Communicating Climate Change

Our January General Meeting focuses on issues of how we communicate on Climate Change. To stimulate our discussion, we will view selections from a lecture titled “Climate Change in the American Mind,” by Anthony Leiserowitz, the Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

The program includes a reading by Susan Feathers (one of the founders of Sustainable Tucson), from her newly released novel Threshold, which looks at Tucson and the Southwest in the not-so-distant future under the impacts of climate change.

Please join us to be part of the discussion and explore ways in which we can communicate more effectively on this vital issue.

Note new day of the week and new location for 2017 General Meetings.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Ward 6 Office, 3202 E 1st St. (one block south of Speedway, one block east of Country Club)
Doors open 5:30 for networking. Program starts 6 pm.

Further References:

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication:

http://climatecommunication.yale.edu

Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz – full March 2015 lecture:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpmcJDr3KX8

Key Climate Scientists

Dr. James Hansen, 2016 lecture

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42wtAennn8w

Dr. Kevin Anderson 2016 Interview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ck_Ev8oqBh0

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS AND YWCA OFFER FREE WORKSHOPS

Is your organization planning to hold a candidate or issue forum this year? If so, you’ll want to attend the free workshops being offered on Saturday, April 30th.

The morning will be devoted to a presentation on how to plan forums, and the afternoon will be on how to moderate forums, with hands-on practice.

Both will be at the YWCA, 525 N. Bonita Avenue. The morning workshop begins at 9 AM, and the afternoon one at 12:30. Light refreshments provided; if you’re staying for the full day, bring a bag lunch or purchase food on site. You can register for one or both workshops at the League’s website at www.lwvgt.org or call 520/327-7652.

Sustainability on the Chopping Block – Tucson City Council Decision April 19th

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This is an urgent appeal to the Sustainability Community to show up and speak out for sustainability and reject an unnecessary road widening plan which will cost millions and do nothing for sustainable mobility and economic vitality.

XXXXX

We have limited opportunities to help shape decisions about urban form and public infrastructure which effect the way we live and generate climate-changing GHG emissions. This is one of them.

XXX

 

The Tucson Mayor and Council will decide at their April 19th Regular Meeting on how to proceed with the 30% design proposal on the table. We urge you to sign the popular “Vote No” petition below sponsored by the Broadway Coalition and ALSO submit your “negative” comments on the 30% Design here at the City’s website.

XXX

When: Tuesday, April 19th,  5:30 pm

Where:  Tucson City Hall Council Chambers

We Should Develop Historic Broadway NOT wastefully widen the roadway!

 

Say YES to smart development and NO to another bad alignment plan for Broadway. Why would we spend $75 million for no appreciable improvement in traffic?

 

On April 19th, the City of Tucson will vote whether to:

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1) Widen Historic Broadway even though traffic hasn’t increased for 20 years,

2) Demolish 30+ buildings and businesses, and

3) Ignore the community’s overwhelming plea to design a vibrant, history and place-preserving, climate-friendly future where local businesses thrive and more people prefer to safely walk, bike, and use public transit.

XXX

The City’s alignment plan would set a horrible precedent for our economic future!

XXX

We need to stop wasteful public spending on unnecessary widening of roads when we need to:

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1) Revitalize our historic places leading into Downtown Tucson.

2) Repave our unsafe, crumbling Tucson streets and roads.

3) Invest in alternatives to more cars – walking, biking, public transit.

4) Encourage and enable use of renewable energy – electric vehicles, Street Car extensions.

Our Petition Campaign has exceeded the first goal of 1,000 signatures with over 400 comments. Please add your name, comment if you like, and see what other Tucsonan’s are saying:

 

Time for Action is Now!

 

For background on Broadway Widening , references, articles, and research go here:

 

 

Why Are We Spending $74 Million

and

Destroying 30 Buildings in a Central Historic Area

while

Producing No Traffic Improvement?

By Dave Bilgray

 

 

The Broadway Improvement Project is not needed, and will provide no benefit to the residents of Tucson.  The City’s own data shows that widening Broadway will provide only a 6-second improvement in travel time.

 

The City of Tucson wants to bulldoze dozens of buildings, many of them historically significant, to handle nonexistent traffic increases which were projected 30 years ago, but did not materialize.

 

The effort started in the 80s, when City analysts predicted a substantial increase in Broadway traffic by 2005. This began a decades-long push to widen Broadway, despite a consulting firm’s analysis that widening would not improve traffic flow.  The reason is the delays at intersections.  The City got funding for the project in 2006, as part of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) proposition.

 

But the traffic increase didn’t happen, for two reasons:

 

1. Population growth, which had been primarily to the East, went to the Northwest instead.

2. Aviation Parkway was completed in the 90s, providing an alternative for residents in Southeast Tucson.

 

In 2009, a consultant’s study showed that Broadway traffic was essentially unchanged since the 80s. That should have squelched the project. But the City said it was obligated to do the job, because voters approved it as part of the RTA. (Not true. The RTA proposition said a change in the plan was permitted if there was “no degradation in performance”. That 6-second difference is 1 percent, which would certainly be within the limit.)

 

So the City’s plans continued. The original design was for widening Broadway to 8 lanes, 150 feet wide. That’s half the length of a football field. More than 100 structures would be demolished, mostly locally-owned businesses, including nearly everything on the North side of Broadway, from Euclid to Country Club.

 

There was strong opposition by thousands of citizens and several neighborhood associations.  This resulted in creation of a citizen’s task force, with representatives from business, neighborhood, and disabled communities. Between June 2012 and May 2015, the task force held 37 design meetings, coordinated by City staff and consultants. There were 5 Open Houses, each attended by several hundred people, and five Business and Property Owner Meetings.

 

In late 2014, a compromise was reached between the City, RTA, and task force, calling for 6 lanes, with an estimated 10-12 buildings to be torn down. City agencies and consultants were to work out technical details.

 

We have now received the revised plan. It calls for at least 30 buildings to be demolished — triple the City’s compromise estimate — including 2 blocks of houses in Rincon Heights.  Many other buildings will become inaccessible, and will likely be destroyed, because their driveways and/or parking lots will be wiped out.  There also are changes at intersections which impact nearby neighborhoods, by diverting or blocking traffic flow.

 

Will the Broadway Corridor be a gateway to our revitalized downtown, with locally-owned businesses, and human scale?  Or will it be a wide swath of asphalt, straddled by empty lots and the dream of big box stores?

 

Tucson got a black eye with Rio Nuevo.  Let’s not do it again.  The money can be spent on sidewalks, landscaping, and ADA compliance, which would enhance the area. Please tell your City Council member to reject this wasteful and harmful idea, once and for all.

 

For more info:   www.facebook.com/broadwaycoalition

 

Thanks to Margot Garcia, for providing background and chronological information; Les Pierce, for identifying important items in City and RTA documents; and Bob Cook, for wording suggestions.

Data crunched: Broadway widening WILL NOT speed cars…or buses…or pedestrians…or even bicycles!

Analysis of RTA and COT’s own numbers shows widening Broadway will not cut travel times for cars or anyone else.

So why are we spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars amidst a budget crisis?

(A)  The proposed work will have almost zero (~1.4%) benefit, as the Design Concept Report (DCR) data itself declares.

(B)  Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) requires that “Where a departure from the ballot description is being considered, a performance comparison between the proposed alternative and the original scope of work must show no degradation in performance”.

(C)  Therefore, since functionality for cars will not be improved under ANY widening scenario (4-lane, 6-lane, or 8-lane), less invasive options that improve road functionality for everyone else (pedestrians, bicyclists, transit) will still comport with RTA’s directive while saving scarce tax dollars and must be given urgent and careful consideration.

These points are explored in more depth below.

(1)  The proposed work will have almost zero (~1.1 – 1.4%) benefit.

Broadway draft DCR, page “5.9” (9th page of Chapter 5), figure 5.10 “Travel Time Euclid to Country Club” states that travel time by car* from Euclid to Country Club on the current 2+2+center-turning lane configuration is 7.1 minutes.  Of all the four (4) considered alternatives — 4-lane, 4+2T, 6-lane, and 8-lane — only ONE enables faster travel time over this distance, the 6-lane option.  How much faster?  Six seconds.  A 1.4% improvement, which could be margin of error and not even real.  It should be noted that the 8-lane “ballot language” option actually makes things WORSE, increasing travel time by a full minute.

(* These comments focus on car-centric performance because car/vehicle performance appears to be the only transportation metric being given more than token consideration.  We thus attempt to meet the world halfway.)

Figure 5.11 “Average Speed” on the same page shows the current average car travel speed over the two-mile segment of Broadway between Euclid and Country Club to be 17.4 MPH.  Again, of all the considered alternatives, only the 6-lane option shows any improvement AT ALL, and that is an extremely modest 1.1% increase to 17.6 MPH which, again, could simply be margin of error.  And again, the 8-lane “ballot language” option would have dropped average speed by over two minutes, to 15.2 MPH.

Also, the level-of-service (LOS) predicted from the four (4) presented options shows no real difference between them in terms of overall average performance.  When averaged (where 0 = ‘F’, 1 = ‘E’, 2 = ‘D’, 3 = ‘C’, 4 = ‘B’, and 5 = ‘A’), the LOS data presented on Broadway DCR page 4.18 (54th page of PDF document) yields:

 

(A)  Broadway LOS at PAG 2040 traffic projections, by intersection:

config:  Euclid – Highland – Campbell – Tucson – Country Club – overall

4-lane:  2.17 – 3.33 – 1.75 – 2.00 – 2.08 – 2.26

6-lane:  2.08 – 3.75 – 2.58 – 2.92 – 2.08 – 2.68

4+2T:  1.50 – 2.83 – 2.33 – 2.17 – 2.08 – 2.18

8-lane:  2.50 – 3.58 – 2.75 – 2.83 – 2.00 – 2.73

 

(B)  Broadway LOS at PAG “low growth” traffic projections, by intersection:

config:  Euclid – Highland – Campbell – Tucson – Country Club – overall

4-lane:  2.33 – 3.67 – 1.83 – 2.17 – 2.08 – 2.25

6-lane:  2.17 – 3.75 – 2.50 – 2.92 – 2.00 – 2.22

4T+2:  1.92 – 3.25 – 2.33 – 2.42 – 2.17 – 2.25

8-lane:  2.58 – 3.83 – 2.75 – 3.00 – 2.25 – 3.13

 

It would appear that there is no appreciable overall difference in LOS between the presented options, with all performances but one landing in ‘D’ territory (the 8-lane option under “low growth” projections rates a low ‘C’).  Without current LOS data in the DCR, it is not clear which, if any, of these options would actually improve conditions or by how much.

This should come as no surprise, since the 1987 Parsons-Brinckerhoff Broadway Corridor Study stated (table 3, page 10) that widening Broadway (either to six or to eight lanes) would not improve performance at the Euclid, Campbell, or Country Club intersections AT ALL, and that even the “nuclear option” of installing grade-separated interchanges (GSI’s) at these intersections would only raise performance at Euclid and Campbell from a then level-of-service (LOS) of ‘F’ to ‘D’ (Country Club would not improve, and would stay at the then-current ‘D’).  In the thirty years since, nothing has changed:  none of the nine (9) alternatives contemplated by Parsons in 1987 would effect any appreciable improvement then, and none of the four (4) alternatives presented to the Broadway CTF over the past (almost-) four years will effect any appreciable improvement now.

The 1987 study was purportedly commissioned to address what was projected to be the demands of traffic in 2005.  None of the suggestions made by Parsons has been enacted — aside from intersection changes at Kino Parkway in 1989 and as part of the more recent Park-Euclid realignment, but not on the scale recommended by Parsons — yet the proverbial sky has not fallen, and Broadway remains one of our more easily traversed roads.  The perceived “problem” does not exist to an extent that justifies spending $74 million on a notional “solution” that will make no noticeable difference in average travel time or speed, or to overall throughput.

It is also not clear how a 6-lane Broadway would solve the bottleneck at Fourth/ Congress/ Toole:  northbound Downtown Links, being a 30-MPH four-lane road, will siphon away only a small fraction of the traffic load.  Hurling cars westbound down Broadway will not improve overall road performance, as they will only accumulate and back up faster than Downtown Links and Fourth/ Congress/ Toole can disperse them.  This is likely a moot point given the modest performance gains the Broadway proposal would realize, but if these changes were to move more cars per lane per hour the 6-lane “solution” on Broadway will only create another problem downstream.

This makes all the more puzzling the assertion made in Pima County’s ordinance 2015-10 (which amended its ordinance 1997-80, the Transportation Bond Improvement Plan that includes project DOT-56, “Broadway Boulevard, Euclid Avenue to Campbell”) where the Broadway project benefits were described as:  “The estimated economic value of the improvements to traffic flow and reductions in accidents are $172.85 million.  The benefit/cost ratio is 4.9:1.”  It is not clear how a 1% performance increase (time saved, speed gained) creates $173 million in benefits; in fact, one would expect accidents to rise (in number and/or severity) as speed does.

One must also wonder about end-user sentiment:  for $74 million, drivers would not unreasonably expect to feel a difference in the Broadway commute experience proportionate to such an expenditure.  Six seconds, the best projected outcome possible from among the considered options, is a woefully inadequate consolation prize.

 

(2)  RTA requires that “Where a departure from the ballot description is being considered, a performance comparison between the proposed alternative and the original scope of work must show no degradation in performance”.

As discussed above, an 8-lane configuration of Broadway would either have no effect on traffic conditions (Parsons-Brinckerhoff, 1987) or would make them worse (time and speed comparison charts, DCR page 5.9).  Leaving things at status quo would yield better traffic performance results than inflicting the “ballot language” option.

 

(3)  Therefore, since functionality for cars will not be improved under ANY widenening scenario, less invasive options that improve road functionality for everyone else (pedestrians, bicyclists, transit) must be given urgent and careful consideration.

DCR states (page 5.18) that “It is not an option to leave the roadway as it is — the City will have to improve the roadway per Federal [Americans with Disabilities Act] requirements, and there is no money to do so”.  The inadequate pedestrian and bicyclist facilities on Broadway need to be improved in any event; the low incidence of bicycle traffic on Broadway is likely for the same reason there are few bicyclists on I-10, i.e., bicyclists were simply not considered when the road was last expanded.  As our mindsets evolve from “one mode” transportation to handling all modes, so too will our roads.

If getting an ADA-compliant street* is in fact the only reason this project is moving forward — and it is difficult to draw any other conclusion, given the negligible benefits on offer — there are, and have been suggested by the CTF and the public, other alignment options that will improve functionality for pedestrian and bicyclist road users, lay the foundation for future transit improvements, and also preserve much more of the surrounding built environment for historic, commercial, and/or residential purposes.

 

(* One wonders, though, how a medianized roadway that forces wheelchair users to go blocks out of their way to cross Broadway at one of a handful of wheel-able crossings comports with ADA’s goals of equality of access.  Pedestrian travel and community connections are not just along Broadway, but across it.)

Given the current budget constraints under which City, County, and RTA are operating, it is only prudent to review what a project area truly needs, what any proposed “solution” will actually effect, and reduce the project scope accordingly.  With $74 million earmarked for Broadway, negligible projected benefit from the proposed Broadway changes, and more pressing transportation needs elsewhere, we urge a rigorous and unflinching value analysis of the current proposal and implementation of less-invasive less costly measures to create a Broadway that works for midtown and all of Tucson.

Thank you for your time and attention.

 

SOURCES AND DOCUMENTS:

Broadway project draft Design Concept Report — http://broadwayboulevard.info/pdf/Broadway-DCR-Public-Review-FullDoc-120815.pdf — (~48MB, 118 pages, PDF format)

Parsons-Brinckerhoff, 1987 Broadway Corridor Transportation Study —https://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/transportation/broadwaycorridortransstudy.pdf — (~1.67 MB, 39 pages, PDF format) — see specifically Table 3, page 10 (16th page of PDF document) for compared expectations of various roadway configuration options

1989 Kino/Broadway intersection widening — https://www.tucsonaz.gov/apps/maps-and-records/webroot/images/Plan_Lib/1988/I/I-88-035A/i-88-035a_013.tif — (~227KB, TIFF format)

County ordinance 1997-80, Transportation Bond Improvement Plan, plus subsequent amendments — http://webcms.pima.gov/cms/one.aspx?portalId=169&pageId=7610

09-APR-2015 County ordinance 2015-10, amending the 1997 Transportation Bond Improvement Plan —http://webcms.pima.gov/common/pages/UserFile.aspx?fileId=194763 — (~529KB, 48 pages, PDF format) — and describing the possible benefits of widening Broadway (page “40”, 45th page of PDF document)

19-OCT-2010 County ordinance 2010-62, amending the 1997 Transportation Bond Improvement Plan —http://pima.ecustomdev.intrafinity.com/common/pages/UserFile.aspx?fileId=9400 — (~195KB, five pages, PDF format) — including redline of River Road Ventana Wash project wording

Past roadway projects that seemed like a good idea at the time and, as history has proven, were best left on the drawing board —https://www.arizonaroads.com/urban/index.html — (Tucson’s marvels are ~2/3ds from the top), since we would be so much poorer as a City without Armory Park or the Campbell Avenue mercantile district

 

Thanks to Les Pierce for diligently compiling the documentation and lucidly stating the case.

Attached please find additional files that may be helpful.  The first two are 1987 Parsons-Brinckerhoff documents (the Broadway study and the “concept plan”); the three one-pagers are summaries/ graphic illos of my previous warblings about how the performance data clearly states (and has stated) that this project ain’t gonna solve whatever “problems” Broadway is alleged to have.  Caveat that the LOS page is a bit cluttered, but it should still work.

Cheers,

Les.

bway_conceptplan_parsons_198702

bway_study_parsons_198702

bway_dcr_los_table_201512.eps

bway_dcr_perf_graphs_201512.eps

bway_study_parsons_198702_los_table3

 

UA Earth Transformed Lecture Series

UA Earth Transformed Lecture Series

A Series of Six Lectures
Exploring Our World and Ourselves

Mondays, January 25 – March 7
7:00-8:00 PM
UA Centennial Hall

Climate change and its impacts are no longer merely abstract projections for the future. Instead, they are on-going and growing challenges for both humans and many of the natural systems upon which we depend. Globally, changes in the oceans, ice sheets and atmosphere provide clear fingerprints of the human causes, but also important lessons for society to learn as we seek solutions. Even more than when the UA Science Lecture Series originally turned to climate change a decade ago, the Southwest is dealing with a looming water crisis, unprecedented severe wildfire risk, emerging human health concerns and much more. Scholars and the public alike need to brainstorm and work to ensure a resilient and vibrant future for the Southwest and the planet.

Lectures are held at Centennial Hall on the campus of the University of Arizona. Parking is available on a pay-per-use basis in the Tyndall Avenue Garage.
All lectures begin at 7:00 PM and are free to the public. Doors open at 6:00 PM. We encourage you to arrive at Centennial Hall before 6:30 PM as seating is limited.
For More Information
Visit the Earth Transformed website or call 520-621-4090.

Upcoming Lectures

Monday, January 25, 2016
The Ocean’s Role in Climate: Heat and Carbon Uptake in the Anthropocene
Joellen Russell, 1885 Society Distinguished Scholar and Associate Professor of Geosciences, College of Science, University of Arizona
The oceans play a key role in shaping the Earth’s climate and its variability on both short and long time scales. Central to this role is the ability of the ocean to store both carbon dioxide and heat, not only at the surface but also in its deepest layers. New technologies are revolutionizing how we study and predict changes in our dynamic oceans.
Monday, February 1, 2016
Climate Change and Global Food Security
David Battisti, Tamaki Endowed Chair and Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington
Increasing stresses on major crops due to climate change, coupled with the increasing demand for food due to increasing population and development, present significant challenges to achieving global food security. This lecture explores the likely impact of climate change and volatility on food production and availability in the foreseeable future.

Monday, February 8, 2016
Ecosystem Resilience: Navigating Our Tenuous Connection to Nature
Russell Monson, Louise Foucar Marshall Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, College of Science, University of Arizona
Sustainability of the services provided by Earth’s ecosystems is dependent on mechanisms of resilience that include maintenance of biotic diversity and avoidance of climatically-controlled ‘tipping points’. This lecture will explore how recent trends in land use and anthropogenic climate warming have exposed vulnerabilities in the mechanisms of ecosystem resilience, and revealed the potential for surprising shifts in the productivity and persistence of ecosystems.

Monday, February 15, 2016
No lecture this week.

Monday, February 22, 2016
Climate Change and Human Health: Impacts and Pathways to Resilience
Kacey Ernst, Associate Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health, University of Arizona
Climate change will inevitably lead to negative impacts on human health. Certainty in predicting negative health outcomes is higher when changes are more directly related to the natural environment. Research is advancing our understanding of these complex systems and how they might be altered under different climatic conditions. Mitigation strategies can be applied now to improve both the current and future health of populations.

Monday, February 29, 2016
Carbon Sequestration: Can We Afford It?
Kimberly Ogden, Professor, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Arizona
Carbon sequestration is defined as removing carbon from the atmosphere to mitigate climate change. Although there are commercially available technologies, the main barrier to implementation is economic. This lecture will explore proposed methods for carbon capture from the simple to the complex. The potential of alternative energy to reduce emissions and sequestration using biological processes will be emphasized.

Monday, March 7, 2016
The Changing Earth: It’s Not Just a New Normal
Jonathan Overpeck, Co-Director, Institute of the Environment; Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Professor of Science and Regents’ Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, College of Science, University of Arizona
Climate change is ever-intensifying at scale of the globe, and the Southwest is already dealing with climate change challenges in the form of unusually hot drought, looming water shortage, widespread death of trees, unprecedented severe fire risk, dust storms, hotter heat waves and more. With the economic vitality of the Southwest at stake, climate adaptation and mitigation are key.

Duality in Climate Science

Duality in Climate Science
Published by Kevin Anderson blog on 2015-10-15
Original article: http://kevinanderson.info/blog/duality-in-climate-science/ by Kevin Anderson

 

The value of science is undermined when we adopt questionable assumptions and fine-tune our analysis to conform to dominant political and economic sensibilities. The pervasive inclusion of speculative negative emission technologies to deliver politically palatable 2°C mitigation is but one such example. Society needs scientists to make transparent and reasoned assumptions, however uncomfortable the subsequent conclusions may be for the politics of the day.

June’s UNFCCC Bonn Conference reiterated the headline ‘conclusions’ of November’s IPCC Synthesis Report, which itself was heralded as delivering clear messages to policy makers. As the Financial Times1 noted, meeting the 2°C dangerous limitwould “only cause an annual 0.06 percentage point cut in … economic growth”, a small cost that would, according to the UK’s Guardian, rise by less than 50% even if emissions reductions were delayed to 20302. In similar optimistic vein, The US Associated Press3 and Hindustan Times4 reported that maintaining “the temperature rise below a level that many consider dangerous” may require emissions from fossil fuels “to drop to zero”, but not before “the end of this century”. The Sydney Morning Herald5 concluded that staying below 2°C would require “a fairly strong level of action on greenhouse gas emissionswith, ChinaDaily6 reporting that in delivering the requisite action the solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development.”

Based on such reports it is easy to be left with the impression that the shift away from fossil fuels needs to be much more an evolutionary transition than an immediate revolution in how we use and produce energy. Moreover, it could be suggested that delaying action until 2030 would give more time for considered reflection of the options, yet still only have a very marginal impact on economic growth (i.e. less than a 0.1 percentage point cut) – not a bad exchange perhaps?

In stark contrast, this commentary concludes that the carbon budgets needed for a reasonable probability of avoiding the 2°C characterisation of dangerous climate change demand profound and immediate changes to the consumption and production of energy. The IPCC’s own 1,000 GtCO2 carbon budget for a “likely” chance of 2°C, requires global reductions in emissions from energy of at least 10% p.a. by 2025, with complete cessation of all carbon dioxide emissions from the energy system by 2050.

Diluting the message
Whilst the endeavours of the IPCC, since its inception in 1988, are to be welcomed, I have grave reservations as to how the implications of their analysis are being reported. This is not solely the failure of incisive journalism, but is also the outcome of repeated and questionable commentary from some experts engaged in the IPCC process. Even the press release7 for the IPCC’s Synthesis report provided an optimistic spin, with the then IPCC chair stating thatTo keep a good chance of staying below 2ºC, and at manageable costs, our emissions should drop by 40 to 70 percent globally between 2010 and 2050, falling to zero or below by 2100[emphasis added]. Moreover, the Co-Chair of the IPCC’s section on reducing emissions made the all-important comment that mitigation costs would be so low that global economic growth would not be strongly affected– echoing the conclusion of the recent and influential report from The New Climate Economy8.

But does the IPCC’s own analysis support the upbeat rhetoric of evolution as opposed to the more challenging and fundamental language of revolution?

Certainly such evolutionary conclusions are forthcoming from many highly complex integrated assessment models (IAMs) – whereby an understanding of prices, markets and human behaviour is brought together with the physics of climate change to generate ‘policy-relevant’ and cost-optimised emission scenarios. These typically offer highly optimistic futures through a combination of very early peaks in global emissions and a belief that negative emission technologies will prove practically and economically viable in removing CO2 from the atmosphere (hence the reference to or belowzero emissions in Pachauri’s earlier statement).

‘Geo-engineering’ as systemic bias
The analysis within this Commentary makes no allowance for carbon budgets being increased through the adoption of ‘geo-engineering’ technologies, specifically those delivering so-called negative emissions. Such technologies are ubiquitous in 2°C scenarios9,10, despite their remaining at little more than the conceptual stage of development. However, whilst speculative negative emissions are de rigueur, similarly imprecise Earth system processes (but with the potential to reduce the available budgets) are seldom included in quantitative scenarios. The relative importance of negative emissions and Earth-system processes for the size of the available carbon budget varies across the spectrum of temperatures being considered. Yet until both can be adequately and robustly quantified their widespread inclusion within quantitative emissions pathways should be avoided. A small suite of 2°C scenarios may, of course, assume the successful uptake of negative emissions (or further positive feedbacks), but such scenarios should be in the minority and not dominate the outputs from across the IAM community.

As it stands, the expedient and ubiquitous use of speculative negative emissions to expand the available 2°C carbon budgets, implies a deeply entrenched and systemic bias in favour of delivering politically palatable rather than scientifically balanced emission scenarios. Nowhere is this more evident than in the IPCC’s scenario database11. Of the 113 scenarios with a “likely” chance (66% or better) of 2°C (with 3 removed due to incomplete data), 107 (95%) assume the successful and large-scale uptake of negative emission technologies. The remaining 6 scenarios all adopt a global emissions peak of around 2010. Extending the probability to a 50% chance of 2°C paints a similar picture. Of the additional 287 scenarios, 237 (83%) include negative emissions, with all the remaining scenarios assuming the successful implementation of a stringent and global mitigation regime in 2010.

In plain language, the complete set of 400 IPCC scenarios for a 50% or better chance of 2°C assume either an ability to travel back in time or the successful and large-scale uptake of speculative negative emission technologies. A significant proportion of the scenarios are dependent on both ‘time travel and geo-engineering’.

An arithmetic sense check
With IAM outputs typically clustering around evolutionary rather than revolutionary rates of change, there is clearly merit in undertaking some basic arithmetic to sense-check the model outputs, the consequent framing of policies, and the timeframes for delivering deep cuts in emissions. Building on the concept of carbon budgets12-14 the following steps summarise a sequence of reasoning and transparent assumptions that suggest a profoundly different challenge to that dominating the current discourse on climate change.

1) From the Copenhagen Accord12 in 2009 to the New York Climate Summit in 2014 political leaders have repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to take the necessary action, informed by science15,16to “hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius”15.

2) The IPCC’s Synthesis Report reiterates their previous conclusion that Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond17.

3) The Report proposes a headline carbon budget of 1,000 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (1000 GtCO2) for the period 2011 to 2100 and for a 66% chance, or better, of remaining below a 2°C rise18.

4) Energy-only CO2 between 2011and 2014 inclusive has totalled around 140GtCO2.

5) To apportion the remaining 860 billion tonnes between the principal sources of CO2 emissions, i.e. energy, deforestation, and cement (process only), it is necessary to understand their relevant contexts. In a world genuinely committed to not exceeding the 2°C budget, it is reasonable to assume there exists a concerted effort to reduce emissions across all three emission sources.

6) Against this backdrop, deforestation and land use change emissions for 2011-2100 are based on RCP4.519, the IPCC’s most ambitious deforestation pathway to exclude net-negative land use emissions. The total deforestation budget is therefore taken as ~60GtCO2.

7) Turning to cement, whilst energy-related emissions are included here in total energy CO2, the substantial process emissions are not and so need to be considered separately. Industrialisation throughout poorer nations and the construction of low-carbon infrastructures within industrialised nations will continue to drive rapid growth in the process emissions from cement production (current ~7% p.a.20). An aggressive uptake of lower-carbon alternatives (including CCS) and more prudent use of cement could reduce some of this early growth,21,22 but in the longer term, such emissions will need to be eliminated. Provisional and highly optimistic analysis building on recent process emission trends,20,23 suggests such emissions could be constrained to around 150 GtCO2 from 2011 to their eradication later in the century.

8) Consequently, the remaining budget for energy-only emissions, for the period 2015 to 2100 and for a “likely” chance of staying below 2°C, is ~650 GtCO2.

9) The political and physical inertia of the existing system will likely see emissions continue to rise until ~2020. Assuming there is an unparalleled agreement at Paris and energy-only emissions of CO2 reach a 2020 peak of ~37 GtCO2, a little under 180 GtCO2 will have been emitted between the start of 2015 and 2020, leaving a post 2020 budget of ~470 GtCO2.

10) This would demand a dramatic reversal of current trends in energy consumption and emissions growth. Global mitigation rates would need to rapidly ratchet up to around 10% p.a. by 2025 and continue at such a rate to the virtual elimination of CO2 from the energy system by 2050.

Unpalatable repercussions
Applying simple arithmetic to the headline data within the IPCC’s Synthesis Report raises fundamental questions as to the realism of both the content and the tone of much of the reporting that followed its publication. Moreover, the failure of the scientific community to vociferously counter the portrayal of the findings as challenging but incremental suggests vested interests and the economic hegemony may be preventing scientific openness and freedom of expression.

The carbon budgets aligned with international commitments to stay below the 2°C characterization of dangerous climate change demand profound and immediate changes to how energy is both used and produced. The IPCC’s headline budget of 1,000 GtCO2, even with highly optimistic assumptions on curtailing deforestation and cement emissions, requires global reductions in energy-CO2 of at least 10% p.a. from 2025, transitioning rapidly to zero emissions by 2050. The severity of such cuts would likely exclude carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a dominant post-2050 technology. Only if the life cycle carbon emissions of CCS could be reduced by an order of magnitude from those postulated for an efficiently operating gas-CCS plant (typically around 80g CO2 per kWh24), could fossil fuels play any significant role post-2050.

Delivering on such a 2°C emission pathway cannot be reconciled with the repeated and high-level claims that in transitioning to a low-carbon energy

system “global economic growth would not be strongly affected7. Certainly it would be inappropriate to sacrifice improvements in the welfare of the global poor, including those within wealthier nations, for the sake of reducing carbon emissions. But this only puts greater pressure still on the relatively small proportion of the globe’s population with higher emissions. The strains that such 2°C mitigation puts on the framing of our lifestyles cannot be massaged away through incremental escapism. With a growing economy of 3% p.a. the reduction in carbon intensity of global GDP would need to be nearer 13% p.a.; higher still for wealthier industrialised nations, and higher yet again for those individuals with well above average carbon footprints (whether in industrial or industrialising nations).

Conclusions
The IPCC’s synthesis report and the scientific framing of the mitigation challenge in terms of carbon budgets was an important step forward. Despite this, there remains an almost global-scale cognitive dissonance with regards to acknowledging the quantitative implications of the analysis, including by many of those contributing to its development. We simply are not prepared to accept the revolutionary implications of our own findings, and even when we do we are reluctant to voice such thoughts openly. Instead, my long-standing engagement with many scientific colleagues, leaves me in no doubt that whilst they work diligently, often against a backdrop of organised scepticism, many are ultimately choosing to censor their own research.

Explicit and quantitative carbon budgets provide a firm foundation on which policy makers and civil society can build a genuinely low-carbon society. But the job of scientists remains pivotal. It is incumbent on our community to be vigilant in guiding the policy process within the climate goals established by civil society; to draw attention to inconsistencies, misunderstandings and deliberate abuse of the scientific research. It is not our job to be politically expedient with our analysis or to curry favour with our funders. Whether our conclusions are liked or not is irrelevant. As we massage the assumptions of our analysis to fit within today’s political and economic hegemony, so we do society a grave disservice – one for which the repercussions will be irreversible.

References

1. Clark, P. Financial Times (2 November 2014). http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/26d0edc6-628e-11e4-9838-00144feabdc0.html – axzz3KxE5mP6Q

2. Carrington, D. The Guardian (2 November 2014). http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/02/rapid-carbon-emission-cuts-severe-impactclimate-change-ipcc-report

3. UN climate panel says emissions need to drop to zero this century to keep warming in check (Associated Press, 2 November 2014). http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/11/02/un-climate-panel-says-emissions-need-to-drop-to-zero-thiscentury-to-keep/

4. Hindustan Times. UN climate report offers stark warnings. Copenhagen. (Taken from Associated Press, 3 November 2014). http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/un-climate-report-offers-stark-warnings-hope/article1-1281867.aspx

5. Miller, N. The Sydney Morning Herald (4 November 2014). http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/ipcc-report-little-time-left-to-act-on-climate-change-20141103-11g2er.html.

6. Jing, F. ChinaDaily: Europe (3 November 2014). http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/2014-11/03/content_18854403.htm

7. Concluding instalment of the Fifth Assessment Report. (IPCC Press Release) (2 November 2014).

8. Better Growth Better Climate synthesis report. (The New Climate Economy2014). http://newclimateeconomy.report.

9. Fuss, S. et al. Betting on negative emissions. Nature. 4. 850-853 (2014)

10. UNEP 2014. The Emissions Gap Report 2014. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi

11. IPCC AR5 Working Group III. (2014) Mitigation of Climate Change (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).

12. Anderson, K. et al. From long-term targets to cumulative emission pathways; reframing the climate policy debate. Energy Policy 36. 3714–3722. (2008)

13. Anderson, K. & Bows, A. Beyond dangerous climate change. Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. A 369, 20–44 (2011). doi:10.1098/rsta.2010.0290

14. Frame, D. et al. Cumulative emissions and climate policy. Nature Geosci. 7, 692–693 (2014).

15. Report of the Conference of the Parties; fifteenth session; Copenhagen, 7 to 19 December 2009.

16. President Barroso. The L’Aquila summit; European Commission, MEMO/09/332; 10/07/2009 http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-09-332_en.htm

17. IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report (2014); Topic 2.1. p56 and SPM 2.1. p.8.

18. IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report (2014); Table 2.2. p.64

19. RCP online database. IIASA, (2015). http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/research/researchPrograms/TransitionstoNewTechnologies/RCP.en.html

20. Andrew. R. Global Carbon Project (http://www.globalcarbonproject.org) Private communication (Nov. 2014)

21. International Energy Agency (IEA). Cement Technology Road Map. (2009). https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/Cement.pdf

22. International Energy Agency (IEA). Energy Technology Perspectives. (2014)

23. West. K. International Energy Agency. Cement Road Map (2009) and Energy Technology Perspective (2014). Private communication (Feb.2015)

24. Hammond, G. et al. The energy and environmental implications of UK more electric transition pathways. Energy Policy 52 ,103–116 (2013).dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2012.08.071

Acknowledgements:

  • Cicero (Oslo): Glen Peters and Robbie Andrew for guidance, respectively, with the IPCC scenario database and global cement emissions
  • IEA (Paris): Kira West information related to IEA cement scenarios
  • Tyndall Centre (University of Manchester): Maria Sharmina and Jaise Kuriakose on deforestation emissions; Alice Bows-Larkin and John Broderick on carbon budgets.

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

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


Source URL: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2015-10-15/duality-in-climate-science

 

 

 

 

ENVISION TUCSON SUSTAINABLE FESTIVAL


Join us at this year’s 5th annual Envision Tucson Sustainable Festival, October 18, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the YWCA, 525 Bonita Avenue. The Festival will showcase the many features of sustainable living in Tucson and our desert Southwest.

We’re very excited about the great variety of activities and exhibits at this year’s event. Over 40 exhibitors, demonstrators, and vendors will be sure to provide something for everyone.

A few of the highlights of this event:
** The Festival is the starting point for PAG Solar Partnership’s neighborhood Solar Tour.
**The Tucson Electric Vehicle Association will display a wide variety of electric vehicles
** The Southern Arizona Green Chamber of Commerce will present this year’s Climate Leadership Challenge recognition awards.
** In recognition of National Co-op Month, the ‘Co-op Cluster’ will showcase local co-ops that use this sustainable business model.
** The Festival is the kick-off event for 10West, a weeklong celebration of innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship.

Throughout the day, local and native foods will be featured in food preparation demonstrations. Examples of solar cooking will demonstrate an exciting way to be sustainable. Visionary speakers will be looking at how we can attain the sustainable future we need and want. The Annual Green School Recognition will again honor a local school that promotes ecological education, school gardening, and related activities. This year, that award goes to Davis Bilingual Magnet School. And we’ll dedicate Phase 2 of the Festival-installed vegetable garden at the YWCA.

Admission and parking are free, or come by bike and Living Streets Alliance will provide a Bike Valet service for those who come by bike.

Come to the Festival! Explore what’s going on now in our community, get more involved, learn new skills, and share your own vision of a sustainable community.

For more information: www.envisiontucsonsustainable.org and like us on Facebook at Envision Tucson Sustainable, or contact Paula Schlusberg .

REJECT THE BROADWAY ALIGNMENT! A model letter to the City of Tucson

REJECT THE BROADWAY ALIGNMENT!

A model letter to the City of Tucson

By Broadway Coalition Member Laura Tabili

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Send to:     broadway@tucsonaz.gov,      Jonathan.Rothschild@tucsonaz.gov, mayor1@tucsonaz.gov, ward1@tucsonaz.gov, ward2@tucsonaz.gov, Ward3@tucsonaz.gov, ward4@tucsonaz.gov,ward5@tucsonaz.gov,Regina.Romero@tucsonaz.gov, Karin.Uhlich@tucsonaz.gov, Paul.Cunningham@tucsonaz.gov, Shirley.Scott@tucsonaz.gov, Richard.Fimbres@tucsonaz.gov, Steve.Kozachik@tucsonaz.gov, citymanager@tucsonaz.gov

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REJECT THE BROADWAY ALIGNMENT!

The Broadway Citizens Task Force and Tucson’s Mayor & Council must reject the excessively wide and destructive staff-generated Broadway Alignment posted on February 20, 2015.

 

This alignment is an insult to the Citizens Task Force, who put in many grueling hours in good faith, and consistently directed the Design Team to:

 

–narrow the roadway to minimize impacts to the historic streetscape, parking and neighborhoods;

–preserve the Sunshine Mile’s sense of place;

–ensure safety for all transportation modes;

–encourage business; and

–use innovative design.

 

 

This alignment defies direction from the Mayor & Council to minimize the right-of-way, keeping it under 96 feet, and to flex and narrow it where necessary to preserve the historic built environment and the Sunshine Mile Business District.

 

This alignment disregards and disrespects the hundreds of stakeholders who attended the four public meetings, and overwhelmingly ranked Historic Preservation above all other roadway elements.

 

A COSTLY BOONDOGGLE

 

While the accompanying “report” lacks any budget, this alignment is sure to go tens of millions of dollars over budget, as analyzed in the Design Team’s own Acquisition Costs document of September 2014. (attached) Cost overruns will be borne by City of Tucson taxpayers, to the detriment of other community priorities, such fixing potholes on existing streets.(see Acquisition Costs document attached)

 

BIKE & PEDESTRIAN HOSTILE

 

This alignment will worsen the pedestrian and bicycle environment, which is already extremely poor, by creating needlessly wide lanes down which motorists will speed, while removing homes and businesses from the edges. See http://www.citylab.com/design/2014/10/why-12-foot-traffic-lanes-are-disastrous-for-safety-and-must-be-replaced-now/381117/

 

UNNECESSARY

 

Adding lanes to Broadway is unnecessary, as traffic projected in 1987 has never materialized, and the latest figures show it has been falling for at least 10 years, consistent with national trends. (see Traffic Counts attached)

 

NO MEDIANS

 

This alignment breaches Tucson’s Major Streets & Routes Plan, which states, (p.20): “Landscaped medians shall be provided on routes of more than four through lanes, EXCEPT WHERE THE ROUTE PASSES TRHOUGH OR ADJACENT TO A HISTORIC AREA AND THE WIDTH OF THE ROADWAY WOULD INTRUDE ON THE CHARACTER OF HISTORIC STRUCTURES.” Medians will worsen congestion by forcing motorists to double back, and they induce rear-end collisions because queued cars tail back into travel lanes.

 

BAD FOR CENTRAL TUCSON

 

Stripping the commercial buffer from the arterial, this alignment will undermine owner-occupancy, destabilizing adjacent historic neighborhoods. Destroying four continuous blocks of Contributing Properties, this alignment will severely damage Rincon Heights Historic District.

 

RISKS TRANSIT FUNDING

 

Demolishing National Register and Register-eligible properties can jeopardize Federal matching funds for improved transit, the ostensible “reason” for widening the street.  See section 110k of the National Historic Preservation Act, reproduced below.

 

The Design Team needs to be sent back to the drawing board–or, preferably, replaced by a more competent team–to produce an alignment that will be a genuine improvement for our City. Broadway Coalition has produced an alternative alignment with an 86′ footprint that would be a place to start.

 

As a community, we must decide whether to continue with a 20th-century development model that has brought our planet to the brink of destruction, or to become part of the solution. An up-to-date approach to Broadway would fit into the latter.

 

With all due respect,

 

Laura Tabili

Tucson

 

Section 110 (k) National Historic Preservation Act

 

[16 U.S.C. 470h-2(k) — Anticipatory demolition]

 

(k) Each Federal agency shall ensure that the agency will not grant a loan, loan guarantee, permit, license, or other assistance to an applicant who, with intent to avoid the requirements of section 106 of this Act, has intentionally significantly adversely affected a historic property to which the grant would relate, or having legal power to prevent it, allowed such significant adverse effect to occur, unless the agency, after consultation with the Council, determines that circumstances justify granting such assistance despite the adverse effect created or permitted by the applicant.

Response to assertions made about energy’s costs, systems

Response to assertions made about energy’s costs, systems

By Carmine Tilghman

Special to the Arizona Daily Star, January 29, 2015

 

Evidence of Tucson Electric Power’s commitment to renewable energy isn’t hard to find.

Visit the Solar Zone at the University of Arizona Tech Park, where solar projects built from competing technologies cover 165 acres and produce a combined 23 megawatts of energy for TEP. Drive northwest to Avra Valley, where two giant solar arrays produce a combined 60 MW for TEP. Or head south to Green Valley, where a new 35-MW solar array serving TEP customers came online in December.

 

You could also simply visit your local government office, since TEP provides both the city of Tucson and Pima County with energy from local solar arrays through our Bright Tucson Community Solar Program.

 

These and other resources provide TEP with nearly 330 MW of total renewable generating capacity, enough to meet the annual electric needs of more than 71,000 homes. We’re also unveiling a pair of innovative projects this year that represent new ways to partner with our customers to achieve our community’s renewable energy objectives.

 

Next month, we’ll unveil the largest solar power system based on a U.S. military installation, a nearly 18-MW array at Fort Huachuca. Later this year, we’ll install solar arrays on up to 600 local homes through the new TEP residential solar program.

 

Like all of our solar power projects, these two new efforts are designed to expand our resources without imposing undue costs on our customers.

 

While we all look forward to the day when all of our power can come from the sun, TEP must ensure that electric service remains affordable, reliable and safe as we transition to newer, more sustainable resources.

 

We must also abide by economic realities and proven facts, including the higher cost and lower reliability of solar power.

 

Such concerns do not burden everyone who takes an interest in energy issues. Last week, a Terry Finefrock (“Economic development: Start with a Tucson microgrid,” Jan. 23) offered a series of misleading assertions about energy costs and issues.

 

I’d like to provide some clarity on a few key points.

 

* The energy costs and related assertions were inaccurate, in part because the author cited the projected cost of new facilities rather than actual costs. TEP’s existing coal resources produced power at about 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour in 2014 — not 12.5 cents, as the author claimed.

* Cost comparisons of renewable and conventional resources must account for the fact that renewables operate intermittently, requiring the ongoing support of other utility resources. When those additional costs are considered — as they must be — renewable power is shown to be far more expensive than other resources.

* Energy-storage systems are not yet capable or cost-effective enough to provide an alternative to the constant support and backup capabilities of a utility’s local electric grid.

 

In urging local governments to develop their own solar power and energy storage resources, the author seeks to subject taxpayers to steep capital expenses as well as significantly higher energy costs.

 

Because private solar power systems often reduce customers’ bills below the cost TEP incurs to serve them, these unpaid costs must be recovered through higher rates borne largely by customers without solar power systems.

 

If local governments sought to secure all of their power through third-party renewable resources, as Finefrock suggests, they would remain dependent on TEP’s local grid while shifting the cost of paying for it to other local residents — the very people whose interests they seek to serve.

 

No responsible public servant would advocate such a position, and neither would we.

 

I’m proud of TEP’s efforts to provide affordable solar energy solutions for our community.

 

We will continue to work with local leaders under the oversight of the Arizona Corporation Commission to provide innovative, cost-effective programs that serve our customers’ evolving energy needs.

 

Carmine Tilghman is senior director of wholesale, fuels and renewable energy for Tucson Electric Power. Contact him at ctilghman@tep.com

 

 

 

An Energy Partnership / Climate Solution for Tucson?

 


OOOOOOOOOO

(Note Special LOCATION, DATE, & TIME)
February 18th     
6:30pm to 8:30pm
University of Arizona, Center for English as a Second Language (CESL), Room 103

OOOOOOOOOO

OOOOOOOOO

Do you know that the production of electricity in Tucson accounts for over 60% of Tucson’s climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions?

Imagine the City of Tucson joined in a “clean energy partnership” with Tucson Electric Power and Southwest Gas, sharing a goal to reduce greenhouse gases in our region 80% by 2050 and “do our part” to stem the worst effects of global warming. Imagine the local jobs created in the solar industry, energy storage and clean mobility, energy efficiency, building retrofits and appro-priate design.

Imagine the partnership is made up of high-level representatives of TEP and SWG as well as from the Mayor’s office and City Council – with the Board be made up of decision-makers from their respective organizations.

Just such a partnership has already begun in Minnesota between the City of Minneapolis, Xcel Energy (their electricity provider) and CenterPoint Energy (their natural gas supplier).

Sustainable Tucson and other Co-sponsors are bringing John Farrell, policy director at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and one of the participants in this first-in-the-nation partnership, to tell the story about how this came to be and what the future holds for Minneapolis.

Join us the evening of Feb.18th to learn about this important turn in City/Utility relationships and to show support for climate solutions here in Tucson.  In preparation, watch John make the economic case for solar energy in Tucson:

http://ilsr.org/utilities-solar-expensive/

Help bring John to Tucson.

Contributions to Sustainable Tucson are tax deductible and can be made through our fiscal sponsor, NEST Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit, and by using the Donate Now button on the left of this page.

If you are more of a time volunteer, we are looking for partners to table at outreach events like the Peace Fair, and participate in our annual Envision Tucson Sustainable festival. For helpful opportunities to create a more Sustainable Tucson contact: Paula Schlusberg at paulasch@mindspring.com

Doors open at 6:30. Program starts at 7:00.

Co-sponsors to date:

Local First Arizona

Tucson Pima Metropolitan Energy Commission

City of Tucson Ward 3 Councilmember Karin Uhlich

Southern Arizona Green Chamber of Commerce

University of Arizona Office of Sustainability

University of Arizona Students for Sustainability

Sierra Club

Mrs. Green’s World

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Progressive Democrats of America

Center for Biological Diversity

Southern Arizona Green for All

Citizens Climate Lobby – Tucson Chapter

 

Click on the link below and print the following image as a flyer. PLEASE distribute this link and flyer widely:

http://www.sustainabletucson.org/2015/02/february-18th-st-meeting-flyer/

OOOOOO

For parking, see the  UA parking map at this link: https://parking.arizona.edu/pdf/maps/campus.pdf


 

Economic development: Start with a Tucson metropolitan microgrid

Economic development: Start with a Tucson metropolitan microgrid

By Terry Finefrock Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

January 23, 2015

There is great potential that electricity costs could be reduced, increases avoided, system reliability improved and recurring economic benefits provided by establishing utility-scale photovoltaic solar electric facilities within and adjacent to the Tucson distribution grid.

By using rapidly developing energy storage equipment on feeder circuits we can manage fluctuations in demand or supply, essentially creating a metropolitan microgrid.

Why is this move to multiple solar facilities dispersed around the area so important?

The cost of electricity has a great impact on our economy and all residents, businesses, ratepayers and taxpayers, especially those with little or no discretionary income. Energy, like water, is not a discretionary expenditure.

Conventional fossil-fueled generation of electricity via coal or natural gas simply costs more than solar electric generation technology. Here are just two examples why: “Freight” costs for transmission infrastructure account for about 10 percent of an electric bill; another 3 percent pays for the energy lost during transmission requiring incremental generation costs and surcharges.

Additionally, there are environmental costs. Coal combustion emits carbon and natural gas mining emits methane. Both emissions trap heat in the atmosphere, result in higher average temperatures, greater energy consumption and costs, and less local precipitation.

Methane is cleaner than coal but traps 26 times more heat than coal/carbon.

Generation of electricity via steam and turbines loses to evaporation billions of gallons of potable water each year.

That water, so precious now, will be even more so in the future. As David Modeer, general manager of the Central Arizona Project, has stated, the cost to develop alternative water sources is 10 to 50 times more than the cost of current sources. Not only will future water bills rise, but so will the cost of food crops.

I believe we should not continue to incur the operational expenses of obsolete technology such as coal-fired plants or attempt to upgrade and prolong their life for a short period of time.

Instead, I’m advocating that ratepayer revenues should be invested in new technology that avoids these expenses.

By accelerating the reduction and displacement of conventional generation with solar and energy storage, we minimize those costs and allow continued harvesting of prior investments until those assets are fully depreciated.

According to the Arizona Corporation Commission, Tucson Electric Power’s 2014 cost to generate electricity via pulverized coal is 12.5 cents/kWh; the least costly generation technology is 8.8 cent/kwh; rapid-response generation, used to balance supply and demand, ranges from 26 to 29 cents/kWh.

Local utility-scale solar photovoltaic facilities can be established at less than 5 cents/kWh, and incur no fuel, emissions, water or transmission-related costs. Pima County recently contracted solar facilities at a much smaller scale for 5.7 cents/kWh.

Considering conservatively projected annual increases in utility costs, satisfying their electricity requirements via self-generation could reduce the county’s operational costs by $663 million over 30 years. Since the city of Tucson uses about twice as much energy as the county, the combined savings would total about $2 billion over that time period. (That would fill a lot of potholes or pension funds).

Federal energy-program funding for a metro microgrid could be acquired; local governments could provide zero-cost leases of public land in exchange for fixed energy prices.

In addition to electricity cost reductions, the demand for the equipment would help our economic development organizations to entice higher-wage manufacturers and solar-system providers to locate here and supply the Western U.S. and Mexico who are implementing a renewable energy mandate. The resulting population growth would increase property values, local and export trade and the various tax revenues required for community improvements.

If you believe a private-public partnership to implement some form of these concepts has merit, contact your Tucson City Council (government.tucsonaz.gov/city-government) and Pima County Board of Supervisors (webcms.pima.gov/government/board_of_supervisors), and ask that they establish a project team to work with TEP, the Arizona Corporation Commission, Residential Utility Consumer Office, and our Arizona congresspersons to make this happen.

Terry Finefrock, a Tucson resident since 1956 and a graduate of the University of Arizona and the Eller Graduate School of Management, is a former high-technology manufacturing operations and supply chain director. He has provided testimony and comment to the Arizona Corporation Commission. Contact him at tlfinefrock@comcast.net

 

The Yes Men Are Revolting – Sunday Jan 4 at the Loft

at The Loft Cinema, 3233 East Speedway Boulevard, Tucson AZ 85716

Start the New Year Right: Gear Up to Fight Climate Change!

The Yes Men Are Revolting

On Sunday, January 4 at 1:00 p.m., Sustainable Tucson will partner with the Loft for a special preview screening of The Yes Men Are Revolting, with the duo of pranksters tackling the urgent issue of climate change. Join us for a comic and thought-provoking film, followed by Q&A with Yes Man and co-director Andy Bichlbaum. Stop by the Sustainable Tucson table before the film and learn more about what’s happening in Tucson to fight climate change and promote a sustainable future, including details about our next General Meeting. Physicians for Social Responsibility will also partner for this event.

Click here for information about the film: http://loftcinema.com/film/the-yes-men-are-revolting/

Continue reading below for more perspectives on climate change and climate action.

Best Wishes from Sustainable Tucson!

Three Articles to Start Off the New Year:

Best New Year’s wishes! Happy Holiday reading from ST!

While Sustainable Tucson will continue to focus on the economy, local production, and democratization of resource decisions, climate and energy issues will continue to dominate the global sustainability movement as well.

We have three excellent articles for everyone to consider, thanks to the efforts of the Post Carbon Institute’s “Resilience.Org” website.

The first is an interview with Naomi Klein, author of the new game-changing book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus The Climate.” She exposes the inherent collision course of our extractive, growth-based economy with catastrophic climate change and shows how a bottom-up transformation could avert disaster.
Read at:
http://www.sustainabletucson.org/2014/12/climate-the-crisis-and-the-movement/

“What Climate Change Asks of Us” by Margaret Klein explores the human moral imperative to respond to this unprecedented danger with public expression and mobilization.
Read at:
http://www.sustainabletucson.org/2014/12/what-climate-change-asks-of-us-moral-obligation-mobilization-and-crisis-communication/

The third article by Richard Heinberg, ” The Oil Price Crash of 2014″ helps us understand what is happening in the global energy markets and geopolitics. While over-supply and low-cost oil from Saudia Arabia and the Middle East is squeezing out investment in U.S. high-cost tight (fracked) oil  and making renewable energy less competitive, the production costs of building clean energy systems may be declining.
Read at:
http://www.sustainabletucson.org/2014/12/the-oil-price-crash-of-2014/

 

Climate: The Crisis and the Movement

Climate: The Crisis and the Movement

by Naomi Klein & Allen White

Wherein lie the roots of the climate crisis? Allen White, Senior Fellow at the Tellus Institute, talks with writer and activist Naomi Klein, author of the new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, about how our economic system has driven us to the point of crisis and how we can build a movement to confront the root causes of contemporary planetary perils.

A major theme of your new book is that resistance to the economic transformation required to confront climate change is the paramount challenge facing both the planet and the activist community. Why is that?

According to the analysis of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, between now and 2050, we need to leave at least two-thirds of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground in order to keep global warming below the widely accepted threshold of two degrees Celsius. If this occurs, owners of these reserves will have to sacrifice trillions of dollars in profits. The fossil fuel companies and their investors, who are counting on these profits, have a huge vested interest in blocking meaningful climate action and, as we have seen so far, the power to do so.

The attraction of profit in the short-term overwhelms longer-term considerations, even for the most “enlightened” of businesspeople. Look at Michael Bloomberg for example. He is often seen as among the most enlightened billionaires on climate change. He introduced climate policies when he was mayor of New York City, he has talked openly about the risks to business associated with climate change, and he backed the Risky Business report that outlined the huge economic impacts of inaction on climate change. But then, as an individual investor, Bloomberg invests substantial money in fossil fuels. Indeed, the investment firm created to manage his wealth specializes in oil and gas.

Is this dynamic unique to the issue of climate change?

We can see this economic roadblock in past social movements as well. In the struggles for women’s liberation, for lesbian and gay liberation, and for racial equality, the biggest wins were on the legal, electoral, and cultural fronts: improved representation in culture and the media, equal rights to vote, and equality under the law. Each of these movements also had a dimension focused on economic transformation, but what you see is a pattern of winning on the legal side, on the electoral side, and on the cultural side, but losing on the economic side because it presents the biggest threat to the status quo.

This pattern goes back to reparations for slavery—the great broken promise of abolition. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said many years later, the civil rights won so far were the rights that came cheaply. It is cheaper to desegregate a lunch counter than it is to bring good schools and good jobs to impoverished neighborhoods. We can see this dynamic in the women’s movement as well. The battles for wages for housework and for counting domestic work as part of the economy are the ones we tend to lose. In the United States, even maternity leave is a struggle. What these all have in common is a diminished bottom line for the economically powerful.

This pattern became clear to me when I traveled to South Africa while writing The Shock Doctrine. One chapter in the book explores the economic losses in the aftermath of the end of apartheid. I saw this as an example of the shock doctrine—the shock of liberation—because it created a major disruption for people’s lives and marked a moment for a small group of South Africans to consolidate wealth. The economic side of the liberation project, which was to nationalize the mines and banks in order to have the resources to invest massively in improving conditions in the townships, was essentially abandoned by the African National Congress once it took power. It is a tragic story because economic inequality is deeper in the post-apartheid era than it was before, despite the enormous gains in democracy and equality under the law.

In discussing these economic roadblocks in your book, you identify neoliberal economics and an extractivist mindset as the root causes of the crisis. How do you define these?

If we are talking about root causes, I would certainly point to extractivism, a violent relationship to the planet based on dominance. It is a mentality that says we can take and keep taking without limit and never give back, one that inevitably obstructs natural cycles of renewal.

The spread of this mindset goes back to the era of European imperialism, with its sacrifice zones of resource extraction that fed the powerful centers of commerce. And it was taken to a completely new, hegemonic level with the rise of coal and the Industrial Revolution. Our drive to mine and drill and now to frack, creating ever more sacrifice zones and disposable communities along the way, certainly goes much deeper and farther back than the neoliberal form of capitalism we have now.

I wouldn’t say that free-market ideology is a root cause of the crisis, but it has played an absolutely crucial role in bringing us to the edge of the climate cliff. With global warming, we have seen an epic and tragic case of bad timing: the moment when the crisis was dropped in our laps was precisely the moment when the neoliberal project had declared victory, that there was no alternative to its program of deregulation, privatization, and slashing the public sector. Politics was now exclusively about unleashing the power of unfettered markets and unrestricted private wealth, and the very notion of collective action to further the public good had fallen completely out of favor. It is the single biggest reason we have seen such little progress on climate, because the obvious solutions—cracking down on corporations, planning our economies—are seen as impossible by the political class.

We frequently hear terms like “sustainable capitalism, “green capitalism,” “breakthrough capitalism,” and “Gaia capitalism.” Are these worthy alternatives to capitalism as we know it or decorations on a fundamentally flawed system?

People put forward these dreams periodically, and some can make sense on paper. But, once again, the entrenched interests and hyper-profitability of the current system block any possibility of the necessary economic transformation. Whenever I encounter these concepts, I always wonder how their proponents plan to get from our current system to these supposedly enlightened systems with their “triple bottom line,” their correct price signals, and their valuing of nature. What is the theory of change? We have been hearing about ways to transform capitalism from the inside for a long time, yet the ecological degradation and economic inequality produced by capitalism have only gotten more brutal.

I can certainly imagine an economic system in which markets are not at war with life on Earth. But whether that should rightly be called capitalism is another question entirely. Many people seem to be deeply invested in preserving the capitalism brand. We are stuck in this dichotomy that if it’s not capitalism, then it must be state socialism. But it could be something else entirely: a system that starts with the fundamental imperative to protect and renew life on earth, whether that is the right of all people to have enough for a good life or the right of natural systems to regenerate and not be depleted out of existence.

At the UN Climate Summit in September, I spent a day in the Private Sector Forum. The UN was very proud of the record number of CEOs present at the meeting. These business leaders waxed on and on about how they were going to be the ones to solve the climate crisis. They blamed governments for not doing anything, fully impervious to the fact that have been part of a successful counter-revolution—some of them spearheading it—to render our governments as weak as they are. The dissonance was astounding.

In my breakout session, our question was “What is the one thing governments can do to fight climate change, and what is the one thing that corporations can do?” I raised the question of whether or not governments could regulate corporations to require environmentally sustainable behavior. And the response was “Well, that’s not possible anymore. We’ve tried regulation, and it doesn’t work.” I also suggested that it was important to reduce the power of corporate money in politics. If the problem is that governments are weak, here is a way to help them get stronger. That, too, was dismissed as entirely out of hand.

You argue that we need bottom-up change. What would such a dispersed, distributed movement look like, and how likely is it to emerge?

The challenge we face is how to organize out of the rubble of neoliberalism. How do we organize without the institutional supports that our predecessors had? Many of us don’t have jobs to unionize. We have contracts, we are hyper mobile, and we are very hard to organize. The paradox of new technology is that we are easier to find than ever before but much harder to organize in a sustained way.

We see flash movements again and again, ones that burn brightly and quickly burn out. I have been a part of some of these, including the so-called anti-globalization movement and, in a more peripheral way, the Occupy movement. And I think we all understand now that sustaining a movement without a fixed address is a big challenge.

The NGO model—hopping from campaign to campaign and focusing on providing “deliverables” for funders—has also been a corrosive factor to building sustained movements. In the United States, on the right, you have funders who take ideas seriously and very consciously funded an ideological counter-revolution. Liberal donors like George Soros and the Rockefellers are often treated as the antithesis of right-wing donors like the Koch brothers. However, these donors and their foundations tend to be allergic to funding big ideas and structural change, let alone anything that consciously identifies as the left, in favor of time-limited, issue-specific campaigns. There are exceptions, but few and far between. So we have campaigns and issue-based groups, punctuated by brief periods of inter-movement convergence.

If the current model of movement-building is broken, what is needed to replace it?

Coalitions needed to build a broad-based social movement are not going to be funded in the way that the left in the United States is currently funded. Historically, there have been important relationships between trade unions and social movements, a relationship we need to revive. That means overcoming the tired dichotomy that pits jobs against the environment and, instead, bringing whole communities together to map what a real justice-based climate transition would look like—and then fighting for it. Such efforts need to go beyond mere lip service for green jobs and really hash out a vision and program for the next economy. Will public transit be free? How many jobs will it create? Where will the money come from?

We also need to revitalize membership-based organizations and create new ones, and we need to democratize our movements so that there is a system of accountability in place. Right now, after the People’s Climate March in New York, there is nothing to prevent a slick green NGO from attempting to harness all that power in the streets, meeting behind closed doors with politicians, and saying, “Well, what this movement wants is fee and dividend.” Is it? Did anyone ask? The march was about more than just climate action—it was about climate justice. One of the most noteworthy aspects of the march was its racial and economic diversity. And a lot of what was driving that was the hope of climate action representing a real investment in some deeply neglected communities and the possibility of jobs and infrastructure. If you give all the money back from a carbon tax, you no longer have any left to invest in these neglected frontline communities.

You are particularly critical of the large environmental organizations. Why?

Not all of them, and I also work with many of them. I am on the board of 350.org. I have addressed the staff of Greenpeace International. Amazing Sierra Club staff members are featured in our upcoming documentary film. I have huge respect for Friends of the Earth and Food and Water Watch. But I do point out that the environmental movement is not a social movement like the civil rights movement and the labor movement, which relied on large numbers to offset their shortcomings in political and economic power. The roots of conservationism in the US are very elite; one of the primary catalysts was the desire among the affluent to protect wilderness spaces for recreational purposes. This is still reflected in the approach some of the richest green groups take to coalition-building: their first coalition targets are usually big business—so-called “partners”—and even the military.

It is important to understand that these elite coalitions can and do come at the expense of other coalitions, ones that are not sought. The climate movement’s most natural allies—the people who have the most to lose from inaction because they are on the front lines of fossil fuel extraction and combustion—are too often never invited, or invited in ways that are perfunctory or seem disingenuous. There is a long and bitter history between the environmental justice movement and some of these big green groups, and these battles are being fought again and again. Real progress is being made in parts of the movement, which we saw during September’s People’s Climate March. But we also have to recognize that parts of the environmental movement do not stand in opposition to the status quo; on the contrary they are deeply invested within it. That means there are real limits to the scale of change they will support, even when science demands it.

What is needed to shift advocacy from specific issues and mainstream strategies to acting and thinking more systemically and structurally?

We will not win any of this unless we engage in a deep battle of worldviews. Progressives have lost so much ground over the past forty years. Particularly within the climate movement, so much effort has gone into positioning climate action as unthreatening and compatible with the free market worldview.

That is why I think it cannot be just a call for climate action—it has to be a call for climate justice. We need to be clear about the values and principles that underpin our demands. We need a polluter-pays framework so that those most responsible bear the cost. At the same time, those who have been most victimized by our current toxic economy have to be first in line to benefit from the next economy. That is not only just, but also strategic—since the people with the most to gain will fight hardest.

We need to work on elevating those parts of ourselves that value quality-of-life rather than economic enrichment. Green groups, unfortunately and perhaps unknowingly, reinforce the neoliberal view that we are first and foremost consumers by focusing their efforts on telling people what to buy and where to shop. We need to emphasize the parts of ourselves that love nature, our families, and our communities, and we need to rediscover our identities as active community members and engaged workers, not just consumers.

Are your critiques and solutions equally applicable to the Global North and Global South?

We have a collective global climate crisis and will need a collective global response. What brought me to this issue was having the concept of climate debt explained to me by Bolivia’s trade negotiator. If we are to take climate change seriously, we would have to tackle North-South inequality, including transfers of technology and wealth to heal the festering wounds of political and economic colonialism.

Anybody who has been to a UN climate conference knows that this is the issue over which the talks repeatedly break down. The Global North has been emitting carbon for over two hundred years more, and the impacts are being felt overwhelmingly in the Global South. Absent acceptance of this reality, stalemate will continue.

Latin America offers a glimpse of a path forward. The discourse around anti-extractivism and the rights of nature emerged from indigenous-inspired movements in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Brazil. Pitched battles are ongoing between traditional development-oriented leftist governments and massive social movements disillusioned with decades of neoliberal policies.

On the other side of the Pacific, China’s relentless drive for economic growth, spurred by trade globalization and low-cost labor, has taken a devastating environmental toll on both cities and the countryside. Here, we are afraid to talk about growth because it is seen as untouchable. Everybody is pro-growth. But in Beijing, people are choking on growth. The government is now reducing growth projections and committing to cap its coal use as the environmental costs of unbridled economic expansion become increasingly evident and severe.

We have to build stronger alliances globally so that we can strengthen those forces that have another vision, a non-extractivist vision, of the good society. We need to see the response to climate change as not just an issue, but as a frame that permeates the struggle for all forms of social justice.

Your new book cites the “Great Transition” scenario as a plausible and desirable alternative future that would address the ills of free market capitalism. What is the role of such a vision in mobilizing change?

I cite the Great Transition research in the context of a discussion of capitalism’s growth imperative and the fact that the only breaks from the mindless growth juggernaut have been economic crises. Avoiding those extremes requires that we very carefully plan the economy, something I have started calling a “deliberate economy.” People need to know that moving away from our obsession with GDP growth does not have to mean deprivation and suffering; on the contrary, the “managed degrowth” model means putting our well-being, health, and leisure time back at the center of our economic lives and aspirations. The idea of a Great Transition, along with much other inspiring work coming out of the New Economy movement, expresses that optimism beautifully.

More broadly, there is a desperate need for the different coalitions of the left to get far more engaged with climate change, because this crisis really forces us to decide what kind of societies we want and puts us on a firm, science-based deadline. And that makes it a unique and powerful opportunity.

The world’s social movements need to work together under a common banner to fight climate change. And we certainly need smart frameworks for thinking and talking about the diverse set of solutions that we know can tackle the crisis—from invoking the polluter-pays principle to divert fossil fuel profits into the green transition, to building decentralized, community-owned solar and wind systems, to reining in financial speculation—and making sense of the world that they are already helping us build. Again, I don’t think it is going to be capitalism. But this also isn’t about devising and imposing some kind of one-size-fits-all economic system on the globe, so the emphasis on the creative power of the “transition” itself is especially important.

 

Source URL: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-12-19/climate-the-crisis-and-the-movement

 

Resilience is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities. Content on this site is subject to our fair use notice. Original article: http://greattransition.org/publication/climate-the-crisis-and-the-movement . Published by The Great Transition on 12-19-14.


What climate change asks of us

 

What climate change asks of us: moral obligation, mobilization and crisis communication

by Margaret Klein

“Humans contain a great capacity to help each other, to dutifully respond to the needs of others, and to improve the world around us… When it is clear there is an emergency, and we have a vital role in responding to it, we respond vigorously. The time for all of us to act, together, is now”  theclimatepsychologist.com

Climate change is a crisis, and crises alter morality. Climate change is on track to cause the extinction of half the species on earth and, through a combination of droughts, famines, displaced people, and failed states and pandemics, the collapse of civilization within this century. If this horrific destructive force is to be abated, it will be due to the efforts of people who are currently alive. The future of humanity falls to us. This is an unprecedented moral responsibility, and we are by and large failing to meet it.

Indeed, most of us act as though we are not morally obligated to fight climate change, and those who do recognize their obligation are largely confused about how to meet it.

Crises alter morality; they alter what is demanded of us if we want to be considered good, honorable people. For example—having a picnic in the park is morally neutral. But if, during your picnic, you witness a group of children drowning and you continue eating and chatting, passively ignoring the crisis, you have become monstrous. A stark, historical example of crisis morality is the Holocaust—history judges those who remained passive during that fateful time. Simply being a private citizen (a “Good German”) is not considered honorable or morally acceptable in retrospect. Passivity, in a time of crisis, is complicity. It is a moral failure. Crises demand that we actively engage; that we rise to the challenge; that we do our best.

What is the nature of our moral obligation to fight climate change?

Our first moral obligation is to assess how we can most effectively help. While climate change is more frequently being recognized as a moral issue—the question, “How can a person most effectively engage in fighting climate change?” is rarely seriously considered or discussed.  In times of crises, we can easily become overwhelmed with fear and act impetuously to discharge those feelings to “do something.” We may default to popular or well-known activism tactics, such as writing letters to our congress people or protesting fossil-fuel infrastructure projects without rigorously assessing if this is the best use of our time and talents.

“Our civilization, planet, and each of us individually are in an acute crisis, but we are so mired in individual and collective denial and distortion that we fail to see it clearly.”

The question of “how can I best help” is particularly difficult for people to contemplate because climate change requires collective emergency action, and we live in a very individualistic culture.  It can be difficult for an individual to imagine themselves as helping to create a social and political movement; helping the group make a shift in perspective and action. Instead of viewing themselves as possibly influencing the group, many people focus entirely on themselves, attempting to reduce their personal carbon footprint. This offers a sense of control and moral achievement, but it is illusory; it does not contribute (at least not with maximal efficacy) to creating the collective response necessary.

We need to mobilize, together.  Climate change is a crisis, and it requires a crisis response. A wide variety of scientists, scholars, and activists agree: the only response that can save civilization is an all-out, whole-society mobilization.[i] World War II provides an example of how the United States accomplished this in the past. We converted our industry from consumer-based to mission-based in a matter of months; oriented national and university research toward the mission, and mobilized the American citizenry toward the war effort in a wide variety of ways. Major demographic shifts were made to facilitate the mission, which was regarded as America’s sine qua non; for example, 10% of Americans moved to work in a “war job,” women worked in factories for the first time, and racial integration took steps forward. Likewise, we must give the climate effort everything we have, for if we lose, we may lose everything.

Where we are.  While the need for a whole society and economy mobilization to fight climate change is broadly understood by experts, we are not close to achieving it as a society. Climate change ranks at the bottom of issues that citizens are concerned about.[ii]  The climate crisis is rarely discussed in social or professional situations. This climate silence is mirrored in the media and political realm: for example, climate change wasn’t even mentioned in the 2012 presidential debates. When climate change is discussed, it is either discussed as a “controversy” or a “problem” rather than the existential emergency that it actually is. Our civilization, planet, and each of us individually are in an acute crisis, but we are so mired in individual and collective denial and distortion that we fail to see it clearly. The house is on fire, but we are still asleep, and our opportunity for being able to save ourselves is quickly going up in smoke.

Understanding the gap: The role of pluralistic ignorance. How can this be? How are we missing the crisis that will determine the future of our civilization and species? Dr. Robert Calidini, social psychologist and author of Influence, describes the phenomena of “pluralistic ignorance,” which offers tremendous insight into this question—and into how we can beat the trance of denial and passivity.

In the following passage, Dr. Calidini is not discussing climate change, but rather, the phenomena of emergencies (heart attacks, physical assaults, etc.) that are sometimes witnessed—and ignored— by dozens of people, especially in urban settings. These tragic instances are often ascribed to “apathy”—the hardening of city dwellers’ hearts toward each other. But scientific research shows something very different. Research shows that if one person witnesses an emergency, they will help in nearly 100% of instances. It is only in crowds—and in situations of uncertainty—that we have the capacity, even the tendency, to ignore an emergency.

Very often an emergency is not obviously an emergency.  Is the man lying in the alley a heart-attack victim or a drunk sleeping one off? Are the sharp sounds from the street gunshots or truck backfires? Is the commotion next door an assault requiring the police or an especially loud marital spat where intervention would be inappropriate and unwelcome? What is going on?

In times of such uncertainty, the natural tendency is to look around at the actions of others for clues. We can learn, from the way the other witnesses are reacting, whether the event is or is not an emergency. What is easy to forget, though, is that everybody else observing the event is likely to be looking for social evidence, too.

And because we all prefer to appear poised and unflustered among others, we are likely to search for that evidence placidly, with brief, camouflaged glances at those around us. Therefore everyone is likely to see everyone else looking unruffled and failing to act. As a result, and by the principle of social proof, the event will be roundly interpreted as a nonemergency.

This, according to [social psychology researchers] Latané and Darley, is the state of pluralistic ignorance “in which each person decides that since nobody is concerned, nothing is wrong. Meanwhile, the danger may be mounting to the point where a single individual, uninfluenced by the seeming calm of others, would react.”

These paragraphs vividly illustrate how denial of the climate crisis is cocreated through the effect of pluralistic ignorance. We look around us and see people living their lives as normal. Our friends, coworkers, and family members are all going about their days as they always have. They are planning for the future. They are calm. They are not discussing climate change. So surely there is no emergency. Surely civilization is not in danger. Calm down, we tell ourselves, I must be the only one who is afraid.

This situation creates an intense amount of social pressure to act calm and not appear hysterical or “crazy.” We all want to fit in, to be well liked and to be considered “normal.” As of today, that means remaining silent on the effects of climate change, or responding with minimization, cynicism, or humor. It is taboo to discuss it as the crisis it is, a crisis that threatens all of us, and that we each have a moral obligation to respond to.

Of course, this pluralistic ignorance of the climate emergency is reinforced and bolstered through misinformation campaigns funded by fossil-fuel companies and the hostility of the few. “Better not bring up the climate crisis,” we tell ourselves, “It’s a controversial topic. Someone might really lose their temper.” However, the responsibility for pluralistic ignorance is widely shared. The vast majority of us—including those of us who believe in climate science and are terrified by climate change—are still, unwittingly, contributing to pluralistic ignorance.

How can we meet our moral obligation, and effectively fight climate change?

Certainty dispels pluralistic ignorance.  Fortunately, the research on pluralistic ignorance and crisis response provides excellent guidance for how to overcome this trance of collective denial. The research shows that humans are actually strongly motivated to act in a crisis—as long as they are sure that there is a crisis and that they have a role in solving it. As Dr. Calidini describes,

Groups of bystanders fail to help because the bystanders are unsure rather thanunkind. They don’t help because they are unsure of whether an emergency actually exists and whether they are responsible for taking action. When they are sure of their responsibilities for intervening in a clear emergency, people are exceedingly responsive!

Dr. Calidini provides a vivid example of how to apply this knowledge to a personal emergency—if you begin experiencing the symptoms of a stroke in a public place. As you start to feel ill, you slump against a tree, but no one approaches you to help. If people are worried about you, they look around, see everyone else acting calm, and decide that there is no emergency and no need to intervene. People are taking cues from each other to deny and ignore your crisis. How can you call forth the emergency intervention you need?

Stare, speak, and point directly at one person and no one else: “You, sir, in the blue jacket, I need help. Call an ambulance.” With that one utterance you should dispel all the uncertainties that might prevent or delay help. With that one statement you will have put the man in the blue jacket in the role of “rescuer.” He should now understand that emergency aid is needed; he should understand that he, not someone else, is responsible for providing the aid; and, finally, he should understand exactly how to provide it. All the scientific evidence indicates that the result should be quick, effective assistance.

Humans contain a great capacity to help each other, to dutifully respond to the needs of others, and to improve the world around us. We also have a need to feel good about ourselves, and that includes fulfilling our moral obligations. When it is clear there is an emergency, and we have a vital role in responding to it, we respond vigorously.

Climate change is a crisis, and it is your responsibility. Effectively intervening in pluralistic ignorance should be considered the primary goal of the climate movement. Climate change is a crisis that demands a massive collective response. This truth will become crystal clear if we overcome the forces of denial and pluralistic ignorance.

To call forth an emergency response from people, we have to put them in the role of rescuer.  We must make clear that (1) an emergency is unfolding and (2) YOU have a critical role in responding to it.

Breaking from standard climate communications.

The environmental movement has not yet made either of these points clear. Indeed, the dominant school of thought in climate communications that says we must underplay the severity of the climate crisis to avoid “turning people off,” and we must emphasize individual reduction of emissions in order to provide people a sense of efficacy.[iii]

“Our moral obligation to fight climate change is tobuild a collective solution, notto purify ourselves as individual consumers.”

Avoiding or finessing the frightening truths of climate change is not only ethically dubious, it is also bound for failure. If we want people to respond appropriately to the climate crisis, we have to level with them, and if we want to claim the moral high ground, we cannot distort the truth just because it’s easier.

A major reason that climate communications have been so milquetoast is that they have lacked a large-scale social movement and political strategy that individuals can be a meaningful part of. Instead, individuals have been addressed as “consumers” who should strive to minimize their individual carbon footprint or environmental impact. This approach is nonsocial and nonpolitical and casts individuals as perpetrators who should attempt to reduce the amount of harm they are causing, rather than rescuers who can make a meaningful contribution to a collective solution.

This point deserves emphasis, as it is so often misunderstood in our intensely individualistic culture. Our moral obligation to fight climate change is to build a collective solutionnot to purify ourselves as individual consumers. This common response to the climate crisis can even be counterproductive in several ways: (1) it keeps the burden of responding to climate change on the individual, implicitly rejecting the idea of a collective response; (2) it perpetuates the message that there is no crisis by demanding only slight modifications to “business as usual”; and  (3) it is often perceived as “holier than thou,” which can create the perception of barriers to entry to the movement. For example, a person might be deeply concerned about the climate crisis but feel they lack “standing” to voice their feelings because they eat meat or fly to Europe.

We must create an atmosphere in which active engagement in the climate crisis is considered a fundamental part of living a moral life. To accomplish this, we have to give people opportunities to be a meaningful part of the solution; we have to give them the opportunity to be rescuers.

The Pledge to Mobilize: A tool that creates rescuers.

I have worked for the past 18 months with The Climate Mobilizationa growing network of teammates, allies, and consultants to develop a tool intended to help individuals intervene in collective denial and pluralistic ignorance and call forth the all-out emergency response needed to protect civilization and the natural world.

The Pledge to Mobilize is a one-page document that any person can sign. The Pledge is several things at once— it is a public acknowledgment that the climate crisis threatens civilization, an endorsement of a World War II–scale mobilization that brings the United States to carbon neutrality by 2025 (by far the most ambitious emissions reduction goal proposed), and a set of personal commitments to help enact this mobilization. When someone signs, they pledge to (1) vote for candidates who have publicly endorsed the Climate Mobilization platform over those who have not; (2) only donate time and money to candidates who have endorsed the mobilization platform, and (3) mobilize their “skills, resources, and networks to spread the truth of climate change, and the hope of this movement, to others.”

The Pledge provides a bridge between individual and collective action—the actions that Pledgers agree to are all social and political in nature: things that one person can do to influence the group. Most important is personal commitment: #3— to spread the truth of climate change, and the Pledge itself. This is a strategy to reverse pluralistic ignorance and social pressure, which is supported by psychological research.[iv]  People who take the Pledge start conversations with their friends and family about the climate crisis that include realistic solutions. This means that talking about climate change doesn’t mean just bearing bad news—but also showing the way forward—helping to channel the panic and despair that climate truth can evoke.

Since we started spreading the Pledge to Mobilize two-and-a-half months ago, we have seen many positive indicators of the Pledge’s ability to fight pluralistic ignorance and put individuals in the role of rescuers. Many (though not all) people who take the Pledge to Mobilize have continued to deepen their involvement from there, speaking more about climate change, reaching out to friends, family, and even strangers to discuss the topic. Mobilizers have educated themselves more deeply about climate change, fundraised for The Climate Mobilization, and taken on a variety of organizing and administrative tasks. Some have even gone as far as to rearrange or reduce their work schedules to have more time available to contribute. These are individuals who have left the fog of pluralistic ignorance, accepted the certainty that there is a crisis and that they have a moral obligation to act as a rescuer. Now they are attempting to spread that certainty to others. [v]

Conclusion: Don’t wait for Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, the United States experienced a sudden, collective exit from pluralistic ignorance. Before Pearl Harbor, the country was mired in the denial of isolationism. “The war doesn’t concern us,” we told ourselves. “Lets stay out of it.” With one devastating surprise attack, that pluralistic ignorance transformed into a culture of mobilization, in which every citizen had a role to play in supporting the war effort—every American became a rescuer—a critical part of a shared mission.

Many scientists and scholars who recognize the need for a World War II–scale climate mobilization believe that some catastrophic event—a super-storm, a drought, or an economic collapse, will similarly jolt us out of our collective climate denial.  There is reason to doubt this, however, given how much more complicated climate change is than a surprise attack. Further, we have a moral obligation to achieve this collective awakening as soon as possible.

Talking about the climate crisis candidly and our moral obligation to stand against it— whether using the Pledge to Mobilize, or not—helps prepare people to see the crisis. Conversations that seem unsuccessful may alter how the person processes climate-related disasters in the future, or make them more likely to seek out or absorb information about the crisis.

Give it a try. Talk with five people about the climate crisis this week. Talk about how afraid you are, and how you feel it is a moral obligation to spread the fact that we are in a crisis. Consider taking the Pledge to Mobilize—it will provide you with a tool to help you intervene in pluralistic ignorance, as well as a community of individuals who are committed to this approach.  It takes courage to face climate change honestly, and discussing it with other people puts you at risk of rejection and hostility. But morality demands we do what is right, not what is easy. We must rise to the challenge of our time, together.

 

[i] Selected advocates of a WWII scale climate mobilization: Lester Brown, 2004David Spratt and Phillip Sutton, 2008; James Hansen, 2008Mark Deluchi and Mark Jacobsen, 2008Paul Gilding, 2011Joeseph Romm, 2012Michael Hoexter, 2013; Mark Bittman, 2014.

[ii] Rifkin, 2014. “Climate Change Not a Top Worry in US.” Gallup Politics.

[iii] For example, “Connecting on Climate” created by Columbia University and EcoAmerica which is widely considered an authoritative applied synthesis of the psychological work on climate. This 30-page document does not contain the words “crisis,” “emergency” or “collapse.” It encourages communicators to emphasize the benefits of solutions, rather than the severity of the problem. It also emphasizes behavior changes that individuals can make in their own homes and lives, rather than explicitly political solutions.

[iv] As psychologists Roser-Renouf, Maibach, Leiserowitz & Zhao (2014) put it “Building opinion leadership on the issue – e.g., by encouraging those who are concerned about the issue to discuss it with their friends and family, and eventually with other more socially distal people – may be one of the most effective methods of building public engagement and political activism.”

[v] For a fuller description of The Climate Mobilization’s strategy, read our strategy document,Rising to the Challenge of Our Time, Together.

Source URL: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-12-21/what-climate-change-asks-of-us-moral-obligation-mobilization-and-crisis-communication

Resilience is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities. Content on this site is subject to our fair use notice.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Original article: http://theclimatepsychologist.com/?p=784  Published by The Climate Psychologist 12-21-14.


The Oil Price Crash of 2014

 

The Oil Price Crash of 2014 

by Richard Heinberg

Oil prices have fallen by half since late June. This is a significant development for the oil industry and for the global economy, though no one knows exactly how either the industry or the economy will respond in the long run. Since it’s almost the end of the year, perhaps this is a good time to stop and ask: (1) Why is this happening? (2) Who wins and who loses over the short term?, and (3) What will be the impacts on oil production in 2015?

Read more The Oil Price Crash of 2014

Special AUGUST 18th Meeting — Thomas Greco Presents: HOW CAN TUCSON THRIVE?

 

Monday, August 18, 2014, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Lower Level Meeting Room, 101 N. Stone

(free lower level parking off Alameda St.)

HOW CAN TUCSON THRIVE IN THE FACE OF ONGOING ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL MALAISE?

WHAT AILS OUR TUCSON ECONOMY?

HOW CAN TUCSON THRIVE IN THE FACE OF ONGOING ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL MALAISE?

WHAT CAN LOCAL BUSINESSES DO TO HELP THEMSELVES?

These are a few of the questions that will be addressed by Thomas H. Greco, Jr., renowned economist, author, and lecturer in his presentation:

BUILDNG HEALTHY COMMUNITIES IN THE NEW ECONOMY!

“As the national and global institutions break down, it is becoming increasingly important to re-localize our economic activity and work to make our communities more self-reliant and resilient.”

Mr. Greco’s presentation will highlight the crucial importance of creating local liquidity based on local production. He asserts that “Banks no longer do much to provide essential credit to local small and medium-sized businesses, and when they do, the terms are onerous, requiring collateral, burdensome repayment schedules, and high rates of interest.” He will describe the processes by which the credit of local producers can be mobilized to provide them with the means of payment that are abundant, reliable, locally controlled, and at a fraction of today’s costs.

Learn how communities around the world have started to monetize the value of local production and creativity to “pump the blood of commerce to all parts of the economic body.”

Tom will help us explore the opportunities and issues involved in creating our own exchange media and complementary currencies; discussing for example: “What would it look like, how would it be created, earned, managed and recycled, what are the relevant metrics, how will it be funded, and how do all of the pieces fit together?

WHEN: Monday, August 18, 6pm-8pm (Doors open at 5:30)

WHERE: Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Lower Level Meeting Room, 101 N. Stone Ave., Tucson

Tom’s Websites: www.beyondmoney.net; www.reinventingmoney.com

Inquiries: Norman Soifer. 326-6792. norman@re-energizers.com

 

 

ST July Mtg — Tucson CAN Have Abundant Urban Food Production

Tucson CAN Have Abundant Urban Food Production

Monday, July 14, 5:30-8:00 pm

Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Lower Level Meeting Room, 101 N. Stone

(free lower level parking off Alameda St.)

Urban agriculture is becoming much more common — in many forms, not just backyard gardens. Voters of Tucson recently adopted a General Plan that endorses urban food production, and City of Tucson is developing a Sustainability Land Use Code that supports urban agriculture, while still maintaining appropriate nuisance and noise regulations. We need urban food production (including distribution/sale) to flourish, legally, in Tucson  — as it has in so many urban areas around the country and around the world.

 

Many things will need to happen to bring this about, but at least one important thing is for City regulations to allow it to happen. For example, under current codes, up to 24 chickens are allowed almost anywhere — as long as your lot is over 100’ in all directions (very rare within the city). Over the past few years, much work has been done to develop appropriate regulations, with numerous opportunities for public input. But now, because of misunderstandings, the whole process may get dropped, leaving the city with its current, restrictive and/or confusing regulations.

 

Tucson needs pro-food-production regulations and a vision of a community with an abundant, flourishing local food system. The July Sustainable Tucson meeting will provide an opportunity to join the discussion of that vision and what is needed to make it happen.

 

The program will begin with short videos showing some ideas of what has succeeded in other cities — and could be possible here. Then, Merrill Eisenberg, retired professor, UA College of Public Health, will provide a brief overview that summarizes work to this point and contrasts current and proposed regulations. We will then discuss how to get appropriate regulations passed and how to promote a community vision for creating a secure and sustainable local food supply for Tucson.

 

Come to Sustainable Tucson’s July 14th meeting and be part of the discussion.

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

Tucson Talks Transit – with Jarrett Walker – July 11

at Tucson Electric Power Company, 88 East Broadway, Downtown Tucson AZ (two blocks south of Ronstadt Transit Center)

Tucson Talks Transit – with Jarrett Walker

Friday, July 11, 2014
5:00 p.m. Sign-in and Reception
6:00 p.m. FREE Public Presentation

Jarrett Walker, the preeminent transit planner and transit thinker, will visit Tucson for a town hall the evening of Friday, July 11.

Jarrett Walker is renowned as a public transportation planner and consultant, leader of major transit planning projects around the world, and facilitator of community dialogue. He is author of the book Human Transit: How clearer thinking about public transit can enrich our communities and our lives and the blog HumanTransit.org

For more info contact Suzanne, 520-289-4088, chelcdavid(at)gmail.com

also download the print flyer – Jarrett Walker 2014-07-11 Tucson Flyer (english & espanol)

 


 

Tucson Habla Sobre El Transporte – con Jarrett Walker

Viernes 11 de Julio del 2014
5:00 p.m. Registración y Recepción
6:00 p.m. Presentación Pública GRATUITA

Está invitado al diálogo con Jarrett Walker, planeador, pensador y escritor del tránsito, el viernes 11 de Julio.

Jarrett Walker se reconoce mundialmente como consultante y diseñador de transporte público, líder de grandes proyectos de planeación, y facilitador de diálogo comunitario. Es autor del libro Human Transit: How clearer thinking about public transit can enrich our communities and our lives y el blog HumanTransit.org

Tucson Electric Power Company
88 East Broadway en el Centro de la ciudad de Tucson
(a dos cuadras al sur del Centro de Tránsito Ronstadt)

Si tiene preguntas contacte a Suzanne, 520-289-4088, chelcdavid(at)gmail.com

also download the print flyer – Jarrett Walker 2014-07-11 Tucson Flyer (english & espanol)

What climate activists should learn from the Monterey Shale downgrade

What climate activists should learn from the Monterey Shale downgrade

by Kurt Cobb

Published by Resource Insights on 2014-06-01

Original article: http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2014/06/what-climate-activists-should-learn.html

 

There is an important hidden lesson for climate activists in the vast downgrade of recoverable oil resources now thought to be available from California’s Monterey Shale. Almost all climate activists have rejected any talk that the world’s oil, natural gas and even coal supplies are nearing plateaus and possibly peaks in their production. That’s because they fear that such talk will make the public and policymakers believe that climate change will be less of a problem as a result or no problem at all.

 

Any yet, for obvious reasons climate activists rejoiced when the Monterey downgrade was announced. But this only served to highlight the fact that climate activists have lost control of the public narrative on energy and can only steal it back by including constraints on fossil fuel supply as part of their story.

 

In fact, climate activists have been content to accept fossil fuel industry claims–the two parties agree on little else–that we have vast resources of economically recoverable fossil fuels, the rate of production of which will continue to grow for decades–unless, of course, climate activists stop this trend. This stance makes for an heroic narrative, but misses what is actually happening in the minds of the public and policymakers, minds which must be won over in order to address climate change effectively.

 

Let me explain.

 

The hype surrounding the now vastly downgraded treasure trove of oil once thought to be recoverable from California’s Monterey Shale acted as a siren song on a state long devoted to energy innovation and a gradual transition away from fossil fuels. After all, California is the only state that has a climate change policy that will force businesses, localities and households to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions drastically and thus reduce their fossil fuel use drastically.

 

Sirens, mythological beings who are part woman and part bird, are said to send sailors to their demise through irresistible singing that lures them to crash on rocks they would normally attempt to avoid. It turns out that the thought of large amounts of readily available hydrocarbons under California has had a similar effect on the state’s sustainability-minded population.

 

Of course, large deposits of readily available oil would have spelled large amounts of money, both as income to individual Californians and as tax revenues to various California governments. And, such oil deposits would have also spelled large contributions to California politicians in whose hands the fate of drilling and production regulations lie.

 

But the siren song of oil in California ended abruptly when the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced that, based on new information, the Monterey Shale actually contained 96 percent less recoverable oil than previously thought. Climate and anti-fracking activists were overjoyed. This vast resource in all likelihood will not be heavily exploited, and most of the oil in it left unburned. (Yes, the oil is still down there. The EIA just doesn’t think anyone will be able to recover it profitably using known technology.)

 

Since the 2008 spike in oil prices, the oil industry had been looking for a way to convince the public and policymakers not to abandon fossil fuels in favor of renewable, sustainable alternatives. When the so-called “revolution” in hydraulic fracking provided a temporary bump in U.S. oil and natural gas production, the industry found its message. With rising production America would now become a new oil and gas superpower, ending its fossil fuel imports and even exporting some of its largesse to the rest of the world. (This claim is proving to be a wild exaggeration, but that doesn’t keep it from being effective.)

 

The other purpose of this narrative–which has been heavily touted in the media–is to change the conversation from climate change to rising fossil fuel supplies and the benefits that such supplies will bestow on America and ultimately the world.

 

So far, the oil industry’s strategy has worked famously. The media and the public are abuzz with the message of renewed American strength and prosperity resulting from fracked oil and natural gas. Yes, there are stories about the environmental and health hazards of this process. But, the vast majority of Americans remain far away from and therefore unaffected by these hazards.

 

As long as the news is about the success of fracking and even about its hazards, the public will fixate on the question of how to obtain the country’s supposed newfound abundance safely rather than on the unfolding horror of climate change.

 

But, there are, in fact, two justifiable reasons for us to move away from burning fossil fuels: climate change and supply constraints. We need to transition to other energy sources because fossil fuels are accelerating climate change AND because we simply do not know when these fuels will decline in their production rates. Current evidence suggests that the risks of such a decline are mounting.

 

Unless climate activists embrace this dual message, they will be ceding the argument to the fossil fuel industry. With its huge financial resources the industry will continue largely unopposed to spout the abundance narrative which experience now tells us trumps discussion of climate change.

 

Read for yourself any glowing account of America’s new oil and gas abundance and you will ALMOST NEVER see any mention of climate change.

 

But, the Monterey Shale downgrade is not an isolated incident. It’s part of a pattern of downgrades that are making expectations about the trajectory of oil and natural gas production in the United States more realistic.

 

Moreover, world prices for oil when measured using the average daily price have hovered at or near record levels for the past three years despite the shale boom in America. Worldwide oil supplies have barely grown since 2005, even as China, India and the rest of Asia have increased their demand. (That demand has been in large part accommodated by declines in U.S. and European oil use resulting from sluggish economies and changes in driving habits due to declining incomes.)

 

U.S. natural gas production has been stagnant since the beginning of 2012 even as prices have more than doubled. The shale gas miracle is gradually unravelling and we may even be headed for a natural gas supply crisis in the United States.

 

The evidence is compelling that the risks to fossil fuel supplies are rising and that the world’s and the nation’s reliance on them is a dangerous dependency. That combined with the national security implications suggests that the United States (which remains a huge importer of oil) and all other energy importing nations are far better off moving toward energy supplies that are entirely homegrown and can be relied upon indefinitely.

 

This is a forceful argument when combined with concerns about climate change. And it is a necessary addition to the arsenal of climate change activists if they expect to refocus America and the world on the imperative of addressing climate change effectively.

The great imaginary California oil boom: Over before it started

The great imaginary California oil boom: Over before it started

by Kurt Cobb, originally published by Resource Insights  | May 25, 2014

 

It turns out that the oil industry has been pulling our collective leg.

 

The pending 96 percent reduction in estimated deep shale oil resources in California revealed last week in the Los Angeles Times calls into question the oil industry’s premise of a decades-long revival in U.S. oil production and the already implausible predictions of American energy independence. The reduction also appears to bolster the view of long-time skeptics that the U.S. shale oil boom–now centered in North Dakota and Texas–will likely be short-lived, petering out by the end of this decade. (I’ve been expressing my skepticism in writing about resource claims made for both shale gas and oil since 2008.)

 

California has been abuzz for the past couple of years about the prospect of vast new oil wealth supposedly ready for the taking in the Monterey Shale thousands of feet below the state. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) had previously estimated that 15.4 billion barrels were technically recoverable, basing the number on a report from a contractor who relied heavily on oil industry presentations rather than independent data.

 

The California economy was supposed to benefit from 2.8 million new jobs by 2020. The state was also supposed to gain $220 billion in additional income and $24 billion in additional tax revenues in that year alone, according to a study from the University of Southern California that relied heavily on industry funding.

 

But that was before the revelation by the Times that the EIA will reduce its estimate of technically recoverable oil in California’s Monterey Shale by 96 percent–almost a complete wipeout–after taking a close look at actual data for wells drilled there already. The agency now believes that only about 600 million barrels are recoverable using existing technology. The 600 million barrels still sound like a lot, but those barrels would last the United States all of 40 days at the current rate of consumption.

 

Americans had been counting on the seemingly oil-rich Monterey Shale for more than 60 percent of a supposed newfound bounty of domestic oil locked up in deep shale deposits. But it turns out that the Monterey is rich with oil in the same way that seawater is rich in dissolved gold. In both cases the resource is there, but no one can figure out how get it out at a profit. The EIA previously estimated that resources of so-called tight oil, the proper name for oil from deep shale deposits, could reach 23.9 billion barrels for the United States as a whole. Overnight that number shrank to 9.1 billion.

 

The firm hired to do the original estimates, INTEK Inc., was saying as recently as December that it planned to raise its estimate for the Monterey to 17 billion barrels, presumably based on representations made to it by the industry.

 

The firm assumed, apparently without any justification, that the Monterey Shale would be just as productive as other shale deposits such as the Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas.

 

But the geology of the Monterey is riddled with folds and far more complex than other U.S. shale deposits, something that wouldn’t have been too hard to find out from existing geological studies and well logs.

 

We cannot be sure whether those who wrote the wildly overoptimistic INTEK report were eager to encourage drilling and investment in the Monterey, something the oil industry certainly favored. But the colossal miss suggests the possibility that INTEK and its analysts have grown too close to the industry and are serving it rather than the EIA which commissioned the report.

 

It’s no surprise that those who work in the oil industry are perennially optimistic. This high-risk business isn’t for the timid. And that optimism is necessary if the industry is going to raise the capital it needs from investors. But it should be obvious that relying on the oil industry for objective information that will form the basis for public policy is a mistake. Independent sources and objective data are important cross-checks on the industry’s understandable but often misleading enthusiasm.

 

The other explanation for the Monterey miss is that the analysts at INTEK are simply colossally inept. Note that INTEK was also responsible for the overall U.S. assessment of 23.9 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil lodged in deep shale formations. The California miss alone reduced estimated U.S. resources to 9.1 billion barrels, a cut which by itself calls into question the entire premise of renewed American oil abundance. But, the gargantuan misreading of the Monterey Shale’s resources also suggests that the firm’s estimates for other areas of the country need review as well.

 

A February 2013 comprehensive report on U.S. tight oil and natural gas from deep shales released by the Post Carbon Institute presaged the Monterey disappointment by pointing out how little oil had been extracted per well using advanced techniques in the Monterey Shale. A follow-on report issued in December focused exclusively on the Monterey and concluded that the INTEK/EIA estimate was vastly overblown. Not surprisingly, neither of these independent reports received any oil industry funding.

 

It is well to remember that the above numbers are all just estimates, and that they are for so-called technically recoverable resources. The estimates tell us little about how much oil from the Monterey or elsewhere might actually be economically recoverable, that is, profitably extracted. For that reason, the oil that is ultimately extracted from the Monterey and other deep shale deposits will likely be less than any estimate of technically recoverable resources. That means that even the 600 million barrel estimate for the Monterey may turn out to be too optimistic.

 

The industry counters that improved technology could change what seems unobtainable now into accessible oil. But, it cites no specific developments that are not already in use and therefore reflected in current estimates of what we can hope to extract. And the idea that we should base our public policy on innovations that no one has thought of yet seems more than a little unwise.

 

Moreover, while technology can improve, the laws of physics don’t. The industry is already moving from the so-called “sweet spots” in shale deposits to those that are more difficult to exploit. That process will continue until the laws of physics and economics team up to make drilling unprofitable, and that will be the end of the shale boom in the rest of the country.

 

________________________________________________________

 

P.S. In a previous piece I asked, “Will anyone who is currently predicting U.S. energy independence be punished if the story turns out to be wrong?” My answer was probably not. Now, we will find out if that turns out to be the case. My guess is that the oil industry will redouble its efforts to convince the public and policymakers to continue to believe something which cannot be supported by the evidence.

 

P.P.S. Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle the following in response to the Monterey Shale revision: “People forget that the boom taking place in Texas and particularly North Dakota did not happen overnight. There were decades of operators trying to understand the technology and the geology.” He seems unable to recognize that in the decades that it may take to figure out how to unlock the Monterey Shale, California and the world will be working hard to create an advanced energy infrastructure that will make the Monterey irrelevant. Technology isn’t standing still in renewable energy either.

Request to RTA Board — April 25, 2013

Request to RTA Board

April 25, 2013

Honorable RTA Board:     Thank you for my reappointment to the CART as an original member. I continue to be honored to serve the RTA and larger regional community in this role.

Having closely followed the Broadway Blvd Project at public meetings and interviews, I want the following comments to be considered by the RTA. These comments reflect my sense of responsibility regarding the role of the CART to oversee the fiduciary mission of the RTA and reflect significant changes in the larger community.

The 2006 RTA Plan is essentially a plan to increase the regional capacity for safe modes of mobility. While economic and political constraints did limit acceptable RTA projects to correcting deficiencies in the existing system, PAG and regional jurisdictions in 2006 were anticipating high future growth,  more than 50% increase in population near the end of the Plan period. One RTA campaign piece warned voters that a 550% increase in vehicular congestion would result if the Plan did not pass.

Needless to say, these and many of the original assumptions did not play out and most probably will never play out, in particular driving behavior due to high vehicle fuel costs indefinitely. Indeed, we have observed significant changes in travel mode preferences as well as population growth rates. Walking, biking, car sharing, and bus ridership have all increased much more than proportionally and population movement to urban centers has been significant.

Interpretation of the voter will as expressed in the 2006 election results therefore should come down to implementation of “equivalent functionality.” This means that what we plan and build for the Broadway Corridor Project, as well as any RTA project for that matter, should reflect the ballot plan in terms of  equivalent “trips” summed over all modes rather than simply car lane capacity.

Currently, the RTA is overly concerned with the notion of funding roadway lanes and roadway cross-sections instead of multi-modal corridors and multi-modal alignments. The RTA Grant Road Improvement Project did include parallel bicycle boulevards and recently did find funding for their construction. In the case of Grant Road, PAG’s own published data shows vehicular traffic counts on the segments of Grant Road included in the 2006 Plan declined 20% between 2004 and 2010. Yet the RTA Project is increasing roadway lane capacity at least 40%.

An overwhelming and growing group of Broadway Blvd stakeholders question the significant roadway lane expansion and associated removal of structures given all of the assumption changes since 2006. While Broadway’s role as Tucson’s most important multi-modal corridor and high capacity transit designation continues to be strongly supported, the somewhat rigid position taken by the RTA is not. The ringing cry at the Broadway Blvd Taskforce public forum a month ago was: “This is Tucson’s last chance to get it right.”

I truly believe that it would be madness to ignore the preferred vision the community is saying it wants and continue to plan and build and spend scarce resources for a future that will most probably never exist. If that becomes the case, Tucson will suffer irreversibly.

The bottomline is this. We live in a very different world than seven years ago. We have a voter-approved mobility plan and funding source that no one wants to scrap and redo. We don’t need to bring in the lawyers. We as a region have immense obstacles to overcome in order to attract the young skilled workforce that will attract better paying jobs going forward. Smart, sustainable development which is urban, multimodal and mixed land-use is what the new generations prefer. Our region has already begun to move in this direction. The RTA needs to loosen up and join with the active parts of our community including the Broadway Taskforce and Coalition to find every possible way to make this happen.

Thank you for your consideration.

Bob Cook,  RTA Citizens Accountability for Regional Transportation Committee

Request to RTA Board — April 7, 2011

 

A Request and Proposal to the RTA Board

by  Bob Cook,      April 7, 2011

 

Honorable Board members, I come before you as a planner, engaged citizen, and veteran of many local planning efforts. I was an active participant in the RTA planning process and because of the generous treatment for transit expansion, the streetcar project, and making our communities more walkable and bikable, I enthusiastically supported the final plan. I wrote three affirmative ballot arguments and personally paid for two. I am currently an original member of the RTA CART committee.

 

I am here today to repeat a request I made two years ago that the RTA establish a transparent, contingency planning taskforce with citizen members. While most people now agree that some of the original 2006 planning assumptions have not been borne out and may no longer apply, there is still strong adherence to the notion that the fundamental basis of the 20-year plan is valid and should remain intact as the “will of the people” even though the world is dramatically different now, just five years later.

 

During the past year, different aspects of the RTA Plan have been the subject of discussion by the public in various media. I want to draw attention to the letter Rick Myers, original Citizens Committee Co-chair, wrote to the Board on March 18, 2011.

 

First, he states that none of us could have anticipated the current economic climate. I take exception to this. Some of us, myself included, argued passionately that the region’s two greatest risks going forward is our transportation system’s vulnerability to peaking oil production and our region’s lack of competitiveness with respect to other regions which have aggressively implemented smarter development patterns. Some of us saw our current predicament coming.

 

At the time, the response by the citizen’s committee ranged from quietly ignoring these arguments to ridiculing them. Meanwhile, governments and military organizations increasingly have been studying the implications of petroleum constraints going forward. The March 25, 2011 issue of Science, the most respected U.S. science journal, reports that scientists and analysts not under contract to the oil industry now believe that non-OPEC oil production may have already peaked and thus there may be no let up in prices going forward. The only reprieve in nominal prices will be due to demand destruction similar to what we saw in the Fall of 2008.

 

Mr. Myers ends his letter by expressing strong support and strict commitment to implementing the original plan over the next 15 years. Increasingly however, more of us are betting that housing and population growth in this region will not return to pre-2006 levels in the next five years and given the growing risks in the financial markets, probably not in the next ten years.

 

Thus , it very well may be folly to rigidly adhere to a plan when so many of the underlying assumptions remain questionable, including costs and revenues, population growth rates, the ability of jurisdictions to fund budget shortfalls, high VMT (vehicle-miles-traveled) projections, and low preferences for alternate modes. It is understandable that jurisdictions including the RTA strongly resist any tampering with the Plan given that this is the first dedicated regional transportation funding source to correct long-standing deficiencies.

 

Nonetheless, it is important and prudent to approach the future with eyes wide open. Most people want normalcy to return. But if it doesn’t, we need alternative strategies for critical public investments. The uncertainties we face entail exposure to mounting risks. I therefore request that the RTA establish an ongoing contingency planning taskforce to identify possible action plans based on emerging realities.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

Bob Cook

 

BROADWAY COALITION: Design Criteria for the Improvement of Broadway

BROADWAY COALITION:  Design Criteria for the Improvement of Broadway

Based on all the facts we have examined and studies available to us, from the RTA as well as from national studies [See our website: https://sites.google.com/site/broadwaycoalition], we have arrived at a set of criteria that should be applied to all alternatives proposed for the Broadway Boulevard Improvement Project, in order that the result be a more livable city.  We believe these criteria are in line with the Mayor and Council’s instructions to the Broadway Project Citizens’ Task Force:

 

1. Advance the notion of place (quite different from the notion of corridor), including

affording residents in the area a range of services and amenities, establish a unique

identity, etc.

2. Preserve the structures that exist along Broadway and provide safe, easy access to

them;

3. Enhance the business climate/viability;

4. Promote use of alternative modes of transportation and give particular attention to

pedestrian and bicycle activity and safety;

5. Be visually appealing;

6. Aid the movement of a people using a variety of forms of vehicular traffic;

7. Contribute to environmental sustainability, and

8. Be a fiscally sound, affordable approach.

 

 

Proposals that meet these criteria should be given positive ratings; those that do not should be rated negatively, the fewer they meet the more negative the rating.

 

RTA and County Should Heed Community’s Vision for Broadway Project

RTA and County Should Heed Community’s Vision for Broadway Project

 By Robert Cook , June 8, 2014

This is the June 8th Sunday Arizona Daily Star Guest Opinion without the Star’s edits. Note the Star’s edited headline is: “8-Lane Roadway No Longer Makes Sense.”

 

The two-year design phase of the Broadway Boulevard, Euclid to Country Club Project is reaching its final months. And not without controversy over funding and design elements. A successful outcome will require broad agreement between the Regional Transportation Authority, Pima County, Tucson Mayor and Council, and the many community stakeholders including residents, businesses, and visitors along Tucson’s historic Sunshine Mile and west to downtown.

 

The Broadway redesign is a bellweather project that will set a highly visible precedent for regional planning in the decades to come. The result of this process will signal to what degree local government is willing and able to scale infrastructure projects to actual needs and preferences. Importantly, the design outcome will be an indicator whether the region can flexibly adapt to significant changes in our economy, demographics, urban design standards, energy and resource costs, and serious Southwest climate change.

 

From the beginning, the City-appointed Citizens Task Force and the Broadway Coalition have questioned the wisdom of rigidly following the 2006 ballot language specifying a 150ft-wide, 8-lane roadway. This would require removal of more than 115 existing buildings in the right-of-way. Such acquisition and demolition would cost in excess of $42M, not counting the lost tax base these historic properties represent.

 

The 2006 RTA Plan was based on inflated traffic projections. The actual, lower traffic volumes have changed very little in the past two decades. The major question has been why expand car lane capacity when recent studies show that people are increasingly shifting to other modes of mobility. Should our limited public funds be invested in unnecessary infrastructure?

 

Community stakeholders support a maximum 100ft. width design that could accommodate a 5-lane option with significant pedestrian, bicycle and transit improvements which also anticipate future high capacity transit. The high capacity system would serve both local and suburban demand to the east and could be partially funded by the savings from eliminating 50 feet in right-of-way and construction costs and the tax revenues from increased destination business activity.

 

One only needs to look at the transformational investments along the Modern Street Car line including UMC, UA Maingate, West University, Downtown and the westside Mercado District to see that vibrant urban change and economic activity can happen without widening roadways.

 

Transit-oriented development not only preserves historic values but is currently the most successful type of development in Tucson. Visually beautiful places where people walk, bike, meet, and share life is what the new as well as older generations are demanding in urban settings where growth is occurring.

 

The research supporting the 100ft. width is robust. Rapid suburban population growth is no longer the key to future prosperity because of higher resource costs and climate impacts as well as the preference for urban living by the new “millennial” generation. Safety is also a big issue for roadway design. The U. S. currently spends nearly $900B per year due to automobile-related accidents.

 

The rising cost of oil itself looms large as a design factor. This impacts both road fuels and asphalt prices. The truth is that we built our economy on $20/barrel oil and we are now in the era of $100+ oil. Per capita driving behavior since World War II shows continuous increase until 2005 when it began its current slide downward.

 

It is time for the RTA, County, and City to actually address the realities of the emerging 21st Century and let go of 2006 assumptions and the wishful thinking that everything will return to the world of 10 years ago.

 

What’s needed now is a significant change of heart to match the serious choices ahead.

 

Robert Cook, a 50-year resident of Pima County, is a two-term member of the RTA Citizens’ Accountability for Regional Transportation Committee, Past-chair of the Tucson-Pima County Metropolitan Energy Commission, and current member of the Pima County Planning & Zoning Commission. Robert co-founded Sustainable Tucson in 2006 with many other committed neighbors.  Email him at unispan@dakotacom.net.

 

The public is invited to the final Broadway Boulevard Planning Forum on Thursday, June 12th: 5:00 – 8:00pm,  Sabbar Shrine Hall, 450 S. Tucson Blvd

ST June Meeting – BUILDING RESILIENT NEIGHBORHOODS: Eco-villages and Social Cohesion

BUILDING RESILIENT NEIGHBORHOODS:

Eco-villages and Social Cohesion

Monday, June 9, 2014, 5:30 – 8:00 pm

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

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

With climate change increasing the likelihood of heat waves, flooding and other emergencies that may overwhelm first responders, and when “sheltering in place” becomes the default response, will your neighborhood be a caring and sharing place? Do you have a neighborhood association or group projects?

What is the level of trust on your street? How meaningful are conversations with your neighbors? Do you recognize your neighbors? Are they trustworthy? Do they keep to themselves?

Whether at an Eco-village start-up in Avra Valley, or an Tucson urban neighborhood the challenges and opportunities are great.

Join Sustainable Tucson’s public meeting to explore the value of community cohesion. It may move you to organize where you live.

Speakers will include:

David Burley, organizer at Tortillita Eco-village, Avra Valley. This rural effort to create community can teach us much about starting from scratch including the fundamentals of sharing water and gardening.

Joanie Sawyer, teacher and community activist, past City of Tucson PRO neighborhoods facilitator, Sustainable Tucson core team founder.

Michael Ray, Limberlost Neighborhood Association, President; Inventor and owner of Nurse Tree Arch, LC3.

Both Joanie and Michael are members of the Vulnerable Communities and Neighborhoods Task Force, 2014 (an outcome of the 2013 Climate Smart Southwest national conference).

Come to Sustainable Tucson’s June 9th meeting to find out more.

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

Not Up the Creek…Yet/ ST in Tucson Weekly

http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/not-up-the-creekyet/Content?oid=4135802

 

Not Up the Creek…Yet

As Arizona faces potential water shortages, experts on divided on the solutions, though many remain optimistic.

by

Karl Flessa will tell you that it’s not that hard to collect seashells. All it takes is a bucket.

But the average beachcomber isn’t bringing the specimens back to a lab to study population densities, reconstruct the salinity levels of the ecosystem and figure out how long ago the creatures that inhabited the shells were alive.

Flessa, the founding director of the University of Arizona’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, has focused on the Colorado River delta since 1992. During his first trip there two decades ago, he found beaches made up almost entirely of mollusk shells—a result of the dry delta, which hadn’t seen water from the river in years.

“The puzzle was that we couldn’t find very many live individuals of the species that made those shells, and it was at that point we realized the environment had changed,” he said. “What we were looking at … was the remains of the former living community. That was a record of what the delta used to look like before upstream dams and diversions used up most of the water before it got to the gulf.”

Though Tucson sits some 200 miles from the Colorado River delta, Southern Arizona’s use of the river’s water contributes to the drying of the region, and many question how long Arizona communities can rely on the state’s share of it.

Recent reports from the Arizona Department of Water Resources predict a supply gap of roughly 1 million acre-feet by 2060—enough water for a million five-person families—thanks to population growth and climate change. But as the discussions about the water supply in Arizona continue, opinions vary among lawmakers, scientists and environmentalists on the next logical step.

Assessing the situation

In early April, 400 water experts from around the country packed a ballroom at the UA’s Student Union. The conference, hosted by the university’s Water Resources Research Center, served as a daylong think tank to address the supply gap that the state first announced in 2011. The gathering included representatives from water users’ associations, the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Native American tribes and the Central Arizona Project.

Although speakers tossed in the occasional water joke, the attendees were serious about coming up with solutions. In an adjacent room, dozens of posters displayed various data that included crop patterns, water’s effect on forest restoration and the anticipated water needs of Arizona’s tribes.

Nathan Bracken, assistant director and general counsel for the Western States Water Council, sat on a panel that discussed the problems of water overuse and the benefits of reuse. Though the Southwest remains at the forefront of a possible water shortage, he said the region’s problem is not unique.

“The Midwestern states that we represent have water-supply issues, too, but they have relatively more water, so it’s not as acute there,” Bracken said. “But even states like Kansas are looking very intently at this, and Oklahoma, too. Oklahoma is a very water-rich state compared to other Western states, but they have a goal now to make sure to use no more water in 2060 than they are now.”

Kathleen Ferris, executive director of the nonprofit Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, attended the conference to advocate for Arizona towns such as the municipalities surrounding Phoenix. Municipal water use accounts for 50 percent of water use across the state, and Ferris said that providing clean and safe water requires years of preparation.

Conservation techniques have become more widely adopted over the past 30 years, she said, noting that the city of Phoenix’s per-capita-per-day water use declined 32 percent between 1980 and 2010.

“We have done a remarkable job at reducing water use,” Ferris said, speaking of residents in the 10 municipalities that her association serves. “We’re using far less water than we used to use for the kind of population that we’re serving. And the same is true in Tucson.”

Tom Davis, who was representing the state’s agricultural community at the conference, said farmers are among the most cognizant of the state’s water supplies. Keeping the Colorado River flowing through Yuma, he said, is important to the region’s agricultural stability.

“The thing about Yuma is that we have senior rights; we’re the first diverters of the Arizona Colorado River water,” he said. “In fact, our right is that we can divert whatever we need, consumptive use-wise, to produce our crop. So our farmers are able to farm year-round and they’re able to farm a variety of crops.”

Weighing the options

In an interview in the weeks after the conference, Sharon Megdal, director of the UA’s Water Resources Research Center, said population growth is at the heart of the supply-gap issue. While noting that population projections can fluctuate, she didn’t downplay the significance of projected gap.

“A million acre-feet is a lot of water,” she said. “But is that the right number, or is that symbolic of the fact that if communities in the state wish to grow and develop in the ways they’re anticipating now, there’s going to be a need to figure out how to meet the water needs?”

While many avenues are being explored—including conservation, reuse and augmenting the existing supply—Megdal said that efforts to conserve water have been on the state’s radar for years. She pointed to the Groundwater Management Act, signed in 1980, which outlines conservation goals for groundwater users throughout the state.

But conservation is not enough, she said.

“Conservation, demand management, using less, is certainly within the legal purview of the state of Arizona,” she said. “What got said at the conference … is that conservation alone will not close the gap. Fifty years from now, whether there will be something really, really different about the way people bathe themselves or wash their clothes, I can’t tell you, but I certainly believe there’s more room for conservation.”

Much of the current focus is on augmentation of water supplies, mostly through desalination, which comes in two forms: the separation of minerals from brackish groundwater already stored in Arizona aquifers and the removal of salt from ocean water, which would require a plant somewhere along Mexico’s Gulf of California.

A desalination plant in Mexico would require a trade agreement with that country, said Mitch Basefsky, the Central Arizona Project’s spokesman for Pima and Pinal counties. Theoretically, Basefsky said, CAP would pay for the operation of the plant, Mexico would use the water that it produces, and that same amount of Colorado River water that currently goes to Mexico would remain in Nevada’s Lake Mead to be used in Arizona.

But desalination also comes with its own problems. Because it is an energy-intensive method, the cost of water would grow exponentially. The cost of desalinating an acre-foot of water, Basefsky said, runs from $1,000 to $1,200. The CAP, he noted, currently sells the same amount of water to Tucson for around $160.

The technology is “getting better, but it’s still very expensive,” Basefsky said. “There are a lot of studies that have to be done in terms of environmental issues that come with desalination, the energy issues that come with desalination, how you dispose of the waste product.”

Still, desalination remains at the center of many water discussions, even at the state capital. Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin recently sponsored a bill, later vetoed, that would have allocated $30 million to augmentation efforts.

But desalination alone isn’t enough, Tobin acknowledged.

“The cost of desal is huge, but any money we can put towards giving Arizona more options when it comes to water management is a step in the right direction,” Tobin said in an email. “But desal is only one part of a long-range solution. The state has to look at all options to protect, increase and conserve our water supply.”

When discussing water supply augmentation in general, the focus usually returns to proper planning. Without asking the right questions first, Megdal said, moving forward will be difficult.

“Some of these solutions do require a significant amount of advanced planning; they’ll require significant investments of dollars,” she said. “Obviously these decision can’t be made without public input, and them being acceptable to a majority of the public. There’s a lot of work to be done and I think there’s going to be a spectrum of time frames over which these solutions will be developed.”

The road less traveled

The patio leading into Tres English’s office just south of East Broadway Boulevard is home to a 4-by-16-foot aquaponics bed. A homemade contraption of mostly wood, metal and PVC pipe, the bed is used for growing tomatoes with rainwater from last December that English has kept in two 450-gallon cisterns. The pipes carry the water through one filtration system and into a small pond underneath the bed, where the waste from 18 koi fish is then carried through another filter and onto the plants as a source of hydration and fertilizer.

One cistern is already empty. English won’t make it through the summer on the remaining rainwater, but he’s satisfied with coming this far without using a drop from the city.

A core member of Sustainable Tucson and director of the Tucson Feeding Program, English doesn’t mince his words when discussing Tucson’s water policy.

“All of our water is wasted,” English said. “One hundred percent of it.”

During his research to find ways of creating a renewable food supply in Tucson, English analyzed data on rainwater provided by the Pima Association of Governments and the Tucson Active Management Area. His findings include how much water goes into decorative landscaping efforts, how much is collected and used to recharge the area’s aquifers, and how much is lost to evaporation.

English concluded that of the roughly 235,000 acre-feet of water that Tucson receives in annual rainfall, 92,000 acre-feet are spent on landscaping, 4,000 acre-feet are collected and used to recharge area aquifers, and 139,000 acre-feet are left to evaporate.

The core of the issue, English said, is how policymakers determine how water is allocated.

“What we haven’t done, ever, is set priorities for water uses,” he said. “What we have is priorities for water users. So whatever agriculture uses water on, they’re allowed to do that; whatever the mines want to use it for, they’re allowed to do that. There’s some restrictions on water quality issues, the farms are required to be more efficient, but there are no priorities for water uses.”

English said that, in theory, Tucson gets enough harvestable rainfall to produce all of the area’s food. But choosing to prioritize water use for things such as food production, as opposed to landscaping, is the challenge, he said.

English said that determining water needs by estimating population growth is the wrong approach because lawmakers equate a growing population with a growing economy.

“Their perspective is that we will have an ever-growing population, an ever-growing water need and therefore we need an ever-growing water supply,” he said. “But what I say to everyone on the subject is that it’s not up to us to decide. We don’t control the factors that control how many people live here.”

English also denounced the idea of desalination as a viable method of augmentation, citing the lack of funding available and the international treaty issues that would come with a plant in Mexico. He said a move toward desalination would result in the state learning “the hard way” that pinning the economy’s success on population growth is a mistake.

English isn’t alone in his frustration at the lack of effort to expand rainwater harvesting. Sustainable Tucson Director Bob Cook said he is also displeased with the city’s approach, and that rainwater harvesting has been treated by the local media as a hobby for those interested in living sustainably.

A former chairman of the Tucson-Pima Metropolitan Energy Commission, Cook argues that lawmakers and researchers have fallen short in providing a serious comparison of rainwater harvesting with other water conservation measures.

Although the city of Tucson provides incentives of up to $2,000 for city-approved residential rainwater-harvesting systems, Cook said that adopting the method for the commercial and industrial sectors hasn’t been considered.

“We need an apples-to-apples comparison of all alternatives so we can make a rational choice,” he said.

Still, rainwater harvesting has caught the eye of some local water experts. Megdal points to her center’s Conserve to Enhance initiative, a program that partners with local businesses to encourage water conservation. The program currently includes local businesses such as the Epic Cafe and even national chains such as Panda Express.

Wider consideration of sustainable water practices, Cook said, likely won’t come until there are hard numbers available for the cost of desalination and other methods.

“I think, first, people are going to have to see what the price tag for these other things is going to be,” he said. “When the numbers come in, we really need to scrutinize those numbers. What are they including? What are they not including for both desalinization and the others?”

Moving forward

Though views on how Southern Arizona should approach a potential water shortage differ, most experts agree that something needs to be done. For some, that means more water sources; for others it means fewer swimming pools.

As far as English is concerned, conservation is only effective when combined with good policies.

With current conservation efforts, “You’re talking about shifting who uses water,” he said. “It’s not like if we conserve more, we’re going to use less. What’s going to happen at that point is the people who conserve more will give it up to other users, and we’ll end up using the same amount.”

For scientists such as Flessa of the UA’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, a multifaceted approach seems the most logical.

“When you really get down to it, I think everybody realizes that there’s not one single solution to this problem,” Flessa said. “It’s going to have to be a combination of solutions. No one thing is going to do the trick. There’s going to have to be some increase in water conservation; there’s going to have to be some increase of water recycling. Desalinization may be part of the picture, (along with) greater water efficiencies on farms as well as in homes.”

Megdal said that a proactive attitude toward eliminating the water-supply gap is popular among researchers. The struggle lately, she said, is that many everyday users aren’t making an effort to learn more about the problem.

What’s needed most at this point, Megdal said, is public involvement.

“I’d like people to get excited rather than alarmed, because I don’t think people should have a sense of impending doom,” she said. “What is really needed is for the general citizen, the public, to become engaged, to become interested in these water issues … because decisions will have to be made.”

April 20th: “Welcome the Third Economic Revolution”

Welcome the Third Economic Revolution

A talk on converting from a Consumer Killer Economy to a Sustainable Green Economy
by John ‘Skip’ Laitner, featured speaker at Sustainable Tucson’s December 2013 General Meeting.

Skip is a Resource and Energy Economist, International Economic Conversion Consultant, and Visiting Fellow to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Hear how he is advising the Government of Normandy, France in their conversion to an Energy-Efficient Economy NOW. They are not waiting until all of Greenland’s ice is in the sea.

SUNDAY, APRIL 20 from 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Milagro Cohousing Common House at 3057 N. Gaia Place in the Tucson Mountains
Refreshments, Q A, Tours of this eco-designed neighborhood following the talk.

Bring a Friend and learn how we can achieve prosperity by reducing energy consumption through conservation, efficiency and renewables and  reduce our climate changing greenhouse gas output!

More information from Holly at 520-743-1948

ST March Meeting: Preparedness for a World of Change

 

Sustainable Tucson’s March Meeting:
Preparedness for a World of Change

Monday, March 10, 2014,    5:30 – 8:00 pm

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

Join the Sustainable Tucson community and extended network to hear Nicole Foss, world-renown lecturer and co-creator of TheAutomaticEarth.Com speak from their DVD on Preparedness. Time will be taken to discuss this important subject which all of us are interested in.

Topics include Navigating an Epic Predicament, Psychology of Contraction, De-Globalization, Community and Society, Energy and Resources, Goods and Services, Nutrition and Health, Entertainment and Education, Be Prepared with Hard Goods, To Rent or Own, Community Building, Depression-proof Employment, and Building Robust Systems.

This General Meeting should begin the conversation of what we actually should start doing and acting on.

We hope to see you all there.

Doors open at 5:30. Program begins at 6:00 until 8;00pm

In addition to the General Meeting on Monday, March 10th, there will be an online Whole Earth Summit March 11 -13th, featuring 42 global sustainability leaders including Tucson’s own Brad Lancaster. To see the schedule of speakers and get more info on how you can connect, go to:

    www.WholeEarthSummit.org

This should be an unforgettable convergence of like hearts and minds considering: What’s your vision for a resilient world? How are you creating it now? Food + water + community + regenerative design + social transformation!

Arizona Higher Education Sustainability Conference (AHESC)

The Arizona Higher Education Sustainability Conference (AHESC) is the first conference designed to inspire, inform, and create engagement opportunities for students, faculty, staff and administrators working or studying in higher education institutions across Arizona to advance sustainability solutions on campuses and in the regional community. Through a statewide model, a variety of perspectives are brought to the table, creating a collaborative platform to work through common challenges and key issues (such as water, energy, pollution, etc.). AHESC offers a network to share practical tools and solutions that fit Arizona’s unique landscape and builds mutual ownership in the development of a stronger foundation for sustainability and education throughout the region.

To Register or for more information: <http://ahesc.org/>

February General Mtg: IS YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?

Sustainable Tucson’s February Meeting:
IS YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?

Monday, February 10, 2014,    5:30 – 8:00 pm

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

Last November 14th, the State of Arizona ran a simulation of an emergency event that included a 72-hour power outage – the kind of event climate change may visit upon the Tucson region.

Within the first hour of this mock climate emergency county officials realized hospitals would be overwhelmed by those seeking shelter from the 110+ degree heat. With no power for air conditioners or water delivery, and with severely curtailed communications capacity, hospitals became the first option for the most vulnerable seeking safety and shelter.

In the meantime, local emergency response teams with generators powered limited operations but (as in most emergencies) the general public is left to their own resources to manage until outside help arrives. For most, the physical setting of home is where they will wait out the event.
This mock exercise was an eye-opening experience for those who participated – driving home the fact that healthy connections between neighbors will be essential to best outcomes during such an event.

But are Neighborhoods able to respond in such circumstances? Do residents feel part of a community and trust they can turn to their neighbors for assistance?  Who makes sure the most vulnerable are taken care of? Is there a method for neighborhood communication when commercial communications go down? What supplies should be stored and available?

Come to Sustainable Tucson’s February 10th meeting to find out.

Speakers will include:

Louis Valenzuela:  Pima County Health Department

Donna Branch-Gilby:  Climate Smart: Ready or Hot? Building Resilient Neighborhoods working group, and

Donald Ijams:  Neighborhood Support Network

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

ST Dec. Mtg: The Economic Imperative of Energy Efficiency: Leading Tucson to More Jobs and a Robust Economy While Mitigating Climate Change

XXXX

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

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

 

Sustainable Tucson December Meeting: The Economic Imperative of Energy Efficiency: Leading Tucson to More Jobs and a Robust Economy While Mitigating Climate Change

This month, Sustainable Tucson brings international expertise and vision to our community to understand how our region can move to a much more energy-efficient economy while enabling a 100% renewable-energy-powered, and a more vibrant economy.

A recently leaked portion of the upcoming (March 2014) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report endorses a CEILING ON GLOBAL GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS. A September 28, 2013 New York Times article describes the Panel’s endorsement:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/28/science/global-climate-change-report.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

Tucson’s regional power system and economy can be planned to produce a vibrant economy AND mitigate the worst effects of climate change. In fact the components that can make this happen work in concert.
Sustainable Tucson is proud to present two speakers with backgrounds and experience in transitioning from a carbon-intensive economy to one anchored by energy efficiency and powered by renewable energy.

John A. “Skip” Laitner is a resource economist who leads a team of consultants with his own group, Economic and Human Dimensions Research Associates based in Tucson, Arizona. He served nearly 10 years as a senior economist for technology policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He won EPA’s Gold Medal award for his contributions to economic impact assessments evaluating climate change policies. More recently, he led the Economic and Social Analysis Program for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a well-known think tank based in Washington, D.C. He has just returned from France where he works as the senior economist for a regional initiative that proposes to reduce energy requirements by half with renewable energy technologies powering all remaining energy needs.
Matthew T. McDonnell, J.D. is a regulatory and policy analyst with Economic and Human Dimensions Research Associates. He has previous experience in the renewable energy finance industry and the utility regulatory process. He has worked with former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Paul Newman, providing policy analysis; and he has given testimony before the ACC. As a consultant, Mr. McDonnell has advised clients on a variety of energy projects including independent review of generation options analysis, prospects for municipalization, as well as, regulatory issues involved with the transmission and sale of electricity–in both FERC and ACC jurisdictions. Mr. McDonnell’s clients have ranged from municipalities and energy firms, to public utilities and stakeholder groups.

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

Will the real International Energy Agency please stand up?

Will the real International Energy Agency please stand up?

Published by Resource Insights on 2013-11-16
Original article: http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2013/11/will-real-international-energy-agency.html by Kurt Cobb

It was as if the International Energy Agency were appearing on the old American television game show To Tell the Truth last week as it offered a third contradictory forecast in the space of a year.

You may recall that on To Tell the Truth the host would begin by reading a statement from a person with an unusual story or profession. Then, a celebrity panel would question three contestants who claimed to be that person. Afterwards, the panelists would vote on whom they believed was the real person. Finally, the host would say, “Will the real [name of person] please stand up?” (Some episodes are still available here on YouTube.)

The difference is that the contestants on To Tell the Truth would try to tell similar, plausible stories so as to stump the panel. In the non-game-show world of energy forecasting, the IEA–a consortium of 28 countries, all net oil importers except for Canada and Norway–plays all three contestants and does not even attempt to be consistent. So, it’s possible that the agency is just a collective mental case with multiple personality disorder.

However, one has to allow for the fact that the IEA is not just one person or one voice. Still, if the agency were a single person, what it has released over the last year as official pronouncements would likely have a psychiatrist reaching for the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition).

Last November in its 2012 World Energy Outlook (WEO), the agency noted rising U.S. oil production and even predicted that the United States would become energy self-sufficient by 2035 (a doubtful call, in my view). It also noted that growing oil demand in the Asia has more than outweighed declines in European and U.S. consumption, keeping upward pressure on prices. It said that growth in Iraq’s oil exports was not a sure thing. While the 2012 WEO is really a rather optimistic document on supply, it did not paint an especially rosy picture, indicating that obtaining the supplies of oil necessary to meet projected demand was not a foregone conclusion.

Then, only six months later came the agency’s so-called Medium-Term Oil Market Report which read like an ad for the North American oil and gas industry. The agency touted a “supply shock” in oil from American tight oil fields unleashed by a new kind of hydraulic fracturing–a shock that would send “ripples throughout the world.” Unlike six months earlier, worldwide supply was supposed to take flight on the wings of fracking.

This enthusiasm didn’t last long. In its latest report, the just-issued 2013 World Energy Outlook, the agency sounded like a group of Gloomy Guses noting that “Brent crude oil has averaged $110 per barrel in real terms since 2011, a sustained period of high oil prices that is without parallel in oil market history.”

The report goes on to say, “The capacity of technologies to unlock new types of resources, such as light tight oil (LTO) and ultra-deepwater fields, and to improve recovery rates in existing fields is pushing up estimates of the amount of oil that remains to be produced. But this does not mean that the world is on the cusp of a new era of oil abundance.” The most recent forecast calls for rising oil prices in real terms through 2035. This is in part because the agency expects that “no country replicates the level of success with LTO” that we are seeing in the United States today.

What’s really happening here? Is the IEA getting better at seeing the future? Not really. What’s happening is that the IEA is being asked to do something which it cannot possibly do: accurately predict oil supplies 22 years into the future. So, given this impossible task, the agency responds by following current trends (and industry hype) and then extrapolating them.

Now that the IEA has had a chance to re-examine the industry’s claims in light of more experience with tight oil development, it is backing off its previous assessment in its Medium-Term Oil Market Report from May. Fatih Birol, chief economist for the IEA, told the Financial Times that he would now characterize rising oil production in the United States as “a surge, rather than a revolution.” He expects OPEC to become dominant once again in oil markets early in the next decade. The Financial Times characterized the report as predicting an oil supply crunch.

But, will the IEA have a change of heart once again? It might, depending on what it hears from industry sources and what it chooses to believe. But, the takeaway from the last year of IEA projections is not that the agency is suffering some sort of breakdown, but that it has been given an impossible task that in the volatile world of oil supplies has it casting about for a coherent story. In short, it is trying to tell the truth without knowing the truth for the simple reason that in this case the truth cannot known. That has made it a poor contestant in its own real-life episode of To Tell the Truth stretched out over the past year.

It is a fool’s errand to try to predict the future of world energy supplies. But, it is even more foolish to base our public policy, business and personal decisions on such predictions.

P. S. There is a minor acknowledgement that such forecasts are exercises in futility in a disclaimer at the end of the 2013 World Energy Outlook summary. The disclaimer reads: “The IEA makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, in respect of the publication’s contents (including its completeness or accuracy) and shall not be responsible for any use of, or reliance on, the publication.” This is standard boilerplate, I know. But, it is not the kind of language that inspires confidence.

 

Editor: the thumbnail image, of course, is the logo from The Oil Drum website, whose work lives on.


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

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


Source URL: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-11-16/will-the-real-international-energy-agency-please-stand-up

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

Loss and Damage @Warsaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional functions would include:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Energy Crunch: the global picture

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

Three things you shouldn’t miss this week

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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Green Redevelopment & the Rise of 2030 Districts

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

 

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

Monday. November 11, 5:30 – 8:30 pm 

PLEASE NOTE: SPECIAL MEETING LOCATION

Tucson Association of Realtors

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

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

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

Robert Bulechek, Tucson building science and energy-efficiency expert

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

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

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

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

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

When Wealth Disappears: International Banker

When Wealth Disappears

By STEPHEN D. KING

Published October 6, 2013,  New York Times

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

ST Oct Mtg: Investing in Local Solar Energy Solutions

Sustainable Tucson October Meeting: Investing in Local Solar Energy Solutions

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

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

Investing in Local Solar Energy Solutions

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

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

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

Meeting speakers will include:

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

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

Kevin Koch, Technicians for Sustainability, local solar installer

Elizabeth Smith, StelcorEnergy, solar energy consultant

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

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

Monday, September 9, 2013

5:30 pm to 8:00 pm

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

ST September Meeting
Working Together Toward a Sustainable Community
Part IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis

A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis

by Christian Parenti, July 19, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hard Facts

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Dreaming the Rational

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

A De Facto Carbon Tax

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Protest and the “Relative Autonomy” of the State

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Rebellion of Nature

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Capitalism vs. Nature?

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

 

Here is how Marx explained the dilemma:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

By Nina Chestney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Coming Food Crisis by Gary Paul Nabhan

Our Coming Food Crisis

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Desert Climate Composting Workshop – Aug 16/17

Community garden at 901 East 12th Street, Tucson AZ

Saturday – rain date or overflow second workshop

 

Composting workshop specifically designed for dry deserts

Specifically designed for dry deserts, this workshop focuses on
• Low water use, conserving water for hot composting rather than dry slow
• Cold method
• Easy on your back
• Low maintenance saves you water and time.
• Bin rehab and modification for desert conditions.

Plus
• Garden tips for kinked hoses, plant and tool hangers.
• Raised movable beds designed for gardeners who need work from a siting position.
• Lots of ideas using materials you probably have sitting around.

$5.-$10 sliding scale.
Workshop limited to 25 participants.
E-mail Mudnjoy(at)aol.com to register.

Composting Coach to Your Rescue

DESPITE YOUR BEST INTENTIONS is your garden compost a big solid dry hard lump, a soggy dense smelly mess, or just stalled? Are your dreams of producing your own rich earth not realized? You deserve rich fertile earth. I’ve rehabbed several old unusable compost piles into rich fertile earth!

INVEST IN YOUR OWN ON-SITE COMPOST instead of commercial fertilizers, soil conditioners, sterile (worthless) potting soil. Have better soil, be more GREEN! We can cheaply modify that old bin that dries out too often into a
workable unit that doesn’t require frequent watering. SAVE WATER and time. You can use a large open compost bins as a winter compost-heated green house. I can help you design your garden to harvest rainwater or use gray water.

Joy Holdread is the self proclaimed composting queen of the universe. No degree in earth science, just a green thumb, personal success, references, a commitment to garden using practical simple, resourceful, creative and sustainable options. I’ll work hard right beside you and we’ll have fun making your garden grow. Flexible schedule. Glowing testimonials. Email Mudnjoy(at)aol.com

Climate Smart Southwest: Ready or Hot? – National climate change conference in Tucson – Sep 20-21

Free lecture Friday evening at the TEP Unisource Building, 88 East Broadway, Tucson AZ

Saturday conference at the Tucson Convention Center (details below)

Tucson will be hosting a climate change conference focused on public health and climate adaptation in September, sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility and 35 other local and national organizations. The following guest article by Susan Waites has more details.

Climate Smart Southwest: Ready or Hot?

article by Susan Waites

We have all been hearing lots about climate change. Have you ever wondered if climate change will affect us here in the Southwest? Have you ever wondered if climate change will affect you and members of your family personally? Here’s an opportunity to find out. You can attend this conference focused on public health and climate adaptation coming up Friday and Saturday September 20th and 21st. The conference is being sponsored by the Physicians for Social Responsibility and 35 other local and national organizations.

To kick off this community event there will be a free talk by Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology at New York University and the author of the bestselling book Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, about the July 1995 week-long triple-digit heat wave that took over 700 lives. Dr. Klinenberg will give his talk Friday September 20 from 7 to 8pm at the TEP Unisource Building Conference Room, 88 E. Broadway in Tucson. While this event is free and open to the public, you are asked to RSVP as space is limited. You can do so by going to the conference website www.psr.org/azclimate

On Saturday September 21 the conference itself will take place from 7:30am to 5:30pm at the Tucson Convention Center. The cost is just $35 ($15 for current students) which includes a free buffet lunch and free on-site parking at the TCC. The morning of the conference will be dedicated to hearing nationally and internationally known speakers present information about climate change and emerging health problems, food security, mental health, and about how we can educate our children, build neighborhood resilience, and address cross cultural issues as we adapt to climate change. In the afternoon conference attendees will have the opportunity to participate in workshops to prepare and respond to the challenges posed by climate change. To register for Saturday’s events go to www.psr.org/azclimate

The Climate Smart Southwest Conference will be a unique opportunity to learn how climate change will affect you and your family. Best of all, you’ll learn what you can do be prepared and help yourself and your loved ones meet the challenges we will face with a changing climate. For more information, go to www.psr.org/azclimate. If you need more information, please contact Dr. Barbara Warren at bwarre01(at)gmail.com

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

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

by Kurt Cobb,    June 30, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

To read this story with original links, go to:

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

Sustainable Tucson July Film Night!

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

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

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

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

ST June Meeting – Working Together Toward a Sustainable Community – Part III – June 10

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

Working Together Toward a Sustainable Community
Part III

Last spring Sustainable Tucson hosted two “Conversations with our Public Officials.” Tucson community members had the opportunity to meet with City public officials to discuss a wide range of sustainability issues. The venue offered a unique opportunity to converse with our public officials in a supportive atmosphere designed to build understanding and establish relationships.

On June 10, from 6 – 8pm, community members will once again have the opportunity to converse with our public officials. This year we are inviting County and City officials to sit together to share their vision of a more sustainable Tucson. City of Tucson Ward 2 Council Member Paul Cunningham, Pima County District 5 Supervisor Richard Elias and Pima County Sustainability Coordinator Alex Odin will join us for our third “Conversations with our Public Officials.” A networking session will precede the meeting from 5:30 to 6:00.

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

We invite you to join us June 10 in this exciting conversation with our local public officials.

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

Also see last year’s Sustainable Tucson meetings – 2012 March Conversation with our Elected Officials – 2012 June Working Together Toward a Sustainable Community Part II

March Against Monsanto worldwide – and in Tucson at Reid Park – May 25

Free movie at Murphy-Wilmot Public Library, 530 N Wilmot Road Tucson, AZ

March begins May 25 at 12 noon at Reid Park, 900 Randolph Way, Tucson AZ

 
May 19 Sunday 1:30 pm – free documentary movie showing and discussion of “The World According to Monsanto” at the Murphy-Wilmot Public Library, 530 N Wilmot Road Tucson, AZ. Also see the complete movie free online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VEZYQF9WlE

May 25 Saturday 12 noonMarch Against Monsanto – meet 11:30 am at the Reid Park Festival Area. March followed by speakers, entertainment, and refreshments. More info at the GMO-Free Tucson website www.gmofreetucson.org

 

March Against Monsanto

To the Sustainable Tucson Community, Farmers, Ranchers, & Community Organizations:

Please support and participate in an unprecedented worldwide March Against Monsanto and Family Friendly GMO Awareness Festival & Rally that’s taking place on Saturday, May 25th. Hundreds of Tucsonans will be marching in Reid Park at 12 Noon to raise awareness and consciousness for taking back our food supply and be part of this turning point and historic global event.

Join the grass roots community in helping to create our own safe, nutritious, sustainable Non-GMO food system free of dangerous pesticides, chemicals, GMOs and other toxins. GMOs are NOT sustainable!

As an educational event before the march, there will be a Free documentary movie showing and discussion of “The World According to Monsanto” at the Murphy-Wilmot Public Library 530 N. Wilmot Road Tucson, AZ 85711 on Sunday, May 19th at 1:30 pm.

Tucson March Against Monsanto organizers will be at the Sustainable Tucson general meeting on Monday the 13th to answer any questions about the GMO Awareness Festival and Rally and how any individuals or organizations can get involved and participate in this fabulous opportunity and historical community event.

Please support this unprecedented worldwide May 25th event by posting it on your websites, newsletters, blogs, FB pages, and inviting friends and family. Also, we welcome any other support or services you feel may help with this community-wide awareness opportunity.

www.march-against-monsanto.com

www.facebook.com/MarchAgainstMonstanto/events (sic)

www.gmofreetucson.org