Stop Swooning Over Canada’s Justin Trudeau—The Man Is a Disaster for the Planet

NEWS & POLITICS

Donald Trump is a creep and unpleasant to look at, but at least he’s not a stunning hypocrite when it comes to climate change.

Photo Credit: Art Babych / Shutterstock.com

Donald Trump is so spectacularly horrible that it’s hard to look away (especially now that he’s discovered bombs). But precisely because everyone’s staring gape-mouthed in his direction, other world leaders are able to get away with almost anything. Don’t believe me? Look one nation north, at Justin Trudeau.

Look all you want, in fact – he sure is cute, the planet’s only sovereign leader who appears to have recently quit a boy band. And he’s mastered so beautifully the politics of inclusion: compassionate to immigrants, insistent on including women at every level of government. Give him great credit where it’s deserved: in lots of ways he’s the anti-Trump, and it’s no wonder Canadians swooned when he took over.

But when it comes to the defining issue of our day, climate change, he’s a brother to the old orange guy in DC.

Not rhetorically: Trudeau says all the right things, over and over. He’s got no Scott Pruitts in his cabinet: everyone who works for him says the right things. Indeed, they specialize in getting others to say them too – it was Canadian diplomats, and the country’s environment minister Catherine McKenna, who pushed at the Paris climate talks for a tougher-than-expected goal: holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn, and that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing. He’s hard at work pushing for new pipelines through Canada and the US to carry yet more oil out of Alberta’s tarsands, which is one of the greatest climate disasters on the planet.

Last month, speaking at a Houston petroleum industry gathering, he got a standing ovation from the oilmen for saying “No country would find 173bn barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”

That is to say, Canada, which represents one-half of 1% of the planet’s population, is claiming the right to sell the oil that will use up a third of the earth’s remaining carbon budget. That is to say, Trump is a creep and a danger and unpleasant to look at, but at least he’s not a stunning hypocrite.Yes, 173bn barrels is indeed the estimate for recoverable oil in the tar sands. So let’s do some math. If Canada digs up that oil and sells it to people to burn, it will produce, according to the math whizzes at Oil Change International, 30% of the carbon necessary to take us past the 1.5 degree target that Canada helped set in Paris.

This having-your-cake-and-burning-it-too is central to Canada’s self-image/energy policy. McKenna, confronted by Canada’s veteran environmentalist David Suzuki, said tartly “we have an incredible climate change plan that includes putting a price on carbon pollution, also investing in clean innovation. But we also know we need to get our natural resources to market and we’re doing both”. Right.

But doing the second negates the first – in fact, it completely overwhelms it. If Canada is busy shipping carbon all over the world, it doesn’t matter all that much if every Tim Horton’s stopped selling donuts and started peddling solar panels instead.

Canada’s got company in this scam. Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull is supposed to be more sensitive than his predecessor, a Trump-like blowhard. When he signed on his nation to the Paris climate accords, he said, “it is clear the agreement was a watershed, a turning point and the adoption of a comprehensive strategy has galvanised the international community and spurred on global action.”

Which is a fine thing to say, or would be, if your government wasn’t backing plans for the largest coal mine on earth. That single mine, in a country of 20 million, will produce 362% of the annual carbon emissions that everyone in the Philippines produces in the course of a year. It is, obviously, mathematically and morally absurd.

Trump, of course, is working just as eagerly to please the fossil fuel industry – he’s instructed the Bureau of Land Management to make permitting even easier for new oil and gas projects, for instance. And frackers won’t even have to keep track of how much methane they’re spewing under his new guidelines. And why should they? If you believe, as Trump apparently does, that global warming is a delusion, a hoax, a mirage, you might as well get out of the way.

Trump’s insulting the planet, in other words. But at least he’s not pretending otherwise.

Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, the founder of 350.org, an international climate campaign, and the winner of the 2014 Right Livelihood Award.

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/justin-trudeau-disaster-planet?akid=15430.265072.LweZcM&rd=1&src=newsletter1075651&t=14

Trump’s stance on climate change is a gift to the Chinese

America’s loss is China’s gain:

America’s whiplash-inducing reversal on climate change is China’s gain. Here’s why

America's loss is China's gain: Trump’s stance on climate change is a gift to the Chinese
China’s President Xi Jinping waves after speaking at the CEO summit during the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Lima, Peru, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)(Credit: AP)
This piece originally appeared on BillMoyers.com.

In January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a speech in which he framed both himself and his country as the answer to Trumpism — as proponents of globalization and as proponents of climate action.

“All signatories should stick to it instead of walking away from it, as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations,” Xi said of the Paris Agreement, without explicitly mentioning Trump’s assertion that the US may withdraw from it. “We should join hands and rise to the challenge,” he told the elites gathered at the conference. “Let us boost confidence, take actions and work together for a bright future.”

China’s bid to become the world’s climate leader is more than just a noble enterprise. Of course, staving off the worst impacts of climate change will spare Chinese lives, and limiting sea level rise will help to protect Chinese cities and the agricultural regions on which the country’s enormous population depends. But there are also reasons for China to green its economy that aren’t explicitly tied to climate: China is tired of the smoggy cities, and the attendant health issues, that come with coal-fired power plants. Furthermore, renewable energy represents a growth area for the country’s economy, which could be facing stagnation. In fact, worldwide, the Paris Agreement is expected to generate $19 trillion in wealth — and China hopes to capitalize on the opportunity.

The United States and China were once the world’s key allies in the fight against climate change. In November 2014, President Barack Obama traveled to Beijing and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Few knew it at the time, but their meeting would produce an agreement that paved the way for the Paris negotiations.

In that November 2014 announcement, Obama said the United States would commit to cutting emissions immediately — by up to 28 percent by 2025 — while Xi promised to put in place policies that would lead to China’s emissions peaking by 2030. The deal was denounced by conservatives in the United States as a giveaway to China, but the notoriously coal-loving country exceeded its promise and expectations by quickly ramping up renewables. Obama, meanwhile, put in place the Clean Power Plan and other regulations aimed at cutting America’s CO2 emissions.

The United States and China had thrown up some the biggest stumbling blocks during past U.N.-orchestrated efforts to put a climate deal in place. The fact that they were now openly acknowledging, through joint, public pronouncements, that climate change must be confronted and that both countries would put in place policies that did so, was a turning point in the two-decade-long effort to cement a global deal.

The following December, a year and a month after Obama and Xi’s announcement, the Paris Agreement was finalized.

Since signing the agreement, China has continued to encourage growth in renewables. By 2020, the country hopes to get 15 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources, a push that the government will fund with a $361 billion investment in renewables and nuclear energy that will create 13 million jobs for Chinese citizens. That would put China on track to meet its commitment under the Paris Agreement to get 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. Meanwhile, the country, which was at one time bringing two new coal power plants online every week, has seen its coal consumption fall three years in a row and is canceling construction on coal plants, anticipating there won’t be much use for them.

The United States, on the other hand, has moved in the other direction. This week, Donald Trump started the process of undoing Obama’s climate change programs, and hasn’t made up his mind yet about whether to exit the Paris Agreement or simply ignore it. Surrounded by coal miners at yesterday’s executive order signing, Trump triumphantly announced that rolling back Obama’s Clean Power Plan would revive the US’ failing coal industry, though in practice his policies, which may be good for coal CEOs, are unlikely to create many jobs due to automation and other technological advances.

China, meanwhile, is looking for another country to replace the US as its partner in global climate efforts. The EU might be able to step into the role. Beijing has asked Brussels to schedule the annual China-EU summit for earlier this year than usual, with climate change as one of the items on the agenda.

Perhaps the greatest irony in this whole saga is Donald Trump’s go-to reason for dismissing climate change: That it is a hoax perpetrated to aid the Chinese.

Climate change is not a hoax perpetrated to aid the Chinese. Ironically, President Trump’s failure to address it makes way for China to thrive, both economically and diplomatically.

But there is another hoax at play here: The claim, repeated just recently by Trump EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, that there is still debate among climate scientists about whether global warming is caused by humans. That hoax was foisted on the American people by polluting companies and the think tanks they fund, repeated again and again by faux experts who specialize in sowing doubt.

One such expert is Trump’s transition team head, Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He spent years casting doubt on climate change — and before that, worked for tobacco companies to cast doubt on the dangers of smoking. Ebell was most recently found at an annual conference put together by the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, where he was among those fretting that Trump’s climate change-denying EPA head and oil company CEO secretary of state were, in fact, too pro-environment to fully prevent climate action. “Secretary Rex Tillerson may be from Texas and he may have been the CEO of Exxon, but he is part of the swamp,” Ebell said.

The oil industry, which once funded this sort of propaganda, has created a monster it is powerless to stop. Many companies, including Exxon, which played a prominent role in obfuscating climate science, want the president to stay in the Paris Agreement, which will, in the short term, incentivize countries to turn away from coal electricity and potentially embrace natural gas, a product in which the oil industry is already heavily invested and is more than happy to sell. The president, however, remains skeptical of the agreement and of climate science, as his advisers battle among themselves — the plutocrats versus the nationalists — to determine whether the administration will keep America in the climate change agreement or bail.

That Trump has bought into polluters’ hoax so thoroughly is America’s, and the world’s, loss — but in the short term, it’s China’s gain.

http://www.salon.com/2017/04/02/trumps-stance-on-climate-change-is-a-gift-to-china_partner/?source=newsletter

Scientists have just detected a major change to the Earth’s oceans linked to a warming climate

February 15 at 1:00 PM

A large research synthesis, published in one of the world’s most influential scientific journals, has detected a decline in the amount of dissolved oxygen in oceans around the world — a long-predicted result of climate change that could have severe consequences for marine organisms if it continues.

The paper, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by oceanographer Sunke Schmidtko and two colleagues from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, found a decline of more than 2 percent in ocean oxygen content worldwide between 1960 and 2010. The loss, however, showed up in some ocean basins more than others. The largest overall volume of oxygen was lost in the largest ocean — the Pacific — but as a percentage, the decline was sharpest in the Arctic Ocean, a region facing Earth’s most stark climate change.

The loss of ocean oxygen “has been assumed from models, and there have been lots of regional analysis that have shown local decline, but it has never been shown on the global scale, and never for the deep ocean,” said Schmidtko, who conducted the research with Lothar Stramma and Martin Visbeck, also of GEOMAR.

Ocean oxygen is vital to marine organisms, but also very delicate — unlike in the atmosphere, where gases mix together thoroughly, in the ocean that is far harder to accomplish, Schmidtko explained. Moreover, he added, just 1 percent of all the Earth’s available oxygen mixes into the ocean; the vast majority remains in the air.

Climate change models predict the oceans will lose oxygen because of several factors. Most obvious is simply that warmer water holds less dissolved gases, including oxygen. “It’s the same reason we keep our sparkling drinks pretty cold,” Schmidtko said.

But another factor is the growing stratification of ocean waters. Oxygen enters the ocean at its surface, from the atmosphere and from the photosynthetic activity of marine microorganisms. But as that upper layer warms up, the oxygen-rich waters are less likely to mix down into cooler layers of the ocean because the warm waters are less dense and do not sink as readily.

“When the upper ocean warms, less water gets down deep, and so therefore, the oxygen supply to the deep ocean is shut down or significantly reduced,” Schmidtko said.

The new study represents a synthesis of literally “millions” of separate ocean measurements over time, according to GEOMAR. The authors then used interpolation techniques for areas of the ocean where they lacked measurements.

The resulting study attributes less than 15 percent of the total oxygen loss to sheer warmer temperatures, which create less solubility. The rest was attributed to other factors, such as a lack of mixing.

Matthew Long, an oceanographer from the National Center for Atmospheric Research who has published on ocean oxygen loss, said he considers the new results “robust” and a “major advance in synthesizing observations to examine oxygen trends on a global scale.”

Long was not involved in the current work, but his research had previously demonstrated that ocean oxygen loss was expected to occur and that it should soon be possible to demonstrate that in the real world through measurements, despite the complexities involved in studying the global ocean and deducing trends about it.

That’s just what the new study has done.

“Natural variations have obscured our ability to definitively detect this signal in observations,” Long said in an email. “In this study, however, Schmidtko et al. synthesize all available observations to show a global-scale decline in oxygen that conforms to the patterns we expect from human-driven climate warming. They do not make a definitive attribution statement, but the data are consistent with and strongly suggestive of human-driven warming as a root cause of the oxygen decline.

“It is alarming to see this signal begin to emerge clearly in the observational data,” he added.

“Schmidtko and colleagues’ findings should ring yet more alarm bells about the consequences of global warming,” added Denis Gilbert, a researcher with the Maurice Lamontagne Institute at Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Quebec, in an accompanying commentary on the study also published in Nature.

Because oxygen in the global ocean is not evenly distributed, the 2 percent overall decline means there is a much larger decline in some areas of the ocean than others.

Moreover, the ocean already contains so-called oxygen minimum zones, generally found in the middle depths. The great fear is that their expansion upward, into habitats where fish and other organism thrive, will reduce the available habitat for marine organisms.

In shallower waters, meanwhile, the development of ocean “hypoxic” areas, or so-called “dead zones,” may also be influenced in part by declining oxygen content overall.

On top of all of that, declining ocean oxygen can also worsen global warming in a feedback loop. In or near low oxygen areas of the oceans, microorganisms tend to produce nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, Gilbert writes. Thus the new study “implies that production rates and efflux to the atmosphere of nitrous oxide … will probably have increased.”

The new study underscores once again that some of the most profound consequences of climate change are occurring in the oceans, rather than on land. In recent years, incursions of warm ocean water have caused large die-offs of coral reefs, and in some cases, kelp forests as well. Meanwhile, warmer oceans have also begun to destabilize glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, and as they melt, these glaciers freshen the ocean waters and potentially change the nature of their circulation.

When it comes to ocean deoxygenation, as climate change continues, this trend should also increase — studies suggest a loss of up to 7 percent of the ocean’s oxygen by 2100. At the end of the current paper, the researchers are blunt about the consequences of a continuing loss of oceanic oxygen.

“Far-reaching implications for marine ecosystems and fisheries can be expected,” they write.

If carbon emissions continue unabated, expanding oceans and massive ice melt would threaten global coastal communities, according to new projections.
(Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Top 5 urgent Climate Change/Election Stories MSM Suppressed

climate-change

By

 Nov. 5, 2016

I used the word “suppressed” in the title quite deliberately. Corporate television media in the United States is colluding in a cover-up of the threat of climate change, and they have specifically blacked out the climate change issue with regard to this election.

The guilty parties are Comcast (owner of NBC Universal, including MSNBC/ NBC.com), the Walt Disney Company (the owner of ABC), Viacom/ CBS, Time Warner (owner of CNN), and Twenty-First Century Fox (i.e. sleazy pressslord Rupert Murdoch).

These five media conglomerates run by Stephen B. Burke, Robert A. Iger, Leslie Moonves, Jeff Zucker, and, well, Rupert Murdoch are trying to drown your grandchildren. Please do drop them a line (contacts hyperlinked except Fox, which is a multi-billion-dollar trolling operation so why bother?) and let them know you aren’t happy about their plans for genocide against our future generations.

Several studies have substantiated that none of the television news operations have bothered to report on policy during this election– it has all been horse race 24/7. This is because multi-billion dollar corporations are extracting money from you and they don’t want you getting uppity about policy issues.

Since they didn’t tell you, I will. Here are 5 climate tie-ins with the election that the news channels didn’t convene panels to dissect at length. Maybe they didn’t report them at all. Maybe it was in a single sentence or in that ticker at the bottom where they sometimes put real news.

1. It is rare for China to say anything to a US presidential candidate publicly. Beijing nevertheless came out and blasted Donald Trump for saying he would renege on the Paris climate agreement. Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate negotiator, said that “The world is moving towards balancing environmental protection and economic growth.” Of politicians like Trump, he added, “If they resist this trend, I don’t think they’ll win the support of their people, and their country’s economic and social progress will also be affected . . . I believe a wise political leader should take policy stances that conform with global trends . . .” China is investing heavily in renewables at some social cost and won’t sit still for US backsliding.

2. While the election has been going on, something has gone seriously wrong with this year’s arctic sea ice cover. Zack Labe, a doctoral student in climate science, posted to Twitter, “Sea ice extent has set 142 new daily record lows.” and for the first time since 1970 “hadn’t reached seven million square kilometres by November.” Trust me. This is monstrously bad. The less ice on land in the arctic and antarctic, the more water in the sea. If your house is near a beach, this should concern you. A lot. Why, you might even expect it to be on the news.

NASA Goddard: ” Older Arctic Sea Ice Disappearing”

3. The Paris Climate accord became international law on Friday. Question: Is America going to be a scofflaw nation and rampage around destroying the climate for everyone on earth?

4. Americans are already being displaced from their homes by climate change.

5. Our burning of fossil fuels now seems likely to throw the Southwest into a decades-long mega-drought.

So go ahead and talk about the trivial things, about the horse race, about the petty insults back and forth and the emails (there doesn’t seem anything interesting in the emails).

Meanwhile the single biggest story of this election season is being studiedly ignored in the campaign (well, Hillary brought out Al Gore for one day and she wants lots of solar panels) and more especially on our television sets. It is like an alternate reality where we have no idea that emitting billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide every year by driving cars and heating homes and businesses etc. are causing a planetary melt-down.

At least please let your congressional representatives know you are worried about this issue. They can be pressured. And, I think we need some nice legal marches.

Top 5 urgent Climate Change/Election Stories MSM Suppressed

California primary voters speak on social inequality, war

2016-election-new-hampshire-votes-0581f8f07c6cbbf6

By our reporters
8 June 2016

Voters went to polls on Tuesday in the final six primary contests of the 2016 election cycle, with the exception of the District of Columbia, which will vote next week. Hillary Clinton declared victory in the Democratic Party nomination contest Tuesday evening.

WSWS reporters spoke to voters throughout the state of California. California, while traditionally having relatively little influence on the nomination process due the voting schedule, nonetheless is a significant gauge as it is the largest state in the country.

More than 650,000 Californians registered to vote in the final six weeks of the registration period, pushing the state’s total registered voters to 18 million, the most ever heading into a primary election. Many of these newly-registered voters were under the age of 45, a group that has favored Sanders heavily over Clinton.

In Los Angeles, many voters said the growth of social inequality and poverty were motivating factors in their election decisions.

“We have so many problems here,” one voter said. “I take the bus down 7th street and there’s homeless people everywhere. It’s ridiculous for us to continue spending money in places like the Middle East. But at the same time we’ve caused everything that’s going on over there.”

Another expressed frustration with the media’s declaration of Clinton as the presumptive nominee the day before the California vote. “They shouldn’t have done that,” he said. “They should have to wait until all the ballots are counted to make sure people feel free to vote for the candidate of their choice.”

WSWS reporters also spoke to voters in Berkeley, California, many of who expressed illusions in both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns.

Bob, an engineering student in Berkeley, said that he voted for Sanders. “I believe he has good policies for social change that will represent the younger generation,” he said. “Public education is a big deal for me. I believe it’s important to have an educated population.”

Asked about Clinton, Bob replied, “I think she’s an acceptable candidate. I would have nothing against her as a candidate, but Bernie Sanders seems to have much more audacity.”

Helcio, a Brazilian national, expressed a growing and widespread resignation about the US election system. “It’s pretty sad,” he said. “There is not much hope anymore. All the top 1 percent are in control. It doesn’t matter what you do, it will take a long time for people to get power again.”

Chris, a database architect, said he voted for Sanders because of concerns over income inequality. “Paraphrasing Robert Reich, I think Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for the system we have, and Bernie is the best for the system we would like to have. I’m voting my conscience in the primary.” Asked about the lack of discussion of war in the presidential election, Chris replied, “We’re to the state of a forgotten war.”

Rishi, an engineer, also voted for Sanders. His primary concerns are “the environment, climate change, and having a good foreign policy that doesn’t lead to war,” he said. “Trump is out of his mind. Hillary is a little too pro-war, pro-involvement in all the things she voted for. That was probably the biggest reason I voted for Bernie.”

When asked what kind of issues were of particular concern to him, Patrick, a voter in the San Francisco area, said, “The big one for me is medical debt. It hits me personally because I have kidney failure. I was diagnosed last November. For just a four-day stay in the hospital, it would have been $80,000. Luckily, I was able to qualify for Medi-Cal,” the state’s Medicaid health care program.

Many voters in San Diego also expressed distrust in the election process and a disbelief that anything would significantly change regardless of which candidate wins in November.

Alex, a student worker, said, “The super delegates can do whatever they want instead of doing what the people want. I read last night that Hillary Clinton is now the nominee. Why should we even bother voting now? The election process is rigged, we don’t have a voice.”

WSWS reporters in San Diego also spoke to voters from City Heights, a mostly Hispanic working class and immigrant community.

Freddie a telecom worker told reporters he was voting because, “I’m tired of blue-collar workers like myself suffering due to the financial institutions, Wall Street banks and corporations.”

When asked if he felt that this framework could adequately address the democratic rights of the population, he responded, “No! It doesn’t feel like it is a democracy when the politicians can be bought and sold. I don’t feel like it’s a democracy if hundreds of police can get away with killing people.”

Freddie was engaged in the strike by 1,700 workers for AT&T, which was contained by the union to San Diego. When our reporters asked why the union, the Communication Workers of America, made strikers return to work without a contract, Freddie responded that he was disappointed in AT&T. When pressed why the union had allowed them to even work without a contract, he agreed that the unions were no longer organizations of the working class.

Speaking on the difficulties of making ends meet, Freddie also said, “It’s not [quite] the [official] poverty line, but it’s paycheck to paycheck and that’s poverty. We work our whole lives and what do we get in the end? To pay off our car, maybe pay off a house that we can pass on to our children. That’s it?! You work so hard and you’ve got nothing to show for it at the end of your lifetime.”

Juan is a 30 year old military veteran who spent time in Afghanistan. He said he was there to vote for Sanders because he agreed with the way Sanders spoke about Wall Street and the difficulties of life for average people. Despite Sanders saying he would support Hillary Clinton if she won the primary, Juan maintained the impression that Sanders would never support Clinton. He said he would refuse to vote for Clinton, believing the Democratic and Republican parties are thoroughly corrupt and can only be reformed by Sanders.

When asked about Bernie Sanders’ support of the wars in Libya and Syria, as well as his votes to fund the wars in Iraq, Juan said he believed that Sanders did not really support the current wars in the Middle East.

A young mother also spoke to our reporters briefly saying she was going to the polls because it was her obligation. Expressing her disapproval of US military interventions abroad she said, “It’s my taxes that are paying these people to send soldiers to war and kill thousands of people in other countries. We are paying these people and they should answer to us.”

Daniel, a cook and student at a local community college said he was disgusted with growing social inequality, and expressed disbelief that it could be in any way addressed through either of the two big business parties. “The election is controlled by the 1 percent of both parties, the Democrats and Republicans. The race has become a popularity contest, we have no idea what politics is.”

Daniel continued, “We can’t trust anything Hillary says, she is two-faced. There will be no difference if Hillary or Trump wins.”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/06/08/cali-j08.html?view=mobilearticle

Bill Gates: Only Socialism Can Save the Climate, ‘The Private Sector is Inept’

images


Bill Gates explains why the climate crisis will not be solved by the free market.

In a recent interview with The Atlantic, billionaire tech magnate Bill Gates announced his game plan to spend $2 billion of his own wealth on green energy investments, and called on his fellow private sector billionaires to help make the U.S. fossil-free by 2050. But in doing so, Gates admitted that the private sector is too selfish and inefficient to do the work on its own, and that mitigating climate change would be impossible without the help of government research and development.

“There’s no fortune to be made. Even if you have a new energy source that costs the same as today’s and emits no CO2, it will be uncertain compared with what’s tried-and-true and already operating at unbelievable scale and has gotten through all the regulatory problems,” Gates said. “Without a substantial carbon tax, there’s no incentive for innovators or plant buyers to switch.”

Gates even tacked to the left and uttered words that few other billionaire investors would dare to say: government R&D is far more effective and efficient than anything the private sector could do.

“Since World War II, U.S.-government R&D has defined the state of the art in almost every area,” Gates said. “The private sector is in general inept.”

“When I first got into this I thought, ‘How well does the Department of Energy spend its R&D budget?’ And I was worried: ‘Gosh, if I’m going to be saying it should double its budget, if it turns out it’s not very well spent, how am I going to feel about that?’” Gates told The Atlantic. “But as I’ve really dug into it, the DARPA money is very well spent, and the basic-science money is very well spent. The government has these ‘Centers of Excellence.’ They should have twice as many of those things, and those things should get about four times as much money as they do.”

In making his case for public sector excellence, the Microsoft founder mentioned the success of the internet:

“In the case of the digital technologies, the path back to government R&D is a bit more complex, because nowadays most of the R&D has moved to the private sector. But the original Internet comes from the government, the original chip-foundry stuff comes from the government—and even today there’s some government money taking on some of the more advanced things and making sure the universities have the knowledge base that maintains that lead. So I’d say the overall record for the United States on government R&D is very, very good.”

The ‘Centers for Excellence’ program Bill Gates mentioned is the Center for Excellence in Renewable Energy (CERE), which is funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF, which operated with roughly $7.1 billion in 2014, is the source of one-fourth of federal funding for research projects at over 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 schools, nonprofits, and businesses.  The NSF has even funded research by over 200 Nobel laureates, including 26 in just the last 5 years alone. The NSF receives more than 40,000 proposals each year, but only gets to fund about 11,000 of them. Bill Gates wants this funding to be dramatically increased.

“I would love to see a tripling, to $18 billion a year from the U.S. government to fund basic research alone,” Gates said. “Now, as a percentage of the government budget, that’s not gigantic… This is not an unachievable amount of money.”

As evidence around the world shows, the U.S. doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel to be a green energy juggernaut — it can simply look to currently-existing examples in countries with socialist policies — like Germany and China, for instance — on how to become a leader in green energy. And according to Bill Gates, the rest of the world will follow the lead if the biggest countries set the bar.

“The climate problem has to be solved in the rich countries,” Gates said. “China and the U.S. and Europe have to solve CO2 emissions, and when they do, hopefully they’ll make it cheap enough for everyone else.”

This past July, Germany set a new record by generating 78 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, beating its previous record of 74 percent in May of 2014. Germany generated 40.65 gigawatts from wind and solar energy, 4.85 gigawatts from biomass, and 2.4 gigawatts from hydropower, for a total of 47.9 gigawatts of green energy when total electricity demand was at 61.1 gigawatts. Over the past year, Germany decreased its CO2 output by 4.3 percent. This means greenhouse gas emissions in Germany are at their lowest point since 1990.

But in terms of raw investment, China’s $80 billion green energy investment is more than both the U.S. ($34 billion) and Europe ($46 billion), combined. And those investments are already paying dividends. While coal is still China’s biggest source of electricity, the world’s biggest polluter aims to have its use of fossil fuels peak in 2030, and trend downward after that. Additionally, China’s solar production outpaces all other countries combined.

Between 2000 and 2012, China’s solar energy output increased dramatically from 3 megawatts to 21,000 megawatts. And its solar output increased by 67 percent between 2013 and 2014 alone. In 2014, China actually managed to decrease its CO2 emissions by 1 percent, with further reductions expected in the coming years.

China also powers more homes with wind energy than every nuclear power plant in the U.S. put together. China’s wind output provided electricity to 110 million homes in 2014, as its wind farms generated 16 percent more power than in 2013, and 77 gigawatts of additional wind power are currently under construction. China’s energy grid is currently powered by 100 gigawatts of green energy, and aims to double green energy output to 200 gigawatts by 2020.

Bill Gates wants the U.S. to be an additional green energy leader, and expresses hope that there may still be enough time for the U.S. to take green energy investment seriously, and that the public sector can be instrumental in preventing a 2-degree increase in global temperatures.

“I don’t think it’s hopeless, because it’s about American innovation, American jobs, American leadership, and there are examples where this has gone very, very well,” Gates said.

Tom Cahill is a writer for US Uncut based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact Tom via email at tom.v.cahill@gmail.com.

 

 

http://usuncut.com/climate/bill-gates-only-socialism-can-save-us-from-climate-change/

How “Big Data” can help save the environment

Journalists, scientists & techies must work to translate data into the knowledge needed to address climate change 

How "Big Data" can help save the environment
A rider attached to the appropriation bill that funds the EPA would end the moratorium on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon which could contaminate the Colorado River
This article was originally published by Scientific American.

Scientific American

A recent study using NASA’s CALIPSO satellite described how wind and weather carry millions of tons of dust from the Sahara desert to the Amazon basin each year – bringing much-needed fertilizers like phosphorus to the Amazon’s depleted soils.

To bring this story to life, NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization team produced a video showing the path of the Saharan dust, which has been viewed half a million times. This story is notable because it relies on satellite technology and data to show how one ecosystem’s health is deeply interconnected with another ecosystem on the other side of the world.

Stunning data visualization like this one can go a long way to helping communicate scientific wonders to the wider world. But even more important than the technology driving the collection and analysis of this data is how the team presented its findings to the public – as a story. NASA’s CALIPSO data offers a model of how scientists, technologists and journalists can come together and make use of data to help us respond to this a slow-motion crisis like air pollution.

Being able to see the dust blowing in the wind has broad implications. Today, one in eight people in the world dies from exposure to air pollution, which includes dust. This stunning fact, issued by the World Health Organization last March, adds up to 7 million premature deaths per year. Air pollution is now the single largest environmental risk in the world, and it occurs both indoors and outdoors.

The WHO report, which more than doubles previous estimates, is based on improved exposure measurements including data collected from satellites, sensors and weather and air flow information. The information has been cross-tabulated with demographic information to reveal, for example, that if you are a low- to middle-income person living in China, your chances of dying an air pollution-related death skyrockets.

These shocking statistics are hardly news for people living in highly polluted areas, though in many of the most severely affected regions, governments are not eager to confirm the obvious. The availability of global scale particulate matter (dust) monitoring could change this dynamic in a way that we all can see.

In addition to the volume of satellite data generated by NASA, sensor technology that helps create personal pollution monitors is increasingly affordable and accessible. Projects like the Air Quality EggSpeck and the DustDuino (with which I collaborate) are working to put tools to collect data from the ground in as many hands as possible. These low-cost devices are creating opportunities for citizen science to fill coverage gaps and testing this potential is a key part of our upcoming installation of DustDuino units in Sao Paulo, Brazil later this summer. Satellite data tend to paint in broad global strokes, but it’s often local details that inform and motivate decisions.

Satellites give us a global perspective. The official monitoring infrastructure, overseen by large institutions and governments, can measure ambient air at a very high resolution and modeling exposure over a large area. But they don’t see everything. The nascent field of sensor journalism helps citizen scientists and journalists fill in the gaps in monitoring networks, identifying human exposures and hot spots that are invisible to official infrastructure.

As program officer of the Earth Journalism Network, I help give training and support to teams of data scientists, developers and environmental journalists around the world to incorporate this flood of new information and boost local environmental coverage. We have taken this approach because the skills that we need to communicate about slow-motion crises like air pollution and climate change require a combination of experts who can make sense of data and journalists who can prioritize and contextualize it for their readers.

Leveraging technologies, skills and expertise from satellites, sensors and communities alike, journalists, scientists and technologists need to work together to translate data into the knowledge needed to address environmental crises.

 

 

http://www.salon.com/2015/07/18/how_big_data_can_help_save_the_environment_partner/?source=newsletter