Tag Archives: climate change

The Carbon Footprint of the 2010 World Cup

The Carbon Footprint of the 2010 World Cup: “If you thought that those pesky vuvuzela were the worst thing about the 2010 World Cup, wait until you hear about the carbon emissions estimated to be released during the planet’s biggest sporting event. According to a study conducted by the Norwegian embassy and South African government on the eve of the games, this year’s World Cup will emit 2,753,251 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is roughly equivalent to the amount released by one million cars over the course of a year–and six times worse than those emitted during the last World Cup….

Read all about it – on TreeHugger.

Note: TreeHugger is part of the Discovery media network, which also includes the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, etc. and which recently debuted a show with everyone’s favorite Tea Partier, Sarah Palin…

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Climate Change! Geoengineering! Terraforming!

An interview with the author of Hack the Planet on the science fiction website Tor.com

GGG#020: Climate Change! Geoengineering! Terraforming! (Guest: Eli Kintisch): Eli Kintisch, author of Hack the Planet, joins us to discuss some of the ambitious and risky geoengineering schemes that are being proposed to address climate change… (via Tor.com / Science fiction and fantasy.)

For more of Kintisch’s views, check out his website/blog, Hack The Planet

Read This: April ‘Earth Month’ our worst ever

Danny Westneat | April ‘Earth Month’ our worst ever: April was “Earth Month,” a time to show our love for the planet. Surely no one is more relieved this observance has come to an end than Earth.

It’s as if we decided to celebrate by setting the guest of honor on fire.

We began Earth Month by grounding a coal ship on the Great Barrier coral reef. We ended Earth Month by dumping an untold number of gallons of light sweet crude into the Gulf of Mexico, our worst ecological catastrophe since the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

In between, Earth Month was one coal-mining disaster, refinery explosion and dead, garbage-filled whale after another.

Thanks, Earth, for all you do! Here are some children and politicians planting tree seedlings. Now excuse us, please, while we torch the place….

(via Seattle Times Newspaper.)

BP Oil Spill: Where’s the oil?

Fox commentator asks “where’s the oil?”

Breathtakingly denialistic. Not just asking “where’s the oil,” but saying we’ll have to wait and see if it this spill is bigger than Exxon Valdez – (a) there’s universal agreement that it’s going to be much bigger, and (b) what a sterile argument – even if it were a bit smaller, it is still clearly big enough to be a disaster. (Thanks to Roger Ebert’s twittering for bringing this video to my attention.)

One answer to the deranged question “where’s the oil” – actually, a whole series of answers – is provided by a very useful, and disturbing, post on thedailygreen.com. They provide a series of photographs and video clips of the BP oil spill, and also a number of graphical representations of the spill that aid in grasping its full extent, such as this one, showing the oil spill overlaid on a Google Earth image of the New York area:

Gulf Oil Spill Photos – Video: 7 Shocking Ways to Visualize the Gulf Oil Spill — Photos, Video and Beyond

Apps, graphics, photos and video of the unfolding environmental disaster. Be prepared to be moved to action.

(via thedailygreen.com.)

As to the extent of BP’s oil spill, numerous articles, reports and scientific studies have weighed in; the only thing we still need to “wait and see” about, despite that Fox commentator’s suggestion and the astounding resistance of the BP flacks, is just how much bigger than Exxon Valdez this spill will end up being:

Guess how much oil is spilling into the Gulf of Mexico: “There’s a new game in town: guess how many barrels of oil are gushing from BP’s ruptured well into the Gulf of Mexico every day.

Using video showing the movement of oil spewing from the well, mechanical engineer Steven Wereley of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, estimates that the well is losing 70,000 barrels of oil a day. That’s equivalent to an Exxon Valdez disaster every four days, and more than 10 times the 5000 barrels a day estimated by BP.

“We are not recognising these numbers at all,” a spokesperson for BP told New Scientist. The oil company maintains there is no reliable way to measure the oil spill by analysing oil moving out of the pipe. Really?

(via Short Sharp Science.)

(This item comes from a new feature/blog/feed on the website for New Scientist – which I generally find to be extremely useful – called “Short Sharp Science” – the name an obvious play on the phrase “short sharp shock.” Which is appropriate because it tends to feature a “shock” style of journalism which I think does a disservice to New Scientist and to the issues they cover. They have used sensationalistic and somewhat misleading headlines for serious climate change issues, and here they make a sort of joke out of the oil spill. Actually, it is not so much the joke aspect that bothers me as the fact that describing attempts to estimate the full extent of the oil spill as “a game,” even simply as an attention-grabber, tends to trivial these efforts and cast into doubt the whole enterprise – lending “aid and comfort” to brain-damaged clowns like the Fox commentator, Brit Hume. He can go on the intellectually airless void of Fox News and say that New Scientist describes attempts to estimate the extent of the spill as “a game.”)

It’s not just the idiot ideologues at Fox and venal BP spokespersons who are underestimating, downplaying or dismissing the full extent of the oil spill. According to a story on NPR, even the “official” government estimates may be drastically inadequate. Scientists studying all the available data on the spill are coming up with figures that show it may be as much as 10 times greater than those official estimates, perhaps even more:

Gulf Oil Spill May Far Exceed Government, BP Estimates: “The amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico may be at least 10 times the size of official estimates, according to an exclusive analysis conducted for NPR.

At NPR’s request, experts examined video that BP released Wednesday. Their findings suggest the BP spill is already far larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska, which spilled at least 250,000 barrels of oil.

BP has said repeatedly that there is no reliable way to measure the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by looking at the oil gushing out of the pipe. But scientists say there are actually many proven techniques for doing just that.

via Gulf Oil Spill May Far Exceed Government, BP Estimates : NPR.

I was a bit surprised, but not astonished, to find people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck raising the spectre of conspiracy in relation to the disaster at the oil rig. What did astonish me was this – a poll showing that ten percent of Americans think environmentalists may be behind the disaster:

Poll: Ten percent of Americans believe environmentalists intentionally caused oil spill: “Ten percent of Americans believe environmentalists intentionally sabotaged the oil rig Deepwater Horizon off the Gulf Coast according to a poll released Tuesday, apparently as part of a ploy to reduce Americans’ support for offshore drilling.

(via Raw Story.)

It’s hard to believe this, to fathom how deluded conspiracy theories like this could gain any credence whatsoever. The only explanation is the traction that people like Beck and Limbaugh have with a significant segment of the public. Which is deeply disturbing, a disaster whose long-term implications may be more profound and toxic even than the oil spill. It highlights the danger of having such extensive public platforms given over to people who are willing to say just about anything. If they go too far, they can always retract or apologize – but as we have seen time and time again, those retractions never fully undo the effects of the original statement, and frequently come far too late. It also points to the need for continued engagement in the public sphere, for the daily, hourly effort of rebutting these people and putting out real information, and different perspectives.

One website that does a good job of this – though not of course to an audience like that of Fox – is TomDispatch.com, “a regular antidote to the mainstream media,” which has an excellent discussion of the evolving oil spill crisis:

The Oil Rush to Hell: “It took President Obama 24 days to finally get publicly angry and “rip” into BP and its partners for the catastrophic oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. What was he waiting for? The pattern has been obvious enough: however bad you thought it was, or anyone said it was at any given moment, it’s worse (and will get worse yet). Just take the numbers.

For a more hopeful and positive story out of the oil spill, there’s this, from TreeHugger:

14 Year-old Girl Confronts BP for Lack of Oil Spill Education Efforts: “at a tense town hall-style meeting that gathered fishermen, federal officials, and BP reps to discuss the latest on the disaster, one participant took all of the parties by surprise. A 14-year old girl named Lauren Spaulding confidently stepped up to the mic during the Q+A — the only young person to do so — and confronted BP about its lack of initiative to educate children about the spill.

Spaulding was polite but direct when she asked BP what it was doing to educate young people about the spill or to provide teaching materials to schools, and she quickly won over the crowd. She pointed out that kids are concerned about the spill too, and want to learn more about what’s going on and how they can help. They’re worried about the environment and their parents’ livelihoods, she said.

(via TreeHugger.)

The spill threw the Obama Administration’s plans to extend offshore oil drilling into disarray, but the information coming out in the wake of the spill has shown how lucky this was – though it is perverse to speak of luck in this context – that it happened now, when it could bring the whole process into question rather than later. We are finding out about a systematic failure of safety and oversight, by the companies involved and the government agencies responsible:

BP Safety Violations: OSHA Says Company Has ‘Systemic Safety Problem’: “A Washington-based research group says two BP refineries in the U.S. account for 97 percent of “egregious willful” violations given by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The study by the Center for Public Integrity says the violations were found in the last three years in BP’s Texas City refinery and another plant in Toledo, Ohio. In 2005, 15 people were killed in an explosion at the Texas City refinery.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab says BP has a “systemic safety problem.”

BP Safety Violations: Has Paid A Only A Pittance In Fines.MMS’ fines against BP have been the equivalent of a rounding error. From 1998 through 2007 “when MMS issued its last fine against the company” BP has paid less than $580,000 in penalties for its 12 safety violations.

Environmental groups say this simply isn’t enough.

(via The Huffington Post.)

Where do we go from here? Obviously, and thankfully (again, a bit perverse in this context), offshore oil drilling in the United States has been seriously called into question. But if the effect of this disaster is that we continue to source most of our oil from overseas, including from offshore rigs elsewhere, while also continuing to consume oil at roughly the same rate, all we will have done is shift the problem of oil spills like this to other people’s shores (NIMBY) while still having the danger – the likelihood – of other Exxon Valdez-type spills here. The tremendous damage – human, animal, ecological, and economic – of this spill has to add to the growing weight of argument for a shift to (1) non-polluting and renewable forms of energy, and (2) a fundamental change in patterns of lifestyle and consumption to reduce our dependence on substances and processes that are polluting our planet and rapidly diminishing the long-term sustainability of human civilization.

Ideas: The Scoop on Poop

Everybody gets so much information all day long
that they lose their common sense.
~ Gertrude Stein

Some ideas and scientific discoveries from around the internet concerning, well, shit… So here it is, the 411 on #2, coming straight at ya from the cloaca:

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More Ideas: Transportation

Everybody gets so much information all day long
that they lose their common sense.
~ Gertrude Stein

Some discussions, ideas and scientific discoveries from around the internet with implications for transportation…

Every (Ash) Cloud has a Silver Lining

Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption could transform the economics and politics of Europe: Already, the events of the last several days have revealed that we rely on air travel for far more things than we usually imagine. Things like supermarkets—all that fresh fruit—and florists. Things like symphony performances, professional soccer matches, and international relations. In fact, “European integration,” as we have come to understand it, turns out to be utterly dependent on reliable air travel. (via Slate.)

Andrew Simms – 79 months and counting …: Eyjafjallajökull provided a glimpse of a possible future in which the aviation industry’s wings have been clipped [….]

Within hours, airports all over Europe were closing as if giant master switch for the aviation industry had been flicked to off. Why? Fine dust from the vast billowing cloud thrown up by the volcano was lethal to modern jet engines. Planes that had flown through similar clouds in the past had suffered terrifying, nearly disastrous losses of power. For days Europe was grounded. ‘Five miles up the hush and shush of ash/ Yet the sky is as clean as a white slate,’ wrote the poet Carol Ann Duffy.

One of the main arteries of the modern world – cheap, ubiquitous air travel – was suddenly cut. What happened next was revelatory, and possibly a glimpse of a future world in which both climate change and strictly limited oil supplies have clipped the industry’s wings…. (via Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.)

People came up with a variety of methods of coping with the transportation chaos created by the grounding of so much plane travel following the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Monty Python’s John Cleese took what some people were calling the most expensive cab ride in history.

But this is neither an option available to most people, nor a sustainable practice. And we certainly couldn’t transport all those cut flowers from Africa to the tables of Europe in taxis. As a better alternative, let me suggest…

Bring back blimps!: The New York Times asked me and three other people the following question: ‘The Icelandic volcano that disrupted global air travel last week raised a concern: should we be thinking of alternative ways to move masses of people and goods?’ My answer: bring back blimps (and dirigibles).

Their large surface area and inherent buoyancy mean they can be run with solar-powered motors, making them eco-friendly. They can take off and land without a runway, which means they can load and unload passengers almost anywhere (no more airports!). (via Boing Boing.)

Funnily enough, I’ve read a number of science fiction novels recently in which blimps are used as a regular form of transportation – including Red Mars, Antarctica, Dark Light, and The Windup Girl. In the latter, they and technologically sophisticated sailing ships are the primary means of long-distance travel in a world devastated by “both climate change and strictly limited oil supplies.”

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New US Gasoline Mileage Standards – Too Little. Too Late?

The Obama administration has issued new guidelines on gas mileage that will require automakers to meet a fleet-wide average of 35.5 mpg (miles per gallon) by 2016:

White House Issues New Gasoline Mileage Standards

That gallon of gas is going to get you a little farther. The Obama administration signed off on the nation’s first rules on greenhouse gas emissions Thursday and set new fuel standards that will raise current standards by nearly 10 mpg by the 2016 model year.

The so-called CAFE standards, issued by the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, cover cars and trucks for model years 2012 to 2016. Automakers will be required to meet a fleet-wide average of 35.5 by 2016.

The standards forthcoming under the ‘clean car peace treaty’ are a good deal for consumers, for companies, for the country and for the planet.
– David Doniger, of the Natural Resources Defense Council

Although the new requirements would add an estimated $434 per vehicle in the 2012 model year and $926 per vehicle by 2016, drivers could save as much as $3,000 over the life of a vehicle through better gas mileage, according to a government statement. The new standards also will conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil and cut carbon dioxide emissions by nearly a billion tons over the life of the regulated models.

(via NPR. )

That 2016 figure of 35.5 mpg translates out to 6.63 litres per 100 km (L/100 km), the standard way of measuring fuel consumption standards in much of the rest of the world.

To put the new US requirement into perspective, the 2008 standard for China was 5.7L/100 km – or 41.27mpg, almost 20% better than the US standard for 2016. Other studies put current Chinese mileage at 35.8mpg – so China has already surpassed the requirement that Obama wants to implement in 6 years. And Chinese officials have announced a new target of 42.2mpg by 2015. Europe is implementing a requirement for an even lower standard of 5L/100 km by 2012. So… the new requirement for the US fleet basically sucks.

China to Impose Stricter Gas Mileage Rules Than U.S.: “The president of China’s Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation has said that Chinese officials are drafting new mileage standards that would require an 18 percent improvement in fuel economy by 2015. New cars in China already average about 35.8 mpg and under the new rules, would be required to get 42.2 mpg by 2015. The new U.S. standards require an average mgp of 35.5 by 2016.”

With this kind of attitude on the part of one of the major players, it isn’t really surprising that the Copenhagen conference did so poorly. And as to that, a recent study has found that if the agreed-upon principles that came out of Copenhagen are followed, the world will experience a rise of 3 degrees celsius, rather than the 2 degrees which is seen as crucial if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change effects.

‘Paltry’ Copenhagen carbon pledges point to 3C world.
Pledges made at December’s UN summit in Copenhagen are unlikely to keep global warming below 2C, a study concludes.

Writing in the journal Nature, analysts at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research in Germany say a rise of at least 3C by 2100 is likely.

(via BBC News.)

Not only are these new US fuel consumption standards a case of too little, and possibly too late, but the Obama administration’s other efforts to face up to the challenge of climate change are being threatened by domestic politics – specifically, the increasingly nasty and brutish dispute over immigration:

Immigration row delays energy bill: “The high visibility roll-out tomorrow of proposed climate change legislation for America collapsed at the weekend after a Republican co-author threatened to withdraw his support for the bill in a row over immigration.

Democrats were forced to postpone the much-hyped unveiling, putting a core Obama mission in jeopardy and further complicating international efforts to reach a deal on global warming.”

(Via guardian.co.uk.)

No wonder the rest of the world is losing patience with American foot-dragging on climate change.

To convert between miles per gallon and litres per 100 kilometres, see Convert Fuel consumption, Miles per gallon (one of many sites that will handle this and other conversions for you).

For more information on mileage standards and fuel consumption, see Fuel economy in automobiles – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

YouTube channel converting climate change sceptics

“So you have this friend who just doesn’t seem to get global warming. Showing him pictures of polar bears stranded on icebergs generates no sympathy. He is unmoved by computer images of New York under water. Could he really be a right-wing crackpot, unwilling to face the fact that the Earth is doomed?”

get it while it’s hot at How my YouTube channel is converting climate change sceptics | guardian.co.uk.

Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine [UPDATED]

“Most Americans have never heard of Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the country, because it has no Koch-branded consumer products, sells no shares on the stock market and has few of the disclosure requirements of a public company. Although Koch intentionally stays out of the public eye, it is now playing a quiet but dominant role in a high-profile national policy debate on global warming.” Continue reading

Reading List: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi [updated]

The Windup Girl - coverThe Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi has been hailed as “2010’s science fiction ‘it’ book” (here) and one of the finest science fiction novels of the year. It’s been nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards as best novel. And Time Magazine named it one of the Top 10 Fiction Books in their year-end round up of the “Top 10 of Everything.” Despite all this (well-deserved) critical acclaim as a work of science fiction, though, Windup Girl seemed at times disturbingly topical — far too close to non-fiction, given the harsh, dystopia future it depicts.

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FOUR YEARS. GO. – But where? and how will we get there? and who exactly is paying?


FOUR YEARS. GO. is a new campaign for social change that has been generating some buzz among my friends and acquaintances. As so often in the past, I have to be the hold-out, the cynic in the group.

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Reimagining Socialism: A Nation Forum

Socialism’s all the rage. “We Are All Socialists Now,” Newsweek declares. As the right wing tells it, we’re already living in the U.S.S.A. But what do self-identified socialists (and their progressive friends) have to say about capitalism’s current troubles? We’ve asked them, and you can read their spirited replies in the forum that follows this essay. –The Editors

Reimagining Socialism: A Nation Forum.

Although a year old now, this special forum in The Nation is well-worth reading – not just by people favorably inclined toward socialism, but by anyone who has been made scared for the future and angry about the present by the double-whammy of the financial crisis and the escalating urgency of doing something about climate change.

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Event: Panel Discussion on “Prospects for Winning in an Age of Crisis”

16 March at 7.30pm

To celebrate the publication of two new books discussing the state of ‘the movement’ in this current age of ecological and financial meltdown, what does it mean to win, and how we might actually do so, the panelists will provoke a discussion on these weighty topics of the day..

Panellists include:

Tadzio Mueller and Gifford Hartman of the Turbulence Collective
Sasha Lilley, editor of ‘In and Out of Crisis’ and the new Spectre imprint.
Andrej Grubacic, historian, fellow-traveller with People’s Global Action and co-author of ‘ Wobblies & Zapatistas’

logo for Moe's Books in BerkeleyMoe’s Books
2476 Telegraph Avenue Berkeley
(510) 849-2087

The Anti-Fridge

fridge photo from edible geography blog

artificial refrigeration has radically redefined our relationship with fresh food, and not necessarily for the better.
via The Anti-Fridge.

This post/article by Nicola Twilley in edible geography has a fascinating discussion of the impact of refrigeration on our understanding of freshness, as part of a larger discussion of designer Jihyun Ryou’s project at Design Academy Eindhoven, Save Food From The Refrigerator.

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Climate change could kill 500,000 a year by 2030

Climate change could kill 500,000 a year by 2030 – 29 May 2009 – New Scientist

A new report on The Human Impact of Climate Change issued last week by the Global Humanitarian Forum concludes that climate change is already responsible for approximately 300,000 deaths a year, 90% of them in the developing world. Continue reading