Regulation for Nature or Profits?

George Monbiot’s new article continues his David vs. Goliath campaign against government’s collusion with corporate and business interests to demonize government regulation in general and any form of regulation to protect planetary wildlife in particular, when it threatens business profits. He outlines a green paper produced by those seeking to protect the living world  from the predatory ‘Machine World’. This technological impact on the planet is the upstart Goliath that has grown exponentially on Spaceship Earth, especially in the last  60 years of cheap oil energy, at the expense of an living world evolved over 3.5 billion years.

On the same day as Monbiot’s article Paul Krugman in the New York Times wrote this piece on the politicization of  environmental protection relating to ozone emissions. Similar value conflicts on both sides of the Atlantic hold back the preservation of our planet’s well-being and that of its passengers. Profits first; planet second?

World Bank on Climate Change

We are locked in to inevitable global warming according to a new report from the World Bank based on projections  prepared for The World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics.  The data show that dramatic climate changes, heat and weather extremes are already impacting people, damaging crops and coastlines and putting food, water, and energy security at risk.

There is growing evidence, that even with very ambitious mitigation action, warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century is already locked-in to the Earth’s atmospheric system and climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now be unavoidable.  If the planet continues warming to 4°C, climatic conditions, heat and other weather extremes considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the new climate normal—a world of increased risks and instability.

UNESCO on-line Library of Science

A new on-line global library of resources for science teaching and learning was launched on 10 November . The World Library of Science, launched by UNESCO and two partners, will give students and teachers around the world access to the latest science information and the opportunity to create a “global community for science education”, the developers say.

The library ‘contains’ more than 300 articles, 25 eBooks and some 70 videos, as well as a digital platform that “provides a community hub” for learning, according to UNESCO, which created the site jointly with the international Nature Education publishing group and the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche.

The United Nations agency says it will “dedicate special attention to training teachers and students in least developed countries” in how to use the WLoS, so as to “equalise” and “accelerate” science education.

As reported by  University World News “The world needs more science and more scientists to face today’s global challenges,” said UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova. “Achieving this requires better and more accessible science education.” She added that the WLoS project highlights science education to “address global and local problems”.

Copenhagen Accord ignored

The Copenhagen Accord of 2009 was a non-binding international agreement by states to attempt to limit global warming to within 2 degrees Centigrade. It is hardly featured in public dialogue or the mainstream press and this week’s report that the G20 nation states are investing 88 billion USD dollars in subsidising the corporate search for new sources of fossil fuels will also receive little press coverage except in the on-line, non-commercial progressive news outlets. This article in Common Dreams is one of those outlets. The report (a link to the pdf is in the article) recommends the immediate phasing out of these subsidies if the Copenhagen Accord is to mean anything. Another article in Truth-out points out that these huge state subsidies come in the wake of recent news of global emissions rising 2.3 percent in 2013 to set yet another record and marking the largest year-to-year increase in 30 years, the IPCC announced that the world isn’t moving anywhere near fast enough to have a chance at mitigating the impacts of ACD (anthropogenic climate disruption) in any real way.

Technological optimism dismissed

George Monbiot offers, in his blog, a savage  critique of those who fantasise about adapting to global warming rather than trying to solve the root problems of our impact on the planet. While dismissing this technological optimism, he decries the surrender of politicians from taking seriously the scientific evidence of where unbridled consumerism and economic growth are leading. Political defeatism and technological optimism combined are a recipe for trashing our planetary home.

Geoengineering: solution or delusion?

The New York Times is an opinion leader in the US, at least among the liberal progressive community. In November it featured an article that anticipates the  publication of a major new report by the National Academy of Sciences on geo-engineering – ways of intentionally manipulating nature to counter climate change.

One approach outlined in the article is mining and spreading widely the mineral olivine on land and on ocean floors. Olivine absorbs CO2, a process already being used and researched in the Netherlands. A second example is solar radiation management (SRM) – spraying sulfuric acid droplets into the stratosphere to block incoming energy from the sun. Experiments are already underway in the UK and elsewhere.

Those advocating geoengineering argue that effects of climate change may become so severe that significant research should begin now and that the world must start to think about geoengineering — how it might be done and at what cost, who would do it and how it would be governed.

Geoengineering sounds like the ultimate self-deception of our ingenious species. The thought of intentionally manipulating something as huge, complex and not well understood as the atmosphere seems incredibly arrogant until you realise that a similar sort of arrogance – the blind commitment to unrestrained economic growth based on fossil fuel combustion –  this time unintended, is a cause of the problem in the first place.



Sharing vs. owning: Collaborative economy


Collaborative consumption is getting a lot of attention of late, though it’s far from being a new concept. Collaborative commerce sites Craigslist and eBay have been around for almost 20 years. Content and information sharing sites like Wikipedia and Napster are nearly 15 years old. But a new generation of successful start-ups like Uber and Airbnb has given the movement credibility.

The collaborative economy exists in multiple forms, depending on whether businesses or individuals provide access to goods, and whether payment is monetary or an exchange of goods or services. But one common theme is the theory that anyone is able to participate and the driving forces behind the development of the collaborative economy – the global economic collapse, advances in smart technology, and increasing urbanization have made sharing services more desirable. Urbanites have less need for ownership, so they would rather pay for temporary access to goods and services. Apparently “to share is to own more”. However, most people participate in the collaborative economy for reasons of convenience and price rather than a desire to lessen their impact on the planet. The success of the collaborative economy lies not in being “green” but its ability to appeal to a broad audience.

[Extract from Worldwatch Institute website (click for full article) 07.11.14]

Igelsta School, Sweden

Ingela MetzIngela Netz is the head teacher of a new school in Södetälje, Sweden who has recruited a team of teachers committed to a future-oriented view of schooling. She attended the ENIRDELM conference in Finland in September 2014 and made a short presentation at the workshop of the CASE initiative (Community Action for Spaceship Earth). The vision of the staff offers a rare example of a school making a global perspective, combined with verbal and digital communication, a top priority. Their emphasis on action as an outcome of school learning is totally I line with the CASE approach. She outlines (here) their innovative ambitions and becomes the first head of a primary school to contribute an original document to the case4all resource platform.

No fossil fuels by 2100?

Smoke stacks

The unrestricted use of fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, a UN-backed expert panel says. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in a stark report that most of the world’s electricity can – and must – be produced from low-carbon sources by 2050. If not, the world faces “severe, pervasive and irreversible” damage. The UN said inaction would cost “much more” than taking the necessary action.

The IPCC’s Synthesis Report was published in Copenhagen in October 2014, after a week of intense debate between scientists and government officials. It is intended to inform politicians engaged in attempts to deliver a new global treaty on climate by the end of 2015. The report says that reducing emissions is crucial if global warming is to be limited to 2C – a target acknowledged in 2009 as the threshold of dangerous climate change.

The report suggests renewables will have to grow from their current 30% share to 80% of the power sector by 2050. In the longer term, the report states that fossil fuel power generation without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology would need to be “phased out almost entirely by 2100”. The Synthesis Report summarises three previous reports from the IPCC, which outlined the causes, the impacts and the potential solutions to climate change.

It re-states many familiar positions:

  • Warming is “unequivocal” and the human influence on climate is clear
  • The period from 1983 to 2012, it says, was likely the warmest 30 year period of the last 1,400 years
  • Warming impacts are already being seen around the globe, in the acidification of the oceans, the melting of arctic ice and poorer crop yields in many parts
  • Without concerted action on carbon, temperatures will increase over the coming decades and could be almost 5C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century

“Science has spoken,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

[From the BBC website]