Archive for December, 2009

More On Failed States and Other Things

December 30, 2009

Read the above posts. Congo,Yemen and Iraq are trying hard to be failed states…dont you think? I can see global warming rearing its presence in the background.

Hansen writes that we must jump over the step of transforming our use of energy with coal fired energy plants and coal use in general. He is probably painfully right on this.

Hansen thinks non-profit environmental groups have been around too long to come up with solutions to what is percieved as a global warming crises. Hansen is right on most things but he is way wrong on this thought.

I think environmental groups will be a part of the solution on mitigations to global warming. I do not know of any environmental group that wants to see the extinction of species or  humanities willingness to walk off of the cliff called global warming. I do not see environmental groups giving ground to global warming naysayers. It is not in the DNA of environmental groups. I see the environmental agenda on what it takes to mitigate global warming as…whatever it takes to get the job done as quickly as possible!!! I see environmental groups as huge allies in the mitigations of global warming. I can cite at least 4 ocassions where environmental group contacts really helped me and other grass roots types work through complex issues on Capital Hill.  “Around too long”…I think Hansen needs to think this one through some more.

I see that Louisa Willcox, of NRDC, is going to discuss grizzlies and the loss of the white bark pine on NPR. This is an achingly sad topic to me as I look into the high country around Bozeman, Montana and I see a lot of burnished pines at elevations to high to be lodgepoles but Louisa will handle the tough topic, a reality, as well as any person can handle such a tough topic.

Just a note: I think the Turner ranch is a great place for bison to prosper…Horse Butte, though nice in its own right, is a snowy place; marginal-compared to Turner’s place as a bison habitat.

Finally, the first use of the concept of Tipping Point at an almost gratuitous level is Malcom Gladwell’s book, “Tipping Point”. Gladwell uses the “Tipping Point” in a way that is useful to science and the phenomina related to global warming.

Are we at a “Tipping Point” on global warming? I hope not!!!!!

Matt

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Failed States

December 30, 2009

Right up there in books on global warming are the series like Plan 4 B, By Lester Brown. This is a very smart man and his list of failed states does intrigue me. He indites global warming as a  cause for the failed state. I would say that global warning is partially responsible for the following failed states (My opinion).

1.) Somalia

2.) Sudan

3.) Ethiopia

4.) Afghanistan

5.) Haiti

There are more, but these occur to me now.

Matt

Lots Of Good Books On Global Warming

December 30, 2009

HAPPY NEW YEAR WORLD!!!!!

This is that time of the year when you read a lot of top ten lists. Not to break with the pack I put my brain to work on the problem and I came up with a list on my top ten favorite books on global warming. I read a lot of books on this topic and I will start by saying I definitely know more about what is a complex subject than I new before and books such as the ones I write about really helped shape my opinion on global warming.

My list starts with Tom Friedman’s, Hot, Flat and Crowded. This was a well written book that told the brutal truth about a complex subject from an economist’s viewpoint; an economist who writes well. My next favorite read was the Weathermakers by Tim Flannery,  a mammologist…a huge bias on my part because like Flannery I studied mammals, but his book is a definite good read in spite of this fact.

The NRDC magzine, OnEarth reviews a book entitled, The Coverup by James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore. I have to say that this book is about an important side issue on global warming the issue that really shapes the public’s perspective on such an overwhelming subject: Global warming. I see the issue as follows…I think the press is dropping the ball on global warming…not press like NRDC’s OnEarth magazine but the general media. Often I will read articles where too much defference is given to global warming skepticcs like Bjorn Lomberg and they are given equal billing with the likes of climatologist, Dr. Jim Hansen or Nobel Laurette and former US vice President Albert Gore. The Lomberg types are confusing (and its easy to be confusing) on the subtleties of global warming…this book does a marvelous job exposing the Lomberg’s of the world as the obscure sorts of viewpoints that they represent. They (the Lombergs of the world) are put into perspective in Cover Up. The frusterating thing here is that very few people will read this enthralling book and I see that as too bad.

Dr. Jim Hansen finally wrote a book that at first reads like an inorganic chemistry text and you really have to slog through the first half of the book to get to Hansen’s juicey meat. In Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren he saves his completely harsh viewpoint (the Venus Syndrome) for reading at the near end. If Hansen was not writing about such a serious subject I might laugh at Hansen’ viewpoint. Like the press about Hansen says he is definitely the Paul Revere of a dour subject and in spite of hi horrible writing style you have to love Hansen’s gravitas on such a horrible subject. Gore has a new book on global warming entititled, Our Choice. Until Hansen came along this book was the worst written book on such a difficult topic. Fortunately the book has a ton of awesome photos in it to highlight what Gore’s, like Hansen-a great man, point of view.

What is frustrating to folks like me is that the good books like Cover Up or Hot, Flat and Crowded will have such a small audience and the confusion about global warming, an artifact of the Lomberg types, will go on and on while good global warming literature does not see the light of day.

Matt

Season’s Greetings

December 25, 2009

I am going off of the air for a week. Happy Holidays.

Matt

San Jose Mercury News, “Let the Water Wars Begin Again”

December 23, 2009

December 22, 2009

Water warfare will come with global warming.

Matt

By Thomas D. Elias

There will be wildly contentious battles over ballot propositions this year, with fights over a possible repeal of the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages, whether to hold a state constitutional convention and whether to legalize marijuana completely, to name just three hot-button initiatives heading for a popular vote.

But the biggest fight, the sharpest split, may come over water. No one knows for sure, but the water plan and an associated bond issue approved last fall by state lawmakers might determine who will become California’s next governor. All major Republican candidates back the plan, while Attorney General Jerry Brown, the lone significant Democrat now running, hasn’t said much about it.

No one knows, also, whether Mark Twain really did say back in 1875 that in California, “Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting over.”

Whether it was his or not, the remark remains as apt as ever today, almost 135 years after it was supposedly first uttered.

The fighting this year will be over that as-yet-unnumbered water bond proposition, an $11.1 billion tar baby strongly backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It’s vital to pass this, he and other advocates say, if there’s to be progress toward assuring adequate water supplies for all parts of the state. There’s money in it for new dams, groundwater basin protection, environmental protection in the vital Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and many, many local projects. Almost every lawmaker put something for his or her district into this package.

But whatever good will that reigned when the water measures passed in October quickly gave way to the discord usually prevalent whenever changes in California’s water situation near reality. Brown, who OK’d the Peripheral Canal idea while governor 28 years ago, was badly burned by the public’s rebellion against it; maybe that’s why he’s being cautious now.

But others are not at all reticent. No sooner had Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the water package than Delta area legislators, fishermen and Indian tribes claimed it would lead to utter destruction for the Delta — this despite creation of a Delta Stewardship Council designed to preserve species and water quality there.

They seized on Schwarzenegger’s almost immediate announcement that he intends to pursue something like a Peripheral Canal, charging that because the governor will appoint four of the seven Stewardship Council members, “you can be sure the canal’s construction (will be) a priority for the council members” This, of course, ignores the fact that Schwarzenegger will be governor for less than one year from now, while it will be many years — perhaps decades — before dirt is turned on the projects now contemplated.

Realities like that don’t stop the emotional responses water always spurs, emotions likely to split the state on a north-south basis when the bond battle heats up next fall. Cries that vast quantities of Northern California river water are wasted washing cars and watering lawns in Central and Southern California were heard less than a day after the package passed. There will also be financial issues with the bond package, which would cost about half a billion dollars yearly to repay and contains an estimated $2 billion worth of pure “pork.” And some in the Delta area call for revival of the long-dormant Auburn Dam as an alternate to the Peripheral Canal or for a system of gates and locks within the Delta itself.

In the meantime, plenty of other fights are already under way in courts and within the bureaucracy. On those fronts, no sooner had federal Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked for a National Academy of Sciences review of the environmental findings that led to reduced water pumping from the Delta last spring and summer than two environmental groups asked a judge to give even more protections to the threatened, minnow-like Delta smelt than it now enjoys.

The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity and the San Francisco-based Bay Institute sued together, demanded both endangered status for the Delta smelt and protected status for the similar longfin smelt.

At the same time, the Fresno federal judge who ordered pumping reduced ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation should have considered more environmental impacts like depletion of underground aquifers and more particulate air pollution via dust from fallowed fields before enacting its plan to protect the smelt.

It’s a picture so complex and laden with emotion that no one can reliably predict the election outcome. And it will produce an expensive campaign likely to prove again (on all sides) the wisdom of yet another Twain aphorism: “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”

Marin Independent Journal, “Marin Voice: Water Reforms Biggest Step in Years”, December 21, 2009 By Gary Bobker and Barry Nelson

December 22, 2009

As always California is way ahead of the “game”. These new wars are related to global climate change. California, for other reasons, has already been through water wars.

Matt

ONE MONTH AGO, the Legislature passed, and the governor signed, a package of water reform bills. Since then, the new laws have inspired about as much misinformation as the health care debate in Congress.

The state administration hails the package as the long-awaited solution to California’s water wars. Others, like Lynn Axelrod (Marin Voice, Dec. 11), call it a sell-out to corporate agriculture.

In fact, it’s neither.

Instead, it’s the first major step in decades by the Legislature to reform the outdated policies that have fueled the collapse of the Bay-Delta ecosystem, the closure of the state’s salmon fishery, and increased the vulnerability of water supplies to climate change. The new laws do not reform every part of water policy – a simple reflection of political reality.

But make no mistake; this package points state water policy in a new and positive direction. Its passage is a testament to the persistence and vision of Assemblyman Jared Huffman and a few other legislators.

What does the package do?

It establishes a new Delta Stewardship Council, which will prepare a master plan to protect the Delta and coordinate the currently fragmented efforts of the many agencies that control Delta land use, water operations and flood management. It creates a new conservancy to restore critical habitat.

It sets a new state policy of reducing reliance on delta water supplies. The bills mandate aggressive state-wide urban water conservation, requiring other communities to make the investments in efficiency that Marin has made for years.

It also requires California, for the first time to measure groundwater levels state-wide. Any one of these provisions would be important, together, they’re historic.

Among the most important provisions are new ecosystem protections, including a required first-ever comprehensive assessment of how much water is needed to protect the delta’s public trust resources.

Our organizations have fought for two decades to secure this determination. Future plans for the delta are also required to meet the state’s highest standards for endangered species recovery and habitat conservation.

Importantly, none of these reforms depend on passage of the $11 billion dollar water bond up for a vote next year.

Finally, although the package does not resolve the delta conveyance question, including the administration’s proposed peripheral canal, it does raise the bar in several important ways: by requiring the state to protect public trust resources and restore endangered species by requiring the evaluation of alternatives to a canal; by prohibiting construction of any conveyance facilities until the state issues a permit with binding delta protections; and by requiring water exporters instead of taxpayers to pay for any new facilities. With these strong new protections, the most likely result is that less water will be pumped from the delta, not more.

True, the package includes only modest requirements for agricultural water conservation. But it requires the state to quantify agricultural efficiency, setting the stage for the development of numeric conservation targets in the future. It’s an important first step.

These laws will not solve all of our state’s water problems. More remains to be done to improve agricultural conservation, restore fisheries, and strengthen enforcement against illegal water diversions. But this package is a dramatic improvement over a status quo that is not working for the environment or water users.

There’s a reason California was unable to pass major water reforms for decades: the issues are complex and fraught with political challenges. The reforms of 2009 happened because a few leaders were willing to step up, knowing that no one would be perfectly satisfied.

Assemblyman Huffman delivered for the public trust, and has earned the public’s trust.

Gary Bobker is the program director at the Novato-based Bay Institute. Barry Nelson is a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco.

Copenhagen , and Beyond

December 22, 2009

December 21, 2009

New York Times Editorial

The global climate negotiations in Copenhagen produced neither a grand success nor the complete meltdown that seemed almost certain as late as Friday afternoon. Despite two years of advance work, the meeting failed to convert a rare gathering of world leaders into an ambitious, legally binding action plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It produced instead a softer interim accord that, at least in principle, would curb greenhouses gases, provide ways to verify countries’ emissions, save rain forests, shield vulnerable nations from the impacts of climate change, and share the costs.

The hard work has only begun, in Washington and elsewhere. But Copenhagen ’s achievements are not trivial, given the complexity of the issue and the differences among rich and poor countries. President Obama deserves much of the credit. He arrived as the talks were collapsing, spent 13 hours in nonstop negotiations and played hardball with the Chinese. With time running out — and with the help of China , India , Brazil and South Africa — he forged an agreement that all but a handful of the 193 nations on hand accepted.

Mr. Obama aside, there were two keys to the deal. One was a dramatic offer of $100 billion in aid from the industrialized nations to poorer countries to help them move to less-polluting sources of energy and to deal with drought and other consequences of warming. The offer had an instant soothing effect on many poorer nations that had been threatening to walk out all week.

The other was China’s willingness to submit to a verification system under which all countries would agree to report on their actions and — assuming details could be worked out — open their books to inspection. Transparency is a huge issue in Congress, and Mr. Obama made clear in his opening remarks on Friday that he would not agree to a deal unless China gave ground.

An enormous amount of work lies ahead, both for the president and for the other signatories to what is now being called the Copenhagen Accord. In order to deliver on his promises to reduce America ’s greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and provide a chunk of that $100 billion in aid, Mr. Obama must persuade the Senate to approve a cap-and-trade bill — a huge task.

Meanwhile, there can be no letup by the rest of the world’s negotiators, no matter how tired and beat up they may be. These talks have been so chaotic and contentious that some people believe the United Nations machinery has outlived its usefulness, and real progress will henceforth be made in smaller gatherings of the big players.

There may be some truth to this, but at the moment it is hard to see how many of the arrangements agreed to in principle at Copenhagen — the verification system, for instance — can be made to work without detailed agreements. There must also be some mechanism that holds all countries responsible for doing everything they can to tackle climate change. As it is, the pledges now on the table, from both rich and poor countries, are nowhere near enough to keep atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide from rising above dangerous levels.

But for the moment it is worth savoring the steps forward. China is now a player in the effort to combat climate change in a way it has never been, putting measurable emissions reductions targets on the table and accepting verification. And the United States is very much back in the game too. After eight years of playing the spoiler, it is now a leader with a president who seems to embrace the role.

Global warming hike may be steeper

December 22, 2009

This has been a busy, underwhelming 2 weeks, that featured global warming. Where we have to go is so far from here. I hope we get there on time.

Matt

AFP 12/20/2009

A new study published online by Nature Geoscience focused on a period three to five million years ago — the most recent episode of sustained global warming with geography similar to today’s, a Yale University statement said.

This was in order to look at the Earth’s long-term sensitivity to climate fluctuation, including in changes to continental icesheets and vegetation cover on land.

More common estimates for climate change are based on relatively rapid feedback to increases in carbon dioxide, such as changes to sea ice and atmospheric water vapour.

Using sediment drilled from the ocean floor, the scientists’ reconstruction of carbon dioxide concentrations found that “a relatively small rise in CO2 levels was associated with substantial global warming 4.5 million years ago.”

They also found that the global temperature was between two and three degrees Celsius (3.6 and 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than today even though carbon dioxide levels were similar to the current ones, the statement said.

“This work and other ancient climate reconstructions reveal that Earth’s climate is more sensitive to atmospheric carbon dioxide than is discussed in political circles,” said the paper’s lead author, Yale’s Mark Pagani.

“Since there is no indication that the future will behave differently than the past, we should expect a couple of degrees of continued warming even if we held CO2 concentrations at the current level,” he said in the statement.

The study was published on the heels of a 12-day UN conference in Copenhagen that was aimed at providing a durable solution to the greenhouse-gas problem and its disastrous consequences but was labelled a failure by critics.

The meeting set a commitment to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), but did not spell out the important stepping stones — global emissions targets for 2020 or 2050 — for getting there.

The British study released on December 6 had also researched the Pliocene era, between three to five million years ago.

Copenhagen talks show U.S., China may shape future

December 20, 2009

Read this article on Washington Post.com. China and the US will shape the mitigations of global climate change!!!

Matt

By Anthony Faiola, Juliet Eilperin and John Pomfret

COPENHAGEN — If the talks that resulted in an imperfect deal to combat global warming provided anything, it was a glimpse into a new world order in which international diplomacy will increasingly be shaped by the United States and emerging powers, most notably China.

To view the entire article go to Washington Post.com on the web.

Climate scientists underwhelmed by Copenhagen Accord

December 20, 2009

Low marks by people in the know at Copenhagen.

Matt

AFP Marlowe Hood

What many had hoped would be a planet-saving treaty locking major economies into strong commitments to shrink their carbon footprints came out as a three-page political accord with key numbers yet to be filled in.

“The easiest yardstick to evaluate is the two degree target,” said Andrew Watson, a professor at the University of East Anglia in Britain.

“This agreement will almost certainly not be sufficient to enable that target to be met — legally-binding tough limits in place over the next few years would be needed for that,” he told AFP by email.

The Nobel-winning UN science panel warned in a benchmark 2007 report that if average temperatures increase by more than 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) on pre-industrial levels, it could lead to runaway climate change and severe impact.

We have already travelled 0.7 C along that path.

More recent studies suggest the planet could hot up by a devastating 6.0 C (10.8 F), and that sea levels could rise by more than a metre (3.25 feet) by 2100 unless we slash CO2 concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Such a hothouse scenario would create hundreds of millions of environmental refugees.

“Strictly speaking, it is a disappointment. We expected more,” French climate scientist Herve Le Treut said of the new accord.

“What we have seen is the diverging interests of nation states and the planet.”

Part of the problem is that most of the key mitigation targets have yet to be finalised.

“There is not much here to analyse. The accord doesn’t have specific emissions targets for industrial countries, it doesn’t have deviation from ‘business as usual’ goals for developing countries,” said Alden Meyer of the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

“If you look at what is likely going to be listed in the annexes, you are going to be well over a 3.0 C,” he told AFP. “The accord also fails to set a target for ‘peak year’ for global CO2 emissions, ideally around 2015.

“It is very critical that you get a peak and a decline starting soon,” he added.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer made much the same point in closing out the 13-day marathon meeting: “The opportunity to actually make it into the scientific window of opportunity is getting smaller and smaller.”

The deal does contain a few silver linings, the scientists said.

“At least it may signal that there is some willingness to take action, so that we might have a hope of limiting the rise to 3.0 C – 4.0 C, and avoid the really unknown territory that lies beyond that,” Watson said.

Le Treut agreed.

“It is too early to say it is a failure,” he told AFP. “The scientific community had set the bar very high: halving global CO2 emissions by mid-century will be very tough.”

That goal, embraced by rich nations, was dropped from early drafts of the accord due to objections from China and India, the world’s number one and number three carbon emitters.

“From the evidence of the last two weeks, I would say we have a heck of a long way still to go if, as a species, we are to avoid the fate that usually afflicts populations that outgrow their resources,” said Watson.