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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Recession and The Environment II – Climate Change: Root Causes and Solutions


Here you will find further elements to support the daring- almost presumptuous hypothesis advanced in my previous post "Recession and The Environment I. "

Many of you may have been surprised, as I was myself, (confidentially) by the extent of my uncharacteristic daring leading to the first analysis and opinion, as to the root causes and solutions to the the top "Re-current Affairs" issue of the day: "Economic & Financial Recession" cf. Title above.

Well rather than back-off, I'm sure you will be pleased to read further evidence in support of my previous hypothesis. The urge to further research the issue came rapidly. Evidence came equally rapidly. A couple of Google searches and my experience of good sources turned up a comment on "Recession, Energy <=>Environment, Finite Resources, Climate Change

Contributor whose "alias?" is "MARKANASH" posted this comment 24 Sep 2008, on the Idle Scrawl Paul Mason's blog. Paul is a much travelled Economist and BBC reporter.

"You're totally missing one fundamental point. Our present way of life is predicated on using tomorrow's money to pay for what we want today (debt). This in turn relies on endless economic growth. Economic growth on the scale to which we have become accustomed is based almost entirely on cheap energy - stacked and stored in the earth for millions of years and now having been gorged by humans for the past 100 years. The era of cheap energy ends about now; our Energy Return on Energy Invested will drop precipitously in the coming decade or two. No amount of fancy, debt-fuelled financial products, derivatives and systems will operate without reliable (ie cheap energy based) economic growth. The rates of economic growth we've experienced in our lifetimes are about to cease (or at least fall dramatically) as we figure out how to live within our energy means. So, forget trying to put back into its shell the scrambled egg that is now the Anglo-US financial system. Start figuring out how to live without cheap energy and, so, without unsustainable economic growth. I don't have the answers, but I do know that the transition from us relying on cheap (borrowed) energy to a lifestyle based on the sustainable use of real-time energy is going to be painful. Bankers and financiers have yet to see the problem, let alone figure out solutions. "

My rapid search turned-up complimentary evidence in support of MARKANASH's blunt opinion on bankers and financiers:

There is a very commonly held view and justifiable public outcry on executive remuneration packages-here "Top B's" B short for merchant bankers - and their followers. This is put forward by many as a leading root cause of the present predicament. Here I contend that this fits the "irresponsibility theme" under pinning Pacala's heart felt analyis and disgust, which I share to a large extent and amplify, need I add. (cf. my previous post).

One of my "hero's-mentors", here in France, is Jean Francois Kahn, JFK to the intimates, we have met a couple of times - no kidding. JFK, as he has done for several years now, again lashes out at the irresponsible discrepancy between Top Dog remuneration packages and results, and also to their collective disconnection or memory loss from common reality.
JFK has a very imagery way of situating the levels of such packages. He compares the the top Dog Salaries & remuneration packages to the number of centuries the common worker on minimum wage would need to work. Yes it runs into centuries! From memory this tallies up to something like from the 6th century to the present day (15 centuries)!!!

In the current case he considers that Bankers morality - professional ethics (responsibility) is strongly questionable and a major contributing factor to the current financial crisis and recession. He remarks that the president of Lehmans Bros helped himself to 23M$ salary or package last year while in the same year he recommended that the US admin. refuse a 5M$ budget to help under-privileged - the dirt poor US citizens. This is just one example of many. Kahn calling "a spade a spade" frankly considers this behaviour to be totally immoral, and who can disagree? I wonder how much fresh cash this approach may generate?

Here rests the case for the prosecution!

Source: Paul Mason's blog post "We are not doomed: Discuss" which started the debate among his contributors, eg. "markanash" quoted above amoung others. Paul supplies links to short summaries of underlying economic theory. It's a quick read & well worth a squint which is all the reading necessary - He defends the system concluding: "In short I propose what could come out of this is a highly regulated and more stable info-capitalism." Wonder why it did not come before? Then my experience comes from ... partly through Aeronautic & Nuclear Materials Quality Control, Assurance Standards & Stringent Clients Requirements - no kidding there, at least in the West. No wonder students flee the exigence of science and engineering!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Recession and The Environment I – Climate Change -Root Causes and Solutions

THE AIM of this post:

I propose to develop the hypothesis that lack of vigour to combat climate change, especially by world leading US administration, is one root cause, if not the main root cause for the current economic-financial recession. I base this on the stabilising wedge methodology proposed by Pacala & Socolow and specifically in the excellent interview given by Pacala to IOP – Environmental Research. (If you have any comments on where the European Union stands in this I'd be more than pleased to hear)


I can’t do a better summary of the IOP* – Pacala** interview than that of Liz Kalaugher, editor of the relative new IOP environmentalresearchweb.(start 2007)
[ *IOP is the highly respected, Institute of Physics UK – **Pacala is with R. Socolow, the inventors of the Wedge Methodology-Tool to combate climate change by innovation from existing technology [Link] both are professors at Princeton Uni., He describes this himself in the interview as “The wedges paper, was never really intended as a practical scheme for deploying technology but rather as a way to get people to think about the problem so that those who were stalling with obfuscatory language would have to stop."] – [Mores the pity, One step forward two steps back? – JA.]

To Quote Liz: “Back in 2004, Stephen Pacala and Rob Socolow of Princeton University, US, came up with the concept of "stabilization wedges", a way of mixing and matching currently available technologies to cut carbon emissions by the amount needed to stabilize the climate. The paper was a reaction to what Pacala and Socolow saw as strategy to stall action on global warming by the Bush administration by claiming that the world lacked the technology to tackle it. While any one of today’s technologies alone is unable to meet the challenge, the pair showed that a portfolio of such solutions would be up to the job.”

Pacala describes how emissions and the planet have changed since publication of the wedges paper, the potential effects of a recession, how easy it might be to invent-[Innovate may be a better term] our way out of the problem, and his new work on calculating fair national emissions caps by assigning individual carbon allowances. (rationing-ration cards for carbon footprints –WWII wartime – post wartime technique-JA)

Four aggravating main developments since the fourth IPCC Report 2007-International Panel on Climate Change .

1. The first change since the IPCC report has to do with emissions growing too quickly.
2-3. the second and third have to do with carbon sinks being weaker than they were before.
4. Even if carbon sinks had not weaken, Ice sheet dynamics impose a tightening of the original 50y target. Now we need to reach a much more stringent one nearer 30y than we thought it was"
“There’s no good news in the mix and there’s plenty of bad news but the jury’s still out, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Pacala & Socolow’s motives:

-Stop the Bush Admin from stalling.
-Stop ‘the group of scientists that were writing grant proposals masquerading as energy assessments.” - “The call for blue sky research.”
-Stop the “unhealthy collusion between the scientific community" who believed that there was a serious problem and a political movement that didn’t”.
(NB. I seldom use itallics, perfering Straight,Upright characters.)

As a wise experienced scientist Pacala concludes that:
“It would be astonishing if it [CO2 The Wedge Methodology-Tool] weren’t false in many ways, but what we said was accurate at the time (2004 &Today).

Pacala et al - current road-map on Carbon Footprint

A. More on Stalling - the Stallers:

The China –US CO2 slanging match and All stallers put roughly is:

eg. China says “You [USA] already had your economic growth and now it’s our turn” and US points its finger at China and says it’s not fair to expect us to do that unilaterally when you’re the largest emitter in the world now. [cf. P. Senges simplified vicious circle concept using the Cold War Nuclear Arms race -You increase "its worth a bomb" -We increase... = Inflation -worth a bomb(?) fortunately without the big bang-Ultimate Crash, yet! -JA)

Pacala replies: “This rhetoric of fairness that reminds me a little bit of the former rhetoric of technological unreadiness. It’s just a gigantic stalling gambit.”

He provides several strong arguments in support of this :
“Concept of fairness that "they" are actually using here do not appear congruent with the concepts of fairness we use in our everyday lives.”

“Past emissions in the US do not necessarily have anything to do with the people there today, many are relatively new immigrants.”

“You receive the benefits of your western standard of wealth and you distribute the emissions costs to everyone in the world. The same is true of the Chinese person who has your income. It’s not that I have anything against China, but I don’t see why the wealthy in Shanghai ought to get a free ride.” [ Pacala does not mention the relative statistics, but the point is general.]
“Those dollars and the emissions that go with them have exactly the same robber baron roots as the money in your bank account. Money is promiscuous – it travels around the world.”

“You receive the benefits of your western standard of wealth and you distribute the emissions costs to everyone in the world.”

Pacala et al. are working, in his own words, on a “fancy-schmancy statistical thing;” effectively an “Analytical Accountancy Method –ie physically based” bottom-up (individual) Emissions Capping System aggregating national caps to international one all based on the individual etc. [ a sort of Rationing system to call a spade a spade].

He only hints at some basics since at the time of the interview 12 May 08 their work had not been published.

“You could have one number for the whole world, reducing it every year. Although I can’t tell you precisely what the answer is because the work is not yet published, I will tell you that it simultaneously passes the laugh test and offers sensible”.

“One hint is that the climate problem turns out to be almost entirely a problem of the wealthy – 50% of emissions are caused by the top 700 million emitters. And a substantial fraction of those people – on the order of a fifth – actually live in developing countries.”

"It’s got a nice little [read nasty?] feedback loop in it, if you grow faster economically and you have a whole bunch of rich people then your target comes down faster. If you grow slower and your people stay poor then you never hit the cap."

[It’s well known that the wrong way forward is to have a Russian style economic and industrial collapse thereby reducing emissions drastically – The "wise-cracks” call this “Schumpeter"[Link1] destructive creation-innovation process[Link2] or something ” – (you can’t go down any further so, if you live through it, the only way is up-rebuild. Not sure if that's what Pacala mean't. There are well-off-rich & stinking rich, & same on the poor man scale. I must re-read him - JA]

“I’ve got money now and I’m the one that’s spending it. I’m getting all the pleasure but I’m distributing all the pain” says Pacala. [Sounds about right, and I would suggest to the chaps in Princeton, if their jobs are not on the line, that they would do well to start not at the bottom but near the National leadership level to be credible all down the line – battle of the comms-(communication) aside! If their jobs are at risk it's time to call on me, confidentially.

See what I mean: Pacala quotes “If the US will just get out in front and act unilaterally, it seems to me that’s a major missing element that would cause everyone else who’s missing their Kyoto targets to buck up and start to deliver on their own commitments.”

My proposed conclusion

But US did not sign Kyoto, and push it forward - as in the famous SALT treaties on nuclear arms of which I am no expert-, and this has sent all the wrong messages. It could plausibly be argued that this is the root cause of the current financial crash and recession-JA.

cf. Pacala approach above and their abundant freely available online work.

Let me add: I urge you the source and comment -naturally praise is preferable, abuse tolerated, but Above-All all, information is necessary and will be shared unless otherwise requested. Fee free - Tighter emissions rationing is on the agenda and economic resession will not be tollerated - work that one out.

Source: Link

NB. As the fastest evolving current "Affairs" theme I have carried out a little more research and will share this with you in my next post.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Best Creative Errors - Can be Great Conversation Starters - One from Wired Science on "Dutch Flood Control Strategy"

This post is a direct result of my research to come to grips with the previous one - R.J. Barendse on the Dutch excellence on landscaping, land reclamation and flood control gained from the often wild North Sea over at least the last 500 years, at least until now.
[Direct Link to my RJB. Brad Delong previous post]

Pity I forgot the key words used on my google search but I dug-up a summary of one of the Dutch Plans to construct an off-shore barrier, an island in the form of a tulip, complete with super satellite images. The linking what the Dutch are likely to do on their home shores with much criticised apparently exaggeratedly luxurious plans such as those of Dubai and the UAE's sand bank islands known the Flat Counties record is to say the least "hazardous". (even if their is credible possibility of an " Armada" of Dutch designers and contractors on the UAE projects - Nothing like getting exercise and experience..! Pure supposition.) [cf also posted comments -Source I].
It has come back to me - I was looking for a reference to the enormous annual budgets the Netherlands will invest to allay predictions (near certitudes) of disastrous effects of climate change on the "Flat Countries" 2nd only to Bangladesh, I am led to believe. cf Source I below)

Well "Wired Sciences post" sparked an incredible list of comments, mostly critical and in down right disagreement at least equal in weight to those of my previous post. The comments are short and well worth a reading, many provide links in support of their facts and opinions. Great Stuff.

Let me conclude with supporting a "call" a possible new "conversation starter" to use Harvard Universities Eminent Professorial Blogs by quoting two posts from Wired Sci.

"Funny this article goes beyond the environmental issue of disappearing coastline and the dutch isles due to rising sea-levels.The location where the tulip is placed, is where the highest sea and river-mouth currents flow. It has been a plan for decennial to make an artificial island right there on that location. Shaping it into a tulip or a clog wouldn't be too bad whilst space-tourism is booming!Get your data right dudes, and read newspapers that have more foreign (worldly) news! Posted by: HO Winkelaar Dec 21, 2007 2:48:39 PM (cf. Wired ref below) and even more succinctly even if a bit large as the :
TOP 100 - The hottest competition online!
Posted by: gamblert Dec 21, 2007 5:14:49 PM "

May I add, that at a very rough guess, this competition is "awefully" near top position!

Source I : Wired Science post by By Alexis Madrigal.

Highly recommendable for the Satellite Photo of Dutch Coastline and Inscribed Future Landscape Design and even more so for the number and quality of comments generated together with commentators supported evidence, via their many links.

One Contributor even remarked caustically that:

"NB. This isn't even news, we (the Dutch) have had plans like this and executed then since 500BC."

Source II comment by
Posted by: Martijn ten Napel Dec 23, 2007 3:13:48 AM cf. Wired for all comments

First Class Sources on this "Millennium Class Approach are:

Flood Control in the Netherlands from Wikipedia.

And my favourite the excellent highly professional description of

the Dutch Approach - LINK to flood control and landscaping,

and a survey of Dams and Leeves

All Posted by: Gerard Dec 22, 2007 6:00:34 AM on Wired Science
Whose very mild closing comment "I'm sure that engineering a tulip shaped island is a better idea then having flood defences that are made out of thin foil" left me in the dark. Could he be referring to The US Flood Defenses? Thank you Gerard et al.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Guns, gems and steel: The Fate(s) of Human Societies

This is a link to post today on my "This-Above-All" blogsite. From an overview deductions from World History on the Fates of Human Societies, I choose to bring to the fore some reflections on Dutch past history from medieval time till the present day in their fight to master landscaping for agriculture and flood-fighting due to R.J. Barendse.

The above slightly modified title comes from a the book by J. Diamond "Guns grains and steel: The Fate of Human Society" and from it's review by the Economist and Academic, Brad Delong which in turn led to lively comments around 1999-2000, when the book was reviewed.