Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Paris Climate Vs. A Real Future

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock. I have lots for you in this program. Two reports direct from Paris, plus an interview on the best, maybe the only, way to really save the future.

But first I want you to hear 10 minutes from the former NASA scientist who warned us all about climate change, back in 1988. Here is Dr. James Hansen speaking December 2nd, at a press conference at COP21, the big climate summit in Paris, as posted on You tube by

Dr. James Hansen

Statement by Dr. James Hansen, at a COP21 Paris press conference, December 2, 2015. Video on You tube. Transcript by Alex Smith, with bold face and sub-titles added by Smith.

"The problem is that fossil fuels appear to the consumer to be the cheapest energy. They're not really cheapest because they don't include their full cost to society. They're partly subsidized, but mainly they don't include the effects of air pollution and water pollution on human health. If you child gets asthma, you have to pay the bill. The fossil fuel company doesn't. And the climate effects, which are beginning to be significant and will be much larger in the future are also not included in the price of the fossil fuels.

So the solution would be fairly straight-forward. Let's add in to the price of fossil fuels the total cost - which you can't do suddenly but you can do it gradually over time, so that you can... people have time to adjust.

So I argue this should be done - and it has to be across the board, across all fossil fuels - coal, oil, and gas, at the source, at the domestic mine or the port of entry. And I also argue that that money should be given to the public, given equal amount to all legal residents of the country. That way the person who does better than average in limiting their carbon footprint will actually make money. In fact two thirds of the people would come out ahead. And it would also address the growing income inequality in the world, which is occurring in almost all countries, because low income people would tend to have a lower carbon footprint. People who fly around the world and have big houses would pay more, but they can afford to do that.

That's a transparent, market-based solution, a conservative solution which stimulates the economy. The economic studies in the United States show that after ten years, if you had a ten dollars a ton of CO2 carbon fee, distributed the money to the public - after ten years if would reduce emissions thirty percent. And after twenty years, more than fifty percent. And it would spur the economy, creating more than three million new jobs.


Furthermore, this is the only viable international approach. You cannot ask each of 190 countries to individually limit their emissions. What we have to do is have the price of fossil fuels honest. That requires only a few of the major players to agree 'Let's have a rising common carbon fee'. And those countries that don't want to have that fee, we'll put a border duty on those countries and furthermore we will rebate to our manufacturers that carbon fee when they export to a non-participating nation. This, economists agree, is a fair way to do it, and it could rapidly move us off of fossil fuels.

But what we are hearing, is that although Christiana Figueres says many have said we need a carbon price, and investment would be so much easier with a carbon price, but life is much more complex than that. So what we are talking about instead is the same old thing. The same old thing that was tried in Kyoto asking each country to promise 'oh I'll reduce my emissions, I will cap my emissions, I'll reduce them twenty percent' or whatever they decide they can do.

You know, in science when you do a well-controlled experiment, and get a well-documented result, you expect that if you do the experiment again, you are going to get the same result. So why are we talking about doing the same thing again? I don't like to use crude language, but I learned this from my mother, so I'll use it anyway. This is 'half-assed' and it's 'half-baked'.


It's half-assed because there's no way to make it global. You have to beg each nation. So I went to Germany to speak with... I was hoping to speak to Merkl but I got cut off at Sigmar Garbriel, the Minister. He said 'Oh, we're gonna do cap and trade, cap and trade with offsets.' And I said 'But that won't work, we've tried that.' So I said 'What's the cap on India?' And he said 'We'll tighten our carbon cap.' Well Germany is now two percent of the world emissions. So him tightening the German carbon cap is not going to solve the problem. You've got to have something that will work globally.

And it's half-baked, because there's no enforcement mechanism.... You know what I hear is all the Ministers are coming here, the heads of state, and they are planning to clap each other on the back, and say 'Oh we're really doing great. This is a very successful conference, and we're going to address the climate problem.' Well if that's what happens then we're screwing the next generation, and the following ones. Because we're being stupid and doing the same thing again that we did eighteen years ago.


So what's the effect? You know you try very hard and you reduce our nation's emissions. Or an individual reduces their emissions. One effect of that is to reduce the demand for the product, and keep the price low. As long as fossil fuels are dirt cheap, they will keep being used. Burning coal is like burning dirt. You just take a bulldozer and you can bulldoze it out of the ground. It's very cheap but it does not include it's cost to society. It's a very dirty fuel with some negative effects which we now understand very well. We can't pretend that we don't know what's going to happen, if we stay on this path.

This is the path we're on, you know. To pretend that what we're doing is having any effect... It might slow down the rate of growth, but that's not what's needed. Science tells us we have to reduce emissions rapidly. And furthermore, the economic studies show that if you put an honest price on carbon emissions, you would reduce emissions rapidly. But if you don't have that price on there, you are not going to reduce emissions. You will reduce emissions some place, but then it keeps the price low, so somebody else will burn it.

[Another panelist asks: And that economic study you are refering to also found that if you put ten dollars per ton, and increased it ten dollars per ton over ten years, what was the effect in jobs?]

James Hansen: Well in the case of the United States economy, that's where the study was done in detail, it was three million new jobs in ten years and a significant increased in GNP [Gross National Product]. We need energy. But people thinking 'Oh, we have to do less...' - yeah we should have energy efficiency, but that would be encouraged by a rising price.


We do need energy. We need energy to raise the poor people out of poverty. That's the best way to keep population under control. Those countries that have become wealthy now have fertility rates that are below the replenishment level. And the reason these countries became wealthy is because they had energy, and that energy was fossil fuels. Unfortunately we can't continue to use that as the mechanism to get out of poverty.

We need clean energies. And the way to make that happen... You know, I've met with 'Captains of Industry' I call them - leaders of not only utilities but even oil companies. These people have children and grandchildren. They would like to be part of the solution. If the government would give them the right incentive, by putting this across-the-board rising carbon fee, they say they would change their investments and they could do it rapidly.

It's not that the problem can't be solved. But it's not being solved. And nothing that I've heard so far indicates that we're intending to ... it's not too complex. It's the simplest approach you could have: an honest, simple rising carbon fee.

End of transcript of James Hansen in a Paris press conference, Dec 2nd, 2015.


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Lindsey Allen, Executive Director of RAN

Next up, Lindsey Allen, the Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network, or RAN, dials in from Paris.

I was glad to talk to Lindsey, partly because world media has failed to report non-governmental actions and voices in Paris (giving us the impression the NGO's and aboriginal people are not even there - they are). And partly because the Rainforest Action Network has done some great climate work.

For example, RAN has led the pack in exposing which big banks are loaning out billions to fund the construction of new coal plants around the world. They are profiting from the destruction of the climate. Check out that campaign here.

During our phone interview, Lindsey reveals that the very bank that is funding so much of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP21) meeting in Paris - the French giant BNP Paribas - is one of the top funders for coal expansion around the world! Lindsey Allen says BNP Paribas has invested about 17 billion dollars in coal. That tells you a lot about the world we live in, and the UN Climate talks.

But yes, climate activists are in Paris, and they are speaking out, despite clamp-downs by French police in the name of anti-terrorism. I notice crowds are allowed to gather for memorials, and for sports events, but not to call for real climate action...Naomi Klein agrees, and calls for a big march in Paris anyway.

Listen to this interim report from Paris with Lindey Allen here.


Paul Beckwith has been a regular on Radio Ecoshock. He's the scientist with two Masters degrees, working on his PHD in climate science at the University of Ottawa, in Canada. Paul takes the late Stephen Schneider's call for activism by scientists very seriously. Paul has his own You tube channel with lots of great videos, a new web page, and an active Facebook following.

Don't miss some fine videos Paul took in Paris. These include a financial panel with UK Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and American billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Paul was encouraged to hear some billionaires and financial heavyweights are prepared for serious action on climate change. We talk about that.

Beckwith also recorded a Paris keynote presentation by Al Gore, found here.

One thing we briefly discuss is the effort by climate deniers to look like legitimate participants in the climate "debate". The Heartland Institute, which is partly funded by the infamous Koch Brothers, has organized a press event in Paris, with the usual suspects - scientists and others, some of whom are known to accept funding from fossil fuel companies in order to say carbon dioxide is great for us! See this hot Greenpeace expose of climate deniers admitting they get paid by Peabody coal and other fossil fuel interests.

Paul, and other at the hostel where he is staying, debated whether to go and expose the false science being presented - or would that just add the conflict that media is always looking for, and thus spread these falsehoods? My opinion is go ignore the extremists. Most of the world knows them for what they are - while climate damage is becoming much too obvious to ignore any longer.

Download or listen to this report from Paris by Paul Beckwith in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

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Now it's time to talk about real solutions in the real world. This is part of my continuing coverage of ways to stuff carbon back into the soil, with nature-based agriculture and biochar.

After interviewing many guests and scientists, I've come to the conclusion that our best way out of the climate mess is to use different agricultural methods to sequester carbon back into the soil.

It's just common sense. We have too much carbon in the atmosphere already (at least 430 parts per million carbon equivalent, when we need to be below 350 parts per million to keep our current climate.) Where will be put the extra carbon from the atmosphere? We don't have the technology to put it into the oceans. We do know how to put it back into the soil, and into the deeper ground as biochar.

Benoit Lambert lived in Europe for a couple of decades, returning to Quebec Canada to found a company which advises on biochar, and related carbon capture technology. It's called Biochar Generation.

Benoit Lambert

As world politicians and their experts meet in Paris for the COP21 climate summit, most will seek industrial answers for what they see as an industrial problem. Perhaps, they'll hear about machines to capture carbon and feed it back through a maze of new pipelines to old wells. Dangerous geonengineering will be on the menu.

But they almost didn't hear about the least known source of greenhouse gases, and the single best solution to reducing carbon in the atmosphere. I'm talking about clearing land for food, industrial agriculture, and ways to put carbon back in the soil. All that wasn't even on the menu, until a recent move by France to put it there.

I didn't know the role of the French Agriculture Minister, Stefane Le Foll, or the special ambassador for France at COP21, Laurence Tubiana - until I heard it from Benoit.

Just to be clear, our current industrial farming uses loads of fossil fuel products, including fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. It is a major SOURCE of greenhouse gas emissions, not a help. How big a factor is food production to the overall burden of greenhouse gases?

According to Wikipedia: "Food systems contribute 19%–29% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, releasing 9,800–16,900 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2008. Agricultural production, including indirect emissions associated with land-cover change, contributes 80%–86% of total food system emissions, with significant regional variation."

So we need a huge turnaround in our food systems. First of all, we need to get to zero emissions farming. But that's just the start! Then we need to turn the food system into a carbon capture mechanism.

We discuss how long carbon stays in the soil, the carbon cycle, and the truly amazing role played by biochar. Benoit thinks Canada is the perfect country to start the biochar industry on a huge scale, with all the forest waste in the country.

Lambert also explains the French "4 out of 1000" campaign. Get more on that here. It could really save the world climate.

Others have already called this one of the most important Radio Ecoshock interviews.

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My thanks to everyone who Tweeted about last week's show with Dr. Kevin Anderson. It literally went around the world. I also appreciate the listeners who continue to donate money to keep this show going. If you think you can help, find out how on this page.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening, and let's get together again next week.

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