Thursday, October 18, 2018

Is This the Future of Vancouver?

When you see a lot of empty store fronts you get the idea that something has gone wrong with the economy. It's commonly seen in small towns but Manhattan? It's a tale that sounds all too likely to hit Vancouver eventually.

From The Atlantic, "How Manhattan Became a Rich Ghost Town."

These days, walking through parts of Manhattan feels like occupying two worlds at the same time. In a theoretical universe, you are standing in the nation’s capital of business, commerce, and culture. In the physical universe, the stores are closed, the lights are off, and the windows are plastered with for-lease signs. Long stretches of famous thoroughfares—like Bleecker Street in the West Village and Fifth Avenue in the East 40s—are filled with vacant storefronts. Their dark windows serve as daytime mirrors for rich pedestrians. It’s like the actualization of a Yogi Berra joke: Nobody shops there anymore—it’s too desirable.
...Separate surveys by Douglas Elliman, a real-estate company, and Morgan Stanley determined that at least 20 percent of Manhattan’s street retail is vacant or about to become vacant. (The city government’s estimate is lower.) The number of retail workers in Manhattan has fallen for three straight years by more than 10,000. That sector has lost more jobs since 2014, during a period of strong and steady economic growth, than during the Great Recession.
The article identifies three factors behind New York's retail decline: excessively high rents, the rise of online shopping and the loss of Manhattan's quirky joie de vivre and those once willing to pay to live with it.
What happens when cities become too expensive to afford any semblance of that boisterous diversity? The author E. B. White called New York an assembly of “tiny neighborhood units.” But the 2018 landlord waiting game is denuding New York of its particularity and turning the city into a high-density simulacrum of the American suburb. The West Village landlords hoping to lease their spaces to national chains are turning one of America’s most famous neighborhoods into a labyrinthine strip mall. Their strategy bodes the disappearance of those quirky restaurants, curious antique shops, and any coffee shops that aren’t publicly traded on the NYSE.

...“America has only three cities,” Tennessee Williams purportedly said. “New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” That may have been true once. But New York’s evolution suggests that the future of cities is an experiment in mass commodification—the Clevelandification of urban America, where the city becomes the very uniform species that Williams abhorred. Paying seven figures to buy a place in Manhattan or San Francisco might have always been dubious. But what’s the point of paying New York prices to live in a neighborhood that’s just biding its time to become “everywhere else”?
Vancouver is also losing its "boistrous diversity" to developers eager to transform block after block, neighbourhood after neighbourhood, into a grey mass of concrete condominiums, priced beyond the reach of all but the wealthy, usually from other lands.

Young professionals are deterred from setting up shop there. They want a better life and so they locate elsewhere. You can't get a doctor in Vancouver these days. I recently dealt with a specialist in Nanaimo, freshly out of UBC medicine and internship at Vancouver General. She said none of her colleagues want to work their fingers to the bone for forty years just to afford a ridiculously priced home. They want to live normal lives and that's no longer possible in Vancouver. There's no longer a single gas station in the downtown core. Restaurant owners struggle to find waiters and kitchen staff. The whole rotten thing is collapsing under its own weight, the victim of successive governments devoid of vision.

Cementing the Political Capture of America's Judicial System

Brett Kavanaugh didn't earn his place on the US Supreme Court on his merits. He was picked from a list of 25 reliably 'movement conservative' candidates handpicked by the Federalist Society. Ideology was the key.

Now it's the Heritage Society, another hard rightwing outfit. They're even more ambitious.
The New York Times is reporting that the Heritage Foundation, one of America’s leading conservative think tanks, has started a “training academy” for conservative law clerks, who have to guarantee that they won’t share any information about what they’ve learned. According to the Times, the application material for the training academy speaks about “generous donors” who were providing “a significant financial investment in each and every attendee.”
... Sanford University law professor Pamela S. Karlan was among those expressing alarm. “Law clerks are not supposed to be part of a cohort of secretly financed and trained partisans of an organization that describes itself on its own web page as ‘the bastion of the American conservative movement,’” she told The New York Times. “The idea that clerks will be trained to elevate the Heritage Foundation’s views, or the views of judges handpicked by the foundation, perverts the very idea of a clerkship.” 
Heritage Foundation spokesperson Breanna Deutsch was reticent when questioned by the Times. “It’s a private program, and that’s the way we’d like to keep it,” Deutsch said. “Word did leak out a little bit about it, which is fine, but it’s going to remain a private program.”
Legislative capture. First they captured the legislative branch, now America's "bought and paid for" Congress. Regulatory capture. Then they captured the regulatory branch, stacking quasi-judicial boards and tribunals with representatives of the very industries being regulated.

Judicial capture. Trump's two Supreme Court picks, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, were groomed and packaged by rightwing organizations to control the judiciary, effectively putting an end to the rule of law in America.

A few years ago I read an eye-opening article that said that America's corporate sector and the hyper-rich were not seeking freedom from government. They were not out to shrink government. What they were after was nothing less than to own the American government.

They've done amazingly well so far.

I Know Who Murdered Khoshoggi.

Want to know who executed Jamal Khoshoggi? It was Mashad Saad al-Bastani. How do I know? The 31-year old Saudi air force lieutenant seen entering the Saudi consulate before Khoshoggi was butchered just happened to die in a mysterious car accident. Mein Gott, what a coincidence!

Well, that's that then. Crown prince Mohammad bin Salman is absolutely off the hook. It was that al-Bastani guy all along and he's not saying anything to the contrary.

America Returns to Regime Change. Is That What Nikki Knew?

Even top Trump advisors were taken by surprise when Nikki Haley abruptly announced she was resigning her post as UN ambassador. Something must be up, but what?

McClatchy News says America is about to return to the bad old days of regime change. Only this time it'll be "Smash and Grab."
Haley could handle it, of course — she gives as good as she gets. However, it might just be a good time for her to be sipping mint juleps on a South Carolina back porch as this administration executes a more-assertive foreign policy — one the United Nations will not look upon kindly. 
The Trump administration is actively advocating for and catalyzing regime change in several countries, but with no plans to participate in follow-on nation building. 
The administration clearly is disregarding Colin Powell’s famous use of the Pottery Barn rule, “You break it, you own it.” There are plenty of plans to break Iran and Venezuela, for example, but no clear plans to take ownership for the nation building that needs to follow any traumatic or violent event in an already-struggling society.

In fact, the plans in place follow a new type of rule: call it the “Smash and Grab” — something familiar to urban dwellers who regularly suffer car break-ins, find shattered glass in passenger-side gutters and lose valuables in snap-heists. 
In the foreign-policy arena, the United States tries to pull off smashing an odious sitting regime such as Iran’s murderous dictatorship. The means? The use of proxies and allies to apply concerted force while applying joint sanctions to stop trade and revenue.

What follows the smash is the promise of grabbing valuable resources from the subject nation. In both Iran and Venezuela, the plan appears be to “take the oil.” Smash the country, grab the oil.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump lamented America’s failure to grab the oil after the United States expended so much blood and treasure to overthrow Saddam Hussein and rebuild Iraq. In fact, the United States ended up losing the entire country to Iran as Iraq’s ruling minority Sunnis were disbanded and disgraced. What replaced Hussein was an Iran-allied Shiite Iraq, a country that sold its oil futures to France and China while building a sacred bond with ruling Iranian theocrats, militias and intelligence.
...All signs point to an American policy and practice that will leverage willing allies and new friends in far-off regions to use their own militaries, money and political machinations — not America’s — to achieve U.S.-desired outcomes. It’s Trump’s version of “leading from behind” that will likely leave behind a big mess. 

Exxon's Faustian Gambit

When an oil giant, especially Exxon, calls for carbon taxes, a prudent person will wait for the other shoe to drop.

Exxon, apparently catching a smoky whiff of the wildfire barreling its way, welcomes carbon taxes but there's a catch.
ExxonMobil, the largest investor-owned oil company in the world, announced last week that it will spend $1 million over two years to lobby for a US carbon tax
The announcement came just after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changereported that the world may have as little as 12 years to act to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and Exxon’s news got somewhat buried. 
...But what’s gone largely unnoticed is that Exxon’s proposal comes with a massive catch: In exchange for a tax, the company wants immunity from all climate lawsuits in the future.

The proposal Exxon wants to enact is one that would shield the company from lawsuits while also preventing further climate change regulations. All in all, it would grant oil companies the kind of immunity from litigation the gun industry currently enjoys.

A Picture, A Thousand Words

The Guardian's Steve Bell weighs in on Saudi crown prince Mohammad and his dutiful attendants, Donald, Jared and Ivanka.

History, as some say, repeats itself. I'm thinking Henry II and Thomas Becket. "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"


To pour a cauldron of water on the Saudi spin that the killing of Kashoggi was the work of a "rogue general," the New York Times has published this photo of a man entering the Saudi consulate the day of the murder.

The man is identified as Maher Abdulazziz Mutreb, a close companion of the crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, himself. What a coincidence that Mutreb would show up just in time for the beheading.

Monbiot - It's Time for Disruptive Civil Disobedience

Up the Revolution !!

The Guardian's enviro-scribe, George Monbiot, says it's time for ordinary folks just like you to take off the gloves. The consequences we're risking are too perilous to trust climate change to our political caste. They're not the solution. They're the problem.
It is hard to believe today, but the prevailing ethos among the educated elite was once public service. As the historian Tony Judt documented in Ill Fares the Land, the foremost ambition among graduates in the 1950s and 60s was, through government or the liberal professions, to serve their country. Their approach might have been patrician and often blinkered, but their intentions were mostly public and civic, not private and pecuniary. 
Today, the notion of public service seems as quaint as a local post office. We expect those who govern us to grab what they can, permitting predatory banks and corporations to fleece the public realm, then collect their reward in the form of lucrative directorships. As the Edelman Corporation’s Trust Barometer survey reveals, trust worldwide has collapsed in all major institutions, and government is less trusted than any other.
...In Germany, the government that claimed to be undergoing a great green energy transition instead pours public money into the coal industry, and deploys an army of police to evict protesters from an ancient forest to clear it for a lignite mine. On behalf of both polluting power companies and the car industry, it has sabotaged the EU’s attempt to improve its carbon emissions target. Before she was re-elected, I argued that Angela Merkel was the world’s leading eco-vandal. She might also be the world’s most effective spin doctor: she can mislead, cheat and destroy, and people still call her Mutti.

Other governments shamelessly flaunt their service to private interests, as they evade censure by owning their corruption. A US government report on fuel efficiency published in July concedes, unusually, that global temperatures are likely to rise by 4C this century. It then uses this forecast to argue that there is no point in producing cleaner cars, because the disaster will happen anyway. Elsewhere, all talk of climate breakdown within government is censored. Any agency seeking to avert it is captured and redirected
... With the exception of Costa Rica, no government has the policies required to prevent more than 2C of global warming, let alone 1.5C. Most, like the UK, Germany, the US and Australia, push us towards the brink on behalf of their friends. So what do we do, when our own representatives have abandoned public service for private service?

On 31 October, I will speak at the launch of Extinction Rebellion in Parliament Square. This is a movement devoted to disruptive, nonviolent disobedience in protest against ecological collapse. The three heroes jailed for trying to stop fracking last month, whose outrageous sentences have just been overturned, are likely to be the first of hundreds. The intention is to turn this national rising into an international one. 
This preparedness for sacrifice, a long history of political and religious revolt suggests, is essential to motivate and mobilise people to join an existential struggle. It is among such people that you find the public and civic sense now lacking in government. That we have to take such drastic action to defend the common realm shows how badly we have been abandoned.
Look, we're supposed to be in a race for the survival of our civilization, a race to cut global greenhouse gas emissions 45% in just 12-years, by 2030. If we miss that target, it's game over for a great many people and our grandkids won't be spared either. So what is your prime minister doing about it? He's sinking billions of government dollars so badly needed elsewhere on driving through a bitumen super-pipeline, a 60-year venture, so that Canada can flood world markets with the filthiest, highest carbon, ersatz oil on the planet.

Justin Trudeau is exactly the politician George Monbiot excoriates. He boasts about greening Canada's economy but his emission cutting targets are those Stephen Harper left behind when we ran him out and, worse, Trudeau isn't even on track to meet Harper's lame promises.

45 in 12. That's a truly Herculean chore. You have to massively restructure your society and your economy in a rapidly shrinking window of time if you're to have a chance of meeting that. Justin isn't going to do that for Canada, for your kids and grandkids. He will, however, if given the chance, talk you to death.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Psychotic States of America

Legendary Canadian historian and astonishingly prolific author, Pierre Berton, was discussing his 1982 book, "Why We Act Like Canadians," when he was asked what he found to be the biggest single difference between Canadians and Americans. He didn't hesitate before saying it was that many Americans had a pathological need to believe while Canadians were skeptical, especially of authority.

Flash forward to the Age of Trump.

Donald Trump, of course, loves to stage rallies. It's hard to watch them. Hard to watch the fans in attendance as he fills their minds with obvious lies upon obvious lies and they simply lap it all up. These are people who exhibit what Berton described as that pathological need to believe.

Trump's loyal base can appear to be psychotic.
The word psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality. When someone becomes ill in this way it is called a psychotic episode. During a period of psychosis, a person’s thoughts and perceptions are disturbed and the individual may have difficulty understanding what is real and what is not. Symptoms of psychosis include delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear). Other symptoms include incoherent or nonsense speech, and behavior that is inappropriate for the situation. A person in a psychotic episode may also experience depression, anxiety, sleep problems, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and difficulty functioning overall.
This delusional manifestation is explored by two American political scientists, Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood, in their book released at the beginning of the year, "Enchanted America: How Intuition and Reason Divide Our Politics."

Digby calls it a "must read if you want to understand why our politics have gone batshit crazy."

Jesse Singal reviews the book in New York Magazine.

The foundation of Oliver and Wood’s argument is the well-established fact that our brains have evolved a number of heuristics, or mental shortcuts, to help us quickly sift and act upon the world’s endless firehose of information. These heuristics can cause us to make less-than-ideal decisions.

...No one is totally free of these heuristics; they’re really built into who we are. But there are individual differences in the extent to which humans are driven by heuristics, and by other gut-level impulses. Enchanted America is most concerned with those at one end of the spectrum — people who engage in a lot of what the pair dub “magical thinking”:

When we refer to magical thinking, we are referring to a process that makes causal attributions to unobservable forces. For a belief to be magical, it must point to some invisible power, be it luck, God, or the Illuminati, that is making things happen. Of course, simply believing in an unobservable force or forces doesn’t make that belief magical — plenty of scientific theories refer to things we can’t directly observe (for example, dark matter). Rather, for a belief to be magical, it must also contradict an alternative explanation that is based on observable phenomena. Magical thinkers assume not only that hidden powers are behind much of what happens in the world, but that this explanation is more correct than an empirical one. [Emphasis theirs.]

Magical thinkers are the anti-vaxxers, the 9/11-truthers, and so on — people who are much less likely to be swayed by what others would describe as solid evidence about the genuine truth of these matters. Oliver and Wood have long been curious about what gives rise to this tendency, and to learn more they eventually developed a scale that can place individuals on a spectrum, with Rationalists — those who make decisions more on the basis of reason and evidence — on one end and Intuitionists — those who rely more on gut-level stuff like heuristics — on the other.

...Intuitionists ...are likely to be apprehensive and pessimistic, both in their daily behavior and in their thoughts about the future, and to be superstitious in the sense of being willing to choose potentially harmful or physically unpleasant activities (riding in a speeding car without a seat belt) over ones that feel wrong but won’t actually have any real-world effect (yelling that you hope you die). “[W]e don’t mean to imply that symbolic actions are costless for us — stabbing a family photograph may make someone feel awful,” Oliver and Wood write. “But magical thinking arises precisely from our willingness to imbue a symbol with this emotional significance — to give ordinary objects sacred power is to make them emotionally potent.”

...As you might suspect ...conservatives skew Intuitionist. And Trump fans skew even more Intuitionist than that.

...But it’s the Trumpenvolk who are, relative to followers of other politicians, the most fearful and superstitious. It should come as no surprise that they were drawn to a man constantly raising fears of immigrant invasions, foreign terrorists, and globe-spanning conspiracies with anti-Semitic undertones.

Oliver and Wood make it clear that when it comes to the question of Rationalism versus Intuitionism, they are partisans. “The Intuitionist/Rationalist split is not like other political divisions in the United States,” they write. “Intuitionism poses an existential threat to democracy. It is neither benign nor temperate. It bristles against open inquiry, is intolerant of opposition, and chafes at the pluralism and compromise modern democracy requires. It is prone to conspiracy theory, drawn to simple generalizations, and quick to vilify the other.”

Maybe the first step is for writers, pollsters, and all the other elites who remain confused about Trump’s appeal to better educate themselves about the Intuitionism scale, as well as other related constructs like conspiracism (what it sounds like) and need for cognitive closure (a preference for simple, straightforward thoughts without much ambiguity). Absent these insights from political psychology, it’s easy to get caught in an endless cycle of befuddlement: How could evangelical “values voters” be so unconcerned that Trump is a philanderer and former supporter of reproductive rights? How could down-on-their luck working-class whites have such enthusiasm for a brash mogul, born into a rich family, who has endlessly ripped off people like them, and who has openly stated he will cut the welfare benefits keeping many of them alive and housed? How could white, educated suburban women vote for a man who has been credibly accused of multiple sexual assaults?

Intuitionism can’t completely answer these questions, but it’s a start. It offers a concrete, promising foundation for better understanding Trump fans and others who don’t seem to have the same approach to facts and evidence that Rationalists have. And a better understanding of the genuine psychological underpinnings of these beliefs might, in the long run, bring with it better tactics for convincing the conspiracy-addled to rejoin the reality-based community.


h/t Jay Farquharson

In Memoriam - Pierre Berton (1920 - 2004)

It's only fitting that, on this day, we remember legendary Canadian author, historian, and bon vivant, Pierre Berton, seen here as he reveals his secrets for rolling a really fine joint.

I imagine that Berton must be looking down from some lofty celestial perch with a satisfied smile on his face.

A Bang or a Fizzle - Is Mueller Ready to Talk?

Bloomberg is reporting that special counsel, Robert Mueller, is about to deliver his report into the two key aspects of his investigation - dealings between the Trump campaign and the Russians and the possibility that Trump obstructed justice in the investigation into these matters.

From the mountain of investigative news reports to the stack of books published over the past year to documentaries such as "Active Measures," a great deal of dirt on Trump and Company has already been released and it powerfully supports the notion of Trump as a puppet of the Kremlin thanks to a lengthy history of laundering money for the Russian mafia.

To what's already in the public sphere, Mueller has banking records from the Bank of Cyprus and, more importantly, Deutsche Bank, along with the evidence of cooperating witnesses and probably Donald Trump's tax returns. From this Mueller has obtained a good many Grand Jury indictments against Trump associates and Kremlin operatives.

Mueller's report is supposed to go to the deputy AG, Rosenstein and on to Congress. How much of the contents, if any, will surface in public remains to be seen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Bastards Aren't Even Trying to Hide It.

Fresh from rewarding their ultra-rich beneficiaries with a $1.5 trillion tax cut, Republicans are complaining about the deficit they just created and they're targeting Social Security and Medicare cuts to fix it.

"It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem," McConnell said of the deficit, which grew 17 percent to $779 billion in fiscal year 2018. McConnell explained to Bloomberg that "it’s a bipartisan problem: Unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future." The deficit has increased 77 percent since McConnell became majority leader in 2015. 
New Treasury Department analysis on Monday revealed that corporate tax cuts had a significant impact on the deficit this year. Federal revenue rose by 0.04 percent in 2018, a nearly 100 percent decrease on last year’s 1.5 percent. In fiscal year 2018, tax receipts on corporate income fell to $205 billion from $297 billion in 2017.
When you engineer an outcome you can't claim that it's disappointing and you sure as hell can't claim that it's not your problem.
“When Republicans in Congress said their tax cuts to wealthy multinational corporations would pay for themselves, they lied,” wrote Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan on Twitter. “Now, they're going to try to come for hardworking people to foot the bill by slashing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. We can't let them.”
As MSNBC host and former Republican congressman, Joe Scarborough, puts it:

Saskatchewan - a Perfect Petro-Province

It's the second largest carbon energy producer in Canada and it sure acts like it. The National Observer has an expose on how the government of Saskatchewan looks the other way while Big Oil and Big Gas poison its people.

An investigation by the Observer, the Toronto Star, Global News, Northeastern and Harvard Universities, the University of Regina and Concordia's Institute for Investigative Journalism uncovered the all-too-cozy partnership between the government of Saskatchewan and the Fossil Fuelers, often imperiling the people of Saskatchewan.
Provincial air quality standards have been breached hundreds of times since 2014, but those living nearby...were not warned and oil companies responsible for some of the emissions have faced no charges or fines.

Saskatchewan, Canada’s second largest oil-producing province, has not levied a single fine, the investigation — called the Price of Oil — has found. And only once in the past three years have government workers shut down a well because of potentially deadly hydrogen sulphide (H2S) emissions.
This is the sort of thing that's normal in a Third World petro-state. It's obscene when it happens, repeatedly, persistently in Canada. This was commonplace during Brad Wall's watch and it carries on under Scott Moe. Not surprisingly, both of those conservative bastards were/are staunchly opposed to carbon taxes.

Well Why Didn't You Say So?

Stop the presses! A new climate change catastrophe is unfolding and this one changes everything.

Climate change is threatening global beer production. Yeah, you heard that right, beer, brewskis, the golden nectar of the gods. If you thought you were going to get away with a few extra cents a litre at the gas pump, think again buster.

Trouble is brewing for the world’s beer drinkers, with climate change set to cause “dramatic” price spikes and supply shortages, according to new research. 
Extreme heatwaves and droughts will increasingly damage the global barley crop, meaning a common ingredient of the world’s favourite alcoholic beverage will become scarcer. Key brewing nations are forecast to be among the worst hit, including Belgium, the Czech Republic and Ireland.
...Even in the best-case climate scenario, with rapid and deep cuts in greenhouse gases, beers drunk in Ireland, Belgium and the Czech Republic would fall between 9% and 13%, with similar drops in Canada and Germany. 
Looking at the impact on price, the research found that [coal-friendly] Poland’s beer drinkers would be hardest hit in the worst-case scenario, with the cost rising almost fivefold. In Ireland, Belgium and the Czech Republic, prices would double. These nations would be most affected because they brew and drink a lot of beer and import most of their brewing barley.

Scotland the Brave

Scottish Power, more than just another utility. The company even has its own pipe band, UK champions for 2018.

The Spanish-owned, Scottish utility, has now moved to windpower, alternative clean energy, selling off its last gas and hydro-electric plants.
Scottish Power has ditched fossil fuels for electricity generation and switched to 100% wind power, by selling off its last remaining gas power stations to Drax for more than £700m.

...While it has many onshore, the firm’s growth is in offshore windfarms, including East Anglia One, which should take the crown of the world’s largest when it opens in 2020. 
However, the company’s 5 million domestic customers will still be supplied with a mix of green and brown electricity, with some bought from other coal and gas power plant operators. 
The ScottishPower chief executive, Keith Anderson, said: “We are leaving carbon generation behind for a renewable future powered by cheaper green energy.” 
Asked why the firm was selling off its hydro assets too, given they generate green energy, he said that it was partly because they were in the same company as the gas plants and made the sale simpler.

Do You Know Anybody?

I've asked around and I haven't found anybody who thinks their life will be markedly different when the bell tolls midnight and marijuana possession/use becomes lawful.

The media, at home and even abroad, is making a huge deal out of cannabis decriminalization in Canada.

"Women cry for it - Men die for it" says the movie poster. "Drug crazed abandon" - that certainly sounds interesting but somehow even more unlikely.

There'll be no "wake and bake" for me tomorrow. I'll just feed the dog, make myself a powerful cup of tea and maybe have a slice of toast with saskatoonberry jam.

Everyone Has an Excuse and They're All Crap

It was nice to see that Parliament held a late night debate on climate change yesterday. By "Parliament" I mean the parties that consider the threat serious enough to show up, i.e. the House of Commons except for the Conservatives.

Trudeau enviromin, Dame Cathy McKenna, really upped her game when she came out with the catchy zinger about how we're the first generation to experience the impacts of climate change and the last generation that will be able to do anything about it. She's probably right but she's also perhaps unwittingly raised the bar for whatever her government now does about it (hint: minuscule carbon taxes won't clear the bar, not by a long shot). Until the Liberal government acts, she'll be "Catchy Cathy."

It fell to Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, to put it bluntly:
"You've got one chance to protect your kids' world, you've got one chance, and it's expiring in about 10-12 years, to hold global average temperature to no more than 1.5 degrees and if you miss that ... you end up in a situation where the worst case scenario isn't bad weather, it's the collapse of our civilization and the extinction of millions of species, potentially including us."
All the stirring rhetoric, however, wasn't translated into calls for really meaningful action. The best Catchy Cathy would come up with was a determination to see Harper's emission cut promises met and then, and only then, maybe look at something else.

Once there are calls for action, the excuses pour out. Every nation has an excuse. Every excuse is crap.

The Tory line is that cutting carbon emissions should rely on incentives and the invisible hand of the market. They back that up with the line about how small Canada is and how, therefore, our emissions are negligible and how we cut our emissions really doesn't matter. It won't make much difference. You should try that line the next time you're attending a concert. Just tell the guy on the gate that there are thousands of people attending and whether you pay the ticket price really won't make a difference to the band.

Then there's the rich country fallback, the big gun. It's about how we can't let action on climate change harm the economy. We must defend the economy.  Justin Trudeau reminds us of that every chance he gets.

No one ever asks the lesser of Pierre Trudeau's three sons just what economy he's so concerned about defending. Is it today's economy or the economy ten and twenty years from now, the economy he's bequeathing to our young people?

Trudeau's argument, which is routinely parroted by Catchy Cathy, is the one that is most powerful. It is also the one on which all the major parties agree. Yeah, sure, but it's still crap. Allow me to explain.

Think of "the economy" as the sum of its parts - production, consumption and waste. One inevitable component of waste is greenhouse gases that we emit into the atmosphere.

Sensible minds realize that we live on a solitary and finite planet, Earth. Our planet does not reproduce. It does not expand.

We, humankind, have become quite good at transforming this finite planet Earth. Particularly since the Industrial Revolution we have learned to have our way with the old girl, Gaia, plundering her relentlessly. So well have we developed our game that we have plunged Earth into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, complete with a new climate - the climate that now threatens to bring us low.

But it's not just our madcap climate antics that undermine the future of our civilization. We have also flooded the Earth's surface with probably three times more humans than it can support and we've found ways to pillage and deplete Gaia's resources at more than 1.7 times her sustainable capacity. These things too are the face of "the economy" we're so desperate to continue. It's a rat race on a truly global scale. To support all those extra billions of mouths we have to pursue perpetual exponential growth pushing Gaia to a state of planetary exhaustion. Think of "the economy" as a hamster wheel on which we're determined to keep running ever faster.

What is the justification for defending today's economy, the perpetual exponential growth economy, if we're only denying our kids and grandchildren a viable economy in their time? Remember what Catchy Cathy said. We're the first generation to experience the impacts of climate change and the last that will be able to do anything about it. There you go, she said it.

The poor folks, let's call them the emerging economies and the Third World, have their excuses too and they're even more compelling. They point to their per capita greenhouse gas emissions as being a fraction of the rich world's. True enough, especially for those of the Third World who just happen to be the first taking it in the neck from climate change. They didn't get their fair share of the industrial bounty and the easy and comfortable lifestyles that came with it. So it's only fair that we should do the heavy lifting on emissions cuts even if that means buggering up our bloated economies. That's a morally compelling argument.

A number of the have-nots and have-not-enoughs prefer to focus on have-nation GHG emissions to the exclusion of the overpopulation issue. That's true for the already overpopulated giants, China and India, and for the population-bomb countries, primarily in Africa. Our climate change sins are their excuse for not having to deal with population control and, like all the other convenient excuses, it's crap.

We have to slash our greenhouse gas emissions. They have to deal with their overpopulation. Gaia can't take either of us.

Cutting our emissions is going to impact our economy. Sometimes you just have to let go of some things to avert worse things. As for this pursuit of perpetual exponential growth as the backbone of our economy, I'll use this photo to illustrate the fallacy of this way of thinking.

This is the USS Akron. In May, 1932, Akron attempted to moor near San Diego. Untrained sailors were sent out to grab the mooring lines. Things did not go according to plan, the sun warmed Akron's buoyant gas lightening the ship and sending it out of control. Those three guys you see could have let go but they didn't - not while letting go was an option. Two of them, the guys at the bottom, plunged to their deaths. They paid with their lives for their failure to act decisively.

Dealing effectively with climate change means dealing decisively with the economy. Preserve what is essential, what is really worth defending. Discard what is not. You have to know when to let go.

I recently heard the most compelling argument ever for slashing our greenhouse gas emissions. It's all about "buying time." Time that will let us implement the best possible adaptation strategies for both our own generation and generations that will follow us. Time that can mean the difference between life and death for millions, possibly hundreds of millions, some say billions.

You don't often get to buy things free. As a rule the more precious the commodity the higher the price. What can be more precious than time to adapt, time needed to survive? Time to get an extra second or two on the brakes before entering that surprisingly wicked corner. Time to get everyone out of their beds before fire consumes the house. When time matters it matters a lot and there isn't much you wouldn't give to get a little extra.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions sharply now, not later, is the price for that precious extra time we need to adapt as far as we still can to climate change. That used to be a much harder sell when we thought climate change was something that might set in by the end of the century. Only those changes aren't waiting. They're setting in now. As I wrote yesterday, carbon taxes are fine but they won't protect you. They won't buy us the time we need.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Carbon Taxes are Fine But They Won't Protect You

Climate taxes, if they're high enough (and Trudeau's are far from that mark), are a good way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by curbing society's and the economy's appetite for fossil fuels and nudging both toward clean alternative energy.

Those two words - carbon + taxes - however are just amorphous enough that they can provide a dandy smokescreen to climate change footdraggers whose ranks include every prime minister from the current placeholder all the way back to Jean Chretien.

Carbon taxes are a small part of how a responsible government must respond to climate change. Carbon taxes go to mitigation, trying to keep the future a bit less worse than it will be otherwise. Carbon taxes, on their own, do not solve anything. They're not some standalone solution.

The other shoe, the one that's nowhere to be found, is adaptation. That is measures designed to protect us from climate change impacts, some of which even Canada is already experiencing. These include severe storm events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration; sea level rise and coastal inundation; flash and cyclical floods; flash and cyclical drought; disease and pest migration; heat waves, crop failures, the list goes on.

From papers and reports I've read (often I have to rely on 'executive summaries') and experts I've spoken with, it seems the upcoming decade, the 2020s, will usher in major climate changes that many of us today cannot imagine.

Think of it as a non-linear, progressive disease. Tomorrow may not be just a little bit more difficult than today. Some changes will be both large and abrupt, making them more disruptive and making effective adaptation more difficult, sometimes impossible.

The EPA has a summary of adaptation strategies in four main categories: air, water, waste and public health. It's not an exhaustive treatment but it is on the right track. It provides links to helpful case studies.

The EPA summary makes clear that adaptation strategies are about defending our essential needs - clean water, clean air, effective waste management and public health - against the impacts of climate change. For example, it outlines five potential threats to waste management - temperature, precipitation, wind, sea level rise and wildfires. Each can be explored separately.

It's pretty obvious that adaptation strategies are the responsibility of every level of government - federal, provincial and municipal - and they all have to work together. How that's to be done I have no idea but I haven't seen any sign of life on this front, have you?

Of course once our representatives start talking about adaptation, the conversation will quickly turn to funding and everybody comes to the table with an empty purse.

Trudeau could come up with twenty, thirty billion dollars a year if he was to stop direct subsidies and indirect benefits to Big Oil. Doing that might spark a civil war, however, and besides our prime minister has no appetite for that fight.

The biggest adaptation challenge, however, is to defend our essential infrastructure that is rapidly falling apart, most of it engineered and constructed to meet the demands of a much gentler climate. The tab for upgrading and, where necessary, replacing our vulnerable infrastructure could be upwards of a trillion dollars. We don't have that kind of money. Yet the cost of not upgrading and replacing that infrastructure will be much greater and time is not on our side on this front either.

Bickering endlessly over a woefully inadequate, minuscule carbon tax is just wasting time we don't have. Unless our prime minister and every premier make climate change preparation their overarching priority, we're hooped. They are writing the narrative of our future and the future of our kids and theirs today and they're writing it in indelible ink.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

It's Time - Time for Bavaria, Time for Canada

In Germany, the Green Party is on a roll. In the upcoming Bavarian elections the Greens hold a solid second place and they're rising in other parts of Deutschland. From Foreign Policy:
...the real political earthquake this election cycle has been the rise of the Green party, which has more supporters—on both the left and the right—than ever.

(Indeed, according to the Forsa research institute, only 60 percent of new Green supporters come from the left of the political spectrum.) With such broad backing, it is no wonder that the Greens stand poised to win 18 percent of the vote and come in second in this weekend’s race in Bavaria, even displacing the SPD.

The green wave in Germany’s south follows successive gains for the party all over the country and portends a major role for the Green party in future federal governments. If the CSU wants to maintain its position in Bavaria, it could do worse than ally with this environmental group-turned-serious political contender.

...The Greens, founded in 1980, first took on a governing role at the federal level two decades ago when they formed a coalition government with the SPD. When the SPD lost to Merkel and her CDU, the Greens once again become a reliable opposition party. Its former partner, the SPD, entered into governing coalitions with the CDU during Merkel’s first, third, and current terms as chancellor. In doing so, the SPD has seen its support plunge. Much of that support has gone to the Green party, which has, over time, expanded its platform to cover topics ranging from foreign policy to digital governance.

Ghosts and Buzzards

Has the ghost of unified Republican  governments returned to haunt America - and the world?

Hardly a day goes by without another business op-ed predicting a financial collapse either next year or perhaps early in 2020.

Some foresaw a global economic disaster looming when Trump was inaugurated almost two years ago. Why? The history of unified Republican governments, that's why. Give the GOP control of the House, the Senate and the presidency and, sure as hell, they'll crash the economy.
In fact, the ONLY 3 PERIODS of extended unified Republican governments going back to 1900 ALL DIRECTLY led to banking crises….Arguably the 3 worst in US History. To be clear, I am defining ‘extended’ unified governments as anytime they control the House, Senate and White house for at least 4 years. This does not include short 2 year stints since it’s hard to screw things up that quick (FYI there was only 1 period of that anyway, 1953-1955). You can look up the periods yourself here and more detail here
The list of Unified Republican Government crises include the Panic of 1907, The Great Depression, and the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. Interestingly, the record of extended Republican control of Congress has also only led to crises. There have only been 4 periods of extended Republican control of Congress (3 of which overlap with the periods of full unified control just mentioned). However, the 4th period (I KID YOU NOT) ended in the 2000 DotCom Bust where the Republicans controlled the House and Senate from 1995-2001.
So, have the Republicans on the Hill and in the White House today sowed the seeds for another great recession, possibly even a global depression? A lot of business and economics types think that's a good possibility.

Earlier this year, Forbes predicted a major recession next year. In September, Newsweek followed suit.
Goldman Sachs predicted that this year's U.S. fiscal outlook would be "not good," and that U.S. household debt had been increasing since the 2008 housing crisis led to American taxpayers bailing out the big banks.

In 2018, experts said, a $247 trillion global debt will be the greatest cause of the next cataclysmic financial crash. Additionally, low wages and the U.S. national debt's steady rise are expected to drag down the economy.
Economists downplayed recent positive indicators such as low unemployment and soaring business confidence, reiterating they wouldn't last through Trump's first term. At least one expert predicted that recent slides in housing and auto sales were the first step toward a U.S. recession.

Murray Gunn, chief of global research at Elliott Wave International, told the Post, "We think the major economies are on the cusp of turning into the worst recessions we have seen in 10 years. Should the [U.S.] economy start to shrink, and our analysis suggests that it will, the high nominal levels of debt will instantly become a very big issue."

Experts cautioned that several economic markers had gotten much worse over the past decade, especially in regard to borrowed money. The U.S. household debt of $13.3 trillion is now far worse than it was during its 2008 peak, due primarily to mortgage lending. 
Outstanding student loan debts have simultaneously increased from $611 billion of unpaid debt in 2008 to more than $1.5 trillion today. Automobile loans have far exceeded their 2008 peaks, sitting at about $1.25 trillion today, and unpaid credit card balances are just as high as the years leading up to the Great Recession. 
Central bankers have also more than doubled global debt as they flooded national economies with cheap and easy money. In 2008, global debt sat at $177 trillion, in comparison to $247 trillion today
“We won’t be able to call it a recession, it’s going to be worse than the Great Depression,” economic commentator Peter Schiff told the Post. “The U.S. economy is in so much worse shape than it was a decade ago.”
The last round of tax cuts for the rich left the US government neck deep in debt kimchee. Economist Teresa Ghilarducci in the September edition of Forbes explains why America's reckless federal deficit is particularly devastating on the eve of a recession.
National debt is now 105% of GDP. Should we worry? Debt alone is not a problem. During WWII, war-related debt was at a all-time high: 118% of GDP. And, debt levels naturally rise in recessions. 
So, not all debt is bad. But economists worry when borrowing fuels consumption and not investment. Increase debt to build schools, railroads, health systems, create anti-recession spending, and to fight fascism. Good debt makes us richer. But debt used to cut taxes for corporate stock buybacks and affluent household spending, which yields little research and development and other productive investment is bad debt. Bad debt makes us poorer. 
And high debt levels can leave little room to maneuver. The IMF predicts that among rich nations, only the U.S. will increase its debt-to-GDP ratio in the next five years, the wrong direction during an economic expansion. During an expansion, especially the current nearly record-setting long one, debt should be falling, not rising. In Q3 of 2008, the government had collected revenue from the booming economy; the debt-to-GDP ratio was a low 64%. When the Great Recession hit, the government had room to borrow to finance our fiscal lifesavers, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and TARP, which helped keep the deep recession from turning into a global depression. 
Government deficits before a recession are even more dangerous. Fueling a large federal deficit before a recession is a big mistake.If the economic downturn hit now the government would have less ammo to fight it. Interest payments alone will take up an ever-higher share of the budget as the debt ratio grows. And as the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates, the interest share will grow even faster, again leaving little room to increase spending when the next recession comes.
Now the International Monetary Fund is also predicting a great depression ahead.

The International Monetary Fund head isn’t known for breathlessness on the world stage. And yet the IMF sounded downright alarmist in its latest Global Financial Stability report, stating that “large challenges loom for the global economy to prevent a second Great Depression.”

Italy is the current flashpoint – and the latest target of “domino effect” chatter in frothy world markets. China’s shadow-banking bubble, and the extreme opacity and regulations that enable it, also came in for criticism. And, of course, the 800-pound beast in any room where global investors gather these days: Donald Trump’s assault on world trade. 
But the real worry is the health of foundations underpinning these and other risks. 
As the BIS [Bank for International Settlements] warned on Sept. 23, the global economy faces a potential “relapse” of the “Lehman shock” of 2008. “Things look rather fragile,” says BIS chief economist Claudio Borio. Equally worrying, he adds: “There’s little left in the medicine chest to nurse the patient back to health or care for him in case of a relapse.”
 What does this have to do with Republicans? Plenty. Given a free rein, i.e. unified government, they're the party of deregulation, free markets, tax cuts for the rich and Casino Capitalism. And right now they're on a tear. They're out to defund government so they can justify pillaging Social Security and slashing Medicare. They need a large federal deficit and no one is worrying about the looming recession.,

Ever heard of Hyman Minsky? Long ridiculed by neoclassical economists, Minsky's theory is that, out of the ashes of recession/depression, governments regulate the financial sector, stability returns, the economy rebounds and then the buzzards move in. Deregulation, reckless speculation, unfunded debt - BOOM.

For those (like me) who prefer not to engage in lengthy economics treatises, Minsky's theory has been put in a highly entertaining documentary by Python, Terry Jones, entitled "Boom Bust Boom." A year ago you needed a streaming service account to watch it. Now it's on YouTube. Try it, I think you'll like it.

I can think of nothing more likely to crash the Republicans and Trump in 2020 than a collapse of the American economy. That, however, is still tragic. It's like using a howitzer to shoot rats.

Friday, October 12, 2018

What We're Fighting For Now is Each Other.

Climate change activists once imagined that they were fighting for future generations, babies that will be born decades from now. Then it became a fight for our grandchildren's future. Today it's a fight for our children and perhaps even for ourselves.

Mary Annaise Heglar, writing in Vox, says what we're fighting for now is each other.
Many people who don’t think about climate change on a daily basis, or who thought it lived on some distant horizon they would never have to face, are now coming to terms with its terrifying reality. I get it. I’ve worked in the environmental field as a policy editor for nearly five years now. 
People like me, and others in “the climate-verse” —  activists on the ground, experts in the field, professionals at big greens —  have all had that moment when we had to face the reality of climate change. For most of us, that moment hurt. I know it did for me.
...I knew I would see bad things accelerate in my lifetime, but I didn’t know it was going to happen before I turned 50. Nor did I realize how many of them I’d actually already seen. After all, I was with my mother in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina and here in New York during Sandy.

...I didn’t know it then, but that first year I spent reading policy papers, I went into mourning. I skipped denial and went right to shock. I floated around on a dark, dark cloud. I frequently and randomly burst into tears, and I’d refuse to admit to myself that I knew exactly why I was crying.

...Then I went into depression. My social life turned into fits and spurts of intense engagement followed by equally intense withdrawal. I was deeply afraid of telling even the people closest to me what I knew and why I was so scared. I couldn’t sleep. The crying fits continued. They didn’t become more predictable.

I’d silently been asking myself: What am I fighting for? What am I trying for? Why am I paying my student loans? Hell, why am I saving for retirement? I was heading into a desperate space. 
One day at work, I came across the book that saved me: What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other, a book by environmental journalist Wen Stephenson that chronicles his transformation from reporter to climate activist. The prose was beautiful, and each page oozed with compassion without layering the issue with coats of sugar. It looked climate change squarely in the face. 
One of the many, many things that book taught me was that I was not crazy. That my broken heart was normal. I was not the only one feeling it, and the best thing I could do was get out and talk to people who had already stood in front of this same emotional abyss and found the nerve to carry forward. 
...Whether we admit it or not, we’re all in the middle of one big, giant mourning process. We’re mourning our futures. We’re mourning the children we’re afraid to have. Our bucket lists. Our travel plans. Some of us are mourning homes already lost to fires or flood, or savings accounts wiped out helping relatives recover from hurricanes. Some of us are mourning our todays, even our yesterdays. 
...Denial is part of the traditional mourning process, but we have collectively spent way too long there. It’s time to snap out of it.
Given the sheer enormity of climate change, it’s okay to be depressed, to grieve. But please, don’t stay there too long. Join me in pure, unadulterated, righteous anger. 
The dominant narrative around climate change tells us that it’s our fault. We left the lights on too long, didn’t close the refrigerator door, and didn’t recycle our paper. I’m here to tell you that is bullshit. If the light switch was connected to clean energy, who the hell cares if you left it on? The problem is not consumption — it’s the supply. And your scrap paper did not hasten the end of the world. 
Don’t give in to that shame. It’s not yours. The oil and gas industry is gaslighting you. 
That same IPCC report revealed that a mere 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global climate emissions. These people are locking you and everything you love into a tomb. You have every right to be pissed all the way off. And we have to make them hear about it.
...We can’t pretend this isn’t happening anymore. Especially for us Americans, our general privilege and relative comfort compared to so many in the world can make it easy to turn a blind eye. But we can’t pretend that some unnamed cavalry is coming to save us. We are the adults in this room. We have to save ourselves
It’s not our fault, but it is very much our problem. It’s dire, but we have to dig in our heels and fight — for each other.

When Governments Can No Longer Handle the Truth

Gwynne Dyer has interesting views on climate change from the military perspective. In his book, "Climate Wars," he argues that we won't die from climate change but from the wars it will unleash.

It's not surprising that Dyer wasn't very impressed with this week's report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or the milquetoast attitudes of the governments that commissioned it. Governments, he claims, are afraid of putting themselves on the hook to actually do something about it.
...governments don’t like to talk about the mass movements of refugees and the civil and international wars that will erupt when the warming cuts into the food supply. And they don’t want to talk openly about the feedbacks. 
Governments take climate change very seriously these days, but they worry too much frankness about the cost, in lives, of going past 1.5 C will create irresistible pressure on them to take radical action now. In the ensuing struggle between the scientists and the politicians, the executive summary always gets toned down. 
What got removed from the summary this time was any mention of “significant population displacement concentrated in the tropics” at plus-two C. 
Even worse, “tipping points” barely are mentioned in the report. These are the dreaded feedbacks – loss of Arctic sea ice, melting of the permafrost, carbon dioxide and methane release from the oceans – that would trigger unstoppable, runaway warming. 
They are called feedbacks because they are self-reinforcing processes unleashed by the warming we already have caused. 
If you don’t go into the feedbacks, you can’t talk about runaway warming, and going to four, five or six degrees C higher average global temperature, and hundreds of millions or billions of deaths. And if you don’t acknowledge that, you will not treat this as the emergency it is.

Creating Jobs for Americans. Melania's All For It.

What do Ivana and Melania Trump have in common? Well, they both hail from Eastern Europe and, from time to time, both had to bed the man with the sexual appetites of a goat, Donald Trump, a.k.a. the Wandering Philanderer.

Part of Melania's life since her hubby, through Electoral College sleight of hand became president, is to be regaled with reports of his infidelities. So, how's a modern girl to cope with that indignity?
Melania Trump says she loves Donald Trump and has “much more important things to think about” than allegations he cheated on her with a porn star, a Playboy Playmate or anyone else.

...She played down a suggestion that the repeated rumors of his philandering had put a strain on their marriage. 
“It is not concern and focus of mine,” she said. “I’m a mother and a first lady, and I have much more important things to think about and to do.”
“Yeah, it’s not always pleasant, of course,” she said. “But I know what is right and what is wrong and what is true and not true.”
One thing she probably knows is whether Stormy Daniel's description of the old goat's misshapen todger is on the money. You can't make that stuff up.

And Melania can always consider it creating jobs for American women. Why should she do all the heavy lifting?

Coming Soon (Probably Not) to a Theatre Near You.

It's scheduled to open today in theatres somewhere. It's a feel-good (just kidding) documentary, "Anthropocene," which curiously deals with this new geological epoch we, mankind, have imposed on our planet, that's Earth.

There's a good review of the documentary and director Jennifer Baichwal in The Georgia Strait.

A Window into Calamity

What, in this age of severe climate change, will "calamity" mean?

A Washington State University climate scientist, Deepti Singh, shows what happened during the Great Drought that brought massive crop failures across Asia, Brazil and Africa from 1875 to 1878. Famine claimed an estimated 50-million lives (remember the population was shy of 1.5 billion back then).
"In a very real sense, the El Niño and climate events of 1876-78 helped create the global inequalities that would later be characterized as 'first' and 'third worlds'," writes Singh, who was inspired by "Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World." The book details the social impact of the Great Drought and subsequent droughts in 1896-1897 and 1899-1902. Its author, Mike Davis, is a distinguished professor at the University of California, Riverside, and a co-author on Singh's paper.

...The Great Drought actually was several droughts, Singh found, beginning with a failure of India's 1875 monsoon season. East Asia's drought started in the spring of 1876, followed by droughts in parts of South Africa, northern Africa and northeastern Brazil. There were also droughts in western Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia. 
The length and severity of the droughts prompted the Global Famine, aided in no small part by one of the strongest known El Niños, the irregular but recurring periods of warm water in the tropical Pacific Ocean. That triggered the warmest known temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean and the strongest known Indian Ocean dipole—an extreme temperature difference between warm waters in the west and cool waters in the east. These in turn triggered one of the worst droughts across Brazil and Australia. 
Because the drought was induced by natural variations in sea-surface temperatures, says Singh, a similar global-scale event could happen again. Moreover, rising greenhouse gas concentrations and global warming are projected to intensify El Niño events, in which case "such widespread droughts could become even more severe."

Summer is Over, So Where Is the Return of the Sea Ice?

In today's Freak Weather News, scientists are scrambling to figure out why Arctic sea ice isn't regrowing as expected now that summer is over.

The air over the high Arctic is anomalously warm compared to the decades-long average, Lars Kaleschke, an Arctic scientist at the University of Hamburg's Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability, said over email. In mid-October, the temperatures here should be plummeting. But they've gone up. 
While temperatures are still hovering near freezing in these high northern realms, they're presently around a whopping 18 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) above the 1958 to 2002 average for this time of year.

A formidable mass of high atmospheric pressure stretching all the way from Alaska to the North Pole has pushed relatively warm air from the North Pacific Ocean into the Arctic, noted Labe.
"Both the ocean and atmosphere are warmer than usual," said Kaleschke. 
It's difficult, however, to know whether it's warm air or ocean waters that are playing a stronger role in suppressing the growth of ice in this remote Arctic sea, said Kaleschke.
Meanwhile, bless her little heart, Mother Corp., a.k.a. the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, has discovered that the Arctic is warming, like really fast, and it's messing up the climate.  Trust the CBC to bury its climate change reports in its wildly popular "technology & science" section. Today's lead story there is "baby mice produced from 2 moms, no dad." There's an attention grabber, eh?

Next Year You Really Should Vote Green

The 2019 election isn't far off but the outcome seems preordained. Barring some disaster the Trudeau Liberals are expected to win another false majority. That will make Justin the prime beneficiary of his craven and utterly self-serving decision to renege on his promise of electoral reform.

Even if I'm wrong and Justin doesn't hang onto power, we'll have a false majority Conservative government, the flip side of the coin.

Sure they're different, a little bit here, a little bit there. One might smell a bit worse than the other but that's not really important.

What matters, I submit, is the urgent message delivered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its latest report. Remember, that's a "best case scenario" report as jarring as it seems. Still it warns that globally we must slash greenhouse gas emissions a staggering 45% by 2030, just 12-years from now.

Twelve years. In Canada that's three electoral cycles for false majority governance. That is not much time to get it right.

Here's why I suggest neither Liberal nor Conservative deserves your vote. They both promise conflicted leadership at a time that demands the utmost clarity to secure, so far as that still remains possible, the future of our children. Both will sell out our country.

Trudeau champions a relatively pointless carbon tax. He's bragging about numbers that are woefully inadequate, a small fraction of what's needed. Still it's a gesture and that's better than Andrew Scheer's backwardness. But that's not enough reason to back the Liberals.

It's what Scheer and Trudeau have in common, what they agree upon (albeit with minor differences) that matters. That begins with bitumen. Both are bitumen boosters, committed to flooding world markets with as much of the toxic, filthy, high-carbon, low-grade ersatz petroleum as possible.

Trudeau will at least talk about cutting Canadian GHG emissions - too little, too late as that may be - but, when it comes to bitumen, they're both doing what Big Tobacco did in the States. When the tobacco/cancer link started cutting into sales, Big Tobacco flooded foreign markets, particularly Asia with their cancer sticks. And Trudeau and Scheer would have us flood those selfsame markets with our own.

While that may take the government off the hook for the emissions load represented by every supertanker of bitumen burned overseas - and that is precisely the way they treat it - it's called "global" warming. It doesn't matter where that crud is burned. There's only one atmosphere.

What Justin Trudeau has shown us over the past three years is that he's not to be trusted. He'll lavish us with grand promises and then simply walk away from them.

I can't argue that it's time for the Greens to govern Canada. Not yet. It is, however, time that Canada was not fettered by ineffective false majority governments. We need consensus government to deal with the unparalleled challenges that confront us today. Since we cannot have electoral reform under Trudeau or Scheer, our only chance is to deny either party a false majority and instead elect enough Greens that we have minority government with the Greens holding the balance of power able to defeat the government on a confidence motion if they keep stalling on climate change.

We need truly disruptive change in the way we're governed federally and provincially. Let's start in 2019.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Polar Jet Brings Sahara to the Arctic

In today's freak weather news, scientists have discovered a new "atmospheric mechanism" whereby the polar jet drags hot dusty air from the Sahara to the eastern side of the North Atlantic into the Arctic.

It seems the polar jet, known for creating Rossby waves as shown above, triggered a cyclonic storm over the African Sahara (I know, Africa and Sahara are redundant). A few years ago this wave phenomenon brought a freezing ice storm that immobilized Atlanta, Georgia while simultaneously dragging warm air from the south to give Barrow, Alaska a balmy 62F February day. It's wacky, yeah I know.
Research scientists at NYU Abu Dhabi, along with other global researchers, have identified a new mechanism by which warm dust travels from the Sahara Desert to the Arctic Circle, which has been proven to affect rising temperatures and ice melt in Greenland. 
Their findings highlight the role that the polar jet and associated atmospheric circulation plays in the transport of mineral dust from the Sahara desert to the Arctic across eastern side of the North Atlantic Ocean. 
A meandering polar jet was discovered as responsible for both the emission and transport of dust from Northwest Africa to the Arctic. The emission has been linked to an intense Saharan cyclone that formed in early April 2011, which was caused by the intrusion of an upper-level trough emanating from the polar jet. 
The study has found that atmospheric circulation of this nature enables the transport of dust, warm and moist air masses from subtropics and mid-latitudes to the Arctic, where approximately half of the warming is now being attributed to increased moisture and heat fluxes transported to the region. 
The warm and moist air masses accompanying the Saharan dust caused a rise in surface temperature of 10C for more than three consecutive days upon reaching southeastern Greenland. Subsequent temperature observations detected increased melting within the ice across this same area. 
"The polar jet stream has been identified as the main driver for such events leading to the transport of large amount of dust to high-latitudes," said Diana Francis, atmospheric scientist at NYU Abu Dhabi and lead research scientist in this study. 
"If the polar jet is set to slow more frequently due to the changes in the Arctic climate system and to the Arctic Amplification, such events are expected to become more frequent," Francis added.
Fortunately our political leaders will put an end to this nonsense any day now. Sahara dust in the Arctic, really. What next? (hint: wait and see)

Michael Harris - On Climate Change, Canada Talks the Talk But Crawls the Walk

Michael Harris' latest column warns don't count on politicians, including Trudeau, to prevent a global warming apocalypse.
To believe what a politician says when she’s campaigning to become the government is a little like believing Donald Trump on a bad day — rational optimism that’s slipped its moorings. 
Just as voters focus on their self-interest, most politicians wind up focusing on re-election — not on the grand enterprise of doing the right (and sometimes difficult) thing, with power. Long-term thinking is rarely, if ever, rewarded at the ballot box, which is why we have so many short-term political thinkers. 
Ultimately, the failings of voters pale beside the failings of these politicians. According to the UN’s major new report, there are just a dozen years or so for governments around the world to get it right. After 25 years of rhetoric, the failure on this matter continues. The name of action on the environment is consistently lost in the heat of resolve. 
According to the UN report, based on 6,000 scientific references from 40 countries and 91 authors, it comes down to this: Either countries ditch coal and fossil fuels in the next decade or so, or Earth begins the irreversible slide into planetary chaos. Hurricane Michael has just left the future’s calling card with millions of people living on the Florida Panhandle. 
The scientists who produced this dire UN report realize they’re virtually asking the impossible from governments: a rapid economic transition from carbon economies to cleaner energy so “abrupt,” it has “no documented historic precedent.”
Unmasking the Dauphin, Our Fake Eco-Warrior
Canada talks a better game than Trump. Who doesn’t? But this country’s record under Justin Trudeau has been more than dubious; it’s been dreadful. 
New exploratory drilling permits for fossil fuels, publicly owned pipelines for oilsands bitumen, and the endorsement of highly questionable mega-projects like British Columbia’s Site C dam. And now LNG Canada
Just this week, Canada’s environment minister appeared on Vancouver CBC. As bright, articulate and telegenic as she is, Catherine McKenna came off more like the minister of finance or fossil fuels than the person leading the war against global warming. 
Defending the government’s massive energy project in Kitimat, McKenna said that switching energy sources can’t be done overnight, and that LNG was a “transition fuel.” 
Yet if you take methane emissions associated with LNG into account, it’s not a transition fuel; it’s worse than coal. Operating at full capacity, this project will put a large amount of carbon into the atmosphere each year. Estimates have run as high as 93 and as low as 3.5 million tonnes. If the Pembina Institute’s estimate of 8.6 million tonnes is correct, LNG Canada derails British Columbia’s climate action plan. 
Coincidentally, another of the Trudeau government’s justifications for LNG exports is to help get China off coal. 
But if that’s true, why doesn’t Canada do what the state of Oregon has already done: pass laws banning coal-fired power production by 2035, and double renewable energy sources by 2040? 
Instead, Canada continues to mine coal and ship it abroad through the port of Vancouver to Japan, South Korea and, yes, China. The most recent published figures for Canadian coal exports show that 76 per cent of it goes to Asia. Does that sound like trying to wean anyone off of coal to you?
He's Spinning So Fast It's a Surprise He Can Stand Up.
When McKenna rightly points out that dumping fossil fuels “overnight” is not possible, she forgets to add that commencing the dumping of said fuels is “overdue” — at least according to the science. The last time I looked, basing public policy on sound science was supposed to be a hallmark of Liberal governance in the post-Harper era. 
The reason that politicians like McKenna, and her counterparts around the world, don’t get it, is that getting it means taking serious hits to the gross domestic product and employment. 
When Trudeau announced the LNG Canada project for Kitimat, it was all about “big”: big numbers, big investment, big employment, big sales pitch. 
The PM talked about 10,000 jobs, even though, when the construction phase is done, the real number will be tiny. In making the announcement, Trudeau sounded more like former B.C. premier Christy Clark than the man who told the world in Paris that Canada was back on the environmental file.
We're All Environmentalists Now, Or We Should Be
If the scientists have it right, the house is on fire and leaders around the world are busy rearranging the furniture in the living room. Since the politicians won’t be putting out the blaze, it will be left up to voters to get the big picture right and vote accordingly in 2019. 
And the big picture is this. 
Environmentalists are not a special interest group, like those who support ballet, opera or racing cars. Air, water, soil and biodiversity are essential to human survival and transcend political parties and corporate interests. 
Getting serious about carbon emissions by 2050 just doesn’t do it anymore. 
We are all environmentalists now.
2030, the date by which the world must slash CO2 emissions by 45% is just three electoral cycles away. There's no time left to put up with more of this forked-tongue nonsense from Liberals and Conservatives.  We've run out of time for that and it's the only song they know.

In terms of governance we need to vote Green, give them enough seats that they can hold an effective balance of power in a minority Parliament, enough sway on the floor of the House of Commons that they can bend the next government, Liberal or Conservative, to the desperate needs of our nation and our people or else throw them out and bring in the next bunch until they come to their senses that they represent Canadians, not a high-carbon special interest group.