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Planet Earth Under Threat

Gore Hopes for US Climate Change

  • Howard Stableford
  • 6 Jun 06, 04:58 PM

Manicured-Lawns

While Gabrielle, the world's climatologists and possibly most citizens of the UK accept the general idea that Global Warming is a present day fact, I am not sure the same can be said for my neighbours here in the USA. With the 2008 Presidential elections on the horizon, this feeling may well be why Al Gore is hoping to change the politcal climate here by stepping into the environmental fray with his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" which warns of the imminent dangers of climate changes. I understand the documentary is based on a PowerPoint presentation he's been toting around the world! Clearly it must be about as exciting as "The Da Vinci Code". Yet the doc. has opened to critical acclaim in the liberal hang outs of the Sundance Festival and the artsy theatres of the east and west coasts. But here in the heartland of conservative middle America, it's arrival has been heralded with an eerie silence only punctuated by the toll of the conservative church bell as tumbleweed blows down the real mainstreet USA.

It isn't that middle America isn't aware of global warming, everyone points a finger in its direction each time a hurricane hits or forest fires flare up, it's just that it isn't in the mainsteam agenda and quite frankly nobody seems to care at a personal level. The USA is the global "Big Mac" of carbon emissions, each of us responsible for about 20 tons of Co2 release per year, yet Bush concentrates on issues like the sanctity of marriage and building border walls against hard working Mexicans rather than even discussing something that most constituents feel is far beyond them to do anything about.

Green-light-for-Roundabouts

So why do ordinary Americans shrug their collective shoulders and ignore the problem? Clues lie in Al Gore's handy list of "Top Tips" for "Saving the planet." There are some laudable directives like "insist politicians make this planetary emergency their top priority" and "think about conservation and efficiency in the way you use resources" but the sticking points to success are in the practical details. One piece of advice suggests "Use a clothes line instead of a tumble dryer". In my neighbourhood that is not allowed under threat of a fine! How can we citizens conserve resources when my Home Owners Association also insists we inflict and maintain carefully manicured lawns onto the desert landscape? Every weekend is accompanied by a backing track of screaming strimmers and whirring mowers.

While I can only complain to the local authorities about the ludicrous domestic rules I think I may have a partial solution to another of Mr. Gore's imperitives "Drive Less". Clearly no one here is prepared to do that, that's clearly insane, but as I sit in my family carbon emitter stuck at yet more traffic lights I see a glimmer of hope - roundabouts! I'm serious! Every town and city is built on the grid system. Every grid junction is controlled by traffic lights. Fully 25% of a short car journey can be spent waiting at needless lights pumping carbon into the air when there is no cross traffic. My plan is to simply paint roundabouts at all junctions so that during non rush hours, the lights could be turned off (saving lots of electricity) signalling to motorists that the roundabout system is now in operation. In fact I'm building a compelling PowerPoint presentaion for Mr. Gore to show the extent to which carbon emissions would be reduced nationally from this simple and cheap solution. Anybody know a good documentary film maker?

Meanwhile Mr Bush clearly believes, and countless millions of Americans may be wondering whether Al Gore's film should really be titled "An Unsellable Truth."

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 07:05 PM on 06 Jun 2006,
  • Max Randor wrote:

I don't know about the USA but here in the UK we have not had a car since the half term before Christmas - public transport and a car club have been fine for us. But then again the automobile industry in the USA deliberately destroyed the USA's public transport didn't they? Oh well. Just don't buy a Super Ugly Vehicle!

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  • 2.
  • At 07:30 PM on 06 Jun 2006,
  • Howard wrote:

When I come back to London I wonder why I ever bothered with a car when I lived there and I'm glad to see you are making it work. Here it is very different as you know. There is little public transport in many towns. The popularity of hybrid cars is soaring here however, but this is less through a sense of social conscience and far more to do with the perceived outrageous price of petrol. If you look in the traffic photo in my blog you will see it is about $2.73 per gallon....about 38p/litre! Far too high for comfort here!!

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Another part of the Great Midwest is Kansas, where at Salina, Wes Jackson is working on perennial meadows as a food source - polyculture. Worth a look.
http://www.landinstitute.org

Are we creating a new Species? Homo Encapsulata, which lives entirely in controlled spaces?

I know many folk retire to Florida for the 'good weather', which is so 'good' (hot) that they spend their restful years in the airconditioned indoors or the airconditioned car, and only walk (if absolutely necessary) between the car and the airconditioned mall.

James Howard Kunstler writes for Orion
http://www.oriononline.org
and there is a useful archive.

As to Scotland, it's a lovely evening and the mayflower is in full song.
http://www.bella.dircon.co.uk/mayflower.jpg
and diesel is over £1/liter, but I mostly walk. The pub's only half a mile, and it's downhill.
Vaya con Gaia
ed

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  • 4.
  • At 08:28 PM on 06 Jun 2006,
  • Shaun wrote:

what happened to the deferred second programme by David Attenborough on “can we save the planet”. Which was not broadcast in Ireland but was supposed to be on Tuesday 6th June.

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Whining from an informed perspective?
http://www.rustletheleaf.com/media/comic-page-rustle.asp
xx
ed

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  • 6.
  • At 09:37 AM on 07 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Do remember that Kyoto was signed by America during the Clinton presidency, and it was Clinton, not Bush, who refused to send it to Congress for ratification. Whilst in Britain a treaty may be entered into simply by signature of a duly authorised minister of the Crown, this does not apply in the US and congressional ratification is required. The President (or VP) can sign anything they want, but it is only valid if Congress approves.

The American view appears to be that properly understanding the changing climate and developing technology to cope with the effects of any change is a more useful long term solution than embarking on the hair-shirt approach of self-denial hitherto generally favoured by Europe. Interestingly enough, much of Europe is now coming to recognise that the hair-shirt approach simply doesn't work. Some, like Italy, have explicitly said they will not renew Kyoto obligations. Others are more muted, but the upshot is likely to be the same - Kyoto is dead and an alternative, more realistic method of dealing with the issues is needed.

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It says seven comments, but only shows four. One of the missing is my link to whining from an informed position...

Software issues?
xx
ed

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Regarding car use, and the suburban American dream, I commend James Howard Kunstler at
http://www.oriononline.org/pages/oo/curwis/index_curwis.html
and as a response to the tidily manicured grass:
http://www.sfcall.com/issues%202002/8.16.02/god_grass_8_16_02.htm
or
http://home.btconnect.com/tipiglen/grass.html

Happy mowing!
xx
ed

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Howard,

With reference to roundabouts, it's a great idea, but to fit with driving on the right, they would need to go anticlockwise, and one would have to give way to traffic from the left. This goes against a core traffic rule in USA of traffic from the right has 'right of way'.....

Still, a few accidents might reduce congestion in the long run.

Now go mow your lawn
xx
ed

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clips from Al Gore's film at:
http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount_classics/aninconvenienttruth/trailer/
and
Almost Level, West Virginia
A Film by Rebecca MacNeice
http://www.truthout.org/multimedia.htm

As the destruction of America's Appalachian Range accelerates in the mad rush for cheap energy, activist Doris "Granny D" Haddock and former congressman Ken Hechler act as our tour guides as we fly over regions of mind-boggling devastation.

Never mind, Euan assures us climate change doesn't threaten humans.

vaya con Gaia
ed

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  • 11.
  • At 04:44 PM on 07 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Now it says 10 but only shows 8...

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  • 12.
  • At 06:21 PM on 07 Jun 2006,
  • Howard wrote:

Ed,

Thanks for the great links. I am enjoying exploring your North Glen site very much and what a stunning piece of the world you live in!

Thought "God and Grass" was excellent. If you read it with Eddie Izzard delivering it in your mind it's even funnier or sadder depending on your mood.

Keep pointing me in the right directions!

Howard

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Howard,

"Thanks for the great links. ... what a stunning piece of the world you live in!"

You're welcome, and thanks.

"Keep pointing me in the right directions!"

You can stop me anytime, but, here's an interesting bit from David Orton which appeared on the ecopolitics list:
http://www.lists.opn.org/pipermail/org.opn.lists.ecopolitics/2006-June/000580.html

The list is academic, but open to all:
http://www.lists.opn.org/mailman/listinfo/org.opn.lists.ecopolitics

Happy reading and keep up your own good work.
http://home.btconnect.com/tipiglen/squirrels-4.JPG

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Howard,

Yet another link, this one giving an answer to the previous cartoon link's request to be an informed whiner? On putting biofuels into perspective:
http://earthmeanders.blogspot.com/2006/04/bursting-biofuels-bubble.html

The writer, Dr. Glen Barry is a conservation biologist and ecologist with considerable feeling for his subject.

And, from Garret Hardin, who coined the term "Tragedy of the Commons", an essay on the ethics of 'carrying capacity', from way back in the seventies...makes me feel my age.
http://www.esva.net/~leo/carrycap.html

Cheers from Sunny Scotland
ed

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  • 15.
  • At 04:06 PM on 08 Jun 2006,
  • stephen wrote:

Sorry to be a nerd but it's not a PowerPoint. It is done in Apple's Keynote. And he didn't run it at Hay when he spoke. Which doesn't alter the correctness of his stance - since the dawn of the ind rev we've been living on borrowed time......

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Stephen,

"since the dawn of the ind rev we've been living on borrowed time......"

At the end of the Hardin essay linked earlier, a poetic warning:

"A tribe said to the universe,
"Sir, We exist!"
"So I see," said the universe,
"But your multitude creates in me
No feeling of obligation....."
http://home.btconnect.com/tipiglen/capacity.html

And written three decades ago, when we were only 4,000,000,000 strong...

I like Al's "I'm Al Gore, and I used to be the next president of the United States."

Vaya con Gaia
ed

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  • 17.
  • At 09:19 AM on 09 Jun 2006,
  • Tom Saward wrote:

Euan,

Hairshirt approach? Please don't misunderstand me, I'm no bleeding heart but as as someone whose industry (Forestry) is being directly influenced by climate change now (natural or manmade), I take umbrage with your argument. It's obvious we need to develop greener technologies and we are even in Europe! At the same time however we also need to adopt a more mature attitude and stop using hot air to avoid our responsibilities. It's obvious to the most uninterested parties why the US will not accept any policies that would require them to curb their consumption, and to suggest that we should look to the nation that consumes per capita, such a disproportionate amount of our planets resources for a solution is both misguided and irresponsible. Im sorry but you are very wrong indeed.

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  • 18.
  • At 10:53 AM on 09 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Tom, it seems pretty much undeniable that global warming is in fact happening. Only the blindest reactionary will deny it. However, there is in reality not very much evidence that this is exclusively or even largely down to human activity. There is a deal of evidence that it is being caused principally by factors outside our control, such as solar fluctuation - the strongest indication of this is that Mars is also warming, as one would expect if the sun is the principle cause. It is also undisputed that warming and cooling follow natural cycles that have nothing to do with man, and that in the past it has been variously very much hotter and very much colder than now.

The problems with the hair-shirt approach are these:

1. If warming is not caused to any significant extent by anthropogenic carbon emission, restricting these emissions will not affect the warming trend. It's therefore pointless.

2. Given 1, the only effect will be to increase human poverty and hardship. This is not a net benefit.

3. If we concentrate on emissions reduction, but that is pointless, we will be neglecting the development of technologies to mitigate the effects of warming, believing instead that we can arrest it through throttling the economy.

4. If all that happens, we will be stuck with warming we cannot stop, we won't have the technology to deal with it, and we'll have eroded much of the technical and economic base from which to generate such technology. This means we'll suffer a lot more than any other scenario.

I don't see anything wrong with making our use of energy more efficient and less polluting. However, I do not accept that the only answer to the problems we are likely to face is to reduce our energy use and miraculously all will be well. I simply don't think man is capable of having that much effect. I do think, though, that deluding ourselves that we do have such a great effect will only mean that we will ignore the true causes and will not develop useful means of coping with the effects. I see this as the bigger danger.

Finally, it doesn't achieve anything to blame America for all the world's ills, however fashionable such an approach may be.

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Euan,

1. There is a very substantial Scientific concensus that there is a significant anthropogenic vector.

2. Reducing energy use will benefit the Earth as our massively unsustainable harvest will reduce. Energy is a poison rather than a panacea.

3.Will we build an airconditioned world for Homo Encapsulata?

4. We have already bought and paid for a good deal of warming, and we do need to consider how to deal with that as well as whatever may come from other sources.

Finally, America isn't to blame for all the world's problems, only about a third of them. Not bad for one twentieth of the world's population, eh?

Vaya con Gaia
ed

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  • 20.
  • At 05:00 PM on 09 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Ed,

1. Not as much as you seem to think. There is near (though not total) unanimity that warming is happening, but division on just how far, if at all, it is the fault of man. Even so, science is not about appeal to a consensus - that's for democratic politics - it is rather about dispassionate analysis of evidence.

2. You're wrong. Water vapour from entirely natural sources is a far more significant warming factor, and cutting energy use would make no difference to this. Eliminating the entire human species at the flick of a switch would make no difference to it either. Cutting energy use *would* make a difference in CO2 output (depending on how it is done), but about 95% of net atmospheric CO2 comes from natural sources (i.e. nothing to do with man). The maximal effect of human energy use reduction on the warming trend is infinitesimally small, as even Kyoto supporters recognise - achieving the Kyoto targets would result in the best case in a temperature change so small as to be lower than the limits of experimental error, which is to say unmeasurable.

3. No, it's unnecessary. Suitable technological and engineering changes might be widespread use of desalination plants, conversion to clean nuclear power to provide the large quantities of extra energy needed, further genetic modification of crops, swamp drainage, land reclamation, and so on. No need to be melodramatic about it.

4. This is an issue only if it becomes significantly warmer, and only then if the effect is significant rises in sea level resulting in land loss and significant reductions in crop yields using current techniques.

Given this and looking at the subject logically and with the benefit of an engineering education, it is my conclusion that the call for energy use reduction is pointless and will not affect the situation one little bit. I believe it is also motivated by a separate political agenda based largely around anticapitalism and primitivism, which manifests itself pragmatically in anti-Americanism and dislike/distrust of technology. It is EXACTLY analogous to the global cooling hysteria of the 1970s, and doubtless comes from the same factors.

I'd be fully behind carbon reduction if I thought it would make a difference. I don't see any plausible mechanism by which it would make a measurable difference, and therefore I suggest that intentionally making our lives harder, more disease prone and poorer for no benefit is to be opposed.

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  • 21.
  • At 09:04 PM on 09 Jun 2006,
  • Laura wrote:

Euan,

I work with many climate scientists and have not yet met one who doesn't believe that climate change is caused by the anthropogenic release of C02 (and other greenhouse gases). It is true that there are some dissenters, but that's generally true in any science! The evidence I have seen has been very persuasive.

In regard to the warming seen on Mars the realclimate blog (a very good blog written by climate scientists and discussing relevant science for a non-specialist audience) has a discussion about the science with links to references at http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=192

I do agree that technological advances will occur and that this is very important in reducing pollution and mitigating any effects of climate change (at least for those of us in wealthy countries - changes in local climate could have devastating effects on regions dependent on agriculture for instance). However that doesn't mean that simple things like increasing energy efficiency, driving more efficient cars and even turning off lights won't help, and will even save you money! It is also true that techological advances are driven by market forces, so if consumers are more energy concious this can encourage the techological development. For example in the US the 'high gas prices' (still less than half that in the UK!) are driving a move to more efficient cars.

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  • 22.
  • At 11:21 PM on 09 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

The correlation between global temperature and the solar cycle is uncannily close. The correlation between changes in carbon emissions and changes in temperature is not at all close - in fact, during the first half of the period of rapid increase of carbon emission from the 1940s onwards, temperatures actually fell, prompting the global cooling hysteria mentioned above.

There is no doubt that man pumps CO2 into the atmosphere, and there is no doubt that some (slight) warming is taking place, and there is no doubt that recent warming happens to have taken place roughly in line with the period of human industrialisation. This leads to the post hoc ergo propter hoc mistake in assuming that these things are linked.

It could just be coincidence. In fact, given that the solar cycle matches warming so closely, it's very likely indeed that it is in fact no more than coincidence.

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From Dr. Albert A. Bartlett, Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder:

"Garrett Hardin's Three Laws of Human Ecology

First Law
"We can never do merely one thing."

Second Law
"There's no away to throw to."

Third Law

The impact (I) of any group or nation on the environment is represented qualitatively by the relation

I = P A T

where P is the size of the population, A is the per capita affluence, measured by per capita rate of consumption, and T is a measure of the damage done by the technologies that are used in supplying the consumption.
and:
LAWS RELATING TO SUSTAINABILITY

First Law

Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.
...
Fourth Law

The size of population that can be sustained (the carrying capacity) and the sustainable average standard of living of the population are inversely related to one another.

A) The higher the standard of living one wishes to sustain, the more urgent it is to reduce population size.

B) Reductions in the rates of consumption of resources and reductions in the rates of production of pollution can shift the carrying capacity in the direction of sustaining a larger population."
http://www.design-site.net/bart1mag.htm

I commend Professor Bartlett's paper in its entirety to those who would find the answers to Euan's fundamentalist techno-optimism:

Also I note that the International Panel on Climate Change's summary for policy makers states clearly that there is strong new evidence that the bulk of warming experienced in the last fifty years is anthropogenic. They also state that the best fit between models and observations for the last 140 years is when both the anthropogenic and 'natural' forcings are incorporated.

I call that a concensus.

Vaya con Gaia
ed

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  • 24.
  • At 12:24 PM on 10 Jun 2006,
  • Phillip wrote:

Euan,

It is true to say that water vapour is a 'more significant warming factor' than CO2 as it is responsible for about 70% of the natural greenhouse warming effect (without which the Earth's surface temperature would be about 30°C lower). But it is the change in GHG components in the atmosphere that is the problem and that change is largely led by increases in CO2 through human activities. There is an excellent article on the role of water vapour in CC on physicsweb at http://physicsweb.org/articles/world/16/5/7/1 It says 'The concentration of water vapour in the atmosphere is strongly related to temperature... It might therefore appear that an increased greenhouse effect, which causes the atmosphere to get warmer, would also lead to more water vapour in the atmosphere. This would result in a positive-feedback system that causes the Earth to become increasingly warmer. However, as is often the case with atmospheric processes, the situation is not quite this simple. Water vapour in the atmosphere can change phase, which leads to more clouds, and greater cloud cover means that more sunlight is reflected straight out of the atmosphere. Crude calculations suggest that the two effects approximately balance each other, and that water vapour does not have a strong feedback mechanism in the Earth's climate.'

There is not a great 'division' amongst climate scientists about the anthropogenic origins of the current warming trend. To suggest that there is is disingenuous. The consensus is, as Ed has pointed out, that models that only account for natural forcings (including) solar forcing) do not reproduce the warming trends seen over the last century or so. Only when the increases in GHGs from human activities are incorporated do the modelled and measured plots match.

Have a look at the IPCC's 2001 Working Group report at http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/440.htm, which concluded that '...to be consistent with the signal observed to date, the rate of anthropogenic warming is likely to lie in the range 0.1 to 0.2°C/decade over the first half of the 21st century...'.

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From the IPCC:
"Question 2

What is the evidence for, causes of, and consequences of changes in the Earth's climate since the pre-industrial era?

1. Has the Earth's climate changed since the pre-industrial era at the regional and/or global scale? If so, what part, if any, of the observed changes can be attributed to human influence and what part, if any, can be attributed to natural phenomena? What is the basis for that attribution?
2. What is known about the environmental, social, and economic consequences of climate changes since the pre-industrial era with an emphasis on the last 50 years?

http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/vol4/english/008.htm

Read the document for the answers.

xx
ed

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Phillip,

Your link works with the terminal comma removed:
http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/440.htm
Thanks for your contribution.
Vaya con Gaia
ed

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Howard,

Round-Abouts.
Here in Santa Fe, New Mexico we have round-abouts. The city has installed them in fairly quiet neighbourhoods, some have stop signs before entering and some don't.
I assume this is an experiment to see if it can work with our larger vehicles which are not so easy to manouver (pick-up trucks/suvs).
In the long run Gaia will sort us out, as we enter Peak Oil and fuel gets scarcer we will be forced to use less. Gaia is wise.

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  • 28.
  • At 10:02 AM on 11 Jun 2006,
  • Brian Bartlett wrote:

Given Professor A Bartlett's various laws, comments and theories on the future misery to be suffered by humans as we continue to grow unsustainably, I expect that Mother Nature will progress the bird flu in time to ensure we are kept in check.

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  • 29.
  • At 12:43 PM on 11 Jun 2006,
  • m wood wrote:

Is it really our fault?
Asking this question is likely to produce a scornful reply in nearly all today’s media (especially the BBC) and political circles. It is taken as a ‘given’ in nearly all discussions that significant Global Warming is happening and it is directly caused by human activities. I think it deserves far more careful consideration than it is currently given.

First, let’s try and put Global Warming in a local perspective. Go back some 20,000 years and consider what the climatic conditions in this country were then. Stand at the top of the Nant Ffrancon Valley just below the steep slopes under Cwm Idwal in Snowdonia. Today this is a beautiful, temperate, open valley, but then it was the site of a glacier with ice 100s of feet thick cascading down the valley and on to what is now the Irish Sea. Indeed, at that time, permanent ice cover stretched down to parts of southern England.

15,000 years later, the Earth’s climate had changed dramatically, the ice sheets and glaciers retreating northward so that they only remained in the highest mountains in Europe and northernmost Scandinavia. The climate had warmed sufficiently, and the British Isles, isolated from the European landmass, was covered in trees and vegetation. It was warmer than it is now, so much so that the ‘First Peoples’ lived in what are now barren mountainous areas. Visit many upland areas and the remains of their hut-circles are still visible today. It is doubtful that they would have settled there if the climate there had been as forbidding as it is today.

Those warmer times persisted until the early mediaeval period when a ‘mini ice-age’ set in, cooling the Earth’s climate by several degrees so that the winters in England were cold enough to freeze the Thames (ice-fairs are recorded) and the southern sea coast regularly froze over.

Since then weather records show that the climate has steadily warmed but it has not yet returned to the warmer temperatures of the pre mediaeval period. In our lifetimes we have noticed that winter snowfalls in England are less frequent and events such as spring flowerings are happening earlier in the year.

So, warming is probably happening at the present time. But if you look at the way that the Climate has varied over the past millennia you could probably think; "So What? - it has been changing from time immemorial". Think of the enormous changes that have produced major Ice Ages at intervals of hundreds of thousands of years. What has happened over the past 100 years or so is not that unusual and is relatively small compared to changes that have taken place in the recent past.

The amount it has risen over the 20th Century is quoted variously over the range 0.6degF to 5degF, but the important questions are; Is the rise significant and Why has it risen? The accepted political answer to these questions are that it threatens the future of humanity and that it is all due to ‘us’, - mankind, and our industrial advances over the last 100 years or so. This is proclaimed with a high degree of certainty and so much anxious discussion takes place on how to halt it.

But it is not as simple as that. As I have described, the recent warming is not unusual in the course of events and, altho it is not obvious from everyday media coverage, there is extensive debate and controversy in the scientific community as to the extent of GW and whether it is manmade.

We have a situation where –

The change in Earth’s climate over recent industrial times is not markedly significant compared to the climate changes experienced over the last 2000 – 3000 years, much less so than those of the last 20,000 years. The Earth’s climate has warmed by 0.5C or 2.5C, depending on whether the measurements are made at surface or in the upper atmosphere
The reasons for long-term climatic changes are poorly understood but possible reasons are variations in solar activity and subtle changes in solar system orbits. ‘At the end of the day’ it is the Sun’s output that determines the warmth of our planet!
Far from the scenario of ever-increasing warming of the climate being inevitable, in the longer-term, global cooling is more likely.

It is important to consider whether our knowledge of GW really justifies drastically cutting the economic activities and standards of living for all the developed world as the environmental campaigners advocate. And to make any effect, these cuts will need to be far more drastic than anything publicly discussed, the present Kyoto Treaty barely scratches the surface of reducing human CO2 emissions.

On the present evidence, I suggest a more responsible response is to accept that some warming is taking place and it is most likely to be a natural phenomena of ‘the Planet we all ride on’, and it will take place whatever we do to curb emissions. We cannot change the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, we cannot stop volcanoes from spewing out vast amounts of gases, we cannot stop 500 billion tons of carbon dioxide being emitted naturally each year from the ocean and from decay and respiration of plants and animals.

If you accept that natural phenomena has the dominant effect then the real need is to consider how best to adapt to the ever-changing climates of Earth and we will certainly need all our industrial and scientific skills to help us adapt to them.


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M Wood,

"On the present evidence, I suggest a more responsible response is to accept that some warming is taking place and it is most likely to be a natural phenomena of ‘the Planet we all ride on’, and it will take place whatever we do to curb emissions......

If you accept that natural phenomena has the dominant effect then the real need is to consider how best to adapt to the ever-changing climates of Earth and we will certainly need all our industrial and scientific skills to help us adapt to them."

You are expecting us to 'accept that natural phenomena has the dominant effect' in direct opposition to the clearly expressed opinion of the IPCC, representing the greatest assemblage of climate scientists ever? On your word?

Sure, the history is much as you summarise. Sure, we can expect natural change. Sure, we will need all our much-vaunted adaptability and cleverness. But that cleverness is telling us now that we are engaged in numerous self-destructive practices:
Fossil burning, deforestation, overfishing, salination of land, and accellerating overconsumption of virtually every non-renewable resource.

Should we just carry on, because another 'natural' ice age or hothouse is gonna get us anyway, or should we use some of our cleverness to adapt our destructive behaviour?

over to you
ed


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  • 31.
  • At 03:34 PM on 11 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

The IPCC's current position is hedged around with numerous caveats, qualifications and uncertainties. The carbon cycle is poorly understood, there are huge gaps in the science, nobody knows where fully half of man's carbon output goes but it hasn't shown up in the atmosphere, man only contributes 1% of the total CO2 produced, etc, etc. Those parts of their detailed reports don't get quoted too often by environmentalists, who seem to prefer quoting the shock & horror parts of the executive summaries. Read the whole thing, as they say.

In the mediaeval warm period, temperatures were markedly higher than today, sea levels were higher. People even farmed on Greenland, which is extremely difficult today. Indeed, the temperature difference between then and now is actually greater than the doom-laden scenarios given for our future. Man survived. In the later "mini ice age" temperatures and sea levels were markedly lower. Man survived. Today, man lives in areas with temperatures from -50 to +50 Celsius, from Siberia to the Sudan. Man is adaptable and will survive rising temperatures in the future just as he did in the past. This is simply not the big issue environmentalists say it is, because we *already* cope with situations far more extreme than their predictions and have done for centuries.

As for the unsustainable part, this is modern day Malthusian scare-mongering. It falls into the trap of assuming there is a fixed quantity of everything and that alternatives and improvements cannot be found or will not work. For example, land area dedicated to crop production is expected to *fall* as more efficient techniques are introduced. Fossil fuels are ending their useful period as scarcity drives up the price and makes alternatives such as nuclear rather more attractive. Many non-renewable resources are being superseded - a few years ago we were going to run out of copper, now there's a glut of the stuff as we use fibre-optics instead. Remember Ehrlich's bet on resource prices?

Instead of acknowledging reality, we are berated by the religion of environmentalism, and it is indeed a religion. It has its own ancient state of grace (simple life in "harmony" with nature), its fall from grace (eating of the tree of knowledge in the form of industrialising), its own apocalypse (warming, flooding, we're all doomed), and its own salvation mechanism ("sustainable" development and the abandonment of technological civilisation). Its god is called Gaia, and its priests are the Luddite primitivists and localists of the radical environmental movement. Like all religions, when the predicted apocalypse fails to turn up (overpopulation in the 1960s, global cooling in the 1970s, resource exhaustion in the 1980s, GM crops in the 1990s), a new apocalypse is threatened. Today's apocalypse is global warming. Even then, from what I read I sense a cooling off, if you'll forgive the pun, in the ardour of anti-warming plans. I think the environmentalists have been rumbled on this one, and I think its dying off. Soon, though, there will be another scare, and the same old faces will be assuring us that this time its for real. Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, on the next alarmist scare story...

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  • 32.
  • At 04:59 PM on 11 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Graham Bowkett might like to ponder the fact that the mechanism that will drive us away from large engined SUV type vehicles is not Gaia but good old fashioned market capitalism - as petrol gets more expensive, we'll start using cheaper alternatives.

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  • 33.
  • At 05:17 PM on 11 Jun 2006,
  • Maria wrote:

My car (an Espace 2.2 Diesel 2002)emits, according to its manual, 0.190 Kg of CO2 per Km. A simple calculation gives a good approximation of my son's school CO2 annual emissions produced in total only by the school runs, it gives the huge sum of 30 tons of CO2. Only the school run, 58 pupils (it is a small school)+ 6 staff, which move in 50 cars travelling an average of 5 km 4 times per day (the staff not included). But there are several hundred airplanes travelling everyday, at any minute...
How can this CO2 just "dissapear"...without doing anything when there is evidence that CO2 acts as a blanket on the earth? this is just so against common sense.

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  • 34.
  • At 05:46 PM on 11 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Maria,

When CO2 is released into the atmosphere, it doesn't just stay there heating the planet up. Not that it actually heats it up all that much, though.

It is not the case that it simply disappears without doing anything. Much of the carbon cycle is poorly understood, but it is certainly the case that about half of the CO2 emitted by your son's school runs is consumed in some way that the sages of the IPCC don't know about. This is determined from the fact that the estimated total of anthropogenic carbon emission is NOT reflected in the measured increased atmospheric concentration of CO2, nor is it satisfactorily accounted for in other known methods of CO2 use.

CO2 is an essential part of the atmosphere. It is vital for plant growth, and even though it constitutes rather less than one twentieth of one percent of the atmosphere, we depend upon it being there to the extent we depend on natural plant growth. If there was no atmospheric CO2, we'd have to make it artificially and grow crops in a sealed environment with this extra gas in its atmosphere. Interestingly enough, this is done already in some cases where certain fruits and vegetables are grown in sealed greenhouses with an enriched CO2 content (up to about 7%, way over the toxic limit for man) in order to boost vegetative growth.

It's entirely possible that rather more CO2 than the IPCC thinks is being taken up in vegetative growth. This is the CO2 fertilisation effect, well known and, as shown above, used commercially. Not all plant species benefit from this, but it is to be expected that rising atmospheric CO2 would favour plants which can, although many food crops don't - this perhaps is where IPCC may be missing something, they may not be considering plant growth that doesn't directly interest humanity.

You may also be interested to know that the blanket effect of CO2 is not linear nor is it of infinite capacity. CO2 does absorb heat radiation, preventing loss to the cosmos. It also prevents some radiation from the sun reaching the ground here, by the same mechanism. However, the rate at which this absorption increases is logarithmic, which is to say each additional amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has significantly less effect than the previous same amount - doubling CO2 does not anything like double the greenhouse effect. Also, once the absorption process reaches saturation - i.e. when the atmospheric CO2 cannot absorb any more heat - the heat radiation simply passes through and is lost to the cosmos. This effectively means that there is an upper limit to the "greenhouse" effect of added CO2, and interestingly the CO2 level needed to reach radical temperature increase is way above the toxic limit for man (and many other species). We'd gas ourselves to death long before we overheat ourselves. But the plants would love it.

This inconvenient truth doesn't exactly help the environmentalist case, so you don't hear them talk about it very much. I wonder why?

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IPCC Summary for Policy makers:
"There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities. Detection and attribution studies consistently find evidence for an anthropogenic signal in the climate record of the last 35 to 50 years. These studies include uncertainties in forcing due to anthropogenic sulfate aerosols and natural factors (volcanoes and solar irradiance), but do not account for the effects of other types of anthropogenic aerosols and land-use changes. The sulfate and natural forcings are negative over this period and cannot explain the warming; whereas most of these studies find that, over the last 50 years, the estimated rate and magnitude of warming due to increasing greenhouse gases alone are comparable with, or larger than, the observed warming. The best agreement between model simulations and observations over the last 140 years has been found when all the above anthropogenic and natural forcing factors are combined, as shown in Figure SPM-2. Q2.9-11"
http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/vol4/english/008.htm

Doesn't seem like they hedged that conclusion, does it.

Vaya con Gaia
ed

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  • 36.
  • At 07:54 PM on 11 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Read the rest of it, Ed. You'll soon see all the caveats and doubts.

I don't think anyone serious any longer disputes the fact that some slight degree of warming is taking place. That is non-controversial, outside certain groups with a different agenda.

The controversy concerns whether or not the cause, or a major cause, is man. Given that warming closely tracks phenomena man cannot control and does not influence (solar, sea circulations, etc), given that it has been warmer in the past with lower CO2 levels and indeed colder with higher CO2 levels, given that CO2 levels above minimal don't actually have all that much effect on temperature, given that we don't even understand the carbon cycle terribly well, given that the link between man-made emissions and temperature change in the 20th century is hardly strightforward, there is more than adequate reason for being extremely sceptical of the notion that it's all our fault. Much of the "evidence" showing human culpability is circumstantial at best and of the form post hoc, ergo propter hoc. It's highly likely that the link between industrialisation and warming is one of coincidence rather than causation.

It is to my mind suspicious that the people and organisations pushing the global warming agenda on the basis of flimsy science and poor understanding of global systems and cycles are the same people and organisations who earlier warned of mass starvation due to overpopulation (hasn't happened), a coming ice age (hasn't happened), the exhaustion of critical resources (hasn't happened) and the dire consequences of GM crops (hasn't happened), all on the same basis of flimsy and later disproved science and poor understanding. Given the same people, the same Luddite primitivist agenda, the same dodgy science, I confidently predict that the same result will come about - it will be discredited and then ignored as alarmist hysteria (I think this is already starting to happen), and behold the same people will come up with something else.

Possibly a lack of carbon dioxide due to capitalistic exploitation of alternative energy sources threatening plant diversity and thus dooming us all to starvation. You read it here first.

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  • 37.
  • At 08:05 AM on 12 Jun 2006,
  • Nick Mallory wrote:

Interesting to note the number of well reasoned replies questioning the fashionable assumptions paraded on this blog. It's just a pity that such rational arguments all too rarely make it into the many BBC programmes on this subject. Funny that, for an impartial broadcaster funded in a 'unique' way dedicated to giving a fair go to all shades of opinion.

Increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere will help reverse the spread of the world's deserts, an environmental problem which has recieved much publicity over the past 20 years. Plants will need to open fewer pores to 'breathe' CO2 and so lose less water, allowing them to recolonise arid areas. The Israelis have noticed this effect in the forests they have planted in their deserts while the rest of the arab world has spent its time burning flags and planting bombs.

True to form the BBC environment page has been running a story about how the world's deserts are now threatened with destruction because of global warming. Funny how a bad thing (deserts) becomes a vital precious resource when it suits a certain political agenda.

Kyoto is a hugely expensive way of making very little difference to a problem which probably doesn't exist. Indeed, as we are certainly in an 'interglacial' age at the moment it could be that we'll need all the global warming we can get in the future to stop the ice sheets returning.

Still, at least when the BBC is bleating about global warming it's taking a short, welcome, break from its endless anti American propaganda. Oh, wait, the original post combines both the BBC's main obsessions, well done BBC!

Such a pity Al Gore didn't take all the action he's advocating when he was, you know, vice president for 8 years but i'm sure that was all George Bush's fault too.

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Euan,

"Read the rest of it, Ed. You'll soon see all the caveats and doubts."

I have, and I refer you to my response to M Wood, above. The paragraph from IPCC above is unequivocable in attributing 'most' of the recent warming to human activities, unequivocable.

Of course, there are gaps in our knowlege and understanding, and even in our abilities to get round the coming difficulties in which you seem to have such unquestioning faith.

The future will tell.
Vaya con Gaia

ed

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  • 39.
  • At 10:36 AM on 12 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Yes, Ed, the future will tell. Pound to a pinch of snuff it will show (a) industrialisation and the current warming are linked only by coincident timing and (b) anthropogenic global warming is just another dismal episode in the litany of self-loathing Luddism which calls itself the environmentalist movement. It's just the same as all the other millenarian scare stories of recent decades.

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My kinda Luddism?

"The Future is where we'll all be fulfilled, happy, healthy, and perhaps will live and consume forever. It may have some bad things in it, like storms or floods or earthquakes or plagues or volcanic eruptions or stray meteors, but soon we will learn to predict and prevent such things before they happen. In the Future, many scientists will be employed in figuring out how to prevent the unpredictable consequences of the remaining unpreventable bad things. There will always be work for scientists."
http://home.btconnect.com/tipiglen/resist.html#future

Enjoy the future, and may we live in interesting times.
xx
ed

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  • 41.
  • At 11:45 AM on 12 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

There will always be floods, earthquakes, plagues and so on, just as there always have been. We can minimise some things, we can develop techniques to mitigate others. This is basically the story of human progress over the past 10,000 years.

Incidentally, you might care to note that the death toll in horribly advanced technological civilisations in the west - the ones that are going to kill us all - from natural disasters is orders of magnitude less than in the much less developed third world when the same thing happens. Why do you think this should be? Why do you think that a lower technology localist and primitivist civilisation would do better?

I *will* enjoy the future, because I am not afraid of change and don't imagine for a moment we can preserve the world in aspic just the way it is, or just any other way we might like it to be. Change is what drives human progress.

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Euan,

"I am not afraid of change and don't imagine for a moment we can preserve the world in aspic just the way it is,..."

Including, of course, the present world based upon consumption and waste. It seems you are only open to change if it doesn't challenge the current foundations of western ideology - growth, mechanisation, trade for trade's sake, etc.

"XXVII. The first thing we must begin to teach our children (and learn ourselves) is that we cannot spend and consume endlessly. We have got to learn to save and conserve. We do need a "new economy", but one that is founded on thrift and care, on saving and conserving, not on excess and waste. An economy based on waste is inherently and hopelessly violent, and war is its inevitable by-product. We need a peaceable economy."
-- Wendell Berry, Thoughts in the Presence of Fear, Sept., 2001
http://www.orionsociety.org/pages/oo/sidebars/America/Berry.html

Salaam/Shalom/Shanti/Peace
ed

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  • 43.
  • At 01:58 PM on 12 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Yes, the present situation will also change. Everything changes, including climates. In fact, especially climates - the only constant factor in climate is the presence of change.

Generally speaking, mechanisation/automation will indeed increase as human labour is removed from more and more jobs. This is to be expected. Also to be expected is that growth and trade will continue. Trade is not trade for its own sake, but rather for the sake of you giving me something I want in return for me giving you something you want, perhaps via a series of intermediate steps. This is normal, because nobody can provide for themselves everything they want, at least not once you get past the hunter/gatherer stage of human development.

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  • 44.
  • At 02:03 PM on 12 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

I'd point out that the Wendell Berry idea of an "economy based on waste" being violent and leading inevitably to war is hopelessly wrong.

We do indeed need a peaceable economy, but it is trade that promotes this peace. Although many anticapitalists and socialists don't seem to realise it too well, capitalist trade does not want, need or even like war, since war disrupts trade and hence depresses profit.

That apart, the economy is not based on waste, it is based on choice and the ability to exercise that choice within practical limits. You might see it as waste if you have a choice of say thirty different models of cooker, but the alternative is a one-size-fits-all cooker that attempts to be all things to all cooks and ends up being nothing to anyone. Consider the environmental degradation caused by economies that actually do operate on your basis, such as China up until recently and the USSR. That's where planning and absence of choice gets you.

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  • 45.
  • At 08:15 AM on 13 Jun 2006,
  • David Mitchell wrote:

More and more scientific evidence is emerging linking the continual burning of fossil fuels to increasing environmental damage, resulting in melting polar ice caps, more extreme weather and warming of the planet.

However whilever we have big business in the shape of the global oil multi nationals controlling our energy policy there is never going to be the shift away to the new technologies necessary to end the burning of fossil fuels and hence save our environment. These vested interests are more concerned about their short term profits and their shareholders than the fate of the planet.

It has been clear for the last 30 or 40 years that a shift away from fossil fuels is necessary for the protection of our environment. However the short term self interests of big business continues to prevail and the damage to our environment is becoming ever more obvious to all but the most lumpen sections of the global populous which are mainly the religious fantatics and the extreme right wing in the United States who are hell bent on returning human knowledge to the dark ages in order to preserve the power of their big business friends, and use the cloak of religion to justify that which cannot be justified.

Global warming is real and is a threat to the continuation of our society. If we are to tackle it effectively then the vested interests I have mapped out here need to be confronted head on if we are to save not just our planet but our continuing survival as a species.

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  • 46.
  • At 08:33 AM on 13 Jun 2006,
  • David Mitchell wrote:

Just a spelling correction in my post. The word "fanatics" has a typing error. My apologies for this slight spelling oversight. The corrected spelling is in the quotes.

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Euan,

"capitalist trade does not want, need or even like war, since war disrupts trade and hence depresses profit. "

And what, may I ask you ended the Great Depression? What turned the incipient bear market of 2000/2001 into the next bull market, only now hitting the skids?

Might it have had something to do with orders for cruise missiles and fighter planes and all sorts of other stuff to be blown up or consumed in warfare????

The waste referred to includes, for each American:
Amount generated per year per person Type of Waste
====================== ==============================
24 lbs / 11 KG Toxic industrial waste
80 lbs / 36 KG industrial airborne pollutants
1,600 lbs / 726 KG Municipal waste
4,600 lbs / 2,087 KG Hazardous industrial waste
106,000 lbs /48,081 KG industrial waste


Salaam/Shalom/Shanti/Peace
ed

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  • 48.
  • At 09:34 AM on 13 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

What ended the Great Depression? Hmm, clearly you aren't an economist, but simplifying a little here goes:

Suppose you feel uncertain about the economy and start putting money aside as savings rather than spending it. That's fine, but suppose lots of people feel the same way at the same time. The same effect can be had by investors liquidating their stock holdings and not spending the money. When enough people do this, the effect on the economy of reduced expenditure and/or stock overpricing becomes measurable and business suffers because it isn't selling and doesn't have investment capital. Some businesses close as a result, laying off staff which further depresses economic activity. This is a natural correction in the normal economic cycle, but when it becomes significant enough to cause negative economic growth it is called recession. A very severe recession is termed a depression. A stock market crash triggered by substantial liquidation of investments often precedes depression. It can be defeated most readily by state expenditure or by inflating the money supply to provide investment capital and spending money. However, in an economy based on a commodity currency system (e.g. the gold standard, as was common in the 1920s) it is difficult or even impossible for the state to inflate the money supply, and so the recession lengthens and deepens, becoming a prolonged depression. This is what happened in the 1920s, and it is why the depression took so long to clear in the USA, although it should be noted it cleared faster in other economies, including Britain.

Depression will clear itself naturally without intervention as the corrections in the economic cycle are made. However, this can be painful and can take a long time, which is why most economies now use what is termed fiat currency, which is not gold based and which can be easily inflated or constricted as required, thus evening out the fluctuations in the economic cycle. The advantage is that we avoid unnecessary personal hardship, unemployment, etc. The current thought behind this is called "neo-Keynesianism" and you may wish to research this.

What actually ended the Great Depression was a combination of state intervention in the economy (somewhat clumsily handled in the US due to inexperience) and the completion of the natural corrective mechanism. War and military spending have nothing to do with it, as any glance at the facts of economic history for the period clearly shows.

Note also that the US markets crashed in 1987, wiping far more money off the value of the market than in the 1920s, BUT because by then the economy was on neo-Keynesian lines with a fiat currency, the incident passed with barely a tremor. Had we still used the gold standard, it would have been far worse than the 1920s.

Might it have had anything to do with orders for cruise missiles and fighter planes? In a word - no.

With respect, I do suggest you read up on some economic facts rather than long-discredited anticapitalist theories about capitalism inevitably leading to war. It doesn't.

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Hi all,

Recognising the benefits of warfare for the industrial economy based in consumption and waste, and anticipating the upcoming 'peace', the conference at Bretton Woods in 1944 established the World Bank, the IMF, and exchange rate mechanisms, mostly devised as a way to create an economy similar to a wartime (high consumption) basis...
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/decade/decad047.htm
also try wikipedia for a substantial article on the background to Bretton Woods.

"XXI. What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and active state of being. We should recognize that while we have extravagantly subsidized the means of war, we have almost totally neglected the ways of peaceableness. We have, for example, several national military academies, but not one peace academy. We have ignored the teachings and the examples of Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peaceable leaders. And here we have an inescapable duty to notice also that war is profitable, whereas the means of peaceableness, being cheap or free, make no money."
-- Wendell Berry, from previous link

xx
ed

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Talk about studying history Euan, the depression took place in the '30s, not the 20's which were 'roaring'.

Look it up while you're studying the background to Bretton Woods, and then try and teach this granny to suck eggs.
xx
ed

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  • 51.
  • At 09:43 AM on 13 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Ed, in your list of waste you could perhaps define "hazardous" and you could break down the forms of waste to show what they actually are. Given the environmentalist tendency to hyperbolic exaggeration, you might wish to list what you consider to be "toxic" waste. You also don't appear to say anything about how much of these various types of waste are subsequently used in other processes, neutralised safely and cleanly, or are identical to naturally occurring substances.

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  • 52.
  • At 09:48 AM on 13 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

The depression started with the stock market crash of 1929, which resulted from a progressive loss of investor confidence in the preceding period, culminating in a sudden liquidation of investment in not only overpriced and speculative ventures but also in solid and established business. The 1920s are the key to it.

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Euan,

"The 1920s are the key to it."

Aye, and the loss of confidence was not "progressive", but sudden and cataclysmic and occurred in October of 1929 (only in the 20s by months), leading to the depression, which lasted throughout the thirties, only to be relieved by wartime prosperity.

The prosperity of the 'roaring twenties' which featured speculative madness similar to that recently seen in the '90s was based to some extent upon WWI.

The key to depressions is certainly excessive optimism, techno and otherwise.

xx
ed

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Euan,

"Consider the environmental degradation caused by economies that actually do operate on your basis, such as China up until recently"

Until recently the Chinese were still farming the same topsoil after forty centuries. Since they have begun to adopt industrial agriculture, they are now sending it downstream like the rest of us.
F H King, Farmers of Forty Centuries, 1911
http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010122king/ffc9.html

And, far from devaluing trade, war makes far more money than peace, as anyone with any sense of twentieth century history knows:

"XXI. What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and active state of being. We should recognize that while we have extravagantly subsidized the means of war, we have almost totally neglected the ways of peaceableness. We have, for example, several national military academies, but not one peace academy. We have ignored the teachings and the examples of Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peaceable leaders. And here we have an inescapable duty to notice also that war is profitable, whereas the means of peaceableness, being cheap or free, make no money." -- Wendell, from the previous link
http://www.orionsociety.org/pages/oo/sidebars/America/Berry.html

xx
ed

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Euan,
"Ed, in your list of waste you could perhaps define "hazardous" and you could break down the forms of waste to show what they actually are."

The list was pretty well broken down and came from the US Environmental Protection Agency, not usually a source of 'hyperbolic exaggeration'.
http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/index.htm

Vaya con Gaia
ed

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  • 56.
  • At 07:40 PM on 13 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

To say business seeks war inevitably because it is more profitable than peace is at best far too simplistic - simplistic enough to be described as plain wrong, in fact.

It is true that one can make a larger profit from making lots of tanks than from making not very many tanks, so in that sense increased military expenditure is more profitable for the businesses making military hardware. However, and this is where people like Berry get it wrong, it is simplistic to say that business wants to make more tanks purely because it is more profitable than making no tanks at all. That's trivially true, but misses the point - the resources not used for making tanks are instead directed at making cars, washing machines, bicycles, and so forth. The choice is not between more tanks or no tanks, it is rather between tanks and something else that is not a tank.

Furthermore, because one can sell "not tanks" to a wider range of people than just the army, because "not tanks" can be just about anything non-military, because "not tanks" can be more readily exported and sold to foreign markets, and because "tanks" although expensive are generally made in small quantities and sold to a single supplier in an artificial market, the rewards of making "not tanks" and marketing them widely are far, far greater than the rewards of making tanks.

And furthermore again, warfare disrupts those profitable markets for "not tanks" with the result that although the maker of tanks is doing jolly nicely, everyone else who is making "not tanks" is suffering. And there are more makers of "not tanks" employing more people and making bigger profits than those making tanks.

All this "business wants war to make profits" stuff is long since discredited simplistic rubbish. It belongs in the same intellectual scrapheap as the ideas of the inherent contradictions of capitalism dooming it to extinction and Malthus' idea of rising population resulting in mass starvation. It's just plain wrong, however much Mr Wendell Berry may think otherwise.

As for the waste outputs, I cannot find the data you cite on the EPA website, but I'll take your word for it. I'd like to know how much of this stuff is formally or informally recycled, though, and how much may be hazardous but is simply a natural product.

Finally, on the stock market crash of 1929, the point is that although the crash itself was sudden the loss of confidence built up over a few years and the underlying causes go back to the horrendous costs of WW1 and its aftermath of economic dislocation.

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War does like a lot of money:
http://www.warresisters.org/piechart.htm

and, in 1961, Dwight David Eisenhower, a military man, in his farewell address as US President, "three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations."
http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/farewell.htm
video at:
http://www.sonyclassics.com/whywefight/main.html

So it's not just me and Wendell who've got it wrong. And, while you're at it have a look at yesterday's (and last week's) stock markets...
xx
ed

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  • 58.
  • At 02:20 PM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Ed,

America is the world's greatest military and strategic power. Inevitably the means for this are very expensive, but you do have to see it in the context of disproportionately low defence expenditure in virtually all other western nations (America carries a lot of their defence burden) and also in relation to the 12 trillion dollar American GDP. Military expenditure in America runs at about 9% of GDP, markedly higher than most European countries, Canada, etc.

In both Britain and America the concept of social security as a trust fund is little more than an accounting fiction. Social security in the American sense means pensions only, as you doubtless know. In both Britain and America, current taxpayers fund current pensioners - it is not really a trust fund at all, merely redistribution. Thus, the War Resisters rejigging of the pie chart to remove that aspect makes their headline chart fundamentally inaccurate and misleading. But better suited to their message, of course.

As for Eisenhower, I'm sure you're aware that his comments on the scale of the military-industrial complex were not a boast but rather a warning - the matter was something of an anxiety for him. Again, though, see this in context - had America in the 1940s and 50s not spent such vast sums and allocated so many people to this purpose, we'd quite possibly be having this discussion in Russian with the NKVD monitoring the exchange. Perhaps you think that would have been a better, more peaceable outcome? And the legacy of the expenditure then is the existence of the USA as the global power now.

And by the way, the USSR spent up to 30% of GDP on the military - you think this should not have been countered by anything? Do you think if we had just been nice to them they'd have gone away, withdrawn from Eastern Europe?

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"had America in the 1940s and 50s not spent such vast sums and allocated so many people to this purpose, we'd quite possibly..." still be experiencing the Great Depression, my point precisely, I believe, and yes, I did know Ike wasn't bragging but warning. Would that his warnings had been heeded. He also warned against 'big science', if you want to google out the entire farewell address.

I've worked on military contracts and they're the most profitable thing any business can hope for, what with guaranteed margins and high specs - no expense spared.

"It is well understood that nothing so excites the glands of a free-market capitalist as the offer of a government subsidy." - Wendell, of course.
http://home.btconnect.com/tipiglen/ecoscale.html

Vaya con Gaia
ed

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  • 60.
  • At 10:12 PM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

Ed, your comment on government contracts and subsidies is perfectly correct, but this applies pretty much to all government sectors and not just the military.

Consider the profit opportunities for government computer projects - 450 million pounds for the Child Support System to calculate 15% of take-home pay and it still doesn't work. Who needs war when you have computer contracts?

The notion that we would still be in the great depression but for WW2 is absolutely risible. Economic recovery was already underway in Europe even before re-armament started. In America it took a little bit longer, but it was still happening.

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  • 61.
  • At 01:43 PM on 21 Jun 2006,
  • John Simpson wrote:

All this debate about climate change gets me down, when the main cause to which we attribute its trigger is exponential increase in Human activity since the start of industrial revolution. This allowed industrial production in food and improvements in health and longevity resulting in exponential increase in population. This! is what we should be debating. How we can best manage our numbers at a much reduced and sustainable level. The byword should not be "sustainable Developement" but sustainable Life on this planet.

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  • 62.
  • At 02:18 PM on 21 Jun 2006,
  • Euan Gray wrote:

So, John, how do you propose reducing the population?

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  • 63.
  • At 02:14 PM on 22 Jun 2006,
  • John Simpson wrote:

Hi Euan
My complaint is that there is no debate among MPs, or in the mainstream media on the subject of population management. It does seem to me that if there is any mention of population it is about the demographic changes in the age distribution and that we should be producing more babies to earn the wealth to keep us oldies in our dotage.
My opinion is that a large percentage of the young people out there in the UK & Europe are not employed in wealth producing activity but in service jobs which will not provide for our future. Their skill level is low their moral is low, they are not interested in engineering, technical and manufacturing jobs but look to football and music and the celebrity world as their top choices. I started work at 15 they might start at 25. Older people can and may wish to work longer so the old argument that we need a new generation to provide for us is red herring.
If you realy do want my oppinion on what should be done about overpopulation then here is my two penneth.
1) Sack to the pope
2) Educate all
3) Use carrot & Stick (Give tax relief to people who have two or less children)
5) Chastise those who have more than two
4) Give more power and choice to women over their fertility
6) Improve world health
7) put something in the water

There are literally hundreds of things which can be done given the will. However if we do not take action soon mother nature will find a way of doing it herself and she does not refer to an electorate or an ethics committee

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  • 64.
  • At 09:31 AM on 18 Nov 2006,
  • Martin Chapman wrote:

I read in the Western Morning News, a newpaper which I find to be a responsible journal, that de-eforestation in Brazil is responsible for the release of more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than that produced by China and America combined. Can this be true? If so should we not all boycott teak garden furniture etc., should the governments of the developed world not subsidise Brazil's total set-aside of the forests and ban all timber imports as well as compensating for a ban on the soya produced in the cleared areas? Might such subsidies not also be applicable to other areas under ecological threat like Borneo and Sumatra where de-eforestation is likely to bring about the extinction of the orang utan? An international stick and carrot approach would be more effective than rightious moralising, as long as the carrot reaches the people deprived of a living as a result. Or are we happier with our gin and tonics on the corpse of a forest giant while the balance of the world climate topples.

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  • 65.
  • At 01:17 AM on 27 May 2007,
  • Len Medcraft wrote:

There is so much uncertainty with respect to C02 and other so called green house gases, being the cause of climate change. I have yet to be convinced that all the man made pollution, could cause anything like the environmental change that Karakatoa (a volcano in the Philippines) can create when it blows off.

The impression I have is if we reduce the green house gases to a very low level the global warming will be negligible; nothing could be further from the truth, certainly the green house effect could exacerbates global warming.

As a fourteen year old boy in 1934 I worked on the coal face in a mine ¾ of a mile deep 2 miles in, the coal was very hard it wouldn’t burn on an open fire.
We young miners often asked our buties (older men) how the coal came to be there, the reply varied between god put it there and it was there when the earth was made, 72 years on we now know how the coal came to be there.

There is only one acceptable explanation for those massive forests being crushed down to become petrified coal fields, that’s ICE up to six miles thick; and it’s happened time and time again. the trees which produced the coal seam that I worked on must have been iron or lignamvita timber, it was so very hard.

The planet is a gyro, with a peripheral speed of more than 900 mph, whilst orbiting the sun the gyroscopic forces are causing it to spiral on a hypothetical circumference of an hundred thousand years, giving us periods of up to fifty thousand year of ice and possibly the same for the hot period.
Or one might say a solar summer and winter solstice, comparable to our much shorter six monthly climatic variation. The planet is now leaving the ice age and is spiralling towards the Sun.

Twenty five thousand years or so on, the planet will begin to spiral away from the sun, in the mean time it’s going to get very hot.
Might one ask where was the human species in it’s evolution at this moment in time during the previous ice age.

One could speculate at large as to how the planet might react to the gravitational force of the Sun, but one thing is for sure the planet will be vastly different twenty five thousand year after it has began to spiral away from the sun:


Len Medcraft

Ps it’s estimated there is a twelve metre thick seam of coal under Canley. How did that get there:

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90% of the time on this planet we are in an ice age. We should be in an ice age right now. The little ice age was due to a decline in sunspots. Solar sunspots will be declining in a normal cycle which means it will be getting colder soon.

If it become necessarily to freeze the planet quickly then hydrogen gas can be released into the atmosphere. It will form very high altitude ice crystals reflecting sun light and freezing the planet.

A major ice age always follows a major warming trend. It was thought that plants pumped the CO2 out of the atmosphere cooling us off. There is the possiblility that plant produce hydrogen gas in very warm climates freezing the planet. It is known that plankton release air to cool of the oceans by increasing clouds to reflect heat.

Since it is easier to control a green house problem than an ice age we should continue our CO2 emissions.

Ron Blue

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