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Climate, politics & money - Feb 22

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Arctic Death Spiral Bombshell: CryoSat-2 Confirms Sea Ice Volume Has Collapsed

Joe Romm, Think Progress
The sharp drop in Arctic sea ice area has been matched by a harder-to-see, but equally sharp, drop in sea ice thickness. The combined result has been a collapse in total sea ice volume — to one fifth of its level in 1980.

Arctic sea ice volume in 1000s of cubic kilometers (via Robinson)


This should be the story of the day, week, month, year, and decade. As NERC notes, sea ice volume is “a much more accurate indicator of the changes taking place in the Arctic.”

Many experts now say that if recent volume trends continue we will see a “near ice-free Arctic in summer” within a decade. And that may well usher in a permanent change toward extreme, prolonged weather events “Such As Drought, Flooding, Cold Spells And Heat Waves.”

It will also accelerate global warming in the region, which in turn will likely accelerate both the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet and the release of the vast amounts of carbon currently locked in the permafrost...
(14 February 2013)


Canada's environmental activists seen as 'threat to national security'

Stephen Leahy, The Guardian
Monitoring of environmental activists in Canada by the country's police and security agencies has become the "new normal", according to a researcher who has analysed security documents released under freedom of information laws.

Security and police agencies have been increasingly conflating terrorism and extremism with peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights to organise petitions, protest and question government policies, said Jeffrey Monaghan of the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.

The RCMP, Canada's national police force, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) view activist activities such as blocking access to roads or buildings as "forms of attack" and depict those involved as national security threats, according to the documents...
(14 February 2013)


The virtues of being unreasonable on Keystone

Dave Roberts, Grist
I know Andy Revkin of The New York Times writes posts like this in part to bait people like me. But like Popeye, I yam what I yam. So consider me baited. Self-proclaimed moderates like to lecture anti-Keystone XL activists that they are “distracting” and “counterproductive,” without spelling out what the hell that means, yet they seem bewildered when that makes the activists in question angry...

So let’s not yell. Instead let’s take a calm look at the Reasonable Revkin take on Keystone activism, representative as it is of a certain VSP consensus. In his post, he says it could be “counterproductive” to focus an activist campaign on the pipeline. I want to dwell on that word for a second, because it’s crucial to his case...

Revkin seems preoccupied with the fact that Keystone is part of larger systems and not particularly significant in light of that context. And it’s true: Everything is insignificant in light of some larger context. Climate change is a “wicked problem,” which means that everything passing as a solution will be flawed, partial, and impermanent. What to do? We are rapidly losing ground, on the verge of locking in a trajectory scientists tell us will lead to disastrous and irreversible consequences. We can sit around and fill our blogs with reasons why this or that solution is the wrong one, inferior to some better one that we’d already have, goldarnit, if those meddling pushers-of-other-solutions weren’t “distracting” from ours. We can fall in love with the ineffable intellectual tangle, as Revkin has, and accept that anything specific enough to build an activist campaign around will be meaningless in the context of global energy demand and emissions. We can read the Serenity Prayer and get used to the fact that it’s all out of our hands anyway...
(19 February 2013)


Why China’s carbon emissions may not matter

James Murray, Business Green
Is there a more fatuous, ill-informed and illogical criticism of the green economy than the accusation that China's immense carbon footprint makes other nations' attempts to curb their emissions pointless? If there is I'd like to hear it. Actually, scrap that, I would not like to hear it...

But the suggestion that the challenge presented by China's economy makes green policies in countries such as the UK pointless or in some way doomed to failure is an argument of such stunning irrelevance that it falls apart on the most cursory of examinations...

It not only fails to take account of the kindergarten ethics lesson that states just because someone else is doing something bad does not mean you should as well, it also completely ignores the way in which cultural, economic, and technological transitions happen. The industrial revolution, the post war consumer revolution, the IT revolution, they all started around breakthroughs in a handful of regional and national hubs that demonstrated the benefits of the new technologies and business models, before paving the way for a global roll out. Are those who argue against the UK's green ambitions really so insecure about our place in the world that they do not think us capable of fulfilling this vital role?...
(13 February 2013)


U.S. government risks financial exposure from climate change - GAO

Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters
The U.S. government is at high risk of financial exposure from climate change, the Government Accountability Office said on Thursday, two days after President Barack Obama vowed to tackle the issue with or without Congress' help.

For the first time, the non-partisan congressional watchdog added fiscal exposure from climate change to its "High Risk List" of measures the federal government needs to fix.

"Climate change is a complex, crosscutting issue that poses risks to many environmental and economic systems — including agriculture, infrastructure, ecosystems, and human health — and presents a significant financial risk to the federal government," the agency said...
(14 February 2013)


E.ON lobbied for stiff sentences against Kingsnorth activists, papers show

James Ball, The Guardian
The UK chief executive of energy giant E.ON repeatedly lobbied the then-energy secretary Ed Miliband and others over the sentencing of activists disrupting the company's power plants, warning that any failure to issue "dissuasive" sentences could "impact" upon investment decisions in the UK.

The warnings, which came while the government was still trying to persuade E.ON and others to invest in next-generation nuclear plants, have been described by activists as "wholly improper".

Dr Paul Golby, who was chairman and CEO of E.ON UK until December 2011, met with Miliband in February 2010 to discuss concerns around lax sentencing of eco-activists, following, in particular, the release of six campaigners engaged in direct action at Kingsnorth, a coal-powered station owned by E.ON.

A briefing document prepared for the Department of Energy and Climate Change's (DECC) permanent secretary in January 2011 by civil servants, ahead of a further meeting with Golby, cautioned that the issue of activists' sentences had been raised on several previous occasions...
(19 February 2013)


Fear, optimism and activism: What drives change?

David Spratt, Climate Code Red
It's a fair bet that my Brightsiding series in 2012 was responsible for the topic at this year's Melbourne Sustainability Festival Great Debate held last Friday: "Fear is stronger than optimism in creating rapid social change".

So six of us lined up, not in teams, but with clear instructions to take one side or the other and not fence-sit (more of this later)...

Given the brightsiding that still dominates the poor performance of the government and many of the big environment groups on climate action, I felt obliged to bend the stick in the opposite direction, even though the question was poorly framed. Ten minutes is hardly time to canvas the meaning of life, so this was my contribution:

[Excerpt]

Fear can immobilise us when the problems seem too big. That’s why it is important to understand what modern psychology teaches us.

We each have a limited capacity for tolerating difficult emotions: fear, grief, pessimism and anxiety. Pushed too far, we are unable to cope and feelings run out of control. That’s why climate change is a difficult subject for many people.

But security, support and understanding can help us better deal with a wider range of such emotions.

Working in groups, community solidarity and identifying with strong courageous leadership can all expand this capacity. In doing so we can feel emotionally safer when the going gets tough.

The bravest thing we can do right now is to be brutally honest in our assessment of the situation, and then find the collective power to change it. That’s the Churchill lesson.

The other choice is bright-siding, the belief that you can control your outlook with relentless positive thinking and a sunny disposition, and by refusing to consider negative outcomes. It requires deliberate self-deception.


(16 February 2013)

Image credit: Act now placard - benmabbet/flickr

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