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

 

Chasing Ice – special film opening at The Loft – Dec 14

at The Loft, 3233 E Speedway, Tucson AZ
Tucson Climate Action Networking starting at 7pm

Chasing Ice

Co-presented by the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment, featuring a special introduction by the Institute of the Environment on opening night, Friday, December 14th at 7:30 pm

Tucson Climate Action Network will be tabling before and after the screening as a networking opportunity for our local groups working on the climate crisis, including TUCAN and 350Tucson as well as Citizens Climate Lobby, Sustainable Tucson, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Best Cinematography, Sundance Film Festival 2012
Named to the short list for the 2013 Academy Award for best documentary!
Watch the trailer at www.chasingice.com

Acclaimed National Geographic photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. In Chasing Ice, Balog deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate.

Traveling with a team of young adventurers across the brutal Arctic, Balog risks his career and his well-being in pursuit of the biggest story facing humanity. As the debate polarizes America, and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Chasing Ice depicts a heroic photojournalist on a mission to deliver fragile hope to our carbon-powered planet.

Directed by Jeff Orlowski, 2012, US, 75 min., Rated PG-13, Submarine Films, HD Digital

“NYT CRITICS PICK! Full of stunning images in addition to being timely … as watchable as it is important.” —Neil Genzlinger, New York Times

“This amazingly beautiful, and amazingly frightening, documentary captures the immediacy of what climate change is doing to the Arctic landscape.” —Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

“Dramatic … Chasing Ice aims to accomplish, with pictures, what all the hot air that has been generated on the subject of global warming hasn’t been able to do: make a difference.” —Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post

The Loft Cinema, www.loftcinema.com, phone 520-795-7777

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/

 

Stop Keystone XL tar sands pipeline – 350.org & TUCAN – Nov 18 & 19

Sunday 1 pm MST (3 pm EST) – online live stream from Washington DC

Monday 12 noon at TEP corporate headquarters, 88 E Broadway Blvd, downtown Tucson AZ

Action Alert – SUNDAY onlineMONDAY in downtown Tucson

Nov 18 Sunday 1 pm MST, live online from Washington DC

350.org is gathering outside the White House and they ask everyone to sign up online. Here is the link: 350.org/en/stop-keystone-xl. And from there you can live stream to watch the event.

Nov 19 Monday 12 noon in downtown Tucson

Young activists blockading the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in East Texas are doing a mass action. They have asked for support rallies, and the Tucson Climate Action Network and 350Tucson are sponsoring a solidarity action at 12 noon in front of the TEP corporate HQ, downtown at 88 E. Broadway Blvd.

This will be a relatively brief demonstration (scheduled for 12:00 to 12:30 pm) and no civil disobedience is planned. However, it will be an important show of strength and solidarity, and a great opportunity to connect with others who are ready to seize the momentum of this crucial moment and raise our voices to STOP the pipeline and bring on a serious and effective approach to climate change in the U.S.

Please come stand in solidarity. Bring your signs and banners. We will speak on behalf of both national actions as well as connecting the dots between TEP as a coal-burning utility, and tar sands, and global warming, and extreme climate events.

Tar Sands Blockade is on Facebook too: facebook.com/TarSandsBlockade?fref=ts

RECENT MAINSTREAM MEDIA

The mainstream media is showing a flurry of unaccustomed attention in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and Obama’s re-election, and new World Energy Outlook report from the IEA—check out David Remnick on why Obama MUST address the nation on climate change NOW

newyorker.com/talk/comment/2012/11/19/121119taco_talk_remnick

and this report on the U.S. military’s latest warnings:

nytimes.com/2012/11/10/science/earth/climate-change-report-outlines-perils-for-us-military.html

Even our Arizona Daily Star is starting to catch on:

azstarnet.com/news/opinion/were-obama-and-romney-derelict-in-not-stressing-climate-change/article_8b3c9710-1122-5594-a2ae-ed8dc740b0e4.html and

azstarnet.com/news/science/global-warming-talk-heats-up-renewing-idea-of-a-carbon/article_fa6862f3-2e08-5ed3-ba2e-390908816e29.html

Hope to see you Monday! Stay tuned for ideas for actions you can take, both on your own and by joining with us as we go forward — because THERE IS NO PLANET B.

Tucson Climate Action Network – tucan.news(at)gmail.com

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.

 

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

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.

Eco-Health Relationship Browser – EPA Sustainable and Healthy Communities

Eco-Health Relationship Browser
EPA Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) Research News Flash
September 25, 2012

The EPA Sustainable and Healthy Communities Research Program is pleased to announce the launch of the Eco-Health Relationship Browser, an easy-to-use new online tool from the SHC program.

The Eco-Health Relationship Browser illustrates the linkages between human health and ecosystem services—benefits supplied by nature. This interactive tool provides information about our nation’s ecosystems, the services they provide, and how those services, or their degradation and loss, may affect people and communities.

Ecosystems, such as wetlands and forests, provide a wide variety of goods and services, many of which we use every day. However, some of these services, such as air filtration, are not obvious and it therefore may be hard to understand the impact they have on our daily lives.

Scientific studies have documented the many tangible and intangible services and health benefits that are provided by our surrounding ecosystems. This tool is designed so that users can easily explore the services ecosystems provide and how those services affect human health and well-being. It is important to note that the studies summarized in this tool are by no means an exhaustive list. However, the inclusion of over 300 peer-reviewed papers makes this browser an exceptional compendium of current science on this topic.

If you have questions or comments please contact Laura Jackson at jackson.laura(at)epa.gov

This service is provided to you at no charge by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Welcome to the EPA Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) research program News Flash. SHC is developing data, tools and approaches to help communities make decisions that better protect human health and community well being. This News Flash will provide subscribers periodic updates about SHC science, products or information. You were added to this mailing list because you are involved or have expressed an interest in sustainable communities work, ecosystem services research, or related topics.

For questions about the SHC News Flash contact Melissa McCullough mccullough.melissa(at)epa.gov, or Carolyn Hubbard Hubbard.carolyn(at)epa.gov

270 minutes of silence – Presidential debates avoiding Climate change – 350.org

Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2012 22:32:25 +0000
From: Jamie Henn – 350.org <organizers(at)350.org>
Subject: 270 minutes of silence.

Dear Friends,

Not one word.

After 270 minutes of Presidential and Vice Presidential debates, no one has mentioned climate change or global warming. If the candidates don’t speak up tonight, this will be the first time since 1988 that climate change hasn’t been discussed in a Presidential debate.

Our social media team has whipped up a hard-hitting graphic that you can use to help drive the discussion in the lead up to the debate tonight. The more noise we make online, the more likely it is that the candidates or moderator will make a last minute decision to mention climate and, just as important, that the pundits covering the event will talk about climate change.

Can you raise the volume by sharing this on your social networks?


 

The silence is unacceptable, after the country broke 17,000 heat records this summer, drought smothered half of the nation’s corn crop, and millions of acres of the American west went up in smoke. Right now, just miles away from the site of tonight’s debate, parts of Miami are underwater due to an unusually high tide — a problem that will only worsen if sea levels continue to rise.

The warning signs can’t be ignored, but our politicians have gone silent. The reason couldn’t be more obvious the fossil fuel industry has spent over $150 million dollars on this election already, with more on the way. This September alone, ExxonMobil PAC and Koch Industries PAC spent a whopping $200,000 and $354,500 apiece to influence the election.

This afternoon, we’re working with our allies to make a last minute push to put climate back on the agenda.

Your action online will be joined with action on the ground, as well: our friends from Forecast the Facts, Friends of the Earth and the Energy Action Coalition have been working to break the climate silence in the debates, and there will be a rally at the debate in Florida to call for an end to the silence today.

Thanks for making your voice heard,

Jamie

350.org is building a global movement to solve the climate crisis. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for email alerts. You can help power our work by getting involved locally, sharing your story, and donating here.

AZ Corporation Commission candidates debate – Sep 27

at the UniSource Building, 88 East Broadway, Tucson

 
On Thursday, September 27, 2012, at 5:00 pm, candidates for the AZ Corporation Commission will be holding an open meeting and debate at the UniSource Building, 88 East Broadway, Tucson, AZ

Please join us to engage the candidates on important energy efficiency and clean renewable energy issues.

The AZ Energy Efficiency Standard, which directs electric utilities in the State to reduce their retail sales of electricity by 22% by 2020 (and gas savings of 6% by 2020), is under the purview of the ACC. The Commission also approves utility company plans for compliance and implementation of the EE Standard.

In early 2011, the 2011-2012 TEP Energy Efficiency Implementation Plan was submitted for Commission approval. Since that time, a number of modifications prompted by public interest groups and private companies, and a review (and approval) of the Plan by an Administrative Law Judge have occurred, but the ACC has still not approved the Plan. As a result, TEP ratepayers do not have access to incentives for Energy Efficiency retrofits to their homes, commercial energy efficiency programs, energy education for schools, and other programs and services enjoyed by ratepayers of other utilities with ACC oversight.

Research shows Energy Efficiency is the most cost-effective way to reduce energy costs, while increasing comfort and reducing pollution. Energy Efficiency jobs are local and cannot be out-sourced. Please consider attending this Open Meeting to express your support for TEP’s Energy Efficiency Implementation Plan and the AZ Energy Efficiency Standard, and encourage others to do so.

(from sierraclub.org/borderlands)

Forum for Candidates for AZ Corporation Commission – League of Women Voters – Oct 4

at Temple Emanu-El, 225 N Country Club Road, Tucson AZ

Sustainable Tucson October Meeting

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

Temple Emanu-El, 225 N Country Club Road, Tucson AZ
Thursday, October 4, 2012, 6:30 PM

Doors open at 6:15 pm

Forum for Candidates
for AZ Corporation Commission

All Candidates Have Been Invited

Utility Regulation • Power Lines
Business Regulation • Investment Fraud
Railway Safety • Energy Generation

Your questions for the candidates may also be submitted online here!
Please comment on this post before October 4.

Sponsored by
the League of Women Voters of Greater Tucson,
AAUW (American Association of University Women),
Temple Emanu-El, and Sustainable Tucson

About the Arizona Corporation Commission and its roles and responsibilities

The Arizona Corporation Commission is a key independent arm of state government presided over by five elected commissioners. Only 7 states have constitutionally formed Commissions. Arizona is one of only 13 states with elected Commissioners. In the 37 other states, Commissioners are appointed by either the governor or the legislature.

In most states, the Commission is known as the Public Service Commission or the Public Utility Commission. The Arizona Commission, however, has responsibilities that go beyond traditional public utilities regulation. These additional roles include facilitating the incorporation of businesses and organizations, securities regulation and railroad/pipeline safety.

Regulation of public service utilities including electricity, gas, sewer, water, and telephone remains the most important role, especially in the case of electricity and Arizona’s efforts to transition away from fossil-fuel burning power plants to clean, renewable energy sources. Republicans are attempting to reverse course on these efforts while Democrats are in favor of expanding the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard which applies to regulated power companies.

Challenges in Vertical Farming – all-day workshop & live webcast – Sep 26

live webcast from University of Maryland Conference Center

 

Workshop on the “Challenges in Vertical Farming

September 26, 2012
The Marriott Inn & Conference Center, University of Maryland University College
3501 University Blvd, East Hyattsville, Maryland 20783 USA

http://challengesinverticalfarming.org

We are pleased to announce an NSF funded workshop on the “Challenges in Vertical Farming”, which will be held on September 26, 2012 at the University of Maryland Conference Center.

We have assembled a group of experts from around the world to address various aspects – horticulture, lighting, irrigation, automation, architecture, economics, business development and outreach related to Vertical Farming as a form of Urban Agriculture, who will provide their expertise within a full day of presentations and discussions. Attendance may be in person or through live Webcast. More information including the list of speakers and registration for attendance (select ‘in person’, or via ‘live webcast’) are available at http://challengesinverticalfarming.org

The goal of the workshop is to capture the state of the art in agriculture in controlled environments, to define a research agenda for the future and to establish a working group at the nexus of Agriculture, Engineering, Economics and Architecture with focus on Urban Agriculture. The output of the workshop will be a report that could serve as the basis of research agenda by agencies such as the NSF, USDA and USAID.

Please feel free to forward this notice to those interested in participating in the workshop.

The Workshop organizers are led by Sanjiv Singh of Carnegie Mellon University, and include:

DICKSON DESPOMMIER (COLUMBIA) GENE GIACOMELLI (UNIV OF ARIZONA) MARC VAN IERSEL (UNIV OF GEORGIA) JOEY NORIKANE (FRAUNHOFER) GEORGE KANTOR (CARNEGIE MELLON) NIKOLAUS CORRELL (UNIV OF COLORADO) and MICHAEL HOADLEY (FEWZION)

Here is some motivation for these efforts:

By the year 2050, we expect human population to increase to 9 billion and to be further concentrated in urban centers. An estimated billion hectares of new land will be needed to grow enough food to feed the earth. At present, however, over 80% of the land suitable for raising crops is already in use. Further, if trends in climate change persist, the amount of land available for farming will decrease. Since crops consume 87% of all water used globally, an increase in water usage is not possible. Finally, while the need is for 50% higher yield by the year 2050 to maintain the status quo, we expect agricultural productivity to decline significantly across the world, especially in densely populated areas. There is an urgent need for high-yield agriculture that decreases the use of water and carbon based inputs per unit of product, while simultaneously reducing vulnerability of crops to natural environmental conditions. Vertical Farming (using controlled environments for urban agriculture) will reduce transportation energy required from the distant outdoor farms. Recent implementations have shown high yields in the production of vegetables in controlled environments. Water usage has been significantly reduced compared to traditional outdoor farming, and crops are shielded from adverse climate, and, from pests and diseases. In addition, Vertical Farming has the potential to provide fresher and healthier produce to the local consumer.

Since no one community or technology holds the magic key, the opportunity for is to collectively enumerate and prioritize the challenges that must be addressed to bring high yield, resource efficient agriculture to fruition. The greatest contribution from this workshop could be a roadmap for governmental agencies and researchers to follow as they weigh their priorities in the coming years. Obviously the needs will vary depending on the locale addressed– we expect that the needs for developing countries will be different than those that are less resource constrained. The goal of our workshop is to capture the state of the art in agriculture in controlled environments, to define a research agenda for the future and to establish a working group at the nexus of Agriculture, Engineering, Economics and Architecture. The output of the workshop will be a report that could serve as the basis of research agenda by agencies such as the NSF, USDA and USAID.

http://challengesinverticalfarming.org

Crucial ACC Election for Climate Activists – TUCAN Workshop Sep 8

at Miller Golf Links Public Library, 9640 E Golf Links Rd, Tucson (see below about carpooling)

Crucial ACC Election for Climate Activists

Workshop on September 8 Saturday 1 p.m., free t-shirt

Dear Climate Activist,

In the 2012, three of five seats at the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) are up for election. This election will decide the future of energy efficiency and solar power in Arizona. The Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed three candidates for the ACC. They are incumbents Paul Newman and Sandra Kennedy, and newcomer Marcia Busching.

Please join us on Saturday, September 8th to learn what you can do to elect the Solar Team – Newman, Kennedy, Busching – and help make Arizona the Solar State and a leader for energy independence. A well respected individual from the solar industry will join us to debunk some myths about solar energy, as well as other wonderful speakers. This election will decide our energy future. Please be there to learn how you can help.

Event will take place: Saturday, September 8th at 1pm
Miller Golf Links Public Library at 9640 E. Golf Links Rd., Tucson, Arizona 85730

Carpool: Rides and riders are encouraged to contact Andrea Sirois to set up carpooling. For information (and carpooling) call Andrea Siriois at 707-319-1089 or email arsirois(at)gmail.com

Best,
Laila Amerman
Field Director, Paul Newman 2012 for Arizona Corporation Commission
Work: (623) 850-1338
Email: Laila(at)PaulNewmanAZ.com

ST September Meeting – Sept 10 – Sustainability of Urban Mobility and Urban Form continued – Broadway Boulevard Project

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

Broadway Boulevard Project:
Sustainable Urban Mobility and Form?

As a follow up to Sustainable Tucson’s July meeting, The Sustainability of Urban Mobility and Urban Form, the September 10th meeting will be convening a public conversation furthering the discussion, using the Broadway Boulevard Project as a focus.

Presenters will include
Jen Burdick – Broadway Corridor project manager for the TDOT
Colby Henley – Citizen’s Task Force and local Neighborhood Association member
Tres English – Sustainable Tucson
• and others to be announced

Efforts to incorporate local Neighborhood goals with those of the transportation planning agencies are moving forward through the efforts of the Broadway Citizen’s Task Force (CTF). By the time Sustainable Tucson convenes its meeting on September 10th, the CTF will have conducted 2 public meetings. The findings of the 1st meeting are posted online at http://cms3.tucsonaz.gov/broadway

Neighborhood and City goals should be updated and integrated given the interrelated issues of mobility and urban form. In this age of fiscal and environmental constraints, we have the opportunity (and calling) to redirect limited funds to support live-ability and vibrancy at the neighborhood level while implementing a transportation system that unites and serves the larger city. Additionally, now is the time to address larger embedded issues such as the Urban Heat Island effect (UHI) and Climate Change.

A recent Arizona State University study by leading author, Matei Georgescu (http://geoplan.asu.edu/georgescu-megapolitan) notes that urban development could by itself, increase average June-August temperatures by as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. Add in another 5 degrees due to the effects of greenhouse gas emissions over the same period (United States Global Change Research Project), and it becomes apparent “business as usual” will significantly affect the health, live-ability, and pocketbooks of Tucsonans.

To mitigate temperatures neither current nor future inhabitants of Tucson want to endure and to ensure live-able and vibrant communities we must seek alternatives to current built-environment and mobility practices that solve rather than add to an unsustainable city. The Broadway Boulevard Project discussion is a great place to start.

Join us in conversation September 10th at the Joel Valdez Library, lower level meeting room.

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

No Coal in Tucson – Please help leaflet TEP – Aug 9

Wednesday 7pm – TUCAN meeting (every second Wednesday) at the Quaker Meetinghouse, 931 N 5th Ave, Tucson AZ

Thursday 11:30am – press conference and leafletting outside the TEP Headquarters, 88 E Broadway, Tucson AZ

Please help leaflet TEP – No Coal in Tucson

Dear Tucsonan Concerned About Health and Climate,

Tucson Electic (TEP) has refused to stop stockpiling its mountain of coal at its plant on Irvington on the Southside of Tucson, despite our well-publicized media report documenting the deaths of 4 people every year it burns coal – along with $28 million in economic damages to the community!

The Tucson Climate Activist Network (TUCAN) is a coalition of organizations and individuals concerned about climate change.

Burning fossil fuels, especially coal, is the moral issue of our generation, the apartheid of our times. Burning coal releases carbon dioxide causing global warming and thus the droughts, forest fires, heavy rains and wind storms which are becoming the “new normal.”

TEP is a coal company. Over 80% of its generating capacity is coal-fired. Less than 2% is solar. TEP and the fossil fuel industry is rendering our planet uninhabitable, just to make a buck.

Please join us at 11:30 a.m. this Thursday, August 9th, for a press conference and leafletting outside the TEP Headquarters at 88 E. Broadway.

We are demanding that TEP:

  * Immediately cease all further purchases and delivery of coal for the Irvington plant;

  * Pledge not to burn and to remove the current supply of coal being held at the Irvington plant;

  * Develop a plan to achieve a goal of 80% renewable energy sources for the all of its generating facilities including the Sundt plant on Irvington by 2050; and

  * Present the aforementioned plan to the Mayor, City Council, and the general Tucson community by December 31, 2012.

If you would like to join TUCAN and help us prepare for this event, our next monthly meeting (every second Wednesday) is next Wednesday, August 8th (the night before our leafleting) at 7-9 p.m. at 931 N. 5th Ave., the Quaker Meetinghouse.

Thanks for all you do.

Jim Driscoll

National Institute for Peer Support (NIPS)
4151 E. Boulder Springs Way
Tucson, AZ 85712
Phone: 520-250-0509
Email: JimDriscoll(at)NIPSPeerSupport.org
Website: www.NIPSPeerSupport.org

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

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math – by Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is

by Bill McKibben (350.org)

This story is from the August 2nd, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10^99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world’s nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn’t even attend. It was “a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago,” the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls “once thronged by multitudes.” Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn’t yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers.

The First Number: 2° Celsius

If the movie had ended in Hollywood fashion, the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 would have marked the culmination of the global fight to slow a changing climate. The world’s nations had gathered in the December gloom of the Danish capital for what a leading climate economist, Sir Nicholas Stern of Britain, called the “most important gathering since the Second World War, given what is at stake.” As Danish energy minister Connie Hedegaard, who presided over the conference, declared at the time: “This is our chance. If we miss it, it could take years before we get a new and better one. If ever.”

In the event, of course, we missed it. Copenhagen failed spectacularly. Neither China nor the United States, which between them are responsible for 40 percent of global carbon emissions, was prepared to offer dramatic concessions, and so the conference drifted aimlessly for two weeks until world leaders jetted in for the final day. Amid considerable chaos, President Obama took the lead in drafting a face-saving “Copenhagen Accord” that fooled very few. Its purely voluntary agreements committed no one to anything, and even if countries signaled their intentions to cut carbon emissions, there was no enforcement mechanism. “Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight,” an angry Greenpeace official declared, “with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport.” Headline writers were equally brutal: COPENHAGEN: THE MUNICH OF OUR TIMES? asked one.

The accord did contain one important number, however. In Paragraph 1, it formally recognized “the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius.” And in the very next paragraph, it declared that “we agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required… so as to hold the increase in global temperature below two degrees Celsius.” By insisting on two degrees – about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit – the accord ratified positions taken earlier in 2009 by the G8, and the so-called Major Economies Forum. It was as conventional as conventional wisdom gets. The number first gained prominence, in fact, at a 1995 climate conference chaired by Angela Merkel, then the German minister of the environment and now the center-right chancellor of the nation.

Some context: So far, we’ve raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.) Given those impacts, in fact, many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target. “Any number much above one degree involves a gamble,” writes Kerry Emanuel of MIT, a leading authority on hurricanes, “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 like this: “If we’re seeing what we’re seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much.” NASA scientist James Hansen, the planet’s most prominent climatologist, is even blunter: “The target that has been talked about in international negotiations for two degrees of warming is actually a prescription for long-term disaster.” At the Copenhagen summit, a spokesman for small island nations warned that many would not survive a two-degree rise: “Some countries will flat-out disappear.” When delegates from developing nations were warned that two degrees would represent a “suicide pact” for drought-stricken Africa, many of them started chanting, “One degree, one Africa.”

Despite such well-founded misgivings, political realism bested scientific data, and the world settled on the two-degree target – indeed, it’s fair to say that it’s the only thing about climate change the world has settled on. All told, 167 countries responsible for more than 87 percent of the world’s carbon emissions have signed on to the Copenhagen Accord, endorsing the two-degree target. Only a few dozen countries have rejected it, including Kuwait, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Even the United Arab Emirates, which makes most of its money exporting oil and gas, signed on. The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can’t raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius – it’s become the bottomest of bottom lines. Two degrees.

The Second Number: 565 Gigatons

Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. (“Reasonable,” in this case, means four chances in five, or somewhat worse odds than playing Russian roulette with a six-shooter.)

This idea of a global “carbon budget” emerged about a decade ago, as scientists began to calculate how much oil, coal and gas could still safely be burned. Since we’ve increased the Earth’s temperature by 0.8 degrees so far, we’re currently less than halfway to the target. But, in fact, computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees, as previously released carbon continues to overheat the atmosphere. That means we’re already three-quarters of the way to the two-degree target.

How good are these numbers? No one is insisting that they’re exact, but few dispute that they’re generally right. The 565-gigaton figure was derived from one of the most sophisticated computer-simulation models that have been built by climate scientists around the world over the past few decades. And the number is being further confirmed by the latest climate-simulation models currently being finalized in advance of the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Looking at them as they come in, they hardly differ at all,” says Tom Wigley, an Australian climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “There’s maybe 40 models in the data set now, compared with 20 before. But so far the numbers are pretty much the same. We’re just fine-tuning things. I don’t think much has changed over the last decade.” William Collins, a senior climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, agrees. “I think the results of this round of simulations will be quite similar,” he says. “We’re not getting any free lunch from additional understanding of the climate system.”

We’re not getting any free lunch from the world’s economies, either. With only a single year’s lull in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis, we’ve continued to pour record amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, year after year. In late May, the International Energy Agency published its latest figures – CO2 emissions last year rose to 31.6 gigatons, up 3.2 percent from the year before. America had a warm winter and converted more coal-fired power plants to natural gas, so its emissions fell slightly; China kept booming, so its carbon output (which recently surpassed the U.S.) rose 9.3 percent; the Japanese shut down their fleet of nukes post-Fukushima, so their emissions edged up 2.4 percent. “There have been efforts to use more renewable energy and improve energy efficiency,” said Corinne Le Quéré, who runs England’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. “But what this shows is that so far the effects have been marginal.” In fact, study after study predicts that carbon emissions will keep growing by roughly three percent a year – and at that rate, we’ll blow through our 565-gigaton allowance in 16 years, around the time today’s preschoolers will be graduating from high school. “The new data provide further evidence that the door to a two-degree trajectory is about to close,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist. In fact, he continued, “When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of about six degrees.” That’s almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which would create a planet straight out of science fiction.

So, new data in hand, everyone at the Rio conference renewed their ritual calls for serious international action to move us back to a two-degree trajectory. The charade will continue in November, when the next Conference of the Parties (COP) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change convenes in Qatar. This will be COP 18 – COP 1 was held in Berlin in 1995, and since then the process has accomplished essentially nothing. Even scientists, who are notoriously reluctant to speak out, are slowly overcoming their natural preference to simply provide data. “The message has been consistent for close to 30 years now,” Collins says with a wry laugh, “and we have the instrumentation and the computer power required to present the evidence in detail. If we choose to continue on our present course of action, it should be done with a full evaluation of the evidence the scientific community has presented.” He pauses, suddenly conscious of being on the record. “I should say, a fuller evaluation of the evidence.”

So far, though, such calls have had little effect. We’re in the same position we’ve been in for a quarter-century: scientific warning followed by political inaction. Among scientists speaking off the record, disgusted candor is the rule. One senior scientist told me, “You know those new cigarette packs, where governments make them put a picture of someone with a hole in their throats? Gas pumps should have something like that.”

The Third Number: 2,795 Gigatons

This number is the scariest of all – one that, for the first time, meshes the political and scientific dimensions of our dilemma. It was highlighted last summer by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts and environmentalists who published a report in an effort to educate investors about the possible risks that climate change poses to their stock portfolios. The number describes the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies. In short, it’s the fossil fuel we’re currently planning to burn. And the key point is that this new number – 2,795 – is higher than 565. Five times higher.

The Carbon Tracker Initiative – led by James Leaton, an environmentalist who served as an adviser at the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers – combed through proprietary databases to figure out how much oil, gas and coal the world’s major energy companies hold in reserve. The numbers aren’t perfect – they don’t fully reflect the recent surge in unconventional energy sources like shale gas, and they don’t accurately reflect coal reserves, which are subject to less stringent reporting requirements than oil and gas. But for the biggest companies, the figures are quite exact: If you burned everything in the inventories of Russia’s Lukoil and America’s ExxonMobil, for instance, which lead the list of oil and gas companies, each would release more than 40 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Which is exactly why this new number, 2,795 gigatons, is such a big deal. Think of two degrees Celsius as the legal drinking limit – equivalent to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level below which you might get away with driving home. The 565 gigatons is how many drinks you could have and still stay below that limit – the six beers, say, you might consume in an evening. And the 2,795 gigatons? That’s the three 12-packs the fossil-fuel industry has on the table, already opened and ready to pour.

We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We’d have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.

Yes, this coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil. But it’s already economically aboveground – it’s figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. It explains why the big fossil-fuel companies have fought so hard to prevent the regulation of carbon dioxide – those reserves are their primary asset, the holding that gives their companies their value. It’s why they’ve worked so hard these past years to figure out how to unlock the oil in Canada’s tar sands, or how to drill miles beneath the sea, or how to frack the Appalachians.

If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn’t pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today’s market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you’d be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren’t exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won’t necessarily burst – we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet – but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can’t have both. Do the math: 2,795 is five times 565. That’s how the story ends.

So far, as I said at the start, environmental efforts to tackle global warming have failed. The planet’s emissions of carbon dioxide continue to soar, especially as developing countries emulate (and supplant) the industries of the West. Even in rich countries, small reductions in emissions offer no sign of the real break with the status quo we’d need to upend the iron logic of these three numbers. Germany is one of the only big countries that has actually tried hard to change its energy mix; on one sunny Saturday in late May, that northern-latitude nation generated nearly half its power from solar panels within its borders. That’s a small miracle – and it demonstrates that we have the technology to solve our problems. But we lack the will. So far, Germany’s the exception; the rule is ever more carbon.

This record of failure means we know a lot about what strategies don’t work. Green groups, for instance, have spent a lot of time trying to change individual lifestyles: the iconic twisty light bulb has been installed by the millions, but so have a new generation of energy-sucking flatscreen TVs. Most of us are fundamentally ambivalent about going green: We like cheap flights to warm places, and we’re certainly not going to give them up if everyone else is still taking them. Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it’s as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.

People perceive – correctly – that their individual actions will not make a decisive difference in the atmospheric concentration of CO2; by 2010, a poll found that “while recycling is widespread in America and 73 percent of those polled are paying bills online in order to save paper,” only four percent had reduced their utility use and only three percent had purchased hybrid cars. Given a hundred years, you could conceivably change lifestyles enough to matter – but time is precisely what we lack.

A more efficient method, of course, would be to work through the political system, and environmentalists have tried that, too, with the same limited success. They’ve patiently lobbied leaders, trying to convince them of our peril and assuming that politicians would heed the warnings. Sometimes it has seemed to work. Barack Obama, for instance, campaigned more aggressively about climate change than any president before him – the night he won the nomination, he told supporters that his election would mark the moment “the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” And he has achieved one significant change: a steady increase in the fuel efficiency mandated for automobiles. It’s the kind of measure, adopted a quarter-century ago, that would have helped enormously. But in light of the numbers I’ve just described, it’s obviously a very small start indeed.

At this point, effective action would require actually keeping most of the carbon the fossil-fuel industry wants to burn safely in the soil, not just changing slightly the speed at which it’s burned. And there the president, apparently haunted by the still-echoing cry of “Drill, baby, drill,” has gone out of his way to frack and mine. His secretary of interior, for instance, opened up a huge swath of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming for coal extraction: The total basin contains some 67.5 gigatons worth of carbon (or more than 10 percent of the available atmospheric space). He’s doing the same thing with Arctic and offshore drilling; in fact, as he explained on the stump in March, “You have my word that we will keep drilling everywhere we can… That’s a commitment that I make.” The next day, in a yard full of oil pipe in Cushing, Oklahoma, the president promised to work on wind and solar energy but, at the same time, to speed up fossil-fuel development: “Producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy.” That is, he’s committed to finding even more stock to add to the 2,795-gigaton inventory of unburned carbon.

Sometimes the irony is almost Borat-scale obvious: In early June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled on a Norwegian research trawler to see firsthand the growing damage from climate change. “Many of the predictions about warming in the Arctic are being surpassed by the actual data,” she said, describing the sight as “sobering.” But the discussions she traveled to Scandinavia to have with other foreign ministers were mostly about how to make sure Western nations get their share of the estimated $9 trillion in oil (that’s more than 90 billion barrels, or 37 gigatons of carbon) that will become accessible as the Arctic ice melts. Last month, the Obama administration indicated that it would give Shell permission to start drilling in sections of the Arctic.

Almost every government with deposits of hydrocarbons straddles the same divide. Canada, for instance, is a liberal democracy renowned for its internationalism – no wonder, then, that it signed on to the Kyoto treaty, promising to cut its carbon emissions substantially by 2012. But the rising price of oil suddenly made the tar sands of Alberta economically attractive – and since, as NASA climatologist James Hansen pointed out in May, they contain as much as 240 gigatons of carbon (or almost half of the available space if we take the 565 limit seriously), that meant Canada’s commitment to Kyoto was nonsense. In December, the Canadian government withdrew from the treaty before it faced fines for failing to meet its commitments.

The same kind of hypocrisy applies across the ideological board: In his speech to the Copenhagen conference, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez quoted Rosa Luxemburg, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and “Christ the Redeemer,” insisting that “climate change is undoubtedly the most devastating environmental problem of this century.” But the next spring, in the Simon Bolivar Hall of the state-run oil company, he signed an agreement with a consortium of international players to develop the vast Orinoco tar sands as “the most significant engine for a comprehensive development of the entire territory and Venezuelan population.” The Orinoco deposits are larger than Alberta’s – taken together, they’d fill up the whole available atmospheric space.

So: the paths we have tried to tackle global warming have so far produced only gradual, halting shifts. A rapid, transformative change would require building a movement, and movements require enemies. As John F. Kennedy put it, “The civil rights movement should thank God for Bull Connor. He’s helped it as much as Abraham Lincoln.” And enemies are what climate change has lacked.

But what all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. “Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices,” says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. “But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.”

According to the Carbon Tracker report, if Exxon burns its current reserves, it would use up more than seven percent of the available atmospheric space between us and the risk of two degrees. BP is just behind, followed by the Russian firm Gazprom, then Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell, each of which would fill between three and four percent. Taken together, just these six firms, of the 200 listed in the Carbon Tracker report, would use up more than a quarter of the remaining two-degree budget. Severstal, the Russian mining giant, leads the list of coal companies, followed by firms like BHP Billiton and Peabody. The numbers are simply staggering – this industry, and this industry alone, holds the power to change the physics and chemistry of our planet, and they’re planning to use it.

They’re clearly cognizant of global warming – they employ some of the world’s best scientists, after all, and they’re bidding on all those oil leases made possible by the staggering melt of Arctic ice. And yet they relentlessly search for more hydrocarbons – in early March, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson told Wall Street analysts that the company plans to spend $37 billion a year through 2016 (about $100 million a day) searching for yet more oil and gas.

There’s not a more reckless man on the planet than Tillerson. Late last month, on the same day the Colorado fires reached their height, he told a New York audience that global warming is real, but dismissed it as an “engineering problem” that has “engineering solutions.” Such as? “Changes to weather patterns that move crop-production areas around – we’ll adapt to that.” This in a week when Kentucky farmers were reporting that corn kernels were “aborting” in record heat, threatening a spike in global food prices. “The fear factor that people want to throw out there to say, ‘We just have to stop this,’ I do not accept,” Tillerson said. Of course not – if he did accept it, he’d have to keep his reserves in the ground. Which would cost him money. It’s not an engineering problem, in other words – it’s a greed problem.

You could argue that this is simply in the nature of these companies – that having found a profitable vein, they’re compelled to keep mining it, more like efficient automatons than people with free will. But as the Supreme Court has made clear, they are people of a sort. In fact, thanks to the size of its bankroll, the fossil-fuel industry has far more free will than the rest of us. These companies don’t simply exist in a world whose hungers they fulfill – they help create the boundaries of that world.

Left to our own devices, citizens might decide to regulate carbon and stop short of the brink; according to a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans would back an international agreement that cut carbon emissions 90 percent by 2050. But we aren’t left to our own devices. The Koch brothers, for instance, have a combined wealth of $50 billion, meaning they trail only Bill Gates on the list of richest Americans. They’ve made most of their money in hydrocarbons, they know any system to regulate carbon would cut those profits, and they reportedly plan to lavish as much as $200 million on this year’s elections. In 2009, for the first time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce surpassed both the Republican and Democratic National Committees on political spending; the following year, more than 90 percent of the Chamber’s cash went to GOP candidates, many of whom deny the existence of global warming. Not long ago, the Chamber even filed a brief with the EPA urging the agency not to regulate carbon – should the world’s scientists turn out to be right and the planet heats up, the Chamber advised, “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological and technological adaptations.” As radical goes, demanding that we change our physiology seems right up there.

Environmentalists, understandably, have been loath to make the fossil-fuel industry their enemy, respecting its political power and hoping instead to convince these giants that they should turn away from coal, oil and gas and transform themselves more broadly into “energy companies.” Sometimes that strategy appeared to be working – emphasis on appeared. Around the turn of the century, for instance, BP made a brief attempt to restyle itself as “Beyond Petroleum,” adapting a logo that looked like the sun and sticking solar panels on some of its gas stations. But its investments in alternative energy were never more than a tiny fraction of its budget for hydrocarbon exploration, and after a few years, many of those were wound down as new CEOs insisted on returning to the company’s “core business.” In December, BP finally closed its solar division. Shell shut down its solar and wind efforts in 2009. The five biggest oil companies have made more than $1 trillion in profits since the millennium – there’s simply too much money to be made on oil and gas and coal to go chasing after zephyrs and sunbeams.

Much of that profit stems from a single historical accident: Alone among businesses, the fossil-fuel industry is allowed to dump its main waste, carbon dioxide, for free. Nobody else gets that break – if you own a restaurant, you have to pay someone to cart away your trash, since piling it in the street would breed rats. But the fossil-fuel industry is different, and for sound historical reasons: Until a quarter-century ago, almost no one knew that CO2 was dangerous. But now that we understand that carbon is heating the planet and acidifying the oceans, its price becomes the central issue.

If you put a price on carbon, through a direct tax or other methods, it would enlist markets in the fight against global warming. Once Exxon has to pay for the damage its carbon is doing to the atmosphere, the price of its products would rise. Consumers would get a strong signal to use less fossil fuel – every time they stopped at the pump, they’d be reminded that you don’t need a semimilitary vehicle to go to the grocery store. The economic playing field would now be a level one for nonpolluting energy sources. And you could do it all without bankrupting citizens – a so-called “fee-and-dividend” scheme would put a hefty tax on coal and gas and oil, then simply divide up the proceeds, sending everyone in the country a check each month for their share of the added costs of carbon. By switching to cleaner energy sources, most people would actually come out ahead.

There’s only one problem: Putting a price on carbon would reduce the profitability of the fossil-fuel industry. After all, the answer to the question “How high should the price of carbon be?” is “High enough to keep those carbon reserves that would take us past two degrees safely in the ground.” The higher the price on carbon, the more of those reserves would be worthless. The fight, in the end, is about whether the industry will succeed in its fight to keep its special pollution break alive past the point of climate catastrophe, or whether, in the economists’ parlance, we’ll make them internalize those externalities.

It’s not clear, of course, that the power of the fossil-fuel industry can be broken. The U.K. analysts who wrote the Carbon Tracker report and drew attention to these numbers had a relatively modest goal – they simply wanted to remind investors that climate change poses a very real risk to the stock prices of energy companies. Say something so big finally happens (a giant hurricane swamps Manhattan, a megadrought wipes out Midwest agriculture) that even the political power of the industry is inadequate to restrain legislators, who manage to regulate carbon. Suddenly those Chevron reserves would be a lot less valuable, and the stock would tank. Given that risk, the Carbon Tracker report warned investors to lessen their exposure, hedge it with some big plays in alternative energy.

“The regular process of economic evolution is that businesses are left with stranded assets all the time,” says Nick Robins, who runs HSBC’s Climate Change Centre. “Think of film cameras, or typewriters. The question is not whether this will happen. It will. Pension systems have been hit by the dot-com and credit crunch. They’ll be hit by this.” Still, it hasn’t been easy to convince investors, who have shared in the oil industry’s record profits. “The reason you get bubbles,” sighs Leaton, “is that everyone thinks they’re the best analyst – that they’ll go to the edge of the cliff and then jump back when everyone else goes over.”

So pure self-interest probably won’t spark a transformative challenge to fossil fuel. But moral outrage just might – and that’s the real meaning of this new math. It could, plausibly, give rise to a real movement.

Once, in recent corporate history, anger forced an industry to make basic changes. That was the campaign in the 1980s demanding divestment from companies doing business in South Africa. It rose first on college campuses and then spread to municipal and state governments; 155 campuses eventually divested, and by the end of the decade, more than 80 cities, 25 states and 19 counties had taken some form of binding economic action against companies connected to the apartheid regime. “The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century,” as Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it, “but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure,” especially from “the divestment movement of the 1980s.”

The fossil-fuel industry is obviously a tougher opponent, and even if you could force the hand of particular companies, you’d still have to figure out a strategy for dealing with all the sovereign nations that, in effect, act as fossil-fuel companies. But the link for college students is even more obvious in this case. If their college’s endowment portfolio has fossil-fuel stock, then their educations are being subsidized by investments that guarantee they won’t have much of a planet on which to make use of their degree. (The same logic applies to the world’s largest investors, pension funds, which are also theoretically interested in the future – that’s when their members will “enjoy their retirement.”) “Given the severity of the climate crisis, a comparable demand that our institutions dump stock from companies that are destroying the planet would not only be appropriate but effective,” says Bob Massie, a former anti-apartheid activist who helped found the Investor Network on Climate Risk. “The message is simple: We have had enough. We must sever the ties with those who profit from climate change – now.”

Movements rarely have predictable outcomes. But any campaign that weakens the fossil-fuel industry’s political standing clearly increases the chances of retiring its special breaks. Consider President Obama’s signal achievement in the climate fight, the large increase he won in mileage requirements for cars. Scientists, environmentalists and engineers had advocated such policies for decades, but until Detroit came under severe financial pressure, it was politically powerful enough to fend them off. If people come to understand the cold, mathematical truth – that the fossil-fuel industry is systematically undermining the planet’s physical systems – it might weaken it enough to matter politically. Exxon and their ilk might drop their opposition to a fee-and-dividend solution; they might even decide to become true energy companies, this time for real.

Even if such a campaign is possible, however, we may have waited too long to start it. To make a real difference – to keep us under a temperature increase of two degrees – you’d need to change carbon pricing in Washington, and then use that victory to leverage similar shifts around the world. At this point, what happens in the U.S. is most important for how it will influence China and India, where emissions are growing fastest. (In early June, researchers concluded that China has probably under-reported its emissions by up to 20 percent.) The three numbers I’ve described are daunting – they may define an essentially impossible future. But at least they provide intellectual clarity about the greatest challenge humans have ever faced. We know how much we can burn, and we know who’s planning to burn more. Climate change operates on a geological scale and time frame, but it’s not an impersonal force of nature; the more carefully you do the math, the more thoroughly you realize that this is, at bottom, a moral issue; we have met the enemy and they is Shell.

Meanwhile the tide of numbers continues. The week after the Rio conference limped to its conclusion, Arctic sea ice hit the lowest level ever recorded for that date. Last month, on a single weekend, Tropical Storm Debby dumped more than 20 inches of rain on Florida – the earliest the season’s fourth-named cyclone has ever arrived. At the same time, the largest fire in New Mexico history burned on, and the most destructive fire in Colorado’s annals claimed 346 homes in Colorado Springs – breaking a record set the week before in Fort Collins. This month, scientists issued a new study concluding that global warming has dramatically increased the likelihood of severe heat and drought – days after a heat wave across the Plains and Midwest broke records that had stood since the Dust Bowl, threatening this year’s harvest. You want a big number? In the course of this month, a quadrillion kernels of corn need to pollinate across the grain belt, something they can’t do if temperatures remain off the charts. Just like us, our crops are adapted to the Holocene, the 11,000-year period of climatic stability we’re now leaving… in the dust.

This story is from the August 2nd, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719

Also see http://350.org

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&amp;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

Rainwater Harvesting – Native Seeds/SEARCH free monthly salon – July 16

Free, at Native Seeds/SEARCH Retail Store, 3061 N. Campbell Ave. (just south of Ft. Lowell)

Rainwater Harvesting

Leona Davis, Education and Advocacy Coordinator
Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona

Harvest those wonderful monsoon rains. Learn about the benefits of rainwater harvesting both in the soil and in storage tanks. Gain an understanding of the cost, system sizing, and materials involved in a variety of home rainwater harvesting systems.

Occupy Arcology – ecological city design lecture & discussion – June 26

Free, at Historic Y conference room, 738 North 5th Ave (at University)

 

OCCUPY ARCOLOGY LECTURE – June 26

Come be a part of a lecture and lively discussion on Occupy Arcology. In this part of the lecture series, hosted by Occupy Tucson’s Doctress Neutopia, we will focus on the question of ecology and economy within the context of an arcology (ecological city design). Any knowledge you have about alternative economics—alternative currencies, time banks, labor relationships, the rights of nature, etc, are welcome in our discussion. So, please come and share your wisdom and knowledge.

Some of the questions to be raised in the discussion are:

What kind of economy fosters health and sustainability with our natural resources?
How do we move into a no-growth, zero-carbon city?
How would William McDonough’s “cradle-to-cradle industrials” move us beyond 20th Century industrials that are polluting our world?
What kind of labor-force is needed to construct an evolutionary city design?
Do we need a new definition of work?
What would a feminist economy, outlined in Riane Eisler’s book The Real Wealth of Nations, look like?
How do we convert military monies into building solar-powered arcologies so that a peace time economy can lead us into a beautiful future?

When: Tuesday June 26th, 2012
Time: 5:00 – 6:30 P.M.
Place: Historic Y’s conference room, 738 North 5th Ave (at University)

For More Info: Contact doctress(at)lovolution.net

Also see http://www.lovolution.net/MainPages/arcology/arcology.htm

Support Energy Efficiency Workshop – June 27

at Historic Y conference room, 738 N 5th Ave in Tucson

 

TEP Customers — Help TEP Move Beyond Coal to Clean Energy!
Join us at a free workshop!

You can help move Tucson Electric Power from coal to clean energy! Come to this informative workshop and find out more.

Support Energy Efficiency Workshop
Wednesday, June 27, 6-8 p.m.

Historic Y conference room
738 N. 5th Ave., Tucson (map)

We will discuss what Tucson Electric Power (TEP) can do to get off dirty fossil fuels, including through energy efficiency and renewable energy, and what you can do to help!

The Arizona Corporation Commission will be holding a special open meeting in Tucson on July 11 and taking comments on TEP’s Energy Efficiency Implementation Plan. Our workshop will help you prepare for this meeting and will provide an opportunity to write comments on this important issue.

For more information, please contact Dan Millis at (520) 620-6401 or dan.millis(at)sierraclub.org

Tucson Climate Activists Network – 2nd Wednesdays

 

Every second Wednesday 7-9pm at the Quaker Meetinghouse, 931 N. 5th Ave, Tucson AZ

 

TUCAN (Tucson Climate Activists Network)

TUCAN meets the 2nd Wednesday of each month, 7-9 pm at the Quaker Meetinghouse on 5th Ave, to connect the work of local Climate Change activists.

Contact: Jim Driscoll, Jimdriscoll(at)NIPSPeerSupport.org

Tucson Climate Activists Network – planning meeting & free 350.org activist leadership training – May 9 & 25-27

May 9 (and 2nd Wednesdays) at the Quaker Meetinghouse, 931 N. 5th Ave, Tucson
May 25-27 free workshop at Dunbar Cultural Center Pavilion and boardroom, 325 W. 2nd Street, Tucson AZ

TUCAN (Tucson Climate Activists Network) will meet Wednesday, May 9, 7 pm, 931 N. 5th Ave. (Quaker Meetinghouse) to debrief our highly publicized protest on May 3 asking TEP to stop using coal, and we will plan next steps for all our Action Groups.

In particular, 350.org is offering a free Climate Leaders Workshop Friday thru Sunday, May 25-27 at Dunbar Community Center, no charge, free meals.

DYNAMITE FREE LEADERSHIP TRAINING FOR CLIMATE ACTIVISTS
May 25 – 27

To take the climate change movement to a new level here in Tucson and Southern Arizona, 350.org is paying for a FREE (including meals) weekend leadership training and flying in two of their national trainers to build the skills of about 30 people who would like to do more to save our planet and our species. The content is state-of-the-art, developed by Marshall Ganz from Harvard’s Kennedy School, who designed Barack Obama’s 2008 grassroots campaign and worked with Cesar Chavez for sixteen years. Learn one-on-one, relational organizing (the gold standard for serious campaigns), strategy-making, working with the media and other specific skills. We will tailor the training to the needs of the participants and use our skills to design a local strategy and tactics.

You are invited, as a local climate and clean energy organizer and activist, to join us and other selected environmental leaders for a free three-day Climate Leadership Workshop, sponsored by 350.org. These workshops are being offered across the U.S. and around the world with the purpose of building the strongest possible climate and clean energy movement to address the climate crisis by building the organizing skills of local leaders. Please feel free to pass this invitation on to other climate activists.

The Tucson Climate Leadership Workshop will focus on campaign planning and story-telling, including practical information on traditional and social media, campaign planning, engaging allies, and other critical organizing tools. We will share lessons learned from our experience organizing both local events and international campaigns, and will equip you with skills that can bolster the work you do locally and empower you to more effectively contribute to the broader climate movement.

Dates: Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27 (with a welcome event the evening of Friday, May 25)
Times: 5pm-8pm Friday, 9am-5pm Saturday and 9am-4pm Sunday
Location: Dunbar Cultural Center Pavilion and boardroom; 325 W. 2nd St., Tucson, AZ, with low-carbon catering by the Green Gourmet (please indicate dietary preferences)

Please RSVP by May 21 if at all possible. After that, we cannot guarantee dietary requests or give you input to the design of the training. Please go to our Facebook page — 350Tucson (scroll down on the left to the blue box) and fill out the linked questionnaire if you wish to attend, and we will get back to you as soon as possible to confirm.

For more information, contact Vince @ 520-400-7517, or arizona1sky (at) dakotacom.net. There is additional information about the 350 workshops in general at www.350.org.

This training will be capped at approximately 30 participants, and RSVPs will be accepted at least until Monday, May 21. The training is free; we provide all the food and materials. Please consult with us about travel expenses and lodging if you will be travellling in from out of town.

We hope you can join us!
Vince, Patsy, Jim, Dave and the rest of 350’s Team Tucson
Deirdre, Ryan – facilitators
The staff of 350.org and partners

 
Jim Driscoll
Jimdriscoll(at)NIPSPeerSupport.org

TUCAN meets the 2nd Wednesday of each month, 7-9 pm at the Quaker Meetinghouse on 5th Ave. to connect the work of local Climate Change activists.

Sustainable Tucson May Meeting – Prosperity Without Growth – May 14

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

Prosperity Without Growth – What does it look like?

Please join us at Sustainable Tucson’s May meeting to hear local experts talk about Sustainable Economics, and share your thoughts about what this looks like and what it entails. Help us engage the planners with solutions appropriate to our time.

Planning efforts in Tucson (including Imagine Greater Tucson) assume growth to be inevitable and good.

Until recently, there was no reason to question that belief. With a seemingly endless supply of resources and space to dump waste products, there was no feedback raising our awareness, nor reason to ask questions.

Now, however, the pinch has begun. The high carbon energy fuels upon which we have built our modern civilization are not only becoming more problematic to supply, but the effects of their combustion are destabilizing the climate, decimating biodiversity, disrupting food security and beginning to affect social cohesion. The problem is the result of the collective impact of our human species. Our numbers have increased to the point where our resource consumption and related waste is beyond the planetary ecosystem’s ability to continue to supply and absorb them.

If the planet were our house, the debt we have accumulated is coming due, foreclosure is on the horizon, and we may soon lose our home.

Ecological economist Herman Daly notes that growth can become “uneconomic” when the “bads” accumulate faster than the “goods”, the “illth” faster than the wealth (see video, link below).

What are the alternatives to Growth?
What positive vision can lead us away from the “inevitable”?

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

Also see these videos,

Herman DalyUneconomic Growth
Charles EisensteinSacred Economics
Tim JacksonProsperity without Growth
Rushey Green Time Bank

Overpeck lecture – audio recording online here

An audio recording of Dr. Jonathan Overpeck’s presentation at DuVal Auditorium in Tucson February 13th 2012 is now available here on the Sustainable Tucson website.

To listen or download, please go to the first comment on ST February Meeting – Climate Change in Tucson and the Southwest – Dr Jonathan Overpeck.

ST April Meeting – Can Tucson Feed Itself?

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

Can Tucson Feed Itself ?

The short answer is no.
The longer answer will surprise and excite you.
The real answer is – its time to start.

At this Sustainable Tucson meeting, find out:

How food actually gets to your table (Dude – Who brought my lunch?)
How many different Tucson groups are now providing us with fresh, nutritious food
What Tucson would be like if we commit to having a reliable and healthy food supply

Find ways to act for yourself, your family, and Tucson.
Come to the Sustainable Tucson meeting this Monday.

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

Prepare for this important topic by viewing videos and seeing reports on the impacts of climate change on global food security at this website.

Clean Elections – and other projects – To Stop Climate Change – Feb 22

CLEAN ELECTIONS – AND OTHER PROJECTS – TO STOP CLIMATE CHANGE — Wed, Feb 22, 7 PM, 931 N. 5TH AVE.

Dear Climate Change Activist,

Please join us Wednesday, February 22nd at 7 p.m. at the Quaker Meetinghouse, 931 N.5th Ave., Tucson, to learn more about the Clean Elections Law and ways to use it to stop climate change.

Also learn about our new Action Groups to stop coal burning at TEP’s Irvington plant; the Citizens’ Climate Lobby national carbon fee (tax) and dividend campaign; strengthening Tucson’s new climate change plan; 350.org’s bird-dogging, probably of Congressional District 8 candidates who take fossil fuel money, other election projects, our Neighborhood Sustainability and Climate Change Houseparties, and other ways to use listening and peer support in this fight.

Jim Driscoll and Vince Pawlowski

P.S. Please RSVP to Jim at the National Institute for Peer Support

Jim Driscoll
National Institute for Peer Support (NIPS)
4151 E. Boulder Springs Way
Tucson, AZ 85712
Phone: 520-250-0509
Email: JimDriscoll(at)NIPSPeerSupport.org
Website: www.NIPSPeerSupport.org

Walking Away from Empire – Guy McPherson at Antigone Books – March 2

Walking Away from Empire – Guy McPherson at Antigone Books, 411 N. 4th Avenue, Friday, March 2, 7 PM

Guy McPherson will discuss his book, Walking Away from Empire: A Personal Journey.

McPherson was a successful professor by every imperial measure: tenured, published in all the right places, mentoring students who acquired the best jobs in the field. He earned enough to live on a third of his income and still travel as much as he desired throughout the industrialized world. In other words, McPherson was the perfect model of all that is wrong with the United States!

Rather than questioning the system, he was raising minor questions within the system. During the decade of his forties, he awakened to the costs of the nonnegotiable American way of life: obedience at home and oppression abroad. McPherson transformed his life from mainstream ecologist to friend of the earth and social critic.

The reading will be followed by a question and answer period.
Refreshments will be served.

Green For All – Special Southern Arizona Coalition Event – Feb 14

Green for All and The SAGAC Organizing Committee
Invite You to Attend Our Coalition Building Training Session

Please note location has changed to the Community Food Bank, 3003 S. Country Club Rd.

Who: SAGAC, Green for All, & Tucson Allies
When: Tuesday, February 14th from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
Where: Community Food Bank, 3003 S. Country Club Rd (east side of S. Country Club just south of 36th)

RSVP: Madeline Kiser, mkiser(at)dakotacom.net

Join us on February 14th from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. as Green for All guides us in our efforts to build a broad based coalition to address our local issues of environment, equity, and employment, all while holding the most vulnerable people at the center of the agenda. Please come and be part of this inspiring opportunity. Please RSVP soon, because space is limited.

Training Session Priorities:
1) Connect and Bond with Allies
2) Grasp the Importance of Grassroots Power-building
3) Identify Collective Capacity
4) Begin Constructing our Coalition Model
5) Understand the National Connections to the Green Economy Agenda

In order to accommodate all of you who have already signed up for the Green for All training – and make room for those who might like to – we’ve moved the site of the training to the Community Food Bank’s Lew Murphy Conference Room.

Directions: The Community Food Bank is located at 3003 S. Country Club Rd., on the east side of S. Country Club just south of 36th. Please park anywhere in the lower or upper parking lots, and enter through the main lobby doors in the front of the building. Then proceed either up the stairs or elevator to the second floor, and enter through the door and make a left (follow the signs). The Lew Murphy Conference Room will be immediately on your left.

The Southern Arizona Green for All Coalition organizing committee:

Rosa Gonzalez, Green for All, Luis Perales, Tierra y Libertad Organization; Green for All Fellow, Eva Dong, Pima Accommodation District; Pima County Juvenile and Adult Detention Centers, Richard Fimbres, Tucson City Council Member; Pima County Adult Detention Center, Leona Davis, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Camila Thorndike, Community Activist, Kim Chumley, Pima County Juvenile Detention Center, Martina Dickson, Pima County Adult Detention Center, Lewis Humprheys, The Wonder of We; TEDxTucson, Josh Schachter, photographer; Finding Voice, & Madeline Kiser, Inside/Out Poetry and Sustainability Program

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

Southern Arizona Green for All Coalition – January 24

Green for All and The Southern Arizona Green for All Coalition (SAGAC) invite you to our first Tucson Meet and Greet information session.

Join us on January 24th from 9:00 A.M. to 10:30 A.M. to learn more about how Tucson is engaging in a new initiative to build a broad-based coalition to address our local issues of environment, equity, and employment, all while holding the most vulnerable people at the center of the agenda. Please come and be part of this inspiring opportunity.

Who: Southern Arizona Green for All Coalition, Green for All, and Tucson Allies

When: Tuesday, January 24th from 9:00 A.M. to 10:30 A.M.

Where: Pima County Juvenile Detention Center, 2225 E. Ajo Way (Training Center East Side of Court House)

RSVP: Madeline Kiser, mkiser(at)dakotacom.net

Green for All is a national organization working to build an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty. Their mission is to improve the lives of all Americans through a clean energy economy.

The Southern Arizona Green for All Coalition organizing committee: Rosa Gonzalez, Green for All, Luis Perales, Tierra y Libertad Organization; Green for All Fellow, Eva Dong, Pima Accommodation District; Pima County Juvenile and Adult Detention Centers, Richard Fimbres, Tucson City Council Member; Pima County Adult Detention Center, Leona Davis, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Camila Thorndike, Community Activist, Kim Chumley, Pima County Juvenile Detention Center, Martina Dickson, Pima County Adult Detention Center, Lewis Humprheys, The Wonder of We; TEDxTucson, Josh Schachter, photographer; Finding Voice, & Madeline Kiser, Inside/Out Poetry and Sustainability Program

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)

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

ST February Meeting – Climate Change in Tucson and the Southwest – Dr Jonathan Overpeck

at DuVal Auditorium, University Medical Center, 1501 N Campbell Avenue

Sustainable Tucson’s February Meeting will be a special public lecture event in collaboration with the Tucson Audubon Society and the Community Water Coalition.

University of Arizona climate scientist Dr. Jonathan Overpeck will speak on Climate Change: What does it mean for Tucson and the Southwest?

drought mapLast year’s increase in carbon emissions to our atmosphere, an estimated extra half-billion tons, was almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution, and the largest percentage increase since 2003.

This trend of ever-rising emissions will make climate change an increasing challenge in coming decades. What are the particular possible outcomes for Tucson and the southwest? Water supply, food security, fire risk, habitability for people and wildlife will all be affected.

Dr. Overpeck is a founding co-director of the Institute of the Environment, as well as a Professor of Geosciences and a Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona, and an author of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment.

Monday, February 13, 7:00pm
Free and open to the public

DuVal Auditorium
University Medical Center
1501 N Campbell Avenue
(NE section of the main University Medical Center building)

Directions: Go in the main entrance of the Medical Center building, which faces east toward Campbell Avenue. Immediately turn right down the hall where you will find the doors to the DuVal Auditorium on your left.

Parking Note: There is parking in the multi-tiered Patient/Visitor parking garage closest to the auditorium; however, a fee is charged. Free parking is available south of Mabel Street, across from the College of Nursing.

See map at http://www.azumc.com/body.cfm?id=13

[The audio recording of this lecture is now available here online – go to the first comment below…]

Tucson: Support a City Resolution to Curb Global Warming – Dec 20

at Tucson City Hall, 255 W. Alameda, Tucson, AZ 85701 – downtown, just east of Granada in the Presidio Park Plaza

From: Center for Biological Diversity
Subject: Tucson: Support a City Resolution to Curb Global Warming

Arizona state bird, the cactus wrenSeattle has just become the latest city to join the Center for Biological Diversity’s Clean Air Cities campaign; Tucson could be next.

On Tuesday the Tucson City Council may pass a resolution urging President Barack Obama to curb global warming now using the most effective tool we have: the Clean Air Act.

Please, attend the council meeting to support the resolution.

Some members of Congress are trying to gut the Act by preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating emissions, not only of carbon dioxide but also of smog, soot, mercury and other toxic metals. We’re looking to our cities to stand up to big polluters and stand up for the Clean Air Act.

Come to the council meeting this Tuesday and voice your support for becoming a Clean Air City — and soon we may become a clean-air nation.

When: Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 5:30 p.m.

Where: Tucson City Hall, 255 W. Alameda, Tucson, AZ 85701 – downtown, just east of Granada in the Presidio Park Plaza

What: Council meeting to decide if Tucson will join Albany, N.Y.; Berkley, Santa Monica and Richmond, Calif.; Boone, N.C.; and Seattle, Wash. as a Clean Air City

RSVP to Rose Braz, climate campaign director – rbraz(at)biologicaldiversity.org

If you can’t come, please take a minute to email the mayor and city council to let them know you support this resolution.

Then tell your friends on Twitter and Facebook.

Click here to find out more and take action – http://action.biologicaldiversity.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=9038

Sample letter content:

Subject: Support the Clean Air Act Climate-Change Resolution

To Mayor Rothschild and the Tucson City Council Members:

As a resident of Tucson I’m writing to express my full support for the resolution introduced by Council Member Romero urging the Environmental Protection Agency to use the Clean Air Act to curb global warming pollution now. This resolution will be considered on Tuesday, Dec. 20.

For 40 years the Clean Air Act has protected the air we breathe through a proven, comprehensive, successful system of pollution control that saves lives and creates economic benefits exceeding its costs many times over. The Act can just as successfully tackle the challenge of carbon dioxide pollution and global warming.

But the Act and the EPA are under heavy fire in Congress, even as we see more and more evidence that climate change is happening now, that we are causing it and that the longer we wait to act, the harder it will be to solve.

As a leader in the fight against climate change and for clean air, I trust that the city of Tucson will stand up to big polluters and stand up for the Clean Air Act by passing this resolution.

Thank you.

Please take action by December 20, 2012

Center for Biological Diversity
P.O. Box 710
Tucson, AZ 85702
1-866-357-3349
http://biologicaldiversity.org

The Center for Biological Diversity sends out newsletters and action alerts through DemocracyinAction.org.

Photo of cactus wren courtesy Flickr Createive Commons / AlanVernon

Dreaming New Mexico – Peter Warshall – TEDxABQ video

Dreaming New Mexico has built a map of pragmatic and visionary solutions to create a more localized and green economy with greater local self-reliance and enhanced prosperity.

Peter Warshall is Co-Director of the Bioneers’ Dreaming New Mexico Project, and a world-renowned water steward, biodiversity and wildlife specialist, research scientist, conservationist, and environmental activist.

from 2011 September TEDx in Albuquerque New Mexico, posted to YouTube Nov 22 by TEDx
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbyIlbt5_3g

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.

ST December Meeting – The Politics of Sustainability

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

Activism, Advocacy, and Political Action are ramping up all over the world.  Tucson is no exception, and so Sustainable Tucson begins an exploration into the realm of political expression and action, and how we can use it to promote sustainability and resilience.

The December 12th Sustainable Tucson General Meeting promises to offer provocative ideas from three local experts…

  First, Dave Ewoldt, ecopsychologist and founder of Natural Systems Solutions, will speak on the importance of establishing a legally defensible definition of sustainability.

  Our second speaker is Margaret Wilder, an associate professor in Latin American studies and in the School of Geography and Development, and an associate research professor of environmental policy with the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at The University of Arizona.  Margaret will be speaking on the relationship between sustainability and social equity.

  Finally, Randy Serraglio from the Center for Biological Diversity, will talk about biodiversity and ecological rights.

Following the presentations, the speakers will engage in a lively panel discussion.

Sustainable Tucson is committed to the practice of engaging our audience in a participatory process.  Following the panel discussion we will ask participants to engage in lively table discussions focusing on what actions we can take to make Tucson a more vibrant and sustainable community.  Actions might be in the form of policy development, support of on-going projects, or the initiation of new projects.

The ideas generated will be used to develop the content for our January meeting, where presentations and audience discussions will continue.  The goal is to create a list of activities, projects and initiatives that we believe will build our resilience as a Desert People.

The ultimate goal for this process is to invite our public officials to a future meeting and ask them to share with us those projects/initiatives on our list with which they resonate.  Where can we partner with City or County initiatives that align with our philosophy?  Where can we find common ground, and how can we support each other’s common goals?

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

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)

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

 

 

 

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.

Occupy Tucson Event: Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline Protest

Event: Occupy Tucson: Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline: Decision by Obama on behalf of the American People
Sunday, November 6, 11:30–12:30, followed by General Assembly meeting.
Amory Park, 221 S. 6th Ave. ??? moved to Veinte de Agosto Park at Church & Congress ???

This Sunday, exactly one year before the next presidential election, protesters plan to encircle the White House in the hope of convincing President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

In solidarity and support, Tucsonans concerned about climate change, other environmental threats and overdependence on fossil fuels will gather at Armory Park. Together with Occupy Tucson, they will echo the White House action with a circling of the park, invited speakers, and an open mike for public comments.

11:30 a.m.: Open mike for XL Pipeline comments
12:00–12:20: Formal speakers addressing the impact of the XL Pipeline on the Environment, Economy, Equity.
12:20–12:30: Ceremonial circling of the White House (cake) in solidarity with same-day Washington DC action.
12:30:  “Have your cake and eat it too”: cake cutting and eating. Beginning of Occupy Tucson General Assembly meeting.

President Obama has the executive decision-making power to stop or allow a pipeline from Canada to transport tar sands oil to refineries in Texas. He must determine whether the pipeline is in our national interest.

Aside from the risks of tragic damage to farmland, soil, and the groundwater sources that supply the midsection of our country, the release of carbon emissions from this very dirty fuel source could mean “game over” in the fight against global warming, overwhelming other efforts to keep climate change within a range to which humans can adapt.

Clean and renewable energy sources are the logical and economical alternative if fossil fuel subsidies, environmental destruction, and health costs are taken into account. Americans must direct their energies towards restoring the environment upon which we depend and to transition our cultural goals away from quantity consumption and towards quality of life.

Sustainability Lessons for the United States


How Germany became Europe’s green leader: A look at four decades of sustainable policymaking

by Ralph Buehler, Arne Jungjohann, Melissa Keeley, Michael Mehling

In Brief

Over the last 40 years, all levels of government in Germany have retooled policies to promote growth that is more environmentally sustainable. Germany’s experiences can provide useful lessons for the United States (and other nations) as policymakers consider options for “green” economic transformation. Our analysis focuses on four case studies from Germany in the areas of energy, urban infrastructure, and transportation. We show how political challenges to the implementation of green policies were overcome and how sustainability programs were made politically acceptable at the local, state, and federal levels of government. Within the three highlighted sectors, we identify potential opportunities and barriers to policy transfer from Germany to the United States, concluding with specific lessons for policy development and implementation.

Key Concepts

  • Germany’s experience with policies aimed at “greening” the economy provides several lessons for the United States about how to make sustainability politically acceptable in a federal system of government:
  • Start small and implement policies in stages. Many sustainability policies in Germany were first implemented at a small geographic scale or with a small scope. Successful pilot projects were expanded in stages over time.
  • There is no silver bullet. Policies have to be coordinated and integrated across sectors and levels of government to achieve maximum effectiveness.
  • Foster citizen participation and communicate policies effectively. Citizen input reduces potential legal challenges, increases public acceptance, and has the potential to improve projects and outcomes.
  • Find innovative solutions and embrace bipartisanship. Successful green policies in Germany were designed to meet the needs of multiple constituents.

How does one “green” an economy? For governments seeking a cleaner, more efficient, and ultimately more sustainable pathway to economic prosperity, this question entails both promise and great challenges. For one, the scale of transformation it requires is exceptionally daunting: in his 2011 State of the Union speech, for instance, President Barack Obama called on the United States to generate 80 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources and to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail, both within 25 years.1 Compared to where the country stands now, these objectives presuppose unprecedented levels of investment in new infrastructure, new technologies, and relevant skills and education; yet at the same time, they also hold the prospect of new opportunities for job growth, innovation, industrial efficiency, and energy independence. With that in mind, one will invariably wonder, is such a transformation feasible at a time of constrained public budgets and slowly recovering economies? And perhaps more importantly, are the expected benefits of such a green transformation compelling enough to persuade a public that is exposed to conflicting messages about the underlying rationale, is critical of new regulation and expenditure, and generally is disillusioned with political authority?

Fortunately, the green transformation of economies is no longer a theoretical concept. Several nations have put the green economy to the test. While far from being the only country to venture down this path, Germany has earned wide recognition for its successful alignment of prosperous and sustainable growth. Unlike many of its European neighbors, Germany has emerged from the recent recession with a robust economy, thanks in large part to flourishing exports. Germany has a dominant market share in various green technologies as well as a substantial part of its workforce employed in the environmental sector.2 Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions have fallen in absolute terms, effectively decoupling economic growth from Germany’s environmental footprint.

Admittedly, not all factors contributing to this success story can be replicated in other countries and regions: challenged with scarce natural resources and a high population density, Germans have traditionally been forced to embrace sustainability in virtually all facets of economic activity, from land use to transportation. Historical transition processes, such as postwar reconstruction and, more recently, the reunification of East and West Germany, also resulted in the renewal of infrastructure and replacement of outdated industrial facilities.

Still, the greening of the German economy is also unmistakably the product of several decades of targeted policy design and implementation, particularly in the past decade. Policies related to environmental protection and resource conservation have been mainstreamed in all areas of economic activity and have been described by a former government minister as central to Germany’s recent success: “green policy is merely good industrial policy.”3 Drawing on a series of relevant case studies, this article shows that the transformation witnessed in Germany would not have been conceivable without the policy decisions that preceded it. Each case study—energy taxation, renewable-energy promotion, green infrastructure, and sustainable transportation—offers valuable insights into how to design and implement green policies.

Photo: Green roofs like this one in Berlin, Germany, support specialized, hearty vegetation and provide environmental services such as stormwater retention, urban heat island effect amelioration, habitat for urban wildlife, and energy savings resulting from better thermal insulation.

Pricing Energy for Jobs and Resource Conservation: Germany’s Energy Tax Reform

After months of heated political debate, especially regarding the role of nuclear power in Germany’s energy mix, the federal government adopted its new Energy Concept document in September 2010, setting out a broad framework for German energy policy until 2050. Developed by the ruling center-right coalition, this document aims at turning Germany into one of the “most energy efficient and greenest economies in the world, while enjoying competitive energy prices and a high level of prosperity.”4 In line with a campaign pledge set out in the government’s coalition agreement, the new energy policy defines ambitious targets for the medium and longer term: primary energy consumption is to fall by 20 percent from 2008 levels by 2020, and at least 50 percent by 2050; renewable energy is to account for 18 percent of final energy consumption in 2020, and at least 80 percent of electricity consumption in 2050; and greenhouse gas emissions are to see cuts of 40 percent by 2020 and at least 80 percent by 2050, both relative to 1990 levels.

Energy pricing through taxes and other fiscal instruments has traditionally held a prominent position in the German energy policy mix. As any visitor to Germany will be quick to notice, gasoline prices are significantly higher than in most other regions: in early 2011, a gallon of regular gasoline cost over U.S.$7, more than double the average price in the United States. The price difference is almost entirely due to higher tax rates on oil and other fuels, a system of excise taxes that dates back to prewar Germany and has since been harmonized at the European level. It was not until the late 1990s, however, that energy taxation also became a vehicle for Germany’s green agenda. In 1998, a center-left coalition of Social Democrats and Green Party members pledged to introduce new fiscal instruments to reduce the tax burden on labor and shift part of it to energy consumption. This campaign promise sought to harness the multiple dividends invoked by advocates of environmental taxes, including greater flexibility and cost efficiency than traditional regulation, incentives to develop innovative clean technologies, and the ability to raise revenues for public investments or tax cuts in other areas, such as labor costs.5

In 1999, the German legislature passed the Ecological Tax Reform Act, which mandated gradual increases in the tax rates on oil and gas and introduced a new levy on electricity.6 This initiative was by no means uncontroversial. From the outset, it encountered public opposition triggered by rising prices for crude oil and concerns over industrial competitiveness. Resistance to this measure was, in fact, so great that many observers expected the energy tax project to be a casualty of partisan politics. And yet, in 2006, new legislation by the European Union and a change of government in Germany, coupled with a yawning gap in the federal budget, heralded a new chapter in German energy taxation. That year, the legislature adopted a comprehensive Energy Tax Act, setting up a common fiscal framework for energy products through harmonized definitions, taxation rules, and exemptions.7 This important step led to a complete revision of the framework for energy taxation in Germany, effectively ending years of deadlock in Parliament; but critics were also quick to say it would do little to help transform the German economy. Nearly half a decade later, what has the German energy tax reform achieved?

A Positive Macroeconomic Balance

Between 1999 and 2003, Germany’s energy tax reform resulted in a gradual increase in energy costs. A number of exceptions motivated by social and economic considerations were initially included to safeguard the competitiveness of the manufacturing, agricultural, and forestry sectors and to avoid undue hardship for lower-income households. Overall, however, the fiscal burden resulting from the energy tax reform has been moderate compared to already existing taxes: for instance, only €0.15 of the €0.66 currently charged as taxes on every liter of gasoline is a result of the tax reform, with the far greater share originating in the excise taxes already imposed prior to 1999. Altogether, the share of environmentally motivated taxes in the overall tax revenue only rose from 5.2 percent in 1998 to 6.5 percent in 2003 and has since declined again to 5.3 percent in 2008, nearly the level where it started in 1999.8 Not only does this reflect the fact that other tax categories—notably value-added taxation—have seen greater increases in recent years, but it also is a direct consequence of changing energy consumption patterns.

Fossil fuel consumption has continually declined in Germany since the introduction of the energy tax reform. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, gasoline consumption in 2000 decreased by 4.5 percent compared to the previous year, and it continued to decrease in 2001 and 2002 by 3 and 3.3 percent, respectively, exceeding the previous average reduction of 2 percent due to general improvements in vehicle technology and transportation planning. The targeted increase in energy costs has also created an identifiable incentive for behavioral change in other sectors, encouraging deployment of energy-efficient technologies and processes, including alternative energy sources. Reductions of CO2 emissions are estimated to have reached 3 percent annually, equivalent to 24 million metric tons of CO2.9 At the same time, revenues of the energy tax reform have been almost fully returned to taxpayers, with the largest share used for a gradual reduction of social security contributions. In 2003, for instance, roughly €16.1 billion raised through the tax reform was used to reduce and stabilize nonwage labor costs, allowing pension contributions to be lowered by 1.7 percent.10 With hiring rendered less expensive, the energy tax reform has helped promote employment and has contributed to the creation of an estimated 250,000 new jobs. A smaller fraction of proceeds has been used to subsidize the deployment of renewable-energy projects and the modernization of buildings.

Lessons from Energy Pricing in Germany

Like everywhere else, taxes are a politically sensitive issue in Germany. Unsurprisingly, opponents of the energy tax reform—including the current ruling coalition—were quick to launch a determined media campaign against the proposed legislation. Given the complexities of its design, it was easy for critics to portray the tax reform as a mere increase in the fiscal burden, while downplaying or disputing the accompanying reduction in labor costs and expected employment benefits. Germany’s parliamentary system and its strict party discipline allowed the governing coalition at the time to pass the tax reform against partisan resistance. In countries with different legislative processes, that option may not be available. Ironically, the need to close a growing budget deficit has made the current conservative government, previously an ardent adversary of environmentally motivated taxes, now dependent on the revenue created by the energy tax. As the rationale and benefits of the tax reform have become more widely known, there has been greater public acceptance of the incremental increase in energy cost.

Fea_Germany_Figure2.jpg
Photo credit: Ralph Buehler. The light rail system in the car-free city center of Freiburg, Germany. In the mid-1970s Freiburg was the first German city to ban cars from a network of streets in its city center.

It stands to reason that better communication in the initial stages of the tax reform could have alleviated some of the early concerns. Also, its portrayal as an environmentally motivated tax may have incurred avoidable partisan strife; focusing on the innovation and employment benefits of the proposed tax may have been strategically preferable. And clearly, a gradual and transparent trajectory of rate hikes was of central importance in making the tax reform acceptable in the first place. Ultimately, however, the positive outcome of the tax reform is the most compelling lesson from the German experience: contrary to the early fears, behavioral change and innovation prompted by the rising energy prices have actually strengthened the German economy. Energy-efficient technologies are now among the fastest-growing export products, and the incentive to reduce energy use has helped the German economy become more resilient to fluctuations in global oil and gas prices. Overall, greater efficiency throughout the economy has translated into lower energy costs for households and industry. Despite significantly higher energy tax rates, average German utility bills and fuel expenditures tend to match or lie below those seen in the United States. As the Federal Environmental Agency has concluded, the Ecological Tax Reform Act delivered on its promise of improved labor conditions and greater sustainability, resulting in what the agency describes—in a typically German understatement—as a “positive macroeconomic balance.”11

Promoting Renewable Energy

As a member state of the European Union (EU), Germany’s energy policies are driven by a mix of national and European legislation. Formally, the 27 EU member states regulate energy policies within their own national borders. However, EU treaty provisions concerning the European internal market, free competition, and environmental protection have created a European energy policy.12

In 2009, a major piece of renewable-energy legislation was passed as part of an overall climate and energy package. The European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive13 requires each member state to increase its share of renewable energy—such as solar, wind power, biomass, or hydroelectric—to raise the overall share from 8.5 percent in 2010 to 20 percent by 2020 across all sectors (e.g., power generation, heating and cooling, and transportation fuels).

Achievements in Renewable Energy

Germany has seen a remarkable expansion of renewable energy in the last decade. The share of renewable energy in electricity generation rose from 6 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2009.14 Over this time, the German government revised its own targets twice, given that previous targets had been exceeded ahead of schedule. The German government is expecting a share of 38 percent renewable power by 2020 and continues to drive the transformation “towards an energy system based completely on renewable energies.”15,16

The economic benefits of this development are impressive. By 2010, the field of renewable-energy-related jobs employed around 340,000 people, most of them in biomass, wind power, and solar.17 In comparison, the German lignite industry employs only 50,000 people—from mining to the power plant.18 The key policy responsible for this success is the Renewable Energy Sources Act, first enacted in April 2000.19 This feed-in tariff policy is embedded in a climate and energy policy framework that promotes renewable energy and efficiency technologies, including laws to encourage combined-heat-and-power plants, a cap and trade system, the energy tax reform described earlier in the article, and several additional measures. The next planned revision to the law will aim to incentivize grid access and grid improvement, offshore wind power, and technologies for peak management and power storage.20

Comparison with Renewable-Energy Practice in the United States

The United States currently employs a mix of short-term tax credits, loan guarantees, state-level renewable portfolio standards, and limited feed-in tariffs. In contrast to Germany, the U.S. policy framework has evolved less quickly at the federal level, where time horizons have been shorter-term. The uncertainty engendered by this short-term policy framework has led to repeated falloffs in renewable-energy capacity additions in the United States as support measures have neared expiration.21 For example, in contrast to Germany, new wind turbine construction in America has fluctuated greatly from year to year, because incentives have repeatedly expired.22 Even with this policy uncertainty, however, the United States in 2008 still led the world in total installed wind-power capacity, with 20.8 percent.23 In 2008, renewable energy provided 9 percent of electricity production in the United States, with large-scale hydropower being the largest source.24

Fea_Germany_Figure3.jpg
Photo credit: Ralph Buehler. Cyclists on Freiburg’s car-free Wiwili bridge. The bridge was closed to cars in the early 2000s and is now open only to cyclists and pedestrians.

In many ways, the United States relies more on a state-level approach through renewable portfolio standards to increase renewable-energy capacity. These standards require power companies to provide a certain proportion of electricity from renewable-energy sources. Currently, renewable portfolio standards regulations apply in 29 states and in the District of Columbia; five additional states have established targets for renewable expansion.25 In many cases, long-term supply contracts for green power have been signed. Typical target percentages for green power are 15 percent for 2015, 20 percent for 2020, and 25 percent for 2025. These figures are significantly lower than the target set in Europe (21 percent for 2010).26

Feed-in tariff policies, the most common renewable-energy policy in the world,27 are slowly spreading in the United States. In most cases, these policies guarantee grid access and a 20-year premium contract for renewable energy technologies. As of January 2011, Gainesville Regional Utilities, Hawaii, and Vermont have adopted feed-in tariff policies based on the cost of generation. Maine and California have also adopted a light version of a feed-in tariff, though in California legal struggles are being fought. In addition, representatives in ten different state legislatures have proposed different feed-in tariff models.28

Transferable Lessons for Renewable Energy in the United States

The German success in rapid renewable-energy deployment relies on a robust feed-in tariff law and an overall comprehensive climate and energy framework with a long-term perspective. This policy environment comes with streamlined administrative procedures that help shorten lead times and bureaucratic overhead and that minimize project costs. All of the above create a high investment certainty that the United States overall and most of its states independently currently lack.

Given the abundance of natural resources (e.g., wind, biomass, solar) in the United States, the deployment of renewable energy should be cheaper than in Germany, which has an average solar input close to that of Alaska (and Iowa’s cornfields alone, which could be used for biogas production, are double the size of Germany’s agricultural land).29

Across the political spectrum, all major German parties support an industrial transformation toward a low-carbon economy, and there is a strong consensus concerning the need to address climate change. Constituent groups from both the progressive (e.g., renewable-energy industry) and conservative side (e.g., farm community) benefit from this approach. The understanding is that strong environmental policies drive ecological modernization and create new market opportunities. Germany as an export-oriented country aims to sell the solutions to a carbon-constrained and high-energy-price world.30 By contrast, the United States lags behind, where political debates over climate-change-related policy actions are hindering opportunities and leadership in this arena. As long as the public perceives a trade-off between environmental regulation and industrial competitiveness, it will be extremely difficult for the United States to fundamentally turn toward a low-carbon economy. U.S. policymakers should adjust elements of a feed-in tariff policy to regional contexts to drive rapid growth in renewable-electricity markets, to promote strong manufacturing industries, and to create new jobs in a cost-effective manner.

Encouraging Green Infrastructure

Over the past 40 years, northern Europe, and Germany in particular, has been a hotbed for the innovation and application of green technologies to enhance the urban environment.31 These technologies, sometimes referred to as green infrastructure or low-impact development, include such innovations as green roofs, green facades, and permeable pavements. They mimic the natural processes of soils and vegetation to provide “environmental services” such as stormwater management, urban heat island amelioration, and habitat, even in dense urban areas.32–38 What is clear is that the proliferation of green roofs and other green infrastructure in Germany has been supported by a complex assortment of incentives and requirements at multiple levels of government.31 Significantly, federal nature-protection laws and building codes require “compensation,” or restoration, for human impairment of natural landscapes and of environmental services in greenfield developments (development on previously undeveloped land).39 In many cases, green infrastructure techniques can be used to fulfill these requirements. Federal laws also require that German states create landscape plans.40 As a result, German states have innovated a variety of approaches to environmental protection, many of which have involved elements that first incentivized and later required the creation and maintenance of green infrastructure.

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Photo credit: Melissa Keeley. Potsdamer Plaz is an office, entertainment, and retail center at the heart of Berlin, raised during World War II and then redeveloped after the reunification of east and west Berlin in 1990. This mixed-use site features an elaborate, naturalistic stormwater retention system designed to minimize the burden on the city’s existing water infrastructure. The system incorporates green roofs (seen here) on most buildings in the complex to reduce stormwater runoff.

In addition to this, a series of German federal and state court rulings beginning in the 1970s have required increased transparency and equitable rate structures for stormwater services.41 As a result, the majority of German households are charged for stormwater services based on an estimate of the stormwater burden generated from their properties. This approach of individual parcel assessments (IPAs) differs from the approach used in the United States, where the same charges are levied on all parcels or all parcels of the same class (such as residential). Since IPAs in Germany are used to assess fees that relate directly to conditions present on specific parcels, and because land-use decisions (like paving a driveway or installing a green roof) have major impacts on the amount of stormwater leaving a property, this approach creates incentives for individuals to incorporate green infrastructure on their properties.41

Comparison with Green Infrastructure Practice in the United States

While there is interest in the multiple benefits of green infrastructure in the United States, green infrastructure techniques have gained recent attention in relation to stormwater management. Federal Clean Water Act programs require that local governments overhaul stormwater-management strategies to protect and improve surface-water quality.42 The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, for instance, has already invested U.S.$3.1 billion in a multiphase tunnel and reservoir plan to improve stormwater management.43 To raise needed funds, the creation of stormwater utilities and the assessment of stormwater fees are becoming increasingly widespread. To date, however, the vast majority of U.S. cities have chosen to assess stormwater fees on a class basis; they assess the same fee to all parcels within a given class based on the average stormwater burden their property type contributes.44 This methodology is used almost exclusively for residential parcels and greatly simplifies billing.

Transferable Lessons for Green Infrastructure in the United States

While the United States has focused attention on green infrastructure in relation to stormwater, most U.S. municipalities currently lack the kind of overlapping, reinforcing incentives and requirements that have led to the prominence of these techniques in Germany. This is particularly important given the multiple benefits provided by green infrastructure—such as stormwater management, air-quality improvements, and enhancement of urban quality of life.

Focusing on stormwater management specifically, however, there are further lessons that the United States could draw from German experience with parcel-level assessments, or IPAs. Specifically, this approach might improve watershed planning and stormwater management and address the public relations needs of cash-strapped water-management authorities in three ways: (1) data from IPAs could increase public awareness of human impacts on watersheds; (2) this detailed information could inform watershed planning; and (3) this data could be the basis of fee systems designed to create incentives for on-site stormwater management where cost effective.41

In Berlin, public participation in assessing IPAs is credited with helping the public understand the connections between land-use decisions on their own property and environmental problems in local lakes and rivers. IPAs also provide detailed spatial information about impervious surfaces and their connectedness to the storm sewer system. The latter can only be assessed through on-site surveys, and thus it is otherwise rarely available to engineers and planners. Since connected impervious surface coverage is such a key variable in estimating stormwater burden, this information could enhance watershed planning and the development of stormwater models designed to optimize the efficiency of existing systems.41,45

Fea_Germany_Figure5.jpg
Photo credit: Melissa Keeley. Stormwater runoff in Potsdamer Plaz is collected in this pond. Vegetation on the banks of the pond and other treatments are used to purify and remove nutrients from the water, which is then reused in a grey water system for toilet flushing, irrigation, and fire systems within the complex.

Ascertaining each property’s share of the stormwater burden effectively turns what is a diffuse, nonpoint pollution source into a point-source problem. Such a fee-assessment system makes it possible to reduce fees for parcels that manage stormwater with green infrastructure or other best practices. IPAs could, therefore, create a foundation for economic incentives, such as a fee-and-subsidy system or emissions trading, to encourage green infrastructure where it can cost-effectively manage stormwater.46 A significant obstacle to this in the United States is the low rate currently charged for stormwater removal.47 It could prove politically and legally difficult for U.S. stormwater utilities to charge fees high enough to serve as incentives for on-site stormwater management.48

Implementing Sustainable Transportation

Governments at federal, state, and local levels in Germany determine the sustainability of the transportation system. Federal gasoline taxes, sales taxes, and regulations make automobile use and ownership expensive and encourage demand for less polluting and smaller cars. In 2008, sales taxes on automobiles in Germany were three times higher than in the United States, and gasoline taxes were nine times higher.49–53 However, higher gasoline taxes do not translate to higher household expenditures for transportation in Germany compared to the United States. Germans own fewer and more energy efficient cars and drive fewer miles than Americans. Thus, in 2008 transportation accounted for roughly 14 percent of household expenditures in Germany, compared to about 19 percent in the United States. The German federal government provides dedicated matching funds for investments in local public transportation. Flexible federal matching funds for local transportation improvements can also be used for local public transportation, walking, and cycling projects.54 German states distribute federal funds for regional rail systems and coordinate public transportation services statewide.55 Many German states set minimum parking requirements for local developments. Federal and state governments provide the framework for more-sustainable transportation, but cities have played a crucial role in developing and implementing innovative policies (see Box).

The Freiburg Model of Transport Sustainability

Since the late 1960s, the city of Freiburg (population 220,000) has been at the forefront of promoting sustainable transport.1,2 Since then, the number of trips by bicycle has tripled, transit ridership has doubled, and the share of trips by car has fallen from 38 to 32 percent. Since the early 1990s, the level of motorization has stagnated and per capita CO2 emissions from transportation have fallen, in spite of strong economic and population growth. Up to the late 1960s, Freiburg promoted greenfield development, widened streets, abandoned trolley lines, and built car parking lots. Motorization increased rapidly, transit ridership plummeted, and the city was sprawling. Air pollution, traffic fatalities, and traffic congestion caused by cars and other environmental concerns shifted public opinion away from automobile-centered growth.2 Freiburg achieved a more sustainable transportation system by (1) successfully integrating land-use and transportation planning, (2) coordinating and integrating public transportation regionally, (3) promoting bicycling, (4) restricting automobile use, and (5) encouraging citizen participation throughout the process.2,3

Integrating Transportation and Land-Use Planning

Even though Freiburg started implementing sustainable transportation policies in the early 1970s—such as creating pedestrian zones in the downtown area—there was no formal link between land use and transportation planning. The two have become more formally coordinated since then. The comprehensive transportation plan of 1979 called for explicit integration of both planning sectors. The land-use plan of 1981 prescribed that new development was to be concentrated along public transportation corridors. In 2006, two-thirds of Freiburg’s residents’ jobs were located within a quarter mile of a light-rail stop.2

Freiburg’s most recent land-use and transportation plans in 2008 were developed simultaneously and are fully integrated. Both reiterate the goals of reducing car use and favor central mixed-use development over settlements on the suburban fringe. Vauban and Rieselfeld, two new inner suburbs built around light-rail line extensions, are good examples for today’s complete integration of transportation and land-use planning. Both communities are compactly laid out and mix residential, commercial, educational, and recreational land uses. Car access and parking are limited, and streets are traffic-calmed with speed limits of 30 kilometers per hour, or even 7 kilometers per hour, to give priority to pedestrians, cyclists, and playing children.2

Expanding and Coordinating Public Transportation Services

In the early 1970s, the city decided to expand its public transportation network, but it took until 1983 before the first new light-rail line was added to the existing 14 kilometers of track. Since then, Freiburg has opened four new lines for a total of 36.4 kilometers in 2008, and the amount of light-rail service has tripled. In 1984, Freiburg’s public transportation system offered Germany’s first monthly ticket—transferable to other users.4 In 1991, the geographic coverage of the ticket was expanded to include the city and two adjacent counties. Services, fares, subsidies, and timetables for bus and rail operators are coordinated regionally. The monthly ticket offers unlimited public transportation travel within the entire region for about U.S.$60. Over 90 percent of passengers have monthly or annual tickets.2,3 Due to the high demand, Freiburg’s transit system has become one of the most financially efficient in Germany—requiring operating subsidies of only 10 percent (compared to 65 percent for public transit systems in the United States).4

Making Cycling a Viable Transportation Alternative for All Trips

Separate bike infrastructure and cyclist-friendly streets make the bicycle a feasible option for all trips and all destinations in Freiburg. Since the early 1970s, Freiburg has expanded its network of separate bike paths and lanes fivefold to 160 kilometers in 2007. This network is complemented by bike routes through forests, traffic-calmed roads, and bicycle streets. Additionally, the city has traffic-calmed almost all residential streets. In 2008, nine out of ten Freiburgers lived on streets with speed limits of 30 kilometers per hour or less. Slow automobile speeds encourage more cycling and make it safer. The total number of bike trips in Freiburg has nearly tripled since 1976—amounting to almost one bike trip per inhabitant per day in 2007.2

The city requires bike parking in all new buildings with two or more apartments, as well as in schools, universities, and businesses. Between 1987 and 2009, the number of bike parking spaces in downtown and at transit stops increased significantly—including a major bike parking garage at the main train station, with space for 1,000 bikes.2

Restricting Automobile Use

Many of the policies that promote public transportation, bicycling, and walking involve restrictions on car use—such as car-free zones and traffic-calmed neighborhoods.2,5 Freiburg’s official goal is to reduce car use wherever practical and to accommodate automobile trips that cannot be made by any other mode. Thus, the city combines disincentives to use cars in the town center and residential neighborhoods with improvement of arterials in various ways (such as widening) to increase their carrying capacity. Freiburg’s parking policy is designed to make car use less convenient and more expensive. Parking garages are relegated to the periphery of the city center, which was converted to pedestrian use in the early 1970s. In many residential neighborhoods, parking is reserved for residents only and requires a special permit. On-street parking in commercial areas of the city becomes more expensive with proximity to the center.2,5

Citizen Involvement

Since the 1970s, citizen participation has been a key aspect of transportation and land-use planning in Freiburg. For example, citizen groups worked with the city administration to redevelop Vauban into an environmentally friendly car-free neighborhood.2 Moreover, Freiburg’s latest land-use plan has been developed with sustained input from 900 citizens, 19 neighboring municipalities, and 12 special-purpose governments in the region. Citizen involvement and public discourse has kept the environmental benefits and sustainability of the transportation system in the news for decades in Freiburg. Over time, public opinion has become more and more supportive of sustainable environmental policies. Even politicians from the conservative party have accepted restrictions on car use and have promoted public transportation, bicycling, and walking as alternatives.

Lessons Learned from Freiburg

It is inappropriate to assume that Freiburg’s experience can be copied wholesale in the U.S. However, there are many lessons from Freiburg for U.S. cities that intend to become more sustainable.2,5

First, Freiburg implemented most of its policies in stages, often choosing projects everybody agreed upon first. Residential traffic calming was initially implemented in neighborhoods whose residents complained most about the negative impacts of car travel. Successful implementation in one neighborhood encouraged other areas of the city to request traffic calming as well.

Second, Freiburg phased in and adjusted its policies and goals gradually. The initial decision to stop tearing out the trolley tracks was made in the late 1960s. In the early 1970s, the city council approved the extension of the light-rail system, which finally opened in 1983. Once the expansion proved successful, more light-rail lines followed.

Third, Freiburg has simultaneously made public transportation, cycling, and walking viable alternatives to the automobile, while increasing the cost of car travel. Improving quality and level of service for alternative modes of transportation made car-restrictive measures politically acceptable.

Fourth, citizen participation has been a key aspect of transportation and land-use planning in Freiburg. For example, citizen groups worked with the city administration to redevelop Vauban into an environmentally friendly car-free neighborhood.

Lastly, changing transportation, land-use systems, and travel behavior in Freiburg took almost 40 years. Planners in the United States should curb their expectations for quick success. Clearly, some policies can be implemented quickly, but changes in travel behavior and the development of a more sustainable transportation system take much longer.

References

  1. Please see the sources cited in the four publications listed below for more detailed references and additional information for this case study.
  2. Buehler, R & Pucher, J. Sustainable transport in Freiburg: lessons from Germany’s environmental capital. International Journal of Sustainable Transportation 5, 43–70 (2011).
  3. Buehler, R. Transport policies, automobile use, and sustainable transportation: a comparison of Germany and the USA. Journal of Planning Education and Research 30, 76–93 (2010).
  4. Buehler, R & Pucher, J. Making public transport financially sustainable. Transport Policy 18(1), 128-136 (2011).
  5. Buehler, R, Pucher, J & Kunert, U. Making transportation sustainable: insights from Germany (The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, 2009). www.brookings.edu/reports/2009/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2009/0416_german….

Sustainability Lessons for the United States

Implementing German-style policies in the United States requires careful consideration of the political, cultural, and institutional context. For example, legal and political barriers could hamper a transfer of German policies to the United States. Nevertheless, our case studies of energy, urban infrastructure, and transportation provide some overall lessons that could help encourage development of sustainability policies in the United States.

First, start small and implement policies in stages. Many sustainability policies in Germany were first implemented at a small geographic scale or with a small scope and were expanded in stages over time. Small-scale pilot projects allow policymakers to experiment and the public to experience a real-life example of the proposed program. Unsuccessful projects can be discontinued and successful programs can be expanded. For example, many German cities initially implemented traffic-calming technologies in those neighborhoods where residents complained most about traffic safety, noise, and air pollution from car travel. Successful implementation of a pilot project in one neighborhood led other neighborhoods to demand traffic calming as well. This approach can also work at other scales and in other sectors. For example, the German Renewable Energy Sources Act initially covered only very basic technologies, but it was extended over time and rewarded innovations and new approaches. To some extent the United States is using this approach already, as witnessed by the creation of pedestrian zones in New York City’s Times Square or the new bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. On the federal level, however, the U.S. Congress does not have a consistent history of passing incremental improvements to energy policy or climate legislation.

Another aspect of staged implementation is political acceptability. For example, the German Ecological Tax Reform Act, which increased taxation on energy to reduce social security taxes, was implemented in stages, with taxes increasing annually over a period of five years. Consolidating the staged tax increases into one large tax hike would not have been politically feasible. Staged implementation, the five-year time horizon, and lower social security taxes enabled citizens to adjust to the new taxes. Similarly, many policies encouraging green infrastructure on private properties began as financial incentives and only later were replaced by requirements, once there was greater acceptance and experience with these techniques.

Fea_Germany_Figure6.jpg
Photo credit: Ralph Buehler. Pedestrians and light rail in Freiburg’s car-free zone in the city center.

Second, there are no silver bullets. Policies should be coordinated across sectors and levels of government to achieve maximum effectiveness. Despite the high public visibility of flagship projects like the Ecological Tax Reform Act, no silver bullet has proven to be the single factor for successful results. The case studies show that individual policies were integrated into a larger policy framework. At its best, this framework is comprehensive and long-term oriented. For example, in transportation, the German federal government increased taxation on gasoline, while local governments improved conditions for walking, cycling, and public transportation—thus offering a viable alternative to the car. This approach increased political acceptability with the public, since drivers had a choice to continue driving at higher cost or to shift modes of transportation.

In Germany, green infrastructure has been incentivized and in some cases required by a suite of overlapping programs. Significantly, these initiatives come from various governmental levels and sectors and were created because of different benefits provided by green infrastructure—such as stormwater management, air-quality improvements, and urban quality of life. It is this suite of policies as a whole that has moved green infrastructure into the German mainstream. Energy policy is another good example of coordinated decision making and planning: Germany’s policy portfolio comprises more than 30 legislative measures that address all aspects of energy sustainability, with binding long-term targets guiding implementation efforts and the necessary review of policies at regular intervals. In the United States, by contrast, short-term incentives, fragmented regulations, and a lack of planning certainty—in the absence of a binding policy framework—have dampened private-sector investment and technology deployment.

Third, foster citizen participation and communicate policies effectively. Policies that affect people’s everyday lives have to be developed with active citizen participation. Citizen input reduces potential legal challenges, increases public acceptance, and has the potential to improve projects and outcomes. Public participation in assessing parcel-level charges and new stormwater fees in Berlin helped the public to understand how their properties contribute to environmental problems. Further, individuals can take steps to reduce fees by integrating green infrastructure techniques on their properties. The initial draft of the city of Freiburg’s land-use plan was rejected by the citizens as not being progressive enough (see Box). The second draft was developed with the ongoing participation of 900 residents. The public sector has to effectively communicate the intentions of policy. This often involves political trade-offs. For example, Germany’s Ecological Tax Reform Act increased the cost of energy but at the same time reduced social security taxes. While many citizens agreed to increase taxation on energy, the reduction in social security taxes was also very important.

Fourth, find innovative solutions and embrace bipartisanship. The implementation of several of the highlighted policies came with strong political controversy in Germany. However, the policies survived because, over time, parties across the political spectrum benefited from them or could not afford reversing them. For example, the Renewable Energy Sources Act was supported by both the political left and right because both the progressive renewable-energy industry and the conservative German farm community benefited from its implementation. Before and during the introduction of the Ecological Tax Reform Act, Germany’s center-right parties opposed the reform and promised to roll it back once they were in power again. However, after winning elections in 2005, the conservatives found it impossible to forfeit the robust tax revenue generated by the reform.

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Ralph Buehler: Assistant Professor in urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech
Arne Jungjohann: Director for the Environment and Global Dialogue Program of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Washington, DC
Melissa Keeley: Assistant Professor in geography and public policy and public administration at George Washington University
Michael Mehling: President of the Ecologic Institute; Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University

 

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

Published by Solutions on Mon, 10/10/2011 – 08:00

Original article: http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/981

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.


Links:
[1] http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/981
[2] http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2009/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2009/0416_germany_transportation_buehler/0416_germany_transportation_report.pdf
[3] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/01/25/remarks-president-state-union-address
[4] http://www.newsweek.com/id/143679
[5] http://www.bmu.de/files/english/pdf/application/pdf/energiekonzept_bundesregierung_en.pdf
[6] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:140:0016:0062:EN:PDF
[7] http://www.erneuerbare-energien.de/files/pdfs/allgemein/application/pdf/ee_in_deutschland_graf_tab_2009_en.pdf
[8] http://www.bmu.de/english/current_press_releases/pm/46293.php
[9] http://www.bmu.de/files/pdfs/allgemein/application/pdf/nationaler_aktionsplan_ee.pdf
[10] http://www.bmu.de/english/renewable_energy/downloads/doc/46291.php
[11] http://www.diw.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=diw_01.c.362416.de
[12] http://www.braunkohle-wissen.de/#arbeitspl%20
[13] http://www.erneuerbare-energien.de/inhalt/42934/20026
[14] http://www.dbcca.com/dbcca/EN/_media/DBCCA_Creating_Jobs_and_Growth_The_German_Green_Exp.pdf
[15] http://www.diw.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=diw_01.c.346123.de
[16] http://www.gwec.net/index.php?id=13&amp;L=0
[17] http://www.dsireusa.org
[18] http://www.ren21.net/Portals/97/documents/GSR/REN21_GSR_2010_full_revised%20Sept2010.pdf
[19] http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/pdfs/47408.pdf
[20] http://boell.org/web/139-658.html
[21] http://www.greenroofs.ca/grhcc
[22] http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/nrc_stormwaterreport.pdf
[23] http://vtchl.uiuc.edu/applied-research/environmental-hydraulics/tarp
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[25] http://www.taxadmin.org