Pope Francis has finished his speech to Congress. Within his comments, there are elements to please virtually all segments of U.S. society. From ‘sanctity of life’ to ‘sanctity of planet’ from the value of business to the importance to seeking greater equity, from …
One of the Pope’s major efforts relates to climate change. His encyclical merits reading — no matter whether you believe you understand climate change — as a powerful scientific, economic, philosophical, ethical, and moral laydown of the criticality of action.
The climate science denialists dominating the U.S. Congress (e.g., the GOP political elite) and the GOP in general feared that the Pontiff would lay down a strong gauntlet on climate change. That their rejection of science, their fossil foolish endangerment of our common future in service to ideology and, in too many cases, their paymasters would face harsh and direct denouncement by the Pope.
This was not the case.
Listening to his speech, it is possible that many didn’t even pick up that he spoke to climate change — after all, those words aren’t even in the speech. Read the speech. It is worth the time … but notice how sublime the climate references are … (the relevant section after the fold
One has to wonder whether subtlety works in today’s American political system.
The Pope had the biggest soapbox in American politics.
The Pontiff, unlike too many in the American elite, actually seems to understand the serious risks we face and the criticality of serious actions to mitigate climate change if we are not to move from risks and damage to utterly catastrophic consequences for humanity …
At the greatest soapbox in American politics, the Pontiff chose subtlety rather than a sledge hammer.
Looking at the reporting as to Volkswagon’s systemic fraud re diesel-engine pollution, there are some legitimate questions to ask:
Will legal entities, around the world, take the legitimate approach of moving beyond “Corporate” to individual responsibility? Will — sadly unlike the financial frauds of the 2000s — executives go to jail?
To what extent do the implications from the 11 million+ VW vehicles built with systems designed to deceive pollution testing devices threaten VW’s financial health and, even, viability as a major global automaker?
How many people have and will die due to VW’s deliberate deceit?
This last is a question that seems not to have caught attention … yet.
Pollution regulation exists, in no small part, to protect human health. When it comes to vehicle fuels, the regulatory action to remove lead has had an economic value exceeding $3 trillion over the past 30 years with untold numbers of people living better lives (from reduced brain damage to reductions in crime rates). Volkswagen acted deliberately — in what we might reasonably call a criminal conspiracy — to undermine pollution regulations. In other words, acting with malice and forethought to take actions to threaten human lives around the world.
Nitrogen oxides, or NOx, contribute to smog, particulate matter and a wide range of health problems for certain people, which is why they’re so heavily regulated in emissions. Via the EPA:
NOx pollution contributes to nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, and fine particulate matter. Exposure to these pollutants has been linked with a range of serious health effects, including increased asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses that can be serious enough to send people to the hospital. Exposure to ozone and particulate matter have also been associated with premature death due to respiratory-related or cardiovascular-related effects. Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory disease are particularly at risk for health effects of these pollutants.
Over 11 million vehicles being driven around the world with systems deliberately designed to emit greater levels of pollutants than regulation allows. How many people have faced “serious health effects” due to Volkswagen’s actions? How may have had implications “serious enough to send [them] to the hospital”? How many people are six feet underground who might have been alive if Volkswagen’s executives had not made deliberate decisions to foster increased pollutant emissions?
To date, reporting has discussed the potential financial implications (stock falling, over $7B for a recall, potential for $16B of fines (just in the United States), etc …) and the likely end of VW’s CEO’s tenure due to this. When will we begin talking about how many people Volkswagen has killed?
When it comes to the use (and, more appropriately, misuse) of analysis, perhaps the most powerful phrase is “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damn lies, and statistics“.
a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments
Today’s Washington Times provides an excellent example of this (ab)use of statistics in an effort to discredit efforts to address climate change by painting these efforts as a massive monetary scheme.
A heads up: in the business consulting world, when one tries to define ‘market’, generally this starts with extremely large definitions. The “Defense” market can include weaponry, construction of bases, information technology contracts to manage health care for dependents, day care provision at military bases, training programs for retiring personnel, etc … In terms of climate change “market” and business activity, this could range from things that ‘all’ consider directly related (such as research work on “climate change” science), things that are partially related but with wider benefit streams (investments in wind turbines which will put electricity into the grid at a lower price than any new fossil fuel power plant; insulating buildings; restorative efforts to Gulf of Mexico wetlands; …) to related but undertaken for other reasons as well (investments in resilience in electricity systems to reduce vulnerability to severe storms). “Market” is everything that you can potentially consider linked to the arena, sometimes with very tight linkage, sometimes very tenuous association.
That is the intended — both overt and implied — take away.
The plaintive calls about global warming and loss of polar bear habitats, the stern warnings about rising seas and flooded coastlines – this is what the public hears about. Then there’s this pesky, inconvenient truth they don’t hear about: $1.5 trillion.
OMG! $1.5 Trillion!!!!
No serious discussion, of course, of how much of this is the price of putting in wind turbines versus NOAA’s weather satellites versus insulating homes so that are more frugal in energy use and, well, more comfortable live in.
No, because, the real point is: OMG!!! $1.5 TRILLION!!!
The only market segment specifically discussed?
the talkers, creatives and handlers too.
E.g., the “consultants” …
“climate change consulting market … estimates at $1.9 billion worldwide and $890 million in the U.S.”
Of course, $1.9B sounds like (is?) a big number … and all of 1/10th of 1 percent of the headline number. But, this is ‘look, look, look, these people are earning so much money …”
The Washington Times has provided raw meat for climate science denialist trolling rather than a meaningful contribution to understanding our economy.
This Washington Times article is, politely phrased, a perversion of a more reasoned discussion based on the business report over at Insurance Journal. From that article, something quite interesting as to that consultant ‘class’: that the work has been moving from greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis toward work on sustainability, resiliency, and adaptation. And why?
credits Superstorm Sandy, along with Hurricane Irene, for jump-starting a new market for climate risk assessment and resiliency solutions in the Northeast and the Gulf Coast.
“I think Sandy definitely stimulated more adaptation planning work,” Ferrier said. “Many more municipalities were requesting climate adaptation study scenarios. (Sandy) was a bit of a shot over the bow of a lot of municipalities.”
Who, other than those municipalities, are clients for these resiliency consulting services?
Those who own large property portfolios, big retailers and giant food producers to name a few. In other words it’s anyone who fears losses from more frequent extreme weather events – whether they are climate change related or not is anyone’s guess and a contentious point for some – as well as those who fear business interruption.
In other words, businesses who are concerned about protecting their businesses are hiring “climate change” consultants to help assure their supply chains, reduce risks from major storms, better plan their long-term capital investments … E.g., those who think strategically recognize that spending on “climate consulting” has solid benefits for their bottom line.
Clearly, the Washington Times doesn’t care itself with fostering such strategic thinking.
A Holy Grail for many for of climate-mitigation efforts is “carbon capture and sequestration” or CCS. This offers a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ vision related to fossil fuel use. In short, rather than eliminating the burning of fossil fuels (mainly coal here), lets figure out how to capture carbon dioxide (in the smokestack) and ‘sequester’ that CO2 back where we dug it up from originally. Somewhat like fusion or hydrogen vehicles, the CCS Holy Grail is used by many as sort of a panacea ‘tomorrow’s exciting technology’ to distract attention from already available opportunities to drastically change our collective emissions and climate impact profile (from energy efficiency to renewables to better land use to …). To be clear, we should invest in creating and developing ‘solutions’ for implementation tomorrow even as we invest (far, far more) in deploying things that are already available. Thus, this brief commentary is not some Luddite manifesto objecting to fostering innovation to increase tomorrow’s toolbox of solutions but a discussion of how we can/should think about CCS in a more productive way. CCS, however, is absolutely the wrong mental structure to apply to the challenge and opportunity. The issue is “S”: sequestration. Sequestration treats CO2 as a waste product and, just like carting trash to a landfill, will create significant cost streams (transporting CO2 to sequester locations, sequestering it, and monitoring …) with significant risks (what if sequestered CO2 is released? ….???). High cost, high risk, no direct benefit streams to those paying for the costs. Now, if we change that last letter, we might have something far more interesting. As put here in discussing some innovative technologies
Hy-tek Bio captures exhaust from burning fossil fuels uses this as food for algae growing in tubes. Their system has multiple innovations that look to create viable paths toward cost-effective CCR rather than the overhyped CCS (carbon capture and reutilization vs carbon capture and sequestration).
As we invest to create tomorrow’s opportunities to mitigate (and, sigh, adapt to) climate change, we should look for win-win-win solution sets. Treating CO2 as waste is more of a win-win-loss structure: a win (reduced carbon emissions) – win (increased business throughput for some firms and increased income for some communities) – loss (increased cost per energy unit and increased risk). Looking to that CO2 as a resource with value can shift that WWL to a WWW. What are some paths for ‘reuse’ of that CO2 which could be focused on for innovation, demonstration, and deployment support?
Agrichar / Biochar / Terra Preta: Very simply, we have the potential for a carbon-negative fuel that will, over time, also foster improve fertility in soil. Very simply, gasification of biomass can be combined with agricultural practices to create energy, have the waste plowed back into the soil to improve fertility (while reducing fertilizer requirements), and have some of the carbon from each of these cycles captured in the soil. “[T]he great advantage of biochar is that the technique can be applied world-wide on agricultural soils, and even by rural communities in the developing world because it is relatively low tech.” This is a highly promising arena that is getting attention, but perhaps not enough. For some additional discussion, for example, see: Biochar: The New Frontier; The pay dirt of El Dorado; International Biochar Initiative; Birth of a New Wedge; and Terra Preta for Carbon Reduction. When it comes to CCR innovation research, could there be ways to leverage CO2 from smokestacks to enrich other soils in a biochar-like manner.
Algae/other fuel stocks w/CO2: A CCR Holy Grail is to have algae farms taking in CO2 from smokestack emissions as a nutrient source and then convert that CO2 to energy. (As the CSM put it a decade ago, “Algae: like a breath mint for smokestacks.)
Carbon-fiber / Carbon-fiber nanotubes: From bicycles to airplanes to …, carbon-fiber is finding ever more uses across the global economy. The ‘next’ step (leap ahead forward) is coming with carbon-fiber nanotubes. Carbon-fiber nanotubes have great structural strength and offer a path for extremely efficient, light-weight, and incredibly safe movement of electricity. The carbon-fiber nanotube offers the potential for combining structural strength with electricity movement. Imagine eliminating copper wiring from satellites — saving weight (just how valuable is a pound of weight in space), freeing up interior space (again, what is cubic centimeter’s value 23,000 miles above the earth’s surface?), and improving structural strength. As we learn and reduce costs, this equation moves to aircraft, to automobiles, to portable electronic devices, to our built infrastructure. The cooper mining industry is a meaningful share of global emissions (pdf). Could carbon capture and reutilization to make carbon-fiber nanotubes provide a path to move the global economy away from using copper for things beyond beautiful kitchen utensils? Every avoided ton of copper use roughly equates to five tons of avoided mining emissions. Hmmm …
Note that CCR does have issues. First, the above ideas and other arenas require investment to make them viable realities — they are not ‘there there’ yet for serious climate mitigation benefits. Second, to the extent that they rely on capturing emissions from smokestacks from fossil fuel burning facilities they are only ameliorating/reducing the worsening of our climate problems as the fossil-fuel burning will add CO2 into the atmosphere. These CCR methods would reduce additional emissions — not directly reduce them. Third … the list can go on.
We cannot afford to treat resources as waste — that is what CCS does. CCR flips the equation from CCS’ high-cost and high-risk path to something that could turn out to be net positive and low risk. Which sounds more appealing to you?
In a ‘normal’ world, there should be (a) a rough balance between new high and low temperatures and (b) each year of records should make it less likely that there will be new records (ever harder to be far out on the normal distribution curve to ‘set’ a record).
Europe (and so many other places around the world) is experiencing yet another set of massive breaking of high temperature records.
In a “normal” world, this isn’t something that would be encountered by the same generation … time after time.
Science combined with nature can turn terrifying realities, at times, into gorgeous art. At this moment, there are three active typhoons in the Pacific. At right is an image capturing them
This reminds me strongly of last August when the Pacific Ocean (centered around the Hawaiian Archipelago) had a major meteorological phenomena: a massive set of hurricanes.
Regard this image from that event.
From West to East, these are hurricanes Halong, Genevieve, Iselle, and Julio.
Documentation of severe weather often provides quite striking and even beautiful images.
On first glance, last year and today, my impression was “Van Gogh, not “storm disaster”.
And, even when registering this as a rather impressive (and beautiful image from a) weather pattern, my first thought was not ‘climate change’ yet this set of four hurricanes is not just occurring within the context of global climate change but could well be a strong indicator of actual change.
The world is complex yet, far too often, humans gravitate to simple answers. When it comes to clean energy, for example, many (non-expert) advocates of action point to solar panels and seem to stop there — leaving out efficiency measures, other clean energy, ignoring grid management & storage issues, etc … On a broader level, there are those who create an either / or positing: either you address energy poverty or you address climate change; either you work to mitigate climate to help people in 2100 and beyond or you support adaptation measures to help people today. Judith ‘Marie Antoinette’ Curry provided a stunning example of this yesterday.
Looks like they need more air conditioning in Spain and France and also South Asia. [and the western United States …]
Does it make more sense to provide air conditioning or to limit CO2 emissions. I vote for more air conditioning in these susceptible regions.
Didn’t take long for pushback to emerge which led @CurryJA to reinforce her either/or mentality of addressing today’s problem(s) by worsening tomorrow’s.
Let them buy air conditioners! Never mind that they’re poor and can’t afford it. Ignore the fact that the energy use would make global warming worse. And be sure to paint it as an “either/or” proposition whether it is or not. Just don’t make us do anything like limit CO2 emissions.
Undertake adaptation measures to help humanity (and, as possible, ecosystems/other species) deal with the already existing and already locked in climate change impacts. This can include moving communities threatened by rising seas or, in some cases, building sea walls to protect them; improving building codes to deal with worsening storms; addressing land use to enable species to ‘migrate’ as the climate changes; to urban resiliency planning/development; etc ….; etc … etc … and even increasing air conditioning availability / deployment.
When it comes to that air conditioning, however, we don’t ‘win’ by deploying inefficient systems to be powered by (inefficient) highly-polluting energy sources. While today’s a/c units are far better than yesterday, efforts at ARPA-E and elsewhere are pushing us toward far more energy efficient air conditioning options. Building sciences have advanced to the point where we have very strong knowledge about how to ‘build’ (both specific buildings and communities) to lower heat loads and, therefore, a/c requirements (for example, white roofing). And, the dazzling growth of renewables makes it clear that we can power increased air conditioning loads without burning coal.
No, it is not ‘buy air conditioning and save lives today while accepting worsening tomorrow’ vs ‘work to help tomorrow by killing lives today’. This shallow form of reasoning might work for some but it doesn’t work for developing real solutions to real problems.
Sometimes comedians come too close to the truth. There are people who, it seems, truly thinks that the “solution” for climate change is something like Futurama’s ice cubes into the sea …
Well aligned with what climate science tells us will be happening with increasing frequency, there are a number of regions that have been going through seriously scary heat waves. Forget “scary”, how about seriously deadly?
The death toll from a weeklong heat wave in Karachi, Pakistan, has risen to 1,233, officials told the Associated Press Saturday. Some 65,000 people flooded the city’s hospitals to be treated for heat stroke, and about 1,900 patients were still receiving medical care as the country began to cool off.
… temperatures climbing to 113 degrees Fahrenheit
And, Pakistan is not along with extreme heat …
To this, Judith Curry has a rather straightforward (Futurama-ish?) response:
Does it make more sense to provide air conditioning or to limit CO2 emissions. I vote for more air conditioning in these susceptible regions.
While good, perhaps, for HVAC manufacturers, this ‘solution’ for a climate-change driven trend for more and worsened heat waves is like dropping ice cubes into the ocean …
And, like dropping ice cubes into the ocean, there are just a few complexities to consider …
Karachi’s power grid also collapsed, leaving thousands without air conditioning in a city already facing power cuts and water shortages.
So, the answer to ever-worsening heat waves should be increasing energy demands … often in areas with poor to utterly inadequate energy services.
Too many climate disinformers/delayers engage in a related sleight of hand: they decry “Energy Poverty” as part of a subterfuge effort to support increased global reliance on and use of polluting fossil fuels (primarily in support of burning coal). “Energy Poverty” is a real thing — but the solution set(s) are to be found elsewhere than promoting the burning of coal.
In any event, welcome to today’s Futurama episode courtesy of Judith ‘Marie Antoinette’ Curry:
Let them buy air conditioners.
Yup, let’s tell people, businesses, countries
to buy air conditioners
to keep people cool in ever-worsening heat waves as a path
to worsen energy poverty challenges and
to worsen our climate change challenges.
It does sound like something more suitable for a comedy show than serious intellectual dialogue.
The Papal encyclical on climate change is a truly worthwhile read says one who has barely scratched the surface. Amid all the other demands of life, this compelling of science, philosophy, morality, and religion requires greater attention than I can give it today. Part of the intrusion, twitter notices. Honestly, I doubt that I ever thought that the Papal twitter account would catch my attention. Today has changed that:
This Thursday, the Vatican will release the Papal Encyclical “Laudato si’, on the care of our common home”.
Pope Francis’ decision to take such a serious stance on climate change (on the need to take action seriously to protect our common heritage, to protect the poorest among us, and to protect our common future) could have a dramatic impact on the global political dynamic.
And, by entering the fray, Pope Francis is taking on serious adversaries and creating serious foes. This preview captures the situation in a compelling manner.