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#1 John Dolva

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 06:01 AM


Powerful 'green shopping' critique falls short on solutions
Sunday, March 4, 2012 By Ian Angus

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Kendra Pierre-Louis's new book, Green Washed, is a powerful critique of 'the comforting message that we can shop ourselves out of our current environmental mess'. Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet
Kendra Pierre-Louis
IG Publishing, 216 pages

Radical German poet Hans Magnus Enzenberger once compared mainstream environmentalism to a Sunday sermon that terrifies parishioners with dire warnings of eternal damnation, but concludes weakly by promising salvation to any sinner who performs a simple act of penance.

“The horror of the predicted catastrophe,” he wrote, “contrasts sharply with the mildness of the admonition with which we are allowed to escape.”

Countless green books fit that description. Again and again, intense warnings of imminent disaster are followed by lists of Easy Things You Can Do to Save the Earth.

Buy fluorescent light bulbs. Turn down the thermostat and buy a warm sweater. Ride a bicycle to work. Carry groceries in reusable tote bags. Don’t buy bottled water.

Kendra Pierre-Louis is an editor of Justmeans.com, a website that calls itself “the world's leading source of information and connections for the sustainable business industry”. So we might expect her to favour such proposals, but that’s not the case.

Her new book Green Washed is a powerful critique of “the comforting message that we can shop ourselves out of our current environmental mess”.

She writes: “Too many businesses and environmental groups have led us to believe that if we buy the correct collection of products, we can save the planet.

“While these assurances have done much to assuage our collective guilt, and even more to create a generation of smug eco-shoppers, it has done next to nothing to fundamentally change the environmental landscape, while in many cases actively contributing to environmental degradation and misinformation.”

But while it rejects the Easy Things You Can Do approach, Green Washed still suffers from the Sunday sermon problem. Pierre-Louis’critique of green consumerism is powerful and effective, but the alternative she offers is no more credible than a green shopping list.

In six chapters on consumer products and three on energy alternatives, Pierre-Louis documents the environmental damage caused by supposedly green products.

Organic food is often grown by malnourished farm workers. Biodiesel comes from tree farms that accelerate biodiversity loss. It takes a whopping 400 gallons of water to produce the fabric for one natural cotton T-shirt.

Even if your hybrid car used no gasoline at all, it would still require roads. Pierre-Louis writes: “The construction of one single mile, of one single lane, of a highway’s smooth, perfectly paved road surface consumes between 7000 and, 12,000 tons of raw materials — the same amount used by 600 to 1000 US households annually.

"In the process, that same tiny mile emits some 500 to 1200 tons of carbon dioxide.”

Green Washed’s greatest strength is its clear and concise presentation of such data.

Pierre-Louis hasn’t just done her research, she has organised and presented it very well, making a convincing case that green shopping cannot save the planet: that alone makes it a valuable resource for green activists.

In her view, what’s necessary is not just different consumption, but less consumption. “The easiest thing to do, the greenest thing, is to simply use less of whatever we are using.”

Countless products shouldn’t be made at all; others should be made to last.

"If we stop wasting 40% of all food that’s grown, agriculture will use less land and water. Reliable and cost-effective public transit will reduce the need for cars, fuel and highways.

"Making clothing that lasts will keep millions of tons of textile waste out of municipal landfills."

In refreshing contrast to most books on consumerism, Green Washed pins the blame for excess consumption on our economic system, not on individual psychology.

“If we were to make reducing our consumption to a level that was both materially satisfying and ecologically sustainable our central focus, our entire global economic system would collapse.

"This isn’t a hyperbole. Our economic system is based on the need for perpetual growth; we either grow our economy or it dies, taking us along with it.”

Unfortunately, Pierre-Louis’ analysis of causes stops with criticism of growth. She doesn’t ask why the global economic system is so irrational.

Why is the only alternative to one polluting product so often another that pollutes as badly or worse?

Many brilliant writers have criticised growth, and offered detailed proposals for steady-state economies — why have they been ignored by those in power?

What about our existing social and economic order makes growth so essential and environmental destruction so universal?

Because it doesn’t pursue those questions, Green Washed proposes band aid solutions when major surgery is needed. Having firmly rejected individual green shopping, the alternative Pierre-Louis offers amounts to green shopping in groups.

She writes: “It’s about going to your neighborhood bars and getting them to band together to refuse to stock any beer sold by a publicly traded company, or getting your local bakeries to start using sustainably sourced flour, or getting people in your communities to stop frequenting the Wal-Marts and big box retailers and to work together to localize the economy.”

Buying local may be good in its own right, but it’s impossible to take seriously her claim that such actions amount to “dropping out of the normal economic system”.

Even less believable is her view that local shopping will form the basis of a “shadow, or parallel economy” that will “tread lightly on the earth” and “cast a light into the dark corners of the normal economy.”

The handful of real world examples she cites are cooperatives, a type of economic institution that has co-existed with destructive capitalism in various forms for at least two centuries.

As many past experiences have shown, the “normal economy” can easily tolerate such alternatives, so long as they don’t significantly challenge its constant drive for new sources of raw materials, cheap labor and profit.

In rare cases when an alternative does grow beyond acceptable limits, the powers that be have more than enough power to absorb or crush it.

Pierre-Louis admits that “the people currently in power … have a vested interest in keeping things more or less the same”. But she offers no guidance for how we are to deal with their resistance to change.

Projects that improve the sustainability and resilience of local communities are important, but they are no substitute for political and social action against the global forces that are destroying our world.

Unless we stop and reverse those forces, Pierre-Louis’s shadow economies will be small green islands in an ocean of environmental destruction — and water levels will continue rising.

[Ian Angus is editor of Climate and Capitalism. He is co-author, with Green Left Weekly co-editor Simon Butler, of Too Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis.]

#2 John Dolva

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 03:55 PM


Climate catastrophe on our door step
Saturday, March 17, 2012 By Peter BoyleThe latest State of the Climate report by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO was launched at a weather monitoring station on remote Cape Grim in Tasmania. The location was an apt choice for a report that has very bad news about Australia's continuing failure to respond adequately to the climate change crisis.

The report says each decade since the 1950s has been warmer. Annual-average daily mean temperatures have increased 0.9% since 1910 and annual-average overnight minimum temperatures have warmed by more than 1.1% since 1910.

The recent two years of wetter weather, due to the La Nina effect, do not mean this long-term warming trend has ended. The report said last year “was the world’s 11th warmest year and the warmest year on record during a La Nina event”.

The world’s 13 warmest years on record have all been in the past 15 years.

La Nina is related to warmer-than-average ocean temperatures around Australia and sea-surface temperatures around Australia have risen faster than the global average, the report said.

The report projected an average temperature rise in Australia of 1-5ーC by 2070, long-term drying over southern and eastern Australia and more extreme weather such as floods, droughts and cyclones.

CSIRO research says an average temperature rise of just 1-2ーC would bleach 58-81% of the Great Barrier Reef each year. Core habitat for vertebrates in the northern tropics would drop 90%.

Three to four degrees would kill 95% of Great Barrier Reef species, shrink 20-85% of total snow-covered area in the Australian Alps and ruin 30–70% of core habitat for Victoria and highland tropical vertebrate species.
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If average temperatures rise above 5°C, Australia will lose 90–100% of core habitat for most vertebrates.

The State of the Climate report said the global average sea level last year was 210mm above 1880 levels and rose faster between 1993 and 2011 than during the entire 20th century.

The report said greenhouse gases continue to rise exponentially. Carbon dioxide has reached 390 parts per million in the atmosphere.

It is almost too late to take the radical action needed to avert catastrophic climate change. And if the voices of reason don’t prevail over powerful vested interests blocking such action, then we could pass that point soon.

Green Left Weekly needs your urgent help to step up the fight against these powerful vested interests. Our objective is to raise $250,000 for our Fighting Fund by the end of thes year.

You can donate online today to the Green Left Fighting Fund. Direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 00901992.

Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or donate on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).



From GLW issue 915
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#3 John Dolva

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 05:27 PM




http://www.guardian....-climate-change

Severin Carrell


Nasa scientist: climate change is a moral issue on a par with slavery
Prof Jim Hansen to use lecture at Edinburgh International Science Festival to call for worldwide tax on all carbon emissions


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Prof Jim Hansen: 'We’re handing future generations a climate system which is potentially out of their control'.

Photograph: Melanie Patterson/AP


Averting the worst consequences of human-induced climate change is a "great moral issue" on a par with slavery, according to the leading Nasa climate scientist Prof Jim Hansen.

He argues that storing up expensive and destructive consequences for society in future is an "injustice of one generation to others".

Hansen, who will next Tuesday be awarded the prestigious Edinburgh Medal for his contribution to science, will also in his acceptance speech call for a worldwide tax on all carbon emissions.

In his lecture, Hansen will argue that the challenge facing future generations from climate change is so urgent that a flat-rate global tax is needed to force immediate cuts in fossil fuel use. Ahead of receiving the award – which has previously been given to Sir David Attenborough, the ecologist James Lovelock, and the economist Amartya Sen – Hansen told the Guardian that the latest climate models had shown the planet was on the brink of an emergency. He said humanity faces repeated natural disasters from extreme weather events which would affect large areas of the planet.

"The situation we're creating for young people and future generations is that we're handing them a climate system which is potentially out of their control," he said. "We're in an emergency: you can see what's on the horizon over the next few decades with the effects it will have on ecosystems, sea level and species extinction."

Now 70, Hansen is regarded as one of the most influential figures in climate science; the creator of one of the first global climate models, his pioneering role in warning about global warming is frequently cited by climate campaigners such as former US vice president Al Gore and in earlier science prizes, including the $1m Dan David prize. He has been arrested more than once for his role in protests against coal energy.

Hansen will argue in his lecture that current generations have an over-riding moral duty to their children and grandchildren to take immediate action. Describing this as an issue of inter-generational justice on a par with ending slavery, Hansen said: "Our parents didn't know that they were causing a problem for future generations but we can only pretend we don't know because the science is now crystal clear.

"We understand the carbon cycle: the CO2 we put in the air will stay in surface reservoirs and won't go back into the solid earth for millennia. What the Earth's history tells us is that there's a limit on how much we can put in the air without guaranteeing disastrous consequences for future generations. We cannot pretend that we did not know."

Hansen said his proposal for a global carbon tax was based on the latest analysis of CO2 levels in the atmosphere and their impact on global temperatures and weather patterns. He has co-authored a scientific paper with 17 other experts, including climate scientists, biologists and economists, which calls for an immediate 6% annual cut in CO2 emissions, and a substantial growth in global forest cover, to avoid catastrophic climate change by the end of the century.

The paper, which has passed peer review and is in the final stages of publication by the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, argues that a global levy on fossil fuels is the strongest tool for forcing energy firms and consumers to switch quickly to zero carbon and green energy sources. In larger countries, that would include nuclear power.

Under this proposal, the carbon levy would increase year on year, with the tax income paid directly back to the public as a dividend, shared equally, rather than put into government coffers. Because the tax would greatly increase the cost of fossil fuel energy, consumers relying on green or low carbon sources of power would benefit the most as this dividend would come on top of cheaper fuel bills. It would promote a dramatic increase in the investment and development of low-carbon energy sources and technologies.

The very rich and most profligate energy users, people with several homes, or private jets and fuel-hungry cars, would also be forced into dramatically changing their energy use. In the new paper, Hansen, director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and his colleagues warn that failing to cut CO2 emissions by 6% now will mean that by 2022, the annual cuts would need to reach a more drastic level of 15% a year.

Had similar action been taken in 2005, when the Kyoto protocol on climate change came into force, the CO2 emission reductions would have been at a more manageable 3% a year. The target was to return CO2 levels in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, down from its current level of 392ppm. The paper, the "Scientific case for avoiding dangerous climate change to protect young people and nature", also argues that the challenge is growing because of the accelerating rush to find new, harder–to-reach sources of oil, gas and coal in the deep ocean, the Arctic and from shale gas reserves.

Hansen said current attempts to limit carbon emissions, particularly the European Union's emissions trading mechanism introduced under the Kyoto protocol which restricts how much CO2 an industry can emit before it has to pay a fee for higher emissions, were "completely ineffectual". Under the global carbon tax proposal, the mechanisms for controlling fossil fuel use would be taken out of the hands of individual states influenced by energy companies, and politicians anxious about winning elections.

"It can't be fixed by individual specific changes; it has to be an across-the-board rising fee on carbon emissions," said Hansen. "We can't simply say that there's a climate problem, and leave it to the politicians. They're so clearly under the influence of the fossil fuel industry that they're coming up with cockamamie solutions which aren't solutions. That is the bottom line."




Friday 6 April 2012 11.00 BST

#4 Greg Burnham

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 10:11 PM

There is no climate crisis...at least not a "man made" climate crisis. Anthropogenic global warming has been mostly discounted as a result of the poor science that went into its inception. Even if it turns out to be true, still it has not been demonstrated reliably in the models and methods put forth by the climate scientists who made it a practice to bias there own results in favor of a predetermined agenda.

===========

Why Climategate is so Distressing to Scientists
John P. Costella
B.E.(Elec.)(Hons.) B.Sc.(Hons.) Ph.D.(Physics) Grad.Dip.Ed.
26 Cassinia Avenue, Ashwood, Victoria 3147, Australia
john.costella@gmail.com; assassinationscience.com/johncostella (December 10, 2009)


The most difficult thing for a scientist in the era of Climategate is trying to explain to family and friends why it is so distressing to scientists. Most people don’t know how science really works: there are no popular television shows, movies, or books that really depict the everyday lives of real scientists; it just isn’t exciting enough. I’m not talking here about the major discoveries of science—which are well-described in documentaries, popular science series, and magazines—but rather how the process of science (often called the “scientific method”) actually works.

The best analogy that I have been able to come up with, in recent weeks, is the criminal justice system—which is (rightly or wrongly) abundantly depicted in the popular media. Everyone knows what happens if police obtain evidence by illegal means: the evidence is ruled inadmissible; and, if a case rests on that tainted evidence, it is thrown out of court. The justice system is not saying that the accused is necessarily innocent; rather, that determining the truth is impossible if evidence is not protected from tampering or fabrication.

The same is true in science: scientists assume that the rules of the scientific method have been followed, at least in any discipline that publishes its results for public consumption. It is that trust in the process that allows me, for example, to believe that the human genome has been mapped—despite my knowing nothing about that field of science at all. That same trust has allowed scientists at large to similarly believe in the results of climate science. Until now.

So what are the “rules” of the scientific method? Actually, they are not all that different from those of the justice system. Just as it is a fundamental right of every affected party to be heard and fairly considered by the court, it is of crucial importance to science that all points of view be given a chance to be heard, and fairly debated. But, of course, it would be impossible to allow an “open slather” type of arrangement, like discussion forums on the Internet; so how do we admit all points of view, without descending into anarchy?

This question touches on something of a dark secret within science—one which most scientists, through the need for self-preservation, are scared to admit: most disciplines of science are, to a greater or lesser extent, controlled by fashions, biases, and dogma. Why is this so? Because the mechanism by which scientific debate has been “regulated” to avoid anarchy—at least since the second half of the twentieth century—has been the “peer review” process. The career of any professional scientist lives or dies on their success in achieving publication of their papers in “peer-reviewed” journals. So what, exactly, does “peer-reviewed” mean? Simply that other professional scientists in that discipline must agree that the paper is worthy of publication. And what is the criterion that determines who these “professional scientists” should be? Their success in achieving publication of their papers in peer-reviewed journals! Catch-22.

It may seem, on the surface, that this circular process is fundamentally flawed; but, borrowing the words of Winston Churchill, it is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried. Science is not, of course, alone in this respect; for example, in the justice system, judges are generally selected from the ranks of lawyers. So what is it that allows this form of system to work, despite its evident circularity?

The justice system again provides a clue: judges are not the ones who ultimately decide what occurs in a courtroom: they simply implement the laws passed or imposed by the government—and politicians are not, in general, selected solely from the ranks of the legal profession. This is the ultimate “reality check” that prevents the legal system from spiraling into navel-gazing irrelevance.

Equivalent “escape valves” for science are not as explicitly obvious, but they exist nonetheless.

Firstly, a scientific discipline can maintain a “closed shop” mentality for a while, but eventually the institutions and funding agencies that provide the lifeblood of their work— the money that pays their wages and funds their research—will begin to question the relevance and usefulness of the discipline, particularly in relation to other disciplines that are competing for the same funds. This will generally be seen by the affected scientists as “political interference”, but it is a reflection of their descent into arrogance and delusions of self-importance for them to believe that only they themselves are worthy of judging their own merits.

Secondly, scientists who are capable and worthy, but unfairly “locked out” of a given discipline, will generally migrate to other disciplines in which the scientific process is working as it should. Dysfunctional disciplines will, in time, atrophy, in favor of those that are healthy and dynamic.

The Climategate emails show that these self-regulating mechanisms simply failed to work in the case of climate science—perhaps because “climate science” is itself an aggregation of many different and disparate scientific disciplines. Those component disciplines are extremely challenging. For example, it would be wonderful if NASA were able to invent a time machine, and go back over the past hundred thousand years and set up temperature and carbon dioxide measurement probes across the breadth of the globe. Unfortunately, we don’t have this. Instead, we need to infer these measurements, by counting tree rings, or digging up tubes of ice. The science of each of these disciplines is well-defined and rigorous, and there are many good scientists working in these fields. But the real difficulty is the “stitching together” of all of these results, in a way that allows answers to the fundamental questions: How much effect has mankind had on the temperature of the planet? And how much difference would it make if we did things differently?

It is at this “stitching together” layer of science—one could call it a “meta-discipline”— that the principles of the scientific method have broken down. Reading through the Climategate emails, one can see members of that community—usually those with slightly different experience and wisdom than the power-brokers—questioning (as they should) this “stitching together” process, particularly with regard to the extremely subtle mathematical methods that need to be used to try to extract answers. Now, these mathematical and statistical methods are completely within my own domain of expertise; and I can testify that the criticisms are sensible, carefully thought-out, and completely valid; these are good scientists, asking the right questions.

So what reception do they get? Instead of embracing this diversity of knowledge— thanking them for their experience (no one knows everything about everything) and using that knowledge to improve their own calculations—these power-brokers of climate science instead ignore, fob off, ridicule, threaten, and ultimately black-ball those who dare to question the methods that they—the power-brokers, the leaders—have used. And do not be confused: I am here talking about those scientists within their own camps, not the “skeptics” which they dismiss out of hand.

This is not “climate science”, it is climate ideology; it is the Church of Climatology.

It is this betrayal of the principles of science—in what is arguably the most important public application of science in our lifetime—that most distresses scientists.



====


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Edited by Greg Burnham, 08 April 2012 - 10:37 PM.


#5 John Dolva

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 02:53 PM

Costello, the climate skeptic - bah!. (he has really lost his marbles this time.) Predetermined agenda is spot on.
And you, yeah - what if it is true?m It's the only way it can turn out to be so. What then?

#6 Greg Burnham

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 09:15 PM

John,

My main objection to this type of reasoning is simple: Scientists should never attempt to generate research funds by swaying public opinion through unsubstantiated alarmist rhetoric. If the claims can be substantiated then there should have been no need for these climate scientists to silence the skeptics within their own ranks.

Let me say it a different way:

Not only did these climate scientists dismiss the opposing conclusions of scientists who were outside of their inner group, they even vilified scientists within their own community whose research seriously challenged the validity of the claims being made!

That is huge.

The scientists (even within their own group) who rejected the methodology being employed to prove that global warming was man-made were SILENCED and even worse, their opposing conclusions, trivialized.

As John said: THAT IS NOT CLIMATE SCIENCE.

So what reception do they get? Instead of embracing this diversity of knowledge— thanking them for their experience (no one knows everything about everything) and using that knowledge to improve their own calculations—these power-brokers of climate science instead ignore, fob off, ridicule, threaten, and ultimately black-ball those who dare to question the methods that they—the power-brokers, the leaders—have used. And do not be confused: I am here talking about those scientists within their own camps, not the “skeptics” which they dismiss out of hand.

This is not “climate science”, it is climate ideology; it is the Church of Climatology.

It is this betrayal of the principles of science—in what is arguably the most important public application of science in our lifetime—that most distresses scientists.


So, John, at this stage we do not know what caused the increase in temperature last decade. However, it is a fair bet that it had MUCH more to do with solar activity than anything else. Have you noticed how silent Al Gore has been since all of this started? He didn't even attend the Copenhagen Summit.

Perhaps if he hides his eyes and crawls into a tight ball in the middle of the living room--like the small child, playing hide and seek, who figures if "he can't see them then they can't see him" -- perhaps Al Gore thinks this gaffe will just go away and his Nobel Prize will be intact...

#7 John Dolva

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 04:12 PM

The Copenhagen summit was a scam.
The deniers are like the Doc's who authored reports inline with the tobacco companies.
I'll take the words of a NASA scientist over costello any day.

#8 Greg Burnham

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 06:15 PM

BTW: It is not that John is a denier or even a skeptic. Not at all. He simply is not persuaded yet. However, he is highly critical of their sloppy--if not deceptive--application of the scientific method, as well as their abuse of the peer review system.

I think that is the point. I am not saying that I know enough about climate science specifically to claim to know they are wrong. However, I may know enough about scientific method to recognize that the presence of fallacious arguments tends to yield less than legitimate conclusions. In other words, IF they just happen to be correct it surely is not due to their methodology. Until I see sound methodology I will not be persuaded.

#9 John Dolva

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 03:37 PM

Great, thank you, Greg. I can respect that.
I gotta post on fiat for a bit so I'll, or you can whenever you like of course, bring it to the fore again tomorrow.
edit add, fiat is in other forum, Gotta pull a few threads together as they significantly overlap.

Edited by John Dolva, 11 April 2012 - 03:39 PM.


#10 Greg Burnham

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 06:40 PM

Great, thank you, Greg. I can respect that.
I gotta post on fiat for a bit so I'll, or you can whenever you like of course, bring it to the fore again tomorrow.
edit add, fiat is in other forum, Gotta pull a few threads together as they significantly overlap.


Thank you, John. I think I'll go check out FIAT, too.




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