quarta-feira, janeiro 02, 2008

a hopeful message

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Up, Down.

”Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

(see The Perfect Storm below).

15 December 2007, Bali Outcome by Gwynne Dyer (português).

       Do not be downhearted about the outcome of the Bali talks. They did not deliver the binding commitments to cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that are desperately needed, and as a result millions may die who might have lived. But they did show us something remarkable. They showed us the human race trying to grow up and take responsibility for its common future.

       It doesn't feel like that, of course. It feels like 15,000 politicians, diplomats, journalists and activists flew across continents in order to sit in Bali for two weeks and achieve very little. Disappointment and even anger are not out of order, for the commitment to early and deep emission cuts (25 to 40 percent by 2020) that most developed countries wanted to see in the draft treaty had to be dropped in order to keep the United States involved at all.

       The Bush administration no longer denies that climate change is a problem, but it is still determined to kill any international deal that involves concrete and legally binding targets. The United States produces about a quarter of the world's emissions, so no deal that excludes it would work. Moreover, the developing countries where emissions are growing fastest, particularly China and India, will never accepting obligations of their own while the United States accepts none. So the American delegation had to be kept on board no matter how obstructive it was.

       It was amazingly obstructive. There must be no targets, there must be no timetables, there must be no numbers at all in the "roadmap" that the conference was drawing up for the next two years of negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto treaty, insisted chief US negotiator Harlan Watson. Why not? Because "once numbers appear in the text, it prejudges the outcome and will tend to drive the negotiations in one direction." Yes, and if everybody's shared goal is cut emissions and avoid catastrophic climate change, what's wrong with that?

       The United States was almost completely isolated at the Bali talks. Its only two allies among the developed countries were Canada and Japan, both of which promised modest emission cuts under the Kyoto accord ten years ago but then allowed their emissions to soar. And the danger was that the frustration and fury of all the other delegations, in the hothouse atmosphere of a two-week conference, would lure them into a pointless and destructive confrontation with the United States.

       It was Al Gore who saved the day with a speech in which he urged the conference to be patient. "My own country, the United States, is mainly responsible for obstructing progress at Bali," he admitted, but "over the next two years the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now....One year and forty days from today there will be a new (presidential) inauguration in the United States."

       "If you decide to continue the progress that has been made here on all the items other than the targets and timetables for mandatory reductions, on the hope and with the expectation that, before this process is concluded...you will be able to fill in that blank (with the help of a different position from the United States), then you can make great progress here." Bush will soon be gone. Even though time is short, you have to wait him out.

       The conference took Gore's advice and removed the numbers from the text. Even then, astonishingly, the US delegation declared that it could not support the revised text -- and a chorus of boos rang out in the crowded conference hall. A delegate from Papua New Guinea stood up and told the US delegation: "If you're not willing to lead, please get out of the way." After a short huddle, the US delegation announced that it would support the revised text after all.

       So don't believe the cynics who say that public opinion does not matter. A large majority of Americans are far ahead of their government in their desire to see effective action on climate change, and the Bush administration is fighting a delaying action. With both world opinion and American public opinion solidly against it, it suddenly became clear to the US delegation that this line of trenches had to be abandoned fast.

       So there is a "roadmap" for the next two years of negotiations, although it has no hard numbers in it. Low-level meetings will continue over the next year, but the next big conference, scheduled for Poland next December, will probably be allowed to slip by a couple of months so that the new US administration is in office. And then, hopefully, they can put the numbers back in.

       There is no guarantee that the emissions cuts they finally agree in 2009 will be big enough, or that everybody will meet their commitments. Runaway global warming is a serious possibility, in which case we may be facing megadeaths by mid-century. But Bali was not a futile or a shameful exercise. It was six billion people in 180 separate countries trying to cope with a shared danger in a cooperative way. It was actually quite inspiring, and even fifty years ago it would have been inconceivable.

15 dezembro 2007, Resultado de Bali Outcome por Gwynne Dyer.

       Não fica desanimado sobre o resultado das negociações em Bali. Elas não entregaram as obrigações comprometidas para reduzir as emissões dos gáses estufados cujas precisamos desesperadamente, e por isso milhões morrerem que outra vez vivessem. Mas sim, eles mostraram algo extraordinário. Eles mostraram-nos a raça humana tentando de crescer até responsibilizar pelo futuro comum.

       It doesn't feel like that, of course. It feels like 15,000 politicians, diplomats, journalists and activists flew across continents in order to sit in Bali for two weeks and achieve very little. Disappointment and even anger are not out of order, for the commitment to early and deep emission cuts (25 to 40 percent by 2020) that most developed countries wanted to see in the draft treaty had to be dropped in order to keep the United States involved at all.

       The Bush administration no longer denies that climate change is a problem, but it is still determined to kill any international deal that involves concrete and legally binding targets. The United States produces about a quarter of the world's emissions, so no deal that excludes it would work. Moreover, the developing countries where emissions are growing fastest, particularly China and India, will never accepting obligations of their own while the United States accepts none. So the American delegation had to be kept on board no matter how obstructive it was.

       It was amazingly obstructive. There must be no targets, there must be no timetables, there must be no numbers at all in the "roadmap" that the conference was drawing up for the next two years of negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto treaty, insisted chief US negotiator Harlan Watson. Why not? Because "once numbers appear in the text, it prejudges the outcome and will tend to drive the negotiations in one direction." Yes, and if everybody's shared goal is cut emissions and avoid catastrophic climate change, what's wrong with that?

       The United States was almost completely isolated at the Bali talks. Its only two allies among the developed countries were Canada and Japan, both of which promised modest emission cuts under the Kyoto accord ten years ago but then allowed their emissions to soar. And the danger was that the frustration and fury of all the other delegations, in the hothouse atmosphere of a two-week conference, would lure them into a pointless and destructive confrontation with the United States.

       It was Al Gore who saved the day with a speech in which he urged the conference to be patient. "My own country, the United States, is mainly responsible for obstructing progress at Bali," he admitted, but "over the next two years the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now....One year and forty days from today there will be a new (presidential) inauguration in the United States."

       "If you decide to continue the progress that has been made here on all the items other than the targets and timetables for mandatory reductions, on the hope and with the expectation that, before this process is concluded...you will be able to fill in that blank (with the help of a different position from the United States), then you can make great progress here." Bush will soon be gone. Even though time is short, you have to wait him out.

       The conference took Gore's advice and removed the numbers from the text. Even then, astonishingly, the US delegation declared that it could not support the revised text -- and a chorus of boos rang out in the crowded conference hall. A delegate from Papua New Guinea stood up and told the US delegation: "If you're not willing to lead, please get out of the way." After a short huddle, the US delegation announced that it would support the revised text after all.

       So don't believe the cynics who say that public opinion does not matter. A large majority of Americans are far ahead of their government in their desire to see effective action on climate change, and the Bush administration is fighting a delaying action. With both world opinion and American public opinion solidly against it, it suddenly became clear to the US delegation that this line of trenches had to be abandoned fast.

       So there is a "roadmap" for the next two years of negotiations, although it has no hard numbers in it. Low-level meetings will continue over the next year, but the next big conference, scheduled for Poland next December, will probably be allowed to slip by a couple of months so that the new US administration is in office. And then, hopefully, they can put the numbers back in.

       There is no guarantee that the emissions cuts they finally agree in 2009 will be big enough, or that everybody will meet their commitments. Runaway global warming is a serious possibility, in which case we may be facing megadeaths by mid-century. But Bali was not a futile or a shameful exercise. It was six billion people in 180 separate countries trying to cope with a shared danger in a cooperative way. It was actually quite inspiring, and even fifty years ago it would have been inconceivable.

==================================================================
2 January 2008, The perfect storm could really blow by Anthony Westell.

As we enter the New Year, serious minds are debating whether the mighty U.S. economy is slipping into a shallow cyclical recession or poised for new growth. Consider a third possibility: that a perfect economic storm is forming with the capacity to knock the global economy into a full-blown depression, closing the Age of Excess in which we now wallow.

Don't say it couldn't happen. I grew up in a time of austerity, in wartime and postwar Britain. Incomes were low; taxes were high. There was barely enough to eat, clothes were strictly rationed and toothpaste came in cardboard tubes. I live now in a society with too much to eat, rack upon rack of clothes always ”on sale.” Incomes climb, taxes fall, money managers, even executives who fail, become the new rich. The problem is not to find some desired object, but to choose among the many on offer.

So I know economies and societies can change completely in the course of a lifetime, and I suspect they will again. The question is merely when, and I think I see on the horizon the conditions for a devastating storm. The Perfect Storm, you may recall, was first a book and then a movie describing what happened when several weather systems collided, as it were, off the east coast of North America in 1991. Any one of those systems could have produced bad weather, but when they fused, the result was devastating for those at sea.

I fear there are now several economic storms gathering, any one of which would be uncomfortable – but which taken together could bring about huge changes in the way the world now lives.

Storm No. 1 is the teetering U.S. economy. Once, the United States financed development around the world; it is now a debtor to the world. Americans have been living beyond their means for years, with individuals maxing out their credit cards and borrowing against inflated home prices while the national government borrows billions from foreigners, rather than raising taxes, to finance wars. The last time that happened was during the Vietnam War, and it was a major cause of the damaging inflation that followed. Now, America's bills are coming due, starting in the housing market, which may be heading into a long-term depression – not just a short-term recession. Stock markets are shaky, but don't worry, the optimists say, because Wall Street is run by speculators, not real investors. So now they tell us, when millions are set to lose billions.

If the U.S. economy turns sharply down, Canada and much of the world – including China – will follow. China is Storm No. 2. The world marvels at its rapid growth without reflecting that such booms inevitably end in bust – even in capitalist economies run by communists.

The decline in the United States, China's largest market, will probably be enough to prick the bubble. What would happen then? For one thing, China would want to call upon the billions upon billions of dollars it has effectively lent the United States. Watch the value of the world's favourite currency fall then.

Even if the Chinese bubble does not burst, it's clear the United States is turning protectionist. Frightened by the trade deficit with China and the debts the Bush administration has run up, Democrats in particular are looking for ways to slow the flood of Chinese imports. Poisonous toys lend cover to protectionism, as does China's refusal to let its currency rise, as it should if trade were truly free. One way or another, or maybe all ways together, China is riding for a fall.

The Middle East is Storm No. 3. Able to see on TV and movies what a better life looks like, people in the less developed world are demanding it for themselves. Most regions lack the no leverage to force concessions from the wealthy world, but the Middle East does: in the oil on which the U.S. and Europe depend. They have also an increasingly militant religion to take over from complaisant politicians. The region would have been in turmoil anyway, but the United States has made itself a handy target by blundering into Iraq, threatening Iran and supporting unpopular governments in the Muslim world.

Fearing what may come, oil traders have already run up their prices, increasing economic pressures upon the United States. There is no reason to expect things to improve, and plenty of reasons for them to get worse in the year ahead, leading to a serious interruption in oil supplies.

The fourth and potentially worst storm is global warming. It appears that climate change is coming far faster than expected. That doesn't mean a major change this year, but it does mean increasing awareness and alarm as the consequences impinge on private lives. The only effective way to reduce greenhouse gases in the short term would be by deliberately reducing industrial activity, and unless a recession or depression does it for us, that must become a policy option for discussion, adding to the general economic instability.

So, have a happy and excessive New Year while you can, and remember there's always an alternative lifestyle: ”Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Anthony Westell is a retired journalist, and an uneasy observer of Canadian and world affairs.

Down.
Posted janeiro 10, 2008 12:04 PM by Anonymous Andy Kadir-Buxton /  

A Plan to Make All Countries
Near-Zero Carbon Emitters Within Ten Years

The tears of Chairman Yvo de Boer at the Bali Climate Conference could have been spared if the conference had studied plans to make the Planet a Near-Zero CO2 emissions one. (I am aware of three, S. David Freeman (The Green Cowboy), Zero Carbon Britain, and my own. Instead, non scheduled clandestine meetings in the absence of the Chairman ensured that not even paltry cuts in CO2 emissions were agreed upon. The best plan that politicians have come up with appears to be ‘Contraction and Convergence’ which involves undeveloped nations being allowed to bring their CO2 emissions up to Western Levels before the West even starts to bring theirs down. Added to this is Carbon Trading which allows polluting countries to prevent undeveloped countries from industrialising in the first place. When the two pieces of the puzzle are put together it means that nothing will get done. Oil will be burnt until it runs out, and then Coal producers will sell their product until portable oxygen tanks become too expensive for politicians wages.
We have until 2016 to bring down CO2 emissions to Near-Zero, combined with an international massive tree planting scheme.
James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, published a study showing that greenhouse gases emitted by human activities have brought the Earth’s climate close to critical tipping points, with potentially dangerous consequences for the planet by 2016.
"If global emissions of carbon dioxide continue to rise at the rate of the past decade," said Dr. Hansen, "this research shows that there will be disastrous effects, including increasingly rapid sea level rise, increased frequency of droughts and floods, and increased stress on wildlife and plants due to rapidly shifting climate zones."
With the comments of Dr. James Hansen at the forefront of our minds we must act, and act now. It is difficult to get hold of all the figures necessary to show that countries can become near-zero carbon countries. However, there is a simple explanation that adequately reveals how this necessary target can be achieved. All our power requirements are for lighting, heating, transport, and energy for such things as industry on down to exercise machines. The lighting can be zero rated by building Buxton Geothermal Turbine Generators, the heating can be near-zero rated by installing Starlite coatings, that prevents heat escaping, on the walls and ceilings of all premises, and by having electrical heating from renewable sources we cut heating CO2 emissions to zero. Transport can be made near-zero in terms of carbon emissions by ensuring that all vehicles use carbon zero electricity, instead of petrol. This may seem to be an anathema to ‘‘petrol heads’’ but this displeasure can be simply overcome. At the moment when inventors come up with new technologies for electrical vehicles Oil Companies buy and destroy the patents and designs. These patents have a shelf life of ten years so we could soon put together a group of past inventors in this field to reproduce their work legally, as an intergovernmental team. We still have the problem of transport by aeroplane and ship having to use fossil fuels. However, their carbon footprints can be at least halved by having their fuels mixed with water using an ultrasonic dibber. Finally, the power needed for energy can be made entirely of carbon free electricity. New ways of making industry work using electricity instead of the gas that they are used to will be needed, but these are not insurmountable problems given that the Governments of the world have ten years to achieve the target.
All Government Departments must be part of the solution to the greatest threat to life on earth. They must work together, there is no point in hoping that the ‘invisible hand’ of the market has the ability to pay for such a massive clean up. In comparison, the threat of terrorism is a minor side show, and we would not leave the market to this task. Scarce resources are being squandered all over the world. The £60 billion being spent on replacing Trident submarines in the UK would have partially solved CO2 emission problems at least for one country. This does not mean to say that this was our last chance, just a step in the wrong direction. We are in a race against time and cannot afford to have people either running in the wrong direction, or at the wrong speed.
Funding, however, can be found from elsewhere.‘The Ecologist’ magazine estimates the true cost of mental illness to the UK is £100 billion per year. When all patients suffering from mental illness are passed on to their trained local practice nurse for a thirty second cure using the Kadir-Buxton Method then we have immediate and massive savings.(The alternative of expensive drugs which, in trials, have less success than no treatment at all, should be made a thing of the past). The money saved by the UK would clean up CO2 emissions in the UK using the above plan. It is also easy to adapt it to any other country.