Friday, April 17, 2015

Cap and Trade :Ontarior

                      Comments due by April 25, 2015

Canada's provinces are taking command of the nation's battle against climate change, seizing the initiative from a reluctant federal government as the clock ticks down to a crucial international climate agreement later this year.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Monday signed a historic deal to join Quebec's cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, while British Columbia Premier Christy Clark was invited to promote her province's carbon tax at the World Bank – an honour not usually accorded to a provincial leader.

And on Tuesday, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard will play host to a meeting of provincial and territorial leaders to start crafting a national strategy to co-ordinate further climate action across the country.
"Climate change is one of the greatest challenges humankind has ever faced. This is about preserving a world for our children and our grandchildren," Ms. Wynne told reporters after meeting Mr. Couillard in his office near the National Assembly. "We cannot wait for a particular moment when the federal government decides it is going to engage."
Many of the details in Ontario's cap-and-trade system still have to be worked out over the next six months, but it is likely to look similar to the joint system run by Quebec and California. In that model, the government sets a cap on emissions and hands out some permits to industry for free while auctioning others off. The proceeds are then plowed back into other green programs, such as public transit.
Once Ontario's system is operating, 62 per cent of Canada's population and more than half its economy will be under the same carbon market. Including B.C., which uses a carbon tax instead, some three quarters of Canadians will be covered by provincial-level carbon pricing.
Ms. Clark on Monday said her message to leaders at the World Bank, which she will address Friday in Washington, will be to match B.C.'s success in slashing emissions through the tax: "The climate action challenge we're making to other governments is clear and simple: meet it or beat it."
While the federal government is moving forward with some climate-change measures – such as new regulations to make trucks more fuel efficient, and a plan to phase out coal-fired power generation – Ottawa has adamantly refused to support carbon pricing.
"We are very clear we don't want ... what is effectively a tax on carbon which would increase the cost for consumers and on taxpayers – the cost of electricity, of gasoline, of groceries," Finance Minister Joe Oliver told reporters Monday in response to Ontario and Quebec's deal. "We think this would be negative for the economy; it would be negative for consumers and for taxpayers. And that's why we oppose it."
The federal government is also leaving it up to the provinces to set their own emissions targets and report them to Ottawa, rather than attempting to forge a national strategy.
Mr. Couillard lamented this Monday, arguing that the federal government should negotiate with the provinces to set a clear plan that spells out exactly how much each province will cut in terms of emissions, and what each will do to achieve these targets.
The government must table its emission-reduction targets ahead of the UN climate summit in Paris in December, which will pull together an international accord for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
"[The federal government should help with] getting to Paris with a common, well-documented position, which would include the global target for Canada and the allocation for different regions," Mr. Couillard said.
In the absence of the federal government, the provinces will be attempting to co-ordinate this themselves Tuesday.
But a spokesman for Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Ottawa is attempting to work with the provinces and has received little feedback.
Ms. Aglukkaq has sent two letters to her provincial counterparts – one in November and another on Sunday – asking them to lay out their targets and plans beyond 2020. She told her colleagues the federal government will use that information, plus its own plans to regulate, to build a national submission for Paris.
However, Ottawa has rejected calls to lead a national negotiation on climate and energy policies and regional burden-sharing.
There are still major hurdles. Oil-rich Alberta, whose emissions are growing by leaps and bounds, must take tougher action to cut carbon if Canada is to achieve a net reduction over all. But Premier Jim Prentice, in the middle of a provincial election campaign, is skipping the Quebec meeting, leaving his province's plans up in the air.
Ms. Wynne, meanwhile, took a drubbing from the provincial opposition over her plan. Progressive Conservative environment critic Lisa Thompson argued that all cap-and-trade will do is make life more expensive for consumers in order to direct money into the treasury; she declared the plan a "new revenue tool to cover their wasteful spending."
Ms. Wynne appeared to anticipate this argument, and hit back at it as she unveiled the cap-and-trade plan at ecobee, a green-tech company in downtown Toronto, before flying to Quebec for her meeting with Mr. Couillard.
"When my granddaughter, Olivia, looks at me and says 'Grandma, what did you do [on climate change], I am not going to say to her 'I put my head in the sand because I was worried that maybe there would be a cost somewhere that I couldn't explain,'" she said. "I'm not going to do that."
(The Globe and Mail April 12, 2015)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Economic Growth vs. The Environment

Smog in Beijing

                                                    Comments due by April17, 2015
When it comes to economic growth these days, people often point out that it must be sustainable or "green growth." To what extent is a combination of economic growth and sustainability really possible?
With its Energiewende, the energy transition policy from nuclear to renewable energies, Germany aims to gradually increase renewable energies like solar, wind and hydroelectric power. Some say it's an important step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. But not Karl-Heinz Paque.

"If we do these things in Germany, it's not really going to have much of a global impact. We're too small for that," Paque, a professor of economics at the University of Magdeburg, told DW. "It's going to be decisive what happens in those countries that are now trying to catch up on economic growth - and they make up two-thirds of the global population."

Should developing countries and emerging economies follow the path Europe took? For centuries, Europeans fostered their own economic growth and wealth, before discovering their heart for environmental protection.
"Environmental protection as a priority stems from affluence," Paque said. "For us, it only started in the 1970s, no earlier. In China, it's only just beginning, and it will take a little longer in India."
Comeback for coal
There is much to make affluent and environmentally active Europeans nervous. Across the world, coal - the energy source that in most European countries has a reputation as being particularly dirty - is booming.
"Coal is about to enjoy the biggest renaissance in the history of economics," said Ottmar Edenhofer, deputy director and head economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

In the 1990s, many countries substituted coal with gas. But this trend is now being reversed, since coal has become "incredibly competitive," Edenhofer said.
Two Russian men fish in a lake across from a factory
Attempts to limit greenhouse gas emissions internationally have been unsuccesfull
"Above all, China's economic growth is strongly powered by cheap coal. The same holds true for India, South Africa, as well as some Eastern European countries," he added.
When coal or other fossil fuels are burned, CO2 is emitted, polluting the atmosphere - and contributing to making climate change more likely. Projections by the International Energy Agency (IEA) say that annual medium temperatures could rise 5.3 degrees by the end of the century, if countries across the world don't take action.
But negotiations towards a new international agreement on climate protection have been a failure. Whether it's about limiting greenhouse gas emissions or agreeing on emission rights trading, the interests of the various countries are simply too different.
Devaluing resources
"A global climate agreement would probably lead to a reduction of coal and oil consumption," said Carl Christian von Weizs├Ącker of the Bonn-based Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.

That, in turn constitutes a problem for countries with large fossil fuel resources. "A climate agreement would lead to decreasing prices for the resources in these countries," Weizs├Ącker said. "That makes it even harder to reach an agreement."
To complicate things further, some countries are changing their negotiation positions. Since new oil and gas fields were discovered in Kenya, and Canada found ways to make tar sands exploitation more lucrative, these countries have practically lost interest in a achieving climate agreement; Any limitation to pollution would reduce the value of their resources. 
After the failure of the UN climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009, the chances of reaching a quick agreement are slim, many experts fear. And it's even more unlikely to expect countries to agree to less, or no, economic growth. Even so, many environmental activists in western industrial nations dream of a world in which economic growth is unnecessary.
Improvements without growth?
From a global perspective, zero-percent economic growth is not a serious option.

"The huge disparities, for instance between Africa and Europe, or between Africa and the Americas would be not acceptable," Ottmar Edenhofer said, referring to calculations he undertook for the Potsdam Institute on Climate Impact Research.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (Photo: Spencer Platt)
Few, if any, countries in the world are likely to agree to limit their own economic growth
"For Africa to reach living standards similar to those in Latin America, the United States would have to reduce its per capita incomes by 80 percent," he said. "Resulting social conflicts would be severe."
Thus, it seems unlikely there will be a conscious limit to economic growth, just as it's unlikely universal targets for climate protection will be agreed anytime soon.
Regional efforts, such as the trading of emissions rights within Europe, only work partially or not at all. That's why many experts see humanity steering towards an apocalypse.
Economist Karl-Heinz Paque, however, is cautious when it comes to such scenarios, pointing out that reliable predictions about the future are simply impossible to make.

"Imagine you had made a prediction in 1913, exactly 100 years ago, about the future of the world - but starting from the state of technological development back then," he said. "What has happened since, within less than three generations, would have been completely beyond your imagination. That's why we have to be very careful about our predictions."
Don't panic, humanity will come up with solutions - that seems to be the bottom line to this argument. Paque, who has been active in politics with the liberal FDP party, believes such technological progress can be reached with as little state regulation as possible.
Yet Gerd Wagner, who heads the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin, argues that regulations set by nation states will indeed be necessary. "If you want to reduce environmental exploitation you need regulations."

Friday, April 3, 2015

California Should Increase The Price of Water.

Comments due by April 10, 2015
There has been a lot of discussion of the drought in California and the new regulations that the state is putting in place.  But there has been little mention of the obvious (to an economist) solution: Raise the price of water.

This would do more than any set of regulations ever could.  For example, the governor is not going to force people to replace their old toilets with newer, more water-efficient ones.  But a higher price of water would encourage people to do that.  A higher price would also give farmers the right incentive to grow the most water-efficient crops. It would induce entrepreneurs to come up with new water-saving technologies. And so on.

Some may worry about the distributional effects of a higher price of a necessity.  But the revenue from a higher price could be rebated to consumers on a lump-sum basis, making the whole system progressive.  We would end up with more efficiency and more equality. ( Greg Mankiw)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

US Government greenhouse emissions to be cut by 40% !!!

                                                   Comments due by April 5, 2015
 U.S. President Barack Obama will sign an executive order on Thursday March 19, 2015 that sets a goal for the U.S. government to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025, the White House said.
Although the federal government accounts for only 0.7 percent of net U.S. emissions, it is the single largest energy consumer in the United States, according to the White House.
Meeting the goal would cut 21 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from 2008 levels, it said.
Several large private-sector partners, including IBM, General Electric and Honeywell, also committed to cutting a combined 5 million metric tons.
Obama has made fighting climate change a top priority in his final two years in office. The White House sees it as critical to his legacy.
In November, Obama reached an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping that set a goal of reducing overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. China agreed to begin lowering its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, with the intention of trying to do so earlier.
White House senior adviser Brian Deese said the federal government's share of greenhouse gas emissions in the overall U.S. economy is "modest," but said the announcement is significant.
"The potential from this announcement, however, is significant both because we can drive substantial reductions across the entire federal footprint and because our efforts to do that leverage both innovation and investment in the private sector," Deese said on a call with reporters.
The Environmental Protection Agency last year offered a Clean Power Plan that set deadlines for states to submit proposals to meet power plant carbon emission reduction goals.
A dozen states, including Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana and Wyoming, sued the EPA last August, soon after the plan was unveiled, saying its use of a certain section of the Clean Air Act was illegal. The federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case on April 16.
Obama's budget proposal for fiscal 2015, released last month, called for a 7 percent boost in funding for clean energy and a $4 billion fund to encourage U.S. states to make faster and deeper cuts to emissions from power plants. It also called for the permanent extension of tax credits used by the wind and solar power industries. (Reuters)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mega Drought

                                                  Comments due by March 28, 2015
Scientists are now mapping a world that is changing rapidly in often-terrifying ways. Climate disruption and world leaders' unwillingness to act have put us at risk of experiencing mega-droughts, the disappearance of coral reefs and other ecological impacts of an anthropogenically warming planet.
The UN World Meteorological Organization recently announced that 14 of the 15 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000. Ponder that for a moment before reading further.
In what is perhaps eerily prophetic timing, this February marked the 50th anniversary of US President Lyndon B. Johnson's warning about carbon dioxide. In a 1965 special message to Congress, he warned about the buildup of carbon dioxide and said, in what would become the harbinger warning of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD):
Air pollution is no longer confined to isolated places. This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.
The potential consequences of this warming are also multiplying, as witnessed by a recent NASA study that shows that the United States is "at risk of [a] mega-drought future." The research shows that the Southwest and Central Plains are both on course for super-droughts, which have not been witnessed in over 1,000 years.
In this month's climate dispatch, we document a wide range of research along similar lines: Scientists are now mapping a world that is changing rapidly in often terrifying ways.
After the single worst mountaineering accident in history took place last summer on Mount Everest, the standard climbing route for that mountain has become off limits. Many mountaineers, including this writer, credit ACD with making the section of the route where the deadly accident occurred more dangerous than ever before.
Climate Disruption DispatchesAn increasing number of reports now demonstrate that ACD is leading to new disease outbreaksaround the world. In fact, many scientists fear that ACD is already creating the ecological basis for infectious deadly diseases to spread to both new places and new hosts as the planet's atmosphere changes.
Other scientists are warning of a coming "climate plague," and say that exotic diseases like Ebola, SARS and West Nile virus will become "increasingly common" as ACD progresses. Less dramatically but equally pertinent, recent studies are already linking ACD to longer and more intense hay fever seasons in the United States.
Wildlife is reflecting the changes to the climate as well. Grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park emerged several weeks early from their winter hibernation due to the arrival of spring-like weather, with warmer temperatures and rain falling instead of the usual snow, according to a park spokesperson.

Dramatic acceleration of ACD and its impacts on agriculture mean that "profound" societal changes are needed in order to feed the world's ever-growing population.

Madagascar's lemur species, most of them already imperiled, are now being severely impacted by the effects of ACD, which will cause an average of half of their current habitats to be removed over the next 70 years.
Although it's not as though we needed any further evidence that ACD is real and progressing rapidly, a study recently published in Nature, drawn from evidence taken from ancient plankton fossils drilled from the ocean floor, supports current predictions about ACD, as it verifies what we are seeing today, and where it will lead, since it has happened in the past.
On the human front, a recent report shows how disasters resulting from ACD are pushing India's poorest children further into poverty and sometimes human trafficking, as parents are displaced.
Lastly, researchers at an annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in the United States reported that the dramatic acceleration of ACD and its impacts on agriculture mean that "profound" societal changes are needed in order to feed the world's ever-growing population. One example of these changes is the fact that, according to one of the scientists at the conference, in order to feed the planet between 2000 and 2050, agricultural output would have to produce the same amount of food as was produced in the last 500 years.
As usual, the impact of ACD is extremely clear when it comes to water and water-related issues around the globe.
In Alaska, the annual Iditarod sled dog race is in increasing jeopardy, as warmer temperatures and dwindling snow cover are making it more challenging to run the race. Mushers are having to skirt open-water sections of previously frozen rivers, run their teams and sleds over long sections of bare ground, and run their dogs at night because daytime temperatures are sometimes too warm.
In the Pacific Northwest, a possibly record-setting bad snow year is in full swing, as mountain snowfalls remain at record low levels, and forecasts for the rest of the season are calling for more of the same. By way of example, the snowpack in the Olympic Mountains is at only 8 percent of its usual level.

The planet is experiencing "unabated planetary warming" when one includes the vast amounts of greenhouse-trapped heat in the oceans.

recent report revealed that anthropogenic air pollution in the northern hemisphere is reducing rainfall over Central America. Scientists explained that sun-masking pollution cools the northern hemisphere where most global industry is based. This then pushes the intertropical convergence zone (a rain band that encircles the globe) south because it moves toward the warmer hemisphere.
Researchers from the University of Arizona have shown that melting ice is causing the land to rise up in Iceland, and possibly elsewhere. The result of this could be a dramatic increase in the number of volcanic eruptions around the globe - yet another unintended consequence of ACD.
While it's no secret that glaciers are melting in Antarctica and Greenland, a recently published study provided new evidence that the carbon from melting glaciers is impacting the downstream food chains and having a significant impact on those ecosystems. This means substantial changes to the base of the food web, changes that will have clear ramifications for global fisheries and ultimately, humans' ability to feed themselves.
A recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, titled "Smothered Oceans: Extreme Oxygen Loss in Oceans Accompanied Past Global Climate Change," revealed that abrupt, extensive loss of oxygen occurred in the oceans when the global ice sheets melted approximately 10,000 to 17,000 years ago. These findings explain similar changes that are already occurring in the oceans right now.
New analysis of thousands of temperature measurements taken during deep ocean probes confirmed that the planet is experiencing "unabated planetary warming" when one includes the vast amounts of greenhouse-trapped heat in the oceans.
Life in the oceans is being impacted in what are increasingly obvious ways. Rutgers University professor Malin Pinsky, who studies the effects of ACD on fisheries, recently announced a study showing species redistribution (having to move to new areas due to temperature changes) of fluke, which are being pushed north toward cooler waters. Pinsky has already studied a similar phenomenon happening with flounder.
In California, nearly 1,000 sea lions have been washed ashore this year in what rehabilitation centers state is a growing crisis for the animals. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials are blaming warming ocean temperatures for the problem.

ACD-fueled drought continues to plague the planet, as the major vacillations between extreme dryness and floods grow increasingly common.

It's important to place this distressing news for the planet's oceans in a larger - and even more distressing - context. Now is a good time to recall an alarming 2011 report, in which the International Program on the State of the Ocean warned of mass extinction, based on the then-current rate of marine distress. The expert panel of scientists warned that a mass extinction event "unlike anything human history has ever seen" was coming, if the multifaceted degradation of the world's oceans continues.
Since 2011, destruction of the oceans has not only continued, but it has increased dramatically. A World Resources report states that all coral reefs will be gone by 2050 "if no actions are taken," a study published in BioScience states that oysters are already "functionally extinct" since their populations are decimated by overharvesting and disease, and the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, and others around the globe, continue to break size records.
Other water-related effects of climate disruption abound.
The massive snowfall in Boston this winter set all-time records for snow within 14, 20, and 30-day periods, and has been tied to ACD.
ACD-fueled drought continues to plague the planet, as the major vacillations between extreme dryness and floods grow increasingly common.
Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest and wealthiest city that typically has access to one-eighth of the fresh water on the planet, is now seeingits taps run dry as the region struggles to cope with "an unprecedented water crisis." And in the United States, California's drought continues to make front-page news, as usual. The state suffered one of its driest Januarys on record, indicating that, without a doubt, the state is headed into a fourth straight year of drought.
Also in California, scientists are seeing that state's shrinking snowpack as a harbinger of things to come. They are expecting the snowpack to shrink by at least one-third as the climate continues to warm in the coming decades, and expect that by the end of this century, more than half of what now functions as a massive natural freshwater reservoir could be gone.
Indeed, a recent NASA study warns us of an "unprecedented" North American drought, and shows that California is currently in the midst of its worst drought in more than 1,200 years. The study also shows how things are only going to get worse.
Meanwhile, the distress signals from the Arctic continue to make themselves known, in the form of melting ice.
A study recently published in the Journal of Climate shows that the amount of ice already lost in the Arctic dwarfs any of the ice gains that have occurred around Antarctica. ACD deniers had pointed toward increasing ice buildup in parts of the Antarctic as a sign that ACD was not happening, but this study blows that "argument" out of the water. "I hope that these results will make it clear that, globally, the Earth has lost sea ice over the past several decades, despite the Antarctic gains," wrote study author Claire Parkinson, a sea ice researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Seattle-based urban planner Jeffrey Linn produced a series of maps that show what is going to occur as sea levels continue to rise and major cities are submerged in hundreds of feet of water. They are worth looking at closely.
A study just published in the journal Nature Communications shows that sea levels north of New York City "jumped by 128mm (5 inches)" in just two years. This is an unprecedented rate in the history of tide gauge records. The US scientists who authored the study warned that coastal areas now need to prepare for "short term and extreme sea level events."
Lastly, on the subject of rising sea levels, researchers recently reported that rising sea levels are already impacting Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the historic and iconic launch pads 39A and 39B are under threat as nearby beachfront is washing away at an alarming rate.
A recent state-commissioned study in the US projects between a 2.5 to 5.5-degree Fahrenheit temperature increase by 2050, which would bring more disease, crop damage and wildfires to the state of Colorado, along with other states in the center of the country.
To make matters worse, another recent report makes it clear that wildfire season in the United States, which used to be confined to the months of July and August, has grown two and a half months longer in the last 40 years - and continues to expand.
Beyond the US, a recent study in the New Scientist revealed that ACD-augmented wildfires could begin releasing radioactive material locked in contaminated forest soils around Chernobyl, allowing them to spread all over Europe.
A recent study published in Scientific Reports reveals that the forests' ability to suck carbon from the atmosphere is likely slowing down. The ramifications for this are obvious: With forests' ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere compromised, the impacts of ACD speed up dramatically.
Climate Central recently published an interactive tool called Winter Loses Its Cool, which allows you to see how daily low temperature projections for US cities are being impacted by ACD.
A modeling study published in LiveScience in February shows how ACD is spawning even more tornadoes in the US Southeast.
Another report - which shouldn't surprise anyone living in the frigid northeastern US - shows how ACD is clearly shifting the jet stream that drives the weather for that region. This has been evident throughout most of February, where record-breaking bitterly cold air from Siberia wracked the region, along with the eastern half of Canada, with incredibly low temperatures and record snowfalls. It is obvious that something is amiss with the planet's atmosphere when the US Northeast is getting weather, regularly now, that used to be found only within the Arctic Circle. As global temperatures slowly equalize as a result of ACD, the jet stream is no longer contained to its previous patterns.
January 2015 showed that worldwide temperatures are showing little sign of relenting from 2014's record high levels, as January matched the warmest records for the month in 125 years of data records, according to Japan's Meteorological Agency.
Lastly, the giant craters in Siberia that are believed to have been caused by methane gas eruptions in melting permafrost are now sparking fears of the unfolding of an Arctic natural disaster. That disaster would look like increasingly escalating temperatures that cause self-reinforcing feedback loops to kick in, and cause the permafrost in the Arctic to continue melting, hence releasing the rest of the trapped methane.
Denial and Reality
There is some big news on the ACD-denial front this month, as it was recently revealed how the deniers' favorite scientist, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics' Wei-Hock Soon, has been taking cash from corporate interests - and the documents are there to prove it. He has accepted more than a cool $1.2 million in money from the fossil fuel industry, and opted not to disclose that minor conflict of interest in the vast majority of his so-called scientific papers.
Nevertheless, others who are taking massive amounts of cash from the fossil fuel industry, like the infamous Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), continue to spout on about how only God can cause climate change.
A recently published op-ed in LiveScience asks the question, "Is it safe to be a climate scientist?" given how aggressive and even dangerous the pushback has been against scientists for simply doing their jobs.
It's a legitimate question because given the fact that 2014 was the hottest year on record and all the other overwhelming evidence that ACD is in full swing and accelerating by the day, the denial movement has began to reach new heights of lying and propagandizing. By way of example, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's top business advisor Maurice Newman says that he believes ACD is a "myth."

"We are conditioning ourselves to ignore the information coming into our ears."

Meanwhile, talk of "geoengineering" as a "solution" for ACD continues to grow in frequency and volume, to the extent that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently issued two firmly pessimistic reports on the subject. The NAS refused to call it "geoengineering," however, instead calling it "climate intervention." The NAS panel rejects the use of the term "geoengineering" because, "We felt 'engineering' implied a level of control that is illusory," according to Dr. Marcia McNutt, who led the report committee.
Another, little-noticed factor that may be driving denial: noise pollution. A senior US scientist recently expressed concerns about how human-created noise is making us oblivious to the sound of nature. Rising background noise in some areas threatens to make people deaf to the sounds of birds, flowing water and wind blowing through trees, and the problem is exacerbated by people opting to use iPods during their hikes. "We are conditioning ourselves to ignore the information coming into our ears," the scientist said. Along with the fact that the majority of the global population now lacks regular access to wilderness, it is becoming ever easier for people to avoid thinking about ACD, since they are out of touch with the planet.
There have been important recent developments on the reality front for this section.
As a mitigation option, a recent Reuters story reminds us, "Giving more women who want it access to birth control to limit their family size, in both rich and poor countries, could be a hugely effective way to curb climate change, according to experts."
Truthout also recently published an analytical piece on this topic, noting that there are 225,000 people at the dinner table tonight who weren't there last night - and that the vast majority of carbon emissions are coming from so-called developed countries, rather than poorer "developing" countries.
In an action geared toward raising global awareness, Catholics in 45 countries aim to send an ACD message through their Lenten chain of fasting this year. In addition, Pope Francis' scheduled address to a joint session of Congress this fall is aiming to put Republican lawmakers who are ACD deniers square on the hot seat.
Given recent reports and events, let us remember the shockwaves caused in the global scientific community when, in 2010, Australian emeritus professor of microbiology Frank Fenner, who helped eradicate smallpox from the planet, predicted the human race would be extinct within the next 100 years. Believing humans will be unable to survive the ongoing twin-headed dragon of unbridled population explosion and overconsumption, Fenner stated unequivocally, "It's an irreversible situation. I think it's too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off."
On that note, researchers at Oxford University recently compiled a "scientific assessment about the possibility of oblivion" that predicts various scenarios of how human civilization will most likely end.
With ACD listed as the No. 1 most likely way we perish, the list goes on to include other possibilities like global thermonuclear war, a global pandemic, ecological catastrophe and global system catastrophe. Only two of the 12 scenarios - major asteroid impact and a super volcano - were not anthropogenic.
Regarding ACD, the researchers believe the possibility of global coordination to mitigate the impacts to be the largest controllable factor in whether or not catastrophe can be prevented. However, they also warned that the impact of ACD would be strongest in poorer countries, and that large human die-offs stemming from migrations and famines would cause major global instability.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Population Growth and Climate Change

Addressing Population Growth - Through Freedom, Not Control - Is Crucial to Confronting Climate Disruption

Sunday, 22 February 2015 00:00By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report
Population portrait
                                                                                    Comments due by Mar. 8, 2015
"We have 225,000 people at the dinner table tonight who weren't there last night," William Ryerson, the president of thePopulation Institute told Truthout. "Population is the multiplier of everything else."
Every year, the world population's net growth is equivalent to adding a new Egypt.
Very often, arguments about overpopulation are used in defense of racist, sexist, classist and even genocidal policies, including killings, forced sterilization and the mass denial of reproductive freedom. And often, those arguments target black and brown people, particularly people in "developing" countries, centering the problem on "women having too many kids," rather than looking at what is actually having a significant effect on the planet, and how we can confront it humanely and in the service of real social and environmental freedoms.
However, looking beyond the myths and dictates, the realities of population point to the contrary: Population-related problems, like anthropogenic climate disruption, stem from resource use in the West. If you live in North America and Western Europe and comprise 12 percent of the world's population, you account for 60 percent of the world's private consumptive spending, while the one-third of the global population that lives in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent.

The United States, which comprises less than 5 percent of the global population, uses a quarter of the planet's total fossil fuel resources.

In order to have a conversation on this topic, we must first of all definitively end the equation of "overpopulation" with the birthrates of black or brown people living in so-called developing countries. Instead, we must focus on the fact that the United States, which comprises less than 5 percent of the global population, uses a quarter of the planet's total fossil fuel resources. The carbon emissions impact of the US population far surpasses that of those living in the "developing" world.
Even within the West, the disparity increases even further when we consider the fact that it is the richest who are using the majority of those resources. According to the World Bank, in 2011, US per capita energy use was 7,032 kilograms of oil equivalent, whereas in Bangladesh it was 205.
In another example, 320 million Americans consume more petroleum than do 1.3 billion Chinese, and thus emit far larger amounts of greenhouse gas, per capita.
As the populations of "developed" countries grow, their impacts are even greater than in less developed countries.
Ryerson believes anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) cannot adequately be confronted until the rapid increase in global population begins to be addressed.
And he's not alone.

The wisest ways to address global overpopulation would be geared toward greater freedoms like wide-scale availability of free contraception, and abortion, sex and ACD education.

"Overpopulation means that we are putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than we should, just because more people are doing it and this is related to overconsumption by people in general, especially in the 'developed' world," said Dr. Allan Drew, a forest ecologist, who believes overpopulation is a worse environmental problem than ACD.
As Drew pointed out, clearly overpopulation in "developed" countries, where consumption per person is so much more prevalent, is key.
report published in Science Daily in 2009 cited a poll of environmental experts who all believed that overpopulation was the single most pressing issue facing the planet.
In fact, even Scientific American has said that addressing global overpopulation is "the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment."
What does such a "strategy" look like? In this discussion, it is essential to make a connection between population and reproductive justice, rather than reproductive control: The wisest ways to address global overpopulation would be geared toward greater freedoms like wide-scale availability of free contraception, and abortion, sex and ACD education. Meanwhile, the reality of overpopulation and its carbon dioxide emission implications continue to grow.
"A Nice Utopia"
There are currently more than 7.2 billion people on the planet, another human is born every eight seconds and the United States is already the third most populous country in the world.
Future projections of population growth, according to the United Nations, show that the world will attain 8.92 billion people by 2050, with a peak of 9.22 billion in 2075.
"The additional 2 billion [onto our current 7.2 billion] is the climate equivalent to adding two USA's to the planet," said Ryerson, whose organization works to educate policy makers and the public about population and the need to achieve a world population that is in balance with a healthy global environment and resource base.
Additionally, rising populations also strain already vastly overstretched water resources.
"So to maintain our current population, we're already over-pumping underground aquifers," Ryerson said.
Greenhouse gas emissions have increased by record amounts each of the last several years to the highest carbon output in history, and each year is seeing another record.
This means that the aim of holding global temperatures to safe levels is now all but out of reach. The goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius, which scientists say is the threshold for potentially "dangerous climate change," is now most likely just "a nice utopia," according to Fatih Birol, a chief economist at the International Energy Agency.
Making Life on Earth "That Much More Difficult"
The current number of people on the planet, along with our "per capita behavior," is unsustainable, according to Ryerson.
"This is obvious in what has happened to the climate already," he said. "There are severe consequences already. And the cost of solving this problem of overpopulation is small compared to the cost of solving climate change as it progresses."
In particular, Ryerson sees a bleak future for water-starved countries like Saudi Arabia.
"Saudi Arabia has announced that the water they've been depending on, their underground aquifer for crops and drinking, will be gone by 2020," he explained. "They are dependent on imports, and can pay for it now, but in the future when oil declines, that country faces a serious issue of sustainability."
John Beddington, England's chief scientific adviser, has warned that these trends of a rising population and diminishing global resources may well constitute a "perfect storm."
In a major speech to environmental groups and politicians in 2009, he said, "It is predicted that by 2030 the world will need to produce around 50 percent more food and energy, together with 30 percent more fresh water, whilst mitigating and adapting to climate change. This threatens to create a 'perfect storm' of global events."

Large populations in richer countries have far greater consequences for the environment than growing populations in less "developed" countries.

Statistics underscore Beddington's point. At our current planetary trajectory, global population is likely to reach more than 8 billion by 2030, at which point demand for food will have increased by 40 percent with supplies not keeping apace. Global demand for water will have increased by 30 percent, and nearly 4 billion people will be living in areas of "high water stress."
Ryerson is also concerned about increasing biodiversity loss.
"The key issue is the large populations of plants and animals that make the planet inhabitable," Ryerson explained. "We need oxygen to breathe and water to drink. A 3 billion year evolution of plants and animals has made the planet habitable, and we are systematically destroying this biodiversity by plowing, cutting and burning areas."
Having more people on the planet naturally means greater demand for products, which leads to more and more wilderness areas being clear-cut, burned or harvested in order to provide for the demand increases of food and consumer goods.
Ryerson believes ongoing demand for products and the resulting encroachment on wilderness areas "will make life on the planet much more difficult. All of this together means the future of humanity, even with assumed innovation, has some very serious concerns. None of these problems are made easier by adding more people. The only way to achieve sustainability is to hold population growth, and have it decline."
As critical as the issue of overpopulation is, the topic gets attacked from both the political left and right.
"The right thinks endless growth is possible and is a good idea, and that the planet's resources are unlimited and will make it possible," Ryerson said. "The left thinks those who talk about overpopulation are only focused on the poorest of the poor and are also racially motivated."
In reality, large populations in richer countries have far greater consequences for the environment than growing populations in less "developed" countries.
However, instead of reframing these controversial topics, even scientists who recognize that population growth is a major factor in ACD often opt to avoid mentioning it.
But several paths forward are clear.
Broader education in "developed" countries about how far along we are regarding ACD - and the significance of population in that equation - is a necessity.
Also, statistics show that the more we pursue reproductive justice and freedom, the more birth rates fall. Full access to and education around contraception and abortion is crucial, ensuring that women have the freedom to make choices.
This is not to say that making these shifts will "solve" population growth. Even imposing massive, intrusive controls on population wouldn't "solve" it: Another study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, titled Human Population Reduction is not a Quick Fix for Environmental Problems, shows that fertility reduction in the global population, even on the scale of implementing a one-child policy globally alongside non-human induced catastrophic mortality events, "would still likely result in 5-10 billion people by 2100. Because of this demographic momentum, there are no easy ways to change the broad trends of human population size this century."
Perhaps the best solution can be found in our attitude toward the growth of the human population on the planet.
In an excellent article published by Truthout several years ago, one aspect of this was addressed eloquently: "If we want to meet our goals for the development of human culture and the increase of well-being, the first prerequisite is that we change our attitude about the growth of human population," wrote Kelpie Wilson. "We do need to think about a social and economic system that will move us to that point as quickly as possible, and that system involves complete reproductive freedom and comprehensive health care for all women. We must trust women to make the reproductive decisions that are best for them and the planet."
Those steps must happen immediately, as the human population continues to rise, along with our fossil fuel emissions and the increasing ACD impacts that result from them.(Truthout by D. Jamail)

Friday, February 20, 2015

What Happens to Solar once TaxCredit Expires?

                                                              Comments due by Mar. 1, 2015

The Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is set to expire at the end of 2016 — and if it does, residential solar may be in trouble. “The ITC is the swing factor for homeowners — the plunge from 30 percent to zero will dramatically slow down sales for customer-owned systems,” opined Barry Cinnamon, CEO of Cinnamon Solar.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Environmental Impact of Fishing

                                              Comments due by Feb 22, 2015

In the process of producing food, economic resources, employment, livelihood and recreation, fisheries have to potential to modify ecosystems because fishing may alter or affect: the target resource (especially if there is overfishing of the target resource); species associated with or dependent on the targeted resource (such as predators or prey); trophic relationships within the ecosystem in which the fishery operates; and habitats in which fishing occurs. The impacts may be easily reversible, difficult to reverse, or irreversible. Under the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the fishing sector is expected to reduce its impacts to the minimum possible in ways that are also compatible with its own sustained existence.
Some of the more well-documented fishing activities that can have potentially negative impacts on the environment include:
Overfishing and excessive fishing can reduce the spawning biomass of a fishery below desired levels such as maximum sustainable or economic yields. In the process of producing food, economic resources, employment, livelihood and recreation, fisheries have to potential to modify ecosystems because fishing may alter or affect: the target resource (especially if there is overfishing of the target resource); species associated with or dependent on the targeted resource (such as predators or prey); trophic relationships within the ecosystem in which the fishery operates; and habitats in which fishing occurs. The impacts may be easily reversible, difficult to reverse, or irreversible. Under the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the fishing sector is expected to reduce its impacts to the minimum possible in ways that are also compatible with its own sustained existence. 
In the process of producing food, economic resources, employment, livelihood and recreation, fisheries have to potential to modify ecosystems because fishing may alter or affect: the target resource (especially if there is overfishing of the target resource); species associated with or dependent on the targeted resource (such as predators or prey); trophic relationships within the ecosystem in which the fishery operates; and habitats in which fishing occurs. The impacts may be easily reversible, difficult to reverse, or irreversible. Under the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the fishing sector is expected to reduce its impacts to the minimum possible in ways that are also compatible with its own sustained existence.
Some of the more well-documented fishing activities that can have potentially negative impacts on the environment include:
  • Overfishing and excessive fishing can reduce the spawning biomass of a fishery below desired levels such as maximum sustainable or economic yields.
  • When there is sustained overfishing, changes in species composition and biodiversity can occur with progressive reduction of large, long-lived, and high value predator species and the increase in small, short-lived, and lower value pelagic and demersal prey species, a process described as 'fishing down the food chain'. Important macroscopic changes have been observed in many ecosystems such as the North Sea, Yellow Sea, North Atlantic (e.g. George's Bank and Barents Sea), Gulf of Thailand, and southeastern Australia. Intensive fishing can also reduce genetic diversity of wild populations (e.g. rapidly depressing the proportion of fast growing and late spawning individuals) and changes in species composition or dominance can also be provoked through competition for food between fisheries and marine apical predators.
  • Non-selective fishing gear that is not modified to exclude or otherwise deter the entanglement of fish, turtles, or seabirds, and as a result, may take a significant bycatch of juvenile fish, benthic animals, marine mammals, marine birds, vulnerable or endangered species, etc. that are often discarded dead. While bycatch and discard problems are usually measured in the potential loss of human food, the increased risk of depletion for particularly vulnerable or endangered species (e.g. small cetaceans, turtles) can be significant. In the North Sea, for example, the impact of discarded fish on the food chain and species composition is consequential because the discards can represent up to 30% of what some birds' would otherwise consume.
  • Ghost fishing can occur when certain gear such as pots or gillnets have either been lost or abandoned at sea and, although untended, continue to catch and kill fish until the gear falls apart.
  • Impacts on the bottom can result from the intense use of trawls and other mobile bottom gear (e.g. dredges) can change bottom structure, microhabitats, and benthic fauna. The effect is particularly obvious when these gears are used in sensitive environments where there are sea grass and algal beds, coral reefs, sponges, and tube worms. Where fishers work the same area year after year much like a farmer's fields, the long-term impacts of such repeated activities are less obvious on soft bottoms, although the scraping or ploughing the bottom to depths of as much as 30 cm can seriously disturb the substratum habitat and productivity.
  • Fishing entailing the use of dynamite and poisons can have severe and broad-reaching impacts, particularly on coral reefs.
    There are also other less conspicuous or debated environmental impacts of fisheries-related activities. Some relate to the direct dumping of debris (gear, twine, food containers, plastic bands, etc.) or the unintentional dumping and accidental introduction of unwanted organisms, pathogens, and non-indigenous/foreign/alien species by fishing vessels. Other impacts include the organic pollution from at-sea processing and the pollution caused by unregulated wastes and effluents from coastal processing plants. Finally, fishing vessels and processing plants also have the potential to contribute to global warming through exhaust fumes and refrigerant gases.
    Even fish processing can contribute to pollution at sea
    Even fish processing can contribute to pollution at sea
    Courtesy of NOAA/NMFS/William B. Folsom

    Possible solutions

    Solving the problem of overfishing - and, thus, the impacts of overfishing on the environment -- is a longstanding regulatory challenge that requires fishers to have clear ethical and financial reasons to not overharvest in their efforts to fish. Additional data and research on the environmental impacts of fishing on the ecosystem can help managers and fishers, alike, to make more informed decisions regarding the impacts of fishing and, in particular, on species composition and the environment. 
    When coupled with measures to avoid overharvesting, technologies to increase harvesting selectivity can similarly help to reduce bycatch and subsequent discarding. The problem of ghost fishing can be decreased through greater awareness raising, the prohibition and control of dumping of damaged gear at sea, and with active at-sea programmes for the retrieval of lost gear. Gear technology (e.g. biodegradable material, collapsible traps, etc.) can also diminish the ability of lost gear to continue catching fish. Improved gear technologies can be used to reduce the impacts of fishing on various habitats and on the bottom. Finally, the adoption and enforcement of measures to prohibit destructive fishing practices can also help to reduce the impacts of fishing on the environment.

    Action taken

    Countries have been tackling the problem of overfishing - and, thus, the impacts that overfishing can have on the environment - for a long time (although with limited success in many instances). However, under the International Plan of Action (IPOA) for the Management of Fishing Capacity (IPOA-Capacity) that was adopted at FAO in 1999, countries are currently working to address overcapacity and its many associated problems, including overfishing. In addition, under the 2001 FAO IPOA on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA - IUU), there are many efforts currently underway around the globe to address illegal, unreported, and otherwise unregulated fishing activities and, thus, also helping to counteract overfishing.
    NGOs have become very active at uncovering and illustrating the problems of the environmental and ecosystem impacts of fishing activities, exerting considerable pressure on governments and fishery organizations from very local to very global levels. Consumers are also starting to exert pressure on fisheries management, and the progressive use of environmental ecolabels based on sustainable fishing activities is also providing additional incentives to consider and mitigate the environmental impacts of fishing. To limit international trade in endangered fish species, CITES is adding fish species that are subject to large-scale exploitation to its annexes. Some countries have regulated discarding, imposing severe discard limits or banning it altogether and forcing the landing of all unwanted bycatch (e.g. in Norway, Canada, Iceland, and the Faeroe Islands).
    The fishing industry as a whole is working to address the operational side-effects of fisheries on the environment. The use of innovative gear modifications, including selective grids, panels and square meshes in several trawl fisheries is facilitating the escape of unwanted species or small-sized individuals. Special devices are currently used in tuna fisheries to successfully reduce dolphin catches. Longlines are being modified to reduce bycatch of birds, and an IPOA for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries was adopted by FAO in 1999. In some countries (e.g. Norway), programmes exist to retrieve lost gillnets lying on the bottom.
    Zoning strategies, including Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) has been used to keep trawlers away from vulnerable habitats, although with little success in areas where there is ineffective enforcement and/or fleet overcapacity. Programmes for the development of integrated and more sustainable livelihoodsare being implemented (e.g. by FAO in Western and Central Africa). Some countries (USA, Ireland) require the elaboration of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and/or environmental impact statement (EIS) for their fisheries, whilst in other countries such as Australia, the fishing industry is voluntarily adopting and implementing environmental management systems.


    Awareness of the environmental impacts of fishing activities has been greatly increasing since UNCED (1992) both in the fisheries sector and among the public. The current pressure for ecosystem-based fisheries management is pushing managers and fishers to more specifically address the environmental impacts of fishing activities. The fishing sector progressively adopting economical technologies and approaches to environmentally acceptable fishing practices. Progress made in fishing and processing technology is significant and the fisheries sector is increasingly recognizing the benefits of ecolabelling. As a consequence, while much remains to be accomplished, the prospects for improvement are good.