I’m Back

It’s been a while.

We’re still in the thick of the pandemic, but at least the vaccines have been rolling out in most of the industrial world, and things just might return to some kind of new normal this year, or at least, at the start of 2022. While I am trying to remain optimistic, I don’t think the pandemic will be over soon. Given the vast populations who have not had access to vaccination or modern medical care, there is the potential for more and more mutation in the COVID-19 virus and the need for a prolonged response. We may be wearing masks and getting boosters for a couple of years before this is completely over.

I’ve been busy starting a new career as a published author, writing crime fiction with some success, and while that has been a lifelong dream of mine, I can’t not think about larger science, social and political issues and now want to return to commenting on them. Writing crime fiction is fun, a dream, enjoyable, and profitable, but there is more to life than that. I am growing more and more concerned about civilization and the directions it is taking in several realms. Politics, Science, and Culture.

The pandemic and the political and cultural response encapsulates so much of what is wrong with modernity. Old political divides have been exacerbated by the pandemic such that people are now refusing to get vaccinated because they suspect the “globalist agenda of baby-eating pedophiles have put microchips into the vaccine to track and control us for the great replacement” — or variations on that theme.

What has struck me the most about this past four and a half years is how much more fervent the war on science and the war over science has become. It’s become a cultural and moral battle as in “If you believe this, you are a reprobate/heretic/stupid”.

It’s very discouraging to someone in the last quarter of my life. While I embrace the digital age and the access to readers and knowledge that the internet provides, it is at the same time a potential vortex and whirlpool that can drag people into its more cesspool-like depths.

So restarting this blog is a way for me to try to give this voice and figure it out as best I can. I welcome your thoughts, those of you who follow this blog or find me.

My overarching belief is that we need civilized discussion and discourse to figure this out. I am willing to talk to anyone outside of obvious trolls and shitposters. I know that I have been wrong in the past about things and will be wrong in the future. If I hope that people will be generous to me and that I can be generous to them. Good-faith debate is the goal.

I think the overarching premise of my blog from this point forward is that there has been a larger failure of our ability to agree on what is a fact and what is truth. Not that we ever have reached such a lofty goal, but I think we are even farther from that than ever before. We are so divided by wealth, power and politics that we can barely even talk to each other except in the language of bread and circuses. McDonalds and the NFL are the only things we actually can agree on.

As the great Carl Sagan lamented, “We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”

I’d say the match of political enmity is far too close to the powder keg. This blog will be my attempt to understand how we got here, why, and how can we go forward without lighting the match.

In the “I can’t believe the audacity of this” File

You knew it would happen. It’s already happened. It’s going to get worse. Yes, it’s big oil, the most subsidized industry around, asking for more subsidization to protect its facilities — that are the primary source of greenhouse gas causing climate change…

Irony is officially dead.

BIG OIL ASKS GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT ITS TEXAS FACILITIES FROM CLIMATE CHANGE

From the article:

PORT ARTHUR, Texas — As the nation plans new defenses against the more powerful storms and higher tides expected from climate change, one project stands out: an ambitious proposal to build a nearly 60-mile “spine” of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Like other oceanfront projects, this one would protect homes, delicate ecosystems and vital infrastructure, but it also has another priority: to shield some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry, which is blamed for contributing to global warming and now wants the federal government to build safeguards against the consequences of it.

The plan is focused on a stretch of coastline that runs from the Louisiana border to industrial enclaves south of Houston that are home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas’ 30 refineries, which represent 30 percent of the nation’s refining capacity.”

Texas is seeking at least $12 billion for the full coastal spine, with nearly all of it coming from public funds. Last month, the government fast-tracked an initial $3.9 billion for three separate, smaller storm barrier projects that would specifically protect oil facilities.

That followed Hurricane Harvey, which roared ashore last Aug. 25 and swamped Houston and parts of the coast, temporarily knocking out a quarter of the area’s oil refining capacity and causing average gasoline prices to jump 28 cents a gallon nationwide. Many Republicans argue that the Texas oil projects belong at the top of Washington’s spending list.

 

 

Adaptation and Advantage: The New Language of the Anthropocene

 

Russia announced that it will be adapting its economy and taking advantage of the increase in temperature due to climate change and global warming.

From the article:

Russia has published a plan to adapt its economy and population to climate change, aiming to mitigate damage but also “use the advantages” of warmer temperatures.

The document, published on the government’s website on Saturday, outlines a plan of action and acknowledges changes to the climate are having a “prominent and increasing effect” on socioeconomic development, people’s lives, health and industry.

Russia is warming 2.5 times faster than the planet as a whole, on average, and the two-year “first stage” plan is an indication the government officially recognises this as a problem, even though Vladimir Putin denies human activity is the cause…

Moscow formally adopted the Paris climate accord in September last year and criticised the US withdrawal from the pact.

Russia announces plan to ‘use the advantages’ of climate change

The Final Frontier

The latest data:

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The science is settled: humans are changing the planet’s climate through land use and the mining, production of and burning of fossil fuels. What’s left is to convince the public to force policy makers to address it.

That’s it, really.

Policy makers – politicians – won’t act unless and until they are forced to do so because of public opinion. Their funders don’t care — they are the ones who are currently benefitting from BAU.

It’s Joe and Jane Public who must be moved. They have to be convinced that the science is settled and action is necessary.

That will only happen if those scientists and communicators who have public-facing platforms beat the drum long and hard, not just to convince the public that climate change is real, but that they can do something about it — and not just by using bamboo toothbrushes or recycling plastic bottles, although everything helps.

They have to use their real power — their vote.

The Carbon Majors and Plutocrats know this. They have deep pockets and the inexorable logic of their world is to keep exploiting their resources and enlarging their wealth. They are spending billions to fight against action.

Scientists and concerned enlightened citizens, in contrast, have much shallower pockets but we have the truth and we have a different logic, focused on the well-being of our children and their children. The Carbon Majors and the Plutocrats want to keep exploiting the resources and running things as they have for the past fifty years until it no longer makes economic sense. That’s the only sense that they understand.

We, the People, have to fight back.

We can’t compete in terms of money. We won’t do it by using recycled paper towels or Brita water filters. We won’t do it by moralizing to each other about what food we eat or what kind of fabric we wear.

We will only do it when we tell our politicians and policy makers that if they don’t enact policies that address climate change in a serious way that reflects the urgency of the matter, we will kick them out of office.

Plutocrat funding be damned.

So, the fight isn’t over the data or the projections or the paleoclimate reconstructions.

The fight is in the political realm.

Those who can must focus on public education. We must focus on disseminating the facts and options for addressing those facts. The people must be moved if anything is to happen.

It has to be a message with enough urgency so that people know they must act, but also a positive message so that people don’t give up and despair that it’s too big or beyond their reach.

We need the best communicators to spread the word, to promote the facts, and to disseminate the options.

It’s our children’s and grandchildren’s futures we are creating today.

The real battle now is for the public mind and for their votes.

Tell the policy makers that they have to act now or we’ll kick the bastards out of office.

Carbon Majors, Finger Pointing and Responsibility

new study in Climatic Change linking most of the fossil fuels extracted in the last 150 years to 90 producers has garnered a bit of interest in the climate change world. One of the issues raised in the study is responsibility, and the coverage in the media has led to debates about pointing fingers and just who is really responsible for climate change.

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Here’s a sample from Tim Worstall’s blog, who calls the article “complete and total bollocks”:

The fault is not in the companies but in us the consumers. Not one single one of the fuckers would have dug up or pumped a single kilo of carbon if we hadn’t wanted to use it.

We have been warm, well fed and mobile for a century because of fossil fuels. We wanted it, we enjoyed it and if there is any blame to be passed around then it is to us, the people who enjoyed the products of which the emissions are a by product.

His article in Forbes is as follows:

Fossil Fuel Companies Do Not Cause Carbon Emissions, We Consumers Do

Do I have to mention a similar cause-effect guilt-culpability claim by an infamous organization?

Guns don't kill people they make it easier dr heckle funny wtf memes

And there’s more where that came from:

According to William M. Connolley,

Its an attempt to shift the blame off us lot so we can all relax and spew out yet more CO2 and say “oh no, its not our fault, look, the Graun says its all the fault of those nasty fossil fuel companies over there”.

Not to miss an opportunity, The Onion has this article out in response: New Report Finds Climate Change Caused By 7 Billion Key Individuals:

From the article:

“Our research has proved conclusively that, year after year, the acceleration of the rate of global warming and the damage caused by this man-made acceleration can be clearly linked to 7 billion main culprits,” explained lead author Dr. John Bartlett, noting that many of these individuals have links to climate change going back nearly a century. “Worse, the significant majority of damage was done within the past two decades, when the consequences of climate change were widely known and yet these specific individuals did nothing to curb or amend their practices.”

“Now that we’ve done the hard work of identifying the key players responsible for this crisis, we can move forward with holding them accountable,” Bartlett added. “And it is my opinion that we need to regulate these individuals swiftly and decisively before they do any more damage.”

Yeah, it’s a good yuk and I do love the Onion, and I do hate to appear to lack a sense of humour, but satire runs the risk of minimizing the real issues while poking fun. In this case, it runs the risk of doing a serious disservice to those among the 7 billion who have not contributed to global warming in any appreciable amount but who are suffering as a consequence of those who have.

Are all humans equally culpable for the CO2 and land use changes that are causing global warming?

Of course not.

A small proportion of those alive today and in the past is largely responsible for the majority of the emissions. Do we, the individuals, really have a choice about those emissions? After all, if consumers didn’t want to buy gasoline to fuel their cars and heat their houses and air condition their condos and make their plastic products, they could choose to buy some other form of energy, right? Oh, wait…

So it looks as if this report has received quite the mixed response.

While reading the point-counterpoint is amusing and mentally invigorating, after you clear away all the hot air, this is an important question. Who is responsible for global warming? What do we mean by responsibility? Why do we want to assign responsibility and culpability? What good will it do to name names? Point fingers?

Here’s the abstract of the Heede paper:

Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854 – 2010
Abstract

This paper presents a quantitative analysis of the historic fossil fuel and cement production records of the 50 leading investor-owned, 31 state-owned, and 9 nation-state producers of oil, natural gas, coal, and cement from as early as 1854 to 2010. This analysis traces emissions totaling 914 GtCO2e—63 % of cumulative worldwide emissions of industrial CO2 and methane between 1751 and 2010—to the 90 “carbon major” entities based on the carbon content of marketed hydrocarbon fuels (subtracting for non-energy uses), process CO2 from cement manufacture, CO2 from flaring, venting, and own fuel use, and fugitive or vented methane. Cumulatively, emissions of 315 GtCO2e have been traced to investor-owned entities, 288 GtCO2e to state-owned enterprises, and 312 GtCO2e to nation-states. Of these emissions, half has been emitted since 1986. The carbon major entities possess fossil fuel reserves that will, if produced and emitted, intensify anthropogenic climate change. The purpose of the analysis is to understand the historic emissions as a factual matter, and to invite consideration of their possible relevance to public policy.

It bears repeating the purpose of the analysis for the author — “to understand the historic emissions as a factual matter, and to invite consideration of their possible relevance to public policy”.

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