Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A sense of urgency

Quite honestly, I do not know a great deal about Robert Hunziker. But on Monday, he wrote a piece that was special because it injected urgency into the climate debate. Urgency is a quality I often forget to stress both in my life and this blog. So I really appreciated his effort. If we are to escape the fire and energy trap we have built for ourselves, time is rapidly running out—if the goal is to build a post-fire civilization, we should have gotten serious about it in 1973. Projects take time. BIG projects take BIG time and effort. So rebuilding complete civilization, which is the biggest project I can imagine, will require trillions and a global effort.

In addition to reposting him below, I wrote him an email.
Your There is no time left was magnificently crafted—not to mention scary as hell.

As I see it, the fact that no one wants to talk about genuine climate change solutions is that the problem is SO large, very few can comprehend even a tiny segment of the big picture.

The basic problem is fire—that’s where most of the excess CO2 is generated. Making things worse, we are burning carbon that is millions of years old (coal, petroleum). And making this catastrophic, civilizations were designed to run on fire. This took humanity at least 6000 years to accomplish. If your essay is even partially correct, we have about 5 years to replace this incredible investment.

Part two is cultural. This sort of solution will absolutely depend on the kind of people who build the extremely difficult. While the idea of covering a cloudless hunk of the Gobi with solar cells is imaginative, it doesn’t work unless people figure out how to move that massive energy to China’s great cities. Since this has never been done before, it rivals the moon shot in complexity. (Five years, huh?) And yet, we live in a culture whose closest portrayal of the scientific and technological literate is The Big Bang Theory. Yet it is precisely these sorts of persons who have ANY chance of building the new and necessary world. At least we could stop making fun of them and learn what they must accomplish.

Rebuilding complete civilizations will be expensive. We need the world’s central banks to change policy so that the end-fire project is properly financed. Unfortunately, the people who pull the large levers of monetary policy share a fatal flaw—they are scientifically and technologically illiterate. Yet they can either ensure a new civilization or watch the one we have burn to a crisp. Time to make a new qualification for potential central bankers—they MUST be able to demonstrate an understanding of what it means to live in a fire-based civilization.


There Is No Time Left


Imagine a scenario with no temperature difference between the equator and the North Pole. That was 12 million years ago when there was no ice at either pole. In that context, according to professor James G. Anderson of Harvard University, carbon in the atmosphere today is the same as 12 million years ago. The evidence is found in the paleoclimate record. It’s irrefutable.

Meaning, today’s big meltdown has only just started.

And, we’ve got 5 years to fix it or endure Gonzo World.

That’s one big pill to swallow!

That scenario comes by way of interpretation of a speech delivered by James G. Anderson at the University of Chicago in January 2018 when he received the Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service, in part, for his groundbreaking research that led to the Montreal Protocol in 1987 to mitigate damage to the Ozone Layer.

At the time, Anderson was the force behind the most important event in the history of atmospheric chemistry, discovering and diagnosing Antarctica’s ozone hole, which led to the Montreal Protocol. Without that action, ramifications would have been absolutely catastrophic for the planet.

Stratospheric ozone is one of the most delicate aspects of planet habitability, providing protection from UV radiation for all life forms. If perchance the stratospheric ozone layer could be lowered to the ground, stacking the otherwise dispersed molecules together, it would be 1/8th of an inch in thickness or the thickness of two pennies. That separates humanity from burning up as the stratospheric ozone absorbs 98% of UV radiation.

In his acceptance speech, James G. Anderson, Harvard professor of atmospheric chemistry, now warns that it is foolhardy to assume we can recover from the global warming leviathan simply by cutting back emissions.

Accordingly, the only way humanity can dig itself out of the climate change/global-warming hole is by way of a WWII type effort with total transformation of industry off carbon and removal of carbon from the atmosphere within five years. The situation is so dire that it requires a worldwide Marshall Plan effort, plus kneeling in prayer.

Additionally, Anderson says the chance of permanent ice remaining in the Arctic after 2022 is zero. Already, 80% is gone. The problem: Without an ice shield to protect frozen methane hydrates in place for millennia, the Arctic turns into a methane nightmare. This is comparable to poking the global warming monster with a stick, as runaway global warming (“RGW”) emerges from the depths. Interestingly enough, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group/UK, composed of distinguished scientists, seems to be in agreement with this assessment.

Assuming professor Anderson is as accurate now as he was about the Ozone dilemma, then what can be done? After all, the world’s biggest economy, which has over-reaching influence on the biosphere, is under the influence of anti-science leadership. In fact, the Trump group is driving scientists out. France is hiring left and right under its “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative. Thirteen of the initial eighteen French science grantees are from the U.S.

The world cannot count on leadership from America. In fact, quite the opposite as America gears up for massive fossil fuel production like never before just as the biosphere starts crumbling. Leadership by arrogance is a deadly deathly exercise.

Donald Trump claims the Paris ‘15 accord will hurt U.S. business because it requires reduction of emissions. That’s costly. He’s got it backwards. U.S. business and neoliberal tenets destroy the climate whilst creating an inverted pyramid of wealth that undermines the entire socio-politico-economic fabric. It’s the one-two punch, (1) ignoring and abusing the biosphere because “care for the planet” requires extra costs that eat into corporate profits whilst (2) undercutting upward mobility as American wages are exported and destroyed when U.S. manufacturing offshores to low wage countries like China and Mexico and Thailand. What could be worse for American workers than competition with the lowest common denominator in the world while living in a dicey biosphere? In part, it’s why the American middle class is almost broke, actually appended to credit cards in debt up to eyeballs.

As such, between squeezing the daylights out of middle class pocketbooks and abusing the biosphere, U.S. leadership stinks so badly that it demands outright change, similar to France in the late 18th century when thousands of arrogant aristocrats were beheaded in the streets, and the American Revolution (1775-83) when colonists got fed up with the madness of their leader, King George III. Except, King George was the first British monarch to study science. Still, the king suffered from “acute mania.”

Good News: There is a silver lining to the Trump presidency: Inept, arrogant, stupid leadership often times serves as a catalyst, often times revolutionary, for major changes in the socio-politico-economic fabric of society. This is seen throughout history. The reasoning is simple enough. Inept leadership brings to surface all of the warts for all to see. The deficiencies and inequities are not only exposed but also hit citizenry over the head like a leaden hammer. Suddenly, people awaken from their deep coma and kick the bums out. In the case of King Louis XVI of France, he was beheaded before a crowd of tens of thousands in the streets of Paris. In the case of King George III, his ineptness led to the American Revolution. Both leaders served as catalyst to radical change. Today, the warts are (1) neoliberal globalism with its tail of inequities, leaving 90% of society choking on dust. “The one percent” says it all, and (2) fossil fuel use/abuse, as the planet chokes on a dust cloud so thick that it’s losing its breath (new research shows that global warming destroys oxygen). There’s one powerful catalyst, amongst many! more


  1. Thank you for this. I’m a N. Idaho attorney with progressive political ambitions in a County so red people’s necks seem white. I’m going to watch Mr. Hunziker, as he seems to be taking on the same challenge in central Washington farm country by running for the state rep seat.

    1. Good luck with your political ambitions. As someone who has Progressive / New Deal leanings, I have had great success with the "rural redneck crowd" employing one simple strategy—remember, rural folk are NOT ignorant peasants. Treat these people with respect for the amazing amount of knowledge and expertise they must have to merely survive. If your respect is genuine, you should have no problem getting elected.

      Also, learn the history of the rural progressive movements. You don't have to re-invent the wheel, you know. You will discover that these movements have been amazingly successful. My favorites are the Non-Partisan League and the Farm-Labor Party but there are others. Because you are so far west, you may want to bone up on the Socreds of Canada.

  2. Thank you, Sir. Yeah, the red county statement was probably not needed. I need to learn to police myself better even when I know I’m in the company of those sharing my political beliefs. I really appreciate you pointing toward the historical roots of the rural progressive movement. And yes, I do genuinely respect my fellow N. Idaho residents. It’s not like I’m an outsider. I’ve spent all of my time living and working rural. I grew up 16 miles west of Lolo, MT and spent a decade commercial fishing all over the west coast. I know how to work and I know, over time, the pains that such labor can exact over time. Yes, respect. So easy to forget my roots sometimes.
    Thank you again.

    1. Sounds like you are about to kick up a political storm—or as was said about the Non-Partisan League in North Dakota, a political prairie fire.

      Keep us posted!