Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hard Rain Journal 11-02-06: Climate Crisis Update -- What Bush, Cheney, Bork & Starr Don't Want the US Electorate to Know About Global Warming

Did you know that the inspector generals of NASA and the US Commerce Dept. are "investigating whether the Bush administration tried to block government scientists from speaking freely about global warming and censor their research" (AP, 11-2-06)?

Probably not.

Did you know that Bush-Cheney regime will "take its industry-protection campaign to the Supreme Court, where it will argue that it has no legal obligation to limit global warming pollution," and that two infamous judicial thugs, Robert Bork and Ken Starr, are writing briefs in the support of their position (Tom Paine, 11-2-06)?

Probably not.

In the USA, even at this dire moment, less than one week before the 2006 mid-term election (perhaps the last chance to save the Republic), the political establishment and mainstream news media continue to mislead and misinform the electorate.

At least in the UK, there seems to be a sincere and urgent will to act now that the(BBC, 10-31-06) Stern report has articulated the economic risks of doing nothing or even not enough: "Downing Street is seeking the outline of a package with the G8 industrial nations and five leading developing countries by next year, or 2008 at the latest. Tony Blair will lobby the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, to put the need for international cooperation on climate change at the heart of Germany's G8 presidency when it begins in January...Gordon Brown will also be pushing for a radical rethink of the United Nations and the World Bank which, he believes, are not equipped to oversee a carbon trading scheme, including the principles on which carbon emission allocations would be handed out to individual countries." (Guardian, 10-31-06)

Here are two important pieces, a bold ten point plan from George Monbiot of the Guardian and a degree by degree breakdown of the "five degrees of disaster" from Steve Connor of the Independent:

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....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.
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, Guardian, 10-31-06

Average global temperatures have increased by less than 1C since the Industrial Revolution, but they are projected to increase by up to 5C over the coming century if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise without restraint. With each 1C rise in average global temperatures, the Stern Review portrays progressively more serious scenarios.
The five degrees of disaster
1C: Smaller mountain glaciers disappear in Andes, threatening water supply of 50 million people. More than 300,000 people extra die from increase in climate-related diseases in tropical regions. Permafrost melting damages roads and buildings in Canada and Russia. One in ten species threatened with extinction, 80 per cent of coral suffers regular bleaching.
2C: Water scarcity increases in southern Africa and the Mediterranean. Significant decline in food production in Africa, where malaria affects up to 60 million more people. Up to 10 million extra people affected by coastal flooding each year. Arctic species, such the polar bear, face extinction along with 15-40 per cent of world’s remaining wildlife. Gulf Stream begins to weaken and Greenland ice sheet begins to melt irreversibly.
3C: Serious droughts in southern Europe occur once every ten years. Between 1 and 4 billion people suffer water shortages and a similar number suffer from floods. Many millions of people at risk of malnutrition, as agricultural yields at higher latitudes reach peak output. More than 100 million people are affected by the risk of coastal flooding. Mass extinction of animals and plants accelerates.
4C: Sub-Saharan Africa and the southern Mediterranean suffer between 30 and 50 per cent decrease in availability of water. Agricultural yields decline by 15-35 per cent in Africa. Crops fail in entire regions. Up to 80 million extra people are exposed to malaria. Loss of around half of the Arctic tundra. Many nature reserves collapse. Giant West Antarctic Ice Sheet begins to melt irreversibly, threatening catastrophic increases in global sea levels.
5C: Possible disappearance of the large glaciers of the Himalayas, affecting the water supply of 25 per cent of population of China and hundreds of millions more in India. Ocean acidity increases with threat of total collapse in the global fisheries industry. Sea levels rise inexorably, inundating vast regions of Asia and about half of the world’s major cities, including London, New York and Tokyo.
Steve Connor, A Global Catastrophe of Our Own Making, Independent/UK, 10-31-06

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