Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Before The Flood”

It should perhaps be called “During The Flood” because anthropogenic change is already starting to flood parts of our planet. And giving anyone the sense that climate disaster is out there in the future somewhere instead of right here, right now is probably a bad idea. But credit to Leo for fighting the good fight and pushing on climate issues with persistence and sincerity.

I haven’t seen this new doc yet, but the full version popped up on YouTube, courtesy of National Geographic. So here it is:

Peek Oil: North Dakota Oil Wells Visualized

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 1.19.16 PM

Courtesy of the clever folks at the New York Times:

More than 11,000 oil wells have been drilled in North Dakota since 2006, covering the state’s agricultural landscape. In all, almost 40,000 miles of well bores have been drilled underground to connect the fracking operations to surface wells. Laid end to end, they would circle the Earth about one and a half times.

On Sunday, The New York Times published a monthslong investigation by Deborah Sontag and Robert Gebeloff into North Dakota’s conflicted relationship with its booming oil industry. In the process of reporting that article, we obtained the locations of every oil drilling line of every well in the state.

The precise depths and directions of these remain out of sight for a very obvious reason: The drilling lines are underground. Here, we change that.

The illustrations shown here are accurate in every respect except one: We changed the vertical direction of each oil well bore to go above ground instead of below it. Otherwise, every bore line is shown precisely how it’s described by North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources.

Gives new (visual) meaning to oil addiction. And very effectively conveys the reality that the business of being human is the business of constantly probing, altering, and wounding the planet.

Maybe Climate Change Will Be Taken More Seriously On Video?

Since no one reads anymore, the IPCC has produced a video summary of their dire warnings about climate change and the dramatic cuts to carbon required.

I can’t call it scintillating (hey, what would you expect from a UN intergovernmental panel of scientists?). But the facts, no matter how they are delivered, are scary enough….

A Scientist Combats Climate Change (A Bit)

Eric Holthaus quit flying to reduce his carbon footprint:

This week marks one year since I last flew on an airplane. To the likely dismay of Fox News, which called me a “sniveling beta male,” my decision didn’t result in a dramatic tailspin of self-loathing or suicide, the ultimate carbon footprint reducer. Quite the contrary: It’s been an amazing year.

My decision was prompted by a science report that brought me to tears. It wasn’t that the consensus statement was particularly new or noteworthy—we all know by now that climate change is one of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced as a civilization—but that, for the first time, I realized that my daily actions were powerful enough to make a meaningful change.

Folks, we are in trouble if a scientist just now realizes that his daily actions are powerful enough to impact climate change. And chooses to quit flying instead of digging deep enough to discover that if he really wants to make an impact he should also have quit meat.

He comes to many of the right conclusions:

What the math behind climate science is asking for is nothing less than a revolution. Anderson thinks scientists like him should lead by example. “I think we have to start to actually act accordingly with our own analysis. That lends credibility to our work.” This holds true for nonscientist advocates, too, he believes. “Al Gore’s probably got an emission footprint similar to a small African country, and he’s wandering about the planet telling other people that they should reduce their carbon emissions.”

Still, Anderson admits that it’s a big ask to broaden the efforts from a few passionate scientists to broader society. But without that, the chances of maintaining a stable climate are slim. Still, Anderson remains about as optimistic as his research permits him to be.

“I think we will fail, but I don’t know we will fail. There’s a very big difference between those two.” Anderson continued, “It’s likely we will die trying. But if we don’t try, then we will definitely not succeed. I work in this area because I still think there’s a thin thread of hope.”

Well, maybe less than a thread if a dude can write an article about how we need a revolution, how personal choices have an impact, notes what incredible climate hogs Americans tend to be, and somehow misses the most carbon intensive choice he makes every day that he reaches for a bacon burger.

We all need to make changes. And, sure, reducing air travel can make a difference (you should have seen my wife’s face when I told her I thought we should fly only once a year, and explore the area around DC instead of immediately hopping on planes whenever we wanted to go somewhere).

But the most important and impactful first step in this personal revolution, apparently missed by both these scientists, is simple: stop eating meat. (Do that, and you might even be able to fly a little!)

And if everyone did the same, and scientists who wrote articles about climate change followed the numbers wherever they went, then we might have a little more than a “thread of hope.”

Climate and Capitalism

Zachary Karabell offers an interesting critique of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything:

In fact, capitalism—in the form of multinational corporations—is doing more than many governments and multilateral institutions to stem the progression of climate change. They are doing so because of self-interest, not altruism; the relentless demand for profit is compelling an increasing percentage of the world’s largest companies to take concerted, forceful action. Yes, many companies remain obstacles to action, as Klein argues, but increasingly, more are becoming the agents of rapid and necessary change.

To say that corporations are doing more than governments to combat climate change is not to say much, since governments have proved so incapable of communicating the problem and rallying the public behind policies to address it.

But, sure, there are corporations that are looking to make profits from developing goods and technologies that will reduce carbon emissions. At the same time, there is no question that there is a multitude of corporations, even beyond the carbon energy sector, whose businesses hurt the climate and whose profits depend on fighting changes in their business practices. And Klein is very effective in explaining how that works.

But to me, the real issue is not the behavior of specific companies. It is the structure and nature of the form of capitalism that humanity has developed and celebrated. Klein is correct, I think, that the era of deregulation gave corporations more freedom to pursue business and profits that harm the environment and climate. But the underlying dynamic is a global form of capitalism that relentlessly pursues growth and sales, promotes consumption, and does not hold corporations fully accountable for the external costs to the environment of their business practices and products.

So this shouldn’t really be an argument over whether capitalism is good or bad. Instead it should be an argument about how to reform or reinvent capitalism so that the incentives in play for both businesses and consumers don’t destroy the planet.

The single most powerful reform I can think of would be to hold businesses and consumers accountable for the choices they make, by starting to adding to the sales price of most goods the costs to the environment and climate. That would mean a tax on carbon, and much more. Want to drive a Hummer? Sure, but you will pay extra. Want to eat burgers every day? Go for it, but boy will that get expensive.

Pricing is the key variable that, to paraphrase Klein, can change everything. If businesses had to pay for their impact on the planet they would change how they do business, and carbon-heavy industries would wither away while carbon-friendly industries would grow and thrive. If consumers had to pay for the way in which their consumption impacts the planet, they would change the what they consume and how much they consume.

Of course, getting governments to make this shift is the hard part. Part of the reason that corporations and governments haven’t done a better job of confronting climate change is that their publics don’t really want to make the changes, and fear that change means sacrifice. In this regard, Klein’s argument is vital. Governments and corporations will change when voters and consumers demand it.

 

 

It’s (Still) Getting Hot Up In Here

The latest World Energy Outlook is out. And it ain’t looking so good:

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.4 percent in 2012, a pace that could lead to a temperature increase of as much as 5.3 degrees C (9 degrees F) over pre-industrial times, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest World Energy Outlook. Despite significant improvements in some regions, including the U.S. and Europe, a record 31.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide were emitted worldwide during the year, including a 5.8-percent increase in Japan, where more fossil fuels were burned to compensate for reductions in nuclear power. While the rate of emissions growth in China was dramatically lower than in recent years, it still emitted 3.8 percent more carbon dioxide in 2012 than in 2011.

Approaching A Carbon Milestone

400 PPM. Woo-hoo.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography
A curve shows the rising concentration of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. PPM stands for parts per million of CO2 in air. Before the 1800s, the concentration did not exceed 280 parts per million for hundreds of thousands of years.

From Andy Revkin at the NYT:

For hundreds of thousands of years preceding the industrial revolution, the concentration of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere didn’t exceed 280 parts per million. Now it is poised to pass 400 parts per million, thanks to the burst of fossil fuel combustion and forest clearing that’s accompanied humanity’s recent growth spurt.

That shift was noticed thanks to decades of work by Charles David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and more recently his son Ralph. (Keeling’s work establishing a meticulous record of CO2 levels at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii was beautifully described in a 2010 feature by Justin Gillis.)

The Scripps Institution launched a Twitter account@keeling_curve, to make it easy for people to track the gas’s path through 400 and beyond. Bryan Walsh of Time Magazine has a nice post up discussing what is and isn’t significant about that concentration and what comes next.

How did we get here?

Most Of What You Need To Know About Climate Change

Via David Roberts at Grist, comes this infographic which conveys a lot of, well, useful info. The key thing it achieves is a nice graphic representation of what will happen no matter what, the scale of action required to hit certain targets, and the scale of impact if we miss certain targets. (Click image for full size).

The Prince Of Wales Seeks “Harmony”

Okay, he also seeks relevance. But in an age where we know the way we live is completely out of synch with the world we live in, you have to take answers (or suggestions) where you can find them. So while it would be easy to dismiss the plummy tones of this latest jeremiad from HRH, The Prince Of Wales, it’s more important to consider the fact that he is, well, right.

Here is the trailer for what he is on about.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Charles, Prince of Wales outside the White Hou...
Image via Wikipedia

The full Harmony website is here, and thanks to NBC you can watch the whole Harmony program on Hulu. If it moves you, there is some cool social media to play with, and lots of action to take.

The scale of change required, of course, is far beyond what most people–even those who like what HRH has to say–are willing to contemplate. More on that later.

But it doesn’t hurt to be talking about it, especially in such an interesting voice.

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