Posted by Big Gav
The Stern report into the cost of climate change seems to have dominated the media in recent days - Grist and Energy Bulletin (£3.68 trillion: The price of failing to act on climate change, Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, Stern report: the key points, Drastic action on climate change is needed now - and here's the plan, Stern figures don't add up for world's poor and Budgets falling in race to fight global warming) have good roundups of the commentary.
Ignoring climate change far more expensive than fighting it, says British report
Some folks worry that restricting greenhouse-gas emissions could hurt the economy. Turns out that's a bit like worrying that a tracheotomy will hurt a patient in anaphylactic shock -- yeah, it'll sting, but without it the patient will croak. (Yes, we watch way too much ER.) Ignoring climate change could dampen the global economy by 5 to 20 percent each year within a decade, costing the world up to $7 trillion, according to a new report from chief British government economist Nicholas Stern.
Think Great Depression, but with much worse weather. In contrast, tackling climate change now would cost about 1 percent of global GDP each year -- roughly what the world spends annually on advertising. We better get cracking, though: the report warns that the chance to avoid the worst effects of climate change "is already almost out of reach." Eek. British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who commissioned the report, said the U.K. would take leadership in the international response to tackle climate change, and proposed a new E.U. target to reduce emissions 30 percent by 2020 and at least 60 percent by 2050.
Down here the Treasurer is saying that its just a small market failure (but still resisting the idea of carbon taxes to send the right market signal - and continuing to repeat the lie that we are meeting our Kyoto obligations that they refuse to ratify) while other government members are busy either saying subsidies (often to encourage more pollution) are preferable to market solutions (when those solutions would hurt coal companies) or that global warming doesn't really exist (in the case of our spectacularly ignorant industry minister) or insisting only "clean" coal and nuclear can provide the energy we need (in the case of the duplicitous Rodent).
Meanwhile the Greens sensibly pointed out that the rest of the world views us as a bunch of dirty rednecks and shouldn't continue to appease us.
The SMH had a good front page climate story yesterday showing what a one to two metre sea level rise would mean for Sydney harbour - which is actually a good way of getting influential people to take the issue seriously - stories about drowning Bangladeshis and the like are easily shrugged off - but if your boat house is going to get submerged thats a different kettle of fish...
Grist has an interesting post on some US Senators (including a Rockefeller, who would hopefully have some influence) following the British Royal Society's lead and asking Exxon to stop funding the global warming denial industry (with the catchy title "Let's Talk About Rex, Baby").
Senators ask ExxonMobil to stop funding climate-change deniers
ExxonMobil should "end any further financial assistance" to climate-change-denying lobbyist groups, say Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) in a scathing letter sent to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson on Friday. According to an upcoming report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the oil behemoth funded 29 climate-change-skeptic groups in 2004 alone, and has spent more than $19 million since 1990 funding groups that promote "science" that hasn't been peer reviewed. The senators singled out the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Tech Central Station website as Exxon-funded skeptic groups. ExxonMobil's support, and "skeptics' access to and influence on government policymakers, have made it increasingly difficult for the United States to demonstrate the moral clarity it needs across all facets of its diplomacy," the senators wrote. We congratulate them on their exquisite mastery of understatement.
Dave Roberts has a post on annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists, where there was a panel on media coverage of global warming. One of the panelists was Marc Morano, Senator James "state of denial" Inhofe's "right-hand man". Dave is outraged by Morano's debating tactics (and Exxon's army of global warming denial merchants can be infuriating) which prompted Bart from Energy Bulletin to make a few notes about how to deal with propagandists (hopefully Mr Morano will eventually have a Frank "nice rug" Luntz moment of honesty).
Marc Morano is a professional advocate and propagandist. That's his job and he's good at it.
The scientists and journalists seemed ill-equipped to handle professionals like Morano. They treated him like a fellow seeker after the truth and were dumbfounded at his accusations and disinformation.
"He's not playing by the rules!"
Well, duh! Do we expect used car salesmen and lawyers to be objective and tell the unvarnished truth? Their goals are to make the sale or win their case, not to be fair and balanced.
First mistake. The panel was structured so that this appeared to be a debate between two sides of the global warming question. Because of this framing, Morano AUTOMATICALLY gained his main goal which was to be seen as intellectually respectable.
Why invite only Morano and not a climate change activist? Why not invite some of the victims of climate change?
Why not have a panel diagnosing how the climate denial industry works - showing the institutions and techniques they use?
Second mistake. Morano took the offensive, making dozens of absurd accusations. The other panel members spent their time defending themselves, correcting Morano. Guess what? He doesn't care. If you correct a dozen accusations, he has two dozen more ready. He does not play by your rules.
If you are going up against someone like Morano, recognize that you are going to have to change your style. Bill Blakemore and Dan Fagin came closest to taking the offensive, but even they were too conscientious to be as effective as they could be.
Another post at Grist looking at the same panel talk answers the question "Where can you find the "truth" about global warming?".
I listened with great interest to the audio recording of the SEJ panel discussion described in David Roberts' recent blog post.
Much of the argument there can be distilled down to one simple question:
Where can I find credible answers to scientific questions about climate change?
Here's the scientific community's answer: look to the peer-reviewed scientific literature. A strong consensus there is the closest thing we have to well-founded knowledge, and it is entitled to substantial deference in policy debates. And if a reporter wants to write about what the "scientific community" thinks, this consensus is what they should report.
The problem with this advice is that it's generally too difficult and time-consuming for those without specialist training to digest the peer-reviewed literature themselves. Thus, non-scientists need to rely on a scientific advisory process to tell them. The process of synthesizing, evaluating, and communicating the peer-reviewed literature to inform a policy or decision process is called scientific assessment.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the primary body responsible for international scientific assessments of climate change. Since its establishment in 1989, the IPCC has undertaken three full-scale assessments of climate change -- in 1990, 1995, and 2001 -- as well as many smaller and more specialized reports.
Yet another one from Grist (on a roll today) considering if the global warming issue could be a life-preserver for right-wingers fleeing the sinking Republican Party (as an early refugee from the skanky modern day right I can attest to this pleasant accomodation aboard this particular life preserver). This post also looks at the Rupert Murdoch situation which I talked about a day or two ago.
In recent years right-wingers in this country, including the president, have scoffed at the idea of global warming and ignored those who expressed concern and called for action. But even among Republicans and conservatives, the need to act to reduce the risks of climate change is looking increasingly like the new conventional wisdom.
The obvious example is in California, where a Sep. 1 story in the Wall Street Journal [$] rightly predicted that a high-stakes deal between a Republican executive and a Democratic legislature "to cut emissions tied to global warming is likely to boost a resurgence in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's popularity." In fact the "halo effect" from this deal has remade Schwarzenegger's image among independents and Democrats, which -- baring an act of God -- will easily carry him to victory on November 7.
But the California electorate has long supported environmental regulations for the sake of clean air, clean water, coastal protection, and parks and wild lands.
How is global warming seen in the right-wing media in this country?
In fact enthusiasm for action to curb global warming is coming from surprising quarters, and has been bubbling to the surface for some time. A year ago the creator of FOX News, Roger Ailes, saw the now-famous Al Gore slide show on the seriousness of global warming, was impressed, and -- according to the LA Times -- dropped his opposition to covering the issue.
FOX News soon ran a blunt documentary on global warming in the Arctic that began with this straight-no-chaser statement from reporter Rick Folbuam: "I've learned this simple fact: the earth is heating up."
This coverage came as a terrible shock to FOX News hack Steven Milloy, a denialist who runs the execrable Junk Science site, and as far as I know is unique for having taken substantial funds from not just Exxon (don't all denialists?) but from tobacco maker Philip Morris as well.
A carbon or gas tax is now such conventional wisdom among thoughtful right-wing economists and pundits that Harvard professor Greg Mankiw (chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors from 2003-2005) has come up with a name for the group, the Pigou Club.
And earlier this month, a New Yorker story by John Cassidy revealed that Murdoch himself is moving away from the right-wing orthodoxy that has made him billions, toward where "the conversation is most interesting." That description comes from Irwin Seltzer -- who to my surprise turns out to be a very good friend of Murdoch's!
The story shows that Murdoch, who all but promoted Margaret Thatcher and then Tony Blair into power in the U.K., has been befriended by the indefatigable Bill Clinton. Impressed by Hillary Clinton's work as a Senator in New York, the story hints that Murdoch (and FOX News) may back Hillary in her campaign in 2008.
Murdoch is keeping his cards close to his vest regarding candidates, but he does make his disdain for Bush and his father clear. And he's shockingly forthright about global warming, telling Cassidy that he intends to make his News Corporation "carbon neutral".
Prediction: as FOX News turns, so does the Republican Party. The need to act on global warming will become conventional wisdom on the right well before the 2008 presidential campaign.
Russia is pushing to set up a gas production cartel with Iran in order to help Gazprom (Vladimir Putin's rumoured next home when his final presidential term runs out) dominate the EU gas market.
A SENIOR Russian parliamentarian has called for a gas alliance to unite former Soviet republics and Iran to help Russia stand up to the European Union's "cartel" of gas consumers, Russian media reported.
"It is necessary to form a gas alliance, which could be joined by Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus," the head of the Russian parliament's energy committee Valery Yazev said Monday, RIA-Novosti reported.
"Tomorrow, with the removal of the problem of Iran's nuclear program, I would also see Iran in this alliance," Mr Yazev said, speaking at a meeting of the Russian Gas Union industry group, which he also heads.
He said that the alliance would form a counterweight to the European Union, which he suggested is taking advantage of its position as a vital source of income for Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom.
"In the EU we have a very clearly formed cartel of customers of Russian gas, which is imposing on us the ratification of the Energy Charter, which does not meet Russian interests," he said.
The EU, which imports around a quarter of its natural gas from Russia, has been seeking to persuade Moscow to ratify an international energy charter that regulates transit and investment in the energy sector and would allow for market competition between foreign and independent companies.
Russia has declined to ratify the charter because the Kremlin wants to protect Gazprom's monopoly and has sought recently to exclude foreign investors from its strategic energy sector.
Vinod Khosla is continuing Silicon Valley's war on big oil with some forceful advocacy about California's Proposition 87.
It is offensive and dis-heartening to see how the oil money is being used. Tom Friedman said in his op-ed piece in the New York Times recently "Up to now, oil companies in California have paid a very low extraction fee compared with those in other states a rip-off they want to keep." When the tragedy of Katrina happened the oil companies were able, with their vast campaign and lobbying contributions, to push to get $7 billion form the relief funds. An oil severance tax has been tried in the California assembly starting in the 1950's by then Governor Brown and more recently by the current Mayor of LA, Mayor Villaraigosa when he was in the assembly. But campaign contributions and lobbying backed by billions of dollars of clout wins out every time. The oil companies manage to get out of paying their fair share. One energy company (Peabody Energy) actually spends almost 5% of its revenue on lobbying almost nothing on research. What?
One of the most revered and old British scientific Societies, the Royal Society which counted Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein as members, accuses Exxon of "misleading and inaccurate" information about climate change by financing groups that misinform the public on this issue. Exxon had pledged to stop giving money to such groups that spread misinformation the society considers misleading. That is a clear admission that they are spreading mis-information. Recently Senators Rockefeller ( D) and Snowe ( R ) said that ExxonMobil's extensive funding of an "echo chamber" of non-peer reviewed pseudo-science had unfortunately succeeded in raising questions about the legitimate scientific community's virtually universal findings on the detrimental effects of global warming. Is it a surprise that they gave Stanford University over $50 million and the funded group is very kind to Exxon's views? Even a university can be bought. It just takes more money and the oilies have enough.
According to the Sept 21, 2006 NY Times front page, four government auditors in lawsuits claim they were blocked by their bosses in the interior department from pursuing fraudulent underpayments on oil and gas leases. Money can buy anything! Even government policy or immunity. And luckily oil prices have declined just before the election. Are you intrigued by the timing? Luckily for whom? Do you see a pattern of behavior here?
In my next blog, Part IV, I will discuss "extensive health and environmental costs of oil".
Do you believe Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Senator Feinstein and Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, (all unpaid)? Or do you believe the oil companies and their "bought endorsers"?"
In local news, design group Archicentre are pushing for air conditioners to be solar powered - reasoning that hot sunny days are the ones with the most air conditioner usage.
SOLAR-POWERED air-conditioners should be rolled out across the country to dramatically cut the nation's greenhouse gas emission, said a national architects group.
Archicentre - the building advisory service of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects - is today calling for the federal and state governments to immediately pursue the development and commercialisation of the emerging technology.
A national roll-out strategy is also needed, says Archicentre Victoria state manager David Hallett, to tackle the "clear and present danger" of climate change and energy constraint.
"Energy authorities have been warning for years that the explosion of power-hungry air-conditioners in Australia threatens the stability of the electrical grid during peak power demands during summer," Mr Hallett said.
"When demand is at its highest, potential solar energy supply is also at its highest. This is a natural association and should be a key strategy."
Archicentre is also in the news for their plans to encourage households to reduce water use.
WATER-SAVING shower heads and dual-flush toilets should be mandatory in all properties for sale, a national building advisory group says.
This would mean houses, apartments and commercial premises would have to meet water-efficiency standards before the sale could go ahead. Under the Archicentre plan, the vendor would pay for the upgrade of devices to meet water-efficiency requirements.
Archicentre managing director Robert Caulfield said bathrooms and toilets were particularly wasteful of water, accounting for 60 per cent of household water use. The proposal would require toilets to be dual-flush and shower heads to have a minimum three-star efficiency rating.
"With houses turning over every seven years, on average, this would provide a way of spreading the effort to conserve water to all sections of the community, not just new-home buyers," Mr Caulfield said. "The system could be expanded to include the installation of water tanks to implement water harvesting in urban Australia."
Sharp has announced that it is expanding solar cell production capacity to 600 MW Per year, the world's highest for photovoltaics.
Sharp Corporation has increased annual production capacity for solar cells at its Katsuragi Plant in Nara Prefecture by 100 MW (megawatts) to meet burgeoning demand in Japan and abroad, and has constructed a system that will be able to enter full production by November 2006. As a result, solar cell production capacity at the Katsuragi Plant will reach 600 MW per year, the world's highest.
Despite concerns in the photovoltaic (PV) power generating market about a shortage of processed silicon (the raw material for solar cells), PV systems are increasingly being used in Japan for industrial applications and are being installed on new residential construction in collaboration with home builders. In Europe and the U.S.A., demand is expected to expand even further in the future, centered on industrial and commercial uses thanks to the introduction of subsidies and implementation of policies mandating power buy-back programs by utilities.
To more effectively utilize raw materials, Sharp is working to make solar cells even thinner and improve thin-film solar cells which use minimal amounts of silicon, as well as establish highly efficient production systems and expand and upgrade its production lines.
The New York Times has a slightly condescending article on the recent Bioneers conference which contains some interesting tidbits.
Students, organic farmers, architects, advocates for Pacific dolphins and a growing number of entrepreneurs looking to invest in green technology come to hear the latest thinking on global warming (code word: Katrina) and how to keep the food supply safe (buzzword: spinach). Alternative energy, Bioremediation and environmental justice, once-fringy issues, have over the course of the conference’s 17-year history become part of the national dialogue.
Paul E. Stamets, a mycologist and the founder of Fungi Perfecti, a mail-order mushroom business, lectured on “myco-remediation,” or using fungi to restore toxic waste sites. Mr. Stamets also announced a patent for a household pesticide that uses the mold state of the Cordyceps mushroom to kill 100,000 to 200,000 species of insects — a new eco-spin on the old Roach Motel.
Mr. Stamets shared the stage with Jay Harman, a naturalist who is now the chief executive of Pax Scientific, an engineering company rooted in “biomimicry,” a fledgling science that takes its inspiration from nature’s designs and processes.
Mr. Harman showed a small device capable of circulating five million gallons of water, using only a light bulb’s worth of electricity. “It’s all about flow,” he said, adding that the technology could be applied to aircraft, fans, pumps and water circulators for reservoirs.
The conference is the brainchild of Kenny Ausubel, a 57-year-old writer and filmmaker who was co-founder of the organic seed company Seeds of Change, and Nina Simons, the former president of the company and a former marketing director for Odwalla. Since 1990, they have operated from an old schoolhouse in Lamy, N.M., outside Santa Fe. They credit their experience with Seeds of Change, since sold, with convincing them that a fledgling political movement could be forged from issues like sustainable agriculture and green technology — fields, Mr. Ausubel said, “that in 1990 were like talking about U.F.O.’s.”
Since then, the culture has in some ways caught up. For instance, Mr. Ausubel has been an adviser to the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, whose coming feature-length documentary on global warming, “The 11th Hour,” was filmed extensively at last year’s Bioneers conference.
“The issues they were raising a decade ago, from local food to rooftop power, have moved into the mainstream,” said Bill McKibben, a writer who spoke at last year’s conference. “The Bioneers has been consistently ahead of the curve. It began as a gathering place for a fairly small number of like-minded people but is now a hatchery for the next wave of important ideas that five years hence people will be talking about in Rotary Clubs.”
The ground troops of the environmental movement, Mr. Harman said, “are not business-savvy — they want to make a difference but don’t know how to do it.”
So they came to learn sophisticated tactics from people like Tzeporah Berman, the program director of ForestEthics, a nonprofit organization founded in 1994 to protect endangered forests. It successfully pressured Office Depot and Staples to phase out supply paper made from endangered old-growth forests and persuaded Ikea not to use wood from the temperate rain forest now known as Great Bear, in British Columbia.
John Maus, a 67-year-old contractor from Littleton, Colo., who builds Starbucks stores — which he defended as “meeting places” — came to the conference for the latest intelligence on green building. “The industry is slow to change and uses huge amounts of natural resources,” Mr. Maus said. “We need to develop a conscience.”
William Casey, an eye surgeon and olive grower from St. Helena in the Napa Valley, stood out in a button-down shirt. He came with his wife, Rachel, to keep tabs on the latest trends in integrative pest management. Inspired by last year’s Bioneers, they put up songbird houses and added carnivorous plants to their olive groves to control the olive fruit fly. South African guinea fowl now roam the premises destroying larvae.