sexta-feira, novembro 11, 2011

Cinco anos para a porta fechar

O gráfico acima está incluído no World Energy Outlook 2011 da Agência Internacional da Energia (IEA) e mostra que em 2017 se atingem os 450ppmCO2 (se não se quiser ultrapassar esse valor, o consumo de energia terá que diminuir).

quinta-feira, junho 18, 2009

A aposta

Este é o último artigo que aqui é publicado. Consiste na descrição da aposta que fiz com o meu irmão, iniciador deste blog.

Eu aposto que no dia 1 de Janeiro de 2030 a população humana na Terra estará, pelo menos, 5% (cinco por cento) abaixo do seu máximo de sempre.

O meu irmão aposta que no dia 1 de Janeiro de 2030 a população humana na Terra estará no seu máximo conhecido.

Se a população humana na Terra, no dia 1 de Janeiro de 2030, estiver menos do que 5% abaixo do seu máximo de sempre, nenhum de nós ganha ou perde a aposta.

Aquele que perder a aposta proporcionará um almoço no que fôr considerado o melhor restaurante de Portugal para a totalidade de ambas as respectivas famílias.

Esse almoço terá lugar num dia a combinar do primeiro trimestre de 2030. Considera-se restaurante qualquer casa onde sejam servidas refeições a troco de dinheiro ou géneros. Portugal é considerado com as fronteiras de hoje. Considera-se família todos os nossos ascendentes, todos os nossos descentes e todos os que forem considerados companheiros de vida nossos e/ou dos nossos descendentes no máximo de um companheiro por cada um de nós e/ou dos nossos descendentes. Poderão ser admitidas pessoas adoptadas na família através de processos devidamente legalizados.

Esta aposta resulta da minha crença firme no colapso e na observação de que a medida mais fiável de colapso é a população.

Um cheirinho do porquê desta aposta:
The Crash Course
A River of Books
1 9

terça-feira, junho 16, 2009

Gelo fundido no tecto do mundo

The effects of climate change are dramatically illustrated at the world's "third pole", so-called because the mountain range locks away the highest volume of frozen water after the north and south poles.

The 1956 photograph of the Imja glacier, then one of the largest glaciers at an altitude of around 5,000m, shows a layer of thick ice with small meltwater ponds. But by the time Byers took his shot in 2007, much of the glacier had melted into a vast but stunning blue lake. Today, the Imja glacier, which is just 6km from Everest, continues to recede at a rate of 74m a year - the fastest rate of all the Himayalan glaciers.

Nepal's average temperature has increased by 1.5C since 1975. A major UN Environment Programme report last year warned that at current rates of global warming, the Himalayan glaciers could shrink from 500,000 square kilometres to 100,000 square kilometres by the 2030s - a prediction supported by the rate of retreat seen in Byers' pictures.

Imja is one of 27 glacial lakes in Nepal classified as potentially dangerous. If the moraines which dam the lake are breached, thousands of lives in the most densely populated Sherpa valley in Nepal are at risk from flooding and landslides.

Himalayan glaciers also feed into major Asian river systems including the Ganges, Indus, Mekong and Yangtze. If glacial meltwaters turn to a trickle, widespread droughts will threaten the 1.3 billion people that depend on water flowing in those rivers.

Captured On Camera: 50 Years Of Climate Change In The Himalayas

segunda-feira, maio 25, 2009

Visionar o futuro

Catastrophe is not the end. Unless you are a monster, the future we've inherited will break your heart. But broken hearts can be mended; life goes on, and when it does, a fierce beauty is sometimes born. The world, when all is said, is always remade by broken people who refuse hopelessness, who refuse to be overcome with sorrow, who refuse to pass on that which broke them.

As we come to grips with the awful fact that we are already committing ourselves to centuries of crisis, loss and burning, we can hew close to the knowledge that while disaster is our inheritance, transcendence can yet still be our legacy. We are all Caryatids now, and we can all dare to hope for the best.

Bruce Sterling's The Caryatids: A Review

Contabilizar a energia e a toxicidade

Some naysayers argue that solar panels don't make sense because it takes so much energy to make them--mining, smelting or refining, processing, etc. Do they really save fossil fuel energy and greenhouse gas emissions over the long run? The simple answer is yes. They save a whole lot. But then the question is: what kinds of solar panels are better than others?

Solar Carbon Payback

segunda-feira, maio 04, 2009

Medir o impacto na biosfera

Grande parte das acćões humanas andam à volta do par consumir - criar valor, ou seja, andam à volta do dinheiro. A humanidade vê-se agora confrontada com a necessidade de mudar de paradigma. A natureza tem que regressar ao centro da atenćão humana. Comecemos já a analisar as nossas acćões em termos do impacto que têm sobre a biosfera.

terça-feira, abril 14, 2009

Save the Holocene!

The Anthropocene is a proposed new geological era, meant to signal the idea that we've changed the Earth's biosphere and climate so dramatically that we've left the Holocene, the interglacial period that began 12,000 years ago. It's a catchy (if grim) concept, but one whose utility I find myself seriously questioning. I don't doubt the magnitude of human impact on the planet. Quite the opposite. I think we consistently underestimate the degree of disruption we've already caused by altering the raw biological function of nearly every corner of the Earth and changing the chemistry of its atmosphere, oceans and soils. Very little "wild" anything remains, and all that does remain exists at our sufferance and will endure only with our conscious commitment. None of this, it seems to me, is really a matter of much debate. It's just how the world is now. I get the utility of using the idea of the Anthropocene to provoke recognition of the mind-bending reality that we are transforming the very planet on which we walk. Where the Anthropocene as a concept breaks down, it seems to me, is in the implications it raises, particularly among certain crowds who seem to be saying with increasing frequency, "well, dude, we're in the Anthropocene, anything goes." The first troubling implication is that we can sketch the blueprint of an era better than the Holocene -- the era that produced the planet on which agriculture, civilization and cities arose -- and that we can geoengineer the climate at will to fit that (or any other) blueprint. Because we're really not up for the job. The reality is that modern humanity and human civilization are the fruit of a very tightly banded set of interconnected climate and biological conditions. We need a certain kind of world in order to thrive, and that world is essentially the mild, moderately wet, biologically abundant world of the Holocene. We've never left that world, and in fact we are still intimately dependent on its plenty for our very survival. We don't know of another set of conditions that would allow us to thrive on this planet. There is no human-designed set of planetary conditions that we know of that will suit us better. We don't want the Holocene to end: the whole point is that we want to go back to lower greenhouse gas concentrations in order to continue the Holocene climate indefinitely, as long as we possibly can. The second implication is that we know what we're doing well enough to get the results we want from planetary engineering, even if we don't have a better climate blueprint. We don't. The magnitude of our ignorance about even the most fundamental aspects of the planetary systems on which we depend staggers the informed mind. We're just coming to understand the climate system. We've discovered only a tiny fraction of the planet's species. We are almost still in the age of alchemy when it comes to truly understanding all the interplay of influences that make up an ecosystem. We are simply not up to the task of running the biosphere as a whole like a machine, because we don't have a copy of the operating manual, and we're probably still illiterate anyways. This may be true for generations to come. That doesn't mean that we aren't being forced to make all sorts of choices about how the planet functions. We are, effectively, choosing to screw the climate system up in some unpleasant predictable ways and some potentially disastrous unpredictable ways. Wild nature now pretty much only exists where we protect it and garden it (and this will be more true as climate change shifts habitats). A great many species will only survive if we make saving them a priority (for some, the best we can do may be to find them, freeze them and archive them, but we're not even doing that). What the planet looks like is now largely a matter of our choices. But that doesn't mean that we can choose to do anything. There's a crazy mistaken logic out there that assumes that because we're having to make real choices about the planet's climate and biosphere, we can choose anything we want, redesign the planet in any way we see fit; even that no environmental problems are even problems, because between terraforming and bioengineering, we can figure out how make new planets. I've heard the sneering comments about how environmentalists think natural systems are better because they're natural. But the reality is this: natural systems are better not because they're natural but because they're better at being ecosystems than anything we could possibly come up with in the foreseeable future -- they're more complex than we're able to understand, with creatures and relationships between creatures that have evolved into marvelous particularities of place. These elegant solutions are profoundly more intricate, complex and resilient than anything we know how to make. Preserving those ecosystems, and the species in them, is the best thing we know how to do. Humble and attentive restoration -- through a multitude of interconnected careful efforts crafted to a particular place and alive to the adaptations climate change may demand; each small, but in aggregate massive and planetary -- is the next best. Everything else is a distant, almost wishful, possibility. Our goal, in essence, is to preserve and restore the Holocene biosphere, wherever we can (and in some cases, that might mean looking back to restoring systems and relationships damaged long before the industrial era even began, through re-wilding and resurrection ecology). So, do we need to take responsibility for the planet? Yes. Do we need to take the climate in hand, and aim to release zero or less-than-zero greenhouse gasses? Yes. Do we need to garden nature, greatly reducing our demands on ecosystem services and preserving wild biological hotspots but also practicing adaptive restoration and so on? Yes. But our goal in all of this ought to be clear: preserve the planet on which humanity evolved, and, even more importantly, the planetary era whose attributes underpin everything we now are. Our goal should be, simply, to save the Holocene. Alex SteffenApril 6, 2009 9:07 AM

quarta-feira, março 25, 2009

Please, get The Key Messages!

Copenhagen, Denmark: Following a successful International Scientific Congress Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decisions attended by more than 2,500 delegates from nearly 80 countries, preliminary messages from the findings were delivered by the Congress' Scientific Writing Team. The conclusions will be published into a full synthesis report June 2009. The conclusions were handed over to the Danish Prime Minister Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen today. The Danish Government will host the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2009 and will hand over the conclusions to the decision makers ahead of the Conference.

The six preliminary key messages are:

Key Message 1: Climatic Trends

Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised. For many key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.

Key Message 2: Social disruption

The research community is providing much more information to support discussions on "dangerous climate change". Recent observations show that societies are highly vulnerable to even modest levels of climate change, with poor nations and communities particularly at risk. Temperature rises above 2C will be very difficult for contemporary societies to cope with, and will increase the level of climate disruption through the rest of the century.

Key Message 3: Long-Term Strategy

Rapid, sustained, and effective mitigation based on coordinated global and regional action is required to avoid "dangerous climate change" regardless of how it is defined. Weaker targets for 2020 increase the risk of crossing tipping points and make the task of meeting 2050 targets more difficult. Delay in initiating effective mitigation actions increases significantly the long-term social and economic costs of both adaptation and mitigation.

Key Message 4 - Equity Dimensions

Climate change is having, and will have, strongly differential effects on people within and between countries and regions, on this generation and future generations, and on human societies and the natural world. An effective, well-funded adaptation safety net is required for those people least capable of coping with climate change impacts, and a common but differentiated mitigation strategy is needed to protect the poor and most vulnerable.

Key Message 5: Inaction is Inexcusable

There is no excuse for inaction. We already have many tools and approaches ? economic, technological, behavioural, management ? to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. But they must be vigorously and widely implemented to achieve the societal transformation required to decarbonise economies. A wide range of benefits will flow from a concerted effort to alter our energy economy now, including sustainable energy job growth, reductions in the health and economic costs of climate change, and the restoration of ecosystems and revitalisation of ecosystem services.

Key Message 6: Meeting the Challenge

To achieve the societal transformation required to meet the climate change challenge, we must overcome a number of significant constraints and seize critical opportunities. These include reducing inertia in social and economic systems; building on a growing public desire for governments to act on climate change; removing implicit and explicit subsidies; reducing the influence of vested interests that increase emissions and reduce resilience; enabling the shifts from ineffective governance and weak institutions to innovative leadership in government, the private sector and civil society; and engaging society in the transition to norms and practices that foster sustainability.

Calculating the Gross National Trash

It’s only a matter of time before the story of GNT gets told, and the public recognizes that for every pound of trash that ends up in municipal landfills, at least 65 more pounds are created upstream by industrial processes -- and that a lot of this waste is far more dangerous to environmental and human health than our newspapers and grass clippings. At that point, the locus of concern could shift away from beverage containers, grocery bags, and the other mundane junk of daily life to what happens behind the scenes -- the production, crating, storing, and shipping of the goods we buy and use. And interested parties may start asking questions.

Carbon Sinks Losing The Battle With Rising Emissions

“Forests, grasslands and oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere faster than ever but they are not keeping pace with rapidly rising emissions,” says CSIRO scientist and co-chair of the Global Carbon Project, Dr Mike Raupach.

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic

This is a complete listing of the articles in "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic," a series by Coby Beck containing responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming. There are four separate taxonomies; arguments are divided by:


The New York Times reported that, according to President Obama, the government’s failure to inspect 95 percent of food processing plants "is a hazard to the public health." “In the end, food safety is something I take seriously, not just as your president, but as a parent,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. Key in this process is bill HR 875, which was introduced by Rosa DeLauro whose husband Stanley Greenburg works for Monsanto. The bill is monstrous on level after level, as Lynn Cohen-Cole comments on "The power it would give to Monsanto, the criminalization of seed banking, the prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers, the 24 hours GPS tracking of their animals, the easements on their property to allow for warrantless government entry, the stripping away of their property rights, the imposition by the filthy, greedy industrial side of anti-farming international "industrial" standards to independent farms - the only part of our food system that still works, the planned elimination of farmers through all these means. "

In short, organic farmers can be arrested for growing tomatoes. Food safety Obama style? More information you can find here:

NYT: President Plans Team to Overhaul Food Safety

About Rosa DeLauro

About HR 875

Presenting the TIMU architecture

The Terra international reserve currency is the basis of the Terra International Monetary Union - the TIMU system. Each nation will have its carbon account become a line in their balance of payments which will be administered by the proposed World Central Bank (WCB), roughly in the same way as the European Central Bank does for the European Monetary Union. This bank with a democratically chosen Board of Governors will have two additional functions, one dealing with credit and the other with liquidity. It will monitor credit creation around the world, so that a credit crisis of the present scope cannot occur again. The Bank will also monitor hedge funds and promote transparency and accountability in the global financial services sector, seeing to it that risks are combined with responsibilities. It will promote the abolition of offshore banking and the transition of privately-owned banking systems to publicly owned banking systems. The bank will also engage in making available extra liquidity, somewhat in the same way as the Special Drawing Rights of the old International Monetary Fund. Though the proposed World Central Bank does not tell the nations who have signed and ratified the TIMU Treaty how to deal with their credit creation institutions, it will advocate the abolishment of fractional banking. James Robertson of the New Economics Foundation has testified to that effect to the UK government—the host of the G20 Summit on April 2 in London. He thinks, like me, that the present privatized banking system operates on two conflicting goals: money creation and at the same time competing with one another. No wonder that the most “imaginative” bankers go into the nirvana of impossible derivatives! Besides fixed exchange rates that are based on the Terra international reserve currency the TIMU architecture has as its sixth component a bioregional economics and frugal trade approach. What this means is that living well within one’s own region as much as possible becomes an economic objective rather than building an export-oriented economy with its concomitant consequences of outsourcing and global corporate control. The Washington Consensus with its “unholy trinity” of the IMF, the World Bank and WTO is disappearing and as Mr. Gordon Brown stated in his address to a Joint Session of the US Congress on March 4, no ideological barriers are to stand in the way to find the proper solution. Though he mentioned the challenge of the climate crisis he did not mention, in his address and elsewhere in recent days, using the resolution of the climate crisis as a way to resolve the economic crisis. Much work has to be done particularly by civil society to make that happen as we will see in the final article on mobilizing for the Terra solution and its TIMU architecture. Mobilizing for the TIMU international monetary system The year 2009 may become an axial or pivotal year in the history of humankind and of the Earth. Decisions that are going to be made at the G20 Summit in London on April 2, the UN Negotiating Conference in early June and the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen in December are going to set the direction for the next couple of decades and, perhaps, for this century. They are going to contribute to or delay the major historic challenge of the sustainability revolution that was described in article 3 of this INSnet series. They will determine the fate of millions of people who are suffering through the economic recession and deepening climate crisis. A mass movement of enlightened government, business and civil society individuals and organizations is needed to make transformational changes; simply reforming present structures is not enough. The 300 year old privately owned banking systems have to be subjected to global scrutiny in a wide ranging public debate. It is not only governments and business that have to engage in transformation, it is also civil society and, in last instance, every individual person. I have suggested to one of America’s best radio programs, Democracy Now, that they take the initiative in the USA in organizing this public debate, because these monetary and financial decisions are key decisions in which participatory decision-making is to be key. Technical resources for this mobilization can be found in websites such as where former governmental monetary planner Mr. James Robertson’s testimony to Mr. Gordon Brown can be found about removing fractional banking and the establishment of a non-national international reserve currency, where economist Hazel Henderson has a column on global economic reform, where you can also find a two-fold petition to this effect besides much of the extended information that underlies this short series. An appendix of Resources will be part of my forthcoming book entitled–TIMU: The Transformative Approach to Monetarily Solve the Economic Crisis by Solving the Climate Crisis, to be published this summer by Cosimo Publishing. Frans C. Verhagen, M.Div., M.I.A., Ph.D., sustainability sociologist, International Institute of Monetary Transformation. New York City March 2009

Building confidence for the economy

Trust and confidence are the socio-psychological attributes that everyone considers to be essential to get the local and global economies going. How do you build them if the population does not have confidence in their politicians, let alone their banking executives? No confidence building can take place without political and economic leaders basing their policies on equity and sustainability. People have to see and experience fairness. They have to see and experience social, economic and ecological sustainability rather than some short-term measures and rhetoric. How can that be done? In last instance it can and has to be done by implementing values that humanity at this juncture in its history considers essential. Which are those values? We do have the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, recently, the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights and a Human Rights Council. We also have a 21st century successor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the emerging Earth Charter which integrates the social and ecological values within a framework of the community of life. Humans are members of this Earth Community and they are not necessarily the most important ones in maintaining the Earth’s processes of the flowing of energy, the cycling of matter and the webbing of life. Without microbes there would not be life on planet Earth!

It is the primacy of values and principles over methods that should guide societies in building confidence and trust. Finally, building confidence and trust within the value context described above and taking measures such as the reversal of privately-owned banking systems to publicly owned banking systems, including central banks such as the US Federal Reserve Bank is to be pursued within the largest historical challenge of the sustainability revolution. What that means and the most important question in that regard is succinctly expressed by the first US EPA Administrator in the early 1970s. The Terra solution

Terra (Latin for Earth) is the name that I have given to the new international reserve currency that is based, not upon gold, nails, cowries or a basket of major currencies or commodities, but on carbon emissions permits or CEPs. These CEPS would be allocated on an equal basis to all adults on the planet—perhaps we should include youngsters because they sometimes have a heavy carbon footprint also —using the methodology of Cap and Share, The targets of carbon reduction will determine the amount of CEPs each adult receives; the carbon price on the world market will determine the value of the CEPs. The Terra solution was raised publicly on January 15 during the first session of the UN Department of Information (DPI) where both the senior advisor, Dr. Michael Clark, and Ambassador Sofia Clark were representing the UN General Assembly President's Commission on Monetary and Financial Crises to the NGO community at UN Headquarters. In response to my comment that followed a question of how the Committee was dealing with the climate crisis and that suggested that member states establish an international reserve currency based upon carbon emissions and which would be made part of a nation’s balance of payments, Dr. Clark reacted very positively by calling the suggestion “brilliant”. Later on during the session he referred back to it as an example of how the NGO community can contribute to the Commission’s work. There is general agreement that the new international reserve currency is not to be bound to a nation such as the USA or to a region such as the EU. Many suggestions are being made to peg the currency to non-emission standards. From John Maynard Keynes in 1944 with his “bancor” to several others in the sixties and seventies, to Joseph Stiglitz who has for some time been suggesting a “global greenback” for that purpose. Irish economist Richard Douthwaite and I are among the main scholars/activists who are advocating an emission based currency unit. It is understandable that earlier scientists and statesmen have not chosen to base their currency unit on emissions, because it is only in the last decade or so that the climate crisis has been hitting home. Frans C. Verhagen, M.Div., M.I.A., Ph.D., sustainability sociologist International Institute of Monetary Transformation. New York City, March 2009

terça-feira, março 10, 2009

The heart of the beast is the monetary system

There is an enormous amount of pain and suffering of millions of humans and other sentient fellow creatures on account of the synchronous crises in the global financial system and in the change of the climate. This unnecessary suffering will continue to get worse in an international economic system that still enriches the few, impoverishes the many and imperils the planet.

The first phase in resolving these crises is to recognize them for what they are and what they do. While the consequences of these crises have become clear from the thousands of reports that deal with these crises, what the nature of these crises is has not become clear, particularly its causation in all its complexity. So, the second phase is an unbiased analysis in which analysts make explicit their values, perspectives, biases. The third phase builds on the first two: developing policies and plan of action based upon the best integrated thinking humanity has to offer. The final phase is to work for its implementation. It takes courage to take a position rather than be an undecided moderate who can go either way or no way.

This series of three articles presents a solution that does not reform, but transforms the present world order. It is a “global New Deal” that is based upon the values of equity and sustainability, the only values that can lead to stability in the monetary, financial, economic systems.

It is the International Institute of Monetary Transformation’s position that this needed monetary and financial transformation cannot take place within the present structure of the IMF, World Bank, WTO, and the lesser known Bank of International Settlements (BIS). Though they are trying to assert themselves and come up with reformist proposals, they will have to move over for a lasting equitable, sustainable, and, therefore, stable monetary, financial, trading and economic system to take place.

Solving the economic and climatological crises simultaneously, not sequentially

In doing the research for my forthcoming book TIMU: The Transformative Approach to Monetarily Solve the Economic Crisis by Solving the Climate Crisis I have observed that many people of all kinds of backgrounds are very hesitant to think that both the economic and climatological crises should be tackled simultaneously. Both crises are of such magnitude that they can only be tackled sequentially is the reasoning.

I was most encouraged a couple of days ago when two of the world’s most outstanding economists, Joseph Stiglitz and Nicholas Stern, published the following statement when they were meeting in Washington D.C. on March 2. They stated: “We face two crises: a deep global financial crisis, caused by inadequate management of risk in the financial sector; and an even deeper climate crisis, the effects of which may seem more distant but will be determined by the actions we take now. The scale of risk from climate change is altogether of a different and greater magnitude, as are the consequences of mismanaging or ignoring it.

The US, in particular, has a window of opportunity to act on the financial crisis and, at the same time, lay the foundations for a new wave of growth based on the technologies for a low-carbon economy. President Barack Obama, in his speech to Congress and budget last week, explained that we need to address both of these challenges, and outlined a broad approach. US leadership could generate a powerful response from across the world, making possible an agreement at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen in December on a scale necessary to manage the risks involved.”

Given that the two economists believe the “scale of risk from climate change is altogether of a different and greater magnitude” than the risk of the economic meltdown it stands to reason that we look at solving the climate crisis first if we can and then consider the connections with the economic crisis. It is the institutional nexus of binding the resolution of both crises together that is being proposed in the Terra Solution and its monetary architecture.

Thus, among climate community activists and scholars, discussing the pros and cons of arbon reduction methodologies of cap&trade and the carbon tax I have been trying to introduce the third option: the Terra international reserve currency which is based on carbon emission permits which form part of a nation’s balance of payments. Like the other two methods the Terra carbon reduction option also reduces carbon emissions. However, the Terra option connects with the economic crisis because the Terra international reserve currency represents real money that will flow from ecological debtor countries in the global North to ecological creditor countries in the global South. It would institutionally guarantee funding for development and pay for mitigation and adjustment costs of the climate crisis in the global South.

When the two economists above pointed to the inadequate (should it not be grievous?) mismanagement of the banking sector as the main cause of the economic crisis, they and almost everyone else fail to mention that in almost all countries the banking system is privately owned. Thus, in the USA, the Federal Reserve Bank with its 12 regional banks is owned by private banks which have managed, since 1913, to be legally in the business of money creation which is the duty, right and responsibility of the public sector. They create money by the fractional reserve system which can multiply a deposit of $1000 ten times. In the discussions about the banking crisis in the USA, Europe and elsewhere (not in China, India) bailouts and even temporary nationalization are seen as solutions.

However, what is needed is a reversal of privately-owned banking systems to publicly owned banking systems, including central banks such as the US Federal Reserve Bank. A most important book in this regard is EH Brown’s The Web of Debt. The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free. Benjamin Franklin, President Lincoln, political parties in the 1890s and even President Kennedy for some time managed to have the public sector implementing its constitutional right of coinage.

Frans C. Verhagen, M.Div., M.I.A., Ph.D., sustainability sociologist International Institute of Monetary Transformation. New York City, March 2009

quinta-feira, fevereiro 26, 2009

Não há hipótese

terça-feira, fevereiro 03, 2009

North American Trees Dying Twice as Fast

Our trees are dying. Throughout the western United States, cherished and protected forests are dying twice as fast as they did 20 years ago because of climate change, researchers reported in the journal Science. Fire did not kill these trees, nor did some massive insect outbreak. The trees in this wide-ranging study were "undisturbed stands of old growth forests", said Jerry Franklin, a professor of forest resources at the University of Washington and one of 11 co-authors of the report.

"The data in this study is from our most stable, resilient stands of trees," Franklin told IPS.

What this means is that the United States' best forests are getting thinner.

It is like a town where the birth rate is stable but the mortality rate for all ages doubled over the past two decades. "If that was happening in your hometown you'd become very concerned," said Nate Stephenson, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

This dramatic increase of in tree mortality applies to all kinds, sizes, ages and locations of trees. In the Pacific Northwest and southern British Columbia, the rate of tree death in older coniferous forests doubled in 17 years. In California, doubling mortality rates took a little longer at 25 years. For interior states it took 29 years.

Mortality has increased in lock-step with rising temperatures of about 1 degree C in the last 30 years. Air pollution and ground level ozone were investigated and eliminated as the cause of the increased mortality, Stephenson told IPS.

Warmer temperatures in the west have meant the summer drought period is longer. The mountain snow pack contains less snow and melts much earlier in the spring. Warmer temperatures also favour insects like tree-damaging beetles. The combination of trees suffering moisture stress and a few more insect pests appears to be enough to tip the balance, said Tom Veblen of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

"We're seeing continental-scale evidence of warming," Veblen said. "It is very likely tree mortality will increase further as temperatures continue to rise."

Previous research has shown global warming is largely responsible for the enormous increase in forest fires in the west and the massive insect outbreaks like that of the mountain pine beetle, expected to kill 80 percent of the pine forest in Canada's province of British Columbia by 2013.

Forests of all kinds contain more than 80 percent of Earth's terrestrial biodiversity. Not only do they absorb carbon, forests produce 30 percent of the world's oxygen. They are also a key part of the planet's climate regulating system. About half of the world's forests are already gone.

Carbon emissions from burning of fossil fuels is warming temperatures globally but forests play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere and sequester or trap carbon. As a result, forests around the world store as much carbon as is currently in the atmosphere.

Dead trees release that stored carbon. If the mortality rate of big trees goes up, then North America's forests become a source of carbon emissions, leading to even higher temperatures and still thinner forests in a feedback loop.

"At best they will take up less carbon from the atmosphere," said Franklin. "Older, stable forests should be left alone. We don't want to accelerate this process."

Large old growth trees hold far more carbon than young, fast growing trees and so there is no way to recover the carbon lost from logging old growth, he said. Government policies should reflect this reality. Preserving old growth forests must be part of the international climate agreement that will be negotiated in Copenhagen, he said.

Surprisingly, this is the first large-scale analysis of mortality rates in temperate forests but Franklin believes the increase in mortality is widespread and applies to forests everywhere.

Logging aside, the fact that forests are dying is not new. Scientists have known since the 1980s that temperate forests were suffering from pollutants such as acid rain, nitrogen deposition and increased ground-level ozone, as well as higher ultraviolet radiation levels. While invisible to nearly everyone, the slow decline of U.S. forests was well-documented in a 1995 book "The Dying of the Trees" by science writer Charles E. Little.

Based on the science of the day, Little accurately predicted that the western U.S. would burn and deserts would expand and that sugar maples would largely vanish from the northeast in the near future. And, particularly because of global warming, he regretfully concluded that temperate forests had crossed a threshold. "And the more trees die, the more will die," he wrote.

Scientists working in tropical forests now say these forests are extremely sensitive to increases in temperature. The vast majority of tropical forests exist where the annual average temperature is 25 to 26C. Before the end of this century temperatures in tropical regions are projected to be 3C higher. No forest exists anywhere where the annual average temperature is 28C, Joseph Wright of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama told IPS in a previous interview.

"That doesn't mean something else won't replace tropical forests, but we don't know what it will be," said Wright.

Major reductions in carbon emissions and deforestation are urgently needed, the experts all agree. Little said the same thing 14 years ago. But he also said that humanity needed to begin the process of environmental repair: "The trees could save us, if we would save the trees, for they are the threshold."

By Stephen Leahy

Global Warming: Tree Deaths Have Doubled Across The Western U.S.

terça-feira, janeiro 13, 2009

6 Reasons Why Nuclear Power Can't Save Us

The following is an excerpt from The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience by Rob Hopkins.

1. Length of time to come on stream

Commissioning and building new plants is a time-consuming business (at least twenty years), so they would have little or no impact on cutting emissions over the next twenty years, nor build any resilience in the face of peak oil.

2. Insurance

The insurance industry refuses to underwrite nuclear power, a gap it looks like the government will have to fill, resulting in a huge invisible subsidy for nuclear power.

3. Waste

Nuclear waste is a huge problem. The UK alone has 10,000 tons of nuclear waste, a pile which will increase 25-fold when the existing plants are decommissioned, with no solution in sight other than deep burial. The disposal of nuclear waste requires a great deal of embodied energy, including that in the materials used to maintain the disposal facilities (i.e. concrete and steel). It is often said that nuclear waste has a half-life of 100,000 years…it is worth remembering that Stonehenge was built only 4,000 years ago.

A society in energy descent, dependent on local, lower embodied energy building materials, will struggle to maintain nuclear waste sites with cob blocks and straw bales.

4. Cost

A new programme of nuclear power would be staggeringly expensive. Amory Lovins has calculated that 10 cents invested in nuclear energy could generate 1kwh of nuclear energy, 1.2- 1.7kwh wind-power, 2.2-6.5kwh small co-generation, or 10kwh of energy efficiency. Also, having sufficient money to invest so unwisely assumes an economy which is still growing, an increasingly unlikely prospect.

5. Peak Uranium

At the moment, there are about 60 years’ worth of uranium left. However, if electricity generation from nuclear grows steadily, this figure will fall, to the point where if all the world’s electricity were generated with nuclear, we’d have around 3 years supply left.

6. Carbon Emissions

Nuclear is often said to be a carbon-free way of generating electricity. While that may be true for the actual generation, it is not when the entire process is looked at. The mining, processing, enrichment, treatment and disposal all have significant impacts, equivalent to around one-third those of a conventional- sized gas-fired generating plant.

quarta-feira, janeiro 07, 2009

Porque acredito na inevitabilidade do colapso?

Porque é muitíssimo mais difícil mudar uma sociedade do que mudar uma pessoa. Em demasiados casos, uma pessoa viciada em algo, apesar de saber que o vício lhe causa problemas de saúde, prefere manter o vício em vez de mudar o seu modo de vida. Não conhećo sociedade humana nenhuma que tenha mudado sem passar por um colapso. Muitas vezes, após o colapso de uma sociedade, surge outra que também colapsa. Por exemplo, veja-se a história de Idanha-a-Velha, Portugal, ou de Ávila, Espanha. Outro exemplo interessante é o apresentado por Thomas Homer-Dixon no livro "The Upside of Down": Baalbek, Líbano, onde o maior pedregulho jamais esculpido pelo homem nunca chegou a sair da pedreira (ver também isto). Este exemplo torna-se ainda mais interessante face à recente actividade isrealita na Faixa de Gaza. Ver, por exemplo, Robert Fisk: Why do they hate the West so much, we will ask. Por um lado, os conflitos recentes no Líbano, Israel, Palestina, Jordânia, Síria, Iraque, Irão, Paquistão, e Afeganistão são sintomas do recolapso da região onde nasceu a civilizaćão humana. O colapso desta região só não é mais rápido por causa do petróleo que ainda está lá. Por outro lado, a opinião maioritariamente vigente no mundo é que os Isrealitas "estão a defender-se". Ora isto é tão absurdo como dizer que "não há aquecimento global". Não acredito que o mundo inteiro actue efectivamente contra as catástrofes convergentes pois nem sequer consegue fazer a paz na situaćão tão claramente injusta do conflito israelo-palestiniano.

segunda-feira, outubro 13, 2008

Deep Green - September 2008

Economy and ecology

Money bomb - wealth going offGlobal economic systems crash not only because of greed, fraud and toxic assets, but because those systems rest on fallacies about the natural world. The Ponzi scams and derivatives swindles of international bankers are no substitute for real economy: the living ecological systems, energy, soils, minerals, forests, and seas.

The self-serving theories of growthaholic economists peel away from this deep reality like cheap wallpaper. Since the days of Akhenaten and Caesar, overfed profiteers have insisted that their elite and esoteric genius creates wealth. When they salted the soils or decimated forests, they would march into the next watershed or “discover” another continent.

Those days are over. There are no more giant resource pools to plunder. The wealth of Pharaohs and stock hustlers arrived not from their genius, but from their facility with deception, fashioning loans with fantasy money, and trading bets on the changing value of paper promises, the modern “derivatives” market. But in the end, all this affluence relies on the real wealth: nature, her systems, her materials, and her energies.

Markets will rally and crash again, and paper pushers will stuff more cash into their safety deposit boxes, but in the end, money cannot replace soil and water. Gross domestic products provide no surrogate for authentic well-being.

As world stock markets collapsed this fall, several urgent environmental events rumbled below the superficial hand-wringing, like deep volcanoes awakening to announce, “Nature shall not be mocked.”

It’s the soil, folks

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us,” wrote American ecologist Aldo Leopold five decades ago. “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Economists ignored, even ridiculed, such warnings from ecologists, and the planet now faces a shortage of fertile soil, the result of erosion, salination, contamination, desertification, and a swelling population. UN Agriculture head, Lennart Bage, announced last summer, “Fertile land with access to water has become a strategic asset.” It always has been, for everything that lives.

This year, Iran bought over 1 million tons of wheat from the US, something it has not done since 1980. Iran would not come begging to its avowed enemy if it had any other option. Iran, the Saudis, and other oil-rich Middle East nations rely on global agriculture for grain. The United Arab Emirates buy farmland in Sudan and Kazakhstan. South Korea seeks land in Mongolia, China in Southeast Asia. Libya leases farms in the Ukraine.

With the closing of Ukrainian shipments, only three major grain exporters remain: North America, Australia, and New Zealand. However, these global producers rely entirely on fertilisers and fossil fuels. However, the production of phosphorus, principal component of fertiliser, is rare and in decline, and the era of cheap energy is coming to an end.

The big bonfire

Globalisation is literally running out of gas. Geologists at the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) Conference in California, in September, confirmed that world oil production has stopped growing and will begin its inevitable decline during the next decade.

A US Department of Energy study (The Hirsch Report) warned in 2005 – the year that global production plateaued – that society required a 20-year lead time to implement an optimal new energy plan. It is already too late for such a measured response, and this failure to act in time is the direct result of denial from lobbyists and economists, who chanted “eternal growth,” while obscuring or ignoring the evidence before them.

Money bomb - wealth going offConventional economic theory has claimed that resources are virtually infinite, that only capital and labour are required to create “wealth.” Oil depletion exposes this tragic conceit. Oil production declined last year in eight of the top twelve producing nations. Every major oil field on the planet is in decline, and global discoveries peaked 40 years ago.

Meanwhile, economic growth promoters expect humanity to double its vehicle fleet over the next decade, from 1 billion to 2 billion vehicles, while building more roads across arable farmland.

Wind and solar power developments will help mitigate the coming energy crunch, but will not replace cheap liquid fuels. Biofuels will have certain localised value, if based on agricultural waste, but will prove insignificant on a globalised scale. Corn ethanol undermines food agriculture, and will not remotely replace cheap oil. Cellulose and algae biofuel projects cannot even produce net energy, so they are not economic at any price.

New oil discoveries and recovery technologies lag hopelessly behind the decline of conventional oil fields. Oil industry promoters recently proclaimed “90 billion barrels of oil” in the Arctic. However, these lobbyists failed to mention that this oil – even if it could be confirmed and recovered – represents three years of global supply.

The best and cheapest energy source is conservation. The only environmentally feasible solution to the end of cheap liquid fuels is to burn less. Analyst Randy Udall, who drafted Colorado’s Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, told the ASPO conference that energy companies have no use for conservation. Instead, they will burn more coal, make liquid fuel from coal, and melt bitumen at unearthly temperatures in low-efficiency tar sands and oil shale projects.

Udall called our era of history “the Big Bonfire.” We burn a million tons of fossil fuel every hour, releasing 80-million tons of CO2 each day. And here, we arrive at the third big crack in the growthaholics’ thin facade.

Ancient methane

According to the international Global Carbon Project, last year’s annual increase in carbon emissions, 2.9%, exceeded previous projections, “generating stronger climate forcing and sooner than expected.” All the international gatherings, carbon-trading festivals, and Kyoto handshakes have failed to reduce carbon emissions or even stabilise the growth rate of these emissions.

Meanwhile, in September, Orjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University – with the International Siberian Shelf Study, sponsored by the Russian Science Academy and American Geophysical Union – announced evidence that millions of tons of a methane gas – 25 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas – now escapes into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed. As the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned, the deep permafrost appears now to be thawing.

Scientists on board Russian research ship Jacob Smirnitskyi recorded methane bubbling to the sea surface, causing air-borne concentrations 100-times background levels. Ten previous expeditions since 2003 did not detect these levels of free methane. The new data describes releases so intense that the methane does not have time to dissolve in seawater but rises as bubbles to the ocean surface. Similar releases have been recorded in the East Siberian and Laptev Seas, amounting to millions of tons of methane from melting sub-sea permafrost.

The escaping methane represents a massive exhalation of ancient hydrocarbons likely captured in the Paleozoic warm era when amphibians crawled from the sea. The carbon escaped once before, during the Permian ecological collapse, 225 million years ago, leading to peak Mesozoic heat, and was recaptured as methane during the last 100 million years. Meteorologists warn that this significant store of ancient carbon could lead to run-away global warming, far beyond the influence of human technologies to sequester or forestall.

The methane represents an unaccounted cost of doing business in the era of the “big bonfire”. Market wizards may shave toxic assets from their balance sheets, but they cannot dictate nature’s accounting.


Regardless of stopgap bailouts and more paper promises, economic collapse will continue in fits and starts until humanity achieves genuine ecological balance, adopts a steady state economy, and finally understands that ecology is the foundation of human enterprise. There are only two options for living cultures in a physical system: homeostasis or collapse.

homeostasis or collapseFuture generations will have every right to dismiss the “big bonfire” as an era of ignorance and unconscionable excess. But I want future generations to know this: Many from our generation never sold you out. We kept our eyes open, witnessed the truth, and did our best to warn our bumbling, myopic civilisation.

I speak to many young people, who are terrified and/or angry about the state of the world, the wasteful extravagance of society, and needless ecological destruction. I experienced similar reactions when I learned as a child that our world could be vapourised by nuclear weapons. When we’re young, our families and teachers protected us from certain disturbing realities. If we remain naïve or ill-informed, the discovery of alarming truths about our world may create shock and outrage.

The best way to never again be disillusioned is to not be illusioned in the first place.

Economic sleight of hand won’t restore our place on this Earth. Human survival strategies now will be as much about resilience during transformation as finding “solutions” to preserve untenable expectations. Our resilience will include a rediscovery of a richer life with simpler means, a genuine quality of life that cannot be purchased but only lived. Human society can change, and in fact has to change. Don’t get depressed. Get informed and get active.

- Rex Weyler
Rex Weyler was a director of the original Greenpeace Foundation, the editor of the organisation’s first newsletter, and a cofounder of Greenpeace International in 1979. He was a photographer and reporter on the early Greenpeace whale and seal campaigns, and has written one of the best and most comprehensive histories of the organisation, Greenpeace (Raincoast, 2004). His book, Blood of the Land, a history of the American Indian Movement, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. “Deep Green” is Rex’s monthly column, reflecting on the roots of activism, environmentalism, and Greenpeace’s past, present, and future.

Fish: finished.

The world’s largest food fishery is on the verge of collapse. Pollock, used to make McDonald’s fish sandwiches, frozen fish sticks, fish and chips, and imitation crabmeat, have had a population decrease of 50 percent since last year.
Alaska Pollock Fishery Near Collapse
Billion dollar fishing industry on the verge of collapse

segunda-feira, outubro 06, 2008

Carbon offsets are no good for Business-As-Usual (BAU)

MPs attack British Airways for 'risible' attitude to carbon offsetting
The committee added that since BA's offsetting scheme was launched in 2005, BA had encouraged the purchase of only 1,600 tonnes of offsets on average each year - approximately the emissions from "four return flights to New York on a (Boeing) 777".

The report went on: "This is risible. The company clearly recognises this, and during our evidence session announced its intention to improve the prominence and accessibility of offsetting on its website from the beginning of May. At the time of our agreeing this report, this simple change had not been made."

O início do fim da era do consumo

The Age of Unbridled Consumption Just Ended

An economic storm is descending, and for many, the storm will be bad. While the Bush Administration and Congress wrestle with how to bail out Wall Street, and argue about how softly CEOs of failed financial institutions should be allowed to land, average citizens must leap into the new reality without benefit of 24-karat parachutes.

Recently, the Global Footprint Network issued a report stating that by September 23, humanity had consumed all the new resources the planet will produce for the year. For the rest of 2008, we are in the ecological equivalent of deficit spending, drawing down our resource stocks -- in essence, borrowing from the future. Sound familiar? We can't hope to keep to our economic budget if we can't keep to our ecological budget.

Whatever economy emerges from this crisis will need to put less emphasis on "more" stuff and greater emphasis on more of what matters -- like healthy communities, a healthy planet and a higher quality of life. In righting the economic ship, the end game shouldn't be to plug up a broken vessel, but to move to something more seaworthy -- one that sails within both personal and ecological limits.

segunda-feira, setembro 22, 2008

"A Realimentação Positiva" ou "O Tiro pela Culatra" ou "O Não-Linear do Milénio"

Hundreds of methane 'plumes' discovered
Half of Europe's frogs face extinction
Permafrost carbon estimates doubled A new study by a team of international scientists has revealed the amount of carbon frozen in the world's permafrost is double what was previously thought. The three-year study concluded that the amount of carbon locked up in the world's permafrost is at least 1,500 billion tonnes more than double previous estimates and the equivalent of twice the current amount of Co2 in the world's atmosphere. Permafrost is frozen soil found at high latitudes, close to the north or south poles, and contains the remains of plants and animals which due to the extreme cold do not decompose, trapping carbon in the soil. This is the most accurate assessment yet of the amount of carbon contained in worldwide permafrost but the actual amount may well be higher, says CSIRO scientist and study team member Dr Pep Canadell. "We are now in the ballpark of what probably is there, there is still a big issue and that is the depth, our database goes down to three metres for much of the permafrost ... but we know that the depths can be much greater," he said. The level of carbon contained in the world's permafrost is of particular significance to climate change as once the carbon it contains begins to be released there is no way to stop it. This could lead to a large amount of extra carbon dioxide and methane being released into the atmosphere and potentially speeding up warming, a process some climate scientists refer to as a tipping point, Dr Canadell says. "Technically, we call it the climate carbon feedback and permafrost is a beautiful one and we know that some of these processes can potentially be irreversible," he said. "Irreversible doesn't mean that all the carbon is going to go into the atmosphere right away, but it means that when it starts it's fundamentally impossible to stop. "It may take a few hundred years to melt and to release a substantial amount of carbon but there is nothing that humans can do once these things start." Dr Canadell likened the process to a massive compost pile which once started generates its own heat that would continue even if temperatures were to fall. "This is like a big compost pile, so when you start the decomposition of the compost pile, it is self heating," he said. "It's hot when you touch it so there is a point where you no longer need the external temperature driving that melting and decomposition, because the microbial community is self-generating enough heat to continue melting." The findings have been published in the latest edition of the scientific journal, Bioscience.

terça-feira, setembro 09, 2008

Depois da Tailândia

quinta-feira, julho 31, 2008

Earth Impacts Linked to Human-Caused Climate Change

A new NASA-led study shows that human-caused climate change has impacted a wide range of Earth's natural systems, from permafrost thawing to plants blooming earlier across Europe to lakes declining in productivity in Africa. Cynthia Rosenzweig of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York and scientists at 10 other institutions have linked physical and biological impacts since 1970 with rises in temperatures during that period. The study, published May 15 in the journal Nature, concludes that human-caused warming is resulting in a broad range of impacts across the globe. "This is the first study to link global temperature data sets, climate model results, and observed changes in a broad range of physical and biological systems to show the link between humans, climate, and impacts," said Rosenzweig, lead author of the study. Rosenzweig and colleagues also found that the link between human-caused climate change and observed impacts on Earth holds true at the scale of individual continents, particularly in North America, Europe, and Asia. Photograph of a forest When permafrost melts, the layer of loose soil deepens and trees lose their foundations and tip over. Similar impacts across Earth are likely due to human-caused climate change. Credit: Jon Ranson To arrive at the link, the authors built and analyzed a database of more than 29,000 data series pertaining to observed impacts on Earth's natural systems, collected from about 80 studies each with at least 20 years of records between 1970 and 2004. Observed impacts included changes to physical systems, such as glaciers shrinking, permafrost melting, and lakes and rivers warming. Impacts also included changes to biological systems, such as leaves unfolding and flowers blooming earlier in the spring, birds arriving earlier during migration periods, and ranges of plant and animal species moving toward the poles and higher in elevation. In aquatic environments such as oceans, lakes, and rivers, plankton and fish are shifting from cold-adapted to warm-adapted communities. The team conducted a "joint attribution" study in which they showed, first, that at the global scale, about 90 percent of observed changes in diverse physical and biological systems are consistent with warming. Other driving forces, such as land use change from forest to agriculture, were ruled out as having significant influence on the observed impacts. Next, the scientists conducted statistical tests and found that the spatial patterns of observed impacts closely match temperature trends across the globe, to a degree beyond what can be attributed to natural variability. So, the team concluded that observed global-scale impacts are very likely due to human-caused warming. Satellite image of Siberia Impacts from warming are evident in satellite images showing that lakes in Siberia disappearing as the permafrost thaws and lake water drains deeper into the ground. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory > Larger image "Humans are influencing climate through increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the warming is causing impacts on physical and biological systems that are now attributable at the global scale and in North America, Europe, and Asia," said Rosenzweig.

Summer Storms Could Mean More Dead Zones

Ocean dead zones are regions where water becomes stripped of its dissolved oxygen. These “hypoxic” (low oxygen) and "anoxic" (no oxygen) conditions can prove lethal for many marine species, changing the biology and chemistry of the ocean. In a few places throughout the world, dead zones occur throughout the year, but summer storms can intensify agricultural runoff, resulting in big phytoplankton blooms that trigger the phenomena. Phytoplankton are critical to life and are particularly important marine organisms. These microscopic aquatic plants are dispersed throughout the world’s oceans. The plants’ distribution is driven by available light, the presence of nutrients, and physical processes like ocean circulation and upwelling. "It’s safe to say, with a few exceptions, that all life in the ocean ultimately depends on phytoplankton for its nutrition," notes NASA oceanographer Gene Feldman, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Under certain conditions, excessive phytoplankton growth can result in a dead zone. Dead zones form when large quantities of organic matter, present from the excessive blooms of phytoplankton at the surface, sink to the bottom. After the organic matter or dead phytoplankton sink, bacteria break the dead or decaying phytoplankton down in a process known as aerobic decomposition, releasing carbon dioxide but absorbing oxygen as they work. The resulting low oxygen conditions can cover expansive areas, killing the oxygen-dependent aquatic species, such as fish, that cannot escape their reach, or driving them out of their habitat. Summer storms intensify the runoff of fertilizers from lawns and farmland, which seep into the rivers and streams that comprise a local watershed and provide a jolt of nutrients to phytoplankton that live along the shore. Excessive nutrients from human activity are one reason many dead zones occur at the mouth of large rivers and in the bays along the shore.

segunda-feira, junho 30, 2008

The simple, yes shocking, truth is that we have gone too far

We are going in the wrong direction and we have put planetary systems, all inhabitants and generations to come in grave peril. It is uncertain how long the planet can remain above the level of 350 ppm CO2 before cascading catastrophic effects spin beyond all human control. iNSnet TALLBERG

quarta-feira, maio 28, 2008

Slip of the tundra

"...frozen away in the permafrost is more carbon than the atmosphere currently contains (and much of that is in the form of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide)."

sexta-feira, maio 16, 2008

DDT comes back

Decades after most countries stopped spraying DDT, frozen stores of the insecticide are now trickling out of melting Antarctic glaciers. The change means Adélie penguins have recently been exposed to the chemical, according to a new study.

The trace levels found will not harm the birds, but the presence of the chemical could be an indication that other frozen pollutants will be released because of climate change, says Heidi Geisz, a marine biologist at Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester in the US. She led a team that sampled DDT levels in the penguins.

Melting glaciers release toxic chemical cocktail

quarta-feira, maio 14, 2008

More on water scarcity

The Socialist government, which initially opposed water transfers from one region to another, executed a political U-turn and allowed water to be pumped into Catalonia from the river Ebro in the neighbouring region of Aragon.

The move infuriated southern regions such as Murcia and Valencia, which asked for similar concessions. Both are significant agricultural areas, with a busy tourist season about to start, and expect their water supplies to be hit hard.

Meanwhile, despite heavy rainfall over the weekend water reserves in Catalonia only increased by 1.7%.

The Socialist government is following a controversial programme of building desalinisation plants, which they claim will provide a long-term solution to Spain's endemic water shortage. They have built six so far and plan a further 18. One is due to open outside Barcelona in May next year.

Ramón Llamas, a water expert at Madrid University, says Spain squanders its water and needs better soil management, adding that despite having one of the lowest amounts of rainfall in western Europe, it has one of the highest levels of water consumption a head: the average person in Madrid uses 140 litres a day.

Barcelona forced to import emergency water

sexta-feira, maio 09, 2008

Geopolitics of Climate Change

Social and political actions proceed from social and political systems. Natural systems, such as climate systems, do not influence human action directly but are mediated through the political and social systems that already direct actions. This argument entails that in order for a world characterised by climate change to develop in a stable and less conflict-prone way, there will have to be are vital international and national (state) institutions that ensure that political divisions and conflict do not take the form of violent interaction between states or sub-state actors.
The Geopolitics of Climate Change

quinta-feira, abril 17, 2008

Lurking Fascism

The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous importance, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' [participants'] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' [participants'] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.

The Milgram experiment

Our Inherent Capability for Evil

Climate change will erode foundations of health

Why oil rulers won’t go green

The economic motivation of oil producers is to maximise the total amount they can earn from reserves they control. This means that, as they decide how much fuel to supply, they will consider not just present prices, but how much they can earn based on future price levels. They have to make a choice between pumping out resources now and investing the proceeds in financial markets, or keeping the oil in the ground in the hope of higher future prices.

Oil producers must reasonably suppose that, as global warming continues and provokes ever-greater concern, restrictions on demand will grow tighter. Further alternative energy sources are also likely to be developed. So they are likely to perceive high probability of downward pressure on prices in future. The result is a strongly enhanced incentive to extract and sell resources now, to whichever country will buy them, and then to invest the proceeds. Producers may even step up production.

Professor Sinn argues persuasively that this “green paradox” may help to explain why, despite the Kyoto climate-change treaty and the environmental efforts of many countries, fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions have continued to climb unchecked. He makes the case that, unless energy-consuming nations can form a largely loophole-free united front – which seems improbable – this paradox will make a nonsense of policies such as emissions trading.

Worse, the report highlights how the unstable politics of oil-producing states in the Middle East and South America reinforces their rationale to keep pumping oil for whatever price the market sets. Since these nations’ rulers cannot be sure of staying in power indefinitely, they face an extra incentive to cash in while they can.

Why oil rulers won’t go green

'carbon bomb'

The "Turning Up the Heat" report, prepared by researchers at the University of Toronto, surveyed a variety of separate scientific studies on the boreal forest in recent years.

Canada's boreal forest, characterized by the predominance of conifers like pine and spruce, stretches in a vast curve across the country below the Arctic, from the Yukon territory in the northwest to the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland.

A 1993 study estimated it stored about 186 billion tonnes of carbon, equal to about 27 times what the world produces from burning fossil fuel each year.

Two-thirds of the carbon is stored in the forest's soil, which decays when the tree cover is removed.

Greenpeace says the carbon released as trees are harvested contributes to climate change. That, in turn, threatens the northern forest with problems such as insect outbreaks and increased forest fires that destroy more trees.

The global warming, which is often most apparent in the far north, also allows the permafrost to melt, releasing still more greenhouse gases.

Canada logging may ignite 'carbon bomb'

segunda-feira, abril 07, 2008

Dangerous assumptions

We also use the emissions-scenario building blocks in our analysis, but adopt a frozen-technology baseline to reveal the full challenge of decarbonization. Using this baseline also reveals the huge amount of emissions-reducing technological change built into the 2000 Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) and similar scenarios.

Most SRES scenarios also predict a rapid decline in energy intensity (exceeding 1.0% per year), which may be neither realistic nor achievable. To achieve a century-long 1.0% annual rate of energy intensity decline requires very large increases in energy efficiency. Even with a substantial policy effort this would be very difficult to achieve. Only about 20% (plusminus 10%) of global energy intensity decline can be expected from sectoral shifts in economic activity, such as from manufacturing to services. The rest must come from improved efficiencies in individual energy-using sectors, requiring either technology changes or new technologies.

One reason for the current rise in global energy and carbon intensities is the economic transformation taking place in the developing world, especially in China and India. As development proceeds, rural populations move to high-rise buildings that consume energy and energy-intensive materials. This process is likely to continue, not only in these countries, but all over populous south Asia, and eventually Africa, until well beyond 2050. An analysis of China's carbon-dioxide emissions estimated them to be rising at a rate of between 11% and 13% per year for the period 2000–2010, which is far higher than that assumed by the SRES scenarios for Asian emissions (2.6–4.8% per year).

Because of these dramatic changes in the global economy it is likely that we have only just begun to experience the surge in global energy use associated with ongoing rapid development. Such trends are in stark contrast to the optimism of the near-future IPCC projections and seem unlikely to alter course soon. The world is on a development and energy path that will bring with it a surge in carbon-dioxide emissions — a surge that can only end with a transformation of global energy systems. We believe such technological transformation will take many decades to complete, even if we start taking far more aggressive action on energy technology innovation today. A range of 'built-in' emissions reductions (blue) in the scenarios used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Total cumulative emissions to 2100 associated with a frozen-technology baseline are shown for: six individual scenarios, the means of these scenarios (n=6), and for all 35 IPCC scenarios, and the median of the scenario set (AR4). Additional reductions will have to be achieved by climate policy (red), assuming carbon-dioxide stabilization at about 500 parts per million (p.p.m.), leaving allowed emissions for this stabilization target (yellow).

Dangerous assumptions (Nature article)

WIGLEY: Well, in the past, energy efficiency has improved. If you look at the records over the last number of decades, even over the last century, in terms of the emissions of carbon dioxide per unit of energy, we're improving the way we produce energy. But what is a little alarming is that if you look at just the last five to ten years, those changes have gone in the other direction. Now, if you make assumptions that the changes that occurred up to say the year 2000 are going to continue in the future, and you look at what's happened over the last five years or so, that change towards greater efficiency has not continued. Dangerous IPCC Assumptions (Insnet)
Dangerous Assumptions (Living on Earth)

Delirium storm

(...) serious and accomplished political journalists are only focusing on these stupid and trivial matters because this is what the Regular Folk care about. They speak for the Regular People, and what the Regular People care about is not Iraq or the looming recession or health care or lobbyist control of our government or anything that would strain the brain of these reporters.
Every day, it becomes more difficult to blame George Bush, Dick Cheney and comrades for their seven years (and counting) of crimes, corruption and destruction of our political values. Think about it this way: if you were a high government official and watched as -- all in a couple of weeks time -- it is revealed, right out in the open, that you suspended the Fourth Amendment, authorized torture, proclaimed yourself empowered to break the law, and sent the nation's top law enforcement officer to lie blatantly about how and why the 9/11 attacks happened so that you could acquire still more unchecked spying power and get rid of lawsuits that would expose what you did, and the political press in this country basically ignored all of that and blathered on about Obama's bowling score and how he eats chocolate, wouldn't you also conclude that you could do anything you want, without limits, and know there will be no consequences? What would be the incentive to stop doing all of that?

terça-feira, março 25, 2008

Changing shades of green

We call it the Emerald Isle for an obvious reason: The Irish landscape is green beyond compare. This image is no postcard caricature, but is indeed very real. For those of us who visit or live in Ireland, there are moments when we are stunned by the depth of green. And those moments occur fairly often.

This image, we now know, is a fragile one. As our report illustrates, Ireland faces serious threats if climate change continues unabated. Greens will fade to brown. Soft rains will turn harsh. Bog bursts – when masses of peat slide down slope like a California mudslide – will be more common. Irish soils will no longer yield a bounty of potatoes. If climate change continues unchecked, the look and feel of Ireland will change.

Our Project intends to describe, in rich detail, both the environmental and cultural impacts of climate change in Ireland. Our science team is affiliated with ICARUS (the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units), based on the campus at NUI Maynooth. The cultural insights come from poets, musicians, farmers, anglers and many others. We believe this hybrid approach is unique in the climate community.

Our hope is to reach the 80 million Irish living all across the globe (only five million of whom live in Ireland). If we succeed at our task, more of the Irish will understand the urgency of the climate crisis. More of them will understand that we can all play a role in helping stave off the worst effects of climate change.

Those of us who wish to keep Ireland green have a role to play, no matter where we live. It starts by making greener energy choices – at home, at work, in our communities and when we vote.

Download the report.

segunda-feira, março 24, 2008

Lembrar os números sem esquecer o inquantificável

Só é pena a "sponsorização": Five Years In Iraq.

sexta-feira, fevereiro 29, 2008

Notícia pequena, números enormes.

segunda-feira, fevereiro 18, 2008

Água e "manchas quentes"

Fala-se, aqui, frequentemente de água. Pois toda a gente sabe que a água é essencial à vida. A água é o único recurso natural que cai do céu. O que nem toda a gente sabe é que, mesmo sendo o mais renovável dos recursos, é muito, mas mesmo muito, escassa. Veja estes livros e veja este artigo: The Growing Battle for the Right to Water.

quarta-feira, janeiro 23, 2008

Beyond the point of no return

From a more personal viewpoint, an acknowledgement of the reality of escalating climate change plays havoc with one's sense of future. It is almost as though a lone ocean voyager were suddenly to lose sight of the North Star. It deprives one of an inner sense of navigation. To live without at least an open-ended sense of future (even if it's not an optimistic one) is to open one's self to a morass of conflicting impulses -- from the anticipated thrill of a reckless plunge into hedonism to a profoundly demoralizing sense of hopelessness and a feeling that a lifelong guiding sense of purpose has suddenly evaporated.

This slow-motion collapse of the planet leaves us with the bitterest kind of awakening. For parents of young children, it provokes the most intimate kind of despair. For people whose happiness derives from a fulfilling sense of achievement in their work, this realization feels like a sudden, violent mugging. For those who feel a debt to all those past generations who worked so hard to create this civilization we have enjoyed, it feels like the ultimate trashing of history and tradition. For anyone anywhere who truly absorbs this reality and all that it implies, this realization leads into the deepest center of grief.

There needs to be another kind of thinking that centers neither on the profoundly dishonest denial promoted by the coal and oil industries, nor the misleading optimism of the environmental movement, nor the fatalistic indifference of the majority of people who just don't want to know.

There needs to be a vision that accommodates both the truth of the coming cataclysm and the profoundly human need for a sense of future.

That vision needs to be framed by the truly global nature of the problem. It starts with the recognition that this historical era of nationalism has become a stubborn, increasingly toxic impediment to our collective future. We all need to begin to think of ourselves -- now -- as citizens of one profoundly distressed planet.

I think that understanding involves a recognition that a clean environment is about far more than endangered species, toxic substances, and the "dead zones" that keep spreading off our shorelines. A clean environment is a basic human right. And without it, all the other human rights for which we have worked so hard will end up as grotesque caricatures of some of our deepest aspirations.

segunda-feira, janeiro 21, 2008

France suspends GM maize, citing new scientific evidence

domingo, janeiro 13, 2008

Os problemas nucleares são para esquecer

Publicado a 11 de Janeiro no "Público".

segunda-feira, janeiro 07, 2008

The plastic killing fields

Continents of garbage in the oceans are killing marine life and releasing poisons that enter the human food chain, Amanda Woods reports. In one of the few places on Earth where people can rarely be found, the human race has well and truly made its mark. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies a floating garbage patch twice the size of Britain. A place where the water is filled with six times as much plastic as plankton. This plastic-plankton soup is entering the food chain and heading for your dinner table.

For hundreds of years, sailors and fisherman have known to avoid the area between the Equator and 50 degrees north latitude about halfway between California and Hawaii. As one of the ocean's deserts, the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre lacks the wind that sailors need to survive, as well as the nutrients to support large fish or the men who hunt them.

But 10 years ago, Captain Charles Moore took a short cut through the airless doldrums in his catamaran, Alguita, and caught sight of something that changed his life. As he looked out at what should have been a clear blue ocean, Moore saw a sea of plastic. As far as he could see, day after day, were bottles, wrappers and fragments of plastic in every colour.

Historically, the ocean's circular currents have led to accumulation of flotsam and jetsam in the subtropical high, where the waste has biodegraded with the help of marine micro-organisms. But since humans developed a material designed for durability, which can survive exposure to any bacteria, the gyre has been filling with a substance it can't get rid of. Rather than biodegrading, plastic photodegrades, breaking down in the sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces. But no matter how small it gets, it's still plastic, and causes havoc when it enters the stomachs of marine life.

Ian Kiernan, the Australian who founded Clean Up the World, started his environmental campaign 20 years ago after he became appalled by the amount of rubbish he saw on an around-the-world solo yacht race. He'll never forget the first time he saw the gyre.

"It was just filled with things like furniture, fridges, plastic containers, cigarette lighters, plastic bottles, light globes, televisions and fishing nets," Kiernan says.

"It's all so durable it floats. It's just a major problem."

He picks up an ashtray filled with worn-down coloured pieces of plastic. "This is the contents of a fleshy-footed shearwater's stomach," he says. "They go to the ocean to fish but there ain't no fish - there's plastic. They then regurgitate it down the necks of their fledglings and it kills them. After the birds decompose, the plastic gets washed back into the ocean where it can kill again. It's a form of ghost fishing, where it goes on and on."

With gyres in each of the oceans, connected by debris highways, the problem isn't restricted to the North Pacific Gyre. It is estimated there are more than 13,000 pieces of plastic litter on every square kilometre of the ocean surface.

The United Nations Environment Program says plastic is accountable for the deaths of more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals every year. A Dutch study in the North Sea of fulmar seabirds concluded 95 per cent of the birds had plastic in their stomachs. More than 1600 pieces were found in the stomach of one bird in Belgium.

Since his first encounter with the gyre in 1997, Moore has returned several times and created the Algalita Marine Research Foundation to study the problem. The Canadian filmmaker Ian Connacher joined Moore in 2005 and again last year to film the garbage patch for his documentary, I Am Plastic. After a week of sailing from Long Beach, California, Connacher was not prepared for what he saw.

"Charlie once found a mile-long trail of Taco Bell wrappers which had plastic in them. I didn't see anything like that, but that's not the point, because it's the little bits that are really making it a plastic soup," Connacher says.

"The most menacing part is those little bits of plastic start looking like food for certain animals, or the filter feeders don't have any choice, they just pick them up." Then there's the plastic that doesn't float. Greenpeace reports that about 70 per cent of the plastic that makes it to the ocean sinks to the bottom, where it can smother marine life. Greenpeace says Dutch scientists have found 600,000 tonnes of discarded plastic on the bottom of the North Sea alone.

A study by the Japanese geochemist Hideshige Takada and his colleagues at Tokyo University in 2001 found that plastic polymers act like a sponge for resilient poisons such as DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls. Takada's team found non-water-soluble toxic chemicals can be found in plastic in levels as high as a million times their concentration in water.

As small pieces of plastic are mistaken for fish eggs and other food by marine life, these toxins enter the food chain. Even without this extra toxic load, eating plastic can be hazardous to the health.

In 2002 a study of hermaphrodite fish led Canadian scientists to link oestrogen in water to abnormal sex organs in fish. Several plastic additives have been found to mimic oestrogen. Some experts, such as Frederick vom Saal, a professor of biological sciences at Missouri University, say declining fertility rates in humans could be linked to exposure to synthetic oestrogen in plastics.

Some of the ocean's plastic arrives over the side of a ship as litter, and some is the result of containers falling into the ocean. But Greenpeace says about 80 per cent of plastic found at sea is washed out from the land.

The journal Science last year predicted seafood stocks would collapse by 2048 if overfishing and pollution continued.

Greenpeace says embracing the three Rs - reduce, re-use and recycle - would help tackle the problem. Plastic recycling is lagging well behind paper and cardboard, as people are confused about what recycling is available in their areas. There are other challenges for plastic recycling, such as the fact that it can release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, and that it is more expensive to recycle some plastic than to create a new product from petrochemicals.
Oceans Are the New Atmosphere
Disposable Oceans?
Are There Really 'Continents' of Floating Garbage?
Trashing the Oceans
Oceanographic Research Vessel Alguita
Feds want to survey, possibly clean up vast garbage pit in Pacific
ORV Alguita
Watch a preview of "Synthetic Sea"
Giant garbage patch floating in Pacific
The world's rubbish dump: a garbage tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan
Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans