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?