Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

On top of the world: Obama and global warming

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bill McKibben, published in the Guardian, on the biggest challenge facing Obama: global warming –

[…] by every testimony, he’s one of the smartest men ever to assume high political office in this country. Not just smarter than Bush. Really smart. Smart enough, if he sits down to really understand the scale of the problem he faces, that he might decide to take the gambles that the situation requires. He said, not long ago, “under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket” — which is a sign of someone who is aware there may be a reality to come to grips with.


Showdown Time: Sarah Palin Vs. Polar Bear

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tonight sees the Vice Presidential Debate between Republican, Governor Sarah Palin and Democrat, Senator Joe Biden. The big question is, who between them and the polar bear is the endangered one?  From today’s Guardian

Polar bear v Sarah Palin

When the US government decided to classify Ursus maritimus as an endangered species earlier in the year, Palin sued in attempt to overturn the ruling, fearing the label would deter oil and gas exploration in Alaska. The case of Palin v Polar bear will be heard in January. Here’s how the contenders size up:

Polar bear: Found across the Arctic regions of five countries; the US, Canada, Russia, Norway and Greenland.
Sarah Palin: Not quite as well travelled. Lives within sight of Russia, but has never ventured there, possibly because of diminishing sea ice.

Conservation status
Polar bear: Vulnerable, largely due to climatic change and the resulting habitat loss.
Palin: Also vulnerable, because of a lack of experience and controversial stances on abortion, creationism, global warming, same-sex marriage and the environment.

Predatory armoury
Polar bear: Possesses razor-sharp teeth, a powerful build and a sense of smell that can detect a seal a mile away under three feet of snow. Still unlikely to triumph in a direct confrontation with Palin however, unless the Alaska legislature suddenly decides to uphold the right to arm bears.
Palin: Licensed gun-owner, avid hunter and crack shot. Palin also supports a policy of shooting wolves from helicopters in order to increase the Alaskan moose population so that Alaskans can shoot more moose. Deadly.

Impact of climate change
Polar bear: Length of hunting season has diminished, birth rates have fallen and it now has insufficient fat reserves.
Palin: None observed.

Biggest supporters
Polar bear: Greenpeace, the US department of the interior, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Geological Survey.
Palin: Hockey moms, the National Rifle Association, rightwing fundamentalist Christians, climate change deniers, the oil industry, God (endorsement unconfirmed).

Biggest threat to survival
Polar bear: Sarah Palin.
Palin: Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, feminism, belated national reality check brought on by global economic crisis.

Influencing the conversation: Gore’s self-funded ad blitz

Monday, March 31, 2008

Superb interview, which prompted a personal reflection on his failed 2000 presidential campaign, despite his attempt (‘words fail to describe’ etc.) to evade the question – i.e. ‘shattering’.

Vodpod videos no longer available.From CBS News.

Note Gore’s message – ‘Yes We Can’ mitigate the devastating effects of man-made global warming (which sounds good as far as an Obama endorsement is concerned).

[One of the things I find interesting about his approach is his casting of the issue as a moral-cum-spiritual problem, one that concerns basic survival –

“We all share the exact same interest in doing the right thing on this. Who are we as human beings? Are we destined to destroy this place that we call home, planet earth? I can’t believe that that’s our destiny. It is not our destiny. But we have to awaken to the moral duty that we have to do the right thing and get out of this silly political game-playing about it. This is about survival,” he said.

I had thought basic survival comes first on the (Maslow) hierarchy of needs – with spiritual/moral needs coming later, once basic survival needs have been satisfied. (I kind of like Max Neef’s take on this; see the Maslow wikipedia link above. Maslow could have been projecting a whole lot of cultural junk, about the developmental stages of evolution towards ‘civilisation’, into his hierarchy – but that’s a whole other discussion.) Maybe Gore’s understanding of the relationship between survival and morality reflects a difference between British and American culture. I don’t know. To my mind, matters of survival don’t necessitate lofty arguments about morality but rather the finding of food, water, air, shelter and warmth. And probably laughter too. Anyway…]

Perhaps unsurprisingly many are envisaging Gore as a possible bridge between the Democratic party and the White House. What did I say? I still maintain, though, that Obama should be at the top of the ticket.

Some intervention into the presidential campaign his ad campaign could be.

Some welcome news: four out of five agree lifestyle changes are necessary

Monday, November 5, 2007

From the BBC

Most people are ready to make personal sacrifices to address climate change, according to a BBC poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries.
Four out of five people indicated they were prepared to change their lifestyle – even in the US and China, the world’s two biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.


BBC environment reporter Matt McGrath says the poll suggests that in many countries people are more willing than their governments to contemplate serious changes to their lifestyles to combat global warming.

Overall, 83% of respondents throughout the world agreed that individuals would definitely or probably have to make lifestyle changes to reduce the amount of climate-changing gases they produce.

In almost all countries in Europe, and in the US, most people said they believed the cost of fuels that contribute most to climate change would have to increase.


“This poll clearly shows that people are much more ready to endure their share of the burden than most politicians grant,” said Doug Miller, director of Globescan, the polling company that conducted the survey on behalf of the BBC.

Globescan interviewed 22,182 people in the UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and the United States.

Haven Europe (Haven America?) – safe while the world burns

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A total of 46 nations and 2.7 billion people are now at high risk of being overwhelmed by armed conflict and war because of climate change. A further 56 countries face political destabilisation, affecting another 1.2 billion individuals.

– according to the organisation, International Alert, written about in the Observer.

The worst threats involve nations lacking resources and stability to deal with global warming, added the agency’s secretary-general, Dan Smith. ‘Holland will be affected by rising sea levels, but no one expects war or strife,’ he told The Observer. ‘It has the resources and political structure to act effectively. But other countries that suffer loss of land and water and be buffeted by increasingly fierce storms will have no effective government to ensure corrective measures are taken. People will form defensive groups and battles will break out.’


In Europe, most countries are currently considered stable enough to cope with global warming, apart from the Balkans; wars have left countries such as Serbia and Montenegro politically weakened. As temperatures rise and farmland is reduced, population pressures will trigger violence that authorities will be unable to contain.

Some nations on the risk map, such as Russia, may cause surprise. ‘Moscow’s control of Russia as a whole will not be undermined by global warming,’ said Smith. ‘But loss of farmland in some regions will lead to local rebellions like those already triggered in Chechnya.’

Conflict triggered by climate change is not a vague threat for coming years, he added. ‘It is already upon us.’

What luck for us Europeans. No mention, I note from the article, of North America.

[You may wonder why I’m tagging this post in ‘psychology’, ‘religion’ and other seemingly peripheral categories; well, I think we need all the help we can get, and psychologists and religious folk alike need to lend their helping hands to these problems.]

What should we do next? What would Bush do? (That’s tongue in cheek, by the way. We need some attention and resource to the United Nations, the only international forum around.)

A real sting in the tail: cut pollution and the world gets hotter

Sunday, October 7, 2007

We just have to change.

If ever humankind’s influence on our surroundings was of little consideration, then the straightforward theory of global dimming should wake you. The theory complements, rather than contradicts, that of global warming to present a state-of-the-world picture that should be disturbing.

And if you get excited by the profundity of simple scientific endeavour, then this BBC Horizon documentary should excite you.

For example, I had no idea that for over a hundred years agricultural scientists have been measuring the rate at which water in a saucepan, left outside in the open air, evaporates, one day at a time: simple – and you might think meaningless. But not so, when the dots were joined with other dots, by chance…

I also learnt that, in the days after the attacks on America in September 2001, when all aeroplanes were grounded, the skies were clear of air pollution – and the temperature rose dramatically.

So the documentary leads from the theory of global dimming – by which air pollution has been keeping the planet cool – to a concrete explanation of what caused late twentieth century famines, killing millions of people in Africa, and the heatwaves of Europe in 2003.

The main problem presented is that, as we reduce the pollution of airborne particulates (from the burning of fossil fuels) we will find our climate getting quickly hotter. ‘The earth could be far more vulnerable to greenhouse gases than previously thought’, and global warming predictions could be too conservative by a long shot. To borrow a biblical concern – and mirroring the language of scientists – we could well be living in ‘the last days’. We’re talking here of temperatures on the planet ‘unseen’ (says the narrator) in four billion years – before complex life emerged. ‘This is not a prediction, but a warning’; business as usual ‘is suicidal. […] We have to tackle the root cause’.

We’ve got twenty-five years, at most, to effect the necessary change.

Update (10.10.07)
Just come across an article on this – record temperatures (up to 22 degrees Celsius) from this summer in the Arctic.

Right on the money

Friday, September 28, 2007

David Miliband’s first speech to the UN –

Climate change is the “greatest long-term threat” to achieving global equality, UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has told the United Nations. Mr Miliband said although all countries will be affected by climate change, the poorest people within the poorest countries will suffer the most. He called on the richest countries to take the greatest action to combat climate change. He made the comments in his first speech to the UN as foreign secretary.

– from BBC Online.