The following video has been labeled “The Most Important Video You’ll Ever See.” Hyperbole? It’s just a lecture on math, given by a Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Colorado-Boulder. It explains how just a 7% annual growth in energy use equals a 100% growth in 10 years. After a few decades, you’ve got a really big number. And a tremendously enormous problem. Watch and learn, please.
If yer one of them huntin’ folks up there in Wyoming or Montana – y’know, Republican, an’ thinkin’ climate change is a myth – best listen up.
You will be eaten by a bear.
A grizzly bear.
A six-foot-tall, 600-pound grizzly bear.
The bears are hungry.
See, grizzlies up in Yellowstone eat the nuts of whitebark pine cones. Trouble is, there aren’t as many whitebark pines. That’s because of the beetles. There’s been a huge beetle infestation of the Yellowstone whitebark pine – 70% of the trees have been decimated. And that’s because the ground’s not freezing as much to keep the beetles at bay. And that’s because of global warming.
“Every year is now a bad year for whitebark pine,” said Louisa Wilcox with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We can expect more conflicts and we are getting it.”
The bears are comin’ down the mountain an’ eatin’ livestock.
“Right now every god-dang dead cow down in this country’s got grizzlies on them,” said Mark Bruscino, a bear specialist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Cody. “We’ve already had a couple of reports of bears on the gut piles of hunter-killed elk. Road-killed deer have bears on them.” (Quotes via the Associated Press.)
An’ when they ain’t got no roadkill to eat, they’ll go with human carpaccio. Two people done gone an’ been killed by grizzlies so far this year, the most in a century. But those ain’t related to no whitebark pines. Ain’t the time of year yet. But it will be soon, as autumn arrives. So watch out, folks. Global warming could kill you sooner than you think.
The Guardian reports quite a heavy bill for BP, and this may really set a buzz for the President’s fist Oval office speech tomorrow.
BP is facing a bill of up to $34bn from the Gulf of Mexico disaster after US senators demanded the oil company deposited $20bn into a ring-fenced account to meet escalating compensation costs.
The sum dwarfs many analysts’ previous estimates, shared by BP, that put the cost of the clean-up effort and payment of damages to affected communities, such as fishermen, closer to a total of $5bn.
Shares in BP nose-dived by more than 9% today as investors took fright at the demand by the 54 Democratic senators, who represent a majority in the US upper house. The company is now worth almost half what it was before the accident of just under two months ago.
BP already faces up to $14bn in civil penalties, payable under US environmental law, assuming the leak is plugged in August. These punitive damages are directly linked to the size of the spill – already estimated at being up to eight times worse than the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 – with BP liable for up to $4,300 for each barrel-worth spilt.
Senate leaders insisted the $20bn ring-fenced account should be exclusively for “payment of economic damages and clean-up costs” and should not be seen as a cap on BP’s other legal liabilities. With punitive damages pending too, the theoretical total of $34bn is equivalent to more than half the corporation tax paid by all British companies last year.
Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, and other directors of the company, will meet Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday prepared to offer concessions in the hope of taking the sting out of mounting political attacks on the company.
BP will be in “listening mode”, willing to cut its next dividend, worth about $2.5bn, possibly paying the cash into the clean-up fund. It will also reiterate its commitment to paying all legitimate claims arising from the disaster. But the company does not believe that the demand by the senators to stump up $20bn is justified.
After several reports of its demise, the Climate Bill is back on the burner. The president made a speech in its support today at Carnegie Mellon University . If Obama passes this one, he will be known as the President of reanimated zombie bills. Speaking of familiar, Republican support for the bill is no where to be found since Sen. Lindsey Graham backed off from Sen. Kerry’s shadow, but there are a pack of moderates targeted for swinging sides. Mentioning them, Obama said, “The votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months,”
While he had the microphone, he took the time to outline some of his ideas for the legislation. The President said he would like to roll back the oil tax breaks and use that money to invest in our energy independence. This is something that has been talked about during drum circles for over four decades, but this time the talk may become law in the wake of the disaster in the Gulf.
Here is an excerpt from his speech,
And the time has come to aggressively accelerate that transition. The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future. (Applause.) Now, that means continuing our unprecedented effort to make everything from our homes and businesses to our cars and trucks more energy-efficient. It means tapping into our natural gas reserves, and moving ahead with our plan to expand our nation’s fleet of nuclear power plants. It means rolling back billions of dollars of tax breaks to oil companies so we can prioritize investments in clean energy research and development.
But the only way the transition to clean energy will ultimately succeed is if the private sector is fully invested in this future — if capital comes off the sidelines and the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs is unleashed. And the only way to do that is by finally putting a price on carbon pollution.
No, many businesses have already embraced this idea because it provides a level of certainty about the future. And for those that face transition costs, we can help them adjust. But if we refuse to take into account the full costs of our fossil fuel addiction — if we don’t factor in the environmental costs and the national security costs and the true economic costs — we will have missed our best chance to seize a clean energy future.
The House of Representatives has already passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill, and there is currently a plan in the Senate — a plan that was developed with ideas from Democrats and Republicans — that would achieve the same goal. And, Pittsburgh, I want you to know, the votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months. (Applause.) I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can. (Applause.) I will work with anyone to get this done — and we will get it done.
Not too long ago we reported that the oceans are farting out a lot of methane. Today’s special Earth Day report confirms that the chemical makeup of the world’s oceans is changing – fast – because of increased CO2 absorption from the atmosphere.
The pH of the oceans is declining, i.e. our seas are growing more acidic. In fact, since the Industrial Revolution to today, the rate of increasing acidity is greater than at any time in the last 800,000 years. And that’s really bad news for coral, and for photosynthesis.
The full story in the AP is located below the fold, since the story comes to me over Yahoo!’s network, and it destroys links after a certain time.
It’s kind of a silly holiday to our minds, especially when the New York Times – of all the things it could report – concentrates on the fact that at 40, Earth Day has reached its middle age and is focusing on making a profit.
“This ridiculous perverted marketing has cheapened the concept of what is really green,” said Denis Hayes, who was national coordinator of the first Earth Day and is returning to organize this year’s activities in Washington. “It is tragic.”
Do us a favor. Keep away from the tribal drum circles, forget about the Earth Day Brand green plushie tree-frogs, and don’t feel deliriously enthusiastic that PepsiCo is installing recycling kiosks around Manhattan for its plastic bottles. We’ve now got an Atlantic plastic vortex to compete with the Pacific version.
No, what we want you to do this Earth Day is rummage in your sock drawer, get your loose change together, and invest in something like wind turbines. That’s the economics of Earth Day we want to see.
Y’know, we don’t particularly want to be apocalypse extremists here on WHEN HISTORY ATTACKS!, but the hits just keep on coming. See, over at The Daily Galaxy, a rather anxiety-inducing formula has just been proposed by researchers at the University of Leeds and Iceland-Vatnajökull (where Iceland’s largest ice cap is located).
Okay. So we know that large ice masses are very heavy and weigh down the Earth. For example, Greenland’s ice sheet has depressed the center of that vast island so much that it’s pretty close to sea level. Well, the same thing happens in places like Iceland, which – as we know all too well – have a lot of volcanoes. Glacial ice presses down upon the Earth’s crust, which presses upon the mantle and the magma chambers within. Scientists now think that if the ice melts, there will be less pressure keeping down the magma, and – boom – you might see more ol’ smokeys fouling up airlines across the globe. To begin with. Hey, at least we might have some spectacular sunsets for those Four Horses to ride through. Check out the details here.
A while ago, we told you how the ancient Nasca civilization of Peru (which created the famous Nazca Lines) fell because of bad water management. Just like the ancient builders of the Moai on Easter Island. Now, there is scientific evidence that a similar fate befell Angkor, the great religious city of the Khmer Empire in Cambodia.
It wasn’t their fault, though: this immense spiritual metropolis (pop. 1 million, the largest city in the world 1,000 years ago) was a “Hydraulic City” carefully designed to collect water – with miles of dikes, irrigation canals, reservoirs, and diverted rivers. Tree-ring analysis of immense banyans like the one above has shown, however, that even the most advanced schemes are under the thumb of Mother Nature. Two huge droughts (in the 13th-14th centuries and in the 15th-16th centuries) alternated with vicious monsoon backlashes. The combination destroyed the infrastructure. The full story is available at Discover Magazine‘s superb Not Exactly Rocket Science blog.
Water catastrophes didn’t completely seal Angkor’s fate – “by the time the droughts kicked in,” says Not Exactly Rocket Science, “the city was already weakened by social, economic and political strife.” It’s clear, though, that in the recent revelations about Easter Island, the Nazca, and Angkor as well, science is revealing history we need to learn: that social values and cultural practices, in combination with natural-resource management and climate, is what makes civilizations – and what breaks them too.
When you eat too much, too quickly, you fart. And what comes out of your ass is methane, aka a greenhouse gas. What’s true for the human and the cow is also true for the Earth: the planet has eaten too much crap, and now it’s farting – SBDs. The other day we reported that the Siberian permafrost is melting, with the effect of leaching gargantuan amounts of methane into the atmosphere.
Now, according to the New York Times,the undersea permafrost is “already sending surprising amounts of methane into the atmosphere.” Scientists at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (you know, the university of the state that produced Sarah Palin, another kind of gaseous windbag – the kind that denies global warming) have been studying the seabed to the west of the Bering Strait, and it confirms there’s a whole hella lot of methane rising up into the atmosphere.
Scientists in Germany and Scandinavia have been working this problem too, with similar conclusions. While some scientists say the release of undersea methane is “negligible,” the seabed west of the Bering Strait is farting nearly eight million tons of methane annually. The total output from the oceans is likely to be in the range of 550 million tons of methane into the atmosphere. While scientists don’t know yet whether this is an increase (because the issue simply hasn’t been studied with any regularity) it is relatively simple to put 2+2 together and get a whole lot of stinky air filling our home and trapping the sun’s heat.
Now that’s some Silent But Deadly. Excuse me for sending my loud fart ripping through this space, but maybe this will light a flame to clear the air. Read more at the New York Times.
Hi guys. Whether or not you believe all this claptrap about global climate change, there’s a little fact we ought to bring to your attention: the Siberian permafrost is melting and woolly mammoth bones are surfacing – so many that Russian scientists are doing a splendid side trade in woolly mammoth tusks. In fact, they used to go for as much as $700 per kilogram; however these finds so endangered the market for African ivory that African ivory merchants made a huge sell-off of their wares to gut the woolly mammoth-tusk trade to about $220 a kilo.
The Los Angeles Times, which had its own news staff gutted by the financial crisis, has done a brilliant job at getting us this story. (We here at “WHEN HISTORY ATTACKS!” had almost written off the L.A. Times as a true functioning news organization.) And in this story, they’re telling us several things. First, the global financial meltdown has caused such frantic competition across the world, that a whole lot of people are forced into side trades (including Russian scientists and, by corollary, journalists). Second, these side jobs often have the negative effect of pressuring illegal economies – like the African ivory trade, which is banned worldwide with just a couple of exceptions. They will have to slaughter more elephants to make their living, and that means both legitimate, honest journalists and elephants are increasingly becoming very endangered species.
This is all embedded – but unstated – in the Los Angeles Times article, as well as the minor fact that the melting of the permafrost is an extremely bad thing. Trapped in the frozen ground is the world’s biggest reservoir of methane, which is a greenhouse gas. Its release virtually guarantees an acceleration in global climate change. So if you still have any doubts about global warming, come back to us in a couple of years and tell us “You were right.”
P.S. WOOLLY MAMMOTH tusk scavengers v.s. the African ivory trade is analogous torecycling vs. consumption of dwindling resources. The very issue of conservation itself is scalable from paleontology to global warming. Which is kind of a neat trick, if it weren’t all so deadly serious.
Sana’a, Yemen is home to 2 million people and has been around since the 6th century B.C. In 20 years it will be a ghost town. It is drying up. It is drying up because of demand for the mild stimulant Qat. In other words, Sana’a has a drug problem, which means it has a water problem, which means it has an existential problem. Follow the story at Alternet.
Would you like to make a billion dollars and save the planet?
K.R. Sridhar is a NASA scientist who was working on a project to terraform Mars. He invented a machine that would produce oxygen in the Martian atmosphere and make the Red Planet habitable for humans.
But the budget got cut. The program got cancelled. So K.R. Sridhar took the invention and reversed it to suck in oxygen. He created an entirely new kind of fuel cell, which is far more compact and more efficient than anything now producing electricity. It is designed to replace the grid. And it’s coming.
The next round of the battle over climate change policy on Capitol Hill will involve more than the usual suspects — way more.
Watch soup makers face off against steel companies. Witness the folks who pump gas from the ground fight back against those who dig up rock. And watch the venture capitalists who have money riding on new technology try to gain advantage in a game that so far has been deftly controlled by the old machine.
An analysis of the latest federal records by the Center for Public Integrity shows that the overall number of businesses and groups lobbying on climate legislation has essentially held steady at about 1,160, thanks in part to a variety of interests that have left the fray. But a close look at the 140 or so interests that jumped into the debate for the first time in the third quarter shows a marked trend: Companies and organizations that feel they’ve been overlooked are fighting for a place at the table.
The amount of money involved quite likely rose as well. Although amounts spent on lobbying by issue are not disclosed, if the groups involved spent just 10 percent of their lobbying budgets on climate issues, they shelled out $30.5 million in the third quarter — up nearly 13 percent over the previous quarter.
Of course, the framework for climate change legislation developed by a trio of senators — Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman — already makes clear that the climate debate will expand into new realms. Incentives for nuclear power construction and more offshore oil and gas production are key proposals they’ve floated for gaining Republican and moderate Democratic votes for a climate change package. But beyond what are sure to be high-profile battles over those issues, the lobbying records also reveal that a host of smaller battles are brewing — sure to greatly complicate the already immense challenge of writing a successful bill. It’s one of the reasons that — despite the pledge by President Barack Obama and other world leaders to exhibit “strong political will” on climate — it most likely will be months before the Senate moves on a measure to curb fossil fuel emissions.
That old song rings especially true for 44 species of moths and butterflies in Central Europe, according to an analysis by ecologist Florian Altermatt of the University of California, Davis. As the region has warmed since the 1980s, some of these species have added an extra generation during the summer for the first time on record in that location.
Among the 263 species already known to have a second or third generation there during toasty times, 190 have grown more likely to do so since 1980, Altermatt reports online December 22 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Only a rough third or so of all the species Altermatt reviewed show the capacity to breed more than once a year. What warming is probably doing for them, he speculates, is jolting the insects’ overwintering form into action early and also speeding up insect development. These head starts may allow time for a bonus generation before a non-temperature cue, atumnal day length, plays its role in shutting down insects for winter.
“From a pest perspective it’s an important issue,” says population ecologist Patrick Tobin based in Morgantown, W.Va., for the Forest Service Northern Research Station. Tobin has studied a warmth-related extra generation in a North American pest, the grape berry moth. He points out that an extra surge of attacking pests in the growing season means yet another headache, expense and round of damage for farmers.
The price per metric ton of permits to spew carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere fell by $3.30 on the European Climate Exchange between the first day of the climate summit in Copenhagen and the day after its disappointing conclusion as traders reacted to the failure to reach binding targets for future carbon emissions.
The decline — which put the price of the benchmark futures contract dated December 2010 at $18.20 per ton — reflects the European market’s deflated expectations that the meetings would lead to a treaty to lower emissions ceilings and boost the price of permits.
The depressed price of the emissions permits also suggests that despite years of diplomatic efforts, the real world — where people and businesses buy energy to make things, move things and stay warm — still operates as if people can spew carbon more or less at will.
Consider how much carbon really costs.
After reviewing a series of independent studies, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded last year that the “social cost” of releasing one more ton of carbon-dioxide into the air, the cost of the environmental damage and other consequences over the next century, was between $40 and $68 in 2007 and would rise to up to $179 in 2040 if we don’t cut emissions soon.
A review of the economics of climate change by Nicholas Stern, a professor at London School of Economics, which was written at the behest of the British government in 2006, asserted that emissions should be priced initially at about $75 a ton to encourage investments in alternative energy sources and reduce the use of fossil fuels enough to avoid drastic climate change.
As I listened to Denmark’s minister of economic and business affairs describe how her country used higher energy taxes to stimulate innovation in green power and then recycled the tax revenues back to Danish industry and consumers to make it easier for them to make and buy the new clean technologies, it all sounded so, well, intelligent. It sounded as if the Danes looked at themselves after the 1973 Arab oil embargo, found that they were totally dependent on Middle East oil and put in place a long-term strategy to make Denmark energy-secure and start a new industry at the same time.
The more I listened to the Danish minister, Lene Espersen, the more I thought of my own country, where I’ve been told time and again by U.S. politicians that proposing even a 10-cent-a-gallon increase in gasoline taxes to make America more energy independent and to stimulate fuel efficiency is “off the table,” an act of sure political suicide.
Not in Denmark. So I asked the Danish minister: “Tell me, what planet are you people from?”
Espersen laughed. But I didn’t. How long are we Americans going to go on thinking that we can thrive in the 21st century when doing the optimal things — whether for energy, health care, education or the deficit — are “off the table.” They’ve been banished by an ad hoc coalition of lobbyists loaded with money, loud-mouth talk-show hosts who will flame anyone who crosses them, political consultants who warn that asking Americans to do anything important but hard makes one unelectable and a citizenry that doesn’t even ask for optimal anymore because it believes that optimal is impossible.
Sorry, but there are no good ideas proven to work in other democratic/capitalist societies that we can afford to shove off our table — not when we need to build a knowledge economy with good jobs and everyone else is trying to do the same.
“Already the green taxes here are quite high,” said Espersen. “And even though we know this is not popular with business and industry, it has made all the difference for us. It forced our businesses to become more energy efficient and innovative, and this meant that, suddenly, we were inventing things nobody else was inventing because our businesses needed to be competitive.”
The White House announced the deal – this is supposed to be a UN convention, remember – and President Obama has gone live on US television telling viewers what it contains before many delegations in the UN conference even had a chance to look at the text.
It’s not clear how those outside the little cabal of nations are going to play this.
The African Union is officially in favour so far, but they’re having a closed door meeting that I understand is lively, with Senegal among countries opposing.
I’ve been told that some of the small island developing states have been “told” to sign up, but others are fuming and determined to oppose – especially as their key demand, inclusion of at least the indication that the world could eventually look at 1.5C as a target for temperature rise, was excised at the last minute.
Ask who the “villain” is, and – as I mentioned in my previous post – “China, China, China” is the refrain.
But there is considerable anger towards the US, too, as I indicated before.
The fact that the EU hasn’t endorsed this “deal” yet it absolutely significant, as European leaders have until now been prepared to work with the US, though wishing it were in a position to pledge more.
Procedurally, there’s no precedent. Asked how things stood, one observer replied with a six-letter word unprintable on a BBC webpage – it begins with an f.
Barack Obama is poised to arrive in Copenhagen tomorrow with additional pledges of cash for poor countries which will suffer the most from global warming, a day after America’s promise to support a $100bn a year climate fund.
Obama’s arrival has been the most anticipated event of the 10-day summit, which has lurched between optimism and rank despair. He will seek to make a decisive impact, building on the announcement today by Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, who said for the first time that America would support a $100bn global climate change fund from 2020. But she will be a tough act to follow, as the statement was seen by delegates as a gamechanger.
Obama is expected to add an extra boost of momentum by beefing up America’s share in a $10bn a year fast-track aid package. That aims to cushion poor countries from the impact of climate change and promote rainforest preservation starting next year. He is also expected to outline little-known provisions in the climate bill passed by the House of Representatives that would direct some $4bn a year from the auction of emission allowances to a fund to help developing countries adapt to climate change and deploy clean technology.
He is also expected to call more forcefully on the Senate to pass climate change law, critical to the eventual success of Copenhagen. “I’ve got a sense that she set the table, and he is going to deliver the knock-out punch,” said Earl Blumenauer, part of the delegation of Democratic congressmen to the talks.
Clinton gave no specifics on how America would raise its share of the $100bn fund, and she made her offer contingent on overcoming an atmosphere of mistrust to reach a deal at Copenhagen. “It is no secret that we have lost precious time in these past days,” she said. “In the time we have left here, it can no longer be about us versus them — this group of nations pitted against that group. We all face the same challenge together.”
This is a very fascinating debate, and I highly recommend you watch the whole thing. This may be the most thorough review of skeptic concerns I have ever seen, and I came away from it with enough sources of science to reach my own conclusion. The Debate follows an interview with Martin Durken, who made a documentary called The Global Warming Swindle. I’ll warn you, the Q & A section after the debate gets really bizarre. I’m not kidding, it’s messed up in pt.8.
Debating Panelists: Professor Bob Carter (Geologist, Skeptic). Professor David Karoly (IPCC Climate Scientist), Ray Evans (Lavoisier Group Skeptic), Nick Rowley (UK Climate Change Strategist), Dr Nikki Williams (CEO, NSW Minerals Council), Robyn Williams (science journalist and broadcaster)