime against humanity, the Earth, and plain honesty, even if it not yet a crime with regard to the laws of the society.

Furthermore, a truthful global-warming prophet will need to take on the moderate liberal in his or her halfway responding.  “Even those of us who do believe the truth of global warming and its consequences and who are willing to act upon these realizations need to confess that we are nevertheless guilty of the crime of burning fossil fuels whenever we switch on a light or press the starter on our automobile.  Even if we drive a Prius and opt for an electric bill that presupposes green energy production, we only moderate the evil in which we participate.  There is no escape from participation in this criminal society in which we are embedded.”

Believing the truth of global warming means that for us to be persons of integrity, we must confess our guilt in supporting solutions to this crisis that are trivial.  We are being called to upgrade our thought and action to a more serious level: namely, dismantling (rather than repairing) this entire social fabric and building an alternative way for all of us to live.

And this means: starting wherever we can best start.  For example, the unneeded industry of tar-sands oil that is just starting up can be resisted totally – stopping it in its tracks no matter what the costs of doing so, no matter what our presidents and Congress persons are not willing to do.  We prophets must make plain to a blurry-minded population that burning the tar-sand energy source may result in the end of life on earth for our species – or at least a set of catastrophes so immense that we do not want to even think about it. 

Secondly, we can support a moratorium on all new coal-fired power plants.  Coal is making a comeback because it is currently cheaper than oil or natural gas, but coal is actually not needed for the transition away from fossil-fuel burning and toward an electro-hydrogen infrastructure energized mainly by solar and wind energy sources.  We have to accept a period of transition from oil and natural gas to solar and wind, but we do not have to accept the lie that we cannot prosper without expanding our fossil fuel use, or that we need more time to build a meaningful alternative.

Furthermore, we global-warming prophets will need to call out our culture for minimizing the possibilities of an alternative energy system.  The cost of solar and wind energy production has already come down to the same level as fossil fuels and is still falling.  It is already the cheapest and least destructive way to go.   People who claim that these technologies have not yet achieved the readiness needed for energizing our society are like the people who said the automobile was not ready because there were so few smooth roads for it, and it scared the horses. 

Yes, a new infrastructure for solar and wind energy must be constructed; but however big this task may be, the facts of our situation simply do not support the foot-dragging pessimism that tells us that this transition cannot be accomplished at a quick-time pace.  In his colorful book, Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save our Economy and our Planet from Dirty Energy, Danny Kennedy spells out how every rooftop can feasibly become right now a solar energy plant.  And David Sanborne Scott in his book, Smelling Land: The Hydrogen Defense Against Climate Catastrophe, Enhanced Edition, shows how an infrastructure of hydrogen and electricity can deliver to us the power of solar, wind, and other alternative energy sources in a manner that is fully adequate to fill our energy needs.  He assures us that airliners using liquid hydrogen will be safer and cheaper than using jet fuel.  May all the pessimists on these topics be healed!

The sophisticated lies of oil-company-financed think tanks can now be laughed off our TV screens and ripped out of our news magazines.

As time goes on, the above account will surely need to be tweaked and expanded; nevertheless, it illustrates the searing style of a truth-telling global-warming prophet. And we prophets are called to speak the truth whether people listen or not. And we are called to continue doing so for as long as it takes for almost everyone to hear it.


Gene Marshall together with Ben Ball, Marsha Buck, Ken Kreutziger, and Alan Richard have published a full examination of the above issues and more in a book entitled The Road from Empire to Eco-Democracy, published it iUniverse in cooperation with Berrett-Koehler's Open Book Editions program. You can order it from iUniverse or Amazon in both e-book and paperback forms. Gene Marshall together with Ben Ball, Marsha Buck, Ken Kreutziger, and Alan Richard have published a full examination of the above issues and more in a book entitled The Road from Empire to Eco-Democracy, published it iUniverse in cooperation with Berrett-Koehler's Open Book Editions program. You can order it from iUniverse or Amazon in both e-book and paperback forms.

  Read It's Time for the Global Warming Prophets to Speak Up
 January 15, 2013  
How the Right-Wing's Infamous ALEC Is Attacking Renewable Energy Initiatives
by Steve Horn, AlterNet, DeSmogBlog,

Renewable energy is under attack in the Tar Heel State. That's the word from Greenpeace USA's Connor Gibson today in a  report that implicates King Coal powerhouse, Duke Energy and the fossil fuel industry at-large. 

The vehicle  Duke Energy is utilizing for this attack is one whose profile has grown in infamy in recent years: the  American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

ALEC is described as a " corporate bill mill" by its critics. It's earned such a description because it passes " model bills" written by corporate lobbyists and to boot, the lobbyists typically do so  behind closed doors at ALEC's annual meetings. 

The ALEC-Duke Alernative Energy Attack

Gibson puts it bluntly in his exposé, explaning that  North Carolina Republican Rep. Mike Hager "says he is confident that he has the votes needed to weaken or undo his state's [renewable] energy requirements during his second term." 

Hager is a former Duke employee, where he  worked as an engineer. Duke maintains its corporate headquarters in Charlotte, NC. 

The model bill Hager appears likely to push is called the " Electricity Freedom Act," a piece of legislation calling for the nullification of any given state's  Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS). Passed in October 2012 by ALEC, the bill was actually co-written with the fossil fuel-funded think tank, the  Heartland Institute (of " Heartland Exposed" fame). 

"We wrote the model legislation and I presented it. I didn’t have to give that much of a case for it," James Taylor of Heartland told The Washington Post in a  November 2012 investigative report.

Taylor's claims are backed by economic analyses of a sort.

That is, the sort one would expect from a  group heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry (Heartland) teaming up with a group  receiving 98 percent of its funding from corporate interests(ALEC). As The Post  explained back in November:

As part of its effort to roll back renewable standards, ALEC is citing economic analyses of state policies co-published by Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute and the State Policy Network. Both groups have received donations from foundations funded by the Koch brothers.

Gabe Elsner of the Checks and Balances Project described ALEC's game plan as a deceptive " one-two punch" against renewable energy to The Post. 

“You push the legislation to state legislators and then you fund reports to support the argument and convince state lawmakers and all without any transparency or disclosure about the sources of this funding,” he said back in November

North Carolina's GOP (which according to the Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD)  SourceWatch  has 45 ALEC members) appears set to go on the offensive against the state's existing renewable energy standards. 

More to Come?

There's far more of this to come in the weeks and months ahead in statehouses nationwide.

As Gibson  explains, "According to its own documents, ALEC spent the last couple years monitoring states attempting to introduce state-level renewable energy portfolio standards in West Virginia, Vermont and Virginia as well as legislative attacks on REPS laws in New Hampshire and in Ohio."

Renewable energy is under attack. That is, of course, unless its advocates fight back. 

Desmogblog (

Steve Horn is a Researcher and Writer for DeSmogBlog, focusing primarily on domestic and international natural gas drilling operations and its interplay with international geopolitics. He lives in Madison, WI.
  Read How the Right-Wing's Infamous ALEC Is Attacking Renewable Energy Initiatives
 January 22, 2013  
How Our Growth-Hungry Economy Has Devastated the Planet -- And How We Can Change Course
by Rob Dietz, Dan O'Neill, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, AlterNet

The following is an excerpt from Enough is Enough:  Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources by Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill (Berrett-Koehler, 2013).

To appreciate why an economy based on enough is worth striving for, it is useful to examine the failings of an economy that forever chases more. It’s no secret that the dominant economic philosophy of modernity is more—more people and more production, more money and more consumption. Employees try to earn more income, business managers try to report more revenue on the balance sheet, and politicians try to ensure that the economy churns out more goods and services. On the surface, more seems like a good idea. For an employee, more money can mean financial security; for a business manager, more revenue can result in a promotion; and for a politician, more national income can generate votes in the next election. But if you dig beneath the surface, you begin to uncover the fatal flaws of more.

The main problem with pursuing never-ending growth stems from the fact that the economy is a subsystem of the biosphere. All of the inputs to the economy come from the environment, and all of the wastes produced by it return to the environment. As the economy expands, it consumes more materials and energy, and emits more wastes. But since we live on a finite planet, this process can’t go on forever. Like an inner tube inside a tire, the subsystem can only grow so large compared to the system that contains it.

The size of the economy is typically measured using gross domestic product (GDP). GDP is the total amount of money spent on all final goods and services produced within a country over the course of a year. Since one person’s spending is another person’s income, GDP is also the total income of everyone in the country. GDP functions as an indicator of the overall level of economic activity—of money changing hands. Economic growth, as reported in the media at least, refers to GDP growth, which is equivalent to an increase in the amount of money changing hands.

A helpful place to turn for a long-term perspective on GDP growth is the work of economic historian Angus Maddison. During his distinguished career, Maddison compiled a remarkable data series on population and GDP starting in the year 1 c.e. and running to 2008.

For most of human history, the size of the economy was small compared to the size of the biosphere. But over the last hundred years or so, this balance has changed remarkably owing to the increase in the number of people in the world and the growth in each person’s consumption of goods and services.

Between 1900 and 2008, world population increased from 1.5 billion to 6.8 billion people—more than a factor-of-four increase. At the same time, GDP per capita increased from $1,260 to $7,600—a factor-of-six increase. The result is that world GDP increased by an astounding factor of more than twenty-five over the last century, from about $2 trillion to $51 trillion (and this is after adjusting for inflation).

On its own, an increase in GDP would not be a problem, except that economic activity is tied very closely to energy and resource use. As GDP increases, the economy requires more energy and resources, and produces more wastes. While Maddison’s work provides a picture of the phenomenal growth of GDP, the work of ecological economists provides a picture of the growth in material and energy use that has accompanied it. As a result of GDP growth, humanity now uses eleven times as much energy, and eight times the weight of material resources every year as it did only a century ago. And most of this increase has occurred in the last fifty years.

The connection between GDP and the use of materials and energy raises a subtle but important point. When we discuss “economic growth” in this book, what we’re really concerned with is not GDP growth per se, but the increase in material and energy use that comes with GDP growth. Ultimately, the flow of materials and energy is what impacts ecosystems, not the exchange of dollars and cents (although the latter drives the process).

What is the environmental upshot of this growth? Plenty of evidence suggests that the global economy is now so large that it is undermining the natural systems on which it depends. This evidence presents itself as a wide range of global environmental problems: climate change, biodiversity loss, stratospheric ozone depletion, deforestation, soil degradation, collapsed fisheries—the list goes on.

In a landmark study published in 2009, Johan Rockström and his colleagues at the Stockholm Resilience Centre showed that the economy is placing an excessive burden on the biosphere. In reaching their conclusion, the researchers analyzed nine planetary processes that profoundly influence life on earth:

1. Climate change

2. Biodiversity loss

3. Nitrogen and phosphorus cycles

4. Stratospheric ozone depletion

5. Ocean acidification

6. Global freshwater use

7. Changes in land use

8. Atmospheric aerosol loading

9. Chemical pollution

Where sufficient data allowed, the authors of the study determined how far humanity could go in altering these processes and still avoid dangerous levels of disruption. They were able to define “safe operating boundaries” for the first seven processes in the list above. A safe operating boundary is a sort of safety threshold—stay below it, and humanity incurs a low risk of abrupt and hazardous environmental change; go beyond it, and humanity faces a high risk. For three of the planetary processes (climate change, biodiversity loss, and the nitrogen cycle), humanity is now exceeding the planet’s safe operating boundary, and by a large margin in some cases. The potential consequences are severe: the authors warn that transgressing one or more of the planetary boundaries could lead to catastrophic changes at the continental to planetary scale.

Figure 2.3. Humanity is exceeding the safe operating boundary for three planetary processes: climate change, biodiversity loss, and the nitrogen cycle. Biodiversity loss is so far beyond the safe operating boundary that there's not enough space to draw it on this chart.  Note that the safe operating boundary is measured differently for each planetary process.

Other analyses, such as those conducted by the Global Footprint Network, corroborate the Rockström study. The ecological footprint is a measure of how much biologically productive land and water area a population requires to produce the resources it consumes and absorb the wastes it generates. According to the latest data, humanity uses 50 percent more resources than the earth can regenerate over the course of the year. This situation is called “ecological overshoot,” and it’s akin to living in debt. We can only continue to consume at our current rate by liquidating the planet’s natural resources or overwhelming its waste absorption capacities. For example, we can cut forests faster than they can grow back and emit carbon dioxide faster than it can be absorbed by oceans and forests. Although we can behave in this way for a short time, ecological overshoot ultimately depletes the resources on which our economies and societies depend.

Indicators like the ecological footprint and scientific analyses like the planetary boundaries study suggest that the global economy has become too large for the encompassing biosphere. So long as this situation continues, we are risking environmental catastrophe. Even if we manage to avoid environmental collapse, the steady depletion of resources threatens to reduce the long-term carrying capacity of the planet, and with it the capability of future generations to flourish.

This unsettling state of affairs is causing some well-known advocates of economic growth to question their long-held views. Robert Solow, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1987 for his theories on economic growth, has said, “It is possible that the United States and Europe will find that, as the decades go by, either continued growth will be too destructive to the environment and they are too dependent on scarce natural resources, or that they would rather use increasing productivity in the form of leisure.” Economic journalist Thomas Friedman questions growth further. He asks, “What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall—when Mother Nature and the market both said: ‘No more.’”


Excerpted with permission from Berrett-Koehler Publishers fromEnough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resourcesby Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill © Robert Dietz and Daniel O’Neill 2013

Rob Dietz is the editor of the Daly News and the author (with Dan O'Neill) of Enough Is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources.  Rob is a devoted advocate for revamping the economy to fit within biophysical limits. He lives with his wife and daughter at CoHo Ecovillage in Corvallis, Oregon, where he tries his best to shut down the computer every once in a while and enjoy the great outdoors (despite the uncooperative weather).

Dan O'Neill is a lecturer in ecological economics at the University of Leeds, and the chief economist at the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. 

  Read How Our Growth-Hungry Economy Has Devastated the Planet -- And How We Can Change Course
  January 20, 2013  
The Myth of Human Progress
by Chris Hedges, Truthdig, AlterNet

Clive Hamilton in his “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change” describes a dark relief that comes from accepting that “catastrophic climate change is virtually certain.” This obliteration of “false hopes,” he says, requires an intellectual knowledge and an emotional knowledge. The first is attainable. The second, because it means that those we love, including our children, are almost certainly doomed to insecurity, misery and suffering within a few decades, if not a few years, is much harder to acquire. To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth—intellectually and emotionally—and continue to resist the forces that are destroying us.

The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the Earth—as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up. The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury—as well as unrivaled military and economic power—for the industrial elites are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence. But even as our economic and environmental systems unravel, after the hottest year in the contiguous 48 states since record keeping began 107 years ago, we lack the emotional and intellectual creativity to shut down the engine of global capitalism. We have bound ourselves to a doomsday machine that grinds forward, as the draft report of the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee illustrates.

Complex civilizations have a bad habit of destroying themselves. Anthropologists including Joseph Tainter in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” Charles L. Redman in “Human Impact on Ancient Environments” and Ronald Wright in “A Short History of Progress” have laid out the familiar patterns that lead to systems breakdown. The difference this time is that when we go down the whole planet will go with us. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands left to exploit, no new civilizations to conquer, no new peoples to subjugate. The long struggle between the human species and the Earth will conclude with the remnants of the human species learning a painful lesson about unrestrained greed and self-worship.

“There is a pattern in the past of civilization after civilization wearing out its welcome from nature, overexploiting its environment, overexpanding, overpopulating,” Wright said when I reached him by phone at his home in British Columbia, Canada. “They tend to collapse quite soon after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity. That pattern holds good for a lot of societies, among them the Romans, the ancient Maya and the Sumerians of what is now southern Iraq. There are many other examples, including smaller-scale societies such as Easter Island. The very things that cause societies to prosper in the short run, especially new ways to exploit the environment such as the invention of irrigation, lead to disaster in the long run because of unforeseen complications. This is what I called in ‘A Short History of Progress’ the ‘progress trap.’ We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion that we do not know how to make do with less or move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature. We have failed to control human numbers. They have tripled in my lifetime. And the problem is made much worse by the widening gap between rich and poor, the upward concentration of wealth, which ensures there can never be enough to go around. The number of people in dire poverty today—about 2 billion—is greater than the world’s entire population in the early 1900s. That’s not progress.”

“If we continue to refuse to deal with things in an orderly and rational way, we will head into some sort of major catastrophe, sooner or later,” he said. “If we are lucky it will be big enough to wake us up worldwide but not big enough to wipe us out. That is the best we can hope for. We must transcend our evolutionary history. We’re Ice Age hunters with a shave and a suit. We are not good long-term thinkers. We would much rather gorge ourselves on dead mammoths by driving a herd over a cliff than figure out how to conserve the herd so it can feed us and our children forever. That is the transition our civilization has to make. And we’re not doing that.”

Wright, who in his dystopian novel “A Scientific Romance” paints a picture of a future world devastated by human stupidity, cites “entrenched political and economic interests” and a failure of the human imagination as the two biggest impediments to radical change. And all of us who use fossil fuels, who sustain ourselves through the formal economy, he says, are at fault.

Modern capitalist societies, Wright argues in his book “What Is America?: A Short History of the New World Order,” derive from European invaders’ plundering of the indigenous cultures in the Americas from the 16th to the 19th centuries, coupled with the use of African slaves as a workforce to replace the natives. The numbers of those natives fell by more than 90 percent because of smallpox and other plagues they hadn’t had before. The Spaniards did not conquer any of the major societies until smallpox had crippled them; in fact the Aztecs beat them the first time around. If Europe had not been able to seize the gold of the Aztec and Inca civilizations, if it had not been able to occupy the land and adopt highly productive New World crops for use on European farms, the growth of industrial society in Europe would have been much slower. Karl Marx and Adam Smith both pointed to the influx of wealth from the Americas as having made possible the Industrial Revolution and the start of modern capitalism. It was the rape of the Americas, Wright points out, that triggered the orgy of European expansion. The Industrial Revolution also equipped the Europeans with technologically advanced weapons systems, making further subjugation, plundering and expansion possible.

“The experience of a relatively easy 500 years of expansion and colonization, the constant taking over of new lands, led to the modern capitalist myth that you can expand forever,” Wright said. “It is an absurd myth. We live on this planet. We can’t leave it and go somewhere else. We have to bring our economies and demands on nature within natural limits, but we have had a 500-year run where Europeans, Euro-Americans and other colonists have overrun the world and taken it over. This 500-year run made it not only seem easy but normal. We believe things will always get bigger and better. We have to understand that this long period of expansion and prosperity was an anomaly. It has rarely happened in history and will never happen again. We have to readjust our entire civilization to live in a finite world. But we are not doing it, because we are carrying far too much baggage, too many mythical versions of deliberately distorted history and a deeply ingrained feeling that what being modern is all about is having more. This is what anthropologists call an ideological pathology, a self-destructive belief that causes societies to crash and burn. These societies go on doing things that are really stupid because they can’t change their way of thinking. And that is where we are.”

And as the collapse becomes palpable, if human history is any guide, we like past societies in distress will retreat into what anthropologists call “crisis cults.” The powerlessness we will feel in the face of ecological and economic chaos will unleash further collective delusions, such as fundamentalist belief in a god or gods who will come back to earth and save us.

“Societies in collapse often fall prey to the belief that if certain rituals are performed all the bad stuff will go away,” Wright said. “There are many examples of that throughout history. In the past these crisis cults took hold among people who had been colonized, attacked and slaughtered by outsiders, who had lost control of their lives. They see in these rituals the ability to bring back the past world, which they look at as a kind of paradise. They seek to return to the way things were. Crisis cults spread rapidly among Native American societies in the 19th century, when the buffalo and the Indians were being slaughtered by repeating rifles and finally machine guns. People came to believe, as happened in the Ghost Dance, that if they did the right things the modern world that was intolerable—the barbed wire, the railways, the white man, the machine gun—would disappear.”

“We all have the same, basic psychological hard wiring,” Wright said. “It makes us quite bad at long-range planning and leads us to cling to irrational delusions when faced with a serious threat. Look at the extreme right’s belief that if government got out of the way, the lost paradise of the 1950s would return. Look at the way we are letting oil and gas exploration rip when we know that expanding the carbon economy is suicidal for our children and grandchildren. The results can already be felt. When it gets to the point where large parts of the Earth experience crop failure at the same time then we will have mass starvation and a breakdown in order. That is what lies ahead if we do not deal with climate change.”

“If we fail in this great experiment, this experiment of apes becoming intelligent enough to take charge of their own destiny, nature will shrug and say it was fun for a while to let the apes run the laboratory, but in the end it was a bad idea,” Wright said.

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, is a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He writes a regular column for TruthDig every Monday. His latest book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
  Read The Myth of Human Progress
  July 30, 2013  
Obama Expresses Reservations About Keystone XL Pipeline
by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, AlterNet

Barack Obama has given the strongest indication to date that he holds reservations about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying the project would not create many jobs and could raise gasoline prices.

In an interview with the New York Times, the president disputed a main justification for the pipeline – its economic benefits – and reaffirmed he would reject the project if it expanded carbon pollution.

The comments were seen by campaigners as evidence that Obama, in the wake of last month's  landmark climate change speech, was leaning towards rejecting the project.

Obama has been under growing pressure from campaigners, party donors, and Democrats in Congress to reject the pipeline, which would expand production from  Canada's tar sands.

He adopted some of their arguments in his comments on Saturday, knocking down pipeline supporters' claims of a big jobs boost, saying Keystone would register little more than a "blip" on the employment rolls.

"Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that that's true," Obama said in the interview.

"The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline – which might take a year or two – and then after that we're talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in a economy of 150 million working people."

The president – without prompting by the reporter – then noted that the project would not bring down gas prices, and might even raise them.

However, Obama said – as he did in his  climate change address last month – that his decision on the pipeline would be based on the pipeline's effects on climate change.

"I'm going to evaluate this based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere. And there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release."

It was the second time in just over a month that Obama has cited the environmental effects of the pipeline, following his mention of the project in his sweeping climate change address.

But the president once again was not explicit about whether he thought the pipeline would accelerate climate change.

Tar sands crude is far more carbon intensive than conventional oil, and campaigners have cast the pipeline as a test of Obama's environmental commitment.

The State Department ruled last March that the pipeline would not increase greenhouse gas emissions – essentially arguing the tar sands would be mined anyway.

But the Environmental Protection Agency in a strongly worded letter called for a more detailed study one month later.

The administration is expected to make its decision towards the end of the year.

  Read Obama Expresses Reservations About Keystone XL Pipeline
 July 31, 2013  
Nation on Fire: Climate Change and the Burning of America
by Tom Kenworthy, Think Progress, AlterNet

Dan Oltrogge started fighting wildfires in 1984. By the time he retired from the National Park Service in 2011, he had served as the head of fire and aviation at Grand Canyon National Park, as the commander of one of the nation’s 20 Type One incident management teams that respond to the largest fires, and as one of just four area commanders in the federal incident management system.

Starting around 2000, Oltrogge began experiencing fires of a scale and intensity he never expected to encounter. Fires like the Rodeo-Chediski in Arizona in 2002 — at 467,000 acres, the largest in the state’s history — and 9 years later the Wallow, which surpassed the Rodeo-Chediski and set a new state record of 538,000 acres.

“We never imagined we would be on a fire of a half million acres in the lower 48,” said Oltrogge. “Now they’re becoming commonplace.”

Huge, explosive fires are becoming commonplace, say many experts, because climate change is setting the stage — bringing higher temperatures, widespread drought, earlier snowmelt and spring vegetation growth, and expanded insect and disease infestations.

Scientists and fire experts speaking on a recent conference call organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists say the nation is moving into an era when massive and destructive wildfires of the kind that occurred only sporadically over the last century will now be a regular occurrence. “Within the next few decades we anticipate these [forest] systems being as dry on a regular basis as the major fire years of the last century,” said Anthony Westerling of the University of California, Merced.

“We are now completely certain that there is a climate signal in the observed fire activity,” added Dave Cleaves, climate adviser to the head of the U.S. Forest Service. “Fire, insects, disease and moisture stress are all being linked more closely by climate change.”

Wildfire statistics compiled by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, offer sobering confirmation. The seven largest fire years since 1960 have all occurred since 2000. In 2006, 2007, and last year, the toll exceeded 9 million acres, an area roughly equivalent to Maryland and Rhode Island combined.

This year’s fire season, while running behind 2012 in terms of acreage lost thus far, is proving particularly destructive and tragic in some places. A year after theWaldo Canyon fire set a new standard for destructiveness in Colorado by burning nearly 350 homes in 2012, this June theBlack Forest Fire destroyed more than 500 just a few miles away. And the June 30 Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona killed 19 members of a Hot Shot firefighting crew when they were overrun by flames, the deadliest wildfire in 80 years.

There is no single reason for the recent transition to more frequent and explosive fires, says Oltrogge. For one, too many people are “deciding to build communities where there will be big scary wildfires.” And there is too much fuel built up in forests where frequent low-intensity fires once thinned out underbrush but where decades of man suppressing natural fires has resulted in overcrowded stands of trees now vulnerable to catastrophic fires. Plus, emphasizes Oltrogge, “I can tell you as a matter of fact that climate change is a key contributor to what we’ve been dealing with the last 10 to 12 years.”

That’s hardly an outlier opinion. In congressional testimony two years ago, Thomas Tidwell, the head of the U.S. Forest Service, told lawmakers that his agency faces conditions of higher temperatures, earlier mountain snowmelt, and much longer fire seasons, which “our scientists believe … is due to a change in climate.”

Tidwell again delivered that message yet again to Congress last month. Large fires in excess of 10,000 acres are seven times more common today than four decades ago, Tidwell said. The fire season is two months longer. In 2012, he said, “over 9.3 million acres burned in the United States. The fires of 2012 were massive in size, with 51 fires exceeding 40,000 acres. Of these large fires, 14 exceeded 100,000 acres.”

And that comes with a huge price tag.

The cost of federal firefighting efforts, borne largely by the Forest Service and the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, has also risen dramatically. At the Forest Service, firefighting now often eats up 40 percent of the agency’s annual budget. In a little more than a decade, fire staffing at the Forest Service has more than doubled. During the decade of the 1990s, federal firefighting costs averaged less than $1 billion a year; since 2002, the annual cost has averaged more than $3 billion.

There is little prospect of those costs declining. In fact, a report released last month by Headwaters Economics concluded, “These changes will all contribute to escalating wildfire protection costs for all levels of government.”

Federal efforts to reduce fire risks — through thinning of small trees and underbrush and by setting what are known as ‘prescribed fires’ to cut down on those small fuels that can lead to large catastrophic fires — were accelerated around the year 2000, when spending on what is known as the hazardous fuels reduction program run by the Forest Service and Department of Interior tripled. But spending on fuels reduction since 2011 has declined, and in its budget request this year, the Obama administration has sought a cut of more than 30 percent, the third year in a row it has proposed substantial reductions to Congress. The administration’s request for hazardous fuels reduction for next year is just $297 million.

Wildfire preparedness has taken another hit as a result of automatic budget cuts under sequestration, which cut spending from $500 million last year to $419 million this year. A report released this spring by House Appropriation Committee Democrats found that sequestration would mean the Forest Service would have 500 fewer firefighters this season, and 50-70 fewer fire engines and two fewer aircraft.

Increasingly, lawmakers are calling on the Forest Service and Interior Department to spend more on preventive measures in order to eventually reduce firefighting costs. “You can spend more modest amounts on the front end, with preventive kinds of efforts, or you can spend your time investing substantially more money trying to play catch-up as these infernos rip their way through the West,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) last month.

Even with stronger financial support, the job of treating forests to reduce wildfire is enormous. The federal government is currently treating about 3 million acres a year, but Tidwell, the chief of the Forest Service, told Congress in June that between 65 and 82 million acres of Forest Service lands “are in need of fuels and forest health treatments — up to 42 percent of the entire system.”

Across all federal land holdings, 231 million acres are at moderate to high risk of damage from wildfires, according to a 2011 Congressional Research Service report. “Since many ecosystems need to be treated on a 10-35 year cycle … current treatment rates are insufficient to address the problem,” the report found.

Attacking the escalating expense of fighting fires is a difficult problem.

This is due in large part to the fact that the federal government, which shoulders most of the firefighting expense, has little power to control Americans’ urge to move into the woods because land use decisions are a local and state responsibility.

A key reason that wildfires have become more destructive, and fighting them more expensive, is that millions of Americans have made a conscious decision to move close to wildlands that are susceptible to fire — known by the infelicitous phrase the wildland-urban interface, or WUI.

“The number of housing units within half a mile of a national forest grew from 484,000 in 1940 to 1.8 million in 2000,” Tidwell testified to Congress last month. Another 1.2 million live within national forest boundaries, a nearly four-fold increase from 1940. Even with all that development near and in the forest, only about one-sixth of the WUI is developed, leaving plenty of room to make the situation worse.

Protecting those structures during fires has become the de facto number two priority of federal firefighting efforts, after protecting human life. According to Headwaters Economics’ recent report, “in a survey of [Forest Service] land managers, some estimated that 50 to 95 percent of firefighting costs were attributable to protection of private property.”

Further complicating the matter is the fact that knowing that federal firefighters will make valiant efforts to save homes “removes incentives for landowners moving into the WUI to take responsibility for their own protection and ensure their homes are constructed and landscaped in ways that reduce wildfire risks” according to a report by the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General.

Ray Rasker, executive director of Headwaters Economics, said in an interview that a huge part of the problem is the fact that “there is no cost accountability for those who build in the WUI,” whether its individual homeowners or the local government bodies who make the development decisions about sewers, police coverage, roads and other issues.

“There are a lot of questions they ask about okaying a new development,” says Rasker. “But they don’t ask, ‘when we get a bill from the feds are we going to be able to afford our share of the firefighting costs?’” That’s because in most cases, they don’t have to share those fire costs. If they did, said Rasker, it would be much easier for local government to say no to development in the WUI.

“Eighty four percent of this land is still not developed,” Rasker says. “If you think it’s expensive now, you’re in for a big surprise. Fires are twice as big, they are burning twice as long. That’s the cost trajectory we are on.”

Climate change is altering the fundamentals in the West, bringing higher temperatures, earlier snowmelt that extends the fire season, severe and prolonged drought, and insect infestations that kill millions of acres of trees. Combined with scant evidence that policymakers at all levels of government are attacking the problems of fuels and population shifts into the WUI, there seems to be little prospect that the growing extent of wildfires will be stemmed.

paper released last December by the Forest Service, part of the government’s National Climate Assessment, looked at the effects of climate change on U.S. forest ecosystems. On the subject of fire, it presented a stark and sobering conclusion: by mid-century, wildland fires will be burning twice as much acreage as they do now.

  Read Nation on Fire: Climate Change and the Burning of America
  August 1, 2013  
The Climate Time Bomb That Will Cost Us $60 Trillion
by Subhankar Banerjee, AlterNet

On July 25 the journal Nature  published an article about the “Economic time bomb” that is slowly being detonated by Arctic warming. Gail Whiteman of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, and Chris Hope and Peter Wadhams of the University of Cambridge suggest—based on economic modeling that the “release of methane from thawing permafrost beneath the East Siberian Sea” would come with an “average global price tag of $60 trillion.” The news should have sent a shock wave through the media. But instead, predictably, the public were encouraged to celebrate—again and again, and again—the birth of the royal son.

My first encounter with methane release in the Arctic was in early August 2006. It was a grey, cold day along the Beaufort Sea coast in Alaska. Iñupiaq conservationist Robert Thompson and I were walking along the northwest corner of Barter Island when we came across a rather ghastly scene: an exposed coffin with human bones scattered around it. The permafrost (frozen soil) had melted away and exposed the coffin. Robert speculated that a grizzly bear broke open the coffin and scattered the human remains. What we didn’t see, however, is the methane that was released from thawing of the permafrost.

Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that causes global warming and is more than twenty times more potent than CO2. Large amount of methane is stored in the Arctic—both terrestrial and subsea. It is released in two ways: when permafrost on land thaws from warming, the soil decomposes and gradually releases methane. In the seabed, methane is stored as a methane gas or hydrate, and is released when the subsea permafrost thaws from warming. The methane release from the seabed can be larger and more abrupt than through decomposition of the terrestrial permafrost.

In 2007, the extent of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean hit a record low—30 percent below average. This event spurred a study by scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSID) in Boulder, Colorado. The team used climate models to understand if the “unusually low sea–ice extent and warm land temperatures were related.” In 2008 they published results from their study in Geophysical Research Letters. They  found:

“The rate of climate warming over northern Alaska, Canada, and Russia could more than triple during periods of rapid sea ice loss … The findings raise concerns about the thawing of permafrost … and the potential consequences for sensitive ecosystems, human infrastructure, and the release of additional greenhouse gases [CO2 and CH4].”

This was alarming news because Arctic permafrost holds “30 percent or more of all the carbon stored in soils worldwide.” In reality, the Arctic sea ice is continuing to retreat at a rapid pace. The August–September sea ice extent in the Arctic Ocean had set a new record low last year: 18 per cent below the previous record of 2007.

As permafrost thaws, ponds connect with the groundwater system, which lead to drying of streams, lakes and wetlands. Permafrost thawing also accelerates rates of contaminant transfer that have toxic effects on aquatic plants, fish and other animals, and also increases transfer of pollutants to marine areas. This affects not only wildlife, but also indigenous peoples who depend on fish and other animals for subsistence resources.

The NCAR–NSID team found that the terrestrial permafrost was indeed melting in the real world: “Recent warming has degraded large sections of permafrost, with pockets of soil collapsing as the ice within it melts. The results include buckled highways, destabilized houses, and “drunken forests” of trees that lean at wild angles.”

  Read The Climate Time Bomb That Will Cost Us $60 Trillion
  August 1, 2013  
Our Biggest Enviro Threat? 77 ALEC Bills in 2013 Advance a Big Oil, Big Ag Agenda
by Brendan Fischer,, AlterNet

At least 77 bills to oppose renewable energy standards, support fracking and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and otherwise undermine environmental laws were introduced in 34 states in 2013, according to a new analysis from the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of In addition, nine states have been inspired by ALEC's "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act" to crack down on videographers documenting abuses on factory farms. ALEC, Fueled by Fossil Fuel Industry, Pursues Retrograde Energy Agenda

For decades, ALEC has been a favored conduit for some of the worlds largest polluters, like Koch Industries, BP, Shell, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil, and for decades has promoted less environmental regulation and more drilling and fracking. 

ALEC bills in recent years have pulled states out of regional climate initiatives, opposed carbon dioxide emission standards, created hurdles for state agencies attempting to regulate pollution, and tried to stop the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation introduced in 2013 carries on this legacy. ALEC bills favor the fossil fuel barons and promote a retrograde energy agenda that pollutes our air and water and is slowly cooking the planet to what may soon be devastating temperatures.

"Disregarding science at every turn, ALEC is willing to simply serve as a front for the fossil fuel industry," says Bill McKibben, co-founder of "Given the stakes--the earth's climate--that's shabby and sad."

ALEC Tours the Tar Sands

In October of 2012, ALEC organized an "Oil Sands Academy" where nine ALEC member politicians were given an all-expenses-paid trip to Calgary and flown on a tour of the Alberta tarsands while accompanied by oil industry lobbyists. The trip was sponsored by pipeline operator TransCanada and the oil-industry funded American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and email records obtained by CMD show that after the trip, ALEC urged legislators to send "thank you" notes to corporate lobbyists for their generosity.

At least ten states in 2013 have introduced variations on the ALEC "Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipeline," calling on the president and Congress to approve the controversial project. Environmentalists oppose the pipeline because extracting oil from Canadian tar sands would unlock huge amounts of carbon, increasing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Despite being promoted as a "job creator," the pipeline would only create between 50 and 100 permanent positions in an economy of over 150 million working people.

In Nebraska, CMD filed an ethics complaint against state senator Jim Smith, the ALEC State Chair for Nebraska, who never revealed to his constituents that he had gone on the "Oil Sands Academy," and failed to disclose over a thousand dollars of travel expenses paid for by the Government of Alberta, Canada. Sen. Smith has been exceptionally vocal when it comes to his support for the Keystone XL pipeline. For example, he sponsored a 2012 Nebraska law that would -- if it survives a continuing legal challenge -- bypass the U.S. State Department and allow TransCanada to start building the Nebraska part of the pipeline right away, regardless of any future decision by the federal government.

ALEC Partners with Heartland Institute for Rollback of Renewables

Even more extraordinary is ALEC's push this year to repeal Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which require that utility companies provide a certain amount of their total energy from renewable sources like wind.

"ALEC's long time role in denying the science and policy solutions to climate change is shifting into an evolving roadblock on state and federal clean energy incentives, a necessary part of global warming mitigation," says Connor Gibson, a Research Associate at Greenpeace. 

In Germany, where the nation has set a goal of getting 35% of its energy from renewables by 2020,  public committment to clean energy technologies is transforming markets, driving innovation and generating huge numbers of jobs. Even in the U.S., where there has been less public investment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says 3.1 million clean energy jobs have been created in recent years. 

Perhaps because of RPS' job-creating qualities, ALEC's bill to repeal renewable standards, the "Electricity Freedom Act," was too much even for the most conservative legislatures. It failed to pass in every state where it was introduced -- even in North Carolina, where it had the backing of Grover Norquist, and whose Republican-dominated legislature has been rolling multiple ALEC bills into law in 2013

It may be little surprise that ALEC's attack on renewables was spearheaded by one of its looniest members: the bill was brought to ALEC in May 2012 by the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, a group best known forbillboards comparing people who believe in climate change to mass murderers like the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

ALEC is usually very secretive about its model legislation and its efforts in the states, but ALEC did not disguise the fact that it had made the Electricity Freedom Act a priority for the 2013 session. ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Director Todd Wynn published blog posts on the topic and was quoted in the press discussing how ALEC was working with Heartland to promote the repeal bills. 

In many of the states that have proposed versions of the Electricity Freedom Act, the right-wing infrastructure has sprung into action, almost according to a script. The Beacon Hill Institute publishes a study (using discredited analysis) claiming that a state's renewable standards lead to higher energy costs, as it did in states like Maine and Ohio and Wisconsin and Arizona. The David Koch-founded and-led Americans for Prosperity organizes an event to "educate" its members about how renewables are "punishing" consumers, as they did in Nebraska, and perhaps invite a guest from the Heartland Institute to make similar claims, as they did in Kansas.

ALEC, the Heartland Institute, and the Beacon Hill Institute all have received money from foundations associated with Charles and David Koch, and each are also part of the State Policy Network, an umbrella group of right-wing organizations that claim adherence to the free market. SPN has received at least $10 million in the past five years from the mysterious Donors Trust, which funnels money from the Kochs and other conservative funders. SPN was also a "Chairman" level sponsor of ALEC's 2011 Annual Conference and ALEC is an Associate Member of SPN.

But even though the ALEC/Heartland anti-renewable energy fight found little success in 2013, the group is not giving up.

New Avenue Sought to Rollback Renewables 

“I expect that North Carolina and Kansas will probably pick up this issue again in 2014 and lead the charge across the country once again,” Wynn said.

ALEC now appears to be modifying its strategy to find a more palatable way to attack renewable standards.

At its August 2013 meeting, ALEC will consider a watered-down version of the Electricity Freedom Act with a bill called the "Market Power Renewables Act." That legislation would phase-out a state's Renewable Portfolio Standards and instead create a renewable "market" where consumers can choose to pay for renewable energy, and allow utilities to purchase energy credits from outside the state. This thwarts the purpose of RPS policies, which help create the baseline demand for renewables that will spur the clean energy investment necessary to continue developing the technology and infrastructure that will drive costs down.

But, it would satisfy ALEC's goal of preserving reliance on dirty energy from fossil fuels.

ALEC Bills Undermine Environmental Regulations, First Amendment

ALEC energy, environment, and agriculture bills moving in the first six months of 2013 include:

  • The "Electricity Freedom Act," introduced in six states, repealing (or in some states weakening) Renewable Portfolio Standards. The standards have been a key component driving renewable energy growth -- which threatens the profits of ALEC's polluter members. 
  • Variations on the "Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipeline" (introduced in ten states) calling on the federal government to approve the controversial project to transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada across the United States. It is no coincidence that pipeline operator TransCanada is an ALEC member and funder.
  • The misleadingly-named "Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act" (introduced in five states) which would actually make it harder to find out what chemicals are being pumped underground through the fracking process. The bill, which was brought to ALEC by Exxon Mobil, carves out a giant loophole for "trade secrets" -- potentially concealing the information the public might want to know.
  • The "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act" (introduced in five states), seeks to sow doubt in the minds of young people about man's role in the warming planet by requiring that educators "teach the controversy" when it comes to topics like climate change, where the science is beyond dispute.
  • The "Environmental Services Public-Private Partnership Act" (introduced in two states) would give for-profit companies control of vital public health services like treating wastewater and drinking water -- the last place where you want a company to cut corners to increase profits.
  • The "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act" (variations of which were introduced in nine states) have come to be known as "Ag-Gag" bills, as they criminalize investigations into abuses on factory farms and deem videographers "terrorists." 
  • The "Disposal and Taxation of Public Lands Act" (considered in seven states) was modeled after a Utah law from 2012 and is an updated version of the ALEC "Sagebrush Rebellion Act," where Western states assert control over federal lands that are being protected as wilderness preserves, in many cases to allow for resource extraction.
ALEC Corporations Reap the Rewards

The corporations bankrolling ALEC and benefitting from bills advanced by the Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force include:

  • Keystone XL Pipeline Operator TransCanada, a member of the ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force and which sponsored ALEC's Spring Task Force Summit at the "Vice Chairman" level. It was one of the sponsors of the ALEC "Oil Sands Academy" where nine ALEC member legislators were given an all-expenses-paid trip to Calgary and flown around the Alberta tarsands while accompanied by oil industry lobbyists. 
  • Shell Oil, one of the largest fossil fuel conglomerates in the world, operates a tarsands extraction facility and sponsored lunch at the ALEC "Oil Sands Academy." Shell has long been an ALEC member and funder, for example sponsoring ALEC's 2011 Annual Meeting at the "Chairman" level (which in the past has cost $50,000) and hosting plenary sessions. Shell is also a member of the ALEC Civil Justice Task Force, presumably to advance legislation that would protect it from liability in case of oil spills or other disasters.
  • British Petroleum (BP), the United Kingdom's largest corporation and the company responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, has long supported ALEC, including sponsoring ALEC's 2011 meeting in New Orleans -- not far from the site of BP's oil spill -- at the "Presidential" level (which in the past has cost $100,000). 
  • Peabody Energy is the largest producer of coal in the U.S. and boasts that it generates 10% of the country's energy, and also has a lobbyist representative on the ALEC corporate board; it was the 2011 winner of ALEC's "Private Sector Member of the Year" award and has sponsored ALEC meetings and events. In 2007, it spun-off coal mines it owned in West Virginia and Kentucky into an independent company, which then filed for bankruptcy and sought to be released from its pension and retirement operations.
  • Duke Energy is one of the largest electric utility companies in the United States, and has publicly expressed concern about global warming and support for clean energy, but its continued support for ALEC undermines those rhetorical positions. A coalition of environmental groups have been urging Duke to drop ALEC for the past year, so far to no avail.
  • Koch Industries, the privately-held multinational corporation owned by billionaire financiers David and Charles Koch, is involved in an array of industries including petroleum refining, fuel pipelines, coal supply and trading, oil and gas exploration, chemicals and polymers, fertilizer production, and commodity speculation. Koch Industries has long funded ALEC, sponsored its meetings, and had a lobbyist representative on the ALEC Private Enterprise Board. Charitable foundations associated with David and Charles have also been ALEC funders, with the Charles G. Koch Foundation giving ALEC a half-million-dollar loan in 1996.
Average Americans Pay the Price

The ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force has not only promoted anti-environmental bills, but also legislation to help industrial farms escape public accountability -- which would prevent a 21st Century Upton Sinclair from going undercover and creating a documentary work like The Jungle, which led to a new wave of food safety regulations in the early 1900s.

ALEC's "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act" was the ideological ancestor for "ag-gag" laws, introduced in nine states in 2013 to quash the First Amendment rights of reporters, investigators and videographers by making it harder for them to document issues with food safety and animal cruelty. The bills take many forms, but generally make it a crime to shoot video of a farm or slaughterhouse, or to apply for employment at these facilities under "false pretenses."

Modern-day Upton Sinclairs have been using similar techniques as The Jungle's author to document food safety issues -- Sinclair got a job at a Chicago slaughterhouse under false pretenses so he could write his book -- but are using 21st Century tools. 

In 2007, for example, an undercover video investigation by the Humane Society showed sick “downer” cows -- which are banned from human consumption because they were implicated in the spread of mad cow disease -- being pushed towards slaughter with forklifts and cattle prods, leading to the largest meat recall in U.S. history.

The ALEC-influenced "ag-gag" bills seek to criminalize this type of investigation. 

In March of this year, ALEC spokesman Bill Meierling defended the laws, telling the Associated Press, "at the end of the day it's about personal property rights or the individual right to privacy."

Utah passed an ag-gag law in 2012, which led to charges against a young woman named Amy Meyer, who did nothing else besides film the outside of a slaughterhouse from public land. Meyer regularly passed the slaughterhouse on her way to volunteer at an animal sanctuary, and began filming when she witnessed what appeared to be animal cruelty with possible public health repurcussions: a sick (but still living) cow being carried away from the building on a tractor. The slaughterhouse owner asserted that she had trespassed, despite there being no damage to the barbed wire fence surrounding his property.

"This was the first time anyone has been charged under the ag-gag law," Meyer told CMD. "But as long as these ag-gag laws are around, this won't be the last prosecution, unfortunately."

Less than 24 hours after journalist Will Potter publicized her story -- but months after she was first charged -- the prosecution dropped its case against Meyer.

"The only purpose [of ag-gag laws] is to punish investigators who expose animal cruelty and journalists who report on the ag industry," she said. "These laws are intended to keep consumers in dark and shield factory farms from scrutiny."

As written, the ALEC model bill could also criminalize environmental civil disobedience, such as when activists "obstruct" the business operations of a logging or mining facility through tree-sits or road blockades. A bill reflecting these provisions was introduced in Oregon this year to outlaw most civil disobedience against logging operations.

Polluters Stand With ALEC

Over the past year-and-a-half, at least 49 global corporations have dropped their ALEC membership -- including companies like Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, and Amazon -- but oil and energy companies have stood by ALEC.

"Despite its terrible reputation, ALEC is still valued by polluting companies like ExxonMobil, Duke Energy and Koch Industries, which finance and help craft ALEC's state policies to smother competition from clean energy industries and offer handouts to fossil fuel companies at every turn," says Greenpeace's Gibson.

"ALEC's guise of 'free market environmentalism' is just a code word for its real mission in our states' legislatures: to allow dirty energy companies to pollute as much as they want, to attack incentives for clean energy competitors and to secure government handouts to oil, gas and coal interests," Gibson says. "That's not a free market."

View the full list of 2013 bills from the ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force bils here.

  Brendan Fischer is a law fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy, publisher of PR Watch.
  Read Our Biggest Enviro Threat? 77 ALEC Bills in 2013 Advance a Big Oil, Big Ag Agenda
  July 26, 2013  
Fossil Fuels’ Deadly Summer and the Growing Resistance
by Tara Lohan, AlterNet

In the dark, early morning hours of July 7, John and Diane Pitcock heard an explosion that shook the windows of their home in rural Doddridge County, West Virginia. Peering outside, they could see multiple fires burning on the ridgetop above their house where their neighbor had leased his land for gas drilling in the Marcellus shale.  

They later learned that five workers from the site, run by Antero Resources, were flown to a burn unit in Pittsburgh. Two of the workers died from their injuries, 45-year-old Tommy Paxton and 37-year-old Jason Mearns.

The same week as Paxton’s death, Antero and Frontier Drilling settled a $12 million lawsuit with a worker who snapped his spinal cord on the job, completing a task he says was unsafe. The West Virginia Gazette reported:

During a deposition, Jason Ware, a safety coordinator with Antero, according to transcripts, said that in the 36 months he had worked at the rig, 25 to 30 work-related accidents occurred that resulted in broken bones or surgeries, not counting stitches.

What else happened the same week? Jose Landeros, 50, was killed in Texas when the wastewater truck he drove for the oil and gas industry exploded as he was working on it.

Meanwhile down in the Gulf, in a scene eerily reminiscent of the deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster, a gas-drilling rig caught fire after a blowout and 44 workers were evacuated.

In Canada, a nine-week oil spill at a tar sands facility in Alberta is ongoing. Nine weeks and they’ve been unable to stop the black goo escaping from the earth.

In Lac-Megantic, Quebec, 50 people are dead and the town is destroyed, after an oil-laden train derailed earlier this month.

And the list goes on.

This much we know: The fossil fuels that power our economy take their toll, on workers, on the environment, and on those who live near areas of extraction, transportation, processing, and burning—which, these days, is a whole lot of people.

We have all the science we need to know that the effects will be long-term. We’re locking ourselves into a future of climate changes that are shaping up to be catastrophic. Already we’re seeing increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather, including heat waves, floods, drought, and hurricanes.

Between 1999 and 2009, more than 7,000 people died from heat-related deaths. During last year’s superstorm Sandy, 39 people drowned, half of them in their own homes. The West, through a combination of factors, including climate change, is plagued by deadly wildfires. The deaths of 19 elite firefighters is the latest in the tragic toll.

What are we doing?

For much of the country it’s business as usual. But not for everyone. Dozens of grassroots groups have organized under the banner of Fearless Summer and’s Summer Heat, to stage protests in their communities calling for a national movement against extreme energy, like fracking, tar sands mining and mountaintop removal mining. Events are taking place all summer long and are already spilling over into the fall’s Powershift in Pittsburgh, October 18-21 and the Global Frackdown on October 19. In August there are events from Maine to Alaska.

Around the U.S. and around the world, people are stepping up to take direct action to halt the expansion of fossil fuel development. On Wednesday in Sussex, UK 250 activists peacefully blockaded the first day of exploratory operations for a shale gas facility. Two days later in Washington DC, more than 50 activists risked arrest by occupying the office building of Environmental Resources Management, a consultant hired by the State Department to determine the impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline. ERM has been accused of conflict of interest and corruption in the project.

“Civil disobedience can open up a space in our culture to have a conservation we can’t otherwise have,” said Sandra Steingraber in a recent AlterNet interview. Steingraber, a biologist and author, was arrested this spring in an act of civil disobedience on Seneca Lake, in upstate New York near her home. She’s been active in raising awareness about the health risks of fracking and drilling operations and its related infrastructure.

“Is this really the way forward—are we going after the bottom of the barrel of hydrocarbons and willing to put at risk our children, our air, our water?” Steingraber asked. “Or are we going to draw a line in the sand here and say, enough, and demand renewables? This is the point where we’re not going to take the risks anymore.”

Tara Lohan, a senior editor at AlterNet, has just launched the new project Hitting Home, chronicling extreme energy extraction. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis, including most recently, Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. Follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

  Read Fossil Fuels’ Deadly Summer and the Growing Resistance
  August 13, 2013  
Sprawl Is Good? How Suburban Developments Can Use Solar to Transform Our Energy Future
by Paul Brown, AlterNet

LONDON -- Modern planners are building compact cities, believing tightly controlled zones are better for the environment. New research suggests the opposite: urban sprawl might be a better option, with solar power fitted to suburban houses and the adoption of electric cars transforming the energy needs of a city.

Research in Auckland, New Zealand – the largest urban area in the country and a city built for the age of the motor car - shows that solar panels fitted to the average suburban home can produce enough power for that household, extra to charge an electric vehicle, and still generate enough watts to export a surplus to the grid.

Adopting a citywide approach to fitting solar panels and providing charging points for cars would enable suburban homes to provide most of the power for the city centre as well as keeping the transport running, according to Professor Hugh Byrd, from the School of Architecture at the University of Lincoln in England.

In collaboration with the New Zealand Energy Centre and the University of Auckland, Byrd and his colleagues found that detached suburban houses typical of a motor car age city are capable of producing ten times more solar power than is possible from skyscrapers or other commercial buildings. The calculations are based on a detailed cross section of Auckland, which has skyscrapers in its business centre but has most of its homes spread out over the surrounding countryside in an urban sprawl.

Transform planning

Although every city is different, the pattern of building in Auckland is repeated in many cities around the globe. Byrd’s idea is that if planners insist solar panels be fitted to properties and charging points be provided for electric cars, then cities judged to be damaging to the environment could be transformed.

“While a compact city may be more efficient for internal combustion engine vehicles, a dispersed city is more efficient when distributed generation of electricity by photovoltaic installations is the main energy source and electric vehicles are the principal mode of transport” says Byrd.

“This research could have implications on the policies of both urban form and energy. Far from reacting by looking to re-build our cities, we need to embrace the dispersed suburban areas and smart new technologies that will enable us to power our cities in a cost-effective way, without relying on ever dwindling supplies of fossil fuels.

Sprawl is good

“This study challenges conventional thinking that suburbia is energy-inefficient, a belief that has become enshrined in architectural policy. In fact, our results reverse the argument for a compact city based on transport energy use, and completely change the current perception of urban sprawl.”

Byrd concedes that the only way his ideas will work is if planning policy made fitting solar panels obligatory. Planning would also need to require the installation of photovoltaic roofing, smart meters and appropriate charging facilities for vehicles as standard in every household.

The advantages would be a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions, long term energy security, and a reduction in city pollution. 

Paul Brown was the environment correspondent for The Guardian newspaper for 16 years and has worked in newspaper journalism for more than 40 years. He has written extensively about climate change, population, biodiversity, pollution, energy, desertification, and ocean management. Brown has appeared in and written television documentaries on environmental issues, contributed to books on green politics, and is the author of several books on the environment.
  Read Sprawl Is Good? How Suburban Developments Can Use Solar to Transform Our Energy Future
  August 15, 2013  
Extreme Heat Waves to Quadruple by 2040, According to New Study
by Rod Bastanmehr , AlterNet

According to a new study designed to both inform and ruin your day a little bit, severe heat waves—the kind that make it impossible to grow crops or have, like, forests—are expected to become increasingly and horrifically frequent over the course of the next 30 years (and here's the worst part, so sit down if you haven't already died of heat stroke): this will happen  regardless of whether humans curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Much of the effects that we'll be seeing come from steady momentum started by the constant carbon dioxide emissions of the 21st century, but decreasing emissions for the second half is, according to the study, imperative—even though we may not see the impact of such reductions for another several decades. 

Additionally, the frequency with which we've begun seen heat waves has strongly increased since about the 1950s, and "right now they cover about 5% of the global land area," said Dim Coumou, a climate scientist for the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany (or PICID, for those tallying up some of the world's most heinous sounding acronyms). As of now, if levels of carbon dioxide continue to increase in the atmosphere as they are today, researchers believe that heat extremes might cover 85% of the Earth's land by 2100. And worse (worse!) five-stigma event, an even hotter and currently nonexistent heat wave—would affect 60% of the globe's land area.

In the meantime, scientists have began explaining the kind of changes we will be seeing to the culture at large, including the need to breed crops that are more resilient to heat and drought, or preparing the healthcare system for the wave of heat-stressed patients that will surely be cropping up (also, phrases like "cropping up" will surely become obselete once it is revealed that we are no lonsger  able to grow crops).

"We know that such events can have strong impacts on society as well as ecosystems, " Coumou said. "Our study shows that in the near-term such events will become more regular, but it doesn't mean that we cannot adapt." And while Coumou's insistence that we can adapt to substantial climate changes pretty much entirely undoes the sense of urgency that flows through the study's insistence that we need to change our ways at the risk of destroying this floating rock for good, it's good to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel should human beings continue their love of not changing anything other than cell phone carriers.  

  Read Extreme Heat Waves to Quadruple by 2040, According to New Study
 August 2, 2013  
Does Climate Change Contribute to Human Violence?
by Kristen Gwynne, AlterNet

Newly published research released Thursday by the University of California-Berkeley and Princeton University suggests climate change may be related to violence. Scientists who analyzed 60 previous studies from regions across the world found "similar patterns of conflict around the world that were linked to changes in climatic, such as increased drought or higher than average annual temperature."

"Examples include spikes in domestic violence in India and Australia; increased assaults and murders in the United States and Tanzania; ethnic violence in Europe and South Asia; land invasions in Brazil; police using force in the Netherlands; civil conflicts throughout the tropics; and even the collapse of Mayan and Chinese empires," the UC Berkeley news center said.

Heat was a particularly influential factor: Every 27 modern society studied showed a positive correlation between higher temperatures and violence. 

While climate may be one of several contributors to violence,  “Our results shed new light on how the future climate will shape human societies," coauthor Edward Miguel of UC Berkeley said. If climate change continues unheeded, we could be in more for more than just severe weather. 

Read more about the findings
  Read Does Climate Change Contribute to Human Violence?


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