Monthly Archives: January 2006

Climate Change Round-up

Seems to me that that a central theme of most studies and news coverage these days have the theme that global warming and the various problems/symptoms it causes are happening faster than previously thought. With each passing year the time frames for action grow shorter and the time frames in which we can expect to see catastrophic climate events grow shorter.

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post discusses the Debate on Climate Shifts to Issue of Irreparable Change:

Some Experts on Global Warming Foresee ‘Tipping Point’ When It Is Too Late to Act

Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend.

This “tipping point” scenario has begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that would be irreversible.

There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world’s fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe.

The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster than some researchers had predicted. James E. Hansen, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record, surpassing 1998. Earth’s average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of about 4 degrees over the next century would “imply changes that constitute practically a different planet.”

“It’s not something you can adapt to,” Hansen said in an interview. “We can’t let it go on another 10 years like this. We’ve got to do something.”

Ian Johnston, writing for Nightmare vision of a world 200 years on:

ONE of Britain’s leading environmentalists will today sound a doomsday warning to the world: humanity’s very existence is under threat from climate change and, even if we survive, the population will crash to about a third of its current level.

Sir Crispin Tickell, the man who convinced former prime minister Margaret Thatcher that global warming was a real problem, predicts that, in 200 years, there could be as few as 2.3 billion people because rising sea levels and temperatures will make some areas uninhabitable and, coupled with social factors, depress birth rates.

But he also says our survival is “not guaranteed” and that the presence of humans on the planet could be “no more than a somewhat messy episode in the history of the Earth”.

“The human impact on the Earth has slowly and then rapidly increased, most of all in the last 250 years.

“The resulting transformation of the environment is unsustainable. The main factors are human population increase, degradation of land, consumption of resources, water pollution and supply, climate change, destruction of other species …

“Most of the solutions to the problems we have created, including the widening division between rich and poor, are well known but few want to confront them, singly or together. To do so we have to rethink our value system.”

He pointed to recent droughts in Mediterranean countries and the increasing severity of hurricanes in the Caribbean – caused by a rise in sea temperature – as some of the signs that global warming is starting to get out of hand.

From the BBC we have Sea level rise ‘is accelerating’

Global sea levels could rise by about 30cm during this century if current trends continue, a study warns.

Australian researchers found that sea levels rose by 19.5cm between 1870 and 2004, with accelerated rates in the final 50 years of that period.

The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, used data from tide gauges around the world.

The findings fit within predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, published in 2001, projected that the global average sea level would rise by between 9 and 88cm between 1990 and 2100.

If the acceleration continues at the current rate, the scientists warn that sea levels could rise during this century by between 28 and 34cm.

Dr John Church, a scientist with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation based in Tasmania and an author of the study, said that higher sea levels could have grave effects on some areas.

“It means there will be increased flooding of low-lying areas when there are storm surges,” he told the Associated Press.

“It means increased coastal erosion on sandy beaches; we’re going to see increased flooding on island nations.”

Read more about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report.

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Peak Oil Round-up

Just a sampling of the many recent peak oil articles floating around.

The Sacramento News and Review sketches out what a city such as Sacramento might look like in our peak oil future. One of the better articles on Peak Oil that I’ve seen in a while in that it provokes contemplation of what we might expect: Sacramento on empty

The world is approaching the ‘peak’ of global oil production. Will communities like ours be able to stave off a dramatic shift in our way of life, or are we destined for a painful era of change?

Sacramento 2036: It’s a rare thing to see a car of any kind on J Street, and then it’s most likely to be an armored police vehicle. From time to time, a small convoy of these–three or four–will emerge, usually to protect against civil unrest at one of the food-distribution points. They used to be called “supermarkets,” but they didn’t look like armored warehouses then. They are fairly safe these days. Most people who don’t have money to buy food have signed on to work at a farm in exchange for food or have been court-ordered into indentured labor to pay off their debts.

Writing for the BBC Richard Black discusses the Energy gap: Crisis for humanity?

It is perhaps too early to talk of an energy “crisis”.

Fossil fuels have been the cheapest and most convenient so far

But take your pick from terms like “serious concern” and “major issue” and you will not be far from the positions which analysts are increasingly adopting.

The reason for their concern can be found in a set of factors which are pulling in glaringly different directions:

Demand for energy, in all its forms, is rising
Supplies of key fuels – notably oil and gas – show signs of decline
Mainstream climate science suggests that reducing greenhouse gas emissions within two decades would be a prudent thing to do.
Meanwhile the Earth’s population continues to rise, with the majority of its six billion people hankering after a richer lifestyle – which means a greater consumption of energy.

Underlying the growing concern is the relentless pursuit of economic growth, which historically has been tied to energy consumption as closely as a horse is tethered to its cart.

It is a vehicle which cannot continue to speed up indefinitely; it must at some point hit a barrier, of finite supply, unfeasibly high prices or abrupt climate change.

Jerome a Paris of The European Tribune has an excellent article regarding the decline of the 4 biggest oil fields in the world.

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Podcast: Activism, anarchism, citizenship, living an engaged life

Discussion of communication in the context of activism, citizenship, and democracy. Thoughts on America and its claims about itself as a republic or representative democracy. A few thoughts on blogging and podcasts in relation to social change, activism and the sharing of information. General thoughts on citizenship, responsibility, and being engaged with the world around us. I close with a reference to Noam Chomsky’s recent book Imperial Ambitions.

littlepod.jpg More via the Podcast which is also available as a direct m4a download runtime: 19’47, 9.6 MB.

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Podcast: Climate Change and Peak Oil

Been awhile since I put out a podcast. With the recent release of Apple’s new version of GarageBand in iLife 06 I was curious and thought I’d try it out. The file is a bit bigger than previous podcasts but includes photos. Kinda neat I suppose. Up for discussion: climate change and peak oil. Nothing new really but I thought I’d share my ongoing obsessions.

littlepod.jpg More via the Podcast which is also available as a direct m4a download runtime: 19’43, 9.6 MB.

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No progress in Iraq

Iraq looks worse everyday. Bombings, kidnappings, and torture continue as a part of everyday life. US soldiers continue to die at a steady rate: 2003: 486, 2004: 848, 2005: 846. Iraqi casualties? 40,000? 80,000? 100,000 or more?

Juan Cole has posted an update on the ever continuing decline of conditions in Iraq:

Under Iraqi law, the new parliament must meet to choose a president within 15 days of the certification of the election results, e.g. around Feb. 18. The parliamentarians are, however, putting aside this provision of the law and are making no promises as to when they will be able to form a government.

Iraqi guerrilla groups attacked US and other targets 34,000 times in 2005, up 30% from the year before. The number of roadside bombs deployed nearly doubled to over 10,000, and the number of casualties was up. Any way you measure it, these statistics indicate that the US has failed miserably in counter-insurgency efforts in Iraq.

Iraqi professionals are fleeing the country, which makes the prospect of rebuilding even dimmer.

A preliminary inspector general report on the US reconstruction effort in Iraq finds it plagued by poor planning and poor implementation, according to the NYT.

US contractors are pulling out of Iraq, as the funds for reconstruction dry up.

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Of blogging and living

As I said in the comments in the previous post, I really appreciate all those that stopped by and commented. I’ve not posted since then and had not posted for many days before that post. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I have a blog and I’m just feeling kind of stuck. I suppose it mirror’s my life at the moment. I’m not really feeling stuck just somewhat sad and content at the same time.

Sad and content is a strange combination. Of course that’s a bit simplistic and there are layers of other emotions within that. I’m not just sad but seething with anger and frustration as well. I’m content in the sense that I find happiness in a very simple life. I’ve withdrawn from life… dropped out to use a phrase from the 60s. I guess in many ways I’ve given up hope that we humans will figure it out. To be exact I’ve given up hope that the U.S. will figure it out.

So I’m content in the sense that I have spent the past two years getting to know my family again and am participating in their lives in a more meaningful way. I’m content in knowing that I’m not driving and not consuming much of anything at all. I’m happy to be gardening and reintroducing (at least a wee little bit) the native plants of this particular Missouri hillside. This life that I’m now living is very different from the 15 years I spent in Memphis and it is that difference that I’m trying to work through.

My life in Memphis was centered on the role of activist. My time there reads like the scrolling credits of a movie… one project after another. Generally they were not “successful” but the point is that they were attempts and I usually learned something from them. I wish I had tried harder. Looking back I see certain mistakes that seem obvious today. I would do it all again but I’m not sure why. That brings me back to my previous post in which I mentioned my dissatisfaction with the number of visitors to my blog and questions about why I blog.

Back in 1997 I started my first website which was a site for Free Radio Memphis. I became an internet junkie and started building other websites. Somehow that evolved into a general computer geekness and ultimately a role as tech support for a small segment of my particular community in Memphis. Tech work became a part of my activism. I bring this up because these days, as mentioned above, I’ve dropped out. My only activism, if it can be called that at all, is this blog. This is my only little voice to the world. I suppose this post is a post about blogs as citizen media. I don’t blog for personal reasons. I certainly don’t mind sharing many personal things in my blog but I don’t view it as my online journal. My primary interest in blogs is their potential as a medium for citizens to communicate about the problems we as citizens need to deal with.

I suppose I’m dealing with certain contradictions within my life. I’m no longer participating, no longer active as a citizen in a community and yet on a certain level I still desire that participation. As an anarchist I’ve long thought such participation a fundamental responsibility of freedom. What kind of anarchist stops participating in times like these? So I tell myself that it is enough to read and write… that it is only a temporary stay of activism. I tell myself that I am contributing via this blog which sets up a certain expectation. See where I’m heading with this? I see the numbers which I view to be (at some level) an indicator of effectiveness and I realize that the blog is not enough. Of course I know the blog is not enough and yet I fail to move on to any further action.

Which brings me me back to the question of life… living… life and how to live it. Where is the movement? Have we all quit? Have I quit? Collectively… we’ve screwed up in so many different ways… it is overwhelming. I look at what little I have done and I’m not happy with it. I’m not sure I know where to go from here, not sure where we go from here. How do we change course, is it an impossible task? I tell myself I’m just one little person and that I can be content with what I’ve done. I tell myself that it’s okay to just live like squirrel: eat, sleep, poop, and every now and then goof a little. I may not be contributing to the building of a movement but at least I have minimized the damage I do. But it’s not enough… or maybe it is… I end up where I started.

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Apparently I’m bored…

Or uninspired… or something. I’m thinking for the first time that perhaps I’ll close this blog down. It’s funny… I get 1,000 hits a day on an old post about iPod problems I was having but the rest of my blog? Not so much. I think my most current posts typically draw in 20 – 30 hits a day, perhaps less. I’m not sure I want to pay $80/year for that. I started this blog in February 2003 so it’s been 3 years. I switched to Typepad in July 2003 and for most of the past 3 years I’ve posted fairly consistently. I’d hoped that in time readership might grow a bit but that does not seem to be happening.

I’m not certain on this… just thinking at this point but i think it is a very real possibility. So, to my 10 readers, don’t be too surprised if WWB disappears soon. I’d likely post one last time to say goodbye.

That is all…