A Choice

President Obama signed an Executive Order "Accelerating Investment in Industrial Energy Efficiency", which comes on the heals of new improved car fuel efficiency standars for 2025

Meanwhile, Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney turned climate change into a punch line during his acceptance speech as the RNC:

Obama has been pretty good about promoting new energy sources, green tech, and efficiency, not so good on climate change however. Romney, on the other hand, represents old, dirty energy production. Gas, coal, oil. No eye for the future, whether new energy sources or climate change.

Hottest month, ever, in the USA

I recently returned from a cold, rainy vacation to Souther Germany, now I'm roasting in the CA sun, which is actaully not on the charts for records. It's just hot here in Northern CA. Other parts of the country are roasting and in drought.

Check out the charts Grist has assembled.  

 

 

Welcome to 3991 C.E. aka hell

I love this Reddit post: Lycerious has been playing Sid Meier's Civilization II for 10 years (not everyday) and has ended up in a nightmarish, apocalyptic world of perpetual nuclear and conventional war, global warming with oceans covering most of the land, only three mega empires left, and the remaining land is devastated and cannot support agriculture or urban civilization.

Highlights:

I was forced to do away with democracy roughly a thousand years ago because it was endangering my empire.

You've heard of the 100 year war? Try the 1700 year war. The three remaining nations have been locked in an eternal death struggle for almost 2000 years. Peace seems to be impossible. Every time a cease fire is signed, the Vikings will surprise attack me or the Americans the very next turn, often with nuclear weapons.

As a result, big cities are a thing of the distant past. Roughly 90% of the worlds population (at it's peak 2000 years ago) has died either from nuclear annihilation or famine caused by the global warming that has left absolutely zero arable land to farm. Engineers (late game worker units) are always busy continuously building roads so that new armies can reach the front lines. Roads that are destroyed the very next turn when the enemy goes. So there isn't any time to clear swamps or clean up the nuclear fallout. 

Climate Change, a Killer of an Ancient Civilization

Albeit, this was not human induced climate change, but nonetheless, evidence points to the collapse of the urbanized Indus civilization (Harappans) due to changes in the climate. Charles Choi reports, 

Eventually, over the course of centuries, Harappans apparently fled along an escape route to the east toward the Ganges basin, where monsoon rains remained reliable.

This change would have spelled disaster for the cities of the Indus, which were built on the large surpluses seen during the earlier, wetter era. The dispersal of the population to the east would have meant there was no longer a concentrated workforce to support urbanism.

Jarred Diamond uses these as cautionary tales for our own civilization(s), but I'm not convinced of the similarities and the fruitfulness of the comparison between global society now and the relatively isolated civilizations of millennia ago. However, one thing humans never seem to remember is that nothing is stable, and that the current condition, whether political, economic, or socio-natural, is ever changing. We tend to think the way it is for us, is the way it will be forever. Not so.

The Global Conspiracy

Bill to ban sustainability action fails in Arizona, reports Maria Gallucci at Inside Climate News

Sometimes geographic uneven development is a political and cultural decision. Arizona and the other states that are attempting to block renewable energy money and investment are feeding uneven development in the US. How? Some states will benefit from these developments (West and North East, Texas), while other states will be cut out of future rewards, and hence fall behind. Uneven development. It's very short sighted, and a dangerous politics. At least it failed this time.

Union of Concerned Scientists: Reduce transport, home, food energy and CO2 output

In my research on energy use and CO2 emissions the evidence is quite clear that in the US and other late stage industrial nations an energy transition began about 30 years ago in which home energy and transportation consume more energy and release more CO2 than industry and manufacturing. So yes, we should be attempting to decrease home and transport energy use at the mid to high end of socio-economic brackets. Not necessarily an everybody for themselves, individualist approach, but through other means of aggregation (policy, home and transport industry practices, etc). 

Think tank warns of turbulent outlook for US renewable energy industry

The recent rapid expansion of the US renewable energy sector could be thrown into reverse unless policy makers take urgent steps to reform subsidy regimes which have delivered a cycle of "boom and bust" that could yet result in a "clean tech crash".

The real problem for nascent markets: being crushed by the incumbent market. In this case, the fossil fuel industry, and all the subsidies, direct and indirect, that the incumbents receive from the government. 

Climate Defeatism, Nihlism, and (anti)Civilization

Interesting debate about sustainability, climate defeatism, nihilism, and civilization posted on Grist. Anti-civilization folks and eco-centrics have been going at it for decades, but Kingsnorth is a new entrant. I like the author's (Stephenson) rebuttal and his stated position at the end. Can we be for humans and nature, and not be humanists or eco-centrics? (hint: socio-nature)

We Might Have to Move

The Pacific archipelago nation of Kiribati is setting up plans to relocate the entire nation to Fiji in case rapid climate change raises sea levels and wipes out their islands. It's a Plan B. They are buying 6,000 acres, at a price of about $9.6 million. This is a twist on the idea that the nation-state is based on a historically and culturally significant territory. Now, one country can buy a piece of land in another country, and move the nation-state over. This story also highlights the unequal burdens of climate change. 

 

Do We Need to Talk About Climate Change, In Order to Talk About Energy?

I am looking forward to reading  provocative sounding new book Before the Lights Go Out. Koerth-Baker's short answer to the question above: no we do not; we do not have to agree on the "whys" in order to reach the same solutions. We'll see. The book comes out in April.

Why Climate Change Will Make You Love Government

Provocative piece by Christian Parenti. He writes, 

Such calamities, devastating for those affected, have important implications for how we think about the role of government in our future. During natural disasters, society regularly turns to the state for help, which means such immediate crises are a much-needed reminder of just how important a functional big government turns out to be to our survival.

It's not very fashionable, both on the Right and on the Left, to advocate for government these days. But Parenti does make some good points, especially with regards to social and ecological crisis ("natural disaster" is a pretty inadequate term). There is only one institution that is capable and potentially willing to aid people during major crises: government.

Via Alternet, via TomDispatch

"Scotland Guns for 100% Renewable by 2020"

United States: "Let's builds a giant oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico for international export, and continue to drill in precarious locations (deep-water horizon). Let's demonize the clean energy industry and cut all government support."

Scotland: "Let's get to 100% renewables by 2020."

2020 is only eight years from now. That's not the distant future.

 

Not out of science fiction

The President of the Maldives is establishing "a sovereign wealth fund, drawn from its tourist revenue, to be used to buy land overseas and finance the relocation of the country's population of 350,000," reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

SMH reports:

THE President of what could be the first country in the world lost to climate change has urged Australia to prepare for a mass wave of climate refugees seeking a new place to live. The Maldivian President, Mohamed Nasheed, said his government was considering Australia as a possible new home if the tiny archipelago disappears beneath rising seas.

''It is increasingly becoming difficult to sustain the islands, in the natural manner that these islands have been,'' he told the Herald in an interview ... ''If nations won't do good for themselves, they really must do good for everyone around, simply in your self-interest as well ... I think it's really quite necessary for Australians and for every rich country to understand that this is unlike any other thing that's happened before.''

Science fiction author, Kim Stanley Robinson, described a fictional low-lying nation to permanently relocate to Washington DC in his global warming trilogy. Only now, it's becoming a real possibility for the Maldives and other low-lying areas in the global south.

Via Tree Hugger.

Giant Plumes of Methane

Russian scientists have discovered hundreds of plumes of methane gas, some 1,000 meters in diameter, bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean. Scientists are concerned that as the Arctic Shelf recedes, the unprecedented levels of gas released could greatly accelerate global climate change.

Great.

Times Are Changing

Anecdotal: both High Schools in Chico have solar arrays covering their parking lots, Butte Community College is one of the first colleges to be grid positive, a farm in rural Butte county has four wind turbines and a solar roof, and a farm along side I-5 in Northern California is deploying a solar array on some of its farmland. Couple this with David Roberts post on Grist last week showing the above maps, and renewables are appearing more and more in daily life. First one 1970, second one 2011.

 

Save or Destroy?

Humans have been unintentionally geoengineering the earth for thousands of years. Intintional geoengineering aimed at reversing global climate change is an increasingly talked about idea. However, it's fraught with controversy as well as many many unknowns (unknowables?).

Arthur Max (AP):

They could be physical — unintentionally changing weather patterns and rainfall. Even more difficult, it could be political — spurring conflict among nations unable to agree on how such intervention, or geoengineering, will be controlled.

As Plan A (reducing CO2 emissions through international cooperation) begins to lapse and fail, will once wild ideas like geoengineering seem so crazy and dangerous in the next 100 years? 

Renewables: Growing Fast but Still a Rounding Error

Great article by David Roberts on GRIST. Roberts breaks down the National Renewable Energy Laboratory 2010 Renewable Energy Data Book. Great graphics to go with his report. 

Non-hydro renewables remain a small part of the U.S. energy story. More to the point, the sexy renewables -- solar, wind, and geothermal -- are a rounding error. Of the total energy consumed in the U.S. in 2010, solar was 0.1 percent and wind was 0.9 percent. Even with biomass, hydropower, and nuclear thrown in, low-carbon energy amounts to just 17 percent of energy consumed in the U.S.

And yet!

Seen from another angle, growth in renewables has been crazy-fast. From 2000 to 2010 in the U.S., non-hydro renewables have grown at a compounded annual average of almost 14 percent, even faster recently.

NREL: 2010 Renewable Energy Data Book

You can find the original report here.