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Climate Change and the US national security rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific

November 18th, 2015 · No Comments

The Center for Climate and Security released a report yesterday with a series of looks at the intersection of climate, the rebalance to Asia, and US national security concerns (pdf of the report).

the effects of climate change are likely to both shape, and be shaped by, the U.S. role in the Asia-Pacific. If the U.S. is to engage constructively in the region – building and broadening alliances, helping advance regional security and prosperity in the face of potentially catastrophic change, and advancing U.S. national security interests – it will have to seriously consider how climate change affects the region, how the U.S. can help advance the climate resilience of the region’s diverse nations, and how the U.S. will adapt strategically to a changed security environment.

From Admiral Samuel Locklear’s, US Navy (retired), forward:

Today we find ourselves in a period of unprecedented global change – change that is offering many new opportunities, but also introducing significant emerging challenges to the global security environment. Foremost among these emerging challenges are the long-term security implications of climate change, particularly in the vast and vulnerable Asia-Pacific region, where the nexus of humanity and the effects of climate change are expected to be most profound … Fortunately, within the context of the ongoing Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, thoughtful consideration is now being given to the long-term security implications of climate changes – but much more is needed.

The report looks to be rich (disclosure — I’ve only had a chance to read about 20 (somewhat scattered) pages so far), with many top-notch people taking a look at specific issues (such as Marcus King‘s look at Vietnamese fisheries). This report might provide a template for discussions and examinations that should continue not just with US security/climate change interaction in the Asia-Pacific region but across the globe.
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The ultimate buzz kill: climate change drives down sex drive …

November 3rd, 2015 · No Comments

We’ve known that climate change threatens agricultural productivity, infrastructure near oceans, human health, biodiversity (and huge numbers of species), sea turtle intercourse, national security, allergy sufferers, economic output, beer, chocolate and coffee, wine, whiskey, cherry blossoms, maple syrup, and, oh by the way, human civilization …. but sex … now we’re talking about something serious.

The National Bureau of Economic Research just published Maybe Next Month? Temperature Shocks, Climate Change, and Dynamic Adjustments in Birth Rates. In this study, economists Alan Barreca, Olivier Deschenes, and Melanie Guldi look at the impact of “temperature shocks” on U.S. birth rates between 1931 and 2010. In short,

  • If the temperature is above 80 degrees, birth rates nine months later are lower. [With implication that ‘sexual’ intercourse goes down as well — although, well, it could be impacts on fertility from sexual activity.]
  • There is a rebound in following (cooler) months, but only about 30% — leading to notable reduction in overall birth rates (projected 2.6% decline in US birth rate).
  • The delayed births — generally representing shifts from summer to autumn conception — occur in summer months, where there is a higher mortality and other health problems for babies (whether due to stress in pregnancy during higher heat or impacts directly on baby in summer months)

An economics perspective seems more focused on birth rate implications for economic performance (since a Dismal Science credo is that population growth = good …):

As summers heat up, developed countries may see already low birth rates sink even lower. Plunging birth rates can play havoc with an economy. China’s leaders recently acknowledged this by ditching the longtime one-child policy and doubling the number of children couples are allowed to have. A sub-replacement U.S. birthrate means fewer workers to pay Social Security benefits for retirees, among other consequences.

Non-economists might be more interested in the underlying point:

Climate change threatens sex

→ No CommentsTags: climate change · economics

Minimalist plastic bag fee shockingly does not cause panic on High Street

October 5th, 2015 · No Comments

Across societies, relatively small policy changes have led to real change.  Getting people off a lazy addiction to plastic bags (and thus reducing plastic impacts — from use of fossil fuels to produce them, to reduced litter on the streets, to reduced impacts on wildlife) is one example. Over a decade ago, the institution of a 33 cents per bag fee in Ireland led to a 93 percent reduction of plastic bag use within a decade. Washington DC’s five-cent per bag fee Bag use pollution reduction DCis credited with cutting DC’s plastic bag use (with resulting impacts in terms of reduced plastic bags showing up in annual Anacostia River cleanups and otherwise).  The fees spark people to think and have, for many, an impact far greater than the actual price involved. Go to shops in most of Western Europe and you will see the vast (typically nearly 100% each day) majority of people walking in with their own bags and the shopkeepers very used to handling a wide range of size, style, nature of bag for packing up purchases.

As with so many things surrounding us, plastic bags (and, of course, plastics) are big (BIG) business. Thus, there are plentiful resources for fighting tooth-and-nail against bag fees. This includes money spent to “prove” that plastic bags are better for the environment than — well — anything else and to argue for the collapse of modern human society if there is the slightest inhibition created to their profligate (ab)use.


Such was the warning from the Daily Mail that a new 5 pence per bag charge in three UK cities would “cause chaos” on High Street.  Truth be told, there are some legitimate reasons to call this a confusing approach:

  • Bags with handles should have a charge, no handles free.
  • Only stores with >250 employees (e.g, mainly chains) should charge.
  • “Unwrapped food, raw meat and fish, prescription medicines, uncovered blades, seeds, bulbs and flowers and live fish are exempt.”

Really, “prescription medicines” really need a free plastic bag (as if that container of antibiotic bills really can’t fit in a pocket)?  (Note: I am with the “environmentalists” who believe that a simple flat fee, without exceptions, is the more sensible move.)

In any event, when it came to the first day of implementation, a Guardian reporter tested the waters and found some confusion and differing perspectives as to the shopping bag charge but, writ large, when asked to investigate “Is there really panic on the streets?“, the result:  “Despite dire warnings, our reporter fails to uncover chaotic scenes on our high streets, and even manages to acquire a few free bags.”

My prediction: this will be incorporated into daily life and this 5p charge will help drive down plastic bag use and reduce public littering in these cities.

We will not ‘solve’ our societal problems and adequately address climate change with incremental changes like (confusing) 5p charges on plastic bags. Yet, we will not “solve” our societal problems and adequately address climate change without such incremental changes.

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The Pope at Congress: too subtle on climate change?

September 24th, 2015 · No Comments

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.

I hope that his political judgment is correct.

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To what extent was VW pollution fraud a death device?

September 23rd, 2015 · No Comments

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.

The VW system to defeat/deceive pollution testing systems has led to (and continues to cause) increased pollution levels, particularly of NoX.

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?

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics re #Climate financing in @WashTimes

August 12th, 2015 · No Comments

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.

Leveraging work done by a business consulting firm on the full extent of business opportunities related to “climate change” (note: this report is behind a (high-price) paywall and thus has not been examined for this post), the Times‘s article is entitled An inconvenient truth: ‘Climate change industry’ now a $1.5 trillion global business.


$1.5 trillion dedicated to Al Gore!

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.




→ No CommentsTags: business practice · climate change · global warming deniers · journalism · media


August 3rd, 2015 · 1 Comment

A Holy Grail for many for of climate-mitigation One metric ton of carbon dioxide gas (annotated)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.


  • 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 reduceCopper cooking pots Petworth House kitchen 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?


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What could possibly be causing the massive breaking of hot temperature records in Europe? “It’s a (#climate) mystery.”

July 7th, 2015 · No Comments

Decade to decade, the world is experiencing ever hotter temperatures.

In a ‘normal’ world, humanity’s vast array of weather monitoring and recording devices would be seeing fluctuation between warmer and cooler.

Across the calendar, there are far more hot temperature records being broken than cold temperature records.

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.

All this makes one wonder what is causing this …

As per Shakespeare in Love, “it’s all a mystery.”

After the fold, take a look at what is happening across Europe. Or, how about Canada Burning? What about the western United States? Not to mention the >1,000 dead Pakistanis.

It’s all a mystery.

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Van Gogh Weather Patterns in Pacific: a climate change connection?

July 6th, 2015 · No Comments

Science combined with nature can turn imageterrifying 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.


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Mitigation + Adaptation required re #climate: heat waves require clean energy + a/c …

July 3rd, 2015 · 1 Comment

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.

22h22 hours ago 

As more suffer and die from heat, GA Tech’s Judith Curry offers advice “Let them buy air conditioning”

21h21 hours ago

Perhaps aspires to be the of disruption?

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.

A simple reality: tackling complex situations with either/or propositions is typically a route for disastrous results.  How climate change is worsening heat wave risks is no exception to this rule.

Very simply, we must:

  • Work to mitigate climate change holistically — efficiency, clean energy, smart planning/development, land use, biochar, etc …, etc …, etc … and (sigh) even considering win-win-win approaches to geoengineering.
  • 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.

And, of course, increasing efficiency married up with increased renewables doesn’t mean limiting the growth of coal use but provides a very clear path to weaning us off coal entirely.

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.

UPDATE: A well phrased laydown of why it is mitigation + adaptation and why “let them buy air conditioners” is simply so ill-advised:

  1. Adaptation responds to current losses.
  2. Mitigation responds to future losses
  3. Adaptation plus future costs is more expensive than mitigation,
  4. Adaptation without mitigation drives procrastination penalties to infinity.

See also Let them eat air conditioners.

From a correspondent,

Curry says if its hot, let them buy A/C

Let’s go further: presumably she would say:

  • If sea-levels rise, let them buy life preservers.
  • If species go disappear, let them go to a zoo.
  • If disease carrying insects expand, let them buy bug spray.

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