Category Archives: Energy

Five gallons of water

That’s what I’m using a day. Actually, most days I’m using between 3-4 gallons. If I wash a bit of laundry it bumps up to 6 to 7 gallons. I’m talking about personal use here not water used for growing food. For growing food I’m using a combination of hauled lake water, well water and collected rain water. Right now I’ve got 55 gallons of rain water collection but before too long that should be 440 gallons and within a year I hope to have 1100 gallons of rain water collection dedicated to food production.

In terms of personal use, while we do have the well hooked up and running I’m not using it yet because after 3 years of not being used it does not seem to be clearing up. I’ll continue using it for the next week for gardening and see if it clears up. If not I’ll have the well guy come out and have a look at the pressure tank which may have gone bad. Until then I’ll continue to haul water from a relative’s house for drinking, cooking and cleaning.

IMG_1701I’ve got several 5 gallon containers and 2 solar showers, 4 gallons each. For the moment I’ve got an improvised outside sink set-up for washing dishes, brushing teeth, etc. and I’ve gotten to be VERY frugal with each drop. As an example, when I do dishes I start with my cup and bowl and after it is washed the water is poured into the next water holding item such as a pot or another cup or bowl thus the soap water is used again. Last it is poured onto any plate and re-used. Rinse water is also reused as I go along.

Hand-washed laundry is also carefully orchestrated between one or two small 3 gallon wash tubs. I start with a half gallon and very small amount of soap and will wash 4-8 items starting with the least dirty items first. Rinsing is also done is this order and in increments of 1/2 gallons until the rinse water is fairly clear.

I’ve set-up a small under-sink gray water filter which consists of a clay pot filled with approximately 50% sand, 30% gravel, and 20% small rock in that order starting from the bottom of the pot and going up. I used an old and worn sock at the very bottom between the sand and the hole in the pot. This drains into a 5 gallon bucket which fills to 3 gallons every 3-4 days. This is a temporary set-up. The next version will likely consist of a 5 gallon bucket filter with an attached faucet for easy access to water. When I get a sink put into the cabin I’ll likely have it drain to a similar bucket filter just outside the cabin and the water will be used in the wild garden of native habitat plants in the partial shade area around the cabin. All soap on site is bio-degradable and phosphate free. In the very near future I’ll only be using Dr. Bronners bar or liquid soap on site.

The last bit of water usage is for showering. I’m able to get 2-3 showers out of each 4 gallon solar shower which works out to 1.5 gallons or less for each shower.

Of course I use far, far more than five gallons a day. My breakfast consisted of peanut butter, strawberry preserves, and bread. All the ingredients were grown with water, processed with water and packaged in glass or plastic that required water to manufacture. Those goods were transported to a store via trucks made of materials that required water in their manufacture on roads that required water in construction via gasoline or diesel fuel. I’m living in a cabin that is made of lumber and siding and roofing all of which required water for processing. The list goes on. The point is that the things we eat, live in and use on a daily basis have resource costs that we often don’t think about. Water is just one of them and one of the most important to consider right along side of oil.

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Rain Barrel Nerd

You know you are a total nerd when the highlight of your day is a brief rainstorm that fills your rain barrel half way. With the new (actually 20+ years old and re-used) gutter all the rain is now directed to the barrel and our five minutes of heavy rain just now filled it to half. Sweet. I can’t wait to get the others and hook them up into a proper series. I’d like to put in 10 but I may only be able to fit 8 or 9 which would still be a nice bit of water to have around. Given that this barrel would have filled in just 10 minutes I’d estimate that 8 barrels will easily fill in less than two hours with a fairly hard rain, much less if the rain were as heavy as what we just had. Maybe I need 20 barrels?

My expectations of a future shaped by climate change and peak energy is that we must become very efficient at harvesting and using/conserving fresh water. It seems to me that we can expect increasingly erratic weather with periods of extreme drought and wet far beyond what we’ve seen in the past. Combine that with the myriad issues related to agriculture and peak energy and you have lots of trouble in regards to a steady food supply.

If I can harvest and store 1650 gallons of water for use during drought then I will… guess I need 30 barrels!

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Our Missouri Permaculture Project

CabinI wrote in early May that we had started a permaculture project with an outhouse for composting humanure. At the time my plan was to start living on site in the fall of 08 but plans changed and after a whirlwind of activity I moved into my cabin on May 24th, just three weeks after completing the outhouse. We (and by we I mean my lunatic brother-in-law Greg who easily does the work of 3 men) fast-tracked the building of my cabin and in two very long weekends of work completed the outer shell and flooring to cover up the treated plywood. By the third weekend of work all the seams and soffits were finished so no more mice or birds visiting at night and in the morning!!

During the second weekend of work on the cabin I also got going on the garden of annual crops (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, chard, lettuce, carrots, and beets) as well as the forest garden. In the following weeks I’ve added to the annual garden (pumpkins) and also planted seven fruit trees in the forest garden as well as ground cover of mint and nasturtiums. Just today I added four potato plants in the forest garden. This fall or the spring of next year we’ll add several fruit bushes such as blueberry. For those unfamiliar with permaculture and forest garden the idea is that a forest garden is designed as a forest ecosystem of seven or so layers of plant life starting with the large trees and moving on down to plants that grow along very low to the ground. When designing the forest garden as an ecosystem we think vertically as well as horizontally and are able to increase the beneficial connections between plants and other elements such as…

Cluck, cluck, cluck!! Chickens! I’m also planning on using the forest garden as a forage area for the chickens which will be gotten as soon as a coop can be built. They’ll keep the grass (not good around fruit trees) to a minimum as the forage for plants, insects, fallen/rotted fruit all the while fertilizing as they go. This should make for happier, healthier chickens as well as a healthier forest garden.

This is really just the beginning and it happened much more quickly than I’d planned. Next spring we’ll be putting in an orchard of 20 or more fruit trees as well as grapes and berry bushes. Before that I still have work to do on my cabin. In the coming weeks we’ll be finishing off the inside walls as well as adding shelving, a sink (draining to gray water outside), and a wood burning stove. Just today I added the gutter to the backside of the house which will collect rainwater off the metal roof into a series of rain barrels which will be raised off the ground for a gravity feed and connected to a single faucet. My hope is to connect 10 barrels, 55 gallons each for a total of 550 gallons of garden water. That’s not much but with the thick mulching of manure/compost, cardboard, and straw used in no-till gardening a little goes a very long way!

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An ice-free Arctic in just 23 years?

Big fucking surprise. Or not. Look… how many times do we have to see these words over and over? “Sooner than expected”, “much worse than previously thought”. I’ve said it before, this is happening at a pace far faster than even the worst predictions. We have got to start thinking of climate change as RIGHT FUCKING NOW. This is NOW. This is not 100 years from now. This is not great grand children or the next generation. FUCK. Stop eating meat. Stop driving. Stop consuming. FUCKING STOP.

I hate humanity and truthfully, I think I’m starting to take pleasure in seeing people suffer from weather related catastrophes. If only that suffering were more focused on the U.S. and other primary contributors of atmospheric carbon. It’s harsh I know but FUCK. How stupid, shortsighted and selfish can we be?

seaice1979-2007sep05.jpg
Comparison of sea ice area on September 5, 1979 and September 5, 2007.

Sea ice area in early September has declined 42% in the 28 years since 1979.
Image credit: University of Illinois Polar Research Group.

Jeff Masters over at Wunderground discusses the issue:

None of our computer climate models predicted that such a huge loss in Arctic ice would occur so soon. Up until this year, the prevailing view among climate scientists was that an ice-free Arctic ocean would occur in the 2070-2100 time frame. The official word on climate change, the February 2007 report from the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned that without drastic changes in greenhouse gas emissions, Arctic sea ice will “almost entirely” disappear by the end of the century. This projection is now being radically revised. Earlier this year, I blogged about a new study that predicted abrupt losses of Arctic sea ice were possible as early as 2015, and that we could see an ice-free Arctic Ocean as early as 2040. Well, the Arctic Ocean has suffered one of the abrupt losses this study warned about–eight years earlier than this most radical study suggested. It is highly probable that a complete loss of summer Arctic sea ice will occur far earlier than any scientist or computer model predicted. In an interview published yesterday in The Guardian Dr. Mark Serreze, and Arctic ice expert with the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said: “If you asked me a couple of years ago when the Arctic could lose all of its ice, then I would have said 2100, or 2070 maybe. But now I think that 2030 is a reasonable estimate. It seems that the Arctic is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes, and certainly within our children’s lifetimes.” While natural fluctuations in wind and ocean circulation are partly to blame for this loss of sea ice, human-caused global warming is primarily to blame. In the words of Dr. Serreze: “The rules are starting to change and what’s changing the rules is the input of greenhouse gases. This year puts the exclamation mark on a series of record lows that tell us something is happening.”

The implications
The melting of the Arctic sea ice will not raise ocean levels appreciably, since the ice is made up of frozen sea water that is floating in the ocean. Sea ice melt does contribute slightly to sea level rise, since the fresh melt water is less dense than the salty ocean water it displaces. According to Robert Grumbine’s sea level FAQ, if all the world’s sea ice melted, it would contribute to about 4 millimeters of global sea level rise. This is a tiny figure compared to the 20 feet of sea level rise locked up in the ice of the Greenland ice sheet, which is on land.

The biggest concern about Arctic sea ice loss is the warmer average temperatures it will bring to the Arctic in coming years. Instead of white, reflective ice, we will now have dark, sunlight-absorbing water at the pole, leading to a large increase in average temperature. Warmer temperatures will accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which holds enough water to raise sea level 20 feet. The official word on climate, the 2007 IPCC report, predicted only a 0.6-1.9 foot sea level rise by 2100, due to melting of the Greenland ice sheet and other factors. I believe these estimates will need to be revised sharply upwards in light of the unexpectedly high Arctic sea ice loss this summer.

One more point–global warming skeptics often criticize using computer model climate predictions as a basis for policy decisions. These models are too uncertain, they say. Well, the uncertainty goes both way–sometimes the models will underestimate climate change. We should have learned this lesson when the ozone hole opened up–another case where the models failed to predict a major climate change. The atmosphere is not the well-behaved, predictable entity the models try to approximate it as. The atmosphere is wild, chaotic, incredibly complex, and prone to sudden unexpected shifts. By pumping large amounts of greenhouse gases into the air, we have destabilized the climate and pushed the atmosphere into a new state it has never been in before. We can expect many more surprises that the models will not predict. Some of these may be pleasant surprises, but I am expecting mostly nasty surprises.

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Al Gore’s climate change hypocrisy

“Al Gore’s American Life” photographed for Time Magazine by Steve Pyke.

You know, he’s got plenty of critics and with pictures like this it is as though he wants to give them more to critique. Damn Al, I mean… Really?? Do you need three 30″ lcds? Do you? Three? NEED them? Al, let me keep this simple: you’re being a dick and you’re certainly not helping the cause. The problem of climate change requires that we humans change the way we live, particularly the way we use resources. I look at this picture, just one little part of Al’s life, and I see someone using more than his share. Period.

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Cutting grass without gas


I mentioned in my last post that I had ordered a new gas-less reel mower and now that I’ve used it twice I’m happy to report that it works much better than I expected. We live out in the woods with 5 acres of mostly woodland and about 1/2 acre of grass. Of that 1/2 acre half is heavily shaded and the grass is very thin and is as much moss and wild flowers as grass. The other part of the lawn, is regular grass that gets plenty of sun. The reel mower handled it with ease and in about the same time it takes with a gas mower. It will tend to miss grass or weeds such as dandelions that have gotten too tall but if I cut every 5-6 days it won’t be a problem. Aside from the fact that it does not use gas the other two things I really like about it is its light weight and very quiet operation. I detest the sound of gas mowers almost as much as the carbon they spew into the atmosphere, this reel mower makes grass cutting an almost pleasant experience.

This was $120 very well spent.

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Climate Change Round-up

I suppose it is a good sign that I’m having a hard time keeping up with all of the recent media coverage of climate change. I would like to point out though that while the coverage is now consistent via the web I’m not seeing it nearly as much on the television. I don’t watch much but when I do flip on the TV and CNN I’m much more likely to see discussion of stupid, irrelevant celebrity gossip than I am discussion of climate change. That’s just plain fucked up. Until the corporate media stop the daily bullshit coverage of Anna Nicole’s baby’s daddy and replace it with daily discussion of peak oil, climate change, and sustainable development they are as much a part of the problem as they have always been.

Summary of the latest installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report: Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability [PDF – 547KB]

Billions face climate change risk:

Billions face climate change risk

The impact of climate change has been a major source of dispute
Billions of people face shortages of food and water and increased risk of flooding, experts at a major climate change conference have warned.

Damage already done for some natural wonders

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — While governments grapple with the politics of global warming, some of the world’s greatest treasures already are being damaged and threatened with destruction.

Conservationists have drawn up priorities for action to salvage some of nature’s wonders that are feeling the heat of climate change — from the Himalayan glaciers to the Amazon rain forests and the unique ecosystem of the Mexican desert.

Many of the regions at risk were singled out in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an authoritative body of 2,500 scientists. The report is undergoing governmental review at a five-day conference in Brussels.

On Thursday, diplomats and scientists were negotiating the text of a 21-page summary of the full 1,572-page scientific report. It projects specific consequences for each degree of rising global temperatures, which the IPCC agrees is largely caused by human activity.

On the sidelines of the conference, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature issued a list of 10 regions suffering irreversible damage from climate change. The group also listed where it has projects to limit further damage or help people adapt to new conditions.

“What we are talking about are the faces of the impacts of climate change,” said Lara Hansen, WWF’s chief scientist on climate issues.

The WWF is among the largest of many nongovernment organizations to take up the challenge of climate change.

The Nature Conservancy, based in Arlington, Virginia, is another. It has projects to protect coral reefs off Florida, in the coral triangle of Indonesia and in Papua New Guinea. It also is trying to preserve native alpine meadows in China and conserve vegetation in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.

Though climate change has been discussed for decades, Hansen said the effects were now becoming visible. “It’s only in the past decade that we can go outside and see for ourselves what’s happening,” she told The Associated Press.

Some damage is reversible, Hansen said. Although melted glaciers cannot be restored, some coral reefs can recover.

But as natural landmarks deteriorate, she said more attention will have to be paid to adapting to change, not only trying to prevent it, and not enough experts are being trained to help people acclimatize.

“There’s a massive void ahead of us in getting new people,” she said.

U.N.: Warming ruining society, nature:

Top climate experts warned on Friday that global warming will cause faster and wider damage than previously forecast, ranging from hunger in Africa and Asia to extinctions and rising ocean levels.

Study: Climate change could bring new U.S. Dust Bowl

Changing climate will mean increasing drought in the southwestern United States, where water already is in short supply, according to a new study.

“The bottom line message for the average person and also for the states and federal government is that they’d better start planning for a Southwest region in which the water resources are increasingly stretched,” said Richard Seager of Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.

Seager is lead author of the study published online Thursday by the journal Science.

Researchers studied 19 computer models of the climate, using data dating back to 1860 and projecting into the future. The same models were used in preparing the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The consensus of the models was that climate in the southwestern United States and parts of northern Mexico began a transition to drier conditions late in the 20th century and is continuing the trend in this century, as climate change alters the movement of storms and moisture in the atmosphere.

The reduction in rainfall could reach levels of the 1930s Dust Bowl that ranged throughout the Midwestern United States, Seager said in a telephone interview.

Arctic lost part of its perennial sea ice in 2005: NASA

Global warming may already be having an effect on the Arctic which in 2005 only replaced a little of the thick sea ice it loses and usually replenishes annually, a NASA study said Tuesday.

Scientists from the US space agency used satellite images to analyze six annual cycles of Arctic sea ice from 2000 to 2006.

Sea ice is essential to maintaining and stabilizing the Arctic’s ice cover during its warmer summer months.

But “recent studies indicate Arctic perennial ice is declining seven to 10 percent each decade,” said Ron Kwok from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“Our study gives the first reliable estimates of how perennial ice replenishment varies each year at the end of the summer.

“The amount of first-year ice that survives the summer directly influences how thick the ice cover will be at the start of the next melt season.”

The team observed that only 4.0 percent, about 2.5 million square kilometers (965,000 square miles) of thin ice survived the 2005 summer melt to replenish the perennial cover.

It was the weakest ice cover since 2000, and so there was 14 percent less permanent ice cover in January 2006 than in the corresponding period the year before.

“The winters and summers before fall 2005 were unusually warm,” Kwok said. “The low replenishment seen in 2005 is potentially a cumulative effect of these trends.

“If the correlations between replenishment area and numbers of freezing and melting temperature days hold long-term, it is expected the perennial ice coverage will continue to decline.”

Records dating back to 1958 have shown a gradual warming of Arctic temperatures which speeded up in the 1980s.

“Our study suggests that on average the area of seasonal ice that survives the summer may no longer be large enough to sustain a stable, perennial ice cover, especially in the face of accelerating climate warming and Arctic sea ice thinning,” Kwok added.

Scientists say Antarctic ice sheet is thinning

A Texas-sized piece of the Antarctic ice sheet is thinning, possibly due to global warming, and could cause the world’s oceans to rise significantly, polar ice experts said on Wednesday.

They said “surprisingly rapid changes” were occurring in Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea Embayment, which faces the southern Pacific Ocean, but that more study was needed to know how fast it was melting and how much it could cause the sea level to rise.

The warning came in a joint statement issued at the end of a conference of U.S. and European polar ice experts at the University of Texas in Austin.

The scientists blamed the melting ice on changing winds around Antarctica that they said were causing warmer waters to flow beneath ice shelves.

The wind change, they said, appeared to be the result of several factors, including global warming, ozone depletion in the atmosphere and natural variability.

The thinning in the two-mile-(3.2-km)- thick ice shelf is being observed mostly from satellites, but it is not known how much ice has been lost because data is difficult to obtain on the remote ice shelves, they said.

Study is focusing on the Amundsen Sea Embayment because it has been melting quickly and holds enough water to raise world sea levels six meters, or close to 20 feet, the scientists said.

Antarctic Glaciers’ Sloughing Of Ice Has Scientists at a Loss

Some of the largest glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland are moving in unusual ways and are losing increased amounts of ice to the sea, researchers said yesterday.


Complicating the situation for those studying Antarctica, some parts of the continent are gaining ice depth through snowfall while temperatures on the tip of the Antarctic peninsula, the continent’s closest point to South America, are rising faster than almost anywhere else on the planet. The surprisingly fast-moving glaciers are largely on the West Antarctic ice sheet.

Wingham, of University College London, and Andrew Shepherd of the University of Edinburgh said satellite radar readings show that overall, each year the ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica amounts to about 10 percent of the rise in the global sea level, which totals about one-tenth of an inch per year. The net loss of Antarctic ice is estimated to be 25 billion metric tons a year, despite the growth of the ice sheet in East Antarctica.

Because such a large percentage of the world’s ice is found in those two locations, scientists are carefully watching for signs of increased ice loss. If that process accelerates, researchers say, it could result in a substantial, and highly disruptive, increase in sea levels worldwide.

In Greenland, glaciers appear to be moving more quickly to sea because melting ice has allowed the sheet to slide more easily over the rock and dirt below. In Antarctica, the loss is believed to be associated with the breaking off into seawater of ice deep under the ice sheet with little-understood internal dynamics that put increased pressure on the massive ice streams.

Southern Ocean current faces slowdown threat

The impact of global warming on the vast Southern Ocean around Antarctica is starting to pose a threat to ocean currents that distribute heat around the world, Australian scientists say, citing new deep-water data.

Melting ice-sheets and glaciers in Antarctica are releasing fresh water, interfering with the formation of dense “bottom water,” which sinks 4-5 kilometers to the ocean floor and helps drive the world’s ocean circulation system.

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2006 Set to be 6th Warmest Worldwide

Via Common Dreams/Reuters, 2006 Set to be 6th Warmest Worldwide: UK Report:

This year is set to be the sixth warmest worldwide since records began, stoked by global warming linked to human activities, the British Meteorological Office and the University of East Anglia said on Thursday.

As England basks in unseasonably warm December weather two weeks before the end of the year, the Met Office said data from January to November made 2006 the warmest on record for central England.

“Worldwide, the provisional figures for 2006 using data from January to November, place the year as the sixth warmest year” since records began in the 1850s, the report said.

The previous warmest years were 1998 and 2005, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO was due to release its own 2006 figures later on Thursday.

“The top 10 warmest years have all occurred in the last 12 years,” it said, adding that 2006 could have been warmer but for La Nina, a cooling of parts of the Pacific Ocean.

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Of politics and a warming planet

Regarding the recent U.S. elections Ted Glick writes that it was Not the Revolution, But an Opening:

Fundamental, revolutionary, political and social change is clearly needed in the USA and the world. Corporate domination of the economic and political system and mass culture is a huge threat to the possibilities for a decent and sustainable future for humankind and for all forms of life on the earth.

King Coal and Big Oil continue to use their power and vast wealth to keep us locked into a reliance on earth-heating fossil fuels that, if not quickly reversed, will lead to a steady escalation of catastrophic climate events and a breakdown of an already-stressed ecosystem.

The dominance of the Pentagon and corporate-supporting, militaristic approaches to problems, the immense amounts of money wasted in weapons production, robs the masses of people of badly-needed resources for housing, health care, education and economic development. It also generates armed resistance, including the terrorism of the stateless that, in a nuclear age, is indeed terrifying.

Yeah, a very small opening and frankly I’m not too hopeful that this new congress will do squat because there’s not much new about it. I’d agree that fundamental, revolutionary political and social change are needed.

Randolph Schmid writing for the AP reports on news that will surprise no one: Signs of warming continue in the Arctic:

Signs of warming continue in the Arctic with a decline in sea ice, an increase in shrubs growing on the tundra and rising concerns about the Greenland ice sheet.

“There have been regional warming periods before. Now we’re seeing Arctic-wide changes,” James Overland, an oceanographer at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, said Thursday.

For the past five years, it was at least 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above average over the Arctic over the entire year, he said.

The new “State of the Arctic” analysis, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also reports an increase in northward movement of warmer water through the Bering Strait in 2001-2004. This may have contributed to a continuing reduction of sea ice.

During that time, there were record lows in sea ice coverage in the region, Overland said. This year there was more normal coverage in the Bering area but a record low on the Atlantic side of the Arctic.

In the past when such a shift occurred, there would have been no net loss of ice overall, just a change in where there was a smaller amount. Now, however, there is both the shift and an overall net loss of ice, he said.

Indeed, the report said Arctic sea ice coverage this past March was the lowest in winter since measurements by satellite began in the early 1970s.

Jacqueline A. Richter-Menge of the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., said the sea ice decline is now being observed in both winter and summer.

Yet another pile of reasons to put George Bush and his cronies in jail. Will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court does with this: High court to hear global warming case:

The Supreme Court hears arguments this week in a case that could determine whether the Bush administration must change course in how it deals with the threat of global warming.

A dozen states as well as environmental groups and large cities are trying to convince the court that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate, as a matter of public health, the amount of carbon dioxide that comes from vehicles.

Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels are burned. It is the principal “greenhouse” gas that many scientists believe is flowing into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, leading to a warming of the earth and widespread ecological changes.

The Bush administration intends to argue before the court on Wednesday that the EPA lacks the power under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The agency contends that even if it did have such authority, it would have discretion under the law on how to address the problem without imposing emissions controls.

More concerning the Supreme Court and climate change from this article by Greg Stohr: Nobel Laureates Back Case Pushing Bush to Act on Global Warming:

Environmentalists concerned about global warming want the U.S. Supreme Court to turn up the heat on President George W. Bush.

The justices, taking their first plunge into the debate over emissions that scientists blame for increasing the Earth’s temperature, hear arguments Nov. 29 in a case brought by conservation groups and 12 states. Their goal is to force Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency to regulate so-called greenhouse- gas emissions from new cars and trucks.

Bush argues that the government needs more scientific evidence before it acts against such emissions. A victory for environmentalists in the case, which may scramble the court’s usual ideological lineup, would “light a fire” under the administration, says Carol Browner, who headed the EPA under President Bill Clinton.

“They will have no choice but to get going,” says Browner, who — along with a group of scientists that includes two Nobel laureates — is supporting the states and environmental groups.

That might add new burdens on automakers, including Detroit- based General Motors Corp. and Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford Motor Co., and may also lead to tougher rules for coal-fired power plants.

Shortly after Bush took office in 2001, he rejected the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases on the grounds that the agreement would cost jobs and hurt the U.S. economy. In 2003, the EPA declined to regulate carbon emissions, citing “substantial scientific uncertainty” about the effects of climate change and the most efficient means to deal with it.

George Monbiot: Drastic Action on Climate Change is Needed Now – and Here’s the Plan:

The government must go further, and much faster, in its response to the moral question of the 21st century

It is a testament to the power of money that Nicholas Stern’s report should have swung the argument for drastic action, even before anyone has finished reading it. He appears to have demonstrated what many of us suspected: that it would cost much less to prevent runaway climate change than to seek to live with it. Useful as this finding is, I hope it doesn’t mean that the debate will now concentrate on money. The principal costs of climate change will be measured in lives, not pounds. As Stern reminded us yesterday, there would be a moral imperative to seek to prevent mass death even if the economic case did not stack up.

But at least almost everyone now agrees that we must act, if not at the necessary speed. If we’re to have a high chance of preventing global temperatures from rising by 2C (3.6F) above preindustrial levels, we need, in the rich nations, a 90% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030. The greater part of the cut has to be made at the beginning of this period. To see why, picture two graphs with time on the horizontal axis and the rate of emissions plotted vertically. On one graph the line falls like a ski jump: a steep drop followed by a shallow tail. On the other it falls like the trajectory of a bullet. The area under each line represents the total volume of greenhouse gases produced in that period. They fall to the same point by the same date, but far more gases have been produced in the second case, making runaway climate change more likely.

So how do we do it without bringing civilisation crashing down? Here is a plan for drastic but affordable action that the government could take. It goes much further than the proposals discussed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown yesterday, for the reason that this is what the science demands.

1. Set a target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions based on the latest science. The government is using outdated figures, aiming for a 60% reduction by 2050. Even the annual 3% cut proposed in the early day motion calling for a new climate change bill does not go far enough. Timescale: immediately.

2. Use that target to set an annual carbon cap, which falls on the ski-jump trajectory. Then use the cap to set a personal carbon ration. Every citizen is given a free annual quota of carbon dioxide. He or she spends it by buying gas and electricity, petrol and train and plane tickets. If they run out, they must buy the rest from someone who has used less than his or her quota. This accounts for about 40% of the carbon dioxide we produce. The remainder is auctioned off to companies. It’s a simpler and fairer approach than either green taxation or the EU’s emissions trading scheme, and it also provides people with a powerful incentive to demand low-carbon technologies. Timescale: a full scheme in place by January 2009.

3. Introduce a new set of building regulations, with three objectives. A. Imposing strict energy-efficiency requirements on all major refurbishments (costing £3,000 or more). Timescale: in force by June 2007. B. Obliging landlords to bring their houses up to high energy-efficiency standards before they can rent them out. Timescale: to cover all new rentals from January 2008. C. Ensuring that all new homes in the UK are built to the German Passivhaus standard (which requires no heating system). Timescale: in force by 2012.

4. Ban the sale of incandescent lightbulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights and other wasteful and unnecessary technologies. Introduce a stiff “feebate” system for all electronic goods sold in the UK, with the least efficient taxed heavily and the most efficient receiving tax discounts. Every year the standards in each category rise. Timescale: fully implemented by November 2007.

5. Redeploy money now earmarked for new nuclear missiles towards a massive investment in energy generation and distribution. Two schemes in particular require government support to make them commercially viable: very large wind farms, many miles offshore, connected to the grid with high-voltage direct-current cables; and a hydrogen pipeline network to take over from the natural gas grid as the primary means of delivering fuel for home heating. Timescale: both programmes commence at the end of 2007 and are completed by 2018.

6. Promote the development of a new national coach network. City-centre coach stations are shut down and moved to motorway junctions. Urban public transport networks are extended to meet them. The coaches travel on dedicated lanes and never leave the motorways. Journeys by public transport then become as fast as journeys by car, while saving 90% of emissions. It is self-financing, through the sale of the land now used for coach stations. Timescale: commences in 2008; completed by 2020.

7. Oblige all chains of filling stations to supply leasable electric car batteries. This provides electric cars with unlimited mileage: as the battery runs down, you pull into a forecourt; a crane lifts it out and drops in a fresh one. The batteries are charged overnight with surplus electricity from offshore wind farms. Timescale: fully operational by 2011.

8. Abandon the road-building and road-widening programme, and spend the money on tackling climate change. The government has earmarked £11.4bn for road expansion. It claims to be allocating just £545m a year to “spending policies that tackle climate change”. Timescale: immediately.

9. Freeze and then reduce UK airport capacity. While capacity remains high there will be constant upward pressure on any scheme the government introduces to limit flights. We need a freeze on all new airport construction and the introduction of a national quota for landing slots, to be reduced by 90% by 2030. Timescale: immediately.

10. Legislate for the closure of all out-of-town superstores, and their replacement with a warehouse and delivery system. Shops use a staggering amount of energy (six times as much electricity per square metre as factories, for example), and major reductions are hard to achieve: Tesco’s “state of the art” energy-saving store at Diss in Norfolk has managed to cut its energy use by only 20%. Warehouses containing the same quantity of goods use roughly 5% of the energy. Out-of-town shops are also hardwired to the car – delivery vehicles use 70% less fuel. Timescale: fully implemented by 2012.

These timescales might seem extraordinarily ambitious. They are, by contrast to the current glacial pace of change. But when the US entered the second world war it turned the economy around on a sixpence. Carmakers began producing aircraft and missiles within a year, and amphibious vehicles in 90 days, from a standing start. And that was 65 years ago. If we want this to happen, we can make it happen. It will require more economic intervention than we are used to, and some pretty brutal emergency planning policies (with little time or scope for objections). But if you believe that these are worse than mass death then there is something wrong with your value system.

Climate change is not just a moral question: it is the moral question of the 21st century. There is one position even more morally culpable than denial. That is to accept that it’s happening and that its results will be catastrophic, but to fail to take the measures needed to prevent it.

Regarding the recent climate talks, we have a long way to go and… it does not look good. Slow Talks Could Leave Climate Deal in ‘Tatters’

A new global agreement to tackle climate change may be scuppered by cumbersome international bodies and a lack of political will, David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, fears.

He warned that politics was now lagging dangerously behind the science on global warming and feared that negotiations on a new deal might drag on so long that there would be a “gap” in 2012 when the Kyoto protocol’s first stage runs out.

To ensure deeper cuts in carbon emissions from then, he said, agreement in principle would be needed by the end of next year. “If we have a gap in 2012, we would have a very serious problem. The whole system would be in tatters,” he said.

Mr Miliband was speaking yesterday after returning from a United Nations conference in Kenya involving 189 countries, which ended without a major breakthrough but agreed to keep talking about a “son of Kyoto” treaty.

In an interview with The Independent, he said: “The political institutions and their speed are out of sync with the scientific needs of the issue. There was real progress on important issues in Nairobi but the gap between the science and the politics remains large, with industrialised and developing countries divided by priorities and divided among themselves.”

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Peak Oil and Climate Change Round-up

From the NewScientist we read the news that Carbon emissions rising faster than ever:

Far from slowing down, global carbon dioxide emissions are rising faster than before, said a gathering of scientists in Beijing on Friday.

Between 2000 and 2005, emissions grew four times faster than in the preceding 10 years, according to researchers at the Global Carbon Project, a consortium of international researchers. Global growth rates were 0.8% from 1990 to 1999. From 2000 to 2005, they reached 3.2%.

What can be said? I’ll try to be positive. Each and every day presents opportunities in the form of choices that we can make to reduce the amount of carbon we contribute. There is no doubt that time is running out or already has. The time to act is NOW.

Jim Kunstler over at Clusterfuck Nation has a great post on the scope and meaning of real Energy Independence.

There’s also this story out of London regarding Labour Party leader Michael Mearcher who suggests that England needs to be on war footing against global warming:

This is the one overriding overall political issue which challenges the future of the human species on this planet.

I could not agree more. I tend to not think about organizing our human activities on a “war” footing but I understand the meaning. This needs to be the TOP priority in all our human endeavors. Each and every one of us should wake up everyday thinking about what we can do to stop global warming. The human race must by unified in it’s pursuit of this one primary goal.

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