Wednesday, November 16, 2011

5 Years to Climate Hell

SONG CLIP "Five Years" by David Bowie, album Ziggie Stardust & the Spiders from Mars (1972)
SONG CLIP: "We Are The Many" by Makana (no album yet)
TELECONFERENCE with Lester Brown by Earth Policy Institute (recorded by Alex Smith)
Download full conference in CD quality (22 minutes) here.

Welcome. This week we have a show packed with good news, horrible news, and crazy news - all about the coming climate shift.

Here is a quick show overview, with more notes below.

Yes, those greenie extremists say we have only five fossil polluting years left before Planet Earth is thown on an unstoppable path toward extreme climate change. Oh wait, this warning comes from the conservative voice of 28 major countries, the International Energy Agency. It's the most depressing news yet.

Lester Brown of the Earth-Policy Institute has at least a dribble of good news. U.S. greenhouse gas emisisons are starting to drop. And it's not just because Americans are broke with no manufacturing left. I hate to talk good news against a tsunami of evil tidings, but you will hear some of what Lester told the world press in a news teleconference.

Diana Bronson is the Program Manager for an international organization called the ETCGroup, with offices in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and the Philippines. Their latest book is "Earth Grab, Geopiracy, the new Biomassters, and Capturing Climate Genes."

Haven't heard about that? We'll also talk about synthetic biology, geoengineering and other risky projects your mother never told you about.

We speak to Emily James, executive producer of "The Age of Stupid". Her new film, "Just Do It" follows the climate camps which foreshadowed the whole Occupy movement, and the young activists who won't take climate wrecking lying down. "Just Do It" is a tool for activist training. It's already being shown in Occupy camps around the world.

We wrap up with a short clip from the Occupy song "We Are the Many" which Hawaiian singer Makana snuck into the APEC summit dinner. Despite record security, Makana sang to the assembled powers about the rage of the many left out. It's hard to keep out all of the people all of the time.


The big International Energy Agency, the IEA, which hasn't given a hoot about climate change for decades, suddenly issued a stark warning.

As the Guardian newspaper headline says: "If fossil fuel infrastructure is not rapidly changed, the world will 'lose for ever' the chance to avoid dangerous climate change."

"The door is closing" says IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol, and if we can't change our energy infrastructure in the next five years, quote, "The door will be closed forever."

If we add up all the fossil fuels we could still burn, and stay below the 450 parts per million thought to keep us below 2 degrees of global warming - and keep the Greenland Ice sheet - we only have a little left. In fact, the IEA study calculates we will have burned at least 90% of that last reserve by 2015. By 2017, if we want a habitable climate for our descendents, we have to stop burning all fossil fuels, and prevent other human-made greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere.

In 2010, we tossed a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, about 6% more than the year before.

Quoting from the report, the International Energy Agency says:

"On planned policies, rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.”

“… we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F]…. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.

A global average warming of 6 degrees Centigrade, or 11 degrees Fahrenheit is the disaster that British scientist Sir James Lovelock warned us about years ago. Scientists calculate that around 11 or 12 degrees Fahrenheit, mammals can no longer cool themselves with sweat.

And these are global average increases. Some places, like the Arctic may go up 25 degrees or more, to become tropical rainforests. Most of Africa, the United States, and large parts of Asia would be uninhabitable. And we haven't even talked about the total disruption of rainfall patterns - like drought, floods, fires - on land. Or the stratification of the ocean which can lead to a shift in species, leading to dead zones, or even dead seas.

Here is what Joe Romm, expert blogger at, writes, quote:

"The IEA report deserves the label 'bombshell,' though, because for most of the past two decades, the IEA was the source of bland, conservative, business-as-usual analysis. When I was Acting Assistant Secretary of Energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy in 1997, no one at DOE paid much attention to IEA reports. And that perspective continued through most of the 2000s.

But in just the last few years they have woken up to the risks posed to peak oil — see IEA top economist warns [in August of 2009]: 'We have to leave oil before oil leaves us' — and especially climate change. In releasing its 2009 WEO, the IEA warned, 'The world will have to spend an extra $500 billion to cut carbon emissions for each year it delays implementing a major assault on global warming.'

Now the IEA has done the calculation a different way, concluding, 'Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.' Those who counsel waiting for breakthrough technologies are urging us on a path that is unsustainable, irreversible, potentially catastrophic, and economically indefensible, according to the IEA....

The new analysis shows that because of soaring emissions, we are running out of time for the '450 Scenario.' We are at risk of irreversibly 'locking in' dangerous warming.

Thank you Joe Romm, for leading us through the latest climate news.

As I told Ecoshock listeners previously, climate scientists are still figuring out why we haven't already heated more according to the emissions we release. Sure, we've seen record floods, fires, storms, and the Russian heat wave of 2010. But it could be hotter already.

The always worth-while podcast "The Climate Show" (#20)from New Zealand offers a good summary of current thought. There are three known cooling factors operating.

One: aerosols from a wave of new Asian coal plants pumps sulphates into the atmosphere which reflect sunlight back into space. That's a limited time offer.

Second: the sun has been in a quiet perioid, with few Sun Spots, and solar flares. That may be ending, as NASA reported a "monster" solar flare on November 4th. That particular flare was not facing the Earth, so we didn't get hit. But it may indicate the period of solar quiet is over, which could add slightly to our warming.

Third, and the largest factor, is ocean mixing. The ocean absorbs somewhere between 80 and 90 percent off all the excess energy in a greenhouse atmosphere. The seas mix this down. Recent research shows even the very deepest parts of the ocean are warming slightly. All this heat will come back out eventually, guaranteeing warming for centuries, if not millennia.

In the last two years, the cooler waters are coming up, in the phenomenon known as La Nina. Another recent study has shown the ocean cycle called "ENSO" has not been affected by climate change. So the warmer water phenomenon, the "El Nino" which gave us the record hot year of 1998, should return in the next year or two. When it does, expect record heat waves.

Even with all those cooling factors, NASA still named 2010 as the hottest year on record. It is frightening to imagine the coming climate disasters, as we ramp up. And according to the IEA, and a series of national Academies around the world, we have just 5 years to drastically cut all our greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, all countries, all the players like the U.S., Canada, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Japan - intend to do nothing at the next climate conference in Durban at the end of November 2011. The American Congress continues to deny global warming is even happening. Presidential Candidates promise they will get rid of any environmental laws, and the Environmental Proteciton agency.

Our future is not looking good. At times, I fear the remainder of humanity will end up in Northern Canada, Scandinavia, Siberia, Patagonia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. The rest of the world will be wrecked and uninhabitable.

To fend off this ultimate pessimism, I can only offer two bits of good news. First, we'll look at a few patterns in the original big polluter, the United States, where greenhouse emissions are going down, no matter what the politicians do or say. Lester Brown explains that.

And don't forget, we're going to wrap up with a tasty interview and new film on how to get out there and make some noise before we all go down in flames.

But first, an interview on the cutting edge. Synthetic biology. Capturing climate genes, and fending off crazy last-ditch ideas to shade out the sun. Check this out.

Diana Bronson is the Program Manager for an international organization called the ETCGroup, with offices in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and the Philippines. Their latest book is "Earth Grab, Geopiracy, the new Biomassters, and Capturing Climate Genes."

20 minute Diana Bronson interview listen/download in CD quality here.
20 minute Diana Bronson interview listen/download in Lo-Fi (faster download) here.

You can do somthing about this! Go to and participate by sending your photo to world leaders. Tell them, when they gather at Rio + 20 to ban geoengineering. Don't let a few scientists or corporations alter the Sun (or turn the sky milky white instead of blue...)

I promised you a bit of good news. Yes, I know, it goes against Radio Ecoshock Show policy, but I trust this source. Lester Brown founded the World Watch Institute, and then his own Earth Policy Institute. He's a man for numbers and facts, and trusted by greens, industry, and governments - rare these days.

In the radio program I run selections from the Lester Brown press teleconference November 2nd. You'll also hear Lester's response to a couple of doubts I raised on your behalf. Is it just because all the manufacturing has moved to China? Or the Tar Sands emissions for American oil are burned off in Canadian production?

Lester agrees there are problems with the numbers. He says we need a way to calculate the emissions in products, in the countries where they are consumed. If that were done, America's emissions would be higher, and China's far lower...

Download/listen to the Lester Brown teleconference here.

Yes, it's good news that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have gone down. Although I am just now investigating new science showing the total American greenhouse gas emission might have gone UP, when we count in all the methane leaking out of gas fracking operations and gas pipelines. Expect to hear more about that.

There are some mitigating factors which Brown raises. Like the bulge of population, the Baby Boomers, are starting to retire. When they don't have to commute to work, miles traveled drops. More city youth are turning to bikes and mass transit, as the car is no longer such a status symbol. The U.S. auto fleet is more fuel efficient.

And campaigns to stop coal plant construction, and close old ones, are becoming more successful. It's hard to believe, but in July 2011 New York Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg donated $50 million to the Sierra Club anti-coal campaign!

But even if official statistics say American emissions are going down, it's kind of like saying 6% fewer women were raped this year. Not really all that much to cheer about, as more gigatonnes of emissions continue to pour out of American smokestacks and tailpipes.

We also have to remember that North Americans are responsible for about half of all the greenhouse gases already in the sky. We never want to admit that. It's like that famous scene where from the TV program Sienfeld. Elaine complains she doesn't want to be responsible for the loss of Joe Mayo's coat, even though she was the one who tossed it out the window.

We don't see why we should be held responsible, even though we are. That's what the rest of the developing countries are complaining about. That is why they want the climate compensation fund promised to them by Hilary Clinton, and expect to get it at the upcoming Durban Climate Conference. It won't happen, even though it should.

Maybe we can make something happen. Maybe we can still force our fossil leaders to try to save the climate for the coming generations.

Download the CD Quality 19 minute interview with Emily James, film maker of Just "Do It" or get the faster downloading Lo-Fi version here.

Speaking of actions, a Hawaiian singer named Makana was brave enough to sing his new Occupy movement song to all the assembled world leaders at the APEC summit in mid-November in Honululu. While other Occupiers protested outside, Makana serenaded the Saturday night diners inside with his song about the people's rage.

Find a the whole song, with lyrics, on You tube.

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock
Now on 50 stations, on 3 continents.

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