Climate change

Nothing illustrates the basic premise of this blog better than climate change. The more affluent and wasteful our lifestyles, the more we contribute to climate change – through flying, driving, and consumer goods. And while we enjoy all the benefits of that lifestyle, the effects fall hardest on those least responsible.

That makes climate change a justice issue and a moral problem. But it’s also a matter of economics – the root cause of climate change is consumerism, which in turn is driven by a growth model of the economy.  In other words, we can’t treat climate change like an ‘environmental issue’. It forces us to rethink our lifestyles, our politics, and our economics, and how they are interconnected.

Lots of people are still asking if climate change is really happening,

It would be wrong to dismiss anyone with an alternative view of the science,

Deciding how to act on climate change is just as contentious, and there are lots of misconceptions.

The government has a role to play

But we need to take responsibility for ourselves

And if you’re still confused,

15 Comments on “Climate change”

  1. Richard S. Bennett, B.A. June 4, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    With 95,000 square miles of DEAD ZONES in the global OCEAN,
    we should make the polluters CLEAN-UP the OIL POLLUTION
    by FEEDING the phytoplankton O2 and glacial moraine rock dust.

    Immediately there is a BLOOM, a sudden resurgence of life.

    That is the MODIS OPERANDI of a reasoned analysis and patient research SUGGESTED to ACTUALLY DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM.

    Richard S. Bennett, B. A.

    • Stefan Thiesen July 26, 2010 at 11:40 am #

      Richard – this is a bit simplified thinking. The reality of geo-systems science is a bit more complicated. The ocean is a complex system, and all parts are connected by currents, wind systems and migration routes of fish and marine mammals. What you create with iron fertilization is a short lived algeal bloom and, most likely, a food web with very few trophical levels. You may create vast stretches of poisoned sea and ultimately a net contribution to atmospheric CO2 from rotting algea and decreased ocean surface/atmosphere exchange. Additionally: where you create phytoplankton, the zooplankton will follow swiftly – as will larger organisms – and there will be a balance of CO2 production and consumption. There are a myriad of other aspects. OCEANUS, the magazine of Woods Hole Institute, gives a nice summary of some of them, but by far not all. There are no easy techno-fixes. http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=35668

  2. jennifer tello July 16, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

    i was wondering what i can do so my light bill doesn’t get high each month what do i need to replace in order for my bill to be low each month

    • Jeremy July 17, 2010 at 11:06 am #

      If lighting is a big expense, there’s a few things you can do. First, make sure you’ve got energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs throughout. If you have a lot of spotlights, these use a lot of power – switch to LED bulbs if you can, or just use lamps with energy saving bulbs and leave the main lights off. If you have outside lights, consider turning them off or fitting a motion sensor so that they only come on when you need them.

      Other than that it’s probably just habit, turning lights off when you’re out of a room and that kind of thing.

  3. Stefan Thiesen July 26, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    The ultimate cause of climate change is perpetual exponential economic growth. I have been involved with global environmental and climate change related issues since my high school days in the 80s – that is well over 20 years. Having a geo and physical science background, I try to look at the entire problem from a whole systems perspective, and at the root of the entire global change syndrome seems to be the coupling of energy/resource use and economic growth. There is no evidence that economic growth (defined as fiscal/monetary growth) can be de-coupled from physical resource depletion anywhere soon (how could it?) – energy consumption and resource consumption pretty much follow the growth curve of the global GGP (gross global product). And yet topic of economic growth itself as the main cause of environmental degradation and, indeed, the main threat to the very planet itself is not taken up by anyone (Why do we need continuous economic growth? What drives it?), aside from fringe groups without (as yet) much influence in the political arena. Instead, enormous attempts are made to accommodate the climate change issue within the existing institutions and to find fixes that turn climate change into even further economic growth, keywords CO2 certificates, emission trading etc. . In my view the wrong incentives are in place everywhere – e.g. Carbon trading focuses on trading profits, not on carbon reduction. In my view topics like our financial crisis and climate change also are deeply intertwined. And nobody could yet plausibly explain to me how a monetary and economic system requiring perpetual exponential growth in order to function could ever be sustainable – if I am not mistaken a physical and mathematical impossibility (and I see no evidence whatsoever that I am mistaken). I am not in any way ideological, but my prediction is that it will be impossible to adequately address the climate change issue within the existing economic and financial paradigm. Kyoto has been a band aid, and here in Germany – a world leader in renewable energy – the power hungry Internet alone easily outperforms all contributions of the renewable energy sector, and the so called emission reduction successes in this country were nothing but a statistical trick made possible by the historical coincidence of the re-unification of east and west Germany, followed by an effectivity revolution in East Germany’s outdated industry.

    If anyone thinks that the issue will be solved by efficiency or a service oriented society: there is no 100% efficiency and there is no service that does not require any energy or resources at all, therefore a perpetual exponential growth is impossible in any case. And even if we consider that economic growth will more and more rest with non-material goods (e.g. software) there is another limited resource: consumer time. It does not matter how we look at it: perpetual exponential economic growth is not possible. And there also really is no need for it from an individual’s point of view – it merely is a built in requirement of our financial system. Every single unit of money forming out of thin air results in a corresponding quantity of resource consumption and pollution.

    If anyone can explain to me where I am wrong and how perpetual exponential economic growth in a limited world is possible without violating the most fundamental physical and mathematical laws, I would be very thankful. I also need to understand why even the richest country requires continuous economic growth in order to function properly. I hold a Ph.D. in Astrophysics, and studied Economics, Climatology and Oceanography, so you are most welcome to throw some serious theory and math at me.

    • samuel Kinsey June 12, 2014 at 12:58 am #

      I agree that perpetual economic growth is neither practical nor desirable; actually there comes a point where more material possessions tends to lead to less quality of life. However, I always like to bring in the other side of the story, so I’ll mention why I think perpetual economic growth is theoretically possible and healthy:
      As long as the more dirty technologies are avoided, if forests are planted in proportion to economic growth and use of resources, they can protect the environment from climate change and grow resources to use in the future. By the time the whole world would be reforested, we would likely have the technology to terra-form and colonize other planets, making additional space (including for forestation) and resources available. Also, the economy could and is likely to grow the most toward services that use less resources, in advanced countries.

  4. Byron Smith February 20, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    Stefan – good comment and I agree.

    98% of those affected by climate change are in the developing world.
    Do you have a source for that claim? What do you mean by affected? Isn’t it the case at a fairly minimal definition, there is no one unaffected by climate change, since the climate has changed (and is changing)? I don’t mean to be simplistic, but it is actually a significant question. And how directly does an effect need to be? For instance, there is a strong argument that the price of wheat has gone up dramatically in the last few months partially as a result of a series of extreme weather events around the world, which, while not “caused” by climate change, are nonetheless manifestations of a changing climate.

    BTW, I entirely agree that the ones who will be negatively affected soonest and most severely are almost entirely the poorest. I was just curious about that particular claim.

    • Jeremy February 20, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

      The 98% statistic is from the Global Humanitarian Forum, Kofi Annan’s think tank. A report of their found that 98% of the ‘serious’ impacts of climate change (homelessness, disease, death etc) were in the developing world, along with 90% of economic losses.

  5. Byron Smith February 20, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    Thanks – might be useful to include a link to the report as source?

    • Jeremy February 21, 2011 at 9:23 am #

      I did have a link, but it didn’t work and I realise the Humanitarian Forum closed last year due to lack of funds. I wrote about the report here when it came out. I suspect it’s kicking around somewhere on the internet.

  6. Byron Smith February 21, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Ah, thanks – that is very useful. Somehow I missed that report when it came out. For future reference, it is here.

  7. Tony Willicombe January 19, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    The real “unavoidable truth” is that climate change has happened for the 4 billion years that this planet has existed …and will continue to do so. Global coastlines change constantly. Warm and cold periods occur regularly. We are now at the end of a 11-12,000 yr Holocene, with the next ice-age due in the next 1-2,000 yrs. Think long-term. Our global climate is governed by vast natural forces. Our sun controls the earth’s our climate ultimately. Watch Prof Vincent Courtillot’s youtube explanantion. In the short time that mankind has occupied the planet, it has had to constantly adapt to climate change. We need to help those affected today to survive our current climate change. Divert the wasted billions (which is incidentally putting billions into the pockets of those who are exploiting this issue for their own benefit…politicians, businesses, “climatologists”, ecocrats etc) from e.g. useless UK Windfarms, to help those in need globally. We are in global economic melt-down. We need to sort our priorities now. Incidentally, the most important global “greenhouse” gas is gaseous H2O…yes water. Don’t tell the climatologists though – they’ll stop us boiling kettles! Our politicians etc have lost touch with reality…we are polluting our planet and deforesting it at an incredible rate. This needs to be changed. We do not need useless Windfarms.

    • Jeremy January 20, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      Hi Tony, you’re right that the climate has changed all through the history of the planet, and continues to do so. That doesn’t mean humanity can’t influence it too. It’s pretty clear that industrial CO2 emissions are one factor among many in changing the climate – but they are a decisive one, tipping a delicate balance. You’re also right that we need to help people to adapt.

      You’re wrong about wind farms, which are lowering our CO2 and improving our energy independence. I don’t see how that’s a waste, in a world of rising gas prices.

      You’re also wrong to talk as if everyone involved in the climate change debate is an idiot.

  8. Stefan Thiesen January 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    As it happens, the climate change contrarian arguments are running into the void, because all the measures aimed at reducing man made emissions of gases with radiation forcing properties (“greenhouse gases”) also address the issue of dwindling resources. In other words: even if the vast majority of the world’s atmospheric, geo- systems and planetary scientists were involved in what by far would be the most enormous scientific failure/conspiracy (depending on the brand of contrarian) in history, the required course of action would not change a iota, the fundamental issues would remain the same. Fossil fuel runs out, which results in price hikes, destabilized markets and ever-increasing risks – both financially and environmentally (think Fukushima, think BP/Deepwater Horizon etc.). In many cases we are not talking about risks at all, but about dead certainty. The destruction of landscapes by tar sand mining. Overfishing. Expanding dead zones in the sea resulting from phenomenal amounts of terrestrial fertilizer runoff. Giant garbage patches in the oceans. There are many more. Climate change largely resulting from an increase of radiative forcing of the atmosphere is only ONE factor in an entire array of factors in an ever more complex risk scenario that ultimately can be traced to a single issue: a flawed financial system requiring perpetual exponential growth. Ultimately it leads – with absolute mathematical certainty – to a complete depletion of all resources while at the same time sooner or later exceeding the critical loads and levels of all human, socio-economic and natural physical and biological sub-systems of planet Earth. And if I am not completely on the wrong track, it is this big picture this website is about. It also is this big picture that is ominously absent from day to day policymaking.

    For anyone interested in the development of climate change research I recommend a 2010 volume edited by David Archer and Ray Pierrehumbert, titled “The Warming Papers: The Scientific Foundation For Climate Change Forecast”. It presents the key papers that led to the understanding the inner workings of global climate, reaching all the way back to Fourrier and Arrhenius.

  9. Julianne Balzarini July 23, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Climate change will always be our current issue and we should make some changes to prevent the bad effects of climate change. “::;.Ciao
    http://www.foodsupplementdigest.com“>

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