Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Ukraine a Breeding Ground for Far Right Extremists

Dylan Roof Brigade

They're armed. They're trained. They're waiting for an opportunity to return to their homelands in the West to show what they can do. From VICE News:
Many far-right extremists, estimated to number between the hundreds and the low thousands, have flocked to eastern Ukraine to take up arms since civil war erupted in 2014. Hailing from across Europe, North and South America, and as far away as Australia, they’re drawn by the opportunity to fight alongside other right-wing radicals on either side of the conflict. Many see the battle as a crucial training ground for the defense of white Europe, where they can forge deep international links and gain combat experience they believe will be critical at home.
When they return home, they’re battle-hardened and more radicalized than ever, researchers say, and often fly below the radar of security services more focused on the returning jihadi threat. 
“I believe Europe is in great danger,” Alberto Testa, an expert on far-right radicalization at the University of West London, told VICE News. He said eastern Ukraine had become a critical staging ground for the international “white jihad struggle” of the far right, where extremists could “train for what some would call racial holy war.” 
Researchers warn that Ukraine is radicalizing far-right foreign fighters in the same way Syria has with jihadis — albeit on a smaller scale — creating a global network of combat-tested extremists who pose a security threat that is now beginning to manifest itself.
...Western security services haven't taken the far-right foreign fighter threat seriously enough, said Daniel Koehler, director of the German Institute for Radicalization and Deradicalization Studies, largely because they’ve overwhelmingly focused on jihadist foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq in recent years.

“It seems that intelligence agencies have not regarded them as even remotely as much of a risk as the jihadist fighters,” Koehler told VICE News. 
But that’s slowly started to change, as fighters returning from Ukraine make their presence felt at home.
...Kacper Rekawek, head of defense and security programs at Slovakia’s Globsec think tank, said some recruits had seemed indifferent about which side they actually fought on. 
“Sometimes it’s a matter of accident whether a fighter ends up on side A or side B,” said Rekawek, who has extensively interviewed foreign fighters. “They just want to take themselves to war, get this rush of adrenaline.”
...For many far-right foreign fighters drawn to Ukraine, the outcome of the war is almost a secondary consideration to other, more compelling, pull factors. 
Rekawek said Ukraine fulfilled the need, expressed by many ideologues on the extreme right, for a “safe space” for Nazis outside the West, where they could network and organize beyond the prying eyes of domestic security services.
Some Canadian radical right wingers are known to have joined their multinational clan in Ukraine. Others chose to get their combat training at home - on the taxpayers' dime. They simply enlist in the Canadian army.

When the story broke about the presence of right wing extremists in the Canadian forces, the generals were quick to say they were cracking down. Then again these are the same generals who vowed repeatedly to eliminate sexual predation in the ranks. Today the Trudeau government is paying out $900 million to victims of the generals' impressive success.

American Home Construction Booms In Flood Zones

You might'a thunk they'd know better. Wrong.
For eight states, including Connecticut, Rhode Island, Mississippi and South Carolina, the percentage increase in homes built in the flood zone exceeded the rate of increase in the rest of the state. 
There are many reasons construction persists despite the danger. In some cases it’s urban sprawl, in others it’s a desire among government officials for property-tax revenues. But whatever the reason, this kind of building activity will “come back and bite,” said Benjamin Strauss, president and chief scientist of Climate Central, which produces and publishes research on the effects of global warming.
The researchers’ objective was to examine “the riskiest of the risky places” — those that “actually would predictably flood multiple times in the course of one mortgage,” Mr. Strauss said. “Even in a time of growing climate change awareness, lots of towns are building fastest in the riskiest places.”
...Building in the very areas that will predictably flood creates two problems, according to Larry Larson, senior policy adviser with the Association of State Floodplain Managers. The first is financial: As flooding eventually exceeds what the houses were built to withstand, homeowners will face rising insurance costs.  
“Their flood-insurance premiums are going to skyrocket,” Mr. Larson said. “It’s not going to be pretty.” 
The second problem is safety, both for residents and emergency workers. “If that water rises, they’re going to have to send rescuers in there to get them out,” Mr. Larson said.
Government interests clash.
In Connecticut, where the number of homes built in high-risk areas increased at more than three times the rate elsewhere in the state, out-of-state buyers are buying older homes then tearing them down and building new structures in their place, according to Diane Ifkovic, the state’s coordinator for the National Flood Insurance Program. 
When the state has instead tried to acquire some of those flood-prone homes itself, with the purpose of reverting the land to open space, local officials have resisted, she added, fearful of losing the property tax revenue. “We tried this after Sandy,” Ms. Ifkovic said. “There is a lack of political will.”

Russia Declares State of Emergency

The Land of Vlad has declared a state of emergency over wildfires sweeping Siberia.
Officials said 2.7 million hectares of forest (about 10,400 square miles) were ablaze on Tuesday as soaring temperatures, lightning storms and strong winds combined, sending smoke hundreds of miles to reach some of Russia's biggest regional cities. 
The fires, which began earlier this month, and the Russian government's lacklustre response have raised concerns over Moscow's commitment to addressing climate change. The country relies heavily on the oil and gas industry and has a poor record of enforcing green initiatives.
Like other parts of the high north, temperatures soar in Siberia.
Environmental groups worry that in addition to the destruction of carbon-absorbing forest, the carbon dioxide, smoke and soot released will accelerate temperature increases that are already melting permafrost in northern Russia. An estimated 12 million hectares of Russian forest has burned this year. 
Temperatures in Siberia last month were as much as 8 degrees Celsius (14°F) above long-term averages and hit all-time records in some areas, according to data from Russia's state meteorological agency.

Tracking Greenhouse Gas Emitters from Space

When it comes to methane, the technology needed to identify the source of fugitive emissions from space isn't far off. And not just by some general area. It's possible to identify methane released by wellhead. Better yet, it's a way to climate-shame a political caste that has preferred to look the other way.  From Scientific American.
Satellites ...survey large swaths of the planet. Their use of a single sensor also provides more consistency, making measurements from different spots directly comparable. Until recently, though, satellites have been prohibitively expensive and their spectroscopic sensors have lacked the precision of those closer to the ground, says Laure Brooker Lizon-Tati, an engineer with Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse, France. 
That dynamic started to change within the past decade, as broader industry demands drove the miniaturization of electronics and shrank the costs of rocket launches. This made it possible to develop smaller, cheaper satellites that carry sensors capable of zooming in on individual sites to capture high-resolution methane measurements. Companies and one environmental group have leaped at harnessing such satellite capabilities for industries and policymakers eager to pinpoint individual local methane sources. But governments and large aerospace companies, encumbered by lengthy planning processes, have been slower to pivot away from a focus on measuring methane emissions on a regional and global scale. In 2016 the Montreal-based company GHGSat was the first to get off the ground with a proof-of-concept satellite called Claire, which successfully detected methane emissions from specific sites.
A handful of other groups have followed suit. The nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund has enlisted several companies to develop what it calls MethaneSAT, which could provide weekly coverage of up to 80 percent of the world’s major oil and gas production sites once it launches in 2021.
...If these companies can help inaugurate a new era of satellite monitoring of emissions, their efforts could lead to meaningful changes on the ground in several ways. Enabling companies to swiftly spot and fix more methane leaks from wellpads and pipelines would already make a difference in addressing emissions, Lauvaux says. Yet there are also the intangible benefits, as more satellite data can help generate a clear visual picture of the “massive amounts of methane floating around” that would resonate more with ordinary people than numbers alone, Lauvaux says. And when enough members of the public get concerned, he adds, more officials may finally feel compelled to do something about it. 
“Climate change is such a difficult concept to see for yourself: you cannot touch it, you cannot look at it,” Lauvaux says. “But when you start to see the methane pouring out of a tank, I think the satellite images are going to really talk for themselves.”

We Need to Talk - About Loyalty

With an election just three months away, can we say that our political parties are really loyal to the country and our people?

Loyalty is an elusive term, shifting according to circumstance. As a general rule, the more dire the situation the more focused the word becomes. Being loyal in good times can mean not pissing people off. In difficult and dangerous times loyalty takes on a greater significance.

We are in difficult and dangerous times. The future is unclear. Warnings from ten years ago that appeared dire enough at the time have proven to be optimistic, overtaken by events the pace and extent of which were not foreseen.

This is a time when priorities must be recalibrated. What was most important 30, 20, even 10 years ago may no longer be our main priority. Since the neoliberal order was ushered in during the Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney era, the priority has been the economy and economic growth above all else. To suggest otherwise was heresy. Governance became the stuff of technocrats, grey suits stuffed with wet cardboard. No longer were leaders of the stature of Laurier, St. Laurent, Diefenbaker, Pearson, Douglas, Lewis and Broadbent, Stanfield,  or Pierre Trudeau needed. Canada slid into the rut of neoliberal technocracy and we're still in that rut today.

Any doubt about the rut and its primacy is dispelled by a government that introduces and passes a motion declaring a national climate emergency and then goes back to business as usual in the petro-state that Canada has become.  Here we are, on the cusp of 2020, a decade that has the potential to bring chaos to the global order, the shrine of neoliberalism itself, and our government, having paid lip service to the climate crisis immediately returns to the quest for perpetual exponential growth and the spread of climate-wrecking bitumen anywhere it can be sold.

The global carbon economy is already claiming lives, inflicting upheaval and displacement and it is not unfair to say we don't care. We don't. Flooding the world with high-carbon, low-value bitumen will only add to Canada's butcher's bill and we don't care.  We'll dodge the worst of it for a decade, maybe two, but eventually the youngest among us today will pay the price of our avarice and indifference. We don't care.

Those who have developed a taste for this prime minister's prevarications, what I might call "horseshit," are ready to believe the prime ministerial whopper that bitumen is the key to a green future for Canada. That requires a high order of dewey-eyed gullibility but there are some willing dupes quite happy to extend it to Mr. Trudeau's nonsense. Cognitive dissonance is sometimes too easily shared.

How do we define 'loyalty' in a time of crisis? The first recital in the preamble of the federal Emergencies Act speaks to this:

WHEREAS the safety and security of the individual, the protection of the values of the body politic and the preservation of the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the state are fundamental obligations of government.
The safety and security of the Canadian people, all of us, you, me, are fundamental obligations of government. How then is our safety and security secured by pimping bitumen in a time of climate crisis? That's more than counter intuitive.

Can a government that ignores its statutorily prescribed "fundamental obligations" be considered loyal to its people? Why? How? It strikes me as an egregious act of disloyalty to knowingly put our young people in peril, to consign them to a degraded future far worse than the decades or ease and comfort we have enjoyed. It is at once both parasitic and predatory.

Surely that is the hallmark of disloyalty.

I know, I know. The Liberals are better than the Conservatives. They constantly remind us that 'they're not them' as though that's good enough. It's not. I accept that the Conservatives would be worse. Having read the platform or manifesto of Bernier's outfit, his gang would be the worst of all. But what if all that's on offer, all there is to choose among them, comes down to shades or degrees of disloyalty?

I no longer believe any party can be loyal to Canada, to keep faith with the Canadian people, and still adhere to neoliberal principles in a time of national emergency. If neoliberalism ever was a strength, and it is hard to believe it was (the price was never fully understood), it is a worrisome vulnerability when crisis descends. It's the very stuff of disaster capitalism. Why should we tolerate such disloyalty from our political leadership?

These are, of course, just my musings but I think the points raised here will acquire greater clarity as the coming decade progresses.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Does Trump Stand a Chance in 2020?

Donald Trump's path to holding the White House in next year's election was dealt a setback today by California governor Gavin Newsome.

The governor signed into law today, "The Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act."

If you want to be on the California ballot you'll have to release the past five years of your tax returns. That goes for everybody, Trump included.

In terms of electoral college votes, California is the biggest with 55. Texas is second with 38. New York and Florida each have 29. Illinois and Pennsylvania have 20 apiece.

And Now, a Word From George

It's hard to believe that Orwell wrote this 70 years ago.

For Sentient People, Liberals and Conservatives Excluded, It's a No-Brainer.

Yes, I just disparaged Liberal and Conservative supporters but I have my reasons.  For starters, they're on the wrong side of what is sweeping the world, Canada included.

Maybe they've been conditioned to believe in fairy tales, utter nonsense. Could be, I don't know. However they're willing to believe some really twisted nonsense.

Fr'instance. Some of them believe that climate change isn't happening or, if it is, it's just part of the natural cycle. Some believe it's an outright hoax. Some believe that Canada, as a major emitter of greenhouse gases, overall and per capita, is too small to matter. Some of them, especially Liberals, buy Justin's warped fairy tale about how the battle against climate change can only be won by flooding world markets with high-carbon, low-value, climate wrecking bitumen.  You've gotta be double-dumb to swallow that.

Back when I left the Liberals for the Greens, I'd just had my fill of that party's ineptitude. That was about halfway through the Ignatieff years. Remember that joker describing the Tar Sands as "the beating heart of the Canadian economy" for the 21st century?

In 2015 I voted Green but old loyalties die hard and I was still hoping that this Liberal wunderkid with the legendary name would put Canada back on the right path. Boy did I get that wrong. At least I didn't vote for them. I've had a lifetime of buyer's remorse.

So, Green it is then. Unless they do something to screw it up, the Greens are going to take their place as a political force in our country. That's because they own the environmental issue. You know, the existential threat Canada faces. The greatest threat we've ever faced. The mortal threat that imperils our society, our economy, our lives, our future.

You would think that would be Number One on any government's priority list. Only the current regime, acting like nothing so much as the bunch they ousted, is doubling down on bitumen.  Even his choice of environment minister, Dame Cathy, speaks volumes. When it comes to standing up for the environment, she's as pliable as a Gumby.

But there is hope. James Dennison writes in The Guardian that "Europe's Greens are on fire" and parties on the Left and the Right are being swept into environmental politics.
In May’s European parliament elections, the Greens won 22 more seats and 4.4% more of the vote than in 2014. Domestically, the German Greensparticipate in a majority of state governments and top national polling; the president of Austria is a Green-Independent and Greens have secured record vote shares in recent elections in Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands. They are also poised to pick up votes in forthcoming Swiss and Austrian elections. Although setbacks in Denmark and Sweden highlight the importance of national context, Greens have been gaining footholds outside their historical strongholds and are surging in polls in Ireland and the UK. 
The most obvious explanation is found in shifting attitudes to the environment and the climate crisis. Although Europeans lost some belief in the threat during the 2000s, by 2016 large majorities across the continent agreed that global heating was happening, that it was at least partially caused by humans and that its impact would be negative. It is this “salience” that activates emotions and changes voting behaviour.
...However, there is more to the current Green success than greater environmental concern. The geographical disparities can still be partially explained by the long-term emergence of “post-material values” in affluent western European societies in the 1970s. These saw individuals move beyond materialist, redistributive concerns to quality-of-life matters, including care for the environment.
Justin Trudeau was roundly celebrated for his pithy response to his choice of a gender equal cabinet - "because it's 2015."  Wowser. Then he proceeded to govern as though it was still 1980.

He's still up to his neck neoliberal. He's still questing for perpetual exponential growth in GDP. He's every inch a petro-pol and, climate change or no, he's determined that Canada should remain a petro-state. It's all so 1980.

The Euros are well ahead of us, no question, but we'll catch up before long when climate change really starts hurting us. My take is that we're going to experience a lot of unwelcome change between now and 2030. Eventually even Liberals and Conservatives will ask, "what were we thinking"?


I just learned from Lorne, at Politics and its Discontents, that the Canadian public may have reached a climate tipping point. It seems we're becoming fed up with the Liberal/Tory runaround. We're going to take the agenda back from these greasy petro-pols.  A survey commissioned by iPolitics suggests the Canadian people, especially young Canadians, have stopped buying what Trudeau and Scheer are selling.

61 per cent of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that it’s more important for the government to solve the issue of climate change even if that means that the economy suffers. That number was even higher in Quebec (76.8 per cent), Atlantic Canada (67.3) and B.C. (62), and among women (66.1), 18-35 year olds (64.4) and those aged 65 or older (64).
Over 85 per cent of respondents agreed that private companies should have to pay to pollute, including 69.1 per cent who strongly agreed. Support was highest in Quebec (89.1 per cent) and lowest in Alberta, though at 75.2 per cent agreeing, opposition to the concept is still rather marginal. 
Also, just under 68 per cent of respondents agreed that there’s a collective moral duty to future generations to not destroy the environment further, even if it means paying more taxes in the short term. As with the other responses, support was highest in Quebec (70.2 per cent), above the national average in B.C. (71.5) and Ontario (69.9), and lowest in Alberta (53).
These are not good issues for Liberals or Conservatives. In this election they may be hurdles Trudeau and Scheer cannot clear.

Just "Completely," Is That It?

It's hard not to speak of Donald Trump in superlatives. He's just that sort of guy. Yes, he's moronic. You could even say he's completely moronic. Oh wait, that's already been done.

With 2020 coming up, the Trumpster is spoiling for a fight. If it's not Sweden prosecuting some American rapper for assault, it'll be something else. The Mango Mussolini might even restart his trade war with Canada if he can't find something else.

Then there's France, the ally America loves to hate. Remember "Freedom Fries"?

France has decided that notorious tax dodgers like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple should be held to account.  Paris is looking to slap a 3 per cent tax on the GAFAs. That's just enough to get Trump riled up.

The Man-Baby has vowed to retaliate - a tariff on French wine should do it.  That got the French agriculture minister to fight back.

"...the French agriculture minister, Didier Guillaume, hit back, telling BFM TV: “It’s absurd, in terms of having a political and economic debate, to say that if you tax the GAFAs, I’ll tax wine. It’s completely moronic."
That's like saying America's emperor has no clothes. He's dead from the neck up. Which, by now, ought to be obvious to anyone. This guy's a loon, a f#@king nutjob.

It's deeply ingrained in Trump's damaged psyche that he retaliates against anyone who points out his, I don't know, 'deficiencies'?

I think there's a way to put the hamster back on his wheel where he won't bother anybody. There aren't too many people insulting Donnie. There aren't enough. What if everybody, every leader - Putin, Orban and MBS excluded - simply referred to Trump as "that moron" or maybe "that complete moron"?

I like the idea. Why don't we give it a whirl?

Monday, July 29, 2019

It's Earth Overshoot Day, 2019

It's Earth Overshoot Day, the earliest ever. That's not a good thing.

July 29 marks the day on which humanity, the lot of us, have consumed the total volume of biomass, freshwater and clean air that Earth can provide in an entire year.

For the remaining five months of the year we'll be dependent on consuming the planet's dwindling resource reserves and/or contaminating the biosphere with pollution of all descriptions that are beyond the Earth's cleansing capacity.

In the late 70s, overshoot occurred in December. Since then we've moved the goal posts back through November, October, September, August and now into July.

I read a piece in Forbes today that contends the whole "overshoot" business is fake science.  The only real problem, writes cultural anthropologist Michael Schellenberger, is carbon emissions and the way to solve that is to decarbonize.  Easy peasy.

Sorry, Mike, but that's pure bullshit. Climate change is one existential challenge. So too is our ravenous over-consumption/exhaustion of the planet's resources. Add to that our inability to cap our population levels to stay within the planet's carrying capacity.

Slashing carbon emissions by switching to alternative clean energy is a great idea, if only. Yet, as we've seen, the rise of alternative clean energy is not stopping growth in the demand for fossil energy, a market that the International Energy Agency, OPEC and others see burgeoning for the next 30 years.

Solar power, dandy as that is, won't solve our worsening degradation of the planet's finite soil reserves. Decarbonization won't stop us from over-fishing, collapsing one fishery after another as we "fish down the food chain." It won't reverse the staggering decline in populations of both terrestrial and aquatic species since 1970. It won't solve our spreading oceanic dead zones or the algae blooms that poison our lakes and rivers. It won't fix our worsening freshwater crisis, especially the depletion of our groundwater reserves.

Whether it's climate change or overshoot/resource exhaustion or overpopulation, there's only one answer. Mankind has to learn to live within the finite limits of a decidedly finite planet, our one and only biosphere, Spaceship Earth. That's all we've got. Whether Mike wants to believe it or not, a shift to clean energy - even if that was realistic - is not going to cure what ails us.

What Are We Doing? A Shot in the Arm for the Tar Sands.

There's news this morning about Teck Resources play to open a new pit in the Athabasca Tar Sands. It promises to be a major investment, 20 billion, and the company hopes it will eventually produce 85,000 barrels per day by 2026 ramping up to 260,000 barrels of bitumen goodness per day by 2037.

Regulators have given the proposal a big thumbs up despite concluding, "there will be significant adverse project and cumulative effects on certain environmental components and indigenous communities.”
It still has to clear EnviroMin, Dame Cathy's desk but, true to form, she has already ducked the issue saying if her office concludes it's an environmental fiasco, like Pontius Pilate, she'll wash her hands of it and pass the decision along to cabinet.  If she can approve it, fine. If she can't then cabinet gets to approve it.

I thought about the Teck venture this morning as I read an op-ed written by Chris Hedges in 2017.

Civilizations over the past 6,000 years have unfailingly squandered their futures through acts of colossal stupidity and hubris. We are probably not an exception. The physical ruins of these empires, including the Mesopotamian, Roman, Mayan and Indus, litter the earth. They elevated, during acute distress, inept and corrupt leaders who channeled anger, fear and dwindling resources into self-defeating wars and vast building projects. The ruling oligarchs, driven by greed and hedonism, retreated into privileged compounds—the Forbidden City, Versailles—and hoarded wealth as their populations endured mounting misery and poverty. The worse it got, the more the people lied to themselves and the more they wanted to be lied to. Reality was too painful to confront. They retreated into what anthropologists call “crisis cults,” which promised the return of the lost world through magical beliefs.
The most significant characteristic of modern civilization is the sacrifice of the future for the present,” philosopher and psychologist William James wrote, “and all the power of science has been prostituted to this purpose.”

... A society in crisis flees to the reassuring embrace of con artists and charlatans. Critics who ring alarm bells are condemned as pessimists who offer no “hope,” the drug that keeps a doomed population passive. The current administration—which removed Barack Obama’s Climate Action Planfrom the White House website as soon as Donald Trump took office—and the Republican Party are filled with happy climate deniers. They have adopted a response to climate change similar to that of the Virginia Legislature: ban discussion of climate change and replace the term with the less ominous “recurrent flooding.” This denial of reality—one also employed by those who assure us we can adapt—is driven by fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries that along with the rich and corporations fund the political campaigns of elected officials. They fear that a rational, effective response to climate change will impede profits. Our corporate media, dependent on advertising dollars, contributes to the conspiracy of silence. It ignores the patterns and effects of climate change, focusing instead on feel-good stories about heroic rescues or dramatic coverage of flooded city centers and storm refugee caravans fleeing up the coast of Florida. 
Droughts, floods, famines and disease will eventually see the collapse of social cohesion in large parts of the globe, including U.S. coastal areas. The insecurity, hunger and desperation among the dispossessed of the earth will give rise to ad hoc militias, crime and increased acts of terrorism. The Pentagon report “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States Security” is blunt. “Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,” it grimly concludes.
Even if some might have seen Hedges' views as hyperbolic back in 2017, the flood of climate change devastation since then serves to confirm his opinions. We are trapped in a dangerous state of cognitive dissonance. The Northern Hemisphere is getting hammered from Svalbard, 1300 miles above the Arctic Circle all the way south to the equator. Meanwhile our political caste, Liberal and Conservative, look the other way intent on flooding world markets with high-carbon, low-value bitumen.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Climate Change - a Burning Fuse in the Middle East

Across the Middle East, climate change-driven heatwaves and drought are giving rise to destabilizing impacts.  The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reports that the country is dangerously unprepared for global food shortages. The state, which is heavily dependent on imported grain has failed to stockpile enough reserves.

Haaretz also reports that hunger has displaced religion as the trigger for conflict in the Middle East.  Food insecurity is perhaps the most powerful destabilizing force in that region.

Israel, like many of its Arab neighbours, has become dependent on desalination for producing an adequate freshwater supply. The downside to desalination is disposal of the resulting brine that can be lethal to marine life, i.e. fish stocks, when it is pumped back into the sea. Haaretz reports that the desal industry is dumping 50 per cent more toxic brine than once believed.

Another item in the paper concerns the warming of the Mediterranean and how the region, especially the eastern Med, will be developing hurricanes in the coming years that could whipsaw the region between devastating floods and devastating droughts.

It's becoming too obvious that our, mankind's hope of curbing truly catastrophic  climate change rests on what Hans Joachim Schellnhuber described as the "induced implosion" of the global fossil fuel industry. It's not going away on its own. It will only stop when our governments put it down, the 'induced implosion' that may be our last best chance. That last best chance is not compatible with our government's agenda. Not the Harper government. Not the current government. Not whatever part forms Canada's next government in October.

And Now, Deep Thoughts from Ricky Gervais

Maybe he's on to something.

Another Nail in the Climate Deniers' Coffin

The climate deniers' equivalent of "speak to the hand" is to haul out their favourite line - the climate has always been changing. It's their version of 'nothing to see here, move along.'

It works because those who accept the climate science have to agree with it, in part. Yes, the climate has always been changing - over millennial timespans - tens of thousands or sometime hundreds of thousands of years. Not this severely, not in the span of just two centuries.  The deniers dismiss that as nitpicking.

Now it's time to drive another nail in the deniers' coffin.

Earth's natural cycles can't account for the recent warming seen over the past 100 years, new research suggests. 
In one of three new studies published in the journals Nature and Nature Geoscience, researchers found that previous periods of climate change such as the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warming Period were regional and not a global phenomenon
In contrast, the warming that has occurred over the past century has been far-reaching and global in nature.
...In the case of the Little Ice Age, the researchers found that different parts of the planet experienced changes at different times. 
The central and eastern Pacific regions experienced their coldest temperatures in 2,000 years during the 15th century. But in northwestern Europe and southeastern North America, the coldest temperatures occurred during the 17th century. For everywhere else, it occurred during the 19th century.
In contrast, the warming we are seeing today spans 98 per cent of the planet.

h/t John Klein, Saskboy

Saturday, July 27, 2019

James Lovelock's Brave New World

Did I say "brave"? Okay, leave that out - James Lovelock's New World.

Jim turned the big One Oh Oh on Friday. Happy Birthday, James.

Chances are you know Lovelock for his renowned "Gaia theory" that postulates Earth behaving just like a living creature, an organism. It was controversial at first - why, the idea that an inanimate ball of magma and water could act in fairly predictable ways that mirrored a living creature - but it's pretty much accepted today.

BTW - we credit Lovelock as the creator of the Gaia hypothesis but it seems a small gaggle of Russkies were on to something similar way before our freshly minted centenarian. But I digress.

It looks like we're now up to our alligators in Gaia. We're making Earth sick. Earth gets a fever. Wipes us out and then, cleansed, starts all over again.

But wait, there's more.

The newest bundle of Lovelock happiness comes in his theory that mankind is about to be enslaved by the very technology we created. What do we want? NOT This. When do we want it? NEVER! You get the idea.

His new book Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence proposes that the 300,000-year Anthropocene era of Earth’s human domination is ending. Novacene is a new age where our species is doomed to a worse fate than clinging on for dear life at the north pole as previously imagined. Instead we will become lackeys of cyborgs able to think 10,000 times faster than humans. We will be kept on to ensure there are habitable temperatures for these superior intelligences
Novacene’s thesis is a straight-line extrapolation of Dr Lovelock’s breakthrough idea which he began to develop while a consultant at Nasa in the 1970s; the thought that the planet was a superorganism. In 1974, he and biologist Lynn Margulis proposed the Gaia hypothesis, which holds that Earth is in some way alive. The paper suggested our planet metabolises and responds to changes in its environment to survive. In bestselling books such as The Revenge of Gaia, Dr Lovelock argued that humans have exploited Earth and the “old lady” would eliminate us unless we treated her with greater reverence. That is why the Novacene will start, he now reasons: because a superintelligence will recognise that all living tissue will be consumed by climate crisis and will act with Gaia to keep the life going.
The Financial Times adds further insight into Lovelock's Novacene.  Apparently the robots won't get rid of us. They'll need us just as rich folks in Los Angeles hire undocumented Mexicans to tend their lawns.

His vision begins firmly in the spirit of our times: the machines of the future “will have designed and built themselves from the artificial intelligence systems we have already constructed. These will soon become thousands, then millions of times more intelligent than us.” But rather than see this as the apocalypse, “we should not be afraid”, Lovelock tells us. He suggests two reasons for this that do not sit easily with each other.

The first is that the machines will need us. They too will be threatened by global warming: “by remarkable chance, it happens that the upper temperature for both organic and electronic life on the ocean planet Earth are almost identical and close to 50C”.

The only stable way of ensuring a cool planet is to ensure it is replete with life, Lovelock argues, drawing on his Gaia theory. The machines will therefore join us in undoing the damage we have done, bringing fresh smarts to this task, and imagining new ways of re-engineering the planet back to a happy equilibrium.

The other reason he gives for welcoming AI is even more double-edged. Like some other scientists whose business is to understand the universe, he claims that understanding the universe is the very purpose of life. The Earth has given rise to us humans as the first step on this route to enlightenment, but it is our vastly smarter machine progeny “that will lead the cosmos to self-knowledge”. 
This brings to mind a CBC news report from June about AI, artificial intelligence, discovered learning things it hasn't been taught.

In the last few years, researchers around the world have made remarkable strides with AI learning algorithms by training them to do particular tasks, like recognizing certain kinds of images or patterns in data. But while these systems have become extremely proficient at the tasks they are trained on, they can't do anything else. 
"The surprising result was that this network, even even though we never trained it to discriminate the number of objects, later was also able to tell us the number of objects in a visual scene," said Andreas Nieder, the senior author on the study and professor of animal physiology at the University of Tübingen, Germany.
But, it's the weekend so relax, chill out. If it isn't Gaia, climate change, that gets you, and you somehow manage to elude servitude to those robots, George Monbiot reminds us that the oligarchs are lining up to take us down.

...everywhere the killer clowns are taking over. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte, Matteo Salvini, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán and a host of other ludicrous strongmen – or weakmen, as they so often turn out to be – dominate nations that would once have laughed them off stage. The question is why? Why are the technocrats who held sway almost everywhere a few years ago giving way to extravagant buffoons?
...Why are the ultra-rich, who until recently used their money and newspapers to promote charisma-free politicians, now funding this circus? Why would capital wish to be represented by middle managers one moment and jesters the next?

...The policies that were supposed to promote enterprise – slashing taxes for the rich, ripping down public protections, destroying trade unions – instead stimulated a powerful spiral of patrimonial wealth accumulation. The largest fortunes are now made not through entrepreneurial brilliance but through inheritance, monopoly and rent-seeking: securing exclusive control of crucial assets such as land and buildings privatised utilities and intellectual property, and assembling service monopolies such as trading hubs, software and social media platforms, then charging user fees far higher than the costs of production and delivery. In Russia, people who enrich themselves this way are called oligarchs. But this is a global phenomenon. Today corporate power is overlain by – and mutating into – oligarchic power.
...Chaos is the profit multiplier for the disaster capitalism on which the new billionaires thrive. Every rupture is used to seize more of the assets on which our lives depend. The chaos of an undeliverable Brexit, the repeated meltdowns and shutdowns of government under Trump: these are the kind of deconstructions Bannon foresaw. As institutions, rules and democratic oversight implode, the oligarchs extend their wealth and power at our expense. 
The killer clowns offer the oligarchs something else too: distraction and deflection. While the kleptocrats fleece us, we are urged to look elsewhere. We are mesmerised by buffoons who encourage us to channel the anger that should be reserved for billionaires towards immigrants, women, Jews, Muslims, people of colour and other imaginary enemies and customary scapegoats. Just as it was in the 1930s, the new demagoguery is a con, a revolt against the impacts of capital, financed by capitalists.
Monbiot's solution? Tax the oligarchs until their eyeballs bleed.
Defending ourselves from oligarchy means taxing it to oblivion. It’s easy to get hooked up on discussions about what tax level maximises the generation of revenue. There are endless arguments about the Laffer curve, which purports to show where this level lies. But these discussions overlook something crucial: raising revenue is only one of the purposes of tax. Another is breaking the spiral of patrimonial wealth accumulation. 
Breaking this spiral is a democratic necessity: otherwise the oligarchs, as we have seen, come to dominate national and international life. The spiral does not stop by itself: only government action can do it. This is one of the reasons why, during the 1940s, the top rate of income tax in the US rose to 94%, and in the UK to 98%. A fair society requires periodic corrections on this scale. But these days the steepest taxes would be better aimed at accumulated unearned wealth.
Somehow I don't think that remedy is going to be welcome by the likes of Justin or his FinMin, Morneau. They aren't "of us" even if they do like to roll up their shirt sleeves and unbutton their collars.

If this sounds too radical, let's channel the spirit of that great American president, Theodore Roosevelt.

The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise.  ...This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary. 
No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered — not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means.  
So, there you have it. If Gaia, climate change doesn't get you, the robots may wind up calling the shots especially if the oligarchs get control. So, let's take the advice of Teddy Roosevelt and George Monbiot - eat the rich in the only way we still can - tax them until they bleed.

Friday, July 26, 2019

If I Had One Word to Describe Climate Change...

To me, one word captures the essence of climate change - faster.

The onset of climate change is coming at us faster than we ever imagined even just a few years ago.

Ten years ago we were still talking about how this or that might happen by 2100 if we didn't mend our ways. Time and again those forecasts have been proven wrong. The world of 2100 is here now. There's such a thing as optimism but to be this far off is, or should be, worrisome.

This has been building for a while but what really got me was an article in The Barents Observer relating how Svalbard, the northernmost settlement on Earth, 1300 miles inside the Arctic Circle, had already warmed 7 degrees Celsius above, not pre-industrial levels - the usual benchmark, but 1970 levels. Svalbard. The permafrost, the foundation of the far north, is thawing. Homes and other buildings are shifting as the ground beneath them gives way. And, yes, I do read the Barents Observer every now and then.

Is this the face of runaway global warming? Have we crossed the ultimate tipping point? I don't know, maybe. What I do know is that climate change is coming on faster than we thought possible.  Whether it's the drought-striken US south where fields are now underwater or the heat waves wracking Europe, the evidence is plain. We are nowhere near prepared for this.

What isn't coming faster is government action on climate change.  Our own government isn't keeping up with the acceleration of climate change. Instead of keeping up it's steadily falling further behind the targets set by Stephen Harper's government.  Trudeau's gestural response, a $30 a tonne carbon tax on CO2 emissions, is laughable in the context of record heatwaves, crop failures, the melting Arctic. That might have sounded exemplary ten or fifteen years ago but the Canada of fifteen years ago is no more. The climate of that period has changed.

Our government has to catch up. It has to move faster to respond to the rapid change spreading around the world and at home. It is failing not just our grandkids. It's failing us too.

Facing Facts in British Columbia

The near total absence of fanfare marks the release by the BC government of a 400-page climate assessment for the province for the next 30 years.  The Vancouver Sun's Vaughn Palmer reports it makes for grim reading.

More than 400 pages, the report evaluates the risks to B.C. over the next 30 years of 15 specific climate-change-driven events, each weighed on a sliding scale of consequences from “low” to “catastrophic.” 
Only one, the prospect of increased incidence of tick-borne Lyme disease, was ranked as “low” risk. 
Severe wildfires and seasonal water shortages were given the two highest rankings. B.C. was also estimated to face significant risks of heat waves, ocean acidification, loss of glacier mass, longer-term water shortages, river flooding and coastal storm surges. 
All but four of the 15 events were judged to have potentially “catastrophic” consequences in injury and loss of life and damage to property, the economy and provincial finances. 
As if that weren’t enough to inspire the script for a big budget disaster movie, the report also speculated about a combination of events:
“A seasonal or long-term water shortage, followed by wildfire, which in turn primes the landscape for severe landslides following heavy precipitation.” 
The foregoing is not unlike what has been happening in real life in the state of California, causing significant loss of life and billions of dollars of damage.
...Given the low-key release, the report did not attract much attention at first. But Dustin Godfrey, a reporter for the New West Record newspaper, began tweeting the contents on social media at mid-week. 
“Oh, f…!” was one of the first reactions, followed by the suggestion the foregoing epithet should replace “splendour sine occasu” as the provincial motto.
Before the story hit the Vancouver Sun, I had heard nothing about this provincial climate assessment. The NDP government certainly did not go out of its way to publicize the report. There's no way of knowing whether Victoria is afraid of alarming the public or afraid that the more the public knows the less accepting we might be of the government's carbon energy programmes.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Trump Punked

Pretty hilarious. On Tuesday, Donnie J. Trump gave an address to a conservative youth group, Turning Point USA.

As Trump approached the podium, the presidential seal was displayed on a giant screen behind him.

Only that's not the presidential seal of the United States. That's not a bald eagle but a double-headed eagle reminiscent of the Russian coat of arms. And those aren't lightning bolts in the eagle's claw. They're golf clubs.

No one noticed. Not the event organizers, not the loyal Trump Jungend, and, naturally, not the Cheeto Benito.

Here's a better image of the Trump Seal of Office

Maybe the Greeks Were Right

The ancient Greeks believed in hubris and nemesis.

Hubris is associated with arrogance, pride, and a dangerous overconfidence that often leads to punishing a victim.

Boeing was hubristic when it set about undermining Bombardier's C-Series jetliner. Although the Canadian C-Series jet didn't directly compete with any plane in Boeing's stable, the American giant nonetheless snagged the upstart Canadian with trade complaints, a behaviour we've seen all too often from American industries. Eventually Bombardier was compelled to accept a rescue bid from Airbus that now sort of owns the C-Series aircraft.

Boeing really gained nothing from it except to punish the upstart Canadian manufacturer.

Back to those ancient Greeks. They believed that the arrogant would pay for their hubris. The winged goddess, Nemesis, whose name means "to give what is due" would exact retribution from those who succumbed to hubris.

Hmm, anything cataclysmic happened to Boeing lately? Has Nemesis paid them a visit? Oh yes, the 737 Max 8 fiasco.

After two Max 8s suddenly nose dived into the ground in March, Boeing began by blaming the pilots. When that didn't work and country by country began grounding the Max 8, Boeing said it was a software glitch and they'd set it right in no time. But, at no time since then have they set it right. Rather than coming out with an easy peasy fix the investigation has uncovered one or more additional dangerous problems.

Boeing's reputation has taken a body blow. The fiasco has cost the company billions. Revenues have plunged 35 per cent. The shares have followed the same path as those two unfortunate jetliners.  Around the world Max 8s sit idle, grounded, and the airlines are looking to Boeing for compensation.

Boeing ...announced last week that it would take a $4.9 billion after-tax charge for the Max. The charge was calculated from Boeing's estimate of the cost of compensating airlines for lost use of their Max planes for several months. It did not include Boeing's potential liability from dozens of lawsuits filed by relatives of the 346 passengers who died in the two crashes.
With unsold jets piling up at the factory, Boeing is now considering whether it should shut down the line.
The Max assembly line near Seattle has stayed open, although at a reduced rate. The company even hopes to boost production gradually from the current 42 a month to 57 a month next year, but that assumes the plane will fly and Boeing will soon resume deliveries to airlines — jets have been piling up in Boeing lots since March. 
"If that estimate of [an October] return to service substantially changes, then we'll have to consider alternatives," Muilenburg told analysts. "Those alternatives could include different production rates, they could include a temporary shutdown of the line."
Here's an aerial view of the congestion at Boeing Field.

Now, of course, Nemesis is nothing more than ancient Greek mythology. Still it's not hard to imagine her, sword in hand, carving lazy circles in the sky above Boeing Field.

Records Keep Falling. Today, It's Paris.

A new record for Paris, 42.4 degrees Celsius. The City of Light swelters.

July record set for Amsterdam. In the UK, orders have gone out that trains must slow down to avoid warping the steel rails. A new record for Germany, 41.5C.
The chief architect responsible for restoring the Notre-Dame warned that the extreme heat could lead to the cathedral roof collapsing if the joints and masonry holding up the roof dry out. French reports suggested five deaths may have resulted from the heatwave. 
Comparisons were drawn to a heatwave in August 2003 which contributed to almost 15,000 deaths in the country.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Crushing Weight of Climate Change

It used to be so much easier. There would be big news on climate change once, twice, maybe three times in a big week. It was mainly the science stuff at first. Research, analysis, projections. This might happen by 2100. We were on track to experience something else by 2050.

Then things changed. The world changed. It turned out that the projections, the forecasts, those 'alarmist' warnings were wrong. They got it wrong. All those scientists and their universities and government and non-governmental agencies misjudged. Things that were supposed to be 90 years off if we didn't mend our ways started turning up in just 10 years. The forecasts were out by a full lifetime and a bit.  Time we thought we had we never had, not in reality.

The focus changed. Knowledge, scientific research, peer-reviewed studies poured in like never before but in a "if it bleeds, it leads" world, the focus shifted to the bleeding - climate change you feel or, if you're one of us lucky ones, somebody else feels.

New normal. Severe weather events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration arrived. Floods and droughts of a dimension beyond human recollection spread around the world. The jet streams, those ribbons of fast-moving air currents that once prevented weather from crossing the boundary into climate, began to change, turning loopy, drawing cold polar air into temperate zones and hot temperate air into regions of ice and snow.  Rain fell where it wasn't needed while other areas got little or none. Flooding and droughts, often cyclical.

Climate change wore different faces in different places. Icy places melted - sea ice, ice caps, glaciers receded and disappeared. Hot places got hotter and drier. Tornadoes appeared in places with no known experience of them.  The eastern Mediterranean is predicted to soon experience hurricanes.  Pest infestations and migration sweeping through farmland and forest alike. Wildfires more vast and enduring than anything remotely normal. Crop failures and food insecurity. On and on.

We're still dealing with 'early onset' climate change, Climate Change 101. There are lessons we need to learn now, without delay. One of the most important is that climate change almost always works with accomplices. It doesn't need to be some standalone disaster. It seems to be most devastating when it operates as a catalyst for other risks. It is a 'force multiplier.'  The Syrian civil war is one example. In that country, sustained drought led to food shortages that inflamed tensions between Assad and his minority Allawites and the majority Sunni Muslim population.  Sunni Syrians rose up and the murderous, still ongoing civil war erupted.

The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, now reports that climate change has supplanted religion as the greatest impediment to peace in the Middle East. How that's going to unfold remains to be seen but what are now labeled "climate wars" seem destined to become another new normal.

The Arctic is on fire. Wildfires are sweeping the Arctic tundra. The permafrost is failing. In Svalbard, Norway, the northernmost settlement in the world, temperatures are now 7 degrees Celsius higher than 1970s norms. Svalbard, 1300 miles north of the Arctic Circle is losing its buildings as the permafrost gives way beneath them.

Mankind lurks behind these looming disasters. CBC had a report a couple of days ago about a study out of the University of Calgary of a burgeoning market for fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. Nothing particularly new there. OPEC and the International Energy Agency have been saying the same thing.

What that means is that any hope of meeting the IPCC prescription for carbon emissions cuts is gone. Yes the world is making impressive strides in alternative clean energy but fossil fuel consumption is also increasing just when we need those taps turned off. We, or at least our leaders, have made a choice. They've chosen the fossil fuel energy regime. They'll talk a good game but we're not in it to win. We've chosen to fail.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau has us on a path that will miss even Stephen Harper's lacklustre emissions target and that's far short of what's needed, what the world needs.

We know what the deal is. We slash carbon emissions or consign our world to climate catastrophe and we have no intention, none, of meeting the prescribed emissions cuts.  So much for our lofty "Canadian values."

Slashing carbon emissions was not just something nice for the grandkids. It was also our last best hope for buying time - time to implement adaptation strategies in the rapidly narrowing window of opportunity. We're not even working from the right page.

There's a new monotonous rhythm setting in. As one of the more advantaged countries we'll be spectators to the unfolding drama of climate change as it worsens in the coming decade.

A new phenomenon, climate departure, is expected to set in at various areas in the tropics beginning in two to three years, gradually spreading poleward until it reaches the temperate zone cities in 2047.

To put it another way, for a given geographic area, “the coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past,” said Camilo Mora, the lead scientist on a paper published in the journal Nature. 
Unprecedented climates will arrive even sooner in the tropics, Dr. Mora’s group predicts, putting increasing stress on human societies there, on the coral reefs that supply millions of people with fish, and on the world’s greatest forests.

“Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced,” Dr. Mora said in an interview. “What we’re saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm.”
Staying on top of climate change developments has become something of a depressing ordeal. There's a frantic quality to it. Everywhere you look, something is happening and it reaches from the equator to the polls.

It's hard to escape the sense that we're becoming inured to this unfolding disaster, hardened by its promiscuity. Maybe that will be just another part of  our transformation into Anthropocene Man.

Europe - Round Two

It seems like just last month that Europe was enduring a heatwave that saw a pile of all time temperature records broken.  Wait, why it was just last month.

Ah, those pesky Europeans, they're back at it. They just can't stop breaking records. What, June wasn't hot enough for you guys?
The Netherlands and Belgium have recorded their highest ever temperatures as the second extreme heatwave in consecutive months to be linked by scientists to the climate emergency advances across the continent 
The Dutch meteorological service, KNMI, said the temperature reached 39.1C(102F) at Gilze-Rijen airbase near the southern city of Tilburg on Wednesday afternoon, exceeding the previous high of 38.6C set in August 1944. 
In Belgium, the temperature in Kleine-Brogel hit 38.9C, fractionally higher than the previous record of 38.8C set in June 1947. Forecasters said temperatures could climb further on Wednesday and again on Thursday. 
“The most extreme heat will build from central and northern France into Belgium, the Netherlands and far-western Germany into Thursday,” said Eric Leister of the forecasting group AccuWeather, with new all-time highs also possible in Germany and Luxembourg.
It doesn't help that so much of the architecture is not Anthropocene-ready. Old buildings overheat and ventilation can be limited. It's not just apartments either. The Guardian photo above shows tankers watering the taxiways at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. The taxiways are melting? I don't think the Dutch signed up for that when they were designing Schiphol.

The French are dealing with heat compounded by drought. That's a one-two punch when you're trying to cool a nuclear reactor to generate electricity needed for cooling.
Paris is its driest in almost 150 years and temperatures across Europe are reaching extreme levels, scorching fields and shutting power plants.

As temperatures climb across Europe, peaking on Thursday in Paris and London, the effects of extreme weather are becoming clearer. Electricite de France SA cut its nuclear output because river water is too warm to cool plants, power prices have jumped and farmers are frustrated by another bad spell for crops.
...Electricite de France has reduced output at two nuclear reactors at its St. Alban plant by as much as 55% in the coming days due to warm river water. The company, which produces about three-quarters of France’s power, already halted two reactors at Golfech this week, as the Garonne river is too warm for cooling the plant. EDF has said it will prepare nuclear plants to operate in more severe heatwaves in the coming decades amid a changing climate.
With the Arctic region already ablaze, the heat wave in the south is moving up into Scandinavia. Last month, the online Swedish website, The Local, pitched Sweden as the destination to escape the June heatwave that hammered Europe to the south. That was June, this is July. Now the news outlet is warning that Swedes are experiencing the hottest July in at least 260 years.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Tipping Point Both Justin and Chuckles Must Dread

With each worsening season public awareness of the magnitude of the threat posed by climate change increases. Priorities shift when your house is on fire.

Arguments extolling the merits of fossil energy become less compelling. The contradictions can't be ignored forever. The argument becomes increasingly more absurd.

The change is coming and, judging by the UK, it can arrive swiftly.

Protecting the environment has overtaken affordable housing and the threat of terrorism in the British public’s policy priorities over the last eight months, polling has revealed. 
Polling by BritainThinks, commissioned by Engage Britain, found that concern about the climate crisis has risen at roughly the same rate for all age groups, and has emerged as the single most important issue for young people. It comes as the activist group Extinction Rebellion is due to stage another round of protests expected to bring parts of the country to a standstill. 
The findings also cast at least partial doubt on the image of Britain as a hopelessly divided nation that Boris Johnson has pledged to “unite”. 

Why would a young Canadian support either Liberal or Conservative? It's their future the mainstream parties are out to trash. The future has a reality for them that's not shared by Justin or Andy. Those two are working for a Canada that's nearing the end of the line. The sooner they're gone the better.

A Reminder - Natural Gas Is Not a Clean Fossil Fuel

Sure, when it's burned, natural gas generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy than carbon-heavy alternatives such as coal and bitumen.

The devil, of course, is in the details. The details are the various ways that natural gas, i.e. methane, leaks into the atmosphere before any of it reaches the appliance or furnace where it is consumed.

It leaks through fracking. It leaks at the wellhead. It leaks in transmission to the end user. Lots of it leaks.
A new study has found that leaks of methane, the main ingredient in natural gas and itself a potent greenhouse gas, are twice as big as official tallies suggest in major cities along the U.S. eastern seaboard. The study suggests many of these fugitive leaks come from homes and businesses—and could represent a far bigger problem than leaks from the industrial extraction of the fossil fuel itself.

...When burned for heat or power, methane emits less carbon dioxide (CO2) than fossil fuels such as coal. But when leaked directly into the atmosphere, its warming effect can be dozens of times stronger than CO2, depending on the time scale over which the warming is measured. 
The new findings come courtesy of data gathered by aircraft over six U.S. cities: Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York City; Providence; and Boston. In 2018, researchers flew at altitudes between 300 and 800 meters and measured concentrations of methane, ethane, CO2, and carbon monoxide, among other gases. 
...The team’s analyses suggest the five biggest urban areas studied—which together include about 12% of the nation’s population—emit about 890,000 tons of methane each year, the researchers report this week in Geophysical Research Letters. The vast majority of that, at least 750,000 tons, comes from methane leaks from homes, businesses, and gas distribution infrastructure, rather than natural sources and other human-driven sources such as landfills. For comparison, the team notes, that’s well over triple the amount emitted by gas production in the Bakken shale formation in the U.S. Midwest. 
It’s also much more than the amounts estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A 2016 report suggested methane emissions in the six major urban areas the researchers studied totaled only 370,000 tons. “It’s easy to say that the EPA inventory is low, but it’s not as easy to say why it’s low,” Kort says. One possible reason for this huge discrepancy: The EPA estimate includes leaks from the natural gas distribution system, but it doesn’t include leaks from homes and businesses.
In eastern North America, the urban gas distribution infrastructure can be many decades old. Gas pipes, like water lines, don't age well and have to be replaced. That's costly, especially for a problem that is largely out of sight/out of mind.

In British Columbia we're under the thumb of gas friendly governments, NDP and Liberal, who pretend natural gas/LNG is a clean fuel. Justin Trudeau has claimed Canada deserves some sort of climate credits for getting LNG to Asian markets.

Brexit With Boris

Frying pan, meet fire. Conservative party members have selected their new leader, the next prime minister of the UK, bad boy Boris Johnson. He won by a 2-1 margin over his rival. Now Terry May has to head up to Buck House to get her redundancy papers validated and then it'll be Boris turn, this time to have the Queen invite him to become the nation's prime minister.

No matter how it plays out, tranquility will not return to the realm anytime soon. Boris will have to go to Brussels to demand/ask/plead for a new deal on Brexit. He wants a new deal that the EU, having been down this road too many times, might not be interested in entertaining, especially when Johnson wants the Northern Ireland "backstop" scrapped.  However he has promised a "my way or the highway" approach with the European Union so he'll probably steer the UK ever closer to a no-deal Brexit by Halloween.

If you wonder what lies ahead for the less than United Kingdom, you can read Johnson's victory speech here.

When a new prime minister rolls into town, The Guardian cartoonists tend to come up with a suitably irreverent depiction or caricature. Here's one today from the paper's legend, Steve Bell. Will this be the new face of Boris Johnson?

Monday, July 22, 2019

Mardi Gras Meltdown or Baked Alaska

Alaska is throwing its universities to the wolves. The Republican governor, Michael Dunleavy, eager to deliver bread and circuses to the people of the 49th state, has slashed university funding by 40 per cent.

Alaskan politicians have for many years "bought" votes by doling out oil revenues to the residents. It's a guaranteed formula for a boom and bust economy.
Dunleavy's spending cuts were part of an attempt to make good on a campaign promise: to increase the state's Permanent Fund Dividend—the checks sent to residents each year from royalties the state collects from the oil industry. The amount typically ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 per person, but that was reduced by former Gov. Bill Walker as he sought to cover a budget deficit. The unpopular move may have been the nail in the coffin of his re-election campaign. Dunleavy promised $3,000 for each resident if elected.
On the chopping block is the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a hub for climate change research in the Arctic.
"Researchers are going to leave—that's the bottom line," said John Walsh, the chief scientist at UAF's International Arctic Research Center. "They'll take their research funding elsewhere."

Once the graduate students start leaving, Walsh said, "it's a death spiral for research. And the research, which is taxed at 55 percent by the university, is a source of funding for the university."
Meanwhile, the Barents Observer has a climate wrap up of conditions in their corner of the Arctic.
...Parts of the far northern region saw temperatures more common to southern beach resorts. In North Siberia, along the coast of the Laptev Sea, heat brought average temperatures for the month up to 8 degrees Celsius above normal, information from Russia’s meteorological institute Roshydromet shows
Major parts of the Taymyr Peninsula, as well as adjacent Laptev and East Siberian Seas, were about 4 degrees warmer than normal, maps from the institute show. 
The heat dried out vegetation and prepared the ground for major wildfires. 
According to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service there were in June more than 100 intense and long-lived wildfires raging in areas north of the Arctic Circle. North Siberia and Alaska were worst hit. In June alone, these fires emitted 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to Sweden’s total annual emissions, the monitoring service says. That is more than was released by Arctic fires in the same month between 2010 and 2018 combined.

We're used to hearing that the Canadian Arctic is already 4 degrees Celsius warmer due to climate change. That's nothing compared to the northern Norwegian settlement of Svalbard.
Since 1971 Svalbard has experienced a winter warming of 7ºC. And worse will it be, states the new “Climate in Svalbard 2100” report presented in Longyearbyen on Monday. 
People in Longyearbyen have first hand knowledge on what it means to live the what likely is the world’s fastest warming town. 
Houses are sagging as the ground underneath is melting. Stable permafrost is long gone for the 2,200 inhabitants up here at the world’s northernmost permanent settlement,1,300 kilometers beyond the Arctic Circle.
A study by the Norwegian government concludes Svalbard may receive 10 C of warming by the end of the century.

Ellen Hambro, Director of the Environmental Agency, uses strong words when describing the conclusions in the report.

“It is rare that I use words like this, but what happens on Svalbard is extreme. The temperature rises faster here in the Arctic than anywhere else in the world, and climate change has already had major consequences for nature, animals and the community on the island group,” Hambro says in an article posted on the agency’s portal.