Lene Johansen

Sometimes, nothing gets the message through as a barrage sometimes. The guys at Popular Technology have collected a barrage of videos on climate change, so check it out when you have time.

Economist Gwyn Prins from London School of Economics got his turn at Nature Podcast's Podium on October 25. He is outlining an agenda for the Bali conference that makes sense to those of us who has a vested interest in results, rather than a vested interest in status quo. The speech is based on a paper he and a colleague published in Nature that same week, but alas, the politicians at Bali don't read Nature, that means they have to sit down and understand science and stuff, which is too much to ask a meager politician about…

In December, the world's politicians, the climate policy community, activists, NGOs, and an army of attended media will converge on the Indonesian Island of Bali for the most important summit on climate change since Al Gore rescued the Kyoto protocol ten years ago. The Bali conference will decide the international climate policy for the years after 2012 when the protocol expires. The Bali agenda shows that unless something happens to stop it the plan is for a bigger and better Kyoto with more stringent targets, more ambitious timetables, more carbon trading, more countries inside the UN process. If that agenda is successfully achieved at Bali then ironically humanity will lose an important opportunity to start to make an impact on anthropogenic aspects of global climate change. Why? Because Kyoto has failed; it is time to ditch Kyoto, cut our losses, and to radically rethink climate policy. In this week's Nature, Steve Rayner and I outline the story of Kyoto's failure and also state a handful of key principles to underpin a radical and practical rethink. These should frame the Bali agenda. What failure? Kyoto's supporters may ask. Since coming into effect, Kyoto has produced no demonstrable reductions in emissions or even in anticipated emission's growth and it pays no more than token attention to the needs of societies to adapt to existing climate change, but the present moment is more precarious still. For Kyoto's continued policy failure is being spun by signatory governments, especially in Europe as a story of success. The danger is that while today there is strong public support for climate action, when the truth about the failure of Kyoto's admitted as circumstances will oblige, we may experience public withdrawal of trust and consent for action whatever form it takes. Kyoto's supporters often blame non signatory governments, especially the United States and Australia for its vows, but the Kyoto protocol was always the wrong tool for the nature of the job. Kyoto was constructed by quickly borrowing from past treaty regimes dealing with stratospheric ozone, acid rain from sulphur emissions, and nuclear bombs. Drawing on those plausible, but partial analogies Kyoto's architects assumed that climate change would be best attacked directly through global emissions controls, treating tons of carbon dioxide like stockpiles of nuclear weapons to be reduced via targets and timetables. Kyoto relied on firing a silver bullet. The top down creation of a global carbon market, but there is little sign of any stable global carbon price emerging for the next decade or so and certainly not with a price signal strong enough to drive innovation. In the final analysis, carbon's trade cannot deliver the escape velocity required to get investment in technological innovation into orbit in time. That calls as we do for putting investment in decarbonised energy technologies on a wartime footing. Otherwise, they will not be available in time to disrupt the impending cycle of new investment in carbon intensive infrastructure and present cause, we are all about to be hit by a tidal wave of coal, especially in China, but a new Apollo or Manhattan project is only one of the necessary principles. No single shot can work on a complex open system issue like this. What we need is not a silver bullet, but silver buckshot. What Bali needs is a portfolio of approaches to move us in the right direction of which decarbonising the energy cycle is only one.

October 4th was Bjørn Lomborg's turn at Nature Podcasts' Podium. I listened to this podcast only last week, because I have been a bit backlogged with my science podcast listening.

"Prioritization is an integral part of life. We budget, money, and time because they are limited. In the hospital's emergency room, doctors use prioritization or triage to save lives, but we do not use prioritization when we grapple with the world's biggest problems. We know that carbon emissions cause climate change. So, activists urge us to make drastic cuts in the CO2 we pump out, yet climate change is not the only problem facing the planet, malaria, malnutrition, and HIV/AIDS claiming millions of lives right now. In an ideal world, we would have the money and the time to solve all these problems at a stroke. In real life, we do not. Pretending that we can do everything often just means that our money and attention goes to the problems with the loudest cheerleaders or the most media attention. We need to consider how far we should push a particular solution, making drastic cuts to carbon emissions, similar to making drastic cuts to the speed limits on our roads. Slowing traffic to a crawl would save millions of lives. We could wipe out almost all road deaths overnight, yet we reject such a drastic step as nonsensical because we accept that it would make modern life impossible. That does not mean we let cars go as fast as they want. As societies, we have decided on an appropriate speed limit for our highways after weighing up the benefits we get from the efficient transport of people and goods and then considering the number of accidents. Now, we need to have a discussion about carbon emission reductions. Likewise, we should be talking about what we are willing to sacrifice and what we hope to gain. I believe this discussion should not be left just to climate scientists. We all need to look at the wider picture and remember that global warming is not the only problem facing the planet. We should be asking what policies will best help the world overall. The answers might sometimes be surprising, as an example, we often hear that rising temperatures will mean more malaria. This is true. But are CO2 cuts the best way to help people? For every person saved from malaria through the curative protocol the same resource is spent on mosquito nets and medication could save 36,000 people. Just as there are many problems facing the planet there are many possible solutions to those challenges. My belief is that immediate carbon emission cuts are not the best way to respond to climate change, instead I believe we should invest heavily in the research and development of non-carbon emitting energy technologies which will give our kids and grandkids and China and India inexpensive tools to fix climate change by mid century while allowing for the continued development of human welfare."

Some disease are plaguing camels, and the obvious culprit is… -Global warming… you got it!

I read this story in the Guardian, and I had a déjà vu experience, remember this spring when some virus was plaguing the bee population in North America, causing them to die in large numbers. We did not really know that it was a virus until this summer, but several someone's suggested global warming was behind that too, until we knew it was the virus.

Now however, global warming is killing camels, cause microbes, viruses, and bacteria does not mutate, as we all know. At least global warming will be the culprit until some microbiologists take a look at the thing.

Breaking news from Stockholm is making Al Gore's trip to the Nobel celebrations into a bigger PR morass than it already was. Al Gore used a private plane from Stockholm to Frankfurt when he left the celebrations to head to Bali according to Swedish blogger Henrik Alexanderson. The story has also been picked up by mainstream media, such as Expressen after Alexanderson broke the news.

The Nobel Committee made a publicity stunt out of Al Gore's means of transportation to Oslo, when he showed up here (yes, I am in Oslo now) to receive his undeserved Nobel Prize earlier this month. But Al Gore's long standing record of "do as I say, not as I do" quickly turned the publicity dream into a publicity nightmare.

Friday morning on the 7th of December, Al Gore arrived at Gardermoen Airport. After a brief Q&A session with reporters, he and his entourage walked across the airport and took the escalator down to the Airport Train concourse and hopped on the train to downtown Oslo with the entire gang of dispatched reporters. Well downtown, they walked the three minutes across the downtown park from the rail station to his hotel, cameras in tow.

This was of course running live on Norwegian television, and the head line on all edited television reports and the next morning's newspapers was "LOOK AT HOW ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY HE IS!!"

The honeymoon lasted only until Sunday when the reporters in the largest newspaper in the country asked the first question I had when I saw the reports; where is his luggage? All the other reporters covering the Nobels had gone all gaga and star struck over the former senator gone opportunist.

The Gore luggage had been picked up and sent by van from the airport, and the Nobel committee PR staff was not happy to be asked the question by VG. The spokesperson expressed dismay stating, "Such incidental logistics could hardly be newsworthy".

I have yet to find information on how Gore made it to Stockholm, but the press secretary of Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation stated that lending the private jet of the executive cabinet of Sweden "was the solution that made it possible for Gore to come to Sweden."

It is illegal for anyone but members of the cabinet to use the plane, so the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation had to accompany Gore on the plane and fly back. At least we know which is the most expendable member of the Swedish Cabinet through this.

This is not the first time Gore is caught saying one thing and doing another. His own inefficient private jet, which he uses extensively in the US, and his energy hungry household in Tennessee, is widely known in the US. The news has reached Scandinavia, but has barely gotten any traction.
If we are to believe Brendan O'Neill's review of Al Gore's speech in Bali, Gore will reveal more of his do as I say, not as I do sentiments now that he is getting more comfortable in his own skin. O'Neill quotes from Gore reveal Gore as an anti-democrat.

Norwegian researchers have been very concerned about arctic melting the last year, because improvements in satellite data shows an unprecedented melting. The measuring systems have, of course, only been available since the cooling period in the 70's. During a conference on Arctic melting in Oslo, Norway last week, the more than 40 researchers from all over the world concluded that soot from industry and combustion in Eastern Europe and Russia has escalated the melting of arctic ice. Easter Europe and Russia are the poorest areas of Europe and Northern Asia. The industry is old and outdated, I am sure the people who live in these countries would love to be able to afford cleaner, more efficient technology, but the energy rationing instituted by Kyoto will make that dream much harder to achieve.

Its about time someone called the celeboticians from Hollywood on their hypocrisy. This editorial from the Harvard Crimson points out the difference between what our movie stars gone activists do, and what they tell other people to do. Hummers and jets might be convenient, so why should the use be limited to celebrities that tell everyone else how bad it is to use them.

Doomsayer Lovelock has been visiting the Royal Academy of Sciences in the UK again. I thought the Academy was a society for serious research, but they obviously like to get their apocalypse fix on a regular basis as well. I can recommend several religious establishments for this purpose, they don't have to drag the good name of science through the mud in this way.

I found an extensive Reuter's story about coal use growth in China, despite worries over global warming. It's nice to see that a country like China has adopted CEI's high wealth creation, maximum growth, maximum resiliency approach to adapting with climate change.


by Lene Johansen on October 17, 2007

in Blog

A world where there's not enough electricity. It is hard to even comprehend a world where you turn the switch and nothing happens. When I lived on a farm in Punjab, India, it used to amuse me. The whole world would go black and the only light in the village was my trusty laptop, with its blue glare. If any family in the village had an Akand Path going on, the sound of the Guru Grant Sahib would be abrubtly cut off as the speaker lost the power. It was amusing to me because it was novell, and almost incomprehensible.

Indians have the festival of Diwali, it is a light festival. There are lights everywhere, every edge you can place lights on, there are little terracotta bowls with mustard oils and wicks of rolled cotton. The brownouts fascinated me, and I used to speculate what would happen if the electricity went out on Diwali. I was assured this would not happen under any circumstance. It did not.

This story I found in the Philladelphia Inquirer this weekend is a view into where life will lead, eventually, if we keep preventing new powerplants from being built. Can you imagine getting up at 2 a.m. to do laundry, just because your washer might have enough electricity for a full cycle?