On this last day of winter (tomorrow begins the Great Wheel season of Imbolc) I just want to say. Wow. A great winter! Polar vortexing is the way to go for a winter like the old days and I hope to go vortexing again next winter. Some of you may not feel that way and that’s ok. I understand. No, really. But as for me, give me below zero or give me spring.
Winter Valentine Moon
First, we have to encourage our government and U.S. corporations to speed up and strengthen our internal emission policies. In that way we can enter either “club” sized negotiations and/or treaty negotiations with credibility already developed at home. This encouragement involves the usual methods, contacting federal representatives and officials, joining NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) like the Sierra Club, Earth Justice, Green Peace that have political advocacy as part of their mission and putting a shoulder behind state and municipal efforts to curb emissions.
Second, we have to consider and implement all of the emission reduction strategies we can in our own lives and work hard on municipal and state strategies. When I drove into St. Paul last night, I noticed, again, the exhaust from the cars in front of me. There it goes, in tiny trickle amounts from that Ford, the pickup, that semi-trailer. And from me.
We also need to move away from assigning guilt and toward strategies that encourage co-operation. After all, we are all implicated. Car manufacturers make cars to sell to us to drive. Fuel companies sell us gas to drive them or power to heat and cook at home. The world economy, the engine behind the emissions, is a crucial, integral part of all of our lives.
Even China’s economic growth, which has put it in the lead in total emissions, could be seen as a result of Western imperialist occupation holding back China’s earlier emergence as an industrial economy. India, too, has suffered from colonialism. It is time now to stop pointing fingers and instead reach out the whole hand in a gesture of solidarity. We can start right here at home.
Winter New (Valentine) Moon
David Victor, the political scientist I mentioned in a couple of earlier posts here, has a realistic view of how climate change action will probably take place. He says the most likely trajectory is one that follows the successful work on ozone, i.e. treaty agreements following on the Kyoto model of binding agreements, universal participation, a fund for the less developed countries compliance efforts, targets and timetables for carbon emission reductions.
And, he says, this most likely will not work because ozone and carbon are different in substantial ways. Carbon remains in the atmosphere much longer than CFC’s and their like which means that early, necessary action will have no visible effect. Why? Because carbon loading already in place ensures at least a 1.6 to 2.0 Celsius warming (again that’s around 3.5 F) and reductions now cannot prevent it. In fact, even with significant reductions now, carbon will continue to add to the stock already in the atmosphere. This makes the political reality of reductions very difficult.
Another factor is, as I mentioned below, only a few countries really matter: the enthusiasts, the reluctants and the Russia/OPEC instance. Thus, it would be diplomatically much simpler to spend the most energy on these countries initially since they have the most to contribute, the greatest capacity for doing so and smaller, “club” styled negotiations would have more flexibility. Eventually the rest of the world would have to become involved, but we could set the table by getting the biggest polluters and economies engaged and committed early.
This is not particularly good news since even this action will take years and will mean warming greater than the 2 degree rise now set as a sort of global yardstick. Victor says most actors know this is the case but are reluctant to back off the 2 degree goal and be seen as already having failed. This puts pressure on those who want a 2015 treaty, as the Doha agreement promised.
Unfortunately, a treaty will lock large economies into a funding scheme for less developed economies that will involve hundreds of billions of dollars a year. That’s too much money for the global economy, even for the rich nations. This is one of the reasons Victor suggests the smaller, “club”, negotiations as a starting point.
His key premise, and I think he’s right, is that the element most missing from climate change work right now is credibility. 22 years after the UN Framework started the negotiations we have accomplished nothing in terms of slowing emissions (they’ve actually speeded up) and the accords reached so far have been fractious and uneven both in application and in countries willingness to adhere to them, the U.S. famously opting out of the Kyoto protocol.
The smaller negotiations strategy with the critical countries, around a dozen who account for 75% of the emissions, would work toward reestablishing the necessary credibility so that the tough reductions, which still have to be made, could gain traction.
Winter Seed Catalog Moon
Excited about this week’s lesson in the Climate Change MOOC. Political scientist David Victor has laid out the reasons behind lack of action on emissions control. I’ve not finished with his lectures on the topic, so I’m not going to go into now, but he’s the most clear-headed voice I’ve discovered on these issues. He understands political realities and the science.
He makes a compelling case that the politics matter more than the science. Especially since the science settled in the 1980′s. Here’s a taste of his analysis. He says for initial purposes there are only a few of the world’s 192 countries that matter. He divides them into enthusiastic and reluctant vis a vis emission controls, plus one large and a coterie of small countries–Russia and OPEC with little or no enthusiasm and perhaps some willingness to see global warming proceed.
In the first, enthusiastic group, he includes the U.S., the EU (as one country), Canada, Japan and Australia. The reluctant group, all developing countries are China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and a block: Korea, South Africa, Taiwan, Mexico.
In the developed world the framework for legal and regulatory control are well-established. In the developing, reluctant, world, they are not. Admittedly the level of enthusiasm in the countries he lists varies by intensity, probably with the U.S. on the lower end and the EU on the higher.
In the beginning of serious emissions work the strategy for enthusiastic countries will vary dramatically from the reluctants. His approach is one that concentrates on power, interest and capabilities within each country. Those factors, too, differ dramatically even within the two broad categories.
More later. David Victor. Sharp guy.
Winter Seed Catalog Moon
Ready for the last gallon freezer bag of raspberries. Our raspberry patch produced day after day of good harvests, then went to every other day, and finally, when there was sometimes frost on the ground, every third day. Kate took the fruit, put it on a cookie sheet, flash froze it in the freezer and then bagged them. I’ve been eating them for breakfast since November.
We’re still using onions from last year and of course the canned tomatoes, dried garlic, herbs. We also have dried apples and pears. There are, too, 60 or so 1 pound jars of honey still boxed up. This was our best year for honey sales so far.
The garden, with Kate’s preservation skills, maintains its presence throughout the year. This is a way in which the cycle of the Great Wheel folds back on itself, summer evident in winter, as it has for farming and gardening families for millennia.
Winter Seed Catalog Moon
Thor Battles the Giants
Greek speaking countries, for the most part, changed their day names to conform to the Roman Catholic system. In the Latin world there was more variation. Portuguese changed all the names, but in other Romance tongues the old planetary system of the Roman world prevails still with the exception of Sunday, Lord’s Day, and Saturday, Sabbath.
(Tyr and Fenrir
The most resistant have been the British and Celtic tongues. English replaced Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus with Germanic deities: Tiw, Woden, Thor, and Frigga. English retains Saturn, Sun, Moon.
Who the heck, you might ask, is Tiw?
Well, Tiw is old English for Tyr, a Norse god associated most famously with Loki’s child, the great wolf Fenrir, destined to kill Odin when Ragnarok begins. Tyr stuck his hand in Fenrir’s mouth as surety against a binding. The binding held and Fenrir bit off Tyr’s hand. He’s a martial god, too, sometimes called the Norse Mars.
Woden is Odin, the hanged one who gained wisdom hanging from the world tree Yggdrasil, and the king of the Aesir.
(Odin the Wanderer)
Thor was perhaps the best loved of the Nordic pantheon, a warrior god who specialized in killing giants. His great hammer Mjolnir has had feature roles in two recent Hollywood blockbusters.
Frigga is a Norse fertility goddess.
So, this Moon’s Day, weekly reminder of she who shines in the night, I bid you, good-bye. Until Tyr’s Day.
Winter Seed Catalog Moon
Check out the bathtub simulation at this link. It will give you a quick idea of how climate science measures the effect of CO2 loading in the atmosphere and why climate scientists like to say CO2 is like a diamond: it’s forever.
I admit this is another downer piece of information, but the facts are what they are. They underscore the urgency to act now. This post explores the seeming lack of urgency even in the face of such clear data.
This week’s lesson included a political scientist named David G. Victor who outline succinctly in six short lectures both why climate mitigation is an international problem and why it’s so damned difficult to get right. An aspect of his lesson that dovetailed with the piece I published below about Daniel Goleman’s book on Focus was the time inconsistency problem. This phenomenon bedevils policy makers on environmental matters, especially reducing climate emissions.
Here’s Victor’s explanation:
“…another big challenge here, which is what people often call the time inconsistency problem, which is that once you start controlling emissions, the costs of
controlling those emissions are immediately apparent. Industries that have to change their behavior know they have to change their behavior, and if you’re for
example a conventional coal-fired power plant and you face very tight limits on emissions, your future is limited because with conventional coal-fired
technologies there’s just no way to make big reductions in emissions. You shut those plants and you build new kinds of power plants and so on. Some of those
parents might use coal, but there are going to be very different kinds of technologies. And so you’ve got the people who suffer the costs know that right now, and
the benefits only accrue in the future, as the long-term stock build-up is avoided, or at least mitigated to some degree. We in general as humans, and more
collectively as societies, are generally not very good at dealing with problems that have large timing inconsistency. Problems that have high up-front costs with
distant uncertain benefits.”
Goleman explored through reference to our pleistocene brain that has adapted itself well to problems of the veldt, immediate problems like predators or natural events, but has no mechanism for scanning the distant future for danger. This results in a lack of urgency about matters perceived a long way off: think cigarettes and lung cancer, cake and type II diabetes. And, now, developing needed painful reductions for long term and difficult to experience benefits.
We have to solve this problem somehow. I’m hopeful that other lessons in this course will have some well thought out proposals.
Winter Seed Catalog Moon
I’ve not forgotten the Great Wheel. Just been busy. I’ll get back to it tomorrow for sure.