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Articles by Category for ‘Climate Change’

Three Limits to Growth

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Three Limits to Growth 

See: http://steadystate.org/three-limits-to-growth/
As production (real GDP) grows, its marginal utility declines, because we satisfy our most important needs first. Likewise, the marginal disutilitiy inflicted by growth increases, because as the economy expands into the ecosphere we sacrifice our least important ecological services first (to the extent we know them). These rising costs and declining benefits of growth at the margin are depicted in the diagram below.

daly graph1

From the diagram we can distinguish three concepts of limits to growth.
1. The “futility limit” occurs when marginal utility of production falls to zero. Even with no cost of production, there is a limit to how much we can consume and still enjoy it. There is a limit to how many goods we can enjoy in a given time period, as well as a limit to our stomachs and to the sensory capacity of our nervous systems. In a world with considerable poverty, and in which the poor observe the rich apparently still enjoying their extra wealth, this futility limit is thought to be far away, not only for the poor, but for everyone. By its “non satiety” postulate, neoclassical economics formally denies the concept of the futility limit. However, studies showing that beyond a threshold self-evaluated happiness (total utility) ceases to increase with GDP, strengthen the relevance of the futility limit.
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Why the Earth is Farting

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Why the Earth is Farting

See: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/12/opinion/weisman-craters-methane/index.html?iref=allsearch

(CNN) – Every day, you have a close personal encounter with methane, a key ingredient of something we don’t usually mention in polite company: farts.

 
Perhaps that’s why methane is also called “natural gas.” Unfortunately, neither propriety nor intestinal discipline can suppress its unpleasantness lately, because now not just us, but the Earth itself is farting.

 
Recently, three new craters, one of which measured approximately 100 feet wide and over 200 feet deep, were discovered in the Siberian permafrost. The explanation for them is even more alarming than asteroid strikes: Apparently, after two consecutive summers averaging 5 degrees Celsius hotter than normal, frozen methane is not merely thawing, it’s exploding. Scientists fear that, like chronic bad digestion, this phenomenon could be ongoing. Methane in the air surrounding these craters already measures 53,000 times the normal concentration.

 
Then, just a week into a research trip, a team from Stockholm University found “vast methane plumes” shooting from the sea floor off the Siberian coast. Columns of gas bubbles, they reported, were surfacing around their icebreaker in waters saturated with 10 to 50 times more methane than usual.

 
This was the marine equivalent of melting permafrost, the undoing of frozen crystals called methane hydrates, locked solid for millennia by the pressure and temperature of deep oceans.

See: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/12/opinion/weisman-craters-methane/index.html?iref=allsearch

Planetary health: a call for papers

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Planetary health: a call for papers 

See: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)61289-7/fulltext

We live in the Anthropocene era when humanity’s impact on both biological and geophysical systems is becoming increasingly dominant. Environmental trends, including large-scale changes to climate, water, and natural habitats, pose important challenges to sustaining the biosphere in a state conducive to the advancement of health and flourishing of humanity. Those challenges also threaten the very viability of human civilisation.1
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has assessed the risks to health from climate change, but much less has been written on the health effects of the other environmental changes or on the implications for health from interactions between different types of environmental stress. Biodiversity loss, freshwater withdrawals, cropland and pasture conversion, coastal buffer degradation, and ocean acidification have major implications for human health through effects on a range of health outcomes that include: water-related and vector-borne diseases; impacts of increased frequency and intensity of extreme events, such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves; and food security and undernutrition. Beyond these direct and ecologically mediated impacts, cultural and aesthetic deprivation, livelihood losses, population displacement, conflict, poverty, and ultimately collapse of our civilisation are of added concern. There is evidence, for example, that increased thermal stress will substantially reduce labour productivity in tropical and subtropical regions and earnings of subsistence farmers because of declining crop yields, thus increasing poverty.2 However, the nature and extent of many of these indirect pathways have yet to be successfully quantified.

See: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)61289-7/fulltext

My Turn: Raising awareness about population issues

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

My Turn: Raising awareness about population issues

See: http://www.taosnews.com/opinion/article_66d419b4-18d0-11e4-97c2-001a4bcf887a.html

On July 11 people around the world took part in World Population Day to raise awareness about population issues. But here in the United States, we don´t talk enough about the specific effects our exploding numbers have on wildlife, the planet and our own future. Instead, our ultra-conservative United States Supreme Court is telling us our employers can decide for us, based on the employer’s religious beliefs, whether we can have access to birth control through our health care plans.

There are more than 7 billion people on the planet, and we´re adding 227,000 more each day. Every eight seconds another person is born in the United States. U.S. citizens are the worst of all humans when it comes to consumption of resources and destruction of habitat for wildlife. If every human on earth consumed like we do, it would take 4.4 Earths to sustain our current world population.

We destroy a great deal of wildlife habitat in producing our food, then we waste about half of the food we produce. We foul our air and water, the most fundamental necessities of life, then we pat ourselves on the back for being the most intelligent creatures on Earth.

See: http://www.taosnews.com/opinion/article_66d419b4-18d0-11e4-97c2-001a4bcf887a.html

Reducing Carbon by Curbing Population

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Reducing Carbon by Curbing Population 

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/business/economy/population-curbs-as-a-means-to-cut-carbon-emissions.html?_r=0

Remember the population explosion?

When population was growing at its fastest rate in human history in the decades after World War II, the sense that overpopulation was stunting economic development and stoking political instability took hold from New Delhi to the United Nations’ headquarters in New York, sending policy makers on an urgent quest to stop it.

In the 1970s the Indian government forcibly sterilized millions of women. Families in Bangladesh, Indonesia and elsewhere were forced to have fewer children. In 1974, the United Nations organized its first World Population Conference to debate population control. China rolled out its one-child policy in 1980.

Then, almost as suddenly as it had begun, the demographic “crisis” was over. As fertility rates in most of the world dropped to around the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman – with the one major exception of sub-Saharan Africa – population specialists and politicians turned to other issues.

By 1994, when the U.N. held its last population conference, in Cairo, demographic targets had pretty much been abandoned, replaced by an agenda centered on empowering women, reducing infant mortality and increasing access to reproductive health.

“Some people still regret that; some applaud it,” said Joel E. Cohen, who heads the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller University in New York. “I’m not sure we need demographic goals but we need forward thinking.”

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/business/economy/population-curbs-as-a-means-to-cut-carbon-emissions.html?_r=0

Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment Aims to Shed Light on Pop-Environment Link

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment Aims to Shed Light on Pop-Environment Link 

See: http://www.newsecuritybeat.org/2014/08/family-planning-environmental-sustainability-assessment-aims-shed-light-population-environment-link/

As global environmental change accelerates, understanding how population dynamics affect the environment is more important than ever. It seems obvious that human-caused climate change has at least something to do with the quadrupling of world population over the last 100 years.

But the evidence that slower population growth is good for the environment – logical as that statement may seem – has never been extensive, with conceptual models, empirical research, and data often lacking on key issues.

An ambitious new Worldwatch project, the Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment, hopes to help redress this, shedding light on how increased access to voluntary family planning services can support environmental sustainability.

See: http://www.newsecuritybeat.org/2014/08/family-planning-environmental-sustainability-assessment-aims-shed-light-population-environment-link/

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense on the immediate future of global demography

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Excerpt: Demography

See: Here (PDF)

The global population is likely to grow to between 8.3 and 10.4 billion by 2045, largely because of increasing life-expectancy, declining levels of child mortality and continuing high birth rates in many developing countries. Growth is not likely to be evenly distributed and will probably be slower in developed countries. Some, including Japan and a number of European countries, are likely to experience a decline in population.

In developing countries, rapid population increase and urbanisation will probably challenge stability. Age and gender imbalances may exacerbate existing political and social tensions while a growing youth population, especially in the Middle East, Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, could provide a reservoir of disaffected young people.

Conversely, if harnessed, they could provide a boost to their economies. Migration is likely to increase, with people moving within, and outside, their country of origin to seek work or to escape the effects of climate change.

Two Realities

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Two Realities

See: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-07-22/two-realities

Our contemporary world is host to two coexisting but fundamentally different-and, in at least one crucial respect, contradictory-realities. One of these might be termed Political Reality, though it extends far beyond formal politics and pervades conventional economic thinking. It is the bounded universe of what is acceptable in public economic-social-political discourse. The other is Physical Reality: i.e., what exists in terms of energy and materials, and what is possible given the laws of thermodynamics.

For decades these two realities have developed along separate lines. They overlap from time to time: politicians and economists use data tied to measureable physical parameters, while physical scientists often frame their research and findings in socially meaningful ways. But in intent and effect, they diverge to an ever-greater extent.

The issue at which they differ to the point of outright contradiction is economic growth. And climate change forces the question.

See: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-07-22/two-realities

Is the Anthropocene a world of hope or a world of hurt?

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Is the Anthropocene a world of hope or a world of hurt?

See: http://grist.org/climate-energy/is-the-anthropocene-a-world-of-hope-or-a-world-of-hurt/

Is it possible that a world swarming with humanity, warmed by our fumes, and depleted by our carelessness could in any way be good?

Last year, some 30 people, including the ethicist Clive Hamilton and the journalist Andrew Revkin, attended a seminar in Washington, D.C., on the Anthropocene - a term denoting a new geologic epoch, dominated by human influence. Hamilton noticed that some of the participants seemed optimistic, even excited, about the advent of the Anthropocene. “I was astonished and irritated that some people who were scientifically literate were imposing this barrier of wishful thinking between the science and future outcomes for humanity,” he said.

Hamilton had just written a book, Requiem for a Species, arguing that people squirm away from the bleak reality of climate change.

Months later, Revkin sent this video of a talk he’d given to the people who had attended that seminar. It was entitled Seeking a Good Anthropocene, and Hamilton – seeing this idea that he objected so strongly reprised – decided to write a rebuttal (actually two).

This debate has been brewing for years, and each side tends to caricature the other’s position. Suggest there’s a reason for hope and you are called a delusional techno-utopian; if you say there’s an imperative for humility, you are framed as an anti-technological doomer.

See: http://grist.org/climate-energy/is-the-anthropocene-a-world-of-hope-or-a-world-of-hurt/

Call climate change what it is: violence

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Call climate change what it is: violence

Social unrest and famine, superstorms and droughts. Places, species and human beings – none will be spared. Welcome to Occupy Earth

See: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/07/climate-change-violence-occupy-earth

If you’re poor, the only way you’re likely to injure someone is the old traditional way: artisanal violence, we could call it – by hands, by knife, by club, or maybe modern hands-on violence, by gun or by car.

But if you’re tremendously wealthy, you can practice industrial-scale violence without any manual labor on your own part. You can, say, build a sweatshop factory that will collapse in Bangladesh and kill more people than any hands-on mass murderer ever did, or you can calculate risk and benefit about putting poisons or unsafe machines into the world, as manufacturers do every day. If you’re the leader of a country, you can declare war and kill by the hundreds of thousands or millions. And the nuclear superpowers – the US and Russia – still hold the option of destroying quite a lot of life on Earth.

So do the carbon barons.

See: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/07/climate-change-violence-occupy-earth