Showing posts from August, 2022

Hard Talk

  In climate change circles the talk lately has taken a clear turn to the dark side. One prominent scientist told me that, to make sense of where the world leadership stands today, I need only watch DiCaprio's "Don't Look Up" on Netflix.  Spoiler alert - politicians dither until it's too late to prevent a major asteroid strike. In a similar vein, a new book, " Inconvenient Apocalypse ," has been released. For a number of years now I've been told that Earth's sustainable human population is about 2 billion. That's a bit jarring since we're now at 8 billion. Inconvenient Apocalypse pegs it at 2 to 3 billion. In An Inconvenient Apocalypse, authors Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen style themselves as heralds of some very bad news: societal collapse on a global scale is inevitable, and those who manage to survive the mass death and crumbling of the world as we know it will have to live in drastically transformed circumstances. According to Jackso

Our Brave New World - A Glimmer of Hope

  Guardian economics editor, Larry Elliott, sees welcome change on the horizon. Our 20 year wait may soon be over. For the past 40 years the world has been organised along neoliberal lines. This has involved long and complex global supply chains, privatisation, deregulation, small government, weak trade unions and a dedication on the part of independent central banks to keeping inflation low. The world that emerges from the chaos caused by a combination of the pandemic and the war will be different. Supply chains are going to be shorter as countries aim for self-sufficiency in food, energy and industrial components. There is going to be a wariness about being over-dependent on autocratic regimes for key commodities. There will be pressure for much tougher regulation of utilities and even renationalisation. Governments will get bigger and a shortage of workers, amplified by an ageing population, will shift the balance of power away from capital and towards labour. ...The public is ready

What Will We See Half a Century Later?

  Behold "Earthrise," the iconic 'blue marble' photo taken in December, 1968, by William Anders on the first Apollo mission to orbit the moon. What will Earth look like from the moon 54 years later? Will it look as pristine or a little beat up?  Those who can recall what the environment was like in 1968 and how much it has changed - mainly for the worse - over the last half century may be in for a surprise. The atmosphere has changed. Upwards of 14 per cent more water vapor. The poles have changed. The jet stream has really changed. What will we see as NASA attempts the first permanent habitation on the moon? Comment Response -   I wouldn't be banking too heavily on China these days.  

What's In a Name?


Sagan Says

  Comments Response -  I understand the truth of your observations, Lungta, but I still, after all these years, struggle to accept the reality of our predicament.

How Do We Get Out from Under This?

The American contagion has set in. Stephen Harper to Maxime Bernier to Pierre Poilievre to the Freedom Convoy - the signs are everywhere.  But what about the British contagion ? That's a more troubling problem - the lack of ideas. Does this sound vaguely familiar? If mainstream politics feels surreal and inadequate, this is partly due to the mysterious absence of a phenomenon that, for most of the past 150 years, was treated as an integral feature of politics and policy: ideas. Ideas have come in various shapes and sizes and from various sources. Some, such as those that formed Keynesianism, are associated with a single individual. Others, such as those that underpinned Thatcherism, were forged through an alliance of thinktanks (such as the Institute of Economic Affairs) and public intellectuals (such as Milton Friedman and Keith Joseph). It is when the status quo breaks down in some way (as occurred in the UK in the 1970s or within the left after 1989) that ideas and intellectuals

I Know How He Feels. Do You?

  Is decline the new trend for civilization?  With the exception, perhaps, of population growth, humanity seems to be at or on the cusp of decline. Tom Engelhardt, of TomDispatch , has written an oddly touching column on decline in the latest ScheerPost .  He writes of the decline that accompanies old age but also the decline in his United States of America and in humanity itself. It’s strange, if not eerie, to be living through the decline of my country — the once “sole superpower” on Planet Earth — in the very years of my own decline (even if Fox News isn’t picking on me ). Given the things I’m now forgetting, there’s something spookily familiar about the decline-and-fall script in the history I do recall. As Joe and his top officials do their best to live life to the fullest by working to recreate a three-decades-gone Cold War, even as this country begins to come apart at the seams, all I can say is: welcome to an ever lousier version of the past (just in case you’re too young to ha

Michael Harris - Conservatives Can't Shake the Curse of Harper

  Michael Harris has sized up Pierre Poilievre and concludes that he's a symptom of a sickness the Conservatives just cannot shake. The Conservatives are still the party of “Make Harperism Great Again.” Instead of taking the rejections of 2015, 2019 and 2021 as signs of the urgent need to reconstruct a party that had grown authoritarian, undemocratic and out of touch, they have doubled down on the policies that have turned them into the perpetual opposition, including fossil fuel worship, environmental myopia, anti-democratic practices and dismissiveness towards Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Poilievre is more of a Harper protégé than Andrew Scheer or Erin O’Toole ever were. Some Conservative commentators have tried to dry-clean Poilievre, saying he would come to the leadership with a clean slate. That is the stuff of nasal coffee rockets. Poilievre was Harper’s personal attack chihuahua in the House of Commons, a job he pursued with such alacrity that he elbowed his way into cabin

Trump Being Investigated Under the Espionage Act

  The Independent has obtained a copy of the warrant to search Mar-a-Lardo. The search warrant, which federal agents obtained on 5 August, directed agents to seize “physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation” of three criminal laws: the Espionage Act , a US law which makes it a crime to remove information related to national defence “from its proper place of custody “ as well as sections of US criminal law covering obstruction of justice and removing government records. Some of Mr Trump’s allies have speculated that the FBI search of his property was an attempt to find him in violation of the Presidential Records Act, which has no criminal penalties. But the laws cited on the warrant to search Mr Trump’s property could result in the ex-president serving many years in prison should he be charged and convicted of violating any of them.

Faster Than We Imagined.

It's widely understood that the Arctic has been warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Wrong, we got that wrong. A paper published in Communications Earth & Environment  contends that, since 1979, the Arctic has warmed not twice as fast but four times. In recent decades, the warming in the Arctic has been much faster than in the rest of the world, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification . Numerous studies report that the Arctic is warming either twice, more than twice, or even three times as fast as the globe on average. Here we show, by using several observational datasets which cover the Arctic region, that during the last 43 years the Arctic has been warming nearly four times faster than the globe, which is a higher ratio than generally reported in literature. We compared the observed Arctic amplification ratio with the ratio simulated by state-of-the-art climate models, and found that the observed four-fold warming ratio over 1979–2021 is an extremely rare occas

There's No Vaccine for This

A Leger poll finds Canadians aren't warming to that cold fish, Pierre Poilievre .  Another recent poll finds we're none too fond of the other guy either. Both results are easy to understand.  Canadians, it seems, are tired of Justin's empty platitudes and uneasy at Pete's radical right rants. Does this mean we're out of the woods? Hardly. The American Contagion unleashed by decades of Republican perfidy (going back to Gingrich) culminating in the election of that nation's worst president ever has crossed our border and embedded itself with a segment of our population mainly from one geographical heartland.  The Freedom Convoy mob and Poilievre are testament to its resilience. So, what are we up against? This seems almost farcical, counterintuitive, illogical. True, but as the NYT columnist, Thomas Edsall, writes, we're facing the age of " belief polarization " that is immune to arguments of logic or fact. In their May 2021 paper, “Belief polarizat

Trump and His Muppets Play Possum

  There was a time they wouldn't shut up. Now, except for when they're safely inside some Republican festung , they're a lot less talkative. Trump showed up to a scheduled deposition today, after repeatedly trying to get out of it. Then he went mute, claiming the protection of the Fifth Amendment to refuse to answer any  questions. Like other dons, he's not talking. Rudy Giuliani is supposed to appear before a Grand Jury in Atlanta. Predictably, he sent his lawyers to court with a doctor's note claiming he's not fit to travel. The judge said if he can't fly he can always get there by car or bus or Amtrack. If need be he should call an Uber. Daily Kos reports that the Fulton County DA doesn't believe "America's Mayor." Giuliani “purchased multiple airline tickets with cash, including tickets to Rome, Italy and Zurich Switzerland, for travel dates ranging between July 22, 2022 and July 29, 2022. All of these dates were after [his] medical pr

Betting on Rock Bottom

  Seabed trawlers are almost universally reviled. Their lead-weighted nets scour the seabed, in the process destroying almost everything in their path. This 2014 article from The Guardian focuses on the problem: The Firth of Forth was once home to vast beds of oysters, for example. None remains. Similarly, the Firth of Clyde once abounded with fish, shellfish, whales and porpoises. Today its seabed is barren and its fish stocks have disappeared. "Nothing worth catching is left," states Callum Roberts in his book, Ocean of Life . "The Firth of Clyde gives us a stark vision of a life without fish." And as bottom trawling and dredging continues, such a fate awaits most other UK inshore fisheries. "Trawlers have transformed life on the seabed, converting three-dimensional, complex habitats rich in coral, sponge and sea fan to endless monotonous expanses of shifting gravel, sand and mud," adds Roberts. Nor is the damage confined to the seabed. Stocks of fish –

FBI Raids Mar-a-Lardo

  CNN is reporting that FBI agents just raided Donald Trump's compound at Mar-a-Lardo. Trump apparently said the agents even broke into his safe.

Trump Complained His Generals Didn't Act Enough Like Hitler's

  A New Yorker article explores former president Donald Trump's contempt for his own generals.  Ever a fan of the Austrian paper-hanger, Trump had this exchange with his then chief of staff, John Kelly. The President’s loud complaint to John Kelly one day was typical: “You fucking generals, why can’t you be like the German generals?” “Which generals?” Kelly asked. “The German generals in World War II,” Trump responded. “You do know that they tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off?” Kelly said.

The Case for Longtermism

  George Monbiot calls it the " conspiracy of silence that dominates public life ."  Governments dodge dealing with problems, existential threats, and puts it down to the "power of incumbency." ...those politicians and media barons deploy every imaginable wile and ruse to prevent decisive action from being taken. They do so on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, animal farming, finance, construction firms, car manufacturers and airline companies, but also on behalf of something bigger than any of those interests: the power of incumbency . Those who hold power today do so by stamping out challenges, regardless of the form they take. And, in their obsessive quest to attain and hold onto power, the public is treated as fodder for short-termism, policies geared to electoral cycle upon electoral cycle with scant regard to the future. We need to see past this political perfidy if we're to have any chance of survival. This point is illustrated in an essay published on

Climate End Game

   A report from PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US), urges governments to take off the blinders and begin evaluating climate breakdown  from a worst case scenario. Despite 30 y of efforts and some progress under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to increase. Even without considering worst-case climate responses, the current trajectory puts the world on track for a temperature rise between 2.1 °C and 3.9 °C by 2100.    ...Even if anthropogenic GHG emissions start to decline soon, this does not rule out high future GHG concentrations or extreme climate change, particularly beyond 2100. There are feedbacks in the carbon cycle and potential tipping points that could generate high GHG concentrations ( 14 ) that are often missing from models. Examples include Arctic permafrost thawing that releases methane and CO2 ( 15 ), carbon loss due to intense droughts and fires in the Amazon

Sleepwalking Into Dystopia

  The climate science community is finally coming out of the closet. Three weeks ago I had an exchange with a prominent climate scientist.  I asked what were our chances of world governments rising to the challenge of climate breakdown in time to avert real disaster. My correspondent recommended that I watch de Caprio's NetFlix movie, "Don't Look Up." After watching the flick I chided my aquaintance for fear-mongering. Surely he was pulling my leg. No, he maintained. He was deadly serious. An article in the Guardian/Observer mirrors this exchange. University College London emeritus professor, Bill McGuire , pulls no punches. The crucial point, he argues, is that there is now no chance of us avoiding a perilous, all-pervasive climate breakdown. We have passed the point of no return and can expect a future in which lethal heatwaves and temperatures in excess of 50C (120F) are common in the tropics; where summers at temperate latitudes will invariably be baking hot,