Loss and Damage @Warsaw: Climate change Conference of Parties 19

Loss and Damage @Warsaw

Published by Daily Kos on 2013-11-15
Original article: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/11/15/1255756/-Loss-and-Damage-Warsaw by Deborah Phelan

The issue of ‘loss and damage’, which at long last mainstreamed at last year’s COP18, is vying for center stage in Warsaw as COP19 participants wrestle with the problems of effectively addressing and financing the irreparable impacts of climate change, those impacts already beyond the options of mitigation or adaptation.

The World Wildlife Fund pounced yesterday on the urgent need for an international mechanism to address this problem with the publication of Tackling The Climate Reality: A Framework For Establishing An International Mechanism To Address Loss And Damage At COP19.

The report was co-authored by WWF, ActionAid and CARE.
© WWF, ActionAide and CARE
“The experience of the Philippines with Super Typhoon Haiyan is surely evidence that we are in the throes of an impending crisis,” said Sven Harmeling, climate change advocacy coordinator at CARE International. “Thousands of people died and still suffer, despite the Philippines investing a lot in disaster preparedness and adaptation. The lack of serious attention to both mitigation and adaptation is pushing the world into the third era of climate governance, where the two pillars of adaptation and mitigation are no longer sufficient to respond to the challenge of climate change.”
From the report’s Executive Summary:

Climate change loss and damage is resulting from insufficient mitigation efforts. If emissions continue to be pumped into the atmosphere at current levels, the long-held goal of keeping average global temperature rises to below 2°C will be exceeded. In fact, the world is currently on a pathway towards an altogether much warmer world; average global temperature rises of well over 4°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century are looking increasingly likely with a business-as-usual approach to mitigation.

Climate change loss and damage is also resulting from insufficient support for adaptation. In fact, increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events are already providing ample evidence of how adaptation limits are being breached, overwhelming the ability of countries, people and ecosystems to cope with damage which, in turn, undermines people’s adaptive capacity and eats away at their resilience.

Announcing “a new era” of climate change, where rapidly rising sea waters, desertification, the acidification of the oceans and glacial melt overwhelm the world’s most vulnerable communities, the report implies a shift in focus to climate justice: poverty, lack of infrastructure and vulnerability of geographic locale cripple inadequately funded adaptation and mitigation policies and elevate the severity of the problems. The authors suggest an over reliance on flawed adaptation schemes will result in severe devastation to lives and livelihoods, ecosystems, and food and fisheries in many countries.

The proposed international mechanism would provide global oversight and coordination of actions related to loss and damage and “enhance cooperation, oversight and coordination of action and linkages with regional and global institutions.” Operationally, the mechanism would be a part of the UNFCCC’s current loss and damage program while creating a new Standing Body on Loss and Damage, also under UNFCCC auspices.

Additional functions would include:

•Knowledge development and exchange.
•Support for the implementation of a wide range of approaches identified to address loss and damage.
•Facilitate and catalyse the development of innovative financial measures, including measures for rehabilitation of damage, compensation for loss, and reparations for non-economic impacts.

ActionAid International Coordinator Harjeet Singh says developing nations must accept their “moral duty and legal obligation” to fast track support for the most climate vulnerable nations.

“We need to establish the international mechanism here in Warsaw to deal with the unprecedented challenges we are facing,” he said. “The mechanism is not just about providing finance to recover from climate change impacts that cannot be adapted to. It is also about generating knowledge and finding new ways to deal with non-economic losses such as loss of biodiversity, indigenous knowledge, human mobility, cultural heritage, ancestral burial sites and so on.”

With loss and damage front and center this week after the unparalleled devastation from Typhoon Haiyan (read The Brisbane Times article Typhoon Haiyan and a year of weird weather), all 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) yesterday engineered a strategic intervention by jointly presenting the UNFCCC Secretariat with their National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs).
True to the course, lead negotiators from industrialized nations are expected to shy away from any “formalised mechanism” to address loss and damage, focusing instead on attracting investors to navigate their way towards profit via long-term clean tech development through contributions towards $100bn annual Green Fund commitments.
The application of this ‘antiquated’ and seemingly unsustainable model of development was evidenced yesterday at the US Center where USAID hosted the panel “Concept to Reality: Mobilizing Private Investment for Clean Energy in Africa.”
In a case study detailing a six year project to bring a 5MW biomass grid online in South Africa, CTI PFAN advisor Michale Feldner (Inspire South Africa) painting a disturbing picture of huge financial costs (primarily legal fees), delays in permit applications, difficulties in luring and holding onto investors, and the dismal ratio between project identification and actual funding and development.
Wake up, Warsaw. We don’t have six years to waste.
Speaking at this year’s Social Good Summit, Al Gore  suggested that without a ‘sea change’ in political and social consciousness, “Civilization might not survive the next 100 years.”
So, Get Real, Warsaw. Maybe it truly is now or never.

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Resilience is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.


Source URL: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-11-15/loss-and-damage-warsaw

Three things you shouldn’t miss this week: Energy Crunch: the global picture

Energy Crunch: the global picture

Published by New Economics Foundation on 2013-11-15
Original article: http://www.neweconomics.org/blog/entry/energy-round-up-the-global-picture by Energy Crunch staff

Three things you shouldn’t miss this week

  1. The dwindling emissions budget if we are to limit global warming to no more than 2°C.

    Graphic: International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2013
  2. Article: Shale’s Effect on Oil Supply Is Not Expected to Last –  According to a report released Tuesday by the International Energy Agency, production of such oil in the United States and worldwide will provide only a temporary respite from reliance on the Middle East.
  3. Commentary: Want an energy revolution? Think beyond the big six –  When you own a stake in the energy you use, you use less of it. Solar Schools, part of the 10:10 carbon reduction project, has been a striking example of this.
Everything is changing on energy, and yet everything remains the same. This is the message from the latest World Energy Outlook by the International Energy Agency. The report shows shifting global demand and supply patterns, but the overall picture remains one of rising carbon emissions, fossil fuel domination and tight oil markets.
Emissions from the energy sector will increase 20% by 2035 based on current policies, putting the world on target for 3.6 degree warming. The urgency of the issue surely couldn’t be more obvious as climate negotiators meet in Warsaw. Typhoon Haiyan can’t be directly linked to climate change, but increasingly powerful storms are one likely predicted effect, and the UN expects 2013 to be the 7th warmest year on record.
Fossil fuels still provide 82% of world energy according to the report – the same as 25 years ago. The agency predicts this will have fallen to 76% by 2035, but 76% of a much larger pie. This dominance of fossil fuels is supported by record subsidies of $544 billion in 2012. A new report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) shows that fossil fuel subsidies aren’t just a developing world phenomenon. It estimates that OECD countries spend up to $90 billion in fossil fuel support measures, often via tax cuts or exemptions, and calls for G20 governments to phase out all subsidies by 2020 – or 2015 for wealthier nations – while protecting vulnerable groups from the impacts.
Not much has changed in the UK energy debate over the past couple of weeks either, but the focus is renewable rather than fossil fuel subsidies, as the government and the Big Six slug it out over ‘green taxes’. It looks increasingly likely that funding for the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), under which energy companies carry out domestic efficiency measures, will move from bills to general taxation as the utilities want. How much relief that would provide, and for how long, is another question entirely.

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Resilience is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.


Source URL: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-11-15/energy-crunch-the-global-picture

Who knew that Seoul was a leader in the sharing economy?

Who knew that Seoul was a leader in the sharing economy?
by Richard Heinberg
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Published by Post Carbon Institute on 2013-11-12
Original article: http://www.postcarbon.org/blog-post/1949822-who-knew-that-seoul-was-a
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Did you know that Seoul, South Korea is one of the world’s key sites for post-growth economic re-development? No? Neither did I, until I saw for myself.
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I was pleased to be invited to give the keynote address at a conference titled “Reshaping the Way We Live,” put on by the Seoul Youth Hub, held November 7-8. I had no idea what to expect, and was rather surprised when the event turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and eye-opening in recent memory.
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First, some background on South Korea. The nation has an export-based industrial economy that has expanded rapidly in recent decades; however, its rate of growth has begun to slow and the youth unemployment rate is now north of 22 percent. Korean politics has also taken a worrisome turn: many citizens dispute the legitimacy of the most recent presidential election, which brought to power Park Geun-hye, the daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee.
Meanwhile Korea’s energy situation could hardly be bleaker: the nation imports essentially all its oil, natural gas, and coal (Korea was once self-sufficient in coal, but production has declined dramatically). It gets some electricity from hydropower, but there is little room for expansion. The country’s 23 nuclear power plants are subject to increasing controversy since the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe in nearby Japan, as many Koreans fear they are now eating radioactive fish.
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The Seoul Youth Hub evidently sees crisis as opportunity. Why else would they ask the author of The End of Growth to address a conference of 18-to-40 year-olds? I came to their attention through a protracted Internet search, but it helped that three of my books have been translated into Korean. Evidently the organizers weren’t shy about conveying a sobering message.
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Lunch with the Youth Hub conference organizers.
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Though I hadn’t visited their country previously, I knew that Koreans have a reputation for being friendly and generous. If my experience is any gauge, the reputation is well deserved. The organizers put me up at a traditional Hanok Korean guesthouse (no chairs or television, just mats on the floor of a beautifully constructed, floor-heated, meticulously scrubbed little pavilion). Nearly all food provided during my stay was also traditional, and included a Buddhist temple meal with multiple courses of artistically crafted vegetarian morsels. Suffice it to say that I felt well taken care of and had a splendid time.
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Now to the conference itself. Except for the opening keynote and a final wrap-up, the sessions were workshops led by eight collaborative groups (including ones from Hong Kong and Japan), each of which is a youth-led organization engaged in social innovation. You can find a list of participating groups at the conference website. The subjects explored ranged from cheese-making to innovations in democratic decision-making; in effect, it amounted to a multi-track laboratory for young people to explore adaptive responses to economic contraction.
Surprisingly, the event was free to the participants. The City of Seoul footed the bill, thanks to Mayor Park Won-soon (more about him in a moment).
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The Seoul Youth Hub is a project of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and its mandate is to help young people “design a future society” by providing a place where they can share and resolve their problems, experiment with a sharing economy, and “discuss specific policies regarding various agendas such as work-labor, housing, life safety net, business creation, youth politics,” and more. The Hub is also intended as a model and a networking center for similar projects throughout Asia. I highly recommend watching this short video.
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The venue for the conference was the Youth Hub’s headquarters, which features movable walls, furniture made of recycled building materials, open and shared office spaces, informal dormitory nooks, a café, and learning co-laboratories. Altogether, there was far more going on here than I could take in during the two days of the conference, much less describe in a couple of paragraphs.
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On the evening of the first day of the conference I met Mayor Park at his offices in City Hall, a twisty new steel-and-glass structure whose ground floor is devoted to citizen-led social innovation projects.
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Copies of The End of Growth were on the Mayor’s meeting room table. Using an interpreter, we got right to it: he had clearly read the book and asked intelligent questions about it. What would I recommend that he and the City of Seoul do to prepare for the end of economic growth? It was a stunning question, given the circumstances, and he appeared eager to consider whatever suggestions I might offer. I started rattling off a laundry list of ideas—supporting farmers’ markets, community gardens, and other staples of a local food system; discouraging cars while encouraging bicycling and public transport; raising energy building standards to the Passive House level; staging more cultural events to increase the happiness quotient among citizens. When I finished, he recited examples of how he and the City have already begun doing nearly every one of these things. He was saying, in effect, “Check, check, check. Come on, what else have you got? Please tell me, and I’ll see if we can do it!” I suggested he find a way for the City to help bring Transition to Seoul (there are currently two official Transition Initiatives in Japan, none in Korea). He promised to do just that.
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Mayor Park Won-soon
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Whoa, I thought. Who is this guy? I looked up his Wikipedia listing later that night. Before becoming Mayor in 2011, Park Won-soon had a 30-year career as a human rights and social justice activist and spent four months in prison for some of these activities. In recent years he developed a chain of nonprofit “Beautiful Stores,” which collect donations of used items, repair them if needed, and sell them to raise money for the social enterprise movement. There are now over a hundred of these stores throughout Korea.
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Inside a Beautiful Store
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Hard to believe this man is the elected leader of the largest city proper in the world, with a population of over 10 million.
The organizers of the Youth Hub conference think the world of Mayor Park, and I can understand why. I’ve seen a lot of hopeful post-growth initiatives in a lot of places—usually citizen-led and modest in scale; never have I seen such visionary, intelligent leadership at the municipal government level within so large a city.
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This is a country with a hard future ahead. Challenges with energy, the economy, and the environment are lining up (not to mention ever-present tensions with North Korea). Yet if efforts led by Mayor Park and the Seoul Youth Hub manage to flourish, things may go much better than they otherwise would. Perhaps other cities can begin to find inspiration here.
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For a helpful overview of the food sovereignty movement in South Korea, see this article from Foreign Policy in Focus.
Richard Heinberg in front of a Youth Hub garden of Korean cabbage (key ingredient of Kim-Chee)

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Green Redevelopment & the Rise of 2030 Districts

at Tucson Association of Realtors conference room,  2445 N. Tucson Blvd   (one block north of Grant Rd)

 

But, could something like a 2030 District in Tucson help align many efforts to support economic re-generation in our community?    Come join us on:

Monday. November 11, 5:30 – 8:30 pm 

PLEASE NOTE: SPECIAL MEETING LOCATION

Tucson Association of Realtors

2445 N. Tucson Blvd   (one block north of Grant Rd)

Come hear our speakers, and bring your questions and opinions for an active conversation – where we go from here.

Peter Dobrovolny, architect, planner and City of Seattle liaison to the Seattle 2030 District

Robert Bulechek, Tucson building science and energy-efficiency expert

Peter will show how across the United States, 2030 Districts are being formed to meet the energy, water and vehicle emissions targets called for by Architecture 2030 in the 2030 Challenge for Planning. In response to climate change, resource depletion, and financial challenges, communities everywhere are raising the bar on these criteria as well.

Through unique public/private partnerships, property owners and managers are coming together with local governments, businesses and community stakeholders to provide a model for urban sustainability through collaboration, leveraged financing, and shared resources.  Together they are developing and implementing creative strategies, best practices, and verification methods for measuring progress towards a common goal.

Green redevelopment is increasingly being viewed as a first tier strategy for community economic development, generating significant reductions in operating costs and climate-altering emissions and creating long-term sustainable jobs. Green redevelopment also benefits from new investment mechanisms that could provide the financial push toward developing a larger-scale redevelopment industry. With very few good alternatives facing us, green redevelopment could be the next big thing in Greater Tucson.

Robert will show how green redevelopment, at the scale of one building at a time, can practically reduce household resource consumption significantly. He will present how everyone can significantly reduce waste in electricity, natural gas, water, and gasoline consumption and do so by saving money every step of the way. His strategies are cash flow positive at every level of efficiency-mitigation down to zero consumption. At the same time, they also produce other positive benefits including improved comfort and significant reduction in climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions. Using the Minnesota Power Pyramid of Conservation and the HERS home energy modeling system, Robert will demonstrate that resource efficiency is the first step toward financial improvement which does not require government subsidies to advance the general welfare.

Doors open at 5:30 pm. The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

When Wealth Disappears: International Banker

When Wealth Disappears

By STEPHEN D. KING

Published October 6, 2013,  New York Times

 

LONDON — AS bad as things in Washington are — the federal government shutdown since Tuesday, the slim but real potential for a debt default, a political system that seems increasingly ungovernable — they are going to get much worse, for the United States and other advanced economies, in the years ahead.

 

From the end of World War II to the brief interlude of prosperity after the cold war, politicians could console themselves with the thought that rapid economic growth would eventually rescue them from short-term fiscal transgressions. The miracle of rising living standards encouraged rich countries increasingly to live beyond their means, happy in the belief that healthy returns on their real estate and investment portfolios would let them pay off debts, educate their children and pay for their medical care and retirement. This was, it seemed, the postwar generations’ collective destiny.

 

But the numbers no longer add up. Even before the Great Recession, rich countries were seeing their tax revenues weaken, social expenditures rise, government debts accumulate and creditors fret thanks to lower economic growth rates.

 

We are reaching end times for Western affluence. Between 2000 and 2007, ahead of the Great Recession, the United States economy grew at a meager average of about 2.4 percent a year — a full percentage point below the 3.4 percent average of the 1980s and 1990s. From 2007 to 2012, annual growth amounted to just 0.8 percent. In Europe, as is well known, the situation is even worse. Both sides of the North Atlantic have already succumbed to a Japan-style “lost decade.”

 

Surely this is only an extended cyclical dip, some policy makers say. Champions of stimulus assert that another huge round of public spending or monetary easing — maybe even a commitment to higher inflation and government borrowing — will jump-start the engine. Proponents of austerity argue that only indiscriminate deficit reduction, accompanied by reforming entitlement programs and slashing regulations, will unleash the “animal spirits” necessary for a private-sector renaissance.

 

Both sides are wrong. It’s now abundantly clear that forecasters have been too optimistic, boldly projecting rates of growth that have failed to transpire.

 

The White House and Congress, unable to reach agreement in the face of a fiscal black hole, have turned over the economic repair job to the Federal Reserve, which has bought trillions of dollars in securities to keep interest rates low. That has propped up the stock market but left many working Americans no better off. Growth remains lackluster.

 

The end of the golden age cannot be explained by some technological reversal. From iPad apps to shale gas, technology continues to advance. The underlying reason for the stagnation is that a half-century of remarkable one-off developments in the industrialized world will not be repeated.

 

First was the unleashing of global trade, after a period of protectionism and isolationism between the world wars, enabling manufacturing to take off across Western Europe, North America and East Asia. A boom that great is unlikely to be repeated in advanced economies.

 

Second, financial innovations that first appeared in the 1920s, notably consumer credit, spread in the postwar decades. Post-crisis, the pace of such borrowing is muted, and likely to stay that way.

 

Third, social safety nets became widespread, reducing the need for households to save for unforeseen emergencies. Those nets are fraying now, meaning that consumers will have to save more for ever longer periods of retirement.

 

Fourth, reduced discrimination flooded the labor market with the pent-up human capital of women. Women now make up a majority of the American labor force; that proportion can rise only a little bit more, if at all.

 

Finally, the quality of education improved: in 1950, only 15 percent of American men and 4 percent of American women between ages 20 and 24 were enrolled in college. The proportions for both sexes are now over 30 percent, but with graduates no longer guaranteed substantial wage increases, the costs of education may come to outweigh the benefits.

 

These five factors induced, if not complacency, an assumption that economies could expand forever.

 

Adam Smith discerned this back in 1776 in his “Wealth of Nations”: “It is in the progressive state, while the society is advancing to the further acquisition, rather than when it has acquired its full complement of riches, that the condition of the labouring poor, of the great body of the people, seems to be the happiest and the most comfortable. It is hard in the stationary, and miserable in the declining state.”

 

The decades before the French Revolution saw an extraordinary increase in living standards (alongside a huge increase in government debt). But in the late 1780s, bad weather led to failed harvests and much higher food prices. Rising expectations could no longer be met. We all know what happened next.

 

When the money runs out, a rising state, which Smith described as “cheerful,” gives way to a declining, “melancholy” one: promises can no longer be met, mistrust spreads and markets malfunction. Today, that’s particularly true for societies where income inequality is high and where the current generation has, in effect, borrowed from future ones.

 

In the face of stagnation, reform is essential. The euro zone is unlikely to survive without the creation of a legitimate fiscal and banking union to match the growing political union. But even if that happens, Southern Europe’s sky-high debts will be largely indigestible. Will Angela Merkel’s Germany accept a one-off debt restructuring that would impose losses on Northern European creditors and taxpayers but preserve the euro zone? The alternatives — disorderly defaults, higher inflation, a breakup of the common currency, the dismantling of the postwar political project — seem worse.

 

In the United States, which ostensibly has the right institutions (if not the political will) to deal with its economic problems, a potentially explosive fiscal situation could be resolved through scurrilous means, but only by threatening global financial and economic instability. Interest rates can be held lower than the inflation rate, as the Fed has done. Or the government could devalue the dollar, thereby hitting Asian and Arab creditors. Such “default by stealth,” however, might threaten a crisis of confidence in the dollar, wiping away the purchasing-power benefits Americans get from the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

 

Not knowing who, ultimately, will lose as a consequence of our past excesses helps explain America’s current strife. This is not an argument for immediate and painful austerity, which isn’t working in Europe. It is, instead, a plea for economic honesty, to recognize that promises made during good times can no longer be easily kept.

 

That means a higher retirement age, more immigration to increase the working-age population, less borrowing from abroad, less reliance on monetary policy that creates unsustainable financial bubbles, a new social compact that doesn’t cannibalize the young to feed the boomers, a tougher stance toward banks, a further opening of world trade and, over the medium term, a commitment to sustained deficit reduction.

 

In his “Future of an Illusion,” Sigmund Freud argued that the faithful clung to God’s existence in the absence of evidence because the alternative — an empty void — was so much worse. Modern beliefs about economic prospects are not so different. Policy makers simply pray for a strong recovery. They opt for the illusion because the reality is too bleak to bear. But as the current fiscal crisis demonstrates, facing the pain will not be easy. And the waking up from our collective illusions has barely begun.

 

Stephen D. King, chief economist at HSBC Bank, is the author of “When the Money Runs Out: The End of Western Affluence.”

 

ST Oct Mtg: Investing in Local Solar Energy Solutions

Sustainable Tucson October Meeting: Investing in Local Solar Energy Solutions

at Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Lower Level Meeting Room,

101 N. Stone, Downtown (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

Investing in Local Solar Energy Solutions

As Tucson begins planning to reduce its greenhouse gases 80% by 2050, the largest emissions sector (59%) arises from the generation and consumption of electricity, currently 84% coal-fired. What clean energy solutions are available to connect consumers to investments in clean solar energy, ready-made for Tucson Electric Power’s utility grid? Community-owned solar is a new, innovative, customer-focused renewable energy model that is being adopted by large and small utilities across the country.

Clean Energy Collective is a new idea in power generation that is building, operating and maintaining community-based clean energy facilities. Headquartered in Colorado, CEC is pioneering the model of delivering clean power-generation through locally centralized, medium-scale facilities that are collectively owned by participating utility customers. To date, CEC has partnered with 10 utilities across the US to deliver and manage 25 community-owned solar projects to respective utility customers. The company’s mission aims to: 1) Accelerate the adoption of long-term clean energy solutions; 2) provide utilities with lower risk, well located and more beneficial clean energy generation; and 3) create a manageable and mutually beneficial production partnership between utilities and consumers.

Come learn about how you can receive maximum benefits from collective investment in localized solar power for yourself and your community, how the CEC model can promote local jobs and the local economy. Join us for this very informative meeting and support renewable energy action in your community.

Meeting speakers will include:

Genevieve Liang, Clean Energy Collective’s VP of Business Development for the Western U.S.

Bruce Plenk, lately of the City of Tucson Energy Office, and Solar Coordinator for the City of Tucson

Kevin Koch, Technicians for Sustainability, local solar installer

Elizabeth Smith, StelcorEnergy, solar energy consultant

Doors open at 5:30 pm. The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

ST September Mtg: Working Together Toward a Sustainable Community Part IV – Sept 9th

Monday, September 9, 2013

5:30 pm to 8:00 pm

at Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Lower Level Meeting Room, 101 N. Stone, Downtown (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

ST September Meeting
Working Together Toward a Sustainable Community
Part IV

Sustainable Tucson’s “Conversations with our Public Officials” series provides Tucson community members the opportunity to meet with local public officials to discuss a wide range of sustainability issues. The venue offers a unique opportunity to converse with our public officials in a supportive atmosphere designed to build understanding and establish relationships.

Join Sustainable Tucson for our fourth Conversation with our Public Officials.

Jessie Baxter, Outreach Coordinator for Congressman Raul Grijalva, Ray Carroll, Pima County District 4 Supervisor, and Claire Zucker, Director, Sustainable Environment Program, Pima Association of Governments, will share their vision of a more sustainable Tucson. A networking session will precede the meeting from 5:30 to 6:00.

We believe that building a sustainable future will take the cooperation and partnering of residents, government, institutions and organizations. It is in this spirit that we are reaching out to our public officials by bringing them together with Sustainable Tucson and the wider public in this discussion process. Our ultimate intent for these popular “fishbowl discussions” is to build partnerships and work together toward our common goals.

We invite you to join us on September 9 for this exciting conversation with our local public officials.

Doors open at 5:30 pm. The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

 

A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis

A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis

by Christian Parenti, July 19, 2013

Several strands of green thinking maintain that capitalism is incapable of a sustainable relationship with non-human nature because, as an economic system, capitalism has a growth imperative while the earth is finite. One finds versions of this argument in the literature of eco-socialism, deep ecology, eco-anarchism, and even among many mainstream greens who, though typically declining to actually name the economic system, are fixated on the dangers of “growth.”

All this may be true. Capitalism, a system in which privately owned firms must continuously out-produce and out-sell their competitors, may be incapable of accommodating itself to the limits of the natural world. However, that is not the same question as whether capitalism can solve the more immediate climate crisis.

Because of its magnitude, the climate crisis can appear as the sum total of all environmental problems—deforestation, over-fishing, freshwater depletion, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, chemical contamination. But halting greenhouse gas emissions is a much more specific problem, the most pressing subset of the larger apocalyptic panorama.

And the very bad news is, time has run out. As I write this, news arrives of an ice-free arctic summer by 2050. Scientists once assumed that would not happen for hundreds of years.

Dealing with climate change by first achieving radical social transformation—be it a socialist or anarchist or deep-ecological/neo-primitive revolution, or a nostalgia-based localistaconversion back to a mythical small-town capitalism—would be a very long and drawn-out, maybe even multigenerational, struggle. It would be marked by years of mass education and organizing of a scale and intensity not seen in most core capitalist states since the 1960s or even the 1930s.

Nor is there any guarantee that the new system would not also degrade the soil, lay waste to the forests, despoil bodies of water, and find itself still addicted to coal and oil. Look at the history of “actually existing socialism” before its collapse in 1991. To put it mildly, the economy was not at peace with nature. Or consider the vexing complexities facing the left social democracies of Latin America. Bolivia, and Ecuador, states run by socialists who are beholden to very powerful, autonomous grassroots movements, are still very dependent on petroleum revenue.

A more radical approach to the crisis of climate change begins not with a long-term vision of an alternate society but with an honest engagement with the very compressed timeframe that current climate science implies. In the age of climate change, these are the real parameters of politics.

Hard Facts

The scientific consensus, expressed in peer-reviewed and professionally vetted and published scientific literature, runs as follows: For the last 650,000 years atmospheric levels of CO2—the primary heat-trapping gas—have hovered at around 280 parts per million (ppm). At no point in the preindustrial era did CO2 concentrations go above 300 ppm. By 1959, they had reached 316 ppm and are now over 400 ppm. And the rate of emissions is accelerating.Since 2000, the world has pumped almost 100 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere—about a quarter of all CO2 emissions since 1750. At current rates, CO2 levels will double by mid-century.

Climate scientists believe that any increase in average global temperatures beyond 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels will lead to dangerous climate change, causing large-scale desertification, crop failure, inundation of coastal cities, mass migration to higher and cooler ground, widespread extinctions of flora and fauna, proliferating disease, and possible social collapse. Furthermore, scientists now understand that the earth’s climate system has not evolved in a smooth linear fashion. Paleoclimatology has uncovered evidence of sudden shifts in the earth’s climate regimes. Ice ages have stopped and started not in a matter of centuries, but decades. Sea levels (which are actually uneven across the globe) have risen and fallen more rapidly than was once believed.

 

Throughout the climate system, there exist dangerous positive-feedback loops and tipping points. A positive-feedback loop is a dynamic in which effects compound, accelerate, or amplify the original cause. Tipping points in the climate system reflect the fact that causes can build up while effects lag. Then, when the effects kick in, they do so all at once, causing the relatively sudden shift from one climate regime to another.

 

Thus, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says rich countries like the United States must cut emissions 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020—only seven years away—and thereafter make precipitous cuts to 90 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. This would require global targets of 10 percent reductions in emissions per annum, starting now. Those sorts of emissions reductions have only occurred during economic depressions. Russia’s near total economic collapse in the early 1990s saw a 37 percent decrease in CO2 emissions from 1990 to 1995, under conditions that nobody wants to experience.

 

The political implications of all this are mind-bending. As daunting as it may sound, it means that it is this society and these institutions that must cut emissions. That means, in the short-term, realistic climate politics are reformist politics, even if they are conceived of as part of a longer-term anti-capitalist project of totally economic re-organization.

 

Dreaming the Rational

Of course, successful reformism often involves radical means and revolutionary demands. What other sort of political pressure would force the transnational ruling classes to see the scientific truth of the situation? But let us assume for a second that political elites faced enough pressure to force them to act. What would be the rational first steps to stave off climate chaos?

 

The watchwords of the climate discussion are mitigation and adaptation—that is, we must mitigate the causes of climate change while adapting to its effects. Mitigation means drastically cutting our production of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, such as methane and chlorofluorocarbons, that prevent the sun’s heat from radiating back out to space.

 

Mitigation means moving toward clean energy sources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal kinetic power. It means closing coal-fired power plants, weaning our economy off fossil fuels, building a smart electrical grid, and making massive investments in carbon-capture and -sequestration technologies. (That last bit of techno-intervention would have to be used not as a justification to keep burning coal, as is its current function, but to strip out atmospheric CO2 rapidly and get back to 350 ppm and away from the dangerous tipping points.)

 

Adaptation, on the other hand, means preparing to live with the effects of climatic changes, some of which are already underway and some of which are inevitable. Adaptation is both a technical and a political challenge.

 

Technical adaptation means transforming our relationship to non-human nature as nature transforms. Examples include building seawalls around vulnerable coastal cities, giving land back to mangroves and everglades so they can act to break tidal surges during giant storms, opening wildlife migration corridors so species can move away from the equator as the climate warms, and developing sustainable forms of agriculture that can function on an industrial scale even as weather patterns gyrate wildly.

 

Political adaptation, on the other hand, means transforming social relations: devising new ways to contain, avoid, and deescalate the violence that climate change is fueling and will continue to fuel. That will require progressive economic redistribution and more sustainable forms of development. It will also require a new diplomacy of peace building.

 

Unfortunately, another type of political adaptation is already under way—that of the armed lifeboat. This adaptation responds to climate change by arming, excluding, forgetting, repressing, policing, and killing. The question then becomes how to conceive of adaptation and mitigation as a project of radical reform—reforms that achieve qualitative change in the balance of power between the classes.

 

The core problem in the international effort to cut emissions is fundamentally the intransigence of the United States: it failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and has played an obstructionist role at subsequent negotiations. Domestically, progress has been just as frustratingly slow. We have no carbon tax, nor any program of robust investment in clean technology. Even the minimal production tax credit for clean energy generated by solar, wind, and hydro power has not been locked in as a long-term commitment. This creates uncertainty about prices, and, as a result, private investment in clean tech is stalling.

 

China, on the other hand, though now the world’s second-largest economy and largest greenhouse gas polluter, is moving ahead with a fast-growing clean-tech industry—that is to say, with mitigation. The Chinese wind sector has grown steadily since 2001. “According to new statistics from the China Electricity Council,” reported American Progress senior fellow Joseph Romm, “China’s wind power production actually increased more than coal power production for the first time ever in 2012.” This growth is the result, in part, of robust government support: China has invested $200.8 billion in stimulus funding for clean tech. Estimates of U.S. stimulus funding for clean technology range from $50 to $80 billion.

 

The European Union is also moving forward to create a €1 trillion regional supergrid. Germany and Portugal in particular are moving aggressively to expand their already quite large clean-tech sectors. Action in the core industrial economies is essential because only they have the infrastructure that can propel the clean-tech revolution and transform the world economy.

 

A De Facto Carbon Tax

Environmental economists tend to agree that the single most important thing the United States could do to accelerate the shift to clean energy would be to impose a carbon tax. Despite our political sclerosis and fossil fuel fundamentalism, the means to do that already exist.

 

First and foremost, there is the Environmental Protection Agency, which could achieve significant and immediate emissions reductions using nothing more than existing laws and current technologies. According to Kassie Siegel at the Center for Biological Diversity, “The Clean Air Act can achieve everything we need: a 40 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions over 1990 levels by 2020.”

 

Rather boring in tone and dense with legalistic detail, the ongoing fight over EPA rulemaking is probably the most important environmental battle in a generation. Since 2007, thanks to the pressure and lawsuits of green activists, the EPA has had enormous—but under-utilized—power. That was the year when the Supreme Court ruled, in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, that the agency should determine whether greenhouse gases threaten human health. In December 2010, the EPA published a science-based “endangerment finding,” which found that CO2 and five other greenhouse gases are, in fact, dangerous to human life because they cause global warming.

 

Once the EPA issues an endangerment finding, it is legally bound to promulgate regulations to address the problem. The first of these post–Massachusetts v. EPA “tailoring rules” were for “mobile sources.” Between 2011 and 2012, regulations for cars and for trucks went into effect. Then the EPA set strict limits for new power plants in 2012. But other major sources of greenhouse gas pollution—like existing electric power plants (which pump out roughly 40 percent of the nation’s total GHG emissions), oil refineries, cement plants, steel mills, and shipping—have yet to be properly regulated pursuant to Massachusetts v. EPA.

 

If the EPA were to use the Clean Air Act—and do so “with extreme prejudice”—it could impose a de facto carbon tax. Industries would still be free to burn dirty fossil fuels, but they would have to use very expensive, and in some cases nonexistent, new technology to meet emission standards. Or they would have to pay very steep and mounting fines for their emissions. Such penalties could reach thousands of dollars per day, per violation. Thus, a de facto carbon tax. Then cheap fossil fuel energy would become expensive, driving investment toward carbon-neutral forms of clean energy like wind and solar. For extra measure we could end fossil fuel subsidies. Before long, it would be more profitable to invest in clean energy sources than dangerous and filthy ones.

 

Big Green Buy and U.S. “Shadow Socialism”

According to clean-tech experts, innovation is now less important than rapid, large-scale implementation. In other words, developing a clean-energy economy is not about new gadgets but about new policies. Most of the energy technologies we need already exist. You know what they are: wind farms, concentrated solar power plants, geothermal and tidal power, all feeding an efficient smart grid that, in turn, powers electric vehicles and radically more energy-efficient buildings.

 

But leading clean technologies remain slightly more expensive than the old dirty-tech alternatives. This “price gap” is holding back the mass application of clean technology. The simple fact is that capitalist economies will not switch to clean energy until it is cheaper than fossil fuel. The fastest way to close the price gap is to build large clean-tech markets that allow for economies of scale. But what is the fastest way to build those markets? More research grants? More tax credits? More clumsy pilot programs?

 

No. The fastest, simplest way to do it is to reorient government procurement away from fossil fuel energy and toward clean energy and technology—to use the government’s vast spending power to create a market for green energy. Elsewhere, I have called this the Big Green Buy. Consider this: federal, state, and local government constitute more than 38 percent of our GDP. In more concrete terms, Uncle Sam owns or leases more than 430,000 buildings (mostly large office buildings) and 650,000 vehicles. (Add state and local government activity, and all those numbers grow by about a third again.) The federal government is the world’s largest consumer of energy and vehicles, and the nation’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.

 

Government procurement is one of the hidden tools of American capitalism’s “shadow socialism.” By shadow socialism I refer to the massively important but often overlooked role of government planning, investment, subsidy, procurement, and ownership in the economic development of American capitalism. A detailed account of that history is offered in Michael Lind’s book Land of Promise. From railroads, to telecommunications, and aviation and all the attendant sub-industries of these sectors, government has provided the capital and conditions for fledging industries to grow large. For example, government didn’t just fund the invention of the microprocessor; it was also the first major consumer of the device. Throughout the 1950s, more than half of IBM’s revenue came from government contracts. Along with money, these contracts provided a guaranteed market and stability for IBM and its suppliers, and thus attracted private investment—all of which helped create the modern computer industry.

 

Now consider the scale of the problem: our asphalt transportation arteries are clogged with 250 million gasoline-powered vehicles sucking down an annual $200 to $300 billion worth of fuel from more than 121,000 filling stations. Add to that the cost of heating and cooling buildings, jet travel, shipping, powering industry, and the energy-gobbling servers and mainframes that are the Internet, and the U.S. energy economy reaches a spectacular annual tab of 1.2 trillion dollars.

 

A redirection of government purchasing would create massive markets for clean power, electric vehicles, and efficient buildings, as well as for more sustainably produced furniture, paper, cleaning supplies, uniforms, food, and services. If government bought green, it would drive down marketplace prices sufficiently that the momentum toward green tech would become self-reinforcing and spread to the private sector.

 

Executive Order 13514, which Obama signed in 2009, directed all federal agencies to increase energy efficiency; measure, report, and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from direct and indirect activities; conserve and protect water resources through efficiency, reuse, and storm water management; eliminate waste, recycle, and prevent pollution; leverage agency acquisitions to foster markets for sustainable technologies and environmentally preferable materials, products, and services; design, construct, maintain, and operate high performance sustainable buildings in sustainable locations.

 

The executive order also stipulates that federal agencies immediately start purchasing 95 percent through green-certified programs and achieve a 28 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2020. But it has not been robustly implemented.

 

Government has tremendous latitude to leverage green procurement because it requires no new taxes, programs, or spending, nor is it hostage to the holy grail of sixty votes in the Senate. It is simply a matter of changing how the government buys its energy, vehicles, and services. Yes, in many cases clean tech costs more up front, but in most cases, savings arrive soon afterward. And government—because of its size—is a market mover that can leverage money-saving deals if it wishes to.

 

Protest and the “Relative Autonomy” of the State

Why would the capitalist state move to euthanize the fossil fuel industry, that most powerful fraction of the capitalist class? Or put another way, how can the state regain some of its “relative autonomy” from capital? History indicates that massive, crisis-producing protest is one of the most common reasons a modern state will act against the interests of specific entrenched elites and for the “general interest” of society. When the crisis of protest is bad enough, entrenched elites are forced to take a loss as the state imposes ameliorative action for the greater good of society.

 

Clearly, we need to build a well-organized, broadly supported, yet tactically and strategically radical movement to demand proper climate policy. For such a movement to be effective it must use myriad tactics, from lawsuits and lobbying to direct action such as tree-sits, road blockades, and occupations aimed at the infrastructure of the fossil fuel industry. Only by disrupting the working of the political and economic system as a whole can we forge a consensus that ending the fossil fuel sector is essential. (The work of Francis Fox Piven and Richard Cloward is, in my opinion, still among the best in tracing the dynamic of this process of rebellion and reform.)

 

At question, then, is not just the state’s capacity to evolve, but the capacity of the American people to organize and mobilize on a massive scale. Far be it from me to say exactly how such movements could or should be built, other than the way they always have been: by trial and error and with good leadership. Movement building is a mass and organic process.

 

The Rebellion of Nature

Along with protest, a more organic source of crisis is already underway and may also help scare political elites into confronting big carbon. Climate change is a “rebellion of nature,” by which I mean the disruption caused by ecological breakdown. The history of environmental regulation in the West is, in many ways, the story of protest and advocacy combining with the rebellion of nature at the local (urban) scale. Together, they have forced rudimentary regulation in the name of health and sanitation.

 

By the 1830s, America’s industrial cities had become perfect incubators of epidemic disease, particularly cholera and yellow fever. Like climate change today, these diseases hit the poor hardest, but they also sickened and killed the wealthy. Class privilege offered some protection, but it was not a guarantee of safety. And so it was that middle-class “goo-goos” and “mugwumps” began a series of reforms that contained and eventually defeated the urban epidemics.

 

First, garbage-eating hogs were banned from city streets, then public sanitation programs of refuse collection began, sewers were built, safe public water provided, and housing codes were developed and enforced. Eventually, the epidemics of cholera stopped. Soon other infectious diseases, such as pulmonary tuberculosis, typhus, and typhoid, were largely eliminated. At the scale of the urban, capitalist society solved an environmental crisis through planning and public investment.

 

Climate change is a problem of an entirely different order of magnitude, but these past solutions to smaller environmental crises offer lessons. Ultimately, solving the climate crisis—like the nineteenth-century victory over urban squalor and epidemic contagions—will require a re-legitimation of the state’s role in the economy.

 

The modern story of local air pollution offers another example of the “rebellion of nature.” As Jim McNeil outlines in Something New Under The Sun, smog inundations in industrial cities of the United States and Europe used to kill many people. In 1879–1880 smog killed 3,000 Londoners, and in Glasgow a 1909 inversion—where cold air filled with smoke from burning coal was trapped near the ground—killed 1,063. As late as 1952, a pattern of cold and still air killed 4,000 people in London, according to McNeil, and even more according to others. By 1956, the Britons had passed a clean air act that drove coal out of the major cities. In the United States there was a similar process. In 1953, smog in New York killed between 170 and 260 people, and as late as 1966 a smog inversion killed 169 New Yorkers. All of this helped generate pressure for the Clean Air Act of 1970.

 

Today, a similar process is underway in China. Local air quality is so bad that it is forcing changes to Chinese energy policy. A major World Bank study has estimated that “the combined health and non-health cost of outdoor air and water pollution for China’s economy comes to around $US 100 billion a year (or about 5.8% of the country’s GDP).” People across China are protesting pollution. Foreign executives are turning down positions in Beijing because of the toxic atmospheric stew that western visitors have taken to calling “airpocalypse.” The film director Chen Kaige, who won the Palme d’Or for his 1993 filmFarewell My Concubine, told the world he couldn’t think or make films because of the Chinese capital’s appallingly bad air.

 

These local pressures are a large part of what is driving Chinese investment in renewable energy. Last year China added more energy capacity from wind than from the coal sector.

 

Capitalism vs. Nature?

Some of the first thinkers to note a conflict between capitalism and non-human nature were Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. They came to their ecology through examining the local problem of relations between town and country—expressed simultaneously as urban pollution and rural soil depletion. In exploring this question they relied on the pioneering work of soil chemist Justus von Liebig. And from this small-scale problem, they developed the idea of capitalism creating a rift in the metabolism of natural processes.

 

Here is how Marx explained the dilemma:

 

Capitalist production collects the population together in great centers, and causes the urban population to achieve an ever-growing preponderance. This has two results. On the one hand it concentrates the historical motive force of society; on the other hand, it disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth, i.e., it prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing; hence it hinders the operation of the eternal natural condition for the lasting fertility of the soil….All progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil.

 

And as with “soil robbing,” so too concentrations of atmospheric CO2: the natural systems are out of sync; their elements are being rearranged and redistributed, ending up as garbage and pollution.

 

It may well be true that capitalism is incapable of accommodating itself to the limits of the natural world. But that is not the same question as whether or not capitalism can solve the climate crisis. Climate mitigation and adaptation are merely an effort to buy time to address the other larger set of problems that is the whole ecological crisis.

 

This is both a pessimistic and an optimistic view. Although capitalism has not overcome the fundamental conflict between its infinite growth potential and the finite parameters of the planet’s pollution sinks, it has, in the past, addressed specific environmental crises.

 

Anyone who thinks the existing economic system must be totally transformed before we can deal with the impending climate crisis is delusional or in willful denial of the very clear findings of climate science. If the climate system unravels, all bets are off. The many progressive visions born of the Enlightenment will be swallowed and forgotten by the rising seas or smashed to pieces by the wrathful storms of climate chaos.

 

Resilience.org is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.

Source URL: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-07-19/a-radical-approach-to-the-climate-crisis

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2013 edition of Dissent Magazine and is reproduced at Resilience.org with the permission of the author.

Original article: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/a-radical-approach-to-the-climate-crisis by Christian Parenti

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Arctic Methane Release Due To Climate Change Could Cost Global Economy $60 Trillion, Study Reports

Arctic Methane Release Due To Climate Change Could Cost Global Economy $60 Trillion, Study Reports

By Nina Chestney

LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) – A release of methane in the Arctic could speed the melting of sea ice and climate change with a cost to the global economy of up to $60 trillion over coming decades, according to a paper published in the journal Nature.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge and Erasmus University in the Netherlands used economic modelling to calculate the consequences of a release of a 50-gigatonne reservoir of methane from thawing permafrost under the East Siberian Sea.

They examined a scenario in which there is a release of methane over a decade as global temperatures rise at their current pace.

They also looked at lower and slower releases, yet all produced “steep” economic costs stemming from physical changes to the Arctic.

“The global impact of a warming Arctic is an economic time-bomb,” said Gail Whiteman, an author of the report and professor of sustainability, management and climate change at the Rotterdam School of Management, part of Erasmus University.

“In the absence of climate-change mitigation measures, the model calculates that it would increase mean global climate impacts by $60 trillion,” said Chris Hope, a reader in policy modelling at the Cambridge Judge Business School, part of the University of Cambridge.

That approaches the value of the global economy, which was around $70 trillion last year.

The costs could be even greater if other factors such as ocean acidification were included, the study said, or reduced to some $37 trillion if action is taken to lower emissions.

As much as 80 percent of the costs would likely be borne by developing countries experiencing more extreme weather, flooding, droughts and poorer health as the Arctic melt affects the global climate, the paper said.

Methane is a greenhouse gas usually trapped as methane hydrate in sediment beneath the seabed. As temperatures rise, the hydrate breaks down and methane is released from the seabed, mostly dissolving into the seawater.

But if trapped methane were to break the sea surface and escape into the atmosphere, it could “speed up sea-ice retreat, reduce the reflection of solar energy and accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet,” the study said.

It said that could bring forward the date at which the global mean temperature rise exceeds 2 degrees Celsius by between 15 and 35 years – to 2035 if no action is taken to curb emissions and to 2040 if enough action is taken to have a 50 percent chance of keeping the rise below 2 degrees.

Scientists have said the rise in global average temperatures this century needs to stay below 2 degrees Celsius to prevent devastating climate effects such as crop failure and melting glaciers.

However, the International Energy Agency warned last month that the world is on course for a rise of 3.6 to 5.3 degrees Celsius citing record high global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions last year.

The Arctic has oil and gas reserves which Lloyd’s of London has estimated could draw investment of up to $100 billion within a decade. Environmentalists warn Arctic drilling is too risky and could have devastating consequences for the region. (Editing by Jason Neely)

Link to article:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/24/arctic-methane-climate-change_n_3643917.html

Our Coming Food Crisis by Gary Paul Nabhan

Our Coming Food Crisis

By Gary Paul Nabhan,  Published by the New York Times: July 21, 2013

 

TUCSON, Ariz. — THIS summer the tiny town of Furnace Creek, Calif., may once again grace the nation’s front pages. Situated in Death Valley, it last made news in 1913, when it set the record for the world’s hottest recorded temperature, at 134 degrees. With the heat wave currently blanketing the Western states, and given that the mercury there has already reached 130 degrees, the news media is awash in speculation that Furnace Creek could soon break its own mark.

 

Such speculation, though, misses the real concern posed by the heat wave, which covers an area larger than New England. The problem isn’t spiking temperatures, but a new reality in which long stretches of triple-digit days are common — threatening not only the lives of the millions of people who live there, but also a cornerstone of the American food supply.

 

People living outside the region seldom recognize its immense contribution to American agriculture: roughly 40 percent of the net farm income for the country normally comes from the 17 Western states; cattle and sheep production make up a significant part of that, as do salad greens, dry beans, onions, melons, hops, barley, wheat and citrus fruits. The current heat wave will undeniably diminish both the quality and quantity of these foods.

 

The most vulnerable crops are those that were already in flower and fruit when temperatures surged, from apricots and barley to wheat and zucchini. Idaho farmers have documented how their potato yields have been knocked back because their heat-stressed plants are not developing their normal number of tubers. Across much of the region, temperatures on the surface of food and forage crops hit 105 degrees, at least 10 degrees higher than the threshold for most temperate-zone crops.

 

What’s more, when food and forage crops, as well as livestock, have had to endure temperatures 10 to 20 degrees higher than the long-term averages, they require far more water than usual. The Western drought, which has persisted for the last few years, has already diminished both surface water and groundwater supplies and increased energy costs, because of all the water that has to be pumped in from elsewhere.

 

If these costs are passed on to consumers, we can again expect food prices, especially for beef and lamb, to rise, just as they did in 2012, the hottest year in American history. So extensive was last year’s drought that more than 1,500 counties — about half of all the counties in the country — were declared national drought disaster areas, and 90 percent of those were hit by heat waves as well.

 

The answer so far has been to help affected farmers with payouts from crop insurance plans. But while we can all sympathize with affected farmers, such assistance is merely a temporary response to a long-term problem.

 

Fortunately, there are dozens of time-tested strategies that our best farmers and ranchers have begun to use. The problem is that several agribusiness advocacy organizations have done their best to block any federal effort to promote them, including leaving them out of the current farm bill, or of climate change legislation at all.

 

One strategy would be to promote the use of locally produced compost to increase the moisture-holding capacity of fields, orchards and vineyards. In addition to locking carbon in the soil, composting buffers crop roots from heat and drought while increasing forage and food-crop yields. By simply increasing organic matter in their fields from 1 percent to 5 percent, farmers can increase water storage in the root zones from 33 pounds per cubic meter to 195 pounds.

 

And we have a great source of compostable waste: cities. Since much of the green waste in this country is now simply generating methane emissions from landfills, cities should be mandated to transition to green-waste sorting and composting, which could then be distributed to nearby farms.

 

Second, we need to reduce the bureaucratic hurdles to using small- and medium-scale rainwater harvesting and gray water (that is, waste water excluding toilet water) on private lands, rather than funneling all runoff to huge, costly and vulnerable reservoirs behind downstream dams. Both urban and rural food production can be greatly enhanced through proven techniques of harvesting rain and biologically filtering gray water for irrigation. However, many state and local laws restrict what farmers can do with such water.

 

Moreover, the farm bill should include funds from the Strikeforce Initiative of the Department of Agriculture to help farmers transition to forms of perennial agriculture — initially focusing on edible tree crops and perennial grass pastures — rather than providing more subsidies to biofuel production from annual crops. Perennial crops not only keep 7.5 to 9.4 times more carbon in the soil than annual crops, but their production also reduces the amount of fossil fuels needed to till the soil every year.

 

We also need to address the looming seed crisis. Because of recent episodes of drought, fire and floods, we are facing the largest shortfall in the availability of native grass, forage legume, tree and shrub seeds in American history. Yet current budget-cutting proposals threaten to significantly reduce the number of federal plant material centers, which promote conservation best practices.

 

If our rangelands, forests and farms are to recover from the devastating heat, drought and wildfires of the last three years, they need to be seeded with appropriate native forage and ground-cover species to heal from the wounds of climatic catastrophes. To that end, the farm bill should direct more money to the underfinanced seed collection and distribution programs.

 

Finally, the National Plant Germplasm System, the Department of Agriculture’s national reserve of crop seeds, should be charged with evaluating hundreds of thousands of seed collections for drought and heat tolerance, as well as other climatic adaptations — and given the financing to do so. Thousands of heirloom vegetables and heritage grains already in federal and state collections could be rapidly screened and then used by farmers for a fraction of what it costs a biotech firm to develop, patent and market a single “climate-friendly” crop.

 

Investing in climate-change adaptation will be far more cost-effective than doling out $11.6 billion in crop insurance payments, as the government did last year, for farmers hit with diminished yields or all-out crop failures.

 

Unfortunately, some agribusiness organizations fear that if they admit that accelerating climate change is already affecting farmers, it will shackle them with more regulations. But those organizations are hardly serving their member farmers and ranchers if they keep them at risk of further suffering from heat extremes and extended drought.

 

And no one can reasonably argue that the current system offers farmers any long-term protection. Last year some farmers made more from insurance payments than from selling their products, meaning we are dangerously close to subsidizing farmers for not adapting to changing climate conditions.

 

It’s now up to our political and business leaders to get their heads out of the hot sand and do something tangible to implement climate change policy and practices before farmers, ranchers and consumers are further affected. Climate adaptation is the game every food producer and eater must now play. A little investment coming too late will not help us adapt in time to this new reality.

 

Gary Paul Nabhan is a research scientist at the Southwest Center at the University of Arizona and the author of “Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons From Desert Farmers in Adapting to Climate Uncertainty.”

 

Link to original article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/opinion/our-coming-food-crisis.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

The One Thing You Need to Know about the President’s Plan to Address Climate Change

The One Thing You Need to Know about the President’s Plan to Address Climate Change

by Kurt Cobb,    June 30, 2013

 

The one thing you need to know about President Obama’s plan to address climate change is that the most it will accomplish is slowing very slightly the pace at which the world is currently hurtling toward catastrophic climate change. Having said this, his plan is nonetheless a brave and even historic move in a country whose political campaigns and public discourse have been utterly poisoned by the science-free propaganda of the fossil fuel industry.

 

I would be more enthusiastic about the president’s baby steps if the devastating droughts and floods and swiftly melting ice in the polar regions and mountain glaciers weren’t telling us that drastic action is necessary right now. Nature doesn’t really care about the timetables of politicians or about what is politically feasible. Nature doesn’t negotiate, and it doesn’t compromise. The laws of physics and chemistry cannot be repealed or altered by the Obama administration, the United States Congress or any other body. And, these physical laws are deaf to complaints about the negative economic consequences of addressing climate change–consequences that will be far worse if we do nothing about climate change.

 

But let me return to the goal announced by the president and put his plan into perspective. Using existing executive powers–mostly through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which the Supreme Court affirmed in 2007 has the power to regulate greenhouse gases–the Obama Administration will endeavor to reduce the RATE of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States to 17 percent below the RATE in 2005 and do this by 2020. It’s a relatively easy target because half the reduction has already taken place. In recent years electric utilities have been changing from coal to cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas to fuel their plants, and drivers, stung by unemployment and high gasoline prices, have reduced their driving.

 

I’ve put the word “RATE” in all capitals above because this one word gets to the heart of the matter. The plan does NOT propose to reduce the absolute concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the major greenhouse gas which recently topped 400 parts per million (ppm). Instead, that concentration would continue to rise–even though it is increasingly evident that we must now reduce that concentration (some say to below 350 ppm) in order to avoid the worst.

 

The proposed decline in the rate of U.S. emissions would only reduce the overall rate of world emissions by just 1.6 percent based on 2011 emissions figures (using carbon dioxide as a proxy for all greenhouse gas emissions). Of course, other countries will have to do their part if we are to succeed as a species in addressing climate change. But it is worth noting that while the United States is home to just 4.5 percent of the world’s population, it currently produces 16.8 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. (The 2011 emissions were 5.49 billion tons for the United States and 32.58 billion tons for the world.)

 

I often refer to climate change as a rate problem. By this I mean that the rate at which we are dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere exceeds the rate at which the planet can remove them. Because the rate of emissions has consistently exceeded the rate of absorption by the Earth since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the absolute concentration of greenhouse gases has steadily risen. (The oceans, the forests, and the weathering of rocks are responsible for almost all of the carbon absorbed from the atmosphere. Were it not for these, the atmospheric concentration of carbon would be about twice what it is today, and we would long ago have have passed into a planetary emergency.)

 

Now, logic tells us that the only way we are ever going to get the absolute concentration down is to make it so that the rate of emissions falls below the rate of absorption by the Earth. And, that would require a drastic cut in the rate of emissions by more than 50 percent. But if we are to avert catastrophe, we must go much further so that the concentration can be brought down before a permanent new climate regime gets established. In other words, human survival depends on avoiding the tipping point in climate change that would render any human action ineffectual.

 

(Keep in mind that time is of the essence because climate change lags by 25 to 50 years the emissions that cause that change. We are only now experiencing climate change caused by greenhouse gases emissions between the early 1960s and the late 1980s. Even if all emissions ceased today, we would be in for another generation or two of warming.)

 

The oft-used phrase “tipping point” in this case refers to self-reinforcing loops in Earth processes that once started cannot be stopped by human action. Perhaps the most troubling example is the release of carbon dioxide and methane in the Arctic from the permafrost. The permafrost is now melting at an alarming rate and releasing greenhouse gases from the decay of dead plants formerly immune to such decay because they were frozen. The amount of carbon contained in the permafrost is nothing short of stupendous, twice as much as is currently in the atmosphere. The methane portion of any release is at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet .

 

Once this vicious cycle gets going, it will be unstoppable as warming temperatures melt more permafrost which then releases more greenhouse gases which then increase the temperature which means further melting and so on until the globe reaches a new stable climate that is much, much hotter than our current one.

 

But this isn’t the only self-reinforcing loop that imperils us. Another is the declining albedo or reflectivity of the Earth at the poles as snow and ice disappear more frequently from larger and larger land and water surfaces as a result of rising temperatures. Snow and ice have high reflectivity and return much of the Sun’s light to outer space. But land and water absorb much more of the light and turn it into heat which then melts adjacent snow and ice which creates ever larger areas of heat-absorbing open ocean and exposed land surface.

 

It’s no wonder then that many scientists are calling for an 80 to 90 percent reduction in the rate of emissions by 2050. It’s not simply about slowing warming. It’s about stopping and possibly reversing it so as to stay away from climate destabilizing tipping points.

 

I haven’t even touched on a subject which seems almost taboo, even among policymakers who are eager to tackle greenhouse gas emissions from utilities, factories, homes and vehicles. Meat production is so energy intensive that it is estimated to contribute about 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions each year. Telling people to reduce their meat intake, however, could prove to be even more unpopular than telling them to drive less or to lower their thermostats in winter.

 

And, deforestation–primarily in the world’s rainforests–contributes nearly as much as meat production each year to climate change, about 15 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions. Felled forests cease to absorb carbon dioxide and instead emit it as the waste wood and other dead biomass left behind decays.

 

The application of nitrogen fertilizers, essential to the so-called green revolution around the world, releases copious amounts of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Today’s large human population would not have been possible without nitrogen fertilizers which played a leading role in raising crop yields. It is thus going to be difficult to reduce nitrogen fertilizer use.

 

Then, there are several industrial gases. These compounds are extremely long-lived in the atmosphere–one lasting up to 50,000 years–and they are very potent, three of them exceeding the warming potential of carbon dioxide by more than 10,000 times. Some have been banned. Others are still in use. While their small concentrations in the atmosphere means that their contribution to climate change remains small, they are nevertheless worth addressing.

 

So, any credible climate change response must also address these other sources of emissions as well. The president’s plan does touch on deforestation, but only briefly. The word “meat,” however, does not appear anywhere in the report. In fairness, the president of the United States does not control world forests, nor can he change American farm policy–let alone American eating habits–single-handedly. While hydrofluorocarbons–used to replace now banned ozone-layer killing chlorofluorocarbons as refrigerants–are mentioned, nitrous oxide, a major greenhouse gas, is omitted. Yes, agricultural practices are mentioned, but use of nitrogen is THE major agricultural practice alongside meat production that generates climate warming gases.

 

The public needs to understand that the sources of greenhouse gas emissions are far more varied than most realize. And, the public also needs to understand that declines in the rate of emissions–unless very steep–are likely to be too little, too late. That’s because it is the absolute concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that largely determines the climate. And, this concentration needs to start falling soon if we are to make certain that we avoid a climate catastrophe.

 

To read this story with original links, go to:

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-06-30/the-one-thing-you-need-to-know-about-the-president-s-plan-to-address-climate-change

Sustainable Tucson July Film Night!

Monday, July 8th, 5:30 – 8:00, Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone, Downtown (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

Sustainable Tucson will show a variety of films at our July general meeting. Included among the short and medium length topics are greening the desert, climate change in the arctic, how the people of Cuba adapted to the loss of oil and fertilizer after the Soviet Union collapsed, a Tucson documentary of a community strawbale homebuilding project, and the multifold challenges of sustainability.

Doors will open at 5:30 and films will start showing immediately. Regular monthly announcements will take place at 6:00 during a brief intermission.

Come enjoy film viewing with us at the cool Downtown Main Library lower meeting room

A Fierce Green Fire – A Film and Panel on Green Activism – April 19

at The Loft Cinema, 3233 East Speedway Blvd, Tucson AZ

Join us for a special post-film panel discussion on opening night, featuring local experts in the field of environmental studies!

Maria Baier – Executive Director of the Sonoran Institute

Roger Clark – Grand Canyon Program Director for The Grand Canyon Trust

Paul Green – Executive Director of the Tucson Audubon Society

Diana Liverman – IE coDirector and Regents Professor of Geography and Development

Kenny Walker – Rachel Carson Fellow and PhD candidate in the University of Arizona’s English Department’s Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English (RCTE) program, studying the rhetoric of science and technology.

Fierce Green Fire movie poster

 
Time: Friday, April 19th at 7:00pm
Location: The Loft Cinema, 3233 East Speedway Blvd. Tucson [MAP]

Spanning 50 years of grassroots and global activism, A Fierce Green Fire, from Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Mark Kitchell (Berkeley in the Sixties), brings to light the vital stories of the environmental movement where people fought – and succeeded – against enormous odds. From halting dams in the Grand Canyon to fighting toxic waste at Love Canal; from Greenpeace to Chico Mendes; from climate change to the promise of transforming our civilization, A Fierce Green Fire is “nothing less than the history of environmentalism itself.” (Los Angeles Times).

Inspired by the book of the same name by Philip Shabecoff and informed by advisors like Edward O. Wilson, this fascinating documentary chronicles the largest movement of the 20th century and one of the major keys to the 21st. Through awe-inspiring stories of triumph and struggle, the film focuses on real world activism, people fighting to save their homes, their lives, their futures – and succeeding against all odds.

Narrated by Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Ashley Judd, Van Jones and Isabel Allende. Directed by Mark Kitchell, 2012, 101 mins., Not Rated, First Run Features, Digital.  Watch the Trailer

“Winningly spans the broad scope of environmental history.” Justin Lowe, Hollywood Reporter

“Rousing … the most ambitious environmental documentary since An Inconvenient Truth tries to make the case that we just might win. Noggin-shaking historical truths … jabs you in the heart.” Michael Roberts, Outside Magazine

“Rarely do environmental-themed films come with the ambitious scope of A Fierce Green Fire… which aims at nothing less than the history of environmentalism itself.” Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times

Sustainable Tucson Community Fundraising Appeal

Sustainable Tucson needs your support to continue to present timely, interesting and informative monthly programs. With minimal financial support from the larger community we have provided continuous monthly programs for nearly seven years, drawing particularly on local talent and sustainability leaders. As we increasingly bring in cutting-edge speakers from other cities and regions, Sustainable Tucson faces greater costs and increased organizational needs.

A brief review of previous programs archived on our website shows the breadth and depth of subject matter we have produced for the emerging sustainability community free of charge. More than 2,000 people have directly benefited from our educational, networking, and advocacy opportunities. Efforts to provide media coverage of our events will reach many thousands more.

There are two ways you can help us further our mission to foster greater understanding  and collaborative activities ensuring resilience and a sustainable future.  One way is to use your credit card and go to our online donation webpage: (http://www.sustainabletucson.org/contactcontribute/donate). The other is simply to write a check to “NEST Inc — Sustainable Tucson”  and mail it to P.O. Box 41144, Tucson, AZ 85717

Thank you for your support and remember that every dollar donated to Sustainable Tucson goes a long way to help all of us find our way to more sustainable lives and a more sustainable community.

Arctic Methane: Why The Sea Ice Matters

Arctic Methane: Why The Sea Ice Matters:

An interview with four top climate scientists: Peter Wadhams, Director, Polar Ocean Physics Group, Cambridge University: Natalia Shakhova, International Arctic Research Centre; David Wasdell, Director, Apollo-Gaia; James Hansen, NASA, Goddard Institute.

By Nick Breeze, Envisionation, Communicating Climate Change

If there is one short video you need to share with others unconvinced that the challenge of climate change is the number one urgent challenge that humanity faces — this is surely near the very top of the list.

 

Click here to watch the 20-minute video.

 

 

The End of Growth: David Suzuki & Jeff Rubin

The End of Growth: Rubin & Suzuki

From Ideas with Paul Kennedy

Economist Jeff Rubin and biologist David Suzuki might seem an unlikely pairing. But they’ve been touring Canada together, talking about the natural limits to growth from their very different perspectives. We listen in as they try to convince a Calgary audience that we’ve already exceeded the capacity of the planet.

Click here to listen to Jeff Rubin and David Suzuki.

 

Originally published by CBC Radio on 2013-03-15; article: http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2013/03/13/the-end-of-growth/ by Jeff Rubin , David Suzuki

Re-published on Resilience (http://www.resilience.org)

 

 

Michael Shuman – Keynote Address on Local Investment

Bob Russell, Co-Director of the Neahtawanta Research and Education Center (nrec.org) organized a special economic development workshop with co-sponsorship of the Chamber of Commerce on local business investment. Champion and leading innovator of re-localization, Michael Shuman, gave the keynote presentation in Traverse City Michigan, October 2, 2012 at the Hagery Center, Northwestern Michigan College.

Click here to watch the video.      (1 hour, 15 minutes)

Phoenix in the Climate Crosshairs

Phoenix in the Climate Crosshairs

by William deBuys

 

If cities were stocks, you’d want to short Phoenix.

Of course, it’s an easy city to pick on. The nation’s 13th largest metropolitan area (nudging out Detroit) crams 4.3 million people into a low bowl in a hot desert, where horrific heat waves and windstorms visit it regularly. It snuggles next to the nation’s largest nuclear plant and, having exhausted local sources, it depends on an improbable infrastructure to suck water from the distant (and dwindling) Colorado River.

In Phoenix, you don’t ask: What could go wrong? You ask: What couldn’t?

And that’s the point, really. Phoenix’s multiple vulnerabilities, which are plenty daunting taken one by one, have the capacity to magnify one another, like compounding illnesses. In this regard, it’s a quintessentially modern city, a pyramid of complexities requiring large energy inputs to keep the whole apparatus humming. The urban disasters of our time — New Orleans hit by Katrina, New York City swamped by Sandy — may arise from single storms, but the damage they do is the result of a chain reaction of failures — grids going down, levees failing, back-up systems not backing up. As you might expect, academics have come up with a name for such breakdowns: infrastructure failure interdependencies. You wouldn’t want to use it in a poem, but it does catch an emerging theme of our time.

Phoenix’s pyramid of complexities looks shakier than most because it stands squarely in the crosshairs of climate change. The area, like much of the rest of the American Southwest, is already hot and dry; it’s getting ever hotter and drier, and is increasingly battered by powerful storms. Sandy and Katrina previewed how coastal cities can expect to fare as seas rise and storms strengthen. Phoenix pulls back the curtain on the future of inland empires. If you want a taste of the brutal new climate to come, the place to look is where that climate is already harsh, and growing more so — the aptly named Valley of the Sun.

In Phoenix, it’s the convergence of heat, drought, and violent winds, interacting and amplifying each other that you worry about. Generally speaking, in contemporary society, nothing that matters happens for just one reason, and in Phoenix there are all too many “reasons” primed to collaborate and produce big problems, with climate change foremost among them, juicing up the heat, the drought, and the wind to ever greater extremes, like so many sluggers on steroids. Notably, each of these nemeses, in its own way, has the potential to undermine the sine qua non of modern urban life, the electrical grid, which in Phoenix merits special attention.

If, in summer, the grid there fails on a large scale and for a significant period of time, the fallout will make the consequences of Superstorm Sandy look mild. Sure, people will hunt madly for power outlets to charge their cellphones and struggle to keep their milk fresh, but communications and food refrigeration will not top their list of priorities. Phoenix is an air-conditioned city. If the power goes out, people fry.

In the summer of 2003, a heat wave swept Europe and killed 70,000 people. The temperature in London touched 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time since records had been kept, and in portions of France the mercury climbed as high as 104°F. Those temperatures, however, are child’s play in Phoenix, where readings commonly exceed 100°F for more than 100 days a year. In 2011, the city set a new record for days over 110°F: there were 33 of them, more than a month of spectacularly superheated days ushering in a new era.

In Flight From the Sun

It goes without saying that Phoenix’s desert setting is hot by nature, but we’ve made it hotter. The city is a masonry world, with asphalt and concrete everywhere. The hard, heavy materials of its buildings and roads absorb heat efficiently and give it back more slowly than the naked land. In a sense, the whole city is really a thermal battery, soaking up energy by day and releasing it at night. The result is an “urban heat island,” which, in turn, prevents the cool of the desert night from providing much relief.

Sixty years ago, when Phoenix was just embarking on its career of manic growth, nighttime lows never crept above 90°F. Today such temperatures are a commonplace, and the vigil has begun for the first night that doesn’t dip below 100°F. Studies indicate that Phoenix’s urban-heat-island effect may boost nighttime temperatures by as much as 10°F. It’s as though the city has doubled down on climate change, finding a way to magnify its most unwanted effects even before it hits the rest of us full blast.

Predictably, the poor suffer most from the heat.  They live in the hottest neighborhoods with the least greenery to mitigate the heat-island effect, and they possess the least resources for combatting high temperatures.  For most Phoenicians, however, none of this is more than an inconvenience as long as the AC keeps humming and the utility bill gets paid. When the heat intensifies, they learn to scurry from building to car and into the next building, essentially holding their breaths. In those cars, the second thing they touch after the ignition is the fan control for the AC. The steering wheel comes later.

In the blazing brilliance of July and August, you venture out undefended to walk or run only in the half-light of dawn or dusk. The idea for residents of the Valley of the Sun is to learn to dodge the heat, not challenge it.

Heat, however, is a tricky adversary. It stresses everything, including electrical equipment. Transformers, when they get too hot, can fail. Likewise, thermoelectric generating stations, whether fired by coal, gas, or neutrons, become less efficient as the mercury soars.  And the great hydroelectric dams of the Colorado River, including Glen Canyon, which serves greater Phoenix, won’t be able to supply the “peaking power” they do now if the reservoirs behind them are fatally shrunken by drought, as multiple studies forecast they will be. Much of this can be mitigated with upgraded equipment, smart grid technologies, and redundant systems.  But then along comes the haboob.

A haboob is a dust/sand/windstorm, usually caused by the collapse of a thunderstorm cell. The plunging air hits the ground and roils outward, picking up debris across the open desert. As the Arabic name suggests, such storms are native to arid regions, but — although Phoenix is no stranger to storm-driven dust — the term haboob has only lately entered the local lexicon. It seems to have been imported to describe a new class of storms, spectacular in their vehemence, which bring visibility to zero and life to a standstill. They sandblast cars, close the airport, and occasionally cause the lights — and AC — to go out. Not to worry, say the two major utilities serving the Phoenix metroplex, Arizona Public Service and the Salt River Project. And the outages have indeed been brief.  So far.

Before Katrina hit, the Army Corps of Engineers was similarly reassuring to the people of New Orleans. And until Superstorm Sandy landed, almost no one worried about storm surges filling the subway tunnels of New York.

Every system, like every city, has its vulnerabilities. Climate change, in almost every instance, will worsen them. The beefed-up, juiced-up, greenhouse-gassed, overheated weather of the future will give us haboobs of a sort we can’t yet imagine, packed with ever greater amounts of energy. In all likelihood, the emergence of such storms as a feature of Phoenix life results from an overheating environment, abetted by the loose sand and dust of abandoned farmland (which dried up when water was diverted to the city’s growing subdivisions).

Water, Water, Everywhere (But Not for Long)

In dystopic portraits of Phoenix’s unsustainable future, water — or rather the lack of it — is usually painted as the agent of collapse. Indeed, the metropolitan area, a jumble of jurisdictions that includes Scottsdale, Glendale, Tempe, Mesa, Sun City, Chandler, and 15 other municipalities, long ago made full use of such local rivers as the Salt, Verde, and Gila. Next, people sank wells and mined enough groundwater to lower the water table by 400 feet.

Sometimes the land sank, too.  Near some wells it subsided by 10 feet or more. All along, everyone knew that the furious extraction of groundwater couldn’t last, so they fixed their hopes on a new bonanza called the Central Arizona Project (CAP), a river-sized, open-air canal supported by an elaborate array of pumps, siphons, and tunnels that would bring Colorado River water across the breadth of Arizona to Phoenix and Tucson.

The CAP came on line in the early 1990s and today is the engine of Arizona’s growth. Unfortunately, in order to win authorization and funding to build it, state officials had to make a bargain with the devil, which in this case turned out to be California. Arizona’s delegation in the House of Representatives was tiny, California’s was huge, and its representatives jealously protected their longstanding stranglehold on the Colorado River. The concession California forced on Arizona was simple: it had to agree that its CAP water rights would take second place to California’s claims.

This means one thing: once the inevitable day comes when there isn’t enough water to go around, the CAP will absorb the shortage down to the last drop before California even begins to turn off its faucets.

A raw deal for Arizona? You bet, but not exactly the end of the line. Arizona has other “more senior” rights to the Colorado, and when the CAP begins to run dry, you may be sure that the masters of the CAP will pay whatever is necessary to lease those older rights and keep the 330-mile canal flowing. Among their targets will be water rights belonging to Indian tribes at the western edge of the state along the lower reaches of the river. The cost of buying tribal water will drive the rates consumers pay for water in Phoenix sky-high, but they’ll pay it because they’ll have to.

Longer term, the Colorado River poses issues that no amount of tribal water can resolve. Beset by climate change, overuse, and drought, the river and its reservoirs, according to various researchers, may decline to the point that water fails to pass Hoover Dam. In that case, the CAP would dry up, but so would the Colorado Aqueduct which serves greater Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as the All-American Canal, on which the factory farms of California’s Imperial and Coachella valleys depend. Irrigators and municipalities downstream in Mexico would also go dry. If nothing changes in the current order of things, it is expected that the possibility of such a debacle could loom in little more than a decade.

The preferred solution to this crisis among the water mavens of the lower Colorado is augmentation, which means importing more water into the Colorado system to boost native supplies. A recently discussed grandiose scheme to bail out the Colorado’s users with a pipeline from the Mississippi River failed to pass the straight-face test and was shot down by then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

Meanwhile, the obvious expedient of cutting back on water consumption finds little support in thirsty California, which will watch the CAP go dry before it gets serious about meaningful system-wide conservation.

Burning Uplands

Phoenicians who want to escape water worries, heat waves, and haboobs have traditionally sought refuge in the cool green forests of Arizona’s uplands, or at least they did until recently. In 2002, the Rodeo-Chediski fire consumed 469,000 acres of pine and mixed conifer on the Mogollon Rim, not far from Phoenix. It was an ecological holocaust that no one expected to see surpassed. Only nine years later, in 2011, the Wallow fire picked up the torch, so to speak, and burned across the Rim all the way to the New Mexico border and beyond, topping out at 538,000 charred acres.

Now, nobody thinks such fires are one-off flukes. Diligent modeling of forest response to rising temperatures and increased moisture stress suggests, in fact, that these two fires were harbingers of worse to come. By mid-century, according to a paper by an A-team of Southwestern forest ecologists, the “normal” stress on trees will equal that of the worst megadroughts in the region’s distant paleo-history, when most of the trees in the area simply died.

Compared to Phoenix’s other heat and water woes, the demise of Arizona’s forests may seem like a side issue, whose effects would be noticeable mainly in the siltation of reservoirs and the destabilization of the watersheds on which the city depends. But it could well prove a regional disaster.  Consider, then, heat, drought, windstorms, and fire as the four horsemen of Phoenix’s Apocalypse. As it happens, though, this potential apocalypse has a fifth horseman as well.

Rebecca Solnit has written eloquently of the way a sudden catastrophe — an earthquake, hurricane, or tornado — can dissolve social divisions and cause a community to cohere, bringing out the best in its citizenry. Drought and heat waves are different. You don’t know that they have taken hold until you are already in them, and you never know when they will end. The unpleasantness eats away at you.  It corrodes your state of mind. You have lots of time to meditate on the deficiencies of your neighbors, which loom larger the longer the crisis goes on.

Drought divides people, and Phoenix is already a divided place — notoriously so, thanks to the brutal antics of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City, Andrew Ross offers a dismal portrait of contemporary Phoenix — of a city threatened by its particular brand of local politics and economic domination, shaped by more than the usual quotient of prejudice, greed, class insularity, and devotion to raw power.

It is a truism that communities that do not pull together fail to surmount their challenges. Phoenix’s are as daunting as any faced by an American city in the new age of climate change, but its winner-take-all politics (out of which has come Arizona’s flagrantly repressive anti-immigration law), combined with the fragmentation of the metro-area into nearly two dozen competing jurisdictions, essentially guarantee that, when the worst of times hit, common action and shared sacrifice will remain as insubstantial as a desert mirage. When one day the U-Haul vans all point away from town and the people of the Valley of the Sun clog the interstates heading for greener, wetter pastures, more than the brutal heat of a new climate paradigm will be driving them away. The breakdown of cooperation and connectedness will spur them along, too.

One day, some of them may look back and think of the real estate crash of 2007-2008 and the recession that followed with fond nostalgia. The city’s economy was in the tank, growth had stalled, and for a while business-as-usual had nothing usual about it. But there was a rare kind of potential. That recession might have been the last best chance for Phoenix and other go-go Sunbelt cities to reassess their lamentably unsustainable habits and re-organize themselves, politically and economically, to get ready for life on the front burner of climate change. Land use, transportation, water policies, building codes, growth management — you name it — might all have experienced a healthy overhaul. It was a chance no one took. Instead, one or several decades from now, people will bet on a surer thing: they’ll take the road out of town.

 

William deBuys, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of seven books, most recently A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest. He has long been involved in environmental affairs in the Southwest, including service as founding chairman of the Valles Caldera Trust, which administers the 87,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 William deBuys

Original article published by TomDispatch on 2013-03-15
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175661/tomgram%3A_william_debuys%2C_exodus_from_phoenix/


Republished on Resilience.org 3/17/2013

Content on this site is subject to our fair use notice.

Resilience is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.


Source URL: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-03-15/phoenix-in-the-climate-crosshairs

The surprising conclusion to an important new book

The surprising conclusion to an important new book

by Herman Daly

Book Review: The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and the Economic Dissolution of the West (Towards a New Economics for a Full World), by Paul Craig Roberts

About the author: Dr. Roberts was educated at Georgia Tech, University of Virginia, UC Berkeley, and Oxford University. He was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury in the Reagan Administration, associate editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and holder of the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy at Georgetown University. His honors include the US Treasury’s Meritorious Service Award, and France’s Legion of Honor.

As evident from this description, Paul Craig Roberts writes from a very solid establishment background in academic political economy, financial journalism, and high public office. His radical critique of today’s economics and public policy will no doubt be surprising to some, but it is based on impressive knowledge and experience, as well as irresistibly convincing honesty. He did not inherit his present understanding of political economy, but developed it through study and experience, with openness to the persuasive power of facts, and willingness to question economic dogmas of both the right and the left.

The book is of special interest to ecological economists, not only for the explicit and insightful support his reasoning gives us, but also for the larger financial and political context in which he places steady-state economics. Although written mainly from a US perspective, the book includes a very clear and informative explanation of the European crisis.

Perhaps the best way to whet the prospective reader’s appetite is to reproduce the brief conclusions with which the book ends, and to testify that the rest of the book solidly supports these conclusions by clear reasoning from relevant facts.

“This book demonstrates that empty-world economic theory has failed on its own terms and that its application by policymakers has resulted in the failure of capitalism itself. Pursuing absolute advantage in cheap labor abroad, First World corporations have wrecked the prospects for First World labor, especially in the US, while concentrating income and wealth in a few hands. Financial deregulation has resulted in lost private pensions and homelessness. The cost to the US Treasury of gratuitous wars and bank bailouts threatens the social safety net, Social Security and Medicare. Western democracy and civil liberties are endangered by authoritarian responses to protests against the austerity that is being imposed on citizens in order to fund the wars and financial bailouts. Third World countries have had their economic development blocked by Western economic theories that do not reflect reality.

All of this is bad enough. But when we leave the empty-world economics and enter the economics of a full world, where nature’s capital (natural resources) and ability to absorb wastes are being exhausted, we find ourselves in a worse situation. Even if countries are able to produce empty-world economic growth, economists cannot tell if the value of the increase in GDP is greater than its cost, because the cost of nature’s capital is not included in the computation. What does it mean to say that the world GDP has increased four percent when the cost of nature’s resources are not in the calculation?

Economist Herman Daly put it well when he wrote that the elites who make the decisions “have figured out how to keep the benefits for themselves while ‘sharing’ the cost with the poor, the future, and other species (Ecological Economics, vol. 72, p. 8).

Empty-world economics with its emphasis on spurring economic growth by the accumulation of man-made capital has run its course. Full-world economics is steady-state economics, and it is past time for economists to get to work on a new economics for a full world.”
Original article: http://steadystate.org/surprising-conclusion-to-important-new-book/ by Herman Daly  published by CASSE on 2013-03-12. Re-published on Resilience (http://www.resilience.org)

The World According To The Automatic Earth: A 2013 Primer Guide

For the past five years, Nicole (Stoneleigh) Foss and Raul Ilargi Meijer have been providing the world with keen analyses of critical sustainability subjects: finance and economics;  energy; scale, society, and trust; and preparation. The Automatic Earth’s 2013 Primer is an excellent summary of their work including dozens of links to cutting-edge articles and clear writing.

Click here for article.

 

The “Stay Informed” section of Sustainable Tucson’s homepage recommends that periodic visits to our two favorite News and Views websites: Resilience.org and AutomaticEarth.com, provide the best “two-stop” coverage of sustainability subjects on the Internet.

 

The Beginning of the World

The Beginning of the World

By  John Michael Greer,

The Archdruid Report ,

December 27, 2012

 

Last Friday was, as I’m sure most of my readers noticed, an ordinary day. Here in the north central Appalachians, it was chilly but not unseasonably so, with high gray clouds overhead and a lively wind setting the dead leaves aswirl; wrens and sparrows hopped here and there in my garden, poking among the recently turned soil of the beds. No cataclysmic earth changes, alien landings, returning messiahs, or vast leaps of consciousness disturbed their foraging. They neither knew nor cared that one of the great apocalyptic delusions of modern times was reaching its inevitable end around them.

 

The inimitable Dr. Rita Louise, on whose radio talk show I spent a couple of hours on Friday, may have summed it up best when she wished her listeners a happy Mayan Fools Day.  Not that the ancient Mayans themselves were fools, far from it, but then they had precisely nothing to do with the competing fantasies of doom and universal enlightenment that spent the last decade and more buzzing like flies around last Friday’s date.

 

It’s worth taking a look back over the genesis of the 2012 hysteria, if only because we’re certain to see plenty of reruns in the years ahead. In the first half of the 20th century, as archeologists learned to read dates in the Mayan Long Count calendar, it became clear that one of the major cycles of the old Mayan timekeeping system would roll over on that day.  By the 1970s, that detail found its way into alternative culture in the United States, setting off the first tentative speculations about a 2012 apocalypse, notably drug guru Terence McKenna’s quirky “Timewave Zero” theory.

 

It was the late New Age promoter Jose Arguelles, though, who launched the 2012 fad on its way with his 1984 book The Mayan Factor and a series of sequels, proclaiming that the rollover of the Mayan calendar in 2012 marked the imminent transformation of human consciousness that the New Age movement was predicting so enthusiastically back then.  The exactness of the date made an intriguing contrast with the vagueness of Arguelles’ predictions about it, and this contrast left ample room for other authors in the same field to jump on the bandwagon and redefine the prophecy to fit whatever their own eschatological preferences happened to be.  This they promptly did.

 

Early on, 2012 faced plenty of competition from alternative dates for the great transformation.  The year 2000 had been a great favorite for a century, and became 2012’s most important rival, but it came and went without bringing anything more interesting than another round of sordid business as usual.  Thereafter, 2012 reigned supreme, and became the center of a frenzy of anticipation that was at least as much about marketing as anything else.  I can testify from my own experience that for a while there, late in the last decade, if you wanted to write a book about anything even vaguely tangential to New Age subjects and couldn’t give it a 2012 spin, many publishers simply weren’t interested.

 

So the predictions piled up.  The fact that no two of them predicted the same thing did nothing to weaken the mass appeal of the date.  Neither did the fact, which became increasingly clear as the last months of 2012 approached, that a great many people who talked endlessly about the wonderful or terrible things that were about to happen weren’t acting as though they believed a word of it.  That was by and large as true of the New Age writers and pundits who fed the hysteria as it was of their readers and audiences; I long ago lost track of the number of 2012 prophets who, aside from scheduling a holiday trip to the Yucatan or some other fashionable spot for the big day, acted in all respects as though they expected the world to keep going in its current manner straight into 2013 and beyond.

 

That came as a surprise to me.  Regular readers may recall my earlier speculation that 2012 would see scenes reminiscent of the “Great Disappointment” of 1844, with crowds of true believers standing on hilltops waiting for their first glimpse of alien spacecraft descending from heaven or what have you. Instead, in the last months of this year, some of the writers and pundits most deeply involved in the 2012 hysteria started claiming that, well, actually, December 21st wasn’t going to be the day everything changed; it would, ahem, usher in a period of transition of undefined length during which everything would sooner or later get around to changing.  The closer last Friday came, the more evasive the predictions became, and Mayan Fools Day and its aftermath were notable for the near-total silence that spread across the apocalyptic end of the blogosphere. Say what you will about Harold Camping, at least he had the courage to go on the air after his May prophecy flopped and admit that he must have gotten his math wrong somewhere.

 

Now of course Camping went on at once to propose a new date for the Rapture, which flopped with equal inevitability a few months later.  It’s a foregone conclusion that some of the 2012 prophets will do the same thing shortly, if only to kick the apocalypse marketing machine back into gear.  It’s entirely possible that they’ll succeed in setting off a new frenzy for some other date, because the social forces that make apocalyptic fantasies so tempting to believe just now have not lost any of their potency.

 

The most important of those forces, as I’ve argued in previous posts, is the widening mismatch between the fantasy of entitlement that has metastasized through contemporary American society, on the one hand, and the ending of an age of fossil-fueled imperial extravagance on the other. As the United States goes bankrupt trying to maintain its global empire, and industrial civilization as a whole slides down the far side of a dizzying range of depletion curves, it’s becoming harder by the day for Americans to make believe that the old saws of upward mobility and an ever brighter future have any relevance to their own lives—and yet those beliefs are central to the psychology, the self-image, and the worldview of most Americans.  The resulting cognitive dissonance is hard to bear, and apocalyptic fantasies offer a convenient way out.  They promise that the world will change, so that the believers don’t have to.

 

That same frantic desire to ignore the arrival of inescapable change pervades today’s cultural scene, even in those subcultures that insist most loudly that change is what they want.  In recent months, to cite only one example, nearly every person who’s mentioned to me the claim that climate change could make the Earth uninhabitable has gone on to ask, often in so many words, “So why should I consume less now?”  The overt logic here is usually that individual action can’t possibly be enough.  Whether or not that’s true is anyone’s guess, but cutting your own carbon footprint actually does something, which is more than can be said for sitting around enjoying a standard industrial world lifestyle while waiting for that imaginary Kum Ba Ya moment when everyone else in the world will embrace limits not even the most ardent climate change activists are willing to accept themselves.

 

Another example? Consider the rhetoric of elite privilege that clusters around the otherwise inoffensive label “1%.”  That rhetoric plays plenty of roles in today’s society, but one of them pops up reliably any time I talk about using less.  Why, people ask me in angry tones, should they give up their cars when the absurdly rich are enjoying gigantic luxury yachts?  Now of course we could have a conversation about the total contribution to global warming of cars owned by people who aren’t rich, compared to that of the fairly small number of top-end luxury yachts that usually figure in such arguments, but there’s another point that needs to be raised. None of the people who make this argument to me have any control over whether rich people have luxury yachts. All of them have a great deal of control over whether and how often they themselves use cars. Blaming the global ecological crisis on the very rich thus functions, in practice, as one more way to evade the necessity of unwelcome change.

 

Along these same lines, dear reader, as you surf the peak oil and climate change blogosphere and read the various opinions on display there, I’d encourage you to ask yourself what those opinions amount to in actual practice.  A remarkably large fraction of them, straight across the political landscape from furthest left to furthest right and including all stops in between, add up to demands that somebody else, somewhere else, do something. Since the people making such demands rarely do anything to pressure, or even to encourage, those other people elsewhere to do whatever it is they’re supposed to do, it’s not exactly hard to do the math and recognize that here again, these opinions amount to so many ways of insisting that the people holding them don’t have to give up the extravagant and unsustainable lifestyles most people in the industrial world think of as normal and justifiable.

 

There’s another way to make the same point, which is that most of what you’ll see being proposed in the peak oil and climate change blogosphere has been proposed over and over and over again already, without the least impact on our predicament. From the protest marches and the petitions, through the latest round of grand plans for energy futures destined to sit on the shelves cheek by jowl with the last round, right up to this week’s flurry of buoyantly optimistic blog posts lauding any technofix you care to name from cold fusion and algal biodiesel to shale gas and drill-baby-drill:  been there, done that, used the T-shirt to wipe another dozen endangered species off the face of the planet, and we’re still stuck in the same place.  The one thing next to nobody wants to talk about is the one thing that distinguished the largely successful environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s from the largely futile environmental movement since that time, which is that activists in the earlier movement were willing to start the ball rolling by making the necessary changes in their own lives first.

 

The difficulty, of course, is that making these changes is precisely what many of today’s green activists are desperately trying to avoid. That’s understandable, since transitioning to a lifestyle that’s actually sustainable involves giving up many of the comforts, perks, and privileges central to the psychology and identity of people in modern industrial societies.  In today’s world of accelerating downward mobility, especially, the thought of taking any action that might result in being mistaken for the poor is something most Americans in particular can’t bear to contemplate—even when those same Americans recognize on some level that sooner or later, like it or not, they’re going to end up poor anyway.

 

Those of my readers who would like to see this last bit of irony focused to incandescence need only get some comfortably middle class eco-liberal to start waxing lyrical about life in the sustainable world of the future, when we’ll all have to get by on a small fraction of our current resource base.  This is rarely difficult; I field such comments quite often, sketching out a rose-colored contrast between today’s comfortable but unsatisfying lifestyles and the more meaningful and fulfilling existence that will be ours in a future of honest hard work in harmony with nature.  Wait until your target is in full spate, and then point out that he could embrace that more meaningful and fulfilling lifestyle right now by the simple expedient of discarding the comforts and privileges that stand in the way.  You’ll get to watch backpedaling on a heroic scale, accompanied by a flurry of excuses meant to justify your target’s continued dependence on the very comforts and privileges he was belittling a few moments before.

 

What makes the irony perfect is that, by and large, the people whom you’ll hear criticizing the modern lifestyles they themselves aren’t willing to renounce aren’t just mouthing verbal noises. They realize, many of them, that the lifestyles that industrial societies provide even to their more privileged inmates are barren of meaning and value, that the pursuit and consumption of an endless series of increasingly shoddy manufactured products is a very poor substitute for a life well lived, and that stepping outside the narrowing walls of a world defined by the perks of the consumer economy is the first step toward a more meaningful existence.  They know this; what they lack, by and large, is the courage to act on that knowledge, and so they wander the beach like J. Alfred Prufrock in Eliot’s poem, letting the very last inch or so of the waves splash over their feet—the bottoms of their trousers rolled up carefully, to be sure, to keep them from getting wet—when they know that a running leap into the green and foaming water is the one thing that can save them. Thus it’s not surprising that their daydreams cluster around imaginary tidal waves that will come rolling in from the deep ocean to sweep them away and make the whole question moot.

 

This is why it’s as certain as anything can be that within a year or so at most, a good many of the people who spent the last decade or so talking endlessly about last Friday will have some other date lined up for the end of the world, and will talk about it just as incessantly.  It’s that or face up to the fact that the only way to live up to the ideals they think they espouse is to walk straight toward the thing they most fear, which is the loss of the perks and privileges and comforts that define their identity—an identity many of them hate, but still can’t imagine doing without.

 

Meanwhile, of course, the economy, the infrastructure, and the resource flows that make those perks and privileges and comforts possible are coming apart around them.  There’s a great deal of wry amusement to be gained from watching one imaginary cataclysm after another seize the imagination of the peak oil scene or society as a whole, while the thing people think they’re talking about—the collapse of industrial civilization—has been unfolding all around them for several years now, in exactly the way that real collapses of real civilizations happen in the real world.

 

Look around you, dear reader, as the economy stumbles through another round of contraction papered over with increasingly desperate fiscal gimmicks, the political system of your country moves ever deeper into dysfunction, jobs and livelihoods go away forever, whatever social safety net you’re used to having comes apart, towns and neighborhoods devastated by natural disasters are abandoned rather than being rebuilt, and the basic services that once defined a modern society stop being available to a larger and larger fraction of the people of the industrial world.  This is what collapse looks like. This is what people in the crumbling Roman Empire and all those other extinct civilizations saw when they looked out the window.  To those in the middle of the process, as I’ve discussed in previous posts, it seems slow, but future generations with the benefit of hindsight will shake their heads in wonder at how fast industrial civilization went to pieces.

 

I commented in a post at the start of this year that the then-current round of fast-collapse predictions—the same predictions, mind you, that had been retailed at the start of the year before, the year before that, and so on—were not only wrong, as of course they turned out to be, but missed the collapse that was already under way. The same point holds good for the identical predictions that will no doubt be retailed over the next few weeks, insisting that this is the year when the stock market will plunge to zero, the dollar and/or the Euro will lose all their value, the economy will seize up completely and leave the grocery shelves bare, and so on endlessly; or, for that matter, that this is the year when cold fusion or algal biodiesel or some other vaporware technology will save us, or the climate change Kum Ba Ya moment I mentioned earlier will get around to happening, or what have you.

 

It’s as safe as a bet can be that none of these things will happen in 2013, either.  Here again, though, the prophecies in question are not so much wrong as irrelevant.  If you’re on a sinking ocean liner and the water’s rising fast belowdecks, it’s not exactly useful to get into heated debates with your fellow passengers about whether the ship is most likely to be vaporized by aliens or eaten by Godzilla.  In the same way, it’s a bit late to speculate about how industrial civilization will collapse, or how to prevent it from collapsing, when the collapse is already well under way.  What matters at that stage in the game is getting some sense of how the process will unfold, not in some abstract sense but in the uncomfortably specific sense of where you are, with what you have, in the days and weeks and months and years immediately ahead of you; that, and then deciding what you are going to do about it.

 

With that in mind, dear reader, I’d like to ask you to do something right now, before going on to the paragraph after this one.  If you’re in the temperate or subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere, and you’re someplace where you can adjust the temperature, get up and go turn the thermostat down three degrees; if that makes the place too chilly for your tastes, take another moment or two to put on a sweater.  If you’re in a different place or a different situation, do something else simple to decrease the amount of energy you’re using at this moment.  Go ahead, do it now; I’ll wait for you here.

 

Have you done it?  If so, you’ve just accomplished something that all the apocalyptic fantasies, internet debates, and protest marches of the last two decades haven’t:  you’ve decreased, by however little, the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere. That sweater, or rather the act of putting it on instead of turning up the heat, has also made you just a little less dependent on fossil fuels. In both cases, to be sure, the change you’ve made is very small, but a small change is better than no change at all—and a small change that can be repeated, expanded, and turned into a stepping stone on the way to  bigger changes, is infinitely better than any amount of grand plans and words and handwaving that never quite manage to accomplish anything in the real world.

 

Turning down your thermostat, it’s been said repeatedly, isn’t going to save the world.  That’s quite true, though it’s equally true that the actions that have been pursued by climate change and peak oil activists to date don’t look particularly likely to save the world, either, and let’s not even talk about what wasn’t accomplished by all the wasted breath over last Friday’s nonevent.  That being the case, taking even the smallest practical steps in your own life and then proceeding from there will take you a good deal further than waiting for the mass movements that never happen, the new technologies that never pan out, or for that matter the next deus ex machina some canny marketer happens to pin onto another arbitrary date in the future, as a launching pad for the next round of apocalyptic hysteria.

 

Meanwhile, a world is ending.  The promoters of the 2012 industry got that right, though they missed just about everything else; the process has been under way for some years now, and it won’t reach its conclusion in our lifetimes, but what we may as well call the modern world is coming to an end around us.  The ancient Mayans knew, however, that the end of one world is always the beginning of another, and it’s an interesting detail of all the old Mesoamerican cosmological myths that the replacement for the old world doesn’t just pop into being.  Somebody has to take action to make the world begin.

 

It’s a valid point, and one that can be applied to our present situation, when so many people are sitting around waiting for the end and so few seem to be willing to kickstart the beginning in the only way that matters—that is, by making actual changes in their own lives.  The deindustrial world of the future is poised to begin, but someone has to begin it.  Shall we?

 

Original article: http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-beginning-of-world.html

Content on this site is subject to our fair use notice.

Energy Bulletin is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.

Source URL: http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-12-26/the-beginning-of-the-world

Links:

[1] http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-beginning-of-world.html

[2] http://irnfiles.com/audio/JustEnergyRadio_JohnMichaelGreer.mp3

[3] http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/01/waiting-for-great-pumpkin.html

 

Review: The Resilience Imperative: Cooperative Transitions to a Steady State Economy

Review: The Resilience Imperative: Cooperative Transitions to a Steady State Economy

by Jon Walker

 

What I love most about this book is the feeling you get that there is hope: solutions to environmental, social and financial crises do exist, they have been tried and tested all over the planet and all we have to do is get on with it.

 

The book is remarkable from several points of view. The extent and the depth of knowledge on which the arguments are based is truly impressive: it provides a history of money and corporations and co-operatives and land trusts from all over planet – emphasising the initiatives which have worked and survived and those which have been crushed by authoritative regimes.

 

Much of this needs to be common knowledge, for example, many successful banks which charged low-cost fees rather than interest were simply rendered illegal by their governments; booming cooperative movements were destroyed in Italy in 1921 (8,000 coops), in Germany in 1933 (4.5 million members) and Russia in 1918 (26,000 coops).

 

As the history unfolds it becomes clear that many of the kinds of institutions I had assumed were just out-performed by the corporations and banks were never given a chance. In reality, those in power just got rid of them. But there are many survivors – like the JAK bank in Sweden (which doesn’t charge interest) and the Cooperative Group in the UK – both of which continue to flourish.

 

The conclusions derived from this and several other innovations in the book are unavoidable: interest free banking does work and slashes the costs of borrowing, community land trusts are growing and enable far cheaper housing than freehold land schemes, cooperatives continue to grow and employ more people than all the multi-nationals put together. There are better co-operative economy ways to do almost everything: we don’t have to destroy our eco-systems and economics can be re-designed to benefit everyone.

 

The book is packed with inspiration – on local food, energy, housing, farming and, weaving all of this together, a better way of dealing with money. Perhaps the most impressive achievement is the way that the authors manage to hold all these elements together and demonstrate that resilience requires changes in all aspects of our lives. They show we need to change basic attitudes to almost everything, and to create a new set of values where well-being and eco-system health are more important than a set of numbers in your digital bank account. And, as the title suggests, a policy change away from economic growth as the primary objective to a resilient, sustainable way of living is fundamental.

 

The answers are everywhere. We can build houses which require almost no heating, we can feed ourselves with predominantly local foods, we can use the sun and wind and tides to generate energy, we can create communities which live in balance with their environment. The big questions still remain unanswered, however. Can we turn away from the current paradigm and begin to put all these ideas into practice for everyone, rather than see them working just in isolated pockets of resilience?

 

The authors argue their case at several levels but, for me, a constant thread is the need to reform the money-system; this stands out as a pre-requisite for broad-based change. As long as the majority of humanity is trapped into massive debt repayment, the possibilities for change will remain muted.

 

The solutions emerge clearly. We need access to debt-free money, we need access to commonly-held land, we need cooperative businesses which are designed for the benefit of the people who work or use them, we need regional solutions. And we need everyone to play their part in the transformation: a resilient society will only emerge from the efforts of resilient individuals and families. Functioning participatory democracy is needed at all levels from the work-place to the community to local government right up to the global. The authors are clear that international organisations like the farmers federation, La Via Campesina, are of crucial importance in building global alternatives to the current economic systems controlled by corporations and unelected bodies like the WTO.

 

So what if we all decided to live like this? The authors lead us gently through the consequences for the (very average) Hartwick family. For several of the proven innovations they provide us detailed calculations that they bring down to the household level to show the achievable dollar and cent savings. For example, the combined savings for an average household like the Hartwick’s in Canada over 25 years would be $363,000 if fee based financing, community land trust and basic energy conservation measures were applied. For the Hartwicks, a middle class family on average income, this translates into 12,095 hours of work at their wage level; imagine, this saving of almost 500 working hours per year. If one then adds back in the increased cost of paying a fair price for organic food over that time period, one would be better off to the tune of $286,969 plus have time left over to raise some food. Less debt means less pressure to grow, thus one could help save the planet and also save significant cash.

 

In many ways the books feels like a (nonviolent) call-to-arms: everything is collapsing around us, solutions exist and have been shown to work, and as governments seem completely incapable of doing anything, it really is down to the rest of us to stand up and be counted. So get this book and read it slowly – there is a huge amount to inwardly digest – and then decide what you’re going to do.

 

To misquote a previous work proposing radical change: all we have to lose are our economic chains and the threat of catastrophic climate collapse.

 

Jon Walker has worked in the UK co-operative sector since the 1970s, setting up and co-managing shops, warehouses, small-scale manufacturing coops, and most recently a community owned green grocer. He is also a member of the local Transition Town which is working to establish a local food economy, and finding ways to make with the local housing stock more energy efficient. He also lectures and publishes on the application of systems theory to co-operative organisational issues: his current book written with Angela Espinosa “A complexity approach to sustainability” examines the application of the Viable Systems model to the creation of a sustainable world from the individual to the global.

 

Published by Resilience.org on November 26, 2012

Published on Energy Bulletin (http://www.energybulletin.net)

 

Content on this site is subject to our fair use notice.

 

Energy Bulletin is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.

 

Source URL: http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-11-26/review-the-resilience-imperative-cooperative-transitions-to-a-steady-state-economy

 

Links:

[1] http://www.resilience.org/stories/2012-11-26/review-the-resilience-imperative-cooperative-transitions-to-a-steady-state-economy

 

World Energy Report 2012

World Energy Report 2012

by Michael Klare

 

Rarely does the release of a data-driven report on energy trends trigger front-page headlines around the world.  That, however, is exactly what happened on November 12th when the prestigious Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) released this year’s edition of its World Energy Outlook.  In the process, just about everyone missed its real news, which should have set off alarm bells across the planet.

 

Claiming that advances in drilling technology were producing an upsurge in North American energy output, World Energy Outlook predicted that the United States would overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the planet’s leading oil producer by 2020.  “North America is at the forefront of a sweeping transformation in oil and gas production that will affect all regions of the world,” declared IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven in a widely quoted statement.

 

In the U.S., the prediction of imminent supremacy in the oil-output sweepstakes was generally greeted with unabashed jubilation.  “This is a remarkable change,” said John Larson of IHS, a corporate research firm.  “It’s truly transformative.  It’s fundamentally changing the energy outlook for this country.”  Not only will this result in a diminished reliance on imported oil, he indicated, but also generate vast numbers of new jobs.  “This is about jobs.  You know, it’s about blue-collar jobs.  These are good jobs.”

 

The editors of the Wall Street Journal were no less ecstatic.  In an editorial with the eye-catching headline “Saudi America,” they lauded U.S. energy companies for bringing about a technological revolution, largely based on the utilization of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to extract oil and gas from shale rock.  That, they claimed, was what made a new mega-energy boom possible.  “This is a real energy revolution,” the Journal noted, “even if it’s far from the renewable energy dreamland of so many government subsidies and mandates.”

 

Other commentaries were similarly focused on the U.S. outpacing Saudi Arabia and Russia, even if some questioned whether the benefits would be as great as advertised or obtainable at an acceptable cost to the environment.

 

While agreeing that the expected spurt in U.S. production is mostly “good news,” Michael A. Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations warned that gas prices will not drop significantly because oil is a global commodity and those prices are largely set by international market forces.  “[T]he U.S. may be slightly more protected, but it doesn’t give you the energy independence some people claim,” he told the New York Times.

 

Some observers focused on whether increased output and job creation could possibly outweigh the harm that the exploitation of extreme energy resources like fracked oil or Canadian tar sands was sure to do to the environment. Daniel J. Weiss of the Center for American Progress, for example, warned of a growing threat to America’s water supply from poorly regulated fracking operations.  “In addition, oil companies want to open up areas off the northern coast of Alaska in the Arctic Ocean, where they are not prepared to address a major oil blowout or spill like we had in the Gulf of Mexico.”

 

Such a focus certainly offered a timely reminder of how important oil remains to the American economy (and political culture), but it stole attention away from other aspects of the World Energy Report that were, in some cases, downright scary.  Its portrait of our global energy future should have dampened enthusiasm everywhere, focusing as it did on an uncertain future energy supply, excessive reliance on fossil fuels, inadequate investment in renewables, and an increasingly hot, erratic, and dangerous climate.  Here are some of the most worrisome takeaways from the report.

 

Shrinking World Oil Supply

 

Given the hullabaloo about rising energy production in the U.S., you would think that the IEA report was loaded with good news about the world’s future oil supply.  No such luck.  In fact, on a close reading anyone who has the slightest familiarity with world oil dynamics should shudder, as its overall emphasis is on decline and uncertainty.

 

Take U.S. oil production surpassing Saudi Arabia’s and Russia’s.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Here’s the catch: previous editions of the IEA report and the International Energy Outlook, its equivalent from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), rested their claims about a growing future global oil supply on the assumption that those two countries would far surpass U.S. output.  Yet the U.S. will pull ahead of them in the 2020s only because, the IEA now asserts, their output is going to fall, not rise as previously assumed.

 

This is one hidden surprise in the report that’s gone unnoticed.  According to the DoE’s 2011 projections, Saudi production was expected to rise to 13.9 million barrels per day in 2025, and Russian output to 12.2 million barrels, jointly providing much of the world’s added petroleum supply; the United States, in this calculation, would reach the 11.7 million barrel mark.

 

The IEA’s latest revision of those figures suggests that U.S. production will indeed rise, as expected, to about 11 million barrels per day in 2025, but that Saudi output will unexpectedly fall to about 10.6 million barrels and Russian to 9.7 million barrels.  The U.S., that is, will essentially become number one by default.  At best, then, the global oil supply is not going to grow appreciably — despite the IEA’s projection of a significant upswing in international demand.

 

But wait, suggests the IEA, there’s still one wild card hope out there: Iraq.  Yes, Iraq.  In the belief that the Iraqis will somehow overcome their sectarian differences, attain a high level of internal stability, establish a legal framework for oil production, and secure the necessary investment and technical support, the IEA predicts that its output will jump from 3.4 million barrels per day this year to 8 million barrels in 2035, adding an extra 4.6 million barrels to the global supply.  In fact, claims the IEA, this gain would represent half the total increase in world oil production over the next 25 years.  Certainly, stranger things have happened, but for the obvious reasons, it remains an implausible scenario.

 

Add all this together — declining output from Russia and Saudi Arabia, continuing strife in Iraq, uncertain results elsewhere — and you get insufficient oil in the 2020s and 2030s to meet anticipated world demand.  From a global warming perspective that may be good news, but economically, without a massive increase in investment in alternate energy sources, the outlook is grim.  You don’t know what bad times are until you don’t have enough energy to run the machinery of civilization.  As suggested by the IEA, “Much is riding on Iraq’s success… Without this supply growth from Iraq, oil markets would be set for difficult times.”

 

Continuing Reliance on Fossil Fuels

 

For all the talk of the need to increase reliance on renewable sources of energy, fossil fuels — coal, oil, and natural gas — will continue to provide most of the additional energy supplies needed to satisfy soaring world demand.  “Taking all new developments and policies into account,” the IEA reported, “the world is still failing to put the global energy system onto a more sustainable path.”  In fact, recent developments seem to favor greater fossil-fuel reliance.

 

In the United States, for instance, the increased extraction of oil and gas from shale formations has largely silenced calls for government investment in renewable technology.  In its editorial on the IEA report, for example, the Wall Street Journal ridiculed such investment.  It had, the Journal’s writers suggested, now become unnecessary due to the Saudi Arabian-style oil and gas boom to come.  “Historians will one day marvel that so much political and financial capital was invested in a [failed] green-energy revolution at the very moment a fossil fuel revolution was aborning,” they declared.

 

One aspect of this energy “revolution” deserves special attention. The growing availability of cheap natural gas, thanks to hydro-fracking, has already reduced the use of coal as a fuel for electrical power plants in the United States.  This would seem to be an obvious environmental plus, since gas produces less climate-altering carbon dioxide than does coal.  Unfortunately, coal output and its use haven’t diminished: American producers have simply increased their coal exports to Asia and Europe.  In fact, U.S. coal exports are expected to reach as high as 133 million tons in 2012, overtaking an export record set in 1981.

 

Despite its deleterious effects on the environment, coal remains popular in countries seeking to increase their electricity output and promote economic development.  Shockingly, according to the IEA, it supplied nearly half of the increase in global energy consumption over the last decade, growing faster than renewables.  And the agency predicts that coal will continue its rise in the decades ahead.  The world’s top coal consumer, China, will burn ever more of it until 2020, when demand is finally expected to level off.  India’s usage will rise without cessation, with that country overtaking the U.S. as the number two consumer around 2025.

 

In many regions, notes the IEA report, the continued dominance of fossil fuels is sustained by government policies.  In the developing world, countries commonly subsidize energy consumption, selling transportation, cooking, and heating fuels at below-market rates.  In this way, they hope to buffer their populations from rising commodity costs, and so protect their regimes from popular unrest.  Cutting back on such subsidies can prove dangerous, as in Jordan where a recent government decision to raise fuel prices led to widespread riots and calls for the monarchy’s abolition.  In 2011, such subsidies amounted to $523 billion globally, says the IEA, up almost 30% from 2010 and six times greater than subsidies for renewable energy.

 

No Hope for Averting Catastrophic Climate Change

 

Of all the findings in the 2012 edition of the World Energy Outlook, the one that merits the greatest international attention is the one that received the least.  Even if governments take vigorous steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the report concluded, the continuing increase in fossil fuel consumption will result in “a long-term average global temperature increase of 3.6 degrees C.”

 

This should stop everyone in their tracks.  Most scientists believe that an increase of 2 degrees Celsius is about all the planet can accommodate without unimaginably catastrophic consequences: sea-level increases that will wipe out many coastal cities, persistent droughts that will destroy farmland on which hundreds of millions of people depend for their survival, the collapse of vital ecosystems, and far more.  An increase of 3.6 degrees C essentially suggests the end of human civilization as we know it.

 

To put this in context, human activity has already warmed the planet by about 0.8 degrees C — enough to produce severe droughts around the world, trigger or intensify intense storms like Hurricane Sandy, and drastically reduce the Arctic ice cap.  “Given those impacts,” writes noted environmental author and activist Bill McKibben, “many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target.”  Among those cited by McKibben is Kerry Emanuel of MIT, a leading authority on hurricanes. “Any number much above one degree involves a gamble,” Emanuel writes, “and the odds become less and less favorable as the temperature goes up.” Thomas Lovejoy, once the World Bank’s chief biodiversity adviser, puts it this way: “If we’re seeing what we’re seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much.”

 

At this point, it’s hard even to imagine what a planet that’s 3.6 degrees C hotter would be like, though some climate-change scholars and prophets — like former Vice President Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth — have tried.  In all likelihood, the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets would melt entirely, raising sea levels by several dozen feet and completely inundating coastal cities like New York and Shanghai.  Large parts of Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the American Southwest would be rendered uninhabitable thanks to lack of water and desertification, while wildfires of a sort that we can’t imagine today would consume the parched forests of the temperate latitudes.

 

In a report that leads with the “good news” of impending U.S. oil supremacy, to calmly suggest that the world is headed for that 3.6 degree C mark is like placing a thermonuclear bomb in a gaudily-wrapped Christmas present.  In fact, the “good news” is really the bad news: the energy industry’s ability to boost production of oil, coal, and natural gas in North America is feeding a global surge in demand for these commodities, ensuring ever higher levels of carbon emissions.  As long as these trends persist — and the IEA report provides no evidence that they will be reversed in the coming years — we are all in a race to see who gets to the Apocalypse first.

 

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 (Metropolitan Books).  A documentary movie based on his book Blood and Oil can be previewed and ordered at www.bloodandoilmovie.com.

Published by TomDispatch on November 28, 2012

Republished on Energy Bulletin (http://www.energybulletin.net)

Copyright 2012 Michael T. Klare

Content on this site is subject to our fair use notice.

 

Energy Bulletin is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.

 

Source URL: http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-11-28/world-energy-report-2012

 

Links:

[1] http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175621/tomgram%3A_michael_klare%2C_a_thermonuclear_energy_bomb_in_christmas_wrappings/

[2] http://www.iea.org

[3] http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2012/november/name,33015,en.html

[4] http://m.npr.org/news/Business/163565485

[5] http://www.ihs.com

[6] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323894704578114591174453074.html

[7] http://www.cfr.org/experts/energy-climate-oil-security/michael-a-levi/b11890%20

[8] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/business/energy-environment/report-sees-us-as-top-oil-producer-in-5-years.html

[9] http://www.americanprogress.org/about/staff/weiss-daniel-j/bio

[10] http://www.amazon.com/dp/0805091262/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20

[11] http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo

[12] http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/name,33339,en.html

[13] https://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2012/october/name,32060,en.html

[14] http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=8490

[15] http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=8070

[16] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/why-775-billion-in-fossil-fuel-subsidies-are-hardto-scrap/2012/06/18/gJQABaQUlV_blog.html

[17] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/world/middleeast/jordan-faces-protests-after-gas-price-proposal.html

[18] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719

[19] http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175435/tomgram%3A_bill_mckibben,_jailed_over_big_oil%27s_attempt_to_wreck_the_planet/

[20] http://eaps4.mit.edu/faculty/Emanuel

[21] http://esp.gmu.edu/people/facultybios/lovejoy.html

[22] http://www.amazon.com/dp/1594865671/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20

[23] http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/greenland-glacier-loses-large-mass-of-ice/2012/07/17/gJQAf5CQsW_story.html

[24] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/11/science/earth/global-warming-makes-heat-waves-more-likely-study-finds.html

[25] http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175573/william_debuys_the_west_in_flames

[26] http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175579/michael_klare_the_hunger_wars_in_our_future

[27] http://www.bloodandoilmovie.com

[28] http://www.facebook.com/pages/Michael-Klare/316344375093469

[29] http://www.facebook.com/tomdispatch

[30] http://www.amazon.com/The-Changing-Face-Empire-Cyberwarfare/dp/1608463109/

 

UK Tyndall Centre Interview: Rapid and deep emissions reductions may not be easy, but 4°C to 6°C will be much worse

 by Rob Hopkins

Published by Transition Culture on Fri, 11/02/2012  and republished by EnergyBulletin.Net  on Sat, 11/3/2012

Kevin Anderson is the Deputy Director of the UK Tyndall Centre and is an expert on greenhouse-gas emissions trajectories. He will be giving the annual Cabot Institute lecture, ‘Real Clothes for the Emperor’ on 6th November in Bristol, which has already sold out. I was hoping to be able to go and report on it for you here, but no longer can, so instead, I spoke to Kevin last week, by Skype. I am very grateful for his time, and for a powerful, honest and thought-provoking interview.

 

Could you share with us your analysis of where you think we find ourselves in terms of climate change and what’s our current trajectory if we carry on as we are?

 

In terms of the language around climate change, I get the impression that there’s still a widely held view that we can probably hold to avoiding dangerous climate change characterised by this almost magical 2°C rise in global mean surface temperature. This is the target that we have established in Copenhagen and then re-iterated in Cancun and to which most nations of the world have now signed up to; I think the rhetoric that we should not exceed this 2°C rise is still there.

 

It’s not just about our emissions now. If you look at the emissions we’ve already put out into the atmosphere since the start of this century, and you look at what’s likely to be emitted over the next few years, then I think it tells a very different story. It’s hard to imagine that, unless we have a radical sea-change in attitudes towards emissions, we will avoid heading towards a 6°C rise by the end of this century.

 

Can we for definite, in your opinion, say that this year’s extreme weather can be linked to climate change?

 

Certainly not. I think it’s fair to say that it’s unlikely we will ever be able to robustly link any particular single event to climate change. Now that’s not to say we can’t get a greater level of attribution, where we can start to say the things that we are seeing are what we would expect to see with a warming climate. We are struggling to find any other reasons for them and therefore it does seem a high probability that these events are caused, if not exacerbated by, the rise in CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases and hence the increase in temperature. But I think it’s unlikely that we’d ever be able to say that any single event is a ‘climate change event’.

 

But would you say that if we were still at 280 parts per million it would be much less likely that we would have had a summer like this?

 

Yes, I think that would be a fair comment. It would be much less likely. Before this summer, the probability of having this summer’s weather would have been less if we had not seen significant rises in greenhouse gases and their cumulative impact in the atmosphere. We are starting now to see events that it’s difficult to explain in terms of normal probabilities. We get extreme weather events, we always have had such events; extremes do occur. But if extremes start to occur regularly they’re no longer extremes, and what you’re then seeing is not a weather extreme, you’re seeing change in the climate. But it’s hard to say that any particular event in a range of events is a consequence of climate change, and not just an extreme weather event.

 

Sometimes people talk about this idea of ‘a new normal’, that the basic conditions around us have changed. In terms of what’s happening in terms of the climate, how would you characterise the ‘new normal’ that we’re in given the rise we’ve had in emissions so far?

 

I think it would probably be a very short normal, I don’t think this is the normal at all. It’s the normal for today, but I think the rate of increase of emissions, and there is no sign at all of that rate significantly coming down, would suggest that we’ll be reaching a new normal, and then another new normal, and then another new normal. I’m one of the people that concludes that we’re likely to experience significant climate change impacts over the next 1,2,3 decades and obviously beyond that point. At the moment, unless we change our emissions pathways and trajectory, the normal will be changing regularly.

 

You have already argued and you’ll be arguing in Bristol on November 6th that responding adequately to climate change and economic growth are no longer compatible. Could you flesh that case out a little bit for us?

 

Now I’m going to talk specifically about the Annex 1, the wealthy parts of the world, the OECD countries, broadly, the countries that are fairly well industrialised. In those parts of the world, the rate of reduction in emissions that would be necessary for us to even stay within an outside chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, characterised by the 2°C rise that we’re all internationally committed to, would be in the order of around 10% per annum.

 

Though a very approximate guide, it’s far removed from the 1, 2 or 3% that most energy scenarios or emissions scenarios consider. It is well beyond anything we’ve been able to countenance, well beyond virtually anything so far that we’ve analysed. What we know is that in the short term, because we need to start this now, we cannot deliver reduction by switching to a low carbon energy supply, we simply cannot get the supply in place quickly enough.

 

Therefore, in the short to medium term the only major change that we can make is in consuming less. Now that would be fine, we could become more efficient in what we consume by probably 2 – 3% per annum reduction. But bear in mind, if our economy was say growing at 2% per annum, and we were trying to get a 3% per annum reduction in our emissions, that’s a 5% improvement in the efficiency of what we’re doing each year, year on year.

 

Our analysis for 2°C suggests we need a 10% absolute reduction per annum, and there is no analysis out there that suggests that is in any way compatible with economic growth. If you consider the Stern Report, Stern was quite clear that there was no evidence that any more than a 1% per annum reduction in emissions had ever been associated with anything other than “economic recession or upheaval”, I think was the exact quote.

 

So we have no historical precedents for anything greater than 1% per annum reduction in emissions. We’re saying we need nearer 10% per annum, and this is something we need to be doing today. And therefore, we can draw a very clear conclusion from this, that in the short to medium term, the way for the Annex 1, the wealthy parts of the world to meet their obligations to 2°C, is to cut back very significantly on consumption. And that would therefore mean in the short to medium term a reduction in our economic activity i.e. we could not have economic growth.

 

Now we might have a steady-state economy, but my overall sense is that the maths probably point to us having to consume less each year for the next few years, maybe a decade or so.

 

Has that ever happened before? As I understand it, when the Soviet Union collapsed it was 9% cut and that was just for 1 year. What would 10% a year look like?

 

My understanding with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc countries was that the drop was about 5% per year for up to about 10 years. So what we saw there was a relatively prolonged, completely unplanned, and as it turned out very chaotic and uneven reduction in emissions, and even then only delivered about a half to a quarter of, the rate of reduction, what we would need for 2°C.

 

So as their economy collapsed, their emissions dropped by about 5% per annum for about 10 years. We would be needing at least 10% per annum if not considerably higher and for longer than a 10 year period. For the Soviet Union, the economic collapse, though a pretty terrible time for many people, still did not achieve the rate of reductions that we would need to be seeing here.

 

Of course our view is that to deliver on 2°C , we should plan the economic contraction. It need not necessarily have the devastating impact that it very clearly had, and very inequitable impact, in Russia in particular.

 

Given that the current administration or indeed any administration that would be elected in this country would never be able to run on a platform of shrinking the economy by 10% every year, what are the implications? How do the need to do that and democracy sit alongside each other?

 

Firstly I don’t say we have to reduce our level of consumption by 10% per annum in terms of material goods. I’m not saying our economy has to reduce by 10% per annum. The emissions have to come down at 10% per annum, but we should be able to get some efficiency improvements as well. So the economy would not have to come down as fast as the rate of emissions coming down. It’s very important to make that distinction, and of course the more low-hanging fruit that we can find, and I think there’s a lot more out there than we’ve discovered previously- the less the material contraction of the economy would need to be. From some of our provisional work we have identified some very significant improvements in the efficiency of how we do what we do; some technical, some behavioural.

 

I don’t think it’s necessarily as dire as you’re painting from an economic perspective. Nevertheless we are talking here at best a steady-state economy. The analysis that I and colleagues in the Tyndall Centre have undertaken would suggest there probably has to be a reduction in our consumption and an economic contraction.

 

How would we sell that? Well, we’ve sold it at the moment. It’s very clear in the UK and many parts of Europe that what we’re seeing is at best stagnation, if not an economic reduction in our level of consumption. So we have actually got that at the moment. We’re not all finding this utterly dire .. not that it’s been evenly spread, I think it’s been unfairly spread. I think equity should be one of our main considerations here. We have to bear in mind that even if we have an economic contraction that wouldn’t necessarily mean that for many people they would have to consume less.

 

I take the very clear view on this that the distributional effects would very likely mean that many people in the UK for instance would not see a reduction in their levels of consumption or their levels of wellbeing, but others of us in the UK, like myself, would certainly have to see reduction in levels of consumption. Probably not a reduction in levels of wellbeing but certainly in levels of consumption. So I think distributional impacts might mean that it could be much more attractive, or less unattractive, to policy makers than at first sight it would seem.

 

Particularly given that we face a lot of issues now with unemployment, welfare reductions etc., issues that disproportionately affect people in the middle-lower income band; it is these people that could actually benefit from a transition to a much more efficient and lower carbon economy.

 

The implications will obviously have to be thought through, but any government that embraced a more sophisticated analysis of climate change would likely recognise the economic situation that we have got ourselves into anyway with our current model. Put those two together and there are real opportunities now for a significant transition in how we do what we do; a transition away from the dogmatic economic growth model and towards a steady-state low carbon alternative.

 

What do you see as the role, certainly in terms of the Transition approach, as very much about what a bottom-up, community-led response to that looks like, what’s your sense of the role that communities can play in making that happen?

 

I take the view that the community approach, the bottom-up approach, is absolutely pivotal to resolving some of the challenges and issues that we find ourselves facing now. So I think communities are really important here. They’re important in a number of ways.

 

You might make an argument that the actions of any individual, of any household, of any local community, in and of themselves are relatively insignificant, I all too often hear this. The point is less about the emissions of an individual, though still important, but more about the example it sets. It gives other people the opportunity to see that you can do something differently.

 

If communities, and even if it’s only one or two communities are starting to do things significantly differently, that means we have an example of what we can do. If those examples are successful they can spread. Once they spread, policy makers can start to see those examples at work and can start to set a top-down agenda that can coincide with the bottom-up agenda. We can actually point policy makers to where it’s working and make arguments for implementing policies that would facilitate those sorts of changes.

 

If we are going to get out of the hole we’ve got ourselves into there’s real scope for some partnership between bottom-up-individuals, through to communities etc. – and top-down, trying to facilitate initiatives as they emerge. It’s the kind of partnership we need if we are going to see real substantive change. And if we see that in the UK, that helps within the EU and can signal a wider, global transition. I think we all have a responsibility to try and bring these changes about in our own lives and our immediate environments, and actually this could be significant. What we do ourselves is absolutely central to bringing about substantive change.

 

What do you see as being the role of scientists in all this? Should they only focus on definitely proven science or move more towards how James Hansen is taking more of an activist stance. How do you see that balance between science and activism?

 

This is quite a difficult question. My view here is that as scientists we have to behave as scientists. Now we are human beings, and so science will never be the perfect, objective, neutral profession that the textbooks might try to describe it as. Nevertheless I think it is really important in our science to remain neutral and objective, as much as we ever can. Science is not about black and white, there is a huge amount of uncertainty in a lot of science, there’s a huge amount of probabilities and clearly climate change has a lot of this wrapped up in it. But I think it is absolutely pivotal that as scientists we behave as scientists.

 

Now as individuals, as citizens – we may be scientists but we are also citizens – I see nothing wrong with standing up and saying I think my and other people’s science raises concerns for society and so I have to chosen to act on that analysis. There is a duality here. An individual can, as a scientist, produce their work neutrally, and then they can use that work to inform how they act as a citizen.

 

If Hansen and others want to chain themselves to bulldozers building new runways, that is their choice as a citizen, I don’t disagree with that. What I would disagree with is that if anyone starts to misuse science to support other sets of views. Because people like Hansen’s analysis looks to be more extreme, people then assume that he is pushing the boundaries of the science. I think the scientists that are pushing the boundaries are those that are deliberately, and I know many of these people, holding to a line that is politically palatable, because that is what politicians, what their pay masters, what society wants to hear.

 

Actually I think Hansen and some of those scientists who are prepared to stand up and make quite strong statements from their science are the ones that are being more neutral and objective; far too many of the scientists who are working on climate change, are towing, in my view, a political line. It looks like it’s neutral because it doesn’t sound extreme, it fits within the orthodoxy. But that is not the way we should be doing science. Whether it fits within the orthodoxy or not we should be objective, robust, direct and honest about science.

 

You spend a lot of your time surrounded by all the papers and research and stuff that’s coming out, all the models that get worse and worse. How do you personally cope with that, and what do you do in your own life that’s motivated by what you encounter in your professional life?

 

I have to say it gets increasingly difficult, it has affected my personal life quite considerably over the last few years and is getting worse. I find it very hard to engage with the science and then not link that to what we as individuals, what society, what policy makers are doing, or evidently not doing. It has been really challenging for me with some work colleagues, less so in the immediate group that I’m involved with here in Manchester, but certainly wider colleagues who I work with on climate change who, it seems to me, have no regard for what their research tells them.

 

For many, but with significant exceptions, their work seems to be little more than something that pays the mortgage. I find that quite difficult. I take the view that it is incumbent on us as scientists and citizens that we should be changing what we’re doing in our own lives, and I think that people would take much more note of the analysis that we do if we decided to live broadly in accordance with our science. In my view, far too few scientists who work on climate change actually do that.

 

But also I find it increasingly difficult not to challenge friends and family, who often appear to have complete disregard for the impacts of their action. I’ve got to the point now where I think that when we’re profligately emitting, we’re knowingly damaging the lives and the prospects of some of the poorest people in our communities, both in the UK, but more significantly globally. Yet we obscenely carry on doing this. We’re happy to put a few pence into a collection pot in the middle of town to help people living in poorer parts of the world but we don’t seem to be prepared to make substantive changes to how we’re living our lives- even when we recognise the impact our emissions are having.

 

And yet science is pretty clear on this, that vulnerable people in the poorer parts of the world will suffer dire repercussions of what we are doing now and what we’ve already done. I find that almost reprehensible that scientists are able to completely ignore such a very clear message; we know that the people on the coastal strips of Bangladesh will suffer very significantly from our behaviour as will many other people, poor people around the world. And we really do not collectively as a society and even often as individuals demonstrate any meaningful care or compassion.

 

I’ve cut back on many of the activities I previously pursued. Many of my friendships linked to activities; as a keen rock climber, I used to travel away for breaks by plane. This has all had to change quite considerably. I have close friends from when I used to work in the oil industry, friends who think climate change is a serious issue but are not prepared to make any changes to their lifestyles. It has raised some serious challenges for me in maintaining personal relationships.

 

I don’t want to pretend that it’s easy. I do not think that the future, for those of us that are in the very fortunate position of living in the West, is full of win-win opportunities. People who have done well, very well out of our western system, and live very carbon profligate lifestyles are going to face difficult challenges, and we should not pretend otherwise.

 

Until we actually embrace alternative means of finding value in our lives, I think that transition from where we are today, high-carbon, high-energy lifestyles, to ultimately lower-carbon lifestyles is going to be both difficult and unpopular. But ultimately, I do not see an alternative. Rapid and deep emissions reductions may not be easy- but 4°C to 6°C will be much worse.

 

Do you see any possibility that that might come from and be led by government?

 

No, I don’t think it will be led by government. I don’t think it will be led by anyone. I think it will be an emergent outcome of a society that cares, of which government is part and citizens and individuals are part as well. I have never particularly liked the idea of great people, of wonderful leadership, I much more believe in an emergent system, the properties and values that are embedded within a system.

 

Now we might see that, manifested sometimes in a leader, but it actually is an outcome of that society moving in a particular direction. So that’s why, to me, I’m not looking for some great person to come on their white charger and take this forward. I’m looking for all of us to engage, and out of that will emerge a new way of thinking of the world.

 

Given the economic challenges, crisis, whatever we want to call it, that we are seeing at the moment, this is a real opportunity for change. An opportunity we need to grasp. We need to think differently, think positively, but recognise in my view that it will not be easy. We can institute these changes ourselves both bottom-up and top-down. It is this kind of leadership we need, leadership from all of us.

 

Do you think from a climate change perspective actually a deepening and a worsening recession is the best thing that could happen to us?

 

At the moment I just see it as blaming everyone else. Inequity is going up, not down. Recessions are not good times– we clearly are not all in it together. Many of us have not made any changes to the restaurants that we go to, the hotels that we go to, the holidays that we take, and yet the other side is we are completely stripping back welfare, and we’re not investing in green infrastructure. We’re constantly putting money, a third of a trillion into the banks, not into a new grid network or a new set of renewable technologies or retro-fitting houses. So we have the prospect of doing things differently, offered us by the recession but we’re letting those opportunities go, on a day to day basis we’re throwing these opportunities away. It could be a much more positive drive toward a low carbon and resilient society than it’s turning out to be.

 

Bill McKibben argues that we need to get back to 350 parts per million. Is that possible?

 

Well it is in the very long term. But within the sort of time frame that we’re talking about at the moment, unless the geo-engineering routes work and I think we have to be very cautious about sucking the CO2 out of the air when we can’t even turn the lights off when we leave a room at the moment! I find this quite bizarre, but it is not to say we shouldn’t spend some money now on research into negative emission technologies.

 

I think it highly unlikely that we’ll get back to 350 within quite a lot of generations. That’s not to say we shouldn’t have it as a goal, but what I think we should be looking to do is to stabilise the concentration as quickly as possible at the levels they are today. They’ll be higher tomorrow and higher the day after that. What we need to do immediately is to stop that rate of growth and then get the CO2 out of the atmosphere as quickly as we can.

 

I don’t know whether we’ll be able to suck the stuff out. At the moment it’s a long way away. It’s a Dr Strangelove future. That’s not to say it may not have some purchase in the long-term but at the moment we’re digging out shale gas and tar sands and lots of coal. We’re going to be digging under the Arctic. We don’t need to concern ourselves too much with geo-engineering for the future, we just need to stop getting fossil fuels out of the ground today.

 

You talked about the need to cut emissions by 10% a year and how difficult that’s going to be and how it’s not going to be an easy thing and it’ll affect every aspect of what people do, particularly the people who are used to having it better. Can you describe a bit what you think it’ll look like when we get there? What’s your vision of what things would be like if we actually do this successfully, if we’re able to muster the will and the collective spirit and we actually manage to pull it off? Can you describe what it might be like when we get there?

 

This is quite hard… what will the future look like? It’s difficult for us as scientists and engineers not to impose our other personal ways of seeing the world. There are particular changes that I would like to see the world achieve that are not related to carbon or climate change, not to embody those in my view of the future is not easy.

 

I’m 50 years old now. I had a very good life in the 1970s and a pretty good life in the 1980s. I don’t think my quality of life has significantly improved since the 1970s and 80s, and yet my emissions and the emissions per capita have really gone up very significantly.

 

So we have lived good quality, relatively lower-carbon lives than we are today, not very long ago. Now a lot of that was because we consumed less. We still lived fairly high-consumption lifestyles, and I think if we allied the technical expertise that we have now that could really improve the technologies that we actually use to deliver lifestyles that are very good – we’re not talking about going a long way back to times when people were very impoverished.

 

We had good medical treatment, we had good schools, good transport networks. So I think we can ally both our current technical skills and abilities, with a recognition that we consumed considerably less than we consume today but had a not noticeably different lifestyles – going back to the 50s, 40s or the 30s would be very different, but I don’t think that’s true for the 70s and 80s.

 

Such a transition would certainly be challenging, with some significant equity and distributional impacts, and with a shift in emphasis from a strongly individual and consumption based society to one that embraces more collaboration. I acknowledge this would be more attractive to me, but I recognise that some people would not see such change in a positive light. Nevertheless, I think it’s hard to imagine ourselves getting out of the hole we’re in without a greater degree of collective effort.

 

I don’t think we should be looking to go back to the point where we can’t travel, and where we’re living austere lives. With a greater degree of equity, scarce energy resources can be balanced with high-welfare lives.

 

It’s a future about sufficiency more than it is about greed and wants, whether it’ll be radically different from where we are today will depend on how fast we respond now, but I don’t think it necessarily has to be. We will have lots of opportunities to behave differently, adopt lower consumption habits, and ally that with significant changes in the types and the efficiency of the technologies that are already available. All this could steer us in a resilient low-carbon direction.

 

Do you think the tradeable energy quotas that David Fleming came up with would be a useful tool for that?

 

Myself and my colleague Richard Starkey at the time did quite a lot of work on that, in fact we knew David quite well. Yes, I think it’s certainly one very serious route to consider and indeed David Miliband was quite keen on it at the time, DEFRA eventually dismissed it as “an economic instrument beyond its time”, so it was for the future. Well maybe the future’s here now and we should re-consider using it. It adds a very good equity dimension that demands greater changes from those of us that emit more than others. Coincidently, it is this fairness aspect that could drive innovation and the early adopters more than taxes and other economic instruments whereby high-emitters may be able to buy themselves out of change.

 

I think there’s some significant merit in it as an approach. Setting it up will not be easy. But we have to remember – people say it’s like rationing, well we’re all rationed by what’s called our salary, our income. So we’re all familiar with rations. We are all the time juggling our rations of resources because of what we can and cannot afford. This is just one more of them.

 

I’m not sure it’s quite as difficult as some people suggest to imagine to have to ration, particularly if it only relates to our household energy consumption, electricity, gas and so forth and our vehicle consumption. I think as you start to extend it beyond that it becomes more problematic but I think applied to households and transport it could be a useful tool in catalysing widespread and more equitable engagement and more effectively driving innovation and deployment than would standard economic instruments.

 

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Original article: http://transitionculture.org/2012/11/02/an-interview-with-kevin-anderson-rapid-and-deep-emissions-reductions-may-not-be-easy-but-4c-to-6c-will-be-much-worse/

EnergyBulletin.Net  is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.

Climate Change and Energy Decline: Building resilient communities in the SW United States – Guy McPherson – November 5

at Pima Community College downtown, Amethyst Room, 1255 N Stone Ave

 

Climate Change and Energy Decline:
Building resilient communities
in the southwestern United States

with Guy McPherson

Co-sponsored by Tucson Audubon Society
and Sustainable Tucson

Please note special time and location for this month’s Sustainable Tucson meeting,

When:  Monday, November 5, 2012, 7:00 pm
Where:  Pima Community College’s downtown campus, Amethyst Room on 1255 N. Stone Ave. Easy parking! Central location! See map

Consider how many of the things that you do in your life have been made simpler by the use of cheap fossil fuels and how our planet has changed as a result. How will increasingly scarce and expensive fossil fuels affect how you live your life? Guy McPherson changed his life completely when he considered this question, reducing his use of non-renewable resources and living a more sustainable existence. He has now moved on to considering the social and economic effects of our changing climate. Guy will sign copies of his memoir, Walking Away from Empire, after his talk.

Guy was one of the “local voices” in 2006 and 2007 during the time when  a diverse group of community activists formed Sustainable Tucson. His 2006 article, “Rising gas prices, sporadic shortages are signs of the impending Tucson apocalypse” in the Tucson Weekly and his 2007 article, “Peak oil scenario paints frightening future for all”  published by the Arizona Daily Star helped educate Tucsonans to begin to respond to the emerging sustainability crisis.

To understand the latest climate change scenarios, read this recent interview with Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the UK Tyndall Centre, a major global climate science research center, click here.

Sustainable Tucson August Film Festival – August 12th and 13th

at Joel D. Valdez Main Downtown Library, Large Lower Level Meeting Room, 101 N. Stone, (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

 

Sunday, August 12th 1:00 to 5:00pm, Sustainable Tucson will show three top-rated sustainability films covering critical sustainability topics:

• The U.S. financial crisis erupted in 2008 and still looms on the horizon.

• Resource depletion including non-renewable fossil fuels and clean water threatens further economic growth.

• Global warming and climate change threaten most life-forms including people and future food.

• Social disruption following economic dislocation and government contraction can threaten our capacity to solve-problems and build a more sustainable culture.

• Many solutions are being identified but most require abandoning “business as usual.”

The first film will be shown from 1:00 to 2:30pm and includes a comprehensive presentation of the sustainability crisis and a path way out of our predicament. Many sustainability leaders are interviewed including  Wes Jackson, Paul Hawken, David Suzuki, Kenny Ausubel, David Orr, Janine Benyus,, Stuart Pimm, Richard Heinberg, Paolo Soleri, Thom Hartmann, Lester Brown, James Hillman, Joseph Tainter, James Woolsey, Stephen Schneider, Stephen Hawking, Sandra Postel,  Bill McKibbon, James Hansen, Dr. Andy Weil, Ray Anderson, Andy Lipkis, Tom Linzey, Herman Daly, Peter Warshall, Jerry Mander, Mikhail Gorbachev, Bruce Mau, William McDonough, John Todd, and Gloria Flora among others.

The second film is an award-winning documentary describing the financial crisis which erupted in 2008 and continues to play out today as the global economy is beginning to contract. Financial experts help tell the story of how the largest financial bubble in history grew and finally burst. These include Simon Johnson, George Soros, Satyajit Das, Paul Volker, Nouriel Roubini, U. S. Rep. Barney Frank, Eliot Spitzer, Kenneth Rogoff, Raghuram Rajan, Martin Wolf, Christine Lagarde, and Martin Feldstein among others. This film will be shown from 2:30 to 4:15.

The final film to be shown from 4:15 to 5:00 is a special film which describes how the island nation of Cuba became more self- sufficient and resilient after the food and energy subsidies ended from the Soviet Union which collapsed in 1991.

 

Monday, August 13th, 5:00 to 8:00 pm, Sustainable Tucson will present two excellent films.

The first is a documentary about how the many electric street car systems in U.S towns and cities were intentionally scrapped by a group of automobile-related corporations. The result is that the U.S. is the only industrial country in the world without electric rail systems within and between most cities.  This film will be shown from 5:00 to 6:00pm.

The second film will be shown from 6:15 to 7:45pm and includes a comprehensive presentation of the sustainability crisis and the need to find a path way out of our predicament. Many sustainability leaders are interviewed including Richard Heinberg, Lester Brown, U. S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, Albert Bartlett, Joseph Tainter, David Pimental, Terry Taminen, Bill McKibben, James Hansen, David Korten, Derrick Jensen, and William R. Catton, Jr. among others.

Due to unanswered questions about public licensing, the titles of the films were omitted in this public announcement. The Pima-Tucson Library System does have a general license for showings of films free to the public for educational purposes. This license is granted by a film company consortium but we don’t know for sure about each film. ST falls back on its “fair use” rights under copyright laws to show the films for educational purposes.

We believe that building a sustainable future will take the cooperation and partnering of residents, businesses, government, institutions and organizations. It is in this spirit that we are reaching out to our members, interested people, and community leaders, bringing them together to focus the wider public on these critical sustainability discussions. Our ultimate intent is to build partnerships and work together toward our common goals.

Join us for viewing five great sustainability films in August!

PLEASE NOTE:

Doors open at 1:00 pm on Sunday, August 12th.
Doors open at 4:45 pm on Monday, August 13th

What do we do about climate change?

What do we do about climate change?

by Brian Davey

After Copenhagen it was by no means obvious that simply calling upon governments to act would achieve very much. Yet the situation is urgent – so what do we do? The aim of this chapter is to look at options for getting from where we are now to adequate climate mitigation. It starts by looking at all the obstacles to getting things done – but this is not so that we get discouraged and give up. It is so that we are realistic and can find our way around the obstacles.

 

A recent book by the Financial Times columnist and academic, John Kay, points out that the most successful ways of achieving policy, business or other goals in human affairs is not to approach our goals directly but indirectly. It is the oblique approach that often achieves most[1].

 

There is a very good case for approaching climate mitigation obliquely particularly as the task is huge and complex, because much of what needs to happen is unclear – and because the resistances to getting action put in place by vested interests are very powerful. At the same time there are powerful pressures to get something done about a growing crisis in the energy system and millions of people are having to adjust their lives to this energy and economic crisis. So how can an indirect response to the climate crisis be put in place as part of a general programme for the wider crisis? How can we enlist the active involvement of millions of people and win them over for adequate climate policies – for example those who have become involved in the Occupy movement that has sprung up the world over?

 

If it is not as easy as it is supposed to be to make the democratic process work for us perhaps this is because we have pinned our thinking too much to the head-on direct route. People are struggling to cope with lots of problems – how about ideas about how to help them and deal with the climate crisis too?

 

Most of us know the head-on direct route very well. It is the route of political common sense. We are supposed to put credible policy ideas into letters and articles for newspapers and in the letters that we write to our MPs. Having convinced our MPs what is supposed to happen is that our ideas are passed on to ministers and examined by officials. If enough members of the public want something the policy will eventually be enacted. What we are supposed to do is to lobby the politicians and officials with credible ideas. That is the theory and most of us know in our hearts that it doesn’t work – even if we do not acknowledge it yet in our heads and in what we do and say.

As if!

As is very clear the chances of getting adequate climate change mitigation in the current growth economy are very slim. The UK government’s former advisers, the Sustainable Development Commission, have published studies that say so. For example, “Prosperity without Growth” written by Professor Tim Jackson, showed how a growing economy could not possibly achieve the carbon emissions reductions required even to reach an inadequate 450ppm CO2 target by 2050. To achieve an average year on year reduction of emissions of 4.9% with 0.7% population growth and 1.4% income growth would require technological change to reduce emissions per unit of economic output at 7% per annum. That is ten times the current rate.[2]

 

Nevertheless the policy makers and business are locked into a commitment to growth. Growth is a central idea in what John Jopling and Roy Madron term “the elite consensus” in their book Gaian Democracy. [3] Those people who argue for non growth economics are ignored by policy makers, business and most journalists. The Sustainable Development Commission and Tim Jackson told the government that growth and sustainability were not compatible – and this probably helped to seal the fate of the SDC – it was abolished by the coalition government as one of the victims of the cuts.

 

If you follow the route of political common sense and lobby for ideas outside the elite consensus – ie the growth consensus – you get ignored. Although everyone says that they like thinking that is “outside the box”, they do not mean thinking outside the growing economy box.

 

Now there are systemic reasons for this addiction to growth. There are reasons as to why it is considered more important than dealing with climate change. For one thing growth has come to be seen as “the” answer for all political problems. Writer Clive Hamilton describes this as fetishistic:

 

“Growth alone will save the poor. If inequality causes concern, a rising tide lifts all boats. Growth will solve unemployment. If we want better schools and hospitals then economic growth will provide. And if the environment is in decline then higher growth will generate the means to fix it. Whatever the social problem, the answer is always more growth” [4]

 

Over and above the fetishist mind set of the policy establishment there are deeper, structural reasons for their collective fixation. These reasons arise out of the nature of the money and financial system. The argument here is not new – green economists have called attention to this problem for decades and it is explored in the other chapters of this book at length.

 

Debt based money and growth

Since we all depend on the smooth functioning of the money and financial system, and since we all use it in our everyday life, the money system should be regarded as a commons resource. It should be managed in the interests of everyone. However, the financial system has been effectively privatised because almost all money comes into existence as bank deposits when banks lend money to their customers. The banks create the money that they lend and money is backed, not by gold as it used to be a long time ago, but by debt – by promises to repay loans to bankers with interest.

 

The important point here is that, while the banks create the money that they lend, they do not simultaneously create the money that their customers also need in order to pay the interest on their bank borrowings. The economy has to keep on growing in order for there to be a basis to motivate new lending. Without new lending, and hence new debt being created, there is no source for the next round of additional money needed to pay the interest on the previous debt.

 

This kind of economy does not have a reverse gear. Because of its debt based money arrangements the economy must keep growing or the banks get into trouble. If the economy does not grow then it needs something else to grow instead – like asset value bubbles, mainly in the real estate markets, so that banks have a basis to keep on inflating their lending.

 

If the banks stop lending and people repay their debts the money supply and liquidity starts to dry up, people get into trouble repaying debts and the banks get into problems too. Remember – since almost all money is backed by debt, then in those times when the main dynamic in the economy is that debts are being repaid the money in circulation starts to fall and demand starts to shrink. Horror of horrors the process becomes a vicious deflationary cycle. The economy goes into a downward spiral. Confidence in the banks begins to wobble and people want to take the money out of the machines in the wall.

 

This explains at a deeper structural level why growth is the taken for granted and self evident goal that few politicians, economists or journalists dare question. It enables us to understand the toxic group-think of the political economic elite – I write ‘toxic’ because, as argued earlier, it is impossible to reduce carbon emissions sufficiently if the economy does keep on growing…. which means, conversely that, at least when growth does stall, so too do carbon emissions….

 

…it also gives us an important topic for dialogue with the movement for deep change that has suddenly emerged in tents in cities all over the world, a movement focused on seeking to challenge a crisis of injustice whose roots are the banking system.

 

Policy making as an in club… of addicts

So problem number one is that, if you argue the case for policies that would cut emissions adequately, you will be arguing for the ultimate heresy, no-growth economics, and you will get ignored by the growth junkies – at the same time however we have something important to say to the movement in the street.

 

That’s not all either. Most kinds of addicts share their lifestyle with others – it is so hard to give up their addiction not only because of a brain-chemical dependency but because it means giving up on a social network. That’s partly why groups like Alcoholics Anonymous work so well – AA gives another social network based on staying off the drink.

 

Money and energy junkies are not that different. Inside the addiction circle of very important people it is difficult to get a look-in for other ideas anyway. Policy is largely formulated by officials in a dialogue with vested interests or ‘stakeholders’. Some lobbyists are much more influential than others. These are the ones well connected to people who own newspapers or other mass media and the journalists working for them. To a large extent public relation companies set the agenda. People of influence have been to the same public schools as the politicians, meet regularly in the same clubs, set up their own think tanks, set up foundations to fund pet causes and operate both behind-the-scenes – or in front of the cameras – all in a way that people without money and time are unable to do. It is in this way that the 1% consolidate their position in the corridors of power.

 

Regulatory Capture

This helps explain what is called “regulatory capture”. The officials working for ministries and public departments which are supposed to regulate private interests instead develop a cosy relationship with those same interests. It seems quite natural for people in a particular economic sector, who have some knowledge of it, to apply for jobs in the regulatory agencies. Likewise people in government, and in the regulatory agencies, regularly take jobs in the very same sectors which they previously had a role in regulating. It is true in the banking sector, which, as an increasing number of people are aware, has taken over and neutralised state regulation. It is also, to a very large degree, true in the energy sector.

 

Nobody likes to maintain stressful confrontational relationships with others over long periods. It is more congenial when relationships between regulators and regulated are cosy. Then poachers and gamekeepers can switch roles from time to time too. People outside the comfortable clubs, who are losing out, may try to rock the boat to get a problem dealt with – but will often need considerable resources and endurance to maintain pressure to get anything done, particularly if it involves bad vibes.

 

If they have that endurance, the resources and a good case, outsiders like critical NGOs may, in some cases, be an embarrassment – so they may then be co-opted. Concessions may be made and the critics are allowed to join the club and become instead a force for inertia. Their radical rhetoric gives the appearance that the democratic and consultative system is working.

 

In the relationship between governments and commercial interests there are few businesses more powerful than the fossil energy companies and the industries closely connected to them – e.g pharmaceuticals. Wherever one looks in the world fossil energy companies and states exist in a symbiotic relationship. Political economic power goes with the deployment of technologies, infrastructures and armaments that use huge quantities of fossil energy. The companies that deliver that energy are therefore of strategic importance and are tightly bound into governments. It is not exaggerating too much to say that either energy companies own the state or, in some cases, are owned by the state. A revolving door relationship exists at the highest level between the personnel of the energy companies and those of governments. What’s more, support for democracy takes second place when it comes to securing fossil energy – one has only to point to the cosy relationship between western governments and the autocrats in oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia. Perhaps only the banks have more influence than the energy corporations.

 

It is against this huge inertia that climate policy in general, and cap and share in particular, have to be developed. The capacity of the political system and vested interests to fundamentally reform themselves is very limited.

 

On first impressions, given this context, the situation appears to be pretty hopeless. It is certainly an illusion to imagine that a clearly articulated argument about the survival of life on Earth, and social justice, is enough to make a difference in the policy arena as thus described. Even brilliantly expressed arguments can be ignored and they are ignored. One can even define power as ‘the ability to ignore’. The higher up the political hierarchy one goes the better at ignoring other ideas and agendas the post holders become. Indeed they have to ignore others because the number of issues that they have to deal with becomes too great. Power holders choose their agendas for focus and ignore the rest. In this regard the whole purpose of seeking power is to pursue one’s own agenda choices.

 

The source of change lies outside the mainstream

However, this is to misunderstand the sources of change, which lie outside the mainstream. The physicist Max Planck described how change occurs in science – and his words also give us a clue as to how it might possibly change in society and in the economy too:

 

“An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way rapidly winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarised with the idea from the beginning” [5]

 

The alternatives to the present log jam have to be constructed outside the political and economic mainstream. Preparations are needed for a rapid transfer over to a new system that is running in embryo when things begin to breakdown, when an older generation flounder and prove quite unable to understand what is going on and quite incapable of coping.

 

How that might happen has been explored in various writings by different authors and activists who have looked for concept systems that put their local and limited activities in a broader context. The slogan “Think global and act local” is now well known and much recent thought has gone into working out, more exactly, what the phrase, “think global” actually means and how it touches on local practice. In cities all over the world an active movement for change is seeking for how this be done – refusing to prematurely focus on demands, because there is a realisation that this is a complex task and if you are going a long way you need to travel slowly.

 

Big Ideas and Grand Narratives – for inspirational intrinsic motivations

We are entering a period of great economic and social turmoil and millions of people are showing clearly that they are yearning for a clear way forward out of the chaos. This will be a time when people will be looking for big picture explanations as to what is happening and big picture credible ideas as to the way out. Policies and ideas for climate change mitigation must become an integral part of these big picture narratives. It is important that our ideas are there otherwise the mass movements will be in danger of over-simplifying, thinking that if only we get rid of the bankers then all our problems will be solved.

 

New arrangements and new thinking about the management of commons is part of the big picture for a future transformation. People are much more prepared to do “their bit” when they feel that what they are doing is part of a larger whole. This gives greater meaning to lives which would otherwise be small because lived in the pursuit of trivial purposes.

 

In times of turmoil people struggle to understand the bigger picture and embrace new purposes which provide a focus for new intrinsic motivations. As they struggle to understand, to orientate themselves, and to find a way forward that makes sense, they discover causes for themselves in the sense explained by Arnold Bennett. (“A cause may be inconvenient, but it’s magnificent. It’s like champagne or high heels, and one must be prepared to suffer for it”).

 

This should be compared to the approach of mainstream economics to climate change which proposes that we be nudged towards climate mitigation by changes in prices. It suggests that we need to be “incentivised” – and that we will make money or save money by doing climate mitigation – an approach that relies on extrinsic motivations.

 

In complete contrast to solving the climate crisis through cash based incentives we need a “Big Idea” which will provide a focus for intrinsic motivations – creating a movement of people working to protect and share common resources. That “Big Idea” is a programme for commons management arising out of a convergence of thinking from different places and requiring new structures and processes based on collaborative networks.

 

It is beginning to happen. In the years and months before the camps of tents people and movements who have seen their role as protecting common natural resources (the oceans, the atmosphere, fresh water resources) are coming together in a dialogue with those who have realised that they are creating and seeking to defend an “information commons”. In the internet, resources like linux, wikipedia and other design processes are effectively creating resources for free in peer to peer work relationships – which corporations try to recapture and enclose to privatise the value created by others for themselves.

 

“The commons” is therefore a key “big idea” for a policy and ideological platform. Cap and share, as well as our other climate policy approaches, needs to be clearly contextualised as an approach that fits best with the management of the earth’s atmosphere and climate as a common resource, co-managed and shared by all for the benefit of all, including future generations.

 

It should be acknowledged here that there is a point of view that big idea explanations which a signpost the future, ‘grand narratives’ as they are called, are unwanted and dangerous. The fear is that signposting “inevitable and necessary futures” for billions of people to march towards would bring new tyrannies into being. This implies that if we develop global policies like cap and share to deal with global problems then inevitably we need global bureaucratic hierarchies with immense power. The worry is that these bureaucracies will, in turn, morph into new top down regimes. Such tyrannies will have great power because, in the face of the big picture which underpins them ideologically, the grandeur and importance of the end – preventing runaway climate change and ecological collapse – would justify any means.

 

But the point here is that cap and share does not require a big bureaucracy. It is appealing because of its very simplicity.

 

It is certainly true that a great deal would need to be done to adjust to, and cope with, a rapidly tightening cap. A lot of things will have to be done at the level of households, communities, and in each locality. In each case there will be a need for a unique and location-specific transformation of energy technologies, buildings, production systems, as well as cultivational landscapes and transport configurations.

 

The Great Transition

Another way of thinking about the tasks at hand is to use the ideas of the “Great Transition”. [6] The authors and activists who are developing this overarching framework describe the economy and society as existing in three zones or spheres: a cultural landscape, the dominant economic and political regime and a realm of niche alternatives.

The “cultural landscape” consists of the common motivations of the people in a society and the narratives that the people use to understand the way the world works and their place in it – this is dominant culture of that society.

 

The culture is embedded and embodied in a second sphere – the economic and political “regimes”. These are the powerful institutions that take decisions and allocate resources that have already been described as tightly integrated together. Most of the effort of NGOs and civil society organisations is currently focused on trying to influence these regimes. But as we have seen, these efforts are often too weak and are frequently ignored – or where they do have an impact they tend to be co-opted and then neutralised.

 

Nevertheless a third zone does exist as a potential source of change. It is not currently very large but it can be found as a place of niche experiments, of small scale developmental projects. In the theory of the “Great Transition” these niche experiments are described as “seed projects”. They are run on motivations and narratives which do not fit into the cultural mainstream. If you talk to people in Transition Initiatives, in community gardens, or urban farms, or community energy projects you will typically find that they share a similar story about how the future is likely to look, or how they would like it to look. You will find too that they are much more committed to helping vulnerable people and not in it primarily to make money for themselves. [7]

 

“Seed projects” like this are embodied and embedded in different motivations and narratives and represent an alternative culture. It is by these projects developing further, networking together, becoming stronger that they might start to look more credible as the embryonic basis of new regime, a new economy that is more appropriate to the troubled times.

 

Since climate change is a system problem, rooted in the use of fossil energy to power a “consume more – bigger – faster” economy, an economy that is getting more unequal all the time, it follows that a lot more than a single policy will be required to get to deal with it. A system change is needed – but how does one achieve system change? It is one thing to explain how the current system works, it is quite another to explain how a transition is to be made from this system to another one that is non destructive. Agreeing what the transition will look like, and then making it happen, in a collective social process is the task at hand. And it is a very challenging task. Nor are we likely to find many mainstream businesses lending a hand as they have an inbuilt growth imperative. This is a task for people – not people playing roles in institutions.

 

Variants of the Great Transition

The commons and the Great Transition are just two of a growing number of ‘bigger picture’ approaches to what we have to do. There are many different people around the world attempting to envisage what a new system would be like and how it might emerge as the further development of current projects and practices. Despite superficial differences of approach the different eco-social “visions of the future” have a lot in common. These different approaches are mostly compatible and can converge with one another.

 

For example, from Germany there are ideas being developed about how to develop a “solidarity economy” – which is forseen as emerging from the development and networking of co-operatives, social and community enterprises focused on ecological and energy goals, community energy companies, community gardens, community supported agriculture and the like.[8]

 

Then there are the ideas of the Transition Movement, originated in the UK and Ireland and now globally spread – a town and city based mixture of practical projects and reskilling activities which bring communities together around a positive vision of energy descent.[9]

 

There are ideas too developed by the Decroissance (Degrowth) Movement in France and the Post Wachstum (Post Growth) Movement in Germany, as well as the “Steady State Economy” thinkers in the UK and USA. [10] [11] [12] Under these ‘umbrellas’ thinkers and practitioners of alternative economics have come together. They seek to counterpose different lifestyles, economic arrangements and the projects associated with them to the growth fetishism in the economic and cultural mainstream. Major conferences on the theme of post growth economics have occurred in Barcelona, Paris and Berlin over the last few years. The conference in Berlin in May 2011 was attended by 2,500 people, many of them young. This is an up and coming generation who will make the future. When we write about the reduction of carbon emissions up to 2050 we are talking about the bulk of their working lives. What they think and the ideas they share will be the future “Zeitgeist”.

 

As is obvious these movements are best visualised as overlapping networks of smaller groups, either of campaigners and/or of project activities – whose ideas are mostly either very similar, or at least mutually compatible and non competitive.

 

Thus what seems to be emerging is not an “alternative system” like “socialism” and/or “communism” was envisaged to be – a centralised, pre-conceived system created and driven through top down hierarchical relationships and established through a violent seizure of state power. Rather this is a gradual ‘bottom upwards’ process of local level projects and groups that are networking and cross fertilising in a variety of local, national and international forums. Nor is this an internationalisation that is merely between the rich countries. There has been participation by groups and communities from countries of the south in these discussions which have been more than formal and tokenistic. For example, the ideas of ‘Buen Vivir’ from indigenous communities in Bolivia and Ecuador, pre-colonial ideas of a good life with harmony between peoples and with nature, have been important in shaping the understanding how to motivate and guide a good life beyond growth.[13]

 

In his book Sacred Unrest Paul Hawken suggests that there are perhaps a half million organisations around the world focused on local economic development, environmental and social justice, and the rights of indigenous people.[14] The characteristics of all these organisations are their huge diversity. Yet they can evolve together in a coherent way. As Elinor Ostrom has argued, it will require a poly centric and multi level approach if the variety of each group, appropriate to the place it operates, is to be recognised and continued and yet, at the same time, the very different groups are to operate together coherently. [15] What is required here is not a top-down bureaucracy which would be incapable of coping with the variety. We need, instead, a network of active groups in which each node has a high level of autonomy and in which overall coherence is created by mutually adaptive arrangements, activated horizontally only as and when needed. Such mutual adaptation between autonomous nodes of activity would be organised to minimise conflicts, maximise synergy, to create and share information about evolving operating environments and to share and create joint value systems to facilitate the common sense of purpose. The ideas here parallel those of the late Stafford Beer and his Viable Systems Model, with its approach to networked management and nested organisations. [16]

 

This kind of networked coming together is the best hope for the world. It is out of this coming together that we can see how climate action and policy can be shaped in the future. In the meta systems that then emerge to link local level responses we will find ourselves creating a new operating environment in which firstly local government and then national governments will find themselves operating – having a powerful influence on their policy making process. The only sustainable and resilient world economy, an economy which is not climate destructive, is based on a re-localisation of economies. So it is through the networking of local initiatives to grow a greater power that a coherent response to climate change can be developed.[17]

 

It is processes like these which make it credible to believe that in the future a Climate Trust of the type envisaged by John Jopling in his chapter will emerge (see chapter 5).

This, in turn, might then provide a different kind of future as the carbon intensive regime of the old men looks less and less credible and has more and more trouble sustaining itself.

 

Generation change and Zeitgeist

There are good reasons to believe that we are entering a period in which the economy developed and managed by baby boomers on the brink of retirement will find sustaining itself very difficult. Much has been written about the impending peak of world oil production and a peak in world gas production to soon follow. Many argue that we are already at the oil peak and, in fact, on a plateau, so that the decline is soon to come. What is less well known is that this is occurring at a time of generation change in the oil and gas industry itself.

 

Almost exactly at the time predicted by the IEA for an energy crunch, there is a retirement peak in the oil and gas industry – and this is an international phenomenon. At the time of writing roughly half of the overall professional workforce in production and exploration are aged between 40 and 50 while barely 15% are in their early 20s to mid 30s. According to Booz Allen Research about 33% of those employed in the industry will retire by 2012. It is against this background that we should assess the oil and gas industries’ ability to rise to the technological challenges like that of successfully and safely tapping ultra deep water oil. [18] [19]

 

A similar phenomena can be found in the nuclear industry. There have been serious problems, delays and major cost overruns in the attempts to build a nuclear reactor in Finland. An article in Der Spiegel drew attention to no less than 3,000 construction faults at Olkiluoto. In large part this is because the expertise is not there and this problem is due to get worse. 40% of the personnel in US nuclear plants are due to retire soon and the industry will have to recruit 26,000 over the next decade even if it does not build a single new reactor. In 2008 however US universities turned out 841 graduates. The situation in Germany is even more alarming where between 1998 and 2002 only two students graduated in nuclear engineering prompting Areva to fund a training facility in Karlsruhe.[20]

 

At the same time any young person with an ability to read who is interested in technology and engineering and who is starting their careers are bound to have noticed that “green jobs” are being touted as much more recession proof and also that employment in “green jobs” – or in “cleantech” – are growing fast – albeit starting from a very low point. The idea that these jobs are more in tune with the future is a plausible one because, while the fossil fuel and nuclear sectors are running down with their engineers and their personnel are retiring, over the very same period “clean energy” employment is growing rapidly. This is especially the case in countries like Germany and China but it is even the case in the USA where employment in this sector grew by 9.1% per annum between 1998 and 2007. [21]

 

The point is that employment changes in terms of training and new job entry at one pole and retirement at the other pole are lagging indicators of a trend that is occurring now anyway. The twin process can be seen as a powerful reinforcing feedback in a transition that is and will occur consisting of an acceleration of the decline of traditional carbon based energy sectors and creating an upward dynamic in those replacing them.

 

A contested and confusing transition

Notwithstanding, caution is needed. The employment and generational transition is not occurring, and will not occur, without conflicts and considerable contestation. There is obviously a battle opening up around what the future energy system will be like – gas, nuclear or renewables. These are alternatives and it is not easy for governments to have a mixture.

 

The crisis at the nuclear reactor at Fukushima after the earthquake and the Tsunami, a crisis which will clearly not go away and which will run for months and months, perhaps year after year, has been a serious blow to the nuclear sector. It has had its greatest effect in Germany where the country appears to have decided to stake its future much more on renewable energy. At the time of writing Germany is looking at how it will upgrade and change its grid to make this possible – perhaps by adapting and upgrading the electric power lines of the railways, thus minimising the nimby backlash. [22]

 

Simultaneously the oil and gas industry are contesting moves towards a future based on renewable energy. They want political backing for the further development of fossil fuels and, in particular, supporting for so called “unconventional gas” – by technologies which drill into and shatter shale rock formations to release the gas trapped in them.

 

In the USA shale gas development has become hugely controversial. There are environmental and health effects from the toxic materials that have been used and released into surrounding rocks, water, the atmosphere and soils. In the UK shale gas has been associated with an earthquake near Blackpool. Shale gas is controversial too because the fracking production process, as well as pumping gas from production source to its place of combustion, has been found to entail significant leakage. The natural gas thus leaked, mainly methane, is itself a powerful source of global warming. These facts are undermining the claim that natural gas a source of relatively climate friendly energy. Fracking has been banned in France – but it looks as if it will go ahead in the UK.[23] [24] [25]

 

The change in energy system is thus contested and its outcome unclear. Nevertheless the fall in oil production after peak is likely to be fast and we are witnessing processes that will progressively change the conditions in which all governments operate. If governments fail to recognise what is going on at this point in time it is because they are still operating under the influence of old men and old financial institutions. The new networks of groups that were described earlier are not strong enough to impose their ideas and will on the state. Will this change soon?

 

The political system – waking up a bit late to impending chaos

What we have been witnessing are the thrashing agonies of a dying energy system that is using its traditional links and grip on the political system to try to maintain its influence. This influence is, however, beginning to wane. The death agony is well covered up by PR and spin but it is a death agony without doubt.

 

The political establishment and vested interests have been very resistant to change. As a result we are entering a period of crisis with a woefully unprepared political system. Crises like this are periods of danger but they are also periods of opportunity – because it becomes clear to thinking people that things cannot go on in the same way. It is the preparation for such a generalised crisis that we must now apply ourselves to.

 

As is generally recognised, the full force of the climate crisis lies some way in the future. However, if not enough is done in the next few years then, by the time the terrifyingly destructive impacts are felt it will be too late to do anything meaningful. The effects will keep on rolling relentlessly for centuries. Nevertheless, here and now, the energy and economic system is about to enter a period of convulsion anyway. Cap and share and our climate policies thus need to be made fit for purpose as part of a package that millions of people identify with as being necessary to deal with the structural problems, not in the future but now.

 

An immediate future of great uncertainty

There are arguments that what we can still do will not be enough when measured against the huge necessities for change required for substantive climate mitigation. This is the argument of Clive Hamilton in his widely praised the book Requiem for a Species. However Hamilton assumes that the recession unleashed by the credit crisis which has stabilised global emissions is merely a temporary problem.

 

This is very unlikely to be the case. As argued it is very probable that we are now in a period of economic instability because of peak oil and peak debt which will continue. Although emissions bounced backed strikingly in 2010 after the recession, one must wonder how long the “recovery” will continue.

 

In important respects, the instability will not help. Worse case scenarios suggest that the interaction between declining oil supplies and the fragile financial system could cause huge dislocations and these, in turn, could undermine the basis for large scale engineering solutions to energy shortages and the carbon crisis. Under these worse case scenarios the deflationary collapse of the economic system, which at the time of writing seems very likely, would lead to a disintegration of the very fabric of complex economic organisation needed to deliver the components for a renewable based rebuild of the energy infrastructure.

 

Nevertheless one can turn the pessimistic argument on its head. In the face of floundering economic, industrial and ecological policy in the next few years the best thing to help would be to unify and mobilise all of society behind a major investment programme for energy and agricultural transformation – before it is too late. When societies are in chaos, malevolent elites pick a fight with neighbouring countries and an external enemy creates internal cohesion. An elite that finally realises it must fight to prevent a breakdown of the energy system instead of an external enemy might be able to pull things round.

 

Alternatively this idea of a global fight to renew the energy and the cultivation systems, particularly in a way that stresses commons can provide a large part of the unifying vision for the movements of the streets, offering work and justice at the same time. Once underway, the accumulation of renewable energy equipment and its infrastructure would create its own self feeding dynamic, delivering more energy than it costs to build up. In that kind of future context there is some kind of vision of hope against mass destitution which a collapsing finance sector is bringing down on our heads.

 

There do seem to be huge opportunities for renewable energy systems – in particular offshore wind energy around the UK and concentrated solar power in southern countries and deserts. There are also opportunities for considerable reductions in energy consumption. There are arguments that, for example, the energy return on energy invested in offshore wind are considerable and the scale of the engineering challenge is no greater than the previous construction of an offshore oil infrastructure.[26]

 

The open question – Chaos or Grand Transition?

It will be challenging. In some parts of the political system a few officials and politicians are just beginning to get a belated understanding of this. Although there is a great reluctance to transform the energy economy in face of climate change there is the first dawning of a recognition that the energy economy will have to be transformed because of peak oil. The code words for ‘peak oil’ in business and government are ‘energy security’. Some parts of the business establishment too have finally acknowledged the message of peak oil and are looking at what will be done about it. Although the peak oil and climate imperatives are not identical they do overlap.

 

With this growing awareness the danger is that politicians and business will take the wrong decisions. The peaking of conventional oil could worsen climate change by driving an increased use of more carbon intensive substitutes and biomass. In order to keep global temperatures within 2°C or preindustrial levels, cumulative CO2 emissions must be kept well below the amount per would be produced from burning the remaining proven economically recoverable fossil fuel reserves.

 

Nevertheless, there is an increasing recognition that if the energy system must be transformed it makes more sense to deal with climate change and peak oil at the same time. Some can see already that it is a dead-end to try to use the remaining fossil fuels and that it makes more sense to go directly over to renewables.

 

An example is the Centre for Alternative Technology’s second edition of Zero Carbon Britain – Zero Carbon Britain 2030 – in which cap and share is described as one of a number of possible policies in the framework that will be needed to drive decarbonisation. [27] Another example of cap and share in a general package of policies from our own ranks is the Holyrood 350 Programme for Scotland. [28]

 

Another example of a policy which connects action on energy security (peak oil) with action on climate change is a Lloyds/Chatham house report on sustainable energy security. This argues that:

 

“Energy security is now inseparable from the transition to a low carbon economy and business plans should prepare for this new reality. Security of supply and emissions reductions objectives should be addressed equally as prioritising one over the other will increase the risk of stranded investments or requirements for expensive retrofitting.” [29]

 

In summary we can expect to see energy transformation being pushed up the political agenda. In the best scenarios we would expect to see a search for new and more effective, policy mechanisms for carbon reduction occuring too. This is because, while it is becoming blindingly obvious that these are absolutely core issues, the global political establishment has clearly shunted itself into a dead end in trying to do something about these issues.

 

The Copenhagen Debacle

In this regard there is a most extraordinary situation opening up. For all the reasons explained at the beginning of this chapter the global political and economic elite have totally failed to provide anything at all credible in the way of a response to the climate crisis and energy crisis. The collapse of the UNFCCC process at Copenhagen and the collapse of Obama’s efforts to introduce climate legislation in the USA can be seen as a stalemate between an old energy order and political system and a new one that is not yet powerful enough to emerge and make its dynamic the dominating one. The energy system of the old men and old money is still too powerful. But, as we have seen most of these old men will have gone in a very few years – and the carbon energy that they supply, and which is their power basis will be in precipitate decline.

 

We are, in short, moving towards a situation where policies like cap and share and a carbon maintenance fund to prevent loss of soil carbon need to be argued for as part of packages of transformation in order to avert a generalised collapse caused by the wooden headedness of fixated old men. The support for the new developments will largely have to be found outside the political mainstream in the emerging new movements that were mentioned earlier in this chapter.

 

Through the projects and networks of these movements only so much can be done in energy efficiency and carbon reduction at the household community and local level if there is not some wider framework to “lock in” what is achieved. Without an adequate framework the improvements that are made would be immediately lost because of “rebound effects” of the type explored by Nick Bardsley in his chapter. Also, the energy and carbon saved in one place would be squandered by irresponsible people and companies in another place. These community-based activities will inevitably be driven by a stronger prioritisation for social justice issues and the share in cap and share will be more attractive and influential here.

 

The key idea here, to return to the idea of indirectness, is that climate policies need to be not just head on attempts to tackle climate change but ideas for society – for reconstructing energy systems, for maintaining macro economic activity and employment (if not growth), for expressing new ideas of social justice and also for making clear how we are going to look after each other. Let us now turn to these points.

 

The macro economics of climate policy and the politics of rent at the limits to growth

Given the wider picture we should not forget that cap and share can be promoted not only for driving decarbonisation but because of its effect on purchasing power as energy prices rise. Cap and share has more to offer than as a driver of climate mitigation alone. After peak oil each new impetus to economic recovery is likely to lead to a spike in oil prices that will, in turn, crash the world economy. This volatility will not help long run structural changes and nor give the security needed to encourage productive investment in new energy systems.

 

As fossil energy prices soar upwards many non-marginal energy producers will, for example, still be supplying from fields with low production costs. During the price spikes they will be raking in money way above their production costs and there will be a transfer of what economists call “scarcity rents” to these producers. (Rent is here the large amount of money made when there are high prices because of high demand and scarcity even though some producers are still able to pump oil and gas relatively cheaply). These “rents” will be taken from the pockets of everyone else. Rent transfers like this unbalance the economy, lead to unrest and bring on the next crash.

 

Beyond the “limits to growth” there is still room for money junkies to get rich if we let our unjust system continue – not because of their inventiveness, or their enterprise, or what they produce, but because they succeed in cornering the ownership of the scarce resources that everyone needs – energy, the atmosphere, fresh water, land, food commodities… and then are able to charge a high price, enriching themselves while the poor are driven into destitution. This threatens to be a 21st-century “politics of rent” and we have to find answers to it.

 

From this point of view, arrangements like cap and share have a wider relevance. It is necessary to manage the Earth’s atmosphere as a global commons for which we are all equally responsible, in a way that ensures that, when there are benefits to be had, we all get them – also ensuring that particular groups are not unfairly burdened. The energy transformation should be arranged in such a way as to ensure that the mass of the global population get a share from the sale of permits. This will balance purchasing power, moderate the contractionary process and part-provide some of the capital resources needed to help people transform their homes and gardens. At the same time it can help provide the incentives and stability for large investments, like offshore wind, where there are the resources, the capacity and will for these to be developed.

 

Similar principles need to be applied, adapted to context, across other natural and human commons – including in the monetary system regarded as a Commons. Earlier we explained that the debt based money system is a major part of the problem. It has no reverse gear and is implicated in the growth fixation of mainstream politics. That’s because the money commons has been privatised in the interests of the moneylenders and a major part of the overhaul that is needed is to transform the money system too – to manage it in the interests of everyone.

 

Commons resources should be managed in the interests of all – including future generations who should inherit them intact and healthy – the oceans, fresh water supplies, land rent and the like. That means not only policies but appropriate institutional architectures. These are major agenda items but it seems unlikely that top down policies from governments will emerge until a lot of bottom upwards improvisation from grass roots movements of the type described earlier has been tried and been found to be practical and workable. [30]

 

Conclusion

 

To sum up, the existing economic and political system has proved incapable up to now of embracing anything like an adequate level of climate mitigation. It can be argued plausibly that it is already too late to prevent runaway climate change. It is certainly touch and go. There is nothing inevitable about the future. Nevertheless it is clear that we are entering a period of economic, social and political turmoil brought about by peak oil, peak debt and the decomposition of a political system that millions of people now regard as corrupt and not to be trusted. There is increasing recognition even in parts of the business elite that major changes in the transformation of the energy system are going to be needed and that it does not make sense to deal separately with peak oil and climate change. In this context the relevance of policy ideas like cap and share to these other problems must be made clear and such policies firmly located in packages for transformation.

 

What is still not a clear is how far governments are capable of contributing to the new future. There is an argument that states are being increasingly hollowed out and incapable of real social and ecological leadership. It has been argued, for example by Naomi Klein, that states are led by parties functioning as brands, backed by PR machines, intent on organising society to whatever the financiers want. It is certainly this view that makes most sense of the utter failure of the state to control the financial markets and the financial sector. [31]

 

Of course, we want government support for what we are doing if they will give it – but meanwhile if there is indifference and hostility from governments then we must get on and set up the organisations that we need. We can do that by setting up organisations where we are and then networking them together. When we do this we do it in the hope that there will be a supportive government buy-in later, when pressured by our movements with their different commons based ideologies and their practical community relevance on the ground. If we cannot get governments to do the job we must move to set up the organisations that we need and then struggle to win them the power to do the job directly. At the current time governments will not go against the elite consensus – but in the profound turmoil ahead we should not underestimate the extent to which power relationships will change if we are well organised, with clear ideas that attract a mass following.

 

In this context it makes sense to evolve a package of economic energy and climate policies to address the different crises together – financial, energy, climate, cultivational. Such packages of policies which seek to reconfigure the world we live in have already begun to appear – like “Zero Carbon Britain 2030” and the programme of “Holyrood 350” in Scotland. These programmes will be immeasurably strengthened by being based in new forms of networked commons organisations operating with charters of rights and responsibilities that they win from the existing political system.

 

To fully complete the reconfiguration of our economy and society we need to connect with the emerging movements with new ideas that captures rights to defend the commons and new ways of managing them which do not rely on yet another top-heavy bureaucracy.

 

Original article: http://www.sharingforsurvival.org/index.php/what-do-we-do-about-climate-change-brian-davey/

 

 

 

Endnotes

 

1. John Kay, Obliquity, Profile Books, 2010.

2. Tim Jackson, Prosperity without Growth?, Sustainable Development Commission, 2009

3. Roy Madron and John Jopling, Gaian Democracies, Schumacher Briefings/Green Books, 2003

4. Clive Hamilton, Requiem for a Species, Earthscan, 2010, p33.

5. Max Planck, The Philosophy Of Physics, W. W. Norton & Co. 1963

6. http://www.smart-csos.org/

7. See for example, Nadia Johanisova, Living in the Cracks, Feasta/Green Books, 2005

8. http://www.solidarische-oekonomie.de

9. www.transitionnetwork.org

10. www.decroissance.org

11. www.jenseits-des-wachstums.de

12. http://steadystate.org

13. Thomas Fatheuer, Buen Vivir, Hsg. Heinrich Boell Stiftung, Band 17, 2011

14. Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest, Penguin Books, 2007

15. Elinor Ostrom, A Multiscale Approach to Coping with Climate Change and other collective action problems, http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/565

16. Stafford Beer, Think before you Think, Wavestone Press, 2009, pp134-157. See also Jon Walker’s article at http://www.esrad.org.uk/resources/vsmg_3/screen.php?page=preface

17. Richard Douthwaite, Short Circuit: Strengthening Local Economies in an Unstable World, online edition, June 2003 downloadable at http://www.feasta.org/2003/06/16/short-circuit/

18. Jodie Humphries, Oil and gas workforce – a shortage in skilled labour, Jodie Humphries August 2010 at http://www.ngoilgasmena.com/article/oil-and-gas-workforce-a-shortage-in-skilled-labour/

19. www.cres.ch/Documents/SKILLS%20SHORTAGE%20PART%20I%20pdf.pdf

20. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,655409-2,00.html

21. http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/40051

22. “Germany explores using Train Lines as a Power Grid” http://www.spiegel.de/international/ germany/0,1518,758698,00.html

23. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9255520.stm

24. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/us/04gas.html?_r=2&hp

25. Robert W Howard, Renee Santoro, Antony Ingraffea, “Methane and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations. A letter.” Climatic Change, Accepted March 2011

26. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs/greeninc/Howarth2011.pdf

27. The Offshore Valuation Group, A Valuation of the UK’s offshore renewable energy resource,

published by the Public Interest Resource Centre, 2010

28. www.zerocarbonbritain.com

29. http://holyrood350.org

30. Lloyds/Chatham House Report “White Paper. Sustainable energy security. Strategic risks and opportunities for business” www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/16720_0610_froggatt_lahn.pdf

31. www.boell.de/economysocial/economy/economy-commons-10451.html

32. http://www.alternet.org/media/145218/naomi_klein:_how_corporate_branding_took_over_the_white_ house?page=entire

 

 

Links:

[1] http://www.sharingforsurvival.org/index.php/what-do-we-do-about-climate-change-brian-davey/

[2] http://www.sharingforsurvival.org/index.php/contents/

[3] http://www.smart-csos.org/

[4] http://www.solidarische-oekonomie.de

[5] http://www.transitionnetwork.org/

[6] http://www.decroissance.org/

[7] http://www.jenseits-des-wachstums.de/

[8] http://steadystate.org/

[9] http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/565

[10] http://www.esrad.org.uk/resources/vsmg_3/screen.php?page=preface

[11] http://www.feasta.org/2003/06/16/short-circuit/

[12] http://www.ngoilgasmena.com/article/oil-and-gas-workforce-a-shortage-in-skilled-labour/

[13] http://www.cres.ch/Documents/SKILLS%20SHORTAGE%20PART%20I%20pdf.pdf

[14] http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,655409-2,00.html

[15] http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/40051

[16] http://www.spiegel.de/international/ germany/0,1518,758698,00.html

[17] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9255520.stm

[18] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/us/04gas.html?_r=2&hp

[19] http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs/greeninc/Howarth2011.pdf

[20] http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/

[21] http://holyrood350.org/

[22] http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/16720_0610_froggatt_lahn.pdf

[23] http://www.boell.de/economysocial/economy/economy-commons-10451.html

[24] http://www.alternet.org/media/145218/naomi_klein:_how_corporate_branding_took_over_the_white_%20house?page=entire

NYT Publishes Private Industry Documents: “Shale Gas Called a Ponzi Scheme”

Documents: Industry Privately Skeptical of Shale Gas

Over the past six months, The New York Times reviewed thousands of pages of documents related to shale gas, including hundreds of industry e-mails, internal agency documents and reports by analysts. A selection of these documents is included here; names and identifying information have been redacted to protect the confidentiality of sources, many of whom were not authorized by their employers to communicate with The Times.

Go to the New York Times website to view documents here.

Sustainable Tucson July Meeting – Urban Mobility and Urban Form – July 9

at Joel D. Valdez Main Downtown Library, 101 N. Stone, (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

The Sustainability of
Urban Mobility and Urban Form

The July ST General Meeting will feature panel presentations and conversation by special Tucson speakers who are addressing in their work “Sustainable mobility and urban form.” This is a very timely topic on many fronts now:

  City of Tucson’s current ten-year update of the General Plan.

  Anticipation of Tucson’s modern streetcar line.

  Tucson’s love affair with walking, jogging, biking, hiking and using transit.

  Community visioning and planning related to the Imagine Greater Tucson Project.

  The emergence of “urban villages” as places where we could live.

  City of Tucson’s current climate change mitigation and adaptation planning.

  Local adaptation to the global credit and energy contraction now taking place.

Gene Caywood, local transportation planner and leading light for Old Pueblo Trolley presents Tucson mobility: past, present, and future.

Ian Johnson, co-leader of the Living Streets Alliance discusses ways we can all help to create, maintain, and enjoy the culture of “living streets” combining sidewalks, bike paths, and transit where people meet and move.

Steve Farley, Arizona State legislator and public artist talks about the benefits of sustainable transportation and advocacy.

Ann Chaneka,  Pima Association of Governments bicycle planner and recently returning from the international Velo conference in Vancouver presents sustainable urban transportation and bicycle planning.

Tres English, ST Core Team member, talks about “21st Century Tucson – a Network of Urban Villages – More convenient, More accessible, More affordable – NOT More mobile.”

We believe that building a sustainable future will take the cooperation and partnering of residents, businesses, government, institutions and organizations. It is in this spirit that we are reaching out to our members, interested people, and community leaders, bringing them together to focus the wider public on these critical sustainability discussions. Our ultimate intent is to build partnerships and work together toward our common goals.

Join us for another lively Sustainable Tucson General meeting!

Doors open at 5:30 pm.
The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

Also read James Howard Kunstler’s Making Other Arrangements

What Are We Planning For? – A New Advocacy Initiative

What Are We Planning For?
A Sustainable Tucson Issues Paper                                                  March 2012

Since Imagine Greater Tucson’s initiating phase began more than three years ago, Sustainable Tucson has been engaged with the IGT Project at many levels, participating in the steering, community values, outreach, and technical committees. Imagine Greater Tucson has consistently requested input and Sustainable Tucson has tried to contribute ideas in order to make IGT a more relevant and successful visioning process for the Tucson region.

The following text summarizes seven key issues which Sustainable Tucson has previously presented and which the IGT process has yet to address. This document concludes with four specific requests to modify the Imagine Greater Tucson Project.

 

1. There has been no step or focus in the IGT process to sensitize and ground the community in the context of the emerging future. The impacts of climate change, resource depletion, food security, water use, conservation of our natural environment and economic and financial crises were all avoided.

Problem:  Without a grounded understanding of the emerging context, how can we realistically connect our values to a preferred future for the region? IGT views the problem of addressing growth as disconnected from the unprecedented challenges facing us. What does it mean to envision the future with our eyes closed and our heads in the sand?

 

2. Every IGT scenario is built on doubling population and the purpose of the visioning process is to determine the preferred way this growth should happen.

Problem: If this doubling of growth does not happen, IGT will have left us less prepared to adapt to any other possible future. Planning on the basis of doubling population growth constrains the investigation of what is best for the Tucson region. Population may or may not grow as current trends are showing (See Appendix A) and far different scenarios follow from those different assumptions. In planning a sustainable future it would be prudent, considering issues of climate change and resource limitations, to be considering population “build out” or planned decrease. A doubling population may make it impossible to decrease carbon emissions enough to limit uncontrollable climate change effects – important since Tucson is frequently described as “ground zero” for the worst effects of global warming.

 

3. IGT is intended to inform the 10-year comprehensive plans of the regional jurisdictions.

Problem: If IGT is only concerned about how we shape and support growth and if growth does not happen in the next decade (See Appendix A), then what value does IGT actually offer to inform the 10-year comprehensive jurisdictional plans? Worse still is the diversion of time and energy away from addressing the coming unprecedented challenges in what may be the most critical decade of our region’s history.

IGT has surveyed the region’s “values” but again not within the present context of changing eras. These survey results can be used by the jurisdictions but they will not reflect the community’s response to what is important in a coming period of unprecedented social, environmental, and economic change. The elephant in the room that IGT does not address is how to restructure our economy without population growth being the primary economic driver.

 

4. The scope of IGT is limited to how we shape the land-uses and infrastructures for the addition of one million future residents. It is true that the existing community was asked what we value and how we should shape this future addition. But existing residents had no option to define what land-use and infrastructure options we want for ourselves.

Problem: How can we define a preferred future without including the desired changes the existing community would like to see in its mix of infrastructures, especially given that becoming more sustainable and resilient requires significant changes in existing systems? Are the existing residents’ needs and preferences for urban form not an important part of the region’s future?

 

5. The impact of debt restructuring and credit availability were not included as key indicators.

Problem: Preparing for growth and preparing for sustainability both require significant public and private investments. How can we plan for change without estimating availability of funding, especially given the unprecedented local and global credit contraction ongoing these past three years. Population increase, development, economic growth, and protecting our natural environment will all be constrained by credit availability.

 

6. Scalability of scenario features was not included as an indicator or evaluative criterion.

Problem: Regional investment capacity is inherently constrained regardless of population growth level. So it is important that for each level of actual growth, a balanced approach is taken to ensure that all infrastructure categories are adequately addressed. If the investment approach is not balanced, some systems become over-built with excess capacity and others suffer with insufficient investment and capacity. Worse yet is the lack of financial planning for maintenance and repair of both existing and newly planned infrastructures. An obvious example of the latter is our crumbling regional and neighborhood roadways described by Pima County officials as  “rapidly deteriorating”.

IGT staff response to the problematic construct of doubling population has been that if this doubling growth doesn’t happen we will simply scale the implementation of the final “preferred” scenario to what actually happens. However, if an infrastructure cannot be “smoothly” or “linearly” scaled, investment in such infrastructure may preclude other critically-needed system choices should growth not happen as projected.

Thus, the scalability value of features in the alternative scenarios should be presented so that community participants can choose their preferred scenario, in part, by the characteristic of scenario features to be scalable or adaptable to lower growth levels.

 

7.  The 3 IGT scenarios  compare indicators with the reference projection or “trend” scenario, not with current conditions.

Problem:  Because the reference scenario is constructed in such a way as to demonstrate the unsustainability of continuing “business as usual”, the alternative future scenarios automatically show “improvement” over the reference scenario.

Not comparing the 3 alternative scenarios to current conditions – conditions that people can experience and verify now – obscures the very real possibility that for important indicators like greenhouse gas emissions, the values will actually get worse not better under what becomes the final “preferred” scenario.

In the case of greenhouse gases, the goal of regional climate change mitigation planning is to reduce emissions by at least 80% below current levels. It would appear these reductions cannot be met by adding population, even at greatly improved infrastructure efficiencies.

 

Bottomline Conclusion:  The intent of the IGT project to educate the community about “smart growth” concepts and how they can be applied to jurisdictional planning is by itself a worthy effort. Unfortunately, this should have happened 10 to 15 years ago when the region was experiencing the pressures of rapid growth.  Further, these concepts have not been re-calibrated to embody new constraints such as current greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The biggest challenge now is: how do we maintain prosperity and quality of life and environment without continuous population growth and how will we adapt to the unprecedented sustainability challenges in the coming decade.

 

We invite other individuals and organizations to join us in requesting that IGT:

 

1) Directly address and facilitate greater regional understanding of the unprecedented challenges which we face including climate change, peak oil, resource depletion, food security, water use, economic crises, and conservation of our natural environment.

2) Augment its future scenarios to include at least one scenario that considers population stabilization or “build-out” at no or low growth levels.

3) Broaden the scope of participant choices to register “optimal population levels“ along with their scenario preferences.

4) Compare indicators of the alternative future scenarios to actual current conditions, not hypothetical projections.

To support and add your endorsement of this proposal, please post a comment below.

 

Appendix A: Evidence that a new era without growth has begun

The IGT Project’s assertions that regional population “is projected to double in the coming decades” or more recently,  “is expected to grow by as many as 1 million people during this century” are misleading and not substantiated by any facts. At recent rates of change, our population would not even double in a hundred years – a timeframe that climate change and resource depletion research indicate would likely be unfavorable for growth.

For many decades up until five years ago, Arizona and the Tucson region did double their populations at rapid rates: every 20 and 35 years respectively. A major task for every jurisdiction was to manage the pressures and impacts of this growth dynamic. But the rapid growth era has ended as we find increasing evidence that the factors governing growth have indeed changed.

For four years, Americans have been moving less, driving less, and in great numbers, walking away from homes worth less than the mortgage obligation.  The 2010 US Census shows that the Tucson region had less population in 2010 than the 1 million 2006 population estimate. CNBC News recently named Tucson, “The Emptiest City in America” because of high apartment and home vacancies. UA economist Marshall Vest recently revealed that the Tucson region lost net population in 2011.

Declining regional home prices have erased ten years of gains and experts conclude that the local housing market will never return to past levels of activity. All of this points to the likelihood of a  “growthless” decade ahead, perhaps even longer.

www.SustainableTucson.org

What Are We Planning For? – A New Advocacy Initiative

A Sustainable Tucson Issues Paper
March 2012

Since Imagine Greater Tucson’s initiating phase began more than three years ago, Sustainable Tucson has been engaged with Imagine Greater Tucson at many levels, participating in the steering, community values, outreach, and technical committees. Imagine Greater Tucson has consistently requested input and Sustainable Tucson has tried to contribute ideas in order to make IGT a more relevant and successful visioning process for the Tucson region. The following text summarizes seven key issues which Sustainable Tucson has previously presented and which the IGT process has yet to address. This document concludes with four specific requests to modify the Imagine Greater Tucson Project…

Go here to read and comment on “What Are We Planning For?

Also see Reconsider RTA Broadway Project – Public press conference – April 30

and the Sustainable Tucson general meeting, ST May Meeting – Prosperity Without Growth – May 14

Citizens’ Climate Lobby Tucson Meeting – January 7th

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Tucson Chapter is meeting at 11 am on Saturday at 255 W. University Blvd to join the national chapters’ conference call and discuss local climate lobby plans. If you have any comments before the meeting, please forward them to Vince Pawlowski:  pawlowski (at) ultrasw.com
Reminders for our call on Saturday:

  • Please call  review the individual planning form ( CCLindividplan2012, ) and bring any questions.  This will help the meeting move quickly.
  • If anyone wants to ask a question on the call, please email Vince and he will let Mark know.
  • Link to Mark’s interview: http://citizensclimatelobby.org/video/mark-reynolds  (on our site under press room)

Ten Good Things About a (Not So) Bad Year

Ten Good Things About a (Not So) Bad Year
Medea Benjamin, CommonDreams

I had the privilege of starting out the year witnessing, firsthand, the unfolding of the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square. I saw people who had been muzzled their entire lives, especially women, suddenly discovering their collective voice. Singing, chanting, demanding, creating. And that became the hallmark of the entire year–people the world over becoming empowered and emboldened simply by watching each other. Courage, we learned in 2011, is contagious!

1. The Arab Spring protests were so astounding that even Time magazine recognized “The Protester” as Person of the Year

Sparked by Tunisian vendor Mohamed Bouazizi’sself-immolation to cry out against police corruption in December 2010, the protests swept across the Middle East and North Africa—including Egypt,Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, and Jordan. So far, uprisings have toppled Tunesian President Ben Ali, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi–with more shake-ups sure to come. And women have been on the front lines of these protests, highlighted recently by the incredibly brave, unprecedented demo of 10,000 Egyptian women protesting military abuse.

2. Wisconsin caught the Spring Fever, with Madison becoming home to some 100,000 protesters opposing Governor Walker’s threat to destroy collective bargaining and blame the state’s economic woes on public workers. …

3. On September 17 Occupy Wall Street was born in the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District. Protesters railed against the banksters and corporate thieves responsible for the economic collapse.

The movement against the greed of the richest 1% spread to over 1,400 cities in the United States and globally, with newly minted activists embracing–with gusto–people’s assemblies, consensus decision-making, the people’s mic, and upsparkles. Speaking in the name of the 99%, the occupiers changed the national debate from deficits to inequality and corporate abuse. Even after facing heightened police brutality, tent city evictions, and extreme winter weather, protesters are undeterred and continue to create bold actions–from port shut-downs to moving money out of big banks. As Occupy Wall Street said, “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.” Stay tuned for lots more occupation news in 2012.

4. After 8 long years, U.S. troops were finally withdrawn from Iraq. …

5. The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was presented to three terrific women: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia; Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian peace activist; and Yemeni pro-democracy campaigner Tawakkol Karman.

6. The bloated Pentagon budget is no longer immune from budget cuts. The failure of the super-committee means the Pentagon budget could be cut by a total of $1 trillion over the next decade — which would amount to a 23 percent reduction in the defense budget. The hawks are trying to stop the cuts, but most people are more interested in rebuilding America than fattening the Pentagon. That’s why the U.S. Conference of Mayors, for the first time since the Vietnam war, passed a resolution calling for the end to the hostilities and instead investing at home to create jobs, rebuild infrastructure and develop sustainable energy. 2011 pried open the Pentagon’s lock box. Let’s make the cuts in 2012!

7. Elizabeth Warren is running for Senate and Rep. Barbara Lee continues to inspire. …

8. Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is running for Parliament!

9. Opposition to Keystone pipeline inspired thousands of new activists, together with a rockin’ coalition of environment groups across the U.S. and Canada.

They brought the issue of the climate-killing pipeline right to President Obama’s door, with over 1,200 arrested in front of the White House. The administration heard them and ordered a new review of the project, but the Republican global warming deniers are trying to force Obama’s hand. Whatever way this struggle ends, it has educated millions about the tar sands threat and trained a new generation of environmentalists in more effective, direct action tactics that will surely result in future “wins” for the planet.

10. Following the tragic meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, the growing appetite for nuclear energy has been reversed.

(27 December 2011)

Related: 2011’s Big Wins – Brought to You by Women.

Energy Bulletin is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities. Content on this site is subject to our fair use notice.

The 12 most hopeful trends to build on in 2012

The 12 most hopeful trends to build on in 2012
Published by YES! Magazine on Sat, 12/31/2011
Original article: http://www.yesmagazine.org/blogs/sarah-van-gelder/12-most-hopeful-trends-to-build-on-in-2012

by Sarah van Gelder

Who would have thought that some young people camped out in lower Manhattan with cardboard signs, a few sharpies, some donated pizza, and a bunch of smart phones could change so much?

The viral spread of the Occupy Movement took everyone by surprise. Last summer, politicians and the media were fixated on the debt ceiling, and everyone seemed to forget that we were in the midst of an economic meltdown—everyone except the 99 percent who were experiencing it.

Today, people ranging from Ben Bernake, chair of the Federal Reserve, to filmmaker Michael Moore are expressing sympathy for the Occupy Movement and concern for those losing homes, retirement savings, access to health care, and hope of ever finding a job.

This uprising is the biggest reason for hope in 2012. The following are 12 ways the Occupy Movement and other major trends of 2011 offer a foundation for a transformative 2012.
 

1. Americans rediscover their political self-respect. In 2011, members of the 99 percent began camping out in New York’s Zuccotti Park, launching a movement that quickly spread across the country. Students at U.C. Davis sat nonviolently through a pepper spray assault, Oaklanders shut down the city with a general strike, and Clevelanders saved a family from eviction. Occupiers opened their encampments to all and fed all who showed up, including many homeless people. Thousands moved their accounts from corporate banks to community banks and credit unions, and people everywhere created their own media with smart phones and laptops. The Occupy Movement built on the Arab Spring, occupations in Europe, and on the uprising, early in 2011, in Wisconsin, where people occupied the state capitol in an attempt to block major cuts in public workers’ rights and compensation. Police crackdowns couldn’t crush the surge of political self-respect experienced by millions of Americans.

After the winter weather subsides, look for the blossoming of an American Spring.


2. Economic myths get debunked. Americans now understand that hard work and playing by the rules don’t mean you’ll get ahead. They know that Wall Street financiers are not working for their interests. Global capitalism is not lifting all boats. As this mythology crumbled, the reality became inescapable: The United States is not broke. The 1 percent have rigged the system to capture a larger and larger share of the world’s wealth and power, while the middle class and poor face unemployment, soaring student debt burdens, homelessness, exclusion from the medical system, and the disappearance of retirement savings. Austerity budgets just sharpen the pain, as the safety net frays and public benefits, from schools to safe bridges, fail. The European debt crisis is front and center today, but other crises will likely follow. Just as the legitimacy of apartheid began to fall apart long before the system actually fell, today, the legitimacy of corporate power and Wall Street dominance is disintegrating.

The new-found clarity about the damage that results from a system dominated by Wall Street will further energize calls for regulation and the rule of law, and fuel the search for economic alternatives


3. Divisions among people are coming down. Middle-class college students camped out alongside homeless occupiers. People of color and white people created new ways to work together. Unions joined with occupiers. In some places, Tea Partiers and occupiers discovered common purposes. Nationwide, anti-immigrant rhetoric backfired.

Tremendous energy is released when isolated people discover one another; look for more unexpected alliances.


4. Alternatives are blossoming. As it becomes clear that neither corporate CEOs nor national political leaders have solutions to today’s deep crises, thousands of grassroots-led innovations are taking hold. Community land trusts, farmers markets, local currencies and time banking, micro-energy installations, shared cars and bicycles, cooperatively owned businesses are among the innovations that give people the means to live well on less and build community. And the Occupy Movement, which is often called “leaderless,” is actually full of emerging leaders who are building the skills and connections to shake things up for decades to come.

This widespread leadership, coupled with the growing repertoire of grassroots innovations, sets the stage for a renaissance of creative rebuilding.


5. Popular pressure halted the Keystone KL Pipeline — for the moment. Thousands of people stood up to efforts by some of the world’s most powerful energy companies and convinced the Obama administration to postpone approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have sped the extraction and export of dirty tar sands oil. James Hansen says, “If the tar sands are thrown into the mix, it is essentially game over” for the planet. Just a year ago, few had heard of this project, much less considered risking arrest to stop it, as thousands did outside the White House in 2011.

With Congress forcing him to act within 60 days, President Obama will be under enormous pressure from both Big Oil and pipeline opponents. It will be among the key tests of his presidency.


6. Climate responses move forward despite federal inaction. Throughout the United States, state and local governments are taking action where the federal government has failed. California’s new climate cap-and-trade law will take effect in 2012. College students are pressing campus administrators to quit using coal-fired sources of electricity. Elsewhere, Europe is limiting climate pollution from air travel, Australia has enacted a national carbon tax, and there is a global initiative underway to recognize the rights of Mother Nature. Climate talks in Durban, South African, arrived at a conclusion that, while far short of what is needed, at least keeps the process alive.

Despite corporate-funded climate change deniers, most people know climate change is real and dangerous; expect to see many more protests, legislation, and new businesses focused on reducing carbon emissions in 2012.


7. There’s a new focus on cleaning up elections. The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United decision,” which lifted limits on corporate campaign contributions, is opposed by a large majority of Americans. This year saw a growing national movement to get money out of politics; cities from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles are passing resolutions calling for an end to corporate personhood. Constitutional amendments have been introduced. And efforts are in the works to push back against voter suppression policies that especially discourage voting among people of color, low-income people, and students, all of whom tend to vote Democratic.

Watch for increased questioning of the legal basis of corporations, which “we the people” created, but which now facilitate lawlessness and increasing concentrations of wealth and power.


8. Local government is taking action. City and state governments are moving forward, even as Washington, D.C., remains gridlocked, even as budgets are stretched thin. Towns in Pennsylvania, New York, and elsewhere are seeking to prohibit “fracking” to extract natural gas, and while they’re at it, declaring that corporations do not have the constitutional rights of people. Cities are banning plastic bags, linking up local food systems, encouraging bicycling and walking, cleaning up brown fields, and turning garbage and wasted energy into opportunity. In part because of the housing market disaster, people are less able to pick up and move.

Look for increased rootedness, whether voluntary or not, along with increased focus on local efforts to build community solutions.


9. Dams are coming down. Two dams that block passage of salmon up the Elwha River into the pristine Olympic National Park in Washington state are coming down. After decades of campaigning by Native tribes and environmentalists, the removal of the dams began in 2011.

The assumption that progress is built on “taming” and controlling nature is giving way to an understanding that human and ecological well-being are linked.


10. The United States ended the combat mission in Iraq. U.S. troops are home from Iraq at last. What remains is a U.S. embassy compound the size of the Vatican City, along with thousands of private contractors. Iraq and the region remain unstable.

Given the terrible cost in lives and treasure for what most Americans see as an unjustified war, look to greater skepticism of future U.S. invasions.


11. Breakthrough for single-payer health care. The state of Vermont took action to respond to the continuing health care crises, adopting, but not yet funding, a single-payer health care system similar to Canada’s.

As soaring costs of health insurance drain the coffers of businesses and governments, other states may join Vermont at the forefront of efforts to establish a public health insurance system like Canada’s.


12. Gay couples can get married. In 2011, New York state and the Suquamish Tribe in Washington state (home of the author of this piece) adopted gay marriage laws. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta won a raffle allowing her to be the first to kiss her partner upon return from 80 days at sea, the first such public display of gay affection since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was expunged. The video and photos went viral.

2011 may be the year when opposition to gay marriage lost its power as a rallying cry for social conservatives. The tide has turned, and gay people will likely continue to win the same rights as straight people to marry.


With so much in play, 2012 will be an interesting year, even setting aside questions about “end times” and Mayan calendars. As the worldviews and institutions based on the dominance of the 1 percent are challenged, as the global economy frays, and as we run headlong into climate change and other ecological limits, one era is giving way to another. There are too many variable to predict what direction things will take. But our best hopes can be found in the rise of broad grassroots leadership, through the Occupy Movement, the Wisconsin uprising, the climate justice movement, and others, along with local, but interlinked, efforts to build local solution everywhere. These efforts make it possible that 2012 will be a year of transformation and rebuilding — this time, with the well-being of all life front and center.


Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful idea with practical actions. Sarah is YES! Magazine’s co-founder and executive editor, and editor of the new book: “This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement.”

YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Energy Bulletin is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities. Content on this site is subject to our fair use notice.


Source URL: http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-12-31/12-most-hopeful-trends-build-2012

Links:
[1] http://www.yesmagazine.org/blogs/sarah-van-gelder/12-most-hopeful-trends-to-build-on-in-2012
[2] http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/occupywallstreet
[3] http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/this-changes-everything-how-the-99-woke-up
[4] http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/stand-up-to-corporate-power/table-of-contents
[5] http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/rejecting-arizona-the-failure-of-the-anti-immigrant-movement
[6] http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/what-makes-a-great-place/community-land-trusts
[7] http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-new-economy/dollars-with-good-sense-diy-cash
[8] http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/time-banking-an-idea-whose-time-has-come
[9] http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-yes-breakthrough-15/henry-red-cloud-solar-warrior-for-native-america
[10] http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/lessons-from-a-surprise-bike-town
[11] http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-new-economy/clevelands-worker-owned-boom
[12] http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/nebraskans-speak-out-against-the-pipeline
[13] http://www.yesmagazine.org/blogs/brooke-jarvis/protesters-win-pipeline-delay
[14] http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/new-livelihoods/students-push-coal-off-campus
[15] http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/04/13-2
[16] http://www.yesmagazine.org/blogs/madeline-ostrander/after-durban-climate-activists-target-corporate-power
[17] http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/water-solutions/real-people-v.-corporate-people-the-fight-is-on
[18] http://www.energybulletin.net/people-power/keeping-it-clean-maines-fight-for-fair-elections
[19] http://www.energybulletin.net/people-power/turning-occupation-into-lasting-change
[20] http://www.energybulletin.net/planet/how-to-fight-fracking-and-win
[21] http://www.energybulletin.net/issues/the-yes-breakthrough-15/cities-take-up-the-ban-the-bag-fight
[22] http://www.energybulletin.net/blogs/richard-conlin/reflections-on-a-growing-local-food-movement
[23] http://www.energybulletin.net/issues/the-yes-breakthrough-15/hope-for-salmon-as-dams-come-down
[24] http://www.energybulletin.net/issues/columns/building-peace-in-iraq
[25] http://www.energybulletin.net/people-power/wendell-potter-on-vermonts-health-care-plan
[26] http://www.energybulletin.net/issues/health-care-for-all/has-canada-got-the-cure
[27] http://www.yesmagazine.org
[28] http://www.energybulletin.net/products/this-changes-everything/this-changes-everything
[29] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/
[30] http://www.yesmagazine.org/about/reprints

Rapid rise in Arctic methane shocks scientists

Rapid rise in Arctic methane shocks scientists
By Steve Connor
Wednesday Dec 14, 2011, New Zealand Herald

Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.

The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

In an exclusive interview with the Independent, Dr Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he had never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.

“Earlier, we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1000m in diameter. It’s amazing,” Semiletov said. “I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area, we found more than 100 but, over a wider area, there should be thousands.”

Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere, leading to rapid and severe climate change.

Semiletov’s team published a study last year estimating that the methane emissions from this region were about 8 million tonnes a year, but the latest expedition suggests this is a significant underestimate of the phenomenon.

In late northern summer, the Russian research vessel Academician Lavrentiev conducted an extensive survey of about 25,900sq km of sea off the East Siberian coast. Scientists deployed four highly sensitive instruments, seismic and acoustic, to monitor the “fountains” – or plumes – of methane bubbles rising to the sea surface from beneath the seabed.

“In a very small area, less than [25,900sq km], we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed,” Semiletov said.

“We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale – I think on a scale not seen before. Some plumes were 1km or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere – the concentration was 100 times higher than normal.”

Semiletov released his findings for the first time last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

$4B Public-private Program for Energy-efficiency planned

The following national plan for investing in the energy-efficiency of our buildings is a further evolution of  Ed Mazria’s 2009 Plan which Sustainable Tucson is suggesting as a model to develop a local green retrofit  stimulus program. See the Mazria Plan here:

 

$4B public-private program for energy efficiency planned

Jim Kuhnhenn The Associated Press , Arizona Daily Star, Friday, December 2, 2011

WASHINGTON – Enlisting former President Bill Clinton as a partner, President Obama is announcing a $4 billion effort to increase the energy efficiency of government and private-sector buildings, aiming for fuel savings and job creation at no cost to taxpayers.
The proposal, to be announced by Obama and Clinton today, would upgrade buildings over the next two years with a goal of improving energy performance by 20 percent by 2020. The federal government would commit $2 billion to the effort and a coalition of corporations, labor unions, universities and local governments would undertake the other half. The contractors who do the work would be paid with realized energy savings, thus requiring no up-front federal expenditure.”Upgrading the energy efficiency of America’s buildings is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, cut down on harmful pollution and create good jobs right now,” Obama said in a prepared statement.
The president will make the announcement after touring a downtown Washington office building whose owners have agreed to make more energy efficient.The program, known as Energy Savings Performance Contracts, has been in place since the Clinton administration but has been little used. Obama’s announcement is yet another in a string of White House initiatives designed to address the weak economy without congressional approval.
Gene Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council, said private economic analyses indicate that the $4 billion plan could generate about 50,000 jobs over two years.The program builds on an initiative that Obama launched in February and that Clinton led through his Clinton Foundation to get the private sector to invest in greater energy efficiency. Clinton announced commitments of $500 million in projects in June.Joining
Obama and Clinton will be Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a longtime proponent of Energy Saving Performance Contracts.”We have been pushing the ESPC program for more than a decade because this holds tremendous potential,” Donohue said in a prepared statement. “The program has been grossly underutilized.”

 

Inside Tucson’s Civano Project

Inside the Civano Project: A Case Study of Large-Scale Sustainable Neighborhood Development (Mcgraw-Hill’s Greensource Series) 2009

By C. Alan Nichols and Jason A. Laros

Forward by Sustainable Tucson — Co-Founder Bob Cook

Forward

The following story is about a group of people who recognized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and took it upon themselves to reinvent the future and work for its realization.  The great vision of this project was understood long before those still preoccupied with the status quo could accept its premise. Yet, the story unfolds despite all the resistance and pitfalls in its path.  While the final outcome was never assured, the dream and ultimate value of this opportunity would never be shaken.

 

And so this is the story of the Tucson Solar Village Project later to be renamed Civano.

 

The 1970s was a decade much like the present period – a protracted energy crisis, a long global recession, major changes in our monetary system, high unemployment, conflict and wars, heightened global competition for resources and markets, price inflation, and growing interest in solar energy and new, more efficient technologies. In short, the world was burdened with uncertainty but also drawn to the possibilities of great and needed change.

 

The key scientific finding during the seventies was that Planet Earth is a finite system and that unconstrained growth would lead to dangerous resource shortages and degradation  of natural systems. When the bad news would arrive in the future – when the limits to growth would be reached  — was debated endlessly among “experts.”  However, in everyday terms, these limits seemed so far off in time that more immediate, pressing issues absorbed most peoples’ attention. Except for a relatively small community of scientists and environmental thinkers, the value of alternatives to growth was very low. Why pursue sustainability when the presumed nature of the economy and the world’s capacities is to always grow.

 

In the United States, the seeds of the sustainable development movement germinated in the seventies in response to these scientific findings and the social and cultural fallout from economic instability. For those of us who came to see this coming paradigmatic change, many would have to carry this knowledge patiently into the eighties and nineties before the time was right to actually work on planning, engineering, and building a different world.

 

The story of Civano is a story of many diverse people and events coming together at different points in time to move forward the proposition that now is the time for a prototype sustainable community development. The designs changed and evolved, but the vision was always a comprehensive treatment of all functions of the human built environment in harmony with the natural cycles of energy, water, materials, and eco-systems.

 

When this opportunity appeared to the first wave of Tucson innovators in the 1980s, it was clear that the next evolutionary phase was beginning. We would lead the first major  experiment in the desert Southwest for learning how to create a community land development based on regenerative cycles and significantly reduced resource consumption.  The promise of wide-scale utilization of solar energy in the future would be furthered by this single venture in a new approach to development.

 

The chronology of  Civano spans three decades with important milestones achieved in each.  At many points, the realization of the dream stood in doubt as challenges overwhelmed the participants and the institutions backing its progress. But key actors always kept the effort moving forward up to its current state as a living, breathing place where people and families live their lives.

 

An experiment should never be labeled either a success or failure because the underlying purpose of an experiment is to test hypotheses and learn about something which often has never been attempted before. Civano provides us with a unique set of valuable lessons for designing ongoing responses to the intensifying sustainability crises unfolding all around us.

 

The story of Civano is ultimately a story of local heroes carrying forward a noble and important mission. In particular, I want to acknowledge Al Nichols, engineer extraordinaire, for his many roles throughout the past two decades in bringing Civano into being and making its beneficial lessons available to all those now and in the future who will take on the next critical sustainability challenges.

 

Robert Cook,

Former Chair, Tucson-Pima Metropolitan Energy Commission

Co-Founder, Sustainable Tucson

March 2009

Ed Mazria’s Two-Year, Nine-Million-Jobs Investment Plan

By Caroline Dobuzinskis

 

(Ed Mazria’s  Revised One-Year, 4.5 Million-Jobs Investment Plan available here:)

 

With the job market crashing and a reported one in five mortgages underwater, the need for complex solutions to fix the US economy grows increasingly urgent. Ed Mazria, founder of the non-profit research and education organization Architecture 2030, has put forward a proposal to combat two urgent economic crises with one plan that will not only relieve financially strapped homeowners and generate job opportunities, but also leave us with a more resilient, more efficient built environment when this crisis is over.

Mazria believes the government should invest in the private building sector by giving developers and homeowners financial incentives to build (and retrofit) greener buildings – thus boosting jobs around construction and renovation. To outline his plan, Mazria and Architecture 2030 have developed the 2030 Challenge Stimulus Plan, a proposal that Mazria calls the “Two-Year, Nine-Million-Jobs Investment Plan. (Download details of the plan here.)

According to Mazria, the next energy bill to come through Congress is already likely to include a plan for making all buildings carbon neutral by the year 2030. President Obama made this promise during his campaign. The Architecture 2030 Challenge lays out a timeline: all new buildings and major renovations should should meet a 60 percent fossil fuel reduction standard by 2010; all buildings should be carbon neutral by 2030, and all state and federal buildings should follow suit. But Mazria and his team are making a case for implementing these goals in the private building sector now. And the way they see it, no start date is too soon.

I spoke with Mazria about his investment plan, and how he expects industry representatives, government officials and homeowners to react.

Caroline Dobuzinskis: When did the idea for the Two-Year, Nine-Million-Jobs Investment Plan come about?

Ed Mazria: We have a unique perspective because, as a research organization, our focus is the building sector, climate change, and the economy. At Architecture 2030 we were able to address the [economic] situation from that perspective, looking at the economy and the building sector that was dragging the whole economy down because of the mortgage prices. And, since we know the building industry really well having been in it for forty years, we know what it takes to bring it back, and we want to bring it back in an environmentally sound way. That was the reason why we investigated the economic crises in the building sector, and then how to create the jobs in the building sector to bring the US economy back.

CD: Tell me how your plan aims to help the private building sector and homeowners.

EM: We think now the federal government should step in and create an incentive for the private building sector to get back on its feet. Probably the largest segment of unemployment driven by the economic downturn is in the private building sector, both in construction and manufacturing of materials that go into the building sector and services that support the building industry. So in order to turn the economy around, you must address the building sector.

For every federal dollar that you put in, you want the private sector to add at least $2 to that, so that you can create at once as many jobs as possible. And the one way to do that is to tie federal money to energy reduction targets, so that the private sector has to then come in and fund energy upgrades in order to get the federal dollars.

Homeowners get greater incentives for the greater reductions that they can accomplish on their buildings. With a mortgage buydown tied to energy reduction, the homeowner saves on his monthly mortgage, and he also saves on his utility bills. He not only saves on mortgage interest, he also recaptures the money that’s [currently being] lost because most housing is leaking energy. [The money generated by creating] more jobs, and by the taxes from the folks paid to do the renovations, can go back to the federal government and the states to fund both infrastructure projects and to pay the government back for the outlay. It’s kind of a full circle proposal.

CD: How can homeowners receive lower mortgage rates to improve the energy efficiency of their homes?

EM: Homeowners can aim for 30, 40, 50 or 75 percent below the energy use target required by the IECC 2006 and ASHRAE 90.1-2004 code standards, or they can aim for carbon neutral, and each target is tied to different incentives. So one of the examples we give is, if you want to get 75 percent below code — basically saving 75 percent on your energy bills — we estimate that [the renovations] would cost about $51,000. So you add that amount into a new mortgage but as an incentive you receive a much, much lower interest rate so that your monthly outlay, even with $51,000 added to the amount of the mortgage, would be much, much less.

You would be investing that $51,000 in upgrades like replacing equipment that was outdated, not working properly or not really efficient. You might be adding insulation; you might be adding skylights and windows to let the sun in; you might be making windows operable so you have natural ventilation so you can look at passive solar heating/cooling strategies. You could take advantage of tax credits, for example, to install a solar voltaic system. There are almost an infinite number of ways you can make your home more efficient if you have an existing home.

CD: The federal government would be setting the mortgage rates?

EM: Right now the federal government is the only one that is buying mortgages. Banks that are lending mortgages are selling them to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We think that number is now 90 to 95 percent of all mortgages so [the federal government] can then set the targets.

CD: Is the average homeowner ready to make these changes?

EM: Absolutely, because everyone wants to save money and have more expendable income on a monthly basis. The reason the first stimulus last year didn’t work was because you gave everybody a check on a one-time basis. In our plan, you are talking about $300 to $500 a month in savings. That’s huge. We think people will be lining up at the doors to take advantage of this.

The one place we think people will invest is in their own house. The other thing we think is, by taking advantage of the lower rates, people would not only make the efficiency upgrades but they would probably spend some more to do some things that they had put off for awhile because the rates are fairly lucrative. Our analysis just took into account the spending on efficiency, but we think there would be a lot more spending as we go along.

CD: Do you see your plan as part of an upcoming bill?

  I think that the plan will come up when [legislators] talk about how we get the building sector back on track. Right now what they have been doing is focusing on the foreclosure crisis, not on the building sector as a whole. They haven’t yet focused on the private sector, but I think that is going to be coming up. I am not sure which committee is going to take the lead on that, but it has to be dealt with because it is a sector that is dragging the economy down. I think right now the administration is focused on putting out fires.

CD: At your presentation at the National Building Museum in February, you and John Podesta talked about the US serving as a model for other countries. Do you think that there needs to be international policy to follow?

EM: I certainly do. I think the US must take a leadership role when it comes to the environment, and climate change, and building efficiency. How we turn our economy around is going to influence how other entities and governments turn their economies around. If we just deal with the economic situation without dealing with the energy crisis and the climate change issue, we are not going to get very far, because those are coming right up and will drag us down again. And, we have a great opportunity to deal with all three issues at one time, and that will set the stage in terms of other governments.

Caroline Dobuzinskis is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.

Published by WorldChanging Team,   April 15, 2009

http://www.worldchanging.com

2012 Green Retrofit Stimulus Proposal for Tucson

With half of all mortgaged homes “underwater” and owing more than their market value, housing prices continue to decline even after four years of collapsing prices. The ongoing global credit and debt crisis combined with declining house prices spell disaster for the home-building industry for at least the next decade. The escalating climate crisis also requires that the built-environment be transformed to reduce its current and future impacts on rising climate-changing emissions. Politically, the most urgent issue on Americans’ minds is the growing employment crisis.

Is there a way forward that addresses all these challenges? And specifically, can we in Tucson address these issues and create a way to re-employ construction trades and train people for green retrofitting of our existing homes, businesses, and apartments?

Santa Fe, New Mexico architect, Ed Mazria has proposed a national version of this concept for both new and existing residences which could create 4.5 million jobs in one year and significantly reduce the country’s carbon footprint.

To review Ed Mazria’s plan click here:

To read an interview with Ed Mazria  click here:

If you are interested in forming a study group around this proposal contact Sustainable Tucson by clicking here:

Thank you for your interest.

2012 Green Retrofit Economic Stimulus Proposal for Tucson

2012 Green Retrofit Economic Stimulus Proposal for Tucson

With half of all mortgaged homes “underwater” and owing more than their market value, housing prices continue to decline even after four years of collapsing prices. The ongoing global credit and debt crisis combined with declining house prices spell disaster for the home-building industry for at least the next decade. The escalating climate crisis also requires that the built-environment be transformed to reduce its current and future impacts on rising climate-changing emissions. Politically, the most urgent issue on Americans’ minds is the growing employment crisis.

Is there a way forward that addresses all these challenges? And specifically, can we in Tucson address these issues and create a way to re-employ construction trades and train people for green retrofitting our existing homes, businesses, and apartments?  Read more…

 

Greenhouse emissions exceed worst case scenario

The global output of carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the US Department of Energy has calculated, a sign of how feeble the world’s efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.

The new figures for last year mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst-case scenario outlined by climate experts four years ago.

”The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing,” the co-director of the joint program on the science and policy of global change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), John Reilly, said.

The world pumped about 512 million tonnes more of carbon into the air last year than it did in 2009, an increase of 6 per cent. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries – China, the US and India, the world’s top producers of greenhouse gases.

It is a “monster” increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past.

Extra pollution in China and the U.S. account for more than half the increase in emissions last year, Marland said.

“It’s a big jump,” said Tom Boden, director of the Energy Department’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Lab. “From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis seems to be over.”

Boden said that in 2010 people were traveling, and manufacturing was back up worldwide, spurring the use of fossil fuels, the chief contributor of man-made climate change.

India and China are huge users of coal. Burning coal is the biggest carbon source worldwide and emissions from that jumped nearly 8 percent in 2010.

“The good news is that these economies are growing rapidly so everyone ought to be for that, right?” Reilly said Thursday. “Broader economic improvements in poor countries has been bringing living improvements to people. Doing it with increasing reliance on coal is imperiling the world.”

In 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its last large report on global warming, it used different scenarios for carbon dioxide pollution and said the rate of warming would be based on the rate of pollution. Boden said the latest figures put global emissions higher than the worst-case projections from the climate panel. Those forecast global temperatures rising between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century with the best estimate at 7.5 degrees.

Even though global warming skeptics have attacked the climate change panel as being too alarmist, scientists have generally found their predictions too conservative, Reilly said. He said his university worked on emissions scenarios, their likelihood, and what would happen. The IPCC’s worst case scenario was only about in the middle of what MIT calculated are likely scenarios.

But Reilly and University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver found something good in recent emissions figures. The developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol treaty limiting greenhouse gases have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about 8 percent below 1990 levels. The U.S. did not ratify the agreement.

Associated Press    November 4, 2011

IEA: Time running out to limit earth’s warming

The International Energy Agency warned Wednesday that the world is hurtling toward irreversible climate change and will lose the chance to limit warming if it doesn’t take bold action in the next five years.

In its annual World Energy Outlook, the agency spelled out the consequences if those steps aren’t taken and what needs to be done to cap global temperature increases at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. That’s the threshold beyond which some scientists have said catastrophic changes could be triggered.

But the agency’s chief economist, Fatih Birol, said this week that he’s not optimistic that leaders are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

“We are going in the wrong direction in terms of climate change,” he said in an interview Monday ahead of the report’s official release.

He noted, for instance, that governments around the world have put increasing energy efficiency at the top of their to-do lists, but efficiency has worsened for two years in a row now.

Birol said such backslides have real consequences.

“After 2017, we will lose the chance to limit the temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius,” he said.

The report said that the current promises to reduce emissions, when taken together, will likely result in an increase of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius _ and there isn’t any guarantee those commitments will even be carried out. Without them, the picture is bleaker: an increase of 6 degrees Celsius or more.

Birol said the world doesn’t lack the technology to tackle the problem _ just the political will.

“Even with existing technologies, you can improve substantially, but to do that, you need some price incentives and these price incentives are not there,” he said.

In fact, there are incentives to consume more: The report said subsidies for fossil fuels have risen past $400 billion. Birol said those need to be cut and instead a price needs to be levied on carbon. Only when “dirty” fuels become more expensive, he said, will governments follow through on their commitments to increase energy efficiency.

The report pushes hard the need to increase efficiency, generally considered the easiest way to reduce consumption since it has a price-incentive built in. It has become even more important since Japan’s nuclear accident sparked a rethinking of the use of atomic technology previously seen as key to cutting emissions.

“The most important contribution to reaching energy security and climate goals comes form the energy that we do not consume,” the report said.

It also predicted that oil prices would rise over the long term, though a weak global economy and the return of Libyan oil to the market would ease short-term pressures.

How high the price goes will depend, in part, on whether investors are willing to cough up what the Middle East and North Africa needs to keep pumping. Birol said last month that unrest in the region has made investors reluctant to pour money in.

Associated Press    November 9, 2011

Obama Delays Tar Sands Pipeline, McKibben Responds

U.S. Delays Decision on Pipeline Until After Election

By JOHN M. BRODER and DAN FROSCH

published in New York Times 11/10/11

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, under sharp pressure from officials in Nebraska and restive environmental activists, announced Thursday that it would review the route of the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline, effectively delaying any decision about its fate until after the 2012 election.

The State Department said in a statement that it was ordering a review of alternate routes to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska, which would have been put at risk by a rupture of the 1,700-mile pipeline carrying a heavy form of crude extracted from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast.

The move is the latest in a series of administration decisions pushing back thorny environmental matters beyond next November’s presidential election to try to avoid the heat from opposing interests — business lobbies or environmental and health advocates — and to find a political middle ground. President Obama delayed a review of the nation’s smog standard until 2013, pushed back offshore oil lease sales in the Arctic until at least 2015 and blocked new regulations for coal ash from power plants.

The proposed project by a Canadian pipeline company, TransCanada, similarly put the president in a political vise, squeezed between the demand for a secure source of oil and the thousands of jobs the project will bring, and the loud agitation of environmental advocates who threatened to withhold electoral support next year if he approved it.

Mr. Obama said in an interview with an Omaha television station last week that he would make the ultimate decision about the pipeline, but sought to portray Thursday’s announcement as solely a State Department matter and not the result of political calculation.

“I support the State Department’s announcement today regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal,” the president said in a statement. “Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.”

He said he remained committed to a politically balanced diet of increased domestic oil and gas production combined with incentives for the development of carbon-free alternatives.

While environmental groups welcomed their temporary victory on the pipeline project, some expressed skepticism about the president’s motives. Glenn Hurowitz, an environmental activist and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, said the delay could leave the final decision in the hands of Mr. Obama’s Republican successor.

“This decision just puts off a green light for the tar sands by a year,” Mr. Hurowitz said in an e-mailed statement. “That’s why I’m a little dismayed at suggestions that this kick-the-can decision means environmentalists will enthusiastically back President Obama in 2012. Is the price of an environmentalist’s vote a year’s delay on environmental catastrophe? Excuse me, no.”

Oil industry officials, some unions and the Canadian government said they were disappointed because the action delays what they call the economic benefits of the $7 billion project.

Jack N. Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said of the president’s decision, “This is all about politics and keeping a radical constituency, opposed to any and all oil and gas development, in the president’s camp in 2012. Whether it will help the president retain his job is unclear but it will cost thousands of shovel-ready opportunities for American workers.”

Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, said, “While we are disappointed with the delay, we remain hopeful the project will be decided on its merits and eventually approved.”

TransCanada said that it would work with the State Department to find a new route, but warned that delay could kill the project, and with it tens of thousands of construction and related jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenues.

“If Keystone XL dies,” said Russell K. Girling, the company’s chief executive, “Americans will still wake up the next morning and continue to import 10 million barrels of oil from repressive nations without the benefit of thousands of jobs and long-term energy security.”

The Sand Hills region has a high concentration of wetlands, a sensitive ecosystem and extensive areas of very shallow groundwater that could be endangered by an oil spill. The State Department, which is responsible for approving transboundary pipelines, said that it expected that the review could be completed early in 2013.

Public officials and citizens in Nebraska have been vocal about the proposed pipeline route, not only because of fears about the Sand Hills region but because it will cross the Ogallala Aquifer, a critical source of drinking water for the Great Plains. Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska, a Republican, has been pushing for the pipeline to be rerouted and recently called a special legislative session to focus on Keystone XL.

“I am pleased that Nebraskans have been heard,” Mr. Heineman said in a telephone interview. “We’ve tried to make it very clear that we support the pipeline but oppose the route over the Ogallala Aquifer,” Mr. Heineman said, adding he was not expecting the State Department’s decision. “I hope we can find a common-sense solution, change the route and begin construction of the pipeline.”

The pipeline’s opponents in Nebraska hailed the decision as a pivotal victory, at least for now.

“This is a game changer for our state,” said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, a citizens’ advocacy group that has been leading efforts to block the pipeline. “We’ve been fighting this every day and night for almost two years.”

Kerri-Ann Jones in the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs said the agency’s decision to look for alternative routes was sparked by the significant outcry from Nebraska residents and officials.

“What we’re hearing from the public and from comments across the nation is the concerns about it going through this fragile landscape,” she said of the proposed pipeline. “We’ve heard this loud and clear.”

Ms. Jones said that the previous environmental review of Keystone XL had not considered routes around the Sand Hills region in Nebraska, but rather routes that circumvented the state completely. New alternative routes for Keystone XL would still pass through Nebraska, but would seek to avoid or minimize any effect on the Sand Hills, she said.

The State Department’s inspector general announced on Monday that he was looking into charges of a conflict of interest and improper political influence in the preparation of the project’s environmental impact statement. Some have faulted the department for assigning the study to a company with financial ties to TransCanada.

Opponents of the project have organized two large protests outside the White House, including one on Sunday in which several thousand protesters encircled the mansion demanding that the president kill the pipeline. Earlier this year more than a thousand protesters were arrested in large demonstrations across from the White House.

John M. Broder reported from Washington and Dan Frosch from Denver; Ian Austen contributed reporting from Ottawa.

 


Keystone XL pipeline dealy: We won, you won

Bill McKibben, Post Carbon Institute

Dear Friends,

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that we’ve been fighting for months has been effectively killed. The President didn’t outright reject the Keystone XL pipeline permit, but a few minutes ago he sent the pipeline back for a thorough re-review that will delay it til 2013. Most analysts agree: the pipeline will never get built.

The President explicitly noted climate change, along with the pipeline route, as one of the factors that a new review would need to assess. There’s no way, with an honest review, that a pipeline that helps speed the tapping of the world’s second-largest pool of carbon can pass environmental muster.

It’s important to understand how unlikely this victory is. A month ago, a secret poll of “energy insiders” by found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end. A done deal has come spectacularly undone. Our movement spoke loudly about climate change and President Obama responded. There have been few even partial victories about global warming in the United States in recent years, so that makes this an important day.

The President deserves thanks for making this call — it’s not easy in the face of the fossil fuel industry and its endless reserves of cash. The deepest thanks, however, go to the incredible, diverse movement that helped ramp up the pressure to give the President the room to make this call. And it means so much that this day is shared by our allies around the world — the people who have stood in solidarity, signed petitions, and organized actions to let us know that you’re fighting in this movement right along with us.

Our fight, of course, is barely begun. Some in our movement will say that this decision is just politics as usual: that the President wants us off the streets — and off his front lawn — until after the election, at which point the administration can approve the pipeline, alienating its supporters without electoral consequence. The President should know that if this pipeline proposal somehow reemerges from the review process we will use every tool at our disposal to keep it from ever being built.

If there’s a lesson of the last few months, both in our work and in the Occupy encampments around the world, it’s that sometimes we have to put our bodies on the line and take to the streets to make our voices heard.

We’ll be stepping up our efforts in the months ahead, expanding our work to take on all the forms of ‘extreme energy’ now coming to the fore around the world: mountaintop removal coal mining, deep sea oil drilling, “fracking” for gas and oil. We’ll keep sending you updates; you keep letting us know what we need to do next.

Last week, scientists announced that the planet had poured a record amount of CO2 into the atmosphere last year; that’s a sign of how desperate our battle is. But we take courage from today’s White House announcement; it gives us some clues about how to fight going forward — and not just in the US, but in every corner of the earth.

I’m going to bed tired tonight. But I’ll get up in the morning ready for the next battle, more confident because I know you’re part of this fight too.
(11 November 2011)

“The world is looking straight into the face of a great depression”.

New recession threatens the globe as debt crisis grows

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard – Telegraph  (UK)  published 11/10/11

Europe’s escalating debt crisis has cast a black shadow over the world’s fragile recovery, threatening to tip large parts of the global economy into a deep downturn and even outright recession.

The OECD’s index of leading indicators for China, India, Brazil, Canada, Britain and the eurozone have all tipped below the warning line of 100, with the pace of the decline in Europe exceeding the onset of the Great Contraction in early 2008. Professor Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the IMF, rattled nerves earlier this week by warning the world is “looking straight into the face of a great depression”.

The grim data is coming thick and fast. Japan’s machinery orders fell 8.2pc in September as the post-Fukushima rebound lost steam and the delayed effects of the super-strong yen began to bite. Export orders have been declining for eight months. “Outright contraction is possible in the quarters ahead,” said Mark Cliffe from ING.

Exports in the Philippines dropped 27pc in September, the sharpest fall in two years. Korea’s exports have showed sharply, caused by a 20pc slide in shipments to Europe. Manufacturing has been contracting for the past three months.

Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s chief, warned in Asia that “there are dark clouds gathering in the global economy. Countries need to prepare for any storm that might reach their shores”. She said “adverse feedback loops” are at work as financial stress and economic woes feed on each other.

China’s carefully managed soft landing has turned uncomfortably hard, with ripple effects through the commodity markets. Spot iron-ore prices have dropped 30pc since July to $126 a tonne. Copper prices have fallen 20pc since August. Barclays Capital said the risk of contagion to China has become serious. The bank is monitoring the country’s “key high frequency data” for early warning signs of the sort of sudden crash in metals demand seen during the Lehman crisis.

China had the firepower to respond to the 2008 crisis with blitz of credit that helped lift the whole world out of slump, a feat that cannot easily be repeated if there is a second shock. The IMF said loans have doubled to almost 200pc of GDP, including off-books lending. This is an unprecedented level of credit growth, twice the intensity of the Japanese bubble in the late 1980s.

The authorities are trying to deflate the excesses slowly with higher interest rates and reserve ratios. This is proving painful. Yao Wei from Societe Generale said prices of new residential property fell 14% in October. Railway investment collapsed by 40% as the insolvent railway ministry struggled to cope with $300 billion of debt. Highway construction dropped 2pc.

Europe is in a deeper, more intractable crisis. Industrial output buckled in September with falls of 4.8pc in Italy, 2.7pc in Germany, and 1.7pc in France from a month earlier as the effects of the debt crisis – as well as fiscal contraction and prior monetary tightening – finally hit with a vengeance.

EU commissioner Olli Rehn slashed growth forecasts from 1.6pc to 0.5pc next year, warning “that recovery has now come to a standstill and there’s the risk of a new recession unless determined action is taken”. This did not stop Brussels sending a letter to Italy calling for yet more fiscal cuts to meet it is balanced budget target by 2013.

“It is imposing pain for pain’s sake, and it is going to cause creditors to collect even less on their Club Med debts than if austerity were abandoned. Even in the early 1930s they weren’t as bad as this,” said Charles Dumas from Lombard Street Research.

Humayun Shahryar from the hedge fund Auvest said the eurozone faces a “major economic collapse”, perhaps with double-dgit falls in GDP. “European banks are massively over-leveraged and almost every one is worthless if you mark to market. This is going to be worse than 2008 because they have run out of bullets. The sovereign states are not strong enough to stand behind the banks,” he said.

Professor Johnson said the EU authorities had made a serious mistake by raising capital ratios for banks to 9pc rather than forcing them to raise fresh capital. “That will lead to a further contraction of credit.”

Banks have already taken drastic steps to cut their loan books rather than raise money in a hostile market, earmarking over €700bn for the next year. There will be knock-on effects for the rest of the world. European banks account €2.5 trillion cross-border loans to emerging markets.

In the US, the economy has held up better than feared so far but faces a fiscal shock early next year. Tax write-offs have pulled capital expenditure forward into late 2011, flattering the picture. Payroll taxes will rise automatically from 4.2pc to 6.2pc in January. Dumas said the combined fiscal squeeze could be as much as 2pc of GDP, heavily “front-loaded” in the early months. “Sharp recession is likely,” he said.

“The credit spigot has been turned off in the US,” said Chris Whalen from Institutional Risk Analytics. “Almost every bank is still running down its loan book, so we are facing a slow motion credit-crunch.”

Fiscal and monetary stimulus has disguised the underlying sickness in the debt-laden economies of the West over the past two years. This heavy make-up has at last faded away, exposing the awful visage beneath.

It is a delicate moment. The risk of a synchronised slump in Europe, the US and East Asia is bad enough. What is chilling is to face such a possibility with the monetary pedal already pushed to the floor in the US, UK and Japan.

Worse yet is to do so with Europe spiralling into institutional self-destruction, allowing its debt crisis to metastasize because EMU has no lender of last resort. That is an unforced error we could do without.

 

Move Your Money: Campaign grows to divest from “Too Big to Fail” banks to local banks, credit unions

 

ST’s Tom Greco Gives Economics Talk at International Conference

Sustainable Tucson founding coalition member, Tom Greco gives a presentation on his transformational model of economic change to the International Conference on Sustainability, Transition and Culture Change: Vision, Action, Leadership. This TED-like talk is video-streamed from the conference and is viewable here:

 

http://www.livestream.com/localfuture/video?clipId=pla_ade24121-d46d-4448-863c-babe129a604f

UA Professor Walks Away From Empire

UA Natural Resources Professor Emeritus Guy McPherson and Sustainable Tucson founding coalition member addresses the International Conference on Sustainability, Transition and Culture Change: Vision, Action, Leadership recounting his journey to personal accountability in the current crisis of civilization. Taking material from his latest book, “Walking Away From Empire” , Guy demonstrates Gandhi’s  recommendation: “Become the change you want to see in the world.” This TED-like talk is video-streamed from the conference and is viewable here:

 

http://www.livestream.com/localfuture/video?clipId=pla_91f8a1ea-47fd-42b7-a983-e9bd2cd9d76d

 

 

 

Saying No to WalMart, A Town Builds its Own Store

Buying Underwear, Along With the Whole Store

By AMY CORTESE

 

SARANAC LAKE, N.Y.

 

THE residents of Saranac Lake, a picturesque town in the Adirondacks, are a hardy lot — they have to be to withstand winter temperatures that can drop to 30 below zero. But since the local Ames department store went out of business in 2002 — a victim of its corporate parent’s bankruptcy — residents have had to drive to Plattsburgh, 50 miles away, to buy basics like underwear or bed linens. And that was simply too much.

 

So when Wal-Mart Stores came knocking, some here welcomed it. Others felt that the company’s plan to build a 120,000-square-foot supercenter would overwhelm their village, with its year-round population of 5,000, and put local merchants out of business.

 

It’s a situation familiar to many communities these days. But rather than accept their fate, residents of Saranac Lake did something unusual: they decided to raise capital to open their own department store. Shares in the store, priced at $100 each, were marketed to local residents as a way to “take control of our future and help our community,” said Melinda Little, a Saranac Lake resident who has been involved in the effort from the start. “The idea was, this is an investment in the community as well as the store.”

 

It took nearly five years — the recession added to the challenge — but the organizers reached their $500,000 goal last spring. By then, some 600 people had chipped in an average of $800 each. And so, on Oct. 29, as an early winter storm threatened the region, the Saranac Lake Community Store opened its doors to the public for the first time. By 9:30 in the morning, the store, in a former restaurant space on Main Street opposite the Hotel Saranac, was packed with shoppers, well-wishers and the curious.

 

The 4,000-square-foot space was not completely renovated — a home goods section will be ready for the grand opening on Nov. 19 — but shoppers seemed pleased with the mix of apparel, bedding and craft supplies for sale.

 

“Ooh, that’s nice,” said Pat Brown, as she held up a slim black skirt (price: $29.99). She and her husband, Bob, a former professor of sociology at a local community college, live in town in an early 1900s home furnished with deer heads and other mementos from Bob’s hunting trips. The couple — who were voted king and queen of the village’s annual Winter Carnival in 1999 — bought $2,000 worth of shares in the store early on, and later bought a few more during a fund-raising drive.

 

“It’s been a long process for all of us. We’re very proud to have it finally become a reality,” Ms. Brown said. Her husband, a vigorous-looking man who had a neatly trimmed white beard and was wearing a cowboy hat, added, “This is a small town trying to help itself.”

 

Think of it as the retail equivalent of the Green Bay Packers — a department store owned by its customers that will not pick up and leave when a better opportunity comes along or a corporate parent takes on too much debt.

 

Community-owned stores are fairly common in Britain, and not unfamiliar in the American West, where remote towns with dwindling populations find it hard to attract or keep businesses. But such stores are almost unknown on the densely populated East Coast. The Saranac Lake Community Store is the first in New York State, its organizers say, and communities in states from Maine to Vermont are watching it closely.

 

Indeed, community ownership seems to resonate in these days of protest and unrest, when frustration with Wall Street, corporate America and a system seemingly rigged against the little guy is running high. But rather than simply grouse, some people are creating alternatives.

 

“It drives me crazy when people criticize how our system works, but they don’t actually go out and try anything,” says Ed Pitts, a lawyer from Syracuse who along with his wife, Meredith Leonard, is a frequent visitor to the area and has invested in the store. “This is more authentic capitalism.”

 

SARANAC LAKE is known more for its natural beauty and clean air than for experimenting with new forms of commerce. Nine miles from the Olympic town of Lake Placid, it is surrounded by lakes and mountains. In the past, it drew summer residents including Albert Einstein and Theodore Roosevelt, as well as tuberculosis patients who came to the village to take “the cure” of fresh air. Today, many of the village’s onetime “cure cottages” are filled with tourists who come in the summer months to hike, canoe and unwind, swelling the population threefold.

 

Come winter, though, the town’s Main Street quiets down and local residents reclaim places like the Blue Moon Café, which dishes up food and gossip. So when the local Ames store closed, few major retailers were interested in taking its place, despite the town’s efforts to woo them.

 

Wal-Mart was the exception. But its interest in building a supercenter larger than two football fields sharply divided villagers. Signs for and against Wal-Mart sprouted on front yards. At heated town meetings, people would shout: “You can’t buy underwear in Saranac Lake!”

 

In the end, Wal-Mart decided not to pursue the store; a spokesman said that “no single factor” contributed to the decision. But the tensions the debate stirred up only made the lack of shopping options more glaring.

 

That’s when a group of residents exploring retail alternatives heard about the Powell Mercantile, a community-owned store in Powell, Wyo., that was born of a similar dilemma. The Merc, as it is known, was established in 2002 after the town’s only department store, part of a chain called Stage, shut down.

 

“There was a great concern that Main Street would fail if we didn’t have a store to replace the Stage,” said Sharon Earhart, who was director of the Powell chamber of commerce at the time. Ms. Earhart and a few other residents raised more than $400,000 from local residents in three months by selling $500 shares, and opened the Merc.

 

The Merc prospered from the start, with fashion brands sharing space with rancher-appropriate Wranglers. When space in an adjacent storefront opened up, it expanded to 14,000 square feet. Now coming up on its 10th anniversary, the Merc does about $600,000 in annual sales and has turned a profit most years, even paying investors a $75 per share dividend in one particularly good year.

 

Powell’s Main Street is now thriving, with a wide range of retail outlets. The store “created a very positive domino effect,” Ms. Earhart said, to the extent that it can be hard to find parking space.

 

When she came to speak at a town hall meeting in Saranac Lake in 2006, nearly 200 people showed up. Following the Powell model, the Saranac Lake organizers put together a business plan and assembled a volunteer board of directors made up of local professionals.

 

The board then approached a local lawyer, Charles Noth, who created a prospectus and filed it with New York State authorities. By limiting the offering to residents of New York, in what is called an intrastate offering, the organizers were able to avoid more complex and costly federal securities regulations. (The Powell Merc also raised money through an intrastate offering.)

 

“I had done a lot of investment proposals but nothing quite like this,” said Mr. Noth, whose family has roots in the area and had recently moved here full time. “The idea of a community store is pretty unique.” He became an investor, as did his brother, the actor Chris Noth (best known for his role as Mr. Big in “Sex and the City”).

 

“We didn’t want it to be a cooperative or nonprofit,” explained Alan Brown, a former banker and the board’s treasurer (and no relation to Pat and Bob Brown). “We wanted it to be just another business on Main Street.”

 

It was also important that it be widely owned, so the shares were priced at $100 and the amount any one person could buy was capped at $10,000. Shares can be bought and sold or willed to future generations. The store’s projected near-term annual revenues of $350,000 to $400,000 will most likely be eaten up by operating expenses, said Melinda Little, the store’s interim board president, but in the future, investors could receive dividends.

 

Getting the first $80,000 was easy, but the board found it hard to keep people’s interest and raise new funds, especially as the recession hit. Board members organized fund-raisers to keep the project in front of people. One year, the board had a float in the Winter Carnival, featuring a clothesline with underwear hanging on it. The share offering will close in December.

 

Many residents, and even board members, were skeptical that the store would ever open. “We had our dark hours,” said Mr. Brown, the treasurer.

 

THOSE have been dispelled, for now. The first day, the store rang up $7,000 in receipts. Not surprisingly, underwear was a big seller.

 

“This is cool,” said Diane Kelting, who was waiting in line to buy a gray poly-rayon cardigan ($36.99) and a “hard to find” bra. “I have two young daughters and I can bring them in here now rather than shopping online,” added Ms. Kelting, who is not an investor in the store.

 

Heidi Kretser, who also attended the opening and is an investor, said online shopping had drawbacks. “Nowadays you don’t even know if the reviews are genuine. If I can actually see it and feel it and talk to someone about it, it just makes for a nicer shopping experience.”

 

For Ms. Kretser, a coordinator with the Wildlife Conservation Society who grew up in the area, the store is about more than convenience: “I’ve always loved the idea of thriving hamlets throughout the Adirondacks, and part of that is healthy downtowns.” Like other residents, she would sometimes drive the 50 miles to shop at the big box stores in Plattsburgh, “which could be Anywhere, America.”

 

Big boxes may offer a wide variety, she said, as her daughter Leena selected some pink yarn and buttons and her son Owen ran over clutching a knit animal hat. But “the size is not compatible with communities like ours,” she said. “And money does not stay local.”

 

And profit? “If we end up with a profit that’s another perk, but we’re in it for the community,” Ms. Kretser said. The Saranac Lake Community Store and others like it reflect a growing shift among some communities to lessen their dependence on global businesses and invest their resources in homegrown enterprises that contribute to the welfare of the community. These efforts flow from studies showing that, dollar for dollar, locally owned companies contribute more to local economies than corporate chains. That is because more money stays local rather than leaking out to a distant headquarters.

 

In a recent analysis of nearly 3,000 rural and urban areas across the United States, a pair of Pennsylvania State University economists found that the areas with more small, locally owned businesses (with fewer than 100 employees) had greater per capita income growth over the period from 2000 to 2007, while the presence of larger, nonlocal firms depressed economic growth.

 

“There is definitely a trend towards community-rooted alternatives,” said Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self Reliance, a nonprofit research and educational organization. Citing the Occupy Wall Street protests and Move Your Money campaigns, she said, “More people are interested in taking the economy back.”

 

Cooperatives — nonprofit businesses like food stores and credit unions owned by and run on behalf of their members — are one common manifestation of the trend. In a co-op, each member gets one vote, and excess revenue not reinvested in the business is distributed among members either as rebates or, in the case of credit unions, lower fees and better interest rates. In the United States, a University of Wisconsin study estimated, there are more than 29,000 co-ops generating $654 billion in revenue, and the number is growing.

 

Community-owned stores are not as well known and are structured as profit-making corporations, but the aim is the same: to keep ownership and control in the community, and to share the prosperity.

 

The Saranac Lake Community Store is a C corporation, the typical big business form, but the resemblance ends there. If and when there are profits that are not plowed back into the store, they will be distributed to investors — many of whom are also the store’s customers. The store’s three employees are paid a modest salary, but one that is above average for the area, and receive health benefits and paid sick days. “That was very important to us,” said Ms. Little, the board president.

 

THE store’s planners sought advice from residents and merchants to determine what was most needed — an effort that continues. Under the title “product offering suggestions,” on a notebook placed near the store’s checkout counter, shoppers had scrawled “larger hats and gloves,” “watchbands” and “women’s flannel-lined jeans.”

 

The planners also tried to avoid competing directly against local merchants, who mainly line half a dozen blocks along Main Street and Broadway. For example, the store offers a limited shoe line, since there are shoe stores in town, and sticks to brands like Minnetonka moccasins, once made in nearby Malone and not carried elsewhere in town. The strategy appears to have won over local merchants. The Coakley Ace hardware down the street offered the store discounted paint and supplies, while the nearby Rice Furniture provided carpet at cost.

 

“I’m of the belief that if you have more offerings in the community, more people will view it as a place to shop,” said Pete Wilson, owner of Major Plowshares, an Army-Navy store in town. “It’s giving people more reason to stay downtown, and that should benefit other retailers.” He bought a share, along with one for each of his two daughters.

 

But community stores are not for everyone. Even with the backing of a local bank and economic development corporation, organizers of a proposed community store in Greenfield, Mass., returned $60,000 to investors this year after concluding that it would be difficult to raise the remaining money needed.

 

And there is no denying the challenges of competing with mega-retailers whose scale and clout give them enormous cost advantages. Craig Waters, Saranac Lake Community Store’s general manager, has had to be creative, stocking American-made products as much as possible and paying reduced prices for merchandise that has not sold at brand-name stores. Mr. Waters, who lives in Lake Placid, also relies on longstanding connections with suppliers. He worked for decades as a buyer and manager for May Department Stores, which merged with Federated Department Stores, now Macy’s Inc., in 2005.

 

The prices appeared reasonable. Brightly colored rubber rain boots for children were $16.99; women’s all-cotton sleep pants and tank top (in a moose print) were $19.99 and $12.99. A waffle-knit, fleece-lined men’s hoodie was $59.99.

 

The Saranac Lake store is off to a strong start, although the trick will be to keep people coming back after the holiday season — and the novelty — have worn off. “We had a lot of people saying it wouldn’t work — and it might not,” said Mr. Wilson, the owner of Major Plowshares. But its existence could set an example for other disenfranchised communities and perhaps prompt shoppers and residents to think about where their dollars go.

 

“Most people are coming in to pick up some thread or clothing. They’re not coming in to get a political lesson,” said Mr. Pitts, the Syracuse lawyer. “But it’s nice to have a place that you can point to as an alternative.”

 

Published by New York Times, 11/13/11

GMO Free Project Pure Food Happy Hour 11.11.11

GMO Free Project of Tucson presents Pure Food Happy Hour 11.11.11

Tasty Gluten-Free/Non-GMO/Organic Food

that’s good for you – at happy hour prices.

Gluten-free/non-GMO info, prizes,

mixing & meeting like-minded people.

Learn about your gluten free and non-GMO choices in Tucson.

Friday, November 11, 2011

3:00 to 6:00 pm
Picazzo’s Organic Italian Kitchen

7850 N. Oracle Road (south of Magee, near Trader Joe’s)

Cost:  Whatever you purchase

Please RSVP to 481-1128 or info@gmofreeprojectoftucson.org


GMO Free Project of Tucson
www.gmofreeprojectoftucson.org
Live GMO Free!
Pick up a copy of the non-GMO shopping guide at New Life Health Center
– Speedway or New Life Health Center – Ajo.
Download one at www.gmofreeprojectoftucson.org or responsibletechnology.org

The Dark Side of the ‘Green’ City

The Dark Side of the ‘Green’ City
By Andrew Ross

PHOENIX

The struggle to slow global warming will be won or lost in cities, which emit 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. So “greening” the city is all the rage now. But if policy makers end up focusing only on those who can afford the low-carbon technologies associated with the new environmental conscientiousness, the movement for sustainability may end up exacerbating climate change rather than ameliorating it.

While cities like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco are lauded for sustainability, the challenges faced by Phoenix, a poster child of Sunbelt sprawl, are more typical and more revealing. In 2009, Mayor Phil Gordon announced plans to make Phoenix the “greenest city” in the United States. Eyebrows were raised, and rightly so. According to the state’s leading climatologist, central Arizona is in the “bull’s eye” of climate change, warming up and drying out faster than any other region in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southwest has been on a drought watch 12 years and counting, despite outsized runoff last winter to the upper Colorado River, a major water supply for the subdivisions of the Valley of the Sun.

Across that valley lies 1,000 square miles of low-density tract housing, where few signs of greening are evident. That’s no surprise, given the economic free fall of a region that had been wholly dependent on the homebuilding industry. Property values in parts of metro Phoenix have dropped by 80 percent, and some neighborhoods are close to being declared “beyond recovery.”

In the Arizona Legislature, talk of global warming is verboten and Republican lawmakers can be heard arguing for the positive qualities of greenhouse gases. Most politicians are still praying for another housing boom on the urban fringe; they have no Plan B, least of all a low-carbon one. Mr. Gordon, a Democrat who took office in 2004, has risen to the challenge. But the vast inequalities of the metro area could blunt the impact of his sustainability plans.

Those looking for ecotopia can find pockets of it in the prosperous upland enclaves of Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and North Phoenix. Hybrid vehicles, LEED-certified custom homes with solar roofs and xeriscaped yards, which do not require irrigation, are popular here, and voter support for the preservation of open space runs high. By contrast, South Phoenix is home to 40 percent of the city’s hazardous industrial emissions and America’s dirtiest ZIP code, while the inner-ring Phoenix suburbs, as a legacy of cold-war era industries, suffer from some of the worst groundwater contamination in the nation.

Whereas uptown populations are increasingly sequestered in green showpiece zones, residents in low-lying areas who cannot afford the low-carbon lifestyle are struggling to breathe fresh air or are even trapped in cancer clusters. You can find this pattern in many American cities. The problem is that the carbon savings to be gotten out of this upscale demographic — which represents one in five American adults and is known as Lohas, an acronym for “lifestyles of health and sustainability” — can’t outweigh the commercial neglect of the other 80 percent. If we are to moderate climate change, the green wave has to lift all vessels.

Solar chargers and energy-efficient appliances are fine, but unless technological fixes take into account the needs of low-income residents, they will end up as lifestyle add-ons for the affluent. Phoenix’s fledgling light-rail system should be expanded to serve more diverse neighborhoods, and green jobs should be created in the central city, not the sprawling suburbs. Arizona has some of the best solar exposure in the world, but it allows monopolistic utilities to impose a regressive surcharge on all customers to subsidize roof-panel installation by the well-heeled ones. Instead of green modifications to master-planned communities at the urban fringe, there should be concerted “infill” investment in central city areas now dotted with vacant lots.

In a desert metropolis, the choice between hoarding and sharing has consequences for all residents. Their predecessors — the Hohokam people, irrigation farmers who subsisted for over a thousand years around a vast canal network in the Phoenix Basin — faced a similar test, and ultimately failed. The remnants of Hohokam canals and pit houses are a potent reminder of ecological collapse; no other American city sits atop such an eloquent allegory.

Published 11-6-2011, The New York Times

Andrew Ross is a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University and author of Bird on Fire: Lessons From the World’s Least Sustainable City.

Adapting to Our New Economic Reality

Welcome to the Post-Growth Economy

“As humanity has chewed through the low-hanging fruit of our natural resources and has turned to lower-grade and more expensive ores and fuels, managers of the economy have attempted to keep growth going by piling up debt in the mistaken belief that it is money that makes the economy run rather than energy and raw materials. Now we’ve reached limits to government and consumer debt, and the realization of that fact is sending financial markets into fibrillation. If energy supplies and debt are both stretched tight, that means more economic growth isn’t possible. Worse, if policy makers fail to realize this and continue assuming that the current crisis is merely another turning of the business cycle, then we lose whatever opportunity still remains to avert a crash that could bring civilization to its knees.”  Read more….