Climate Awareness Shift?

Occasionally I have to fly for my day job. I’m not a huge fan of it – I can handle the actual act of flying, but I hate the whole experience, from the pre-boarding body search to the crammed-in-a-seat-built-for-someone-two-feet-shorter-than-me. Not to mention that it is the worst way to travel if you care about the climate. Alas, I still have to do it from time to time (though I am trying to phase it out all together).

I recently had to fly down to Davis, CA for a site visit on a project of mine in construction. While waiting to board my flight I talked with a gentleman from outside Tulsa, Oklahoma on his way home. He lamented on the horrible destruction of the tornados that recently hit the area. We talked briefly of the sporadic and crazy weather there and elsewhere. Then I said the two ominous words in any discussion with a stranger: “climate change.”

In all honesty, and to my own personal shame, I expected this man from the south to call me a lunatic or spout off some climate denier propaganda. But to his credit he nodded in agreement, as did another lady next to us who was listening in.

I went on to say that our atmospheric CO2 concentration is now at 394ppm and in order to maintain a planet in which life evolved and is accustomed too, the maximum safe level is 350ppm. Neither of my fellow travels appeared to be aware of this fact, there was shock on their face when I explained the numbers.

The women to my right speculated that we will evolve, but I felt compelled to correct her. All evidence is the the contrary. We’ve stamped out life on Earth quicker and with more vigor not seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs. There are absolutely no guarantees of our survival going forward.

Flooding in Pakistan, drought in Texas (and Pakistan), record tornados in Oklahoma and elsewhere the likes of which has never before been seen in record history. All pointing to the fact that climate change has arrived, it’s no longer “on it’s way.” Because of all of this (not to mention that it’s undeniable science, really) I feel more and more that the “debate,” for which I no longer bother engaging in with climate deniers, might finally be coming to an end soon. We all see the craziness now. We’ve entered into a new geologic era. Perhaps now our lifestyles can finally shift.

The gentlemen from Tulsa asked me if I worked in this area or if I was just interested in the subject. “Concerned, deeply,” I replied. “I have a young son, how could I not be concerned?” We all nodded in agreement. As Mark Hertsgaard says in his book Hot:Living Through The Next Fifty Years On Earth, taking action against climate change is now “part of a parent’s job description, no less vital than tending to your child’s diet, health or eduction.” The tides of awareness are changing. Are you coming along?

Growth Isn’t Possible

Growth Will Kill Us All, If The Hamster Doesn't Get Us First

The new economics foundation (nef) has released a report title Growth Isn’t Possible, which is available for free download (pdf here) or purchase in a bound copy. The low-down is simple: in order to maintain the international goal of avoiding an increase of 2°C in global temperatures from carbon emissions we must stop economic growth. Basically, economic growth will kill us if we don’t “change our economy to live within its environmental budget.”

nef figures that with a growth rate of only 3%, the global economics “carbon intensity” would need to decrease by 95% by 2050 from 2002 levels. This requires an average annual reduction of 6.5%, which is even optimistically impossible in the best of circumstances. All of the “magic bullets” in the public discourse: carbon capture, nuclear, geo-engineering, et cetera are “dangerous distractions from more human-scale solutions.”

Sure, our carbon intensity has nearly flatlined in the last few years, but we need to reverse this trend not flatten out or encourage growth. Technological efficiencies can help, but physical laws limit the amount of efficiency you can pump out of any system. Worse yet, we’ll never match growth in efficiency with even mild economic growth that our system has been designed to need. It’s simple mathematics, which neoclassical economists have never been good at in the first place.

A broader support for community-scale projects like decentralized energy systems are needed over the pipe dreams currently getting all the political attention and funding. nef’s research shows that in order to prevent runaway climate change we need to change. An economy that took into account environmental thresholds will be more likely able to not only avoid runaway climate change but provide improved human well-being in the future.

Continue reading “Growth Isn’t Possible”

350 or Bust!

Today is a Global Day of Action on Climate Change. Today we make a stand and show our governments that we want strong, binding, decisive climate action at Copenhagen in December. Today I am taking the second day of testing for my professional engineering license (not easy stuff, nor much fun), so my 350 action was limited to: (1) wearing a 350 T-Shirt to the exam, (2) putting 350 bumper stickers in public places, and (3) posting here. All three are now accomplished!

Here is a short video from 350.org about our need for climate change policy now:

I wish the timing was better for me, as I would have much rather been in a larger form of activism today instead of taking an 8-hour exam. I hope you are getting involved in this movement of civil disobedience, activism, and political change!

Join me at www.350.org