Monday, June 30, 2008

Paying for it

A comment posted in a thread occasioned by Jonathon Porritt on Green prudence :

Alex Lockwood makes a useful addition to this thread. He and some others will be aware that stabilisation at 450ppmv, never mind 550 may pose very large risks -- risks that may come to seem unacceptably high once they are better understood. James Hansen and some colleagues recommend 350 (see also the campaign group It may be that the only 'safe' concentration is even lower - close to pre-industrial levels!

It's hard to see how this can be achieved without a vast array of policies and technologies including, even, scrubbers of the kind championed by Wally Broeker.

Broeker suggests the scrubbers could remove CO2 for around $10 to $20 per tonne. On top of that you have sequestration cost, assuming sequestration is feasible. And as Broeker states, this would only be a part of a solution -- that is, we'd to have a wholesale green energy revolution, massively increase efficiency and much else besides as well.

Maybe the costs are close to impossible to characterize beyond arm waving at this stage. They might be on the order of defense budgets as a percentage of GDP - tat is something like twice the 2% of GDP I understand Stern is now talking about. How many election cycles, economic downturns and other events of a bumpy nature before that becomes an acceptable idea for journalists, politicians and others, if it ever does?

Fun in the sun

...according to Seymour Hersh in Preparing the Battlefield.

Friday, June 27, 2008


From books I would quite like to be reading. One:
Every time you blink there are ten flashes of lightning in the earth's atmosphere.
Happiness depends on being free, and being free depends on being courageous...But the man who can most truly be accounted courageous is he who best knows the meaning of what is sweet and what is terrible, and then goes out to meet what is to come.
The first quote is from The Atlantic by Andrew O'Hagan, the second is from Thucydides, as quoted by Philip Bobbit in Terror and Consent.

Peaking into the future

Ian Sample does a good job reporting on pinch points and crisis scenarios for the global oil supply (Oil: The final warning). But he is overstating it to say all viable alternatives for transport fuels have hit the skids.

'All' that's needed are bold policies to: 1) ratchet up fuel efficiency standards -- the opposite, if you like, of the Bush administration's attempts to water them down and obstruct other actors such as the state of California; and 2) serious investment in low emission alternatives of which an early example may be the Tesla Motors roadster that 'can go 250km between charges at a running cost of less than 1 US cent per kilometre'.

These are big asks, but far from politically infeasible. A nasty, but not too large shock to the global system of the kind that Sample describes might be just the job to concentrate minds towards these necessary changes.

Failing that, further pressures on oil supply may have additional adverse consequences such as stimulating a boom in synfuels from coal, which is abundant but hugely polluting without CCS.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Broken young lives in Britain

Lynsey Hanley on the young soldiers who survive, and a report that a 12 year old boy had terrorist murder videos on his mobile.

Debts, past and future

Greg Palast (Court Rewards Exxon for Valdez Oil Spill) gives his account of a broken promise in the first world:
[The] Alaskan natives ultimately agreed to sell the Exxon consortium this astronomically valuable patch of land -- for a single dollar. The Natives refused cash. Rather, in 1969, they asked only that the oil companies promise to protect their Prince William Sound fishing and seal hunting grounds from oil.
Mike Davis (Welcome to the next epoch) piles on the pessimism regarding prospects for global equity:
In a sobering study recently published in the Proceedings of the [U.S.] National Academy of Science, a research team has attempted to calculate the environmental costs of economic globalization since 1961 as expressed in deforestation, climate change, over-fishing, ozone depletion, mangrove conversion, and agricultural expansion. After making adjustments for relative cost burdens, they found that the richest countries, by their activities, had generated 42% of environmental degradation across the world, while shouldering only 3% of the resulting costs.
Elsewhere, Simon Donner takes a dispassionate look at emissions scenarios.

Standard Operating Procedure

A terrorist outrage shortly before the election—or, more cost-effectively, a terrorist video attacking McCain and/or praising Obama—would be powerful evidence that Al Qaeda wants McCain to win, in hopes that he would continue such policies as bleeding American military strength into the Iraqi desert, facilitating the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, promoting Islamist extremism by vowing to occupy Iraq permanently, and confirming “blood for oil” suspicions by arranging no-bid petroleum contracts for American energy corporations. In 2004, remember, an Al Qaeda video of this type put Bush over the top.
-- from Black Ops by Hendrik Hertzberg

Learning not to hate

Educating Iraqis may not be as glamorous as bombing them, but it will do far more good. -- Nicholas Kristof.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Naked lies

Finally, the Oil, notes TomDispatch

But it's not quite right that oil hasn't been acknowledged by the mainstream. As Gideon Rachman recently reminded us, both John McCain and Alan Greenspan have basically said Iraq was about oil.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Gone walkabout

No more grains of sand will wash across this site for a little while.

bad and dangerous

MPs should vote down 42 days detention without charge. The innocent will suffer, the basis of law will be threatened and terrorism aided - says Anthony Barnett.

The Clintstones

Realclearpolitics links to a good summary in The Economist of why Hillary Clinton went down.

Judith Warner is acute on sexism and the zeitgeist, but Chrystia Freeland is still right (Hillary Clinton's real lesson for women):
feminists need not be too heartbroken at their heroine's loss. The truth – and it is one worth remembering this week as paeans to Mrs Clinton's stalwart campaigning come pouring in – is that the New York senator was always an imperfect standard-bearer for the cause of female advancement in the US. Even her harshest critics admit she is smart, tough, disciplined and incredibly hard-working – but none of those sterling qualities negates the biographical fact that the US's first credible female contender for the White House owes her national political career to marrying the right guy.

In using her marriage – notably her eight years as first lady, which was often invoked as evidence that she would be "ready on day one" – as her launch pad, Mrs Clinton has more in common with the wives and daughters who inherited high office in dynasty-friendly regimes in south-east Asia and Latin America. It contrasts with leaders such as Angela Merkel and Margaret Thatcher, who were elected to run Group of Seven high-income countries under their own steam.


To watch the intertwined agonies of South Africa and Zimbabwe today is to see what Frantz Fanon meant when he wrote, in “The Wretched of the Earth,” that “the last battle of the colonized against the colonizer will often be the fight of the colonized against each other.” Mbeki and Mugabe belong to a generation of liberation fighters who seem incapable of seeing the world through any lens beyond that of anti-colonial struggle, and who invoke their revolutionary bona fides as immunity against all political criticism and all challengers. Their time has passed. The best hope for both their countries now is for the voters of Zimbabwe to be allowed to show their courage on June 27th and liberate themselves.
-- from Struggles by Philip Gourevitch.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

'Climate Change and the Fate of the Amazon'

Timmons Roberts circulates a note that the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B has recently released online for free download the full special issue on Climate Change and the Fate of the Amazon.

To coincide with publication, Royal Society Publishing has also set up an online forum, dedicated to the same subject.

Articles here. Forum here.

[In Papua New Guinea, a study finds that he countries forests were being cleared or degraded at a rate of 1.4% per year in 2002, increasing to 1.7% per year in 2007. If clearing and degradation continues unchecked, over half of the forest that existed when PNG became independent from Australia in 1975 will have been destroyed by 2021, according to the report. The Brazilian Amazon is losing forest at the rate of 0.9% per year (New Scientist).]

Carbon bizarre

in one case a company is earning truly staggering sums of money from the carbon credits it is receiving - perhaps as much as $500m (£250m) over a period of 10 years - for a project it says it would have carried out without the incentive of the CDM.
-- from a report by Mark Gregory, BBC World Service.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Martyrdom init

With an alleged plot to blow up airliners featuring in the news, one impression I get from looking at videos of some of the accused (here, here and here) is that these guys are not the sharpest tools in the box. If that's correct, then it may be a hopeful sign - although not for the English educational system, which seems to be failing to promote 'intergroup contact'.

'War and decision'

Christopher Hitchens recommends Douglas Feith on the the Iraq war

Sunday, June 01, 2008

‘Im Verlassenen’

The completeness with which Elisabeth Fritzl was abandoned and the thoroughness of her interment are hard to comprehend. For 24 years, she was buried alive. There were no bars to her cell, as Jelinek reminds us, no bars through which to glimpse another life...The extreme cruelty of Elisabeth’s situation involved an almost unimaginable enclosure, not just of space but of time. Physical confinement – airless and without daylight – was compounded by temporal uncertainty, by not knowing when, if ever, she was to be released. Time becomes oppressive when we are unable to see where it is leading. Even the trivial experience of waiting for someone who is late can make us anxious that we’ve been left to rot in unstructured time. At such moments we get a sense of the limitless fear of the baby who cannot imagine the return of its absent mother. Elisabeth Fritzl was abandoned by her mother to a father who had become an ogre, and found herself waiting for ever; falling – like the ‘suffering mortals’ of Hölderlin’s ‘Hyperions Schicksalslied’ – ‘jahrlang ins Ungewisse hinab’ (‘for years into the vague abyss’).
-- from a review by Nicholas Spice of Greed by Elfriede Jelinek.