Monday, April 4, 2016

Come sail away with me

Won't you let me take you
on a sea cruise?
    -Frankie Ford
You better free your mind instead
    -The Beatles

      Time to get in line to get on the first luxury cruise of the Northwest Passage.    Learn more here.  See the polar bears while you can!   Prepare to be amazed!
    "Prices for the journey aboard the 14-deck luxury liner start at nearly $22,000 rising to $120,000 for a deluxe stateroom—and this year’s cruise is sold out, according to the company."
       It seems that Climate Change has its bright spots, especially when it come to making and spending money.   Warren Buffet suggests that bigger storms will mean bigger premiums, and bigger profits for the insurance industry. .  
         Ugo Bardi, has an interesting post on economic activity and climate change.  He points to a new group  The "New Climate Economy Commission"  which is spreading the good news - we can have it all!
   " The goal of the New Climate Economy is to shift public discourse away from the costs of climate action to one focused on how economic growth and climate action can be achieved together."
        This is , of course is welcome news.  Let the decoupling begin!    (For a skeptic slant on the extent of decoupling see here)..   The notion that we can continue to grow GNP, while reducing emissions, seems rather hopeful.  see here
See also this from the Washington Post: "Clean Energy is winning the race against fossil fuels , but the planet is still losing
        Of course there are a number of ways to reduce CO2 emissions.  One would be to "stop driving around and buying sh*t".  But the way we have chosen to continue to buy "sh*t", but to do so in a more sustainable manner.   By buying renewable energy and electric cars, for instance.   Which really sounds good.   Its easy enough to find "pie in the sky" studies that demonstrate our all renewable future.  But most don't explain how we could do so in time    According this study in Energy Policy, it is basically "undo-able".   see here,  
 “It would require rates of change in our energy infrastructure and energy mix that have never happened in world history and that are extremely unlikely to be achieved,” he says.
  In 2015, the world installed the equivalent of 13,000 five-megawatt wind turbines. But to contain global warming to a figure less than 2°C nations would have to ramp up renewable investment by 2028 to the annual equivalent of 485,000 such wind turbines.
 “That’s a 37-fold increase in the annual installation rate in only 13 years just to achieve the wind power goal,” Professor Jones said.
       This study merely shows that the "green growth" solution is not feasible.
But one might also ask whether it is desirable.   For instance what are the environmental and health implications of such a large scale industrial activity?     This paper from Nature Geoscience provides a summary of materials required
"If the contribution from wind
turbines and solar energy to global energy
production is to rise from the current
400 TWh (ref. 2) to 12,000 TWh in 2035
and 25,000 TWh in 2050, as projected
by the World Wide Fund for Nature
(WWF), about 3,200 million tonnes of
steel, 310 million tonnes of aluminium
and 40 million tonnes of copper will be
required to build the latest generations
of wind and solar facilities (Fig. 2). This
corresponds to a 5 to 18% annual increase
in the global production of these metals for
the next 40 years.

 One hopes that these materials would be provided from recycling, or "sustainable" mining operations.  However, in all likelihood, they would be off shore, in countries with lax environmental laws. See e.g   Solar - Not as green as you think   or  .The worst place on earth
      So what's the alternative?  
          I recently can across an outfit known as the Simplicity Institute.  They suggest that in dealing with  Climate Change and Resource limits, the focus should be on demand, rather than supply,  that perhaps its time to try something other than our high tech "solutions" . see here
"All problems have hi-tech solutions. This is one of the defining assumptions of our technocratic, industrial civilisation, and yet it is an assumption that seems to be failing on its own terms. As the world continues to celebrate the most ‘advanced’ and ‘profitable’ technologies, we find our ecosystems being degraded and our communities fragmented more so now than ever before. Unfortunately, it seems that technology often just helps us get better at doing the wrong things, or the right things in unnecessarily harmful, energy-intensive ways.
Without denying the obvious benefits of many advanced technologies – such as the Internet, medical procedures, labour-saving machinery, etc. – humanity must nevertheless develop a more critical understanding of the costs of our technologies, costs that are often hidden or indirect, escaping our notice as we marvel at the latest invention. It is naïve to think that advanced technologies can solve all societal problems, and yet this naivety permeates contemporary understandings of what ‘progress’ and ‘sustainable development’ mean (Huesemann and Huesemann, 2011). The most pernicious consequence of this blind faith in technology is that it deflects attention away from the need to rethink our lifestyles, our economic structures, or our systems of governance, because it is assumed that technology will solve our problems without the perceived inconvenience of having to change the way we live. In this light, technology becomes an ethical void, one in which our societies are expected to become just and sustainable, without us having to live justly or sustainably ourselves. Even ethical problems are assumed to have hi-tech rather than behavioural solutions. This is techno-fetishism.    
      Richard Heinberg suggest a transition from a "consumer" to a "conserver" economy.
"If the transition to renewable energy implies a reduction in overall energy availability, if mobility is diminished, and if many industrial processes involving high heat and the use of fossil fuels as feedstocks become more expensive or are curtailed, then conservation must assume a much higher priority than consumption in the dawning post-fossil-fuel era. If it becomes more difficult and costly to produce and distribute goods such as clothing, computers, and phones, then people will have to use these manufactured goods longer, and repurpose, remanufacture, and recycle them wherever possible. Rather than a consumer economy, this will be a conserver economy.
"The switch from one set of priorities and incentives (consumerism) to the other (conservation) implies not just a major change in American culture but also a vast shift in both the economy and in government policy, with implications for nearly every industry. If this shift is to occur with a minimum of stress, it should be thought out ahead of time and guided with policy. We see little evidence of such planning currently, and it is not clear what governmental body would have the authority and capacity to undertake it. Nor do we yet see a culture shift powerful and broad-based enough to propel policy change.  
  (Perhaps in the future, when conserver approach is accepted, perhaps the Ministry of Information will  have PSA's which say 
      "Stop driving around buying sh*t. ")       ;.)

Bonus:  New Kevin Anderson video.  I haven't seen it yet. Here is a summary I got from another poster
Professor Kevin Anderson interviewed. As an aid to navigation, the first 10 minutes or so deal with Kevin’s observations on Ireland’s response to climate change. The next five minutes deal with the aftermath of the Paris Agreement, then he moves to address the growth paradox; then, he deals with his own decision not to fly. From there, he deals with climate sensitivity and extreme events. Next, he deals with the relative merits of carbon taxes versus rationing. From here, he examines the fitness for purpose of the neoliberal economic and political model. He also discusses the ‘new normal’ of life in a climate-changed world, where human impacts have already wrought disastrous changes to much of the natural world upon which we depend. The interview concludes by placing a moral framework on humanity’s relationship with the world. He remains deeply concerned that society, despite the overwhelming evidence of the need to act, that “we will choose to fail”.
March 21, 2016

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