2018/10/15: Previous studies have looked at climate change’s impact on mood and on suicide. However, there hasn’t been much research between those extremes, says Nick Obradovich, the lead author on the study and a researcher at MIT’s Media Lab. To capture that middle ground, Obradovich and his team used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s collected responses to the question: “Now thinking about your mental health, which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, for how many days during the past 30 days was your mental health not good?”
They found that when the average monthly temperature in already hot places got even hotter — shifting from 77-86 degrees F to above that range — there was a 0.5 percent increase in self-reported mental health issues. It sounds small, but if extrapolated across the current U.S. population over a 30-day period, that increase would lead to almost 2 million additional individuals reporting mental health difficulties.
The systems we have in place aren’t equipped to handle this influx of mental health issues, says psychiatrist Elizabeth Haase, another member of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance. She says it may require rethinking and restructuring our mental health care system, with an emphasis on community-based and value-based health care, where medical professionals are paid based on outcome.
2018/10/15: extreme weather would reduce barley yield by between 3% and 17%. Some countries fared better than others: tropical areas such as Central and South America were hit badly, but crop yields actually increased in certain temperate areas, including northern China and the United States. Some areas of those countries saw yield increases of up to 90% — but this was not enough to offset the global decrease.
Finally, Guan and his colleagues fed these changes in barley yield into an existing economic model that can account for changes in supply and demand in the global market. This enabled them to look at how reduced barley production would affect pricing and consumption of beer in countries, as well as trade between nations.
In the worst-case scenario, the reduced barley supply worldwide would result in a 16% decrease in global beer consumption in the years of extreme-weather events. Prices would, on average, double...
One goal of the research, Guan says, was to make tangible how "climate change will impact people’s lifestyle... (If people) want to drink beer when we watch football, then we have to do something."
2018/10/10: it’s not that the news about climate has changed, but that the scientific community is finally discarding caution in describing the implications of its own finding.
They have also, thankfully, offered a practical suggestion, proposing the imposition of a carbon tax many, many times higher than those currently in use or being considered — they propose a tax of up to $5,000 per ton of carbon dioxide by 2030, growing to $27,000 per ton by 2100. Today, the average price of carbon across 42 major economies is just $8 per ton. The new Nobel laureate in economics, William Nordhaus, made his name by almost inventing the economic study of climate change, and his preferred carbon tax is $40 per ton — which would probably land us at about 3.5 degrees of warming. He considers that grotesque level “optimal.”
But a carbon tax is only a spark to action, not action itself. And the action needed is at a scale and a speed almost unimaginable to most of us. The IPCC report called it unprecedented. Other activists often see one precedent, in all of human history, citing the model of how the United States prepared for World War II, and calling for a global mobilization of that kind — all of the world’s rivalrous societies and nationalistic governments and self-interested industries organized around the common pursuit of a stable and comfortable climate as though warming was an existential threat.
It is. And the World War II mobilization metaphor is not hyperbole.
A few weeks ago, as the IPCC report loomed, I had lunch with a prominent climate scientist who’d been involved in earlier reports and has done considerable work on local preparedness as well. I asked if he thought New York would eventually build a sea wall or surge barrier to protect the city from sea-level rise and flooding. Yes, he said, Manhattan will be protected, at any cost. But major infrastructure projects like these take decades — typically about 30 years. Even if we began building today, he said, the barrier would not be finished in time to save Howard Beach and other parts of southern Queens and Brooklyn. Soon enough, he said, you’ll see the city adjust accordingly — halting new infrastructure projects there, eventually pulling back from even quotidian maintenance like sewer repairs and generally signaling to current residents that they will not be able to leave behind their homes, when they die, to their children. And of course a sea wall to protect New York only encloses the narrows of New York Harbor, leaving all of Long Island exposed.
This is just the threat from sea level, and just one (very rich) metropolitan area. The world is much bigger than that, but so is climate change. It is also very fast, with more than half the carbon humanity has ever emitted into the atmosphere having come in just the last 25 years, since Al Gore published his first book on climate change. Monday’s IPCC may seem like a dramatic departure, and it is. But there is going to be much more like it coming. So long as we continue to squander what little time we have, the news will only get worse from here.
2018/10/10: Climate change will be worse for people who are poor, or not white, or not men, or very young, or very old — or any combination of the above. So if you, in your daily life, are doing anything to make life easier for any of those groups, you are helping to fight the devastating impacts of climate change
2018/10/09: In the past few years, California has emerged as a global leader in tackling climate change through agricultural policy. One of its most successful programs to date has been the State Water Efficiency Enhancement Program, known as SWEEP. The first program of its kind in the country, SWEEP provides financial incentives to farmers to improve irrigation management in ways that both save water and reduce emissions. So far, the greenhouse gas emissions reductions the program is projected to achieve over its lifetime are equivalent to taking nearly 65,000 passenger vehicles off the road. However, state funding for the program hasn’t kept up with farmer demand. In the first three years, applications outnumbered awards by a nearly three-to-one ratio. And since drought faded from the headlines, funding for the program is in question.
Similarly promising, but struggling, is another first-of-its-kind climate-smart agriculture program: The Healthy Soils Initiative. This initiative offers financial assistance to farmers for a whole suite of practices that sequester carbon in soils, from reducing tillage to planting perennial vegetation to adding a thin layer of compost to the land. Although small, this program has been celebrated far beyond California as a particularly promising win-win policy, since carbon sequestered in soils not only reduces the burden on the atmosphere, but actually improves soils’ fertility and capacity to support healthy crops.
2018/10/09: Every scenario for keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius requires reducing per capita consumption. The scenarios range from shrinking world energy demand 15 percent by 2030 to constraining it to a 17 percent increase. Either way would mean less power for anyone rich enough to read this on a computer (if poorer people get more stuff under constrained growth, it means the richer people are going to have to make some lifestyle changes).
Some of this would come from efficiency, but it would also require “behavioural changes.”
Biofuel: Every scenario laid out by the IPCC relies on ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels to some extent, and projects an increase in farmland devoted to growing fuel. We could really use biofuels to replace jet fuel and gasoline, but it’s controversial. There are good scientists who say corn ethanol has a bigger carbon footprint than gasoline. Others say burning ethanol is already carbon negative and getting better all the time. It seems impossible to tell who is right. If you are cutting down rainforests for palm oil, that’s definitely a climate catastrophe. If you can get algae in a tank to turn sunlight to fuel, well, that’s awesome.
Nuclear power: All scenarios have nuclear providing a greater share of our electricity through 2050. Right now, nuclear power provides 11 percent of the world’s electricity. In one 1.5 degree scenario, the IPCC report has the world doubling the percentage of electricity it gets from nuclear by 2030, and quintupling it by 2050. The most “degrowthy” scenario, with dramatically decreasing energy demand, doesn’t require building new atomic plants but does require keeping the ones we have open.
2018/10/08: The Paris Agreement notes how it will take a little longer for poorer countries to fully decarbonise, raising the bar still further for the UK, USA and other wealthy nations.
To genuinely reduce emissions in line with 2 C of warming requires a transformation in the productive capacity of society, reminiscent of the Marshall Plan. The labour and resources used to furnish the high-carbon lifestyles of the top 20% will need to shift rapidly to deliver a fully decarbonised energy system.
No more second or very large homes, SUVs, business and first-class flights, or very high levels of consumption. Instead, our economy should be building new zero-energy houses, retrofitting existing homes, huge expansion of public transport, and a 4-fold increase in (zero-carbon) electrification.
Sadly, the IPCC fails, again, to address the profound implications of reducing emissions in line with both 1.5 and 2 C. Dress it up however we may wish, climate change is ultimately a rationing issue.
The technological and social change the world needs dwarfs anything that’s come before in history.
we aren’t going to geoengineer our way out of this mess—cutting emissions is our number one priority. But as this new report makes abundantly clear, the disease we’ve unleashed on this planet is only getting worse, and we aren’t doing nearly enough to find the cure.
To correct course and avoid 1.5 C, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, we’ll need to cut emissions by half before 2030, and go carbon-neutral by 2050, the report says. That gives us three decades to transform our energy production into something unrecognizable, with renewable energy galore combined with carbon capture techniques like the bolstering of forests, and maybe even sucking the stuff out of the atmosphere and trapping it underground. We’ll have to change our behavior as individuals, too. Meaning, we’re looking at unprecedented change, what is essentially the restructuring of civilization.
That report says almost explicitly that, starting next Monday, an awfully big lot of people worldwide should really just sit still and smell the roses, consuming as little physical resources as it is possible to do while still living a decent, happy, meaningful life. Deliberately or not, that report is the single biggest argument in favour of real Universal Basic Income (UBI) that I have ever seen. If that report is correct, it has just made UBI just like democracy: paraphrasing someone quoted by Churchill, after that report “UBI is the worst form of economy, except for all those other forms that have been tried”.
Speaking of (digital) buzzwords…
That report is also a death sentence for several things much more related to my main line of work, and a well deserved sentence, in some cases. That report says that:
we may still have stuff like Instagram or Netflix, but on the same smartphone we already have, until it physically falls apart. More generally, we should all:
stop now buying anything electronic, unless it is really, really, really necessary
never buy anything that is deliberately made impossible to repair, even if it comes from the “coolest” company on Earth
only use and tolerate software that does not pollute more than absolutely needed
something like at least 80% of what is currently being marketed as “Internet of Things” (IoT) should simply fade away as quickly as possible. IoT is the new plastic. Stuff like Juicero, or the Tapplock should never go into production.
Community-level Digital DIY, instead, makes even more sense than it already did
the really smart home is the one made in this way
the only “smart cities” worth building are those made with Open Standards, instead of blockchains, just because it’s trendy
none of the bullets above means living worst than today, when it comes to stuff that matters
2018/08/24: concrete is an invention as transformative as fire or electricity. Since it came into widespread use around the turn of the 20th century, this man-made stone has changed where and how billions of people live, work and move around. It is the skeleton of almost every apartment block and shopping mall, and of most of the roads connecting them. It gives us the power to dam enormous rivers, erect buildings of Olympian height and travel the world with an ease that would astonish our ancestors.
The number of urban dwellers is rising by about 65 million people annually, according to the United Nations Population Division. That’s the equivalent of adding eight New Yorks - or 22 Torontos - to the planet every single year.
There’s no way cities could grow this fast without concrete.
Making all that concrete, however, takes a heavy toll on the atmosphere. The cement industry produces 5 per cent to 10 per cent of total carbon-dioxide emissions worldwide, putting it behind only coal-fuelled power plants and automobiles as a source of global-warming gases.
The most frightening aspect of our dependence on concrete might be that the structures we build with it won’t last. The vast majority of them will need to be replaced - and relatively soon.
To make matters worse, we’re running out of one of concrete’s essential ingredients: sand. Mining sand is its own colossal industry with its own litany of environmental devastations.
It’s time to start thinking about how much concrete we can afford.
2018/10/08: This little-noticed treaty has nothing to do with the Paris accord, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations that have dragged on since 1992, or energy sector emissions, which have resumed their rise.
The Kigali Amendment, which was agreed on October 15, 2016, and comes into force on January 1, will drastically reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These heat-trapping gases are the byproduct of industrial processes such as refrigeration and can be eliminated from those processes by re-engineering. The amendment comes under the Montreal Protocol, the world’s most successful international environmental treaty, which aims to stop the depletion of the ozone layer.
HFCs are prime examples of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), a range of chemicals that are spewed into the atmosphere by human activities and contribute to global warming. While attempts to reduce climate change have rightly focused on the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, mostly produced from our use of fossil fuels, these other substances have been largely ignored.
Experts estimate that cutting down on SLCPs could reduce global warming by as much as 0.5 degrees C. That would not be enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change if we continue to burn fossil fuels, but it could buy humanity some much-needed time while carbon emissions are brought under better control.
“The only way to slow near-term feedbacks [which could drive climate change past tipping points] in the 15- to 20-year window before we lose control to runaway warming is to cut the SLCPs, which can provide considerably more avoided warming at mid-century than cuts to carbon dioxide can provide,” said Durwood Zaelke, founder of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development and a reviewer of the IPCC report on the effects of 1.5 C warming. “In fact, [they could provide] two to six times more [than carbon cuts].”
2018/10/07: landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”
if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty. Previous work had focused on estimating the damage if average temperatures were to rise by a larger number, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), because that was the threshold scientists previously considered for the most severe effects of climate change.
Avoiding the most serious damage requires transforming the world economy within just a few years, said the authors, who estimate that the damage would come at a cost of $54 trillion. But while they conclude that it is technically possible to achieve the rapid changes required to avoid 2.7 degrees of warming, they concede that it may be politically unlikely.
The report emphasizes the potential role of a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. “A price on carbon is central to prompt mitigation,” the report concludes. It estimates that to be effective, such a price would have to range from $135 to $5,500 per ton of carbon dioxide pollution in 2030, and from $690 to $27,000 per ton by 2100.
“Carbon taxes are political poison because they increase gas prices and electric rates,” said Myron Ebell, who heads the energy program at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an industry-funded Washington research organization, and who led the Trump administration’s transition at the Environmental Protection Agency.
The report details the economic damage expected should governments fail to enact policies to reduce emissions. The United States, it said, could lose roughly 1.2 percent of gross domestic product for every 1.8 degrees of warming.
In addition, it said, the United States along with Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam are home to 50 million people who will be exposed to the effects of increased coastal flooding by 2040, if 2.7 degrees of warming occur.
At 3.6 degrees of warming, the report predicts a “disproportionately rapid evacuation” of people from the tropics. “In some parts of the world, national borders will become irrelevant,” said Aromar Revi, director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and an author of the report. “You can set up a wall to try to contain 10,000 and 20,000 and one million people, but not 10 million.”
The report also finds that, in the likelihood that governments fail to avert 2.7 degrees of warming, another scenario is possible: The world could overshoot that target, heat up by more than 3.6 degrees, and then through a combination of lowering emissions and deploying carbon capture technology, bring the temperature back down below the 2.7-degree threshold.
2018/10/03: There is no political issue more pressing than the official inaction on climate change. With time running out to avert hundreds of millions of deaths and global migration, food, disease, and water chaos, with 73% of US voters believing in climate change (albeit with a mere 57%
In a sample of 17 debates between candidates in competitive Senate and Congressional races, Media Matters found only a single question about climate, down from 25% in the 2016 election.
This year, the US blew through all spending records coping with climate change, spending at least $306 billion coping with climate-change-driven extreme weather events. But even in states where climate change has wreaked havoc, the candidates have barely mentioned the issue (and in many cases, they didn't mention it at all).
Connecticut, which is at risk from coastal and inland flooding, has had three gubernatorial debates, without a single climate change question.
The same is true for Kansas, which is at risk from drought, increasing tornadoes, extreme heat, crop failure and inland flooding; and Maine, which is at risk from coastal and inland flooding, as well as extreme heat and drought.
Rhode Island, which is at risk from coastal flooding, extreme heat, sea level rise and inland flooding, had no climate change questions asked during a gubernatorial debate. The same is true for Texas, which faces extreme heat, increasing hurricanes, drought, wildfires, and coastal and inland flooding.
Thus far, the one instance where climate change was brought into the debate was during a gubernatorial race debate in Minnesota, which is at risk from drought and extreme heat.
2018/10/04: World greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 - just 15 months from now.
According to a U.N. preview of the report, meeting the 1.5 goal would “require very fast changes in electricity production, transport, construction, agriculture and industry” worldwide, in a globally coordinated effort to bring about a zero-carbon economy as quickly as possible. It would also very likely require eventually removing huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using technology that is not currently available at the scale that would be necessary. And there’s no time to waste: “The longer CO2 is emitted at today’s rate, the faster this decarbonization will need to be.”
The world has already warmed by about 1.1 degrees C, and the implications of that are increasingly obvious. In just the three years since the Paris Agreement was signed, we’ve seen thousand-year rainstorms by the dozens, the most destructive hurricane season in U.S. history, disastrous fires on almost every continent, and an unprecedented coral bleaching episode that affected 70 percent of the world’s reefs.
In this age of rapid warming, the IPCC report is inherently political — there are obvious winners and losers if the world fails to meet the 1.5-degree goal. If the world’s governments are to take the implications of IPCC’s findings seriously, it would be nothing less than revolutionary — a radical restructuring of human society on our planet.
Scary to see that world wide debt has increased by $57 trillion since the financial crises. Maddening that it would take only $16.5 trillion for the world to meet Paris climate change targets. Infuriating that rich people are hiding $26.5 trillion in offshore accounts, and that the wealth of the 1% is $127 trillion.
2018-10-04: Research published today suggests that the power available from wind is much more limited than many experts thought, and that deployment on a larger scale could significantly raise temperatures over the Earth’s surface, as turbines alter atmospheric flows. The research highlights a painful but not altogether surprising reality: Even the cleanest renewable technologies come with environmental costs.
Research found that wind plants encompassing the largest areas had the lowest power densities, as expected. This figure implies that meeting current U.S. electricity needs alone would require wind farms to cover fully 12 percent of the U.S. land area. Wind power has physical limitations.
Miller and Keith found something even more surprising in another study that looked at a related question: What should we expect the climate impact of significant wind energy generation to be? Removing energy from atmospheric winds means those winds carry less energy afterward, moving more slowly, among other things.
simulations revealed that interactions of the turbines with the atmosphere would likely lead to a redistribution of heat in the lower atmosphere, resulting in a 0.54 degrees Celsius (0.97 degrees Fahrenheit) warming within the wind farms’ region itself, and an increase of 0.24 degrees Celsius (0.43 degrees Fahrenheit) over the continental U.S. This result, they note, actually matches up pretty well with recent satellite observations of local warming around wind farms operating in California, Illinois, Iowa and Texas. They also found that an expansive wind farm would need to operate for more than a century or so before the reduction of global carbon dioxide emissions would offset the local warming effect.
Miller and Keith also looked at U.S. solar farms, finding an achieved energy density about 10 times higher than for wind farms. Solar arrays in their study also led to much less local warming. There may be a good reason to shift future investments toward solar energy, as some big investors are doing already.
2018/09/26: The energy lessons here are many.
The industrial whale business tells us, for example, that human economies don’t respond to the depletion of any commodity with alacrity. Or reason.
The discovery and mining of petroleum could have prevented the slaughter of nearly three million whales in the 20th century, but it didn’t.
Just because a substitute exists — kerosene for whale oil or renewables for some fossil fuels — doesn’t mean the market will use them for conservation purposes.
The factory ship and its fleet could not exist without fossil fuels, which powered the whole operation and allowed for long-duration storage of whale products by running freezers (for meat) and processing whale oil so it would not become rancid.
The prospect of regulating whaling also provided whalers with an extra incentive to catch as many whales as they could before the regulations came into force.
Economists now call this perverse response to resource depletion the “green paradox.”
German economist Hans-Werner Sinn, for example, argues that society is playing out the same game with fossil fuels.
policies aimed at reducing future demand for fossil fuels could backfire by inducing resource owners to bring forward their extraction plans, thus accelerating global warming. In fact most oil-exporting nations such as Canada want to build more pipelines and export more carbon-heavy fuels as quickly as possible.
Technological innovations don’t retire resources or lead to conservation but increase production so as to increase revenue.
The widespread expectation that new technologies will help societies overcome environmental problems reflects the still common assumption that technologies will principally have the consequences intended by those who develop and/or deploy them.
Real change, he writes, “may require active suppression of fossil fuel use, such as by restricting the amount of fossil fuel that can be extracted.”
3028/09/26: fellows have been charged with waging what the group calls a “massive youth intervention in the 2018 midterm elections.”
Sunrise isn’t the only youth-led group pushing for a green wave this election season.
she was determined to get voters thinking about the impact they can have on the planet where we all live.
“Their individual decisions as voters affect the rest of the world,” Chua said. “I’m part of the rest of the world.”
2018/09/17: in recent years, research has made it increasingly clear that — after an 11,000 year period of relative stability — the climate has become destabilized by human emissions of carbon pollution, putting us on a path towards steadily rising temperatures throughout the century.
In this business-as-usual case — without more drastic action taken to cut the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — we will continue warming more than 50 times as fast as the planet was (slightly) cooling in the past 5000 years.
And it’s not just global temperatures that are being destabilized, so are sea levels. That’s clear from the Trump administration’s own November 2017 National Climate Assessment.
This “authoritative assessment of the science of climate change” explains that sea levels do not stop rising this century. Even worse, if the country’s do-little climate policies continue — or, worse, actually get rolled back as they are under Trump — then the rate of sea level rise will actually speed up.
our current climate is near the very edge of stability, according to a major new study by 16 leading climate scientists.
We are pushing the planet toward an irreversible “Hothouse Earth” — catastrophic warming of 9°F or more with ultimate sea level rise of up to 200 feet. And that study warns we are much closer to the “point of no return” than most people realize.
2018/06/27: We are witnessing a massive transition in Value Creation from the means of production to the means of Market Production and Curation.
Take for example Uber – here the taxi driver is a bare transitionary commodity and interchangeable. The real value creation instrument is Uber which creates, curates the market – this process now extends from Retail – Amazon – to Manufacturing, AliBaba. This reality signals a great transfer of value creation from the relatively distributed means of production to the massively globally centralised & privatised means of market making & marker curation. The implications of this are massive for inequality and scaling of precarious citizenship.
what is being disrupted is not the plumber or craftsmen but the middle classes – the management, administrative and intermediary skills.
Our Governance model is broken, we live in a ‘systemocracy’ – a world of massive inter-dependency yet we are holding on to 19th century versions of governance. This creates the illusion of sovereignty & supremacy – acting as a denial of the complexity we must confront.