Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tim Flannery - Atmosphere of Hope

Australian scientist & author of "The Weather Makers" on new book "Atmosphere of Hope". Despite what he knows, Tim Flannery explains new "natural" based tech that may prevent climate catastrophe.

Can our desire to overcome [the climate crisis] drive humanity’s next great waves of positive technological economic and social revolutions, or will we be plunged into the dystopian collapses and terrors of civilizations past?

That's the question asked by Dr. Tim Flannery in his new book "Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis".

Flannery rocked the world with his 2003 book "The Weather Makers". For a while, the Australian government hired him to coordinate climate communications. He left to form the Climate Council, with community funding. Flannery is also with the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, at the University of Melbourne. He's trained as a specialist in mammals and palaeontology.

Dr. Tim Flannery

We're about to hear Tim Flannery speak about his new book, at the Town Hall in Seattle, on November 12, 2015. I thank Mike McCormack of talkingsticktv for this recording.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show, the full speech with question and answer period, in either CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB).

Or listen right now on Soundcloud.

Tim begins this talk with a climate reality check. He outlines an overview of climate science, and the huge challenges facing us. Flannery doesn't try to sugar-coat our situation, and admits that from about 2008 to 2013 he was somewhat depressed about the prospects of severe climate change, and our lack of appropriate response.

However, in 2007, following his publication of the Weathermakers, Tim was called to the Caribbean island owned by multi-billionaire Richard Branson. From that was born the $25 million dollar Virgin Climate Challenge for the best invention to remove carbon dioxide from the air. Flannery tells us Branson himself was doubtful humans will get themselves out of this civilization-wide problem.

During the following years, the Virgin Challenge received about 11,000 entries. Reading through many of these, Flannery tells us he began to see hopeful signs toward solutions to lower carbon in the atmosphere. In this talk he mentions several, including carbon-negative cement (it removes CO2 as it hardens); fibre and plastics that can be made directly from CO2.

There is also a type of rock (Serpentinite) that can remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Perhaps this fairly common rock could be crushed and used as beaches (as the seas rise) to capture more carbon dioxide. This is known as "carbon sequestration by mineral carbonation". Serpentinite has been used by a Dutch firm to make allegedly carbon neutral shingles for houses.

We need to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The first way is to cut emissions drastically. That must be done, but it will not reduce carbon dioxide already there, and already too high.

The second way, Flannery says, is to use geoengineering techniques, like spraying sulfur into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight. But this has grave risks for weather systems, he says.

Flannery tells us there is a "third way": solutions to save nature without wrecking nature. Although these ideas mimic nature or use nature's tech, they do require some energy to deploy them. That energy would have to come from solar, wind, or perhaps burning biomass?

I recommend this talk as inspiring, and it will teach you new things. Personally, I did not find enough in the talk to convince me we have a way out, yet.

My thanks to Mike McCormick of talkingsticktv, and host of the Mind Over Matters radio show for this recording. Mike produces a lot of worthwhile original material.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


SUMMARY: First net-zero city fights off giant fracking leak in California.; Vancouver aims fossil free; 1st Nations vs. pipelines. Mayors & activists report. Scientist Paul Beckwith & RAN Exec Dir Lindsey Allen wrap up Paris climate talks. Carolyn Baker's seminar on how to cope.


Reactions to the Paris climate agreement are all over the map. Unexpectedly, our correspondent Paul Beckwith suggests this may be a tipping point in human affairs, after extreme weather all over the planet. Lindsey Allen from RAN isn't so sure.

Before we talk with them, I want you to hear an extraordinary teleconference hosted by former Earthbeat radio host Daphne Wysham. We hear how West Coast cities are leading us out of the fossil age, even as they struggle with constant demand for more pipelines and ports. Oh by the way, one California mayor reports thousands are living under a toxic cloud, while fracking has poisoned the water system used for one quarter of North America's produce.

I'm Alex Smith, with all that and more, this week on Radio Ecoshock.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!


Just when things look bleak for the climate, we discover city Mayors are way ahead of national leaders. Daphne Wysham leads this story. She's the former host of the syndicated radio program "Earth Beat", and now director of the climate and energy program at the Center for Sustainable Economy.

I know good radio when I hear it. This conference call organized by Daphne contains some startling news, both good and bad. In this abbreviated for radio version, the guests are (in order of appearance):

Andrea Rheimer, Deputy Mayor of Vancouver, Canada

Rex Parris, Mayor of Lancaster California

Winona LaDuke, former Vice-Presidential Candidate and head of Honor the Earth

The whole purpose of the call was to unite more local politicians in the fight against constant pressure to approve or allow more and more fossil fuel infrastructure. By that we mean incessant pressure to build more ports for oil, gas, or coal, more pipelines, more storage facilities - all the instruments by which we can commit to a bankrupt economic plan, and a ravaged planet.

Daphne Wysham was among many who fought off such a proposal in Portland Oregon. Companies wanted to build a propane shipment facilities, bringing the propane from Alberta in Canada, to ship to Asia or who knows where. This in Portland, which has prided itself in being the first city in America to develop a green plan, a way out of fossil fuel dependence. It clashed, and was defeated at the civic level - not in Washington, not in Paris, but stopped in Portland. On November 12, 2015, Portland passed the strongest legislation against more fossil fuel infrastructure anywhere in America.

Activists realized they could not afford to fight off each and every such proposal, which are rampant on the West Coast, including in Canada, but also in the UK, in Australia, and around the world. The fossil fuel industry is still trying to grow, even as we know more must be left in the ground, even as we know humans must move AWAY from more fossil fuels, not toward them.

So a small non-profit web site was set up, simply named No More Fossil Fuel Infrastructure. As Daphne tells us in a preview interview, more than a dozen Mayors signed up almost overnight. In a surprising development, the Mayor of Richmond California, Tom Butts signed up from Paris- even though his city hosts a huge and polluting refinery owned by Chevron.

Andrea Rheimer, the Deputy Mayor of Vancouver, Canada, has some inspiring news. That city banned all new fossil fuel infrastructure in 2012. In 2013, Vancouver banned new coal ports. At the start of 2015, Vancouver was one of a handful of cities around the world declaring their intention to be fossil-free by 2050. Just this year, another 100 or more cities have said the same. The cities are far ahead of the politicians in Paris.

Mayor of Lancaster California, Rex Parris

I found Rex Parris's presentation loaded with ground-breaking and heart-breaking info. To mention just a little:


* His city of Lancaster passed a bylaw requiring all new homes to have installed solar power. As a result, the city now produces more electricity than it consumes. Lancaster California exports power to the grid, becoming a net-zero city (perhaps the world's first) as far as electricity goes. Mayor Parris expected complaints and push-back, but instead got a better economy and co-operation.

* The city is now engaged with a Chinese battery company, BYD, to install a 500 megawatt storage facility, to balance out the highs and lows of solar power. Again, this is a first for any city in North America.


* Parris is a lawyer who now heads the class action suit against SoCal (Southern California Gas Company), and it's parent company, Sempra Energy, for a huge fracking well blow-out that has buried thousands of families under a toxic cloud. This one blow-out (still on-going, can't be stopped apparently) is thought to be emitting one quarter of all methane produced by the state of California. It's not just methane, but a toxic stew of cancer-causing chemicals like benzene. It's called the "Porter Ranch" disaster, or California's BP disaster.


In the teleconference, Mayor Parris says:

"Before the Porter Ranch blowout in the injection wells, what we discovered is that the water supply in the San Joaquin Valley that feeds 25% of our nation's food supply, grown food supply, comes from the San Joaquin Valley. And the aquifers appear to be poisoned. The cherry trees started to die, now the almond trees are dying. And the testing shows that in some cases we're getting benzene levels at a thousand times what what's acceptable. All kinds of hydrocarbon poisons are in there - and that's because the oil industry has been injecting directly into the drinking water of California.

The thing we should start recognizing is that this industry has no responsibility whatsoever. They have captive agencies regulating them, and as a result the impact they're having on the climate, the country and the citizens is beyond comprehension.

The Porter Ranch situation is an example of that. They used a 50 year old well, it was drilled in 1954, to pump oil, and they used that as an injection well to store natural gas under high pressures. The inevitable happened. It blew and now we have thousands of families living under this cloud, with very little we can do about it. We're trying to relocate them, the gas company is resisting. This is Sempra Energy which is responsible for this.

And we're going to have more and more of these situations develop as they take more and more risks in finding energy.


Winona LaDuke tells us the Ojibwe people are fighting no less than three new pipeline coming through their lands. The fossil fuel companies want to establish pipelines to a port on Lake Superior, to carry dangerous Bakken crude, or even-more polluting tar sands oil, out to the world by the East. They would bypass the barriers to the West in British Columbia, or Oregon, bypass the XL pipeline, and ship via the Great Lakes. Anything to make a buck.

Winona LaDuke

Find out more about Winona's activism here at Honor the Earth.


There isn't space here to tell it all. Please listen to this shorter report (edited for radio) on Radio Ecoshock, or listen to the whole press conference here.

Along with Mayor Parris, Andrea Rheimer and LaDuke, you will also hear from Patrick O'Herron from the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and Nia Rivak, an activist from Portland. Oh yeah, and Bill McKibben sent an introductory clip from Paris, for this teleconference.

It's well worth your time. And can you help organize or support a similar movement against more fossil fuel infrastructure in your own city, where democracy still has a hope? Then sign up at

Download or listen to this 14 minute report from Mayors and activists, as edited for Radio Ecoshock, in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


I thought Paul would trash the Paris climate talks as way too little too late. No, Paul tells us why this may be a turning point, even a tipping point in human affairs. Then he explains what needs to be done from here, to really save the climate. As always, a trip with this PHD student (with already two Masters degrees, and teaching climate science at the University of Ottawa) - is also well worth your time.

We talk about James Hansen, the new climate-aware billionaires, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, geoengineering, and much more.

I appreciate Paul taking the time to talk to us from Norway, where he is helping to found a new company, Gaia Engineering, which will provide climate-related technology. His two hour talk in Norway was recorded and will be found in a little while on the new web site being built.

Download or listen to this 21 minute interview with Paul Beckwith in Norway in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Lindsey Allen is the Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network. That's a group that has earned my respect. In addition to their campaigns to save the rainforests, for their own sake, and for the climate - RAN, as it's known, also dug furthest into who, exactly who, is funding the new coal plants that will kill off our hopes for a livable planet. That turned out to be big name banks, some of who also claim to be getting greener. Get some of the details here, and I hope to do an interview soon on coal financing.

Lindsey tells us about the non-profit organizations who were active in Paris, and the role that the people's voice plays in bringing politicians as far as we've come. She also reminds us that the "developed" world has a lot to learn from the people actually living in rainforests, the indigenous people on all continents. But we're not listening yet, she tells us - at our peril.

Download or listen to this 11 minute interview with Lindsey Allen of Rainforest Action Network in CD Quality.


Carolyn Baker is a life coach and certified in psychology. She's taught at the university level. Carolyn has specialized in helping people cope with the awful news about climate change, and our impact on the planet in general. What should we think and feel? How can we go on?

To that end, she's organized a seminar which will be live with some really intriguing guests, and then later available via recorded video. It's not free, because this sort of project costs money to organize. But it's not all that expensive either. Carolyn describes the guests, which include Andrew Harvey founder of the Institute for Sacred Activism, writer/teacher Stephen Jenkinson, deep green activist Derrick Jensen, Carolyn herself of course, Linda Buzzell, journalist Dahr Jamail, Janaia Donaldson from Peak Moment TV, Mick Collins from the University of East Anglia, and Becca Martenson, counsellor and life coach (and wife of Chris Martenson). If you don't recognize any of those names, perhaps you spend too much time with mainstream news?

The thing is - I've seen some great conferences with speakers like this where they expect you to drive across the country, or fly across part of the world, and pay a lot of money for the conference, plus lodgings, food and all that. I've been waiting for the alternative community to organize real online conferences, complete with feedback from us, the participants. It's starting.

The seminar is called "Living Your Passion & Purpose", and further "In the face of humanity's greatest challenge, an interactive online symposium." To find out more, listen to this 5 minute interview, or just go to her web site, Then it's up to you, whether you want to participate, in what Carolyn hopes will become a new supportive community.

Download or listen to this 5 minute interview with Carolyn Baker in CD Quality.

Of course you can also listen to Carolyn and her guests every week on her radio show "The Lifeboat Hour" on the Progressive Radio Network.

Like the fossil age, we are out of time. If you can help support this program, find out how on this page. Radio Ecoshock is paid for entirely by listener support. We run no ads on this site, or in the program. We are not sponsored by guests or anyone else. Just you.

Thank you for listening. Be sure and join us next week on Radio Ecoshock, when I'll play a full-length talk about why a famous scientist who knows how serious the climate threat is, has finally begun to hope.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Extreme rainfall events are cropping up around the world. In England, once in a thousand year floods have repeated 3 times now, in five years. Records are falling in many countries. In a warmer world, we've gained 7 percent more water vapor in the atmosphere. It has to come down somewhere.

The short news clips about extreme rainfall events around the world came courtesy of BBC, Reuters, Fox, ABC, CBS, Euronews.


A few weeks ago, our guest David Wasdell suggested the outcome of our current path of emissions would eventually be a world at least 8 degrees C hotter on average, maybe more. Some questioned that. It is now the most heavily downloaded interview I've posted on soundcloud. If you missed it, listen in here.

This week the University of Edinburgh released a paper echoing Wasdell's climate. Eight degrees is possible, according to Professor Roy Thompson, as published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Find the University press release here.


Climate change does not occur in a steady economy, or a peaceful time. This Fall we saw in Paris how terrorism empowered politicians to ban climate action, in the name of public safety. The terrorists knew they were attacking before the world flooded to the COP21 climate talks. They succeeded in disrupting the essential public voice.

But in this show, we ask two questions: will the fossil-based economy collapse just as extreme weather events punish property and infrastructure. What if we are too broke to rebuild or cope? There's a blog for that. It's theeconomiccollapse blog, with millions of readers. We'll look at frashing warning a new depression is forming, with blogger Michael T. Snyder.

Then, believe it or not, there are darker things to consider. If climate disrupts agriculture, as expected and already happening, social violence and wars may become worse. Our guest Professor Tim Snyder explains why climate change may open the door to more mass murder. It needs to be said.

Off we go, with black clouds hanging over economies around the world.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB) Or listen on Soundcloud right now!


The Federal Reserve just said the U.S. economy is so rosy they can raise interest rates by .25%, the first rise in about 7 years. So why is this environment reporter covering just the opposite?

Remember Hurricane Sandy, all pumped up with rising seas and a hot ocean off the U.S. East Coast. The damages from that one storm were estimated at $60 billion dollars, or about 55 billion euros to "fix". That didn't include bolstering the shore-line, or the estimated $10 billion dollars our Radio Ecoshock guest Professor J. Court Stevenson recommended to create flood-gates to protect New York Harbor. Download that 21 minute interview here.

What about the billions lost in the California drought, or more tens of billions with Hurricane Katrina? Politicians, and we the public, always presume there will be money to rebuild. Except we're already in the total debt economy, nationally, regionally, and personally. If the massive global economic system experiences a crash, there will be no money to recover from recurring climate damage. We will get hit - that's pretty well guaranteed from rising seas, extreme rainfall events (I report on a few of those in this show), agricultural losses, record wild-fires - you know, a lot of bad things.

The good news could be that only a global economic crash can prevent us from terra-forming the planet into a dying world. Things like the tar sands won't be worth developing, and ditto for dangerous Arctic drilling. The history of the past few decades shows only an economic collapse, like the fall of the Soviet Union, has led to genuine reduction of emissions.

The bad news is a lot of bad news. For example, if there is no money to invest, we may not make the transition toward cleaner solar and wind energy, or electric cars. We may be stuck with whatever inefficient grid and coal power plants we've got, not to mention aging nuclear hulks run way past their best before date. We may get stuck in the 20th century.

Of course there's a lot more. Pension funds could go broke. Governments could go broke (some already are). People will lose jobs, the poor will get even less, some of us will lose hope. It's a Depression with a capital "D".

Ever since the last "recession" of 2008, when major institutions teetered on the brink of global ruin - Michael T. Snyder has been writing a blog saying nothing has been fixed from that time, and in fact, most things have become even more precarious. For the past few months he's been posting various warning from the internal workings of the macro economic system that tell us another crash is developing. In the past few weeks, a lot of what Michael warns about is coming to the surface, even in the mainstream popular press.

Michael T. Snyder

In our interview he gives a list of about ten big warning signs. For example, the junk bond market has already collapsed, as it did before stocks fell in 2008. "Junk bonds" are really higher risk loans to corporations, like Chrysler for example. Most big pension funds are based on a presumed rate of return much higher than "safe" guaranteed interest rates. These funds need money just to pay out retirees now on the roles, much less the baby-boomers hitting the decks. Pension funds were more or less forced into the junk bond market.

Just in the last week, a big junk bond company called Third Avenue had so many demands for payouts (people bailing) they had to deny requests. There wasn't enough money. This triggered a run on many other junk bonds. It's a run on the junk bond bank.

That's just one sign. The near death of international shipping and trade is another. In fact, there have been a series of major banks, well-known international banks, who have warned a "downturn" is just around the corner. Private investment banks are warning their clients about the same. Michael Snyder has lists of them in his blog!


So why isn't Fox News and the general mass media telling you how serious this is? Snyder reminds us that six major media corporations control about 90% of what we see, hear - and talk about. The average American now watches 293 minutes of TV a day. Add in all the other media, like the Internet, social media, radio, newspapers - and those six corporations fill up an astounding 10 hours of the average person's day! Snyder calles it "the propaganda matrix".

It's little wonder that whatever they are blaring out over multiple outlets gets talked about in the office, at home, and on the street. It could be the Kardashians, terrorism, refugees, Donald Trump, somebody to hate, some awful crime - but it's seldom, very seldom, the raw facts that our economy isn't working for 99% of the people.

The world's fifth largest economy, the big hope of the developing world, is officially in a "Depression" according to Goldman Sachs. Do you know what country that is? Probably not. A few dozen stock markets around the world have already crashed. Did you know that? That's why you, and anybody who cares about the future, should listen to this interview with Michael T. Snyder.

Download or listen this Radio Ecoshock interview with Michael T. Snyder in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

If you want to Tweet or Facebook this interview, use this smaller link to the Lo-Fi version (which downloads faster to phones...)


Who is he? As we learn in this interview, Snyder was a practicing lawyer. He was one of the many working in Washington D.C. in the shadow of the Capitol buildings. When the last recession hit, Snyder got out. He's happily living now in the mountains of Idaho. Snyder's blog, gets about a million views a month. But it doesn't stop there. I've seen his posts on dozens and dozens of other blogs, including the biggest, like Zero Hedge.

Maybe you think Michael Snyder isn't qualified, or he's over-zealous. Go ahead, but first argue with the facts he packs into his blog posts - all with links to the original source, which you can check for yourself. Eventually you'll find his blog is a definite worthwhile watching post, as I did.

Snyder isn't adamant about everything. He'll ask the question, and wants you to check things out. Plus, Snyder doesn't say we'll wake up one morning to find everything closed, and start a new civilization from scratch. Rather he sees a downward staircase, where things fall apart, maybe over years. That was the reality of the last Great Depression in the 1930's. But this collapse would be global, and maybe the end of the fossil fuel civilization as we've known it.

I'd like to have Michael back again next spring, when we'll see whether Janet Yellen's official optimism, or Michael Snyder's deep suspicion, turn out to be reality.

During the interview we also discover Michael has a new novel out. It's kind of a thriller, but contains all sorts of projections into the future, from what he sees now. The title is "The Beginning of the End".

Michael also has two other online projects: a blog "End of the American Dream" and his new news web site "The Most Important News".


I heard about the work of Professor Timothy Snyder in a controversial op-ed in the New York Times. It was published September 12th, 2015 under the title "The Next Genocide". He says climate change could drive us again towards mass murder.

The idea that rampant climate change will take hundreds of millions of lives was not new to me. For example, when the major delta of Bangladesh, where hundreds of millions live, becomes too salty for agriculture, due to invading seas - millions of environmental refugees will stream north. The only places they could go are already over-populated and very undeveloped, like Eastern India. It's not going to end well.

But Snyder has thought deeper about the possible consequences of climate change. First of all, he is an internationally-known scholar of the mass murders that happened during the mid-20th century in Eastern Europe. We call it "the Holocaust", but it turns out most of us still don't understand what happened there.

For example, most people were killed by the Nazis in the infamous death camps right? Wrong, says Snyder. While the death camp toll was horrendous, even more millions died outside the camps, slaughtered wherever they were. I ask Snyder why we don't know this. One major reason was that Eastern Europe was behind the iron curtain of communism, where people couldn't travel or speak freely.

Professor Snyder is fluent in at least 10 languages. Most of us couldn't read the original documents, even if we could find them. In 2010, Snyder, a Yale historian, published a book on his research, "Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin". The two dictators supervised the death of about 14 million people in the Eastern European lands between them.

Professor Timothy D. Snyder

I know from my own reading, the Holocaust was also the first case of turning advanced technology into machines for mass murder. Hitler's death camps used a punch-card system designed, provided (and maintained during the war!) by the American company IBM. Ford trucks carried the victims and troops around. Radio transmitted hate propaganda.

So where does climate change come in? I can't do justice to Snyder's arguments. You can find them in the New York Times article, or this one in the Guardian. But news articles just scratch the surface. The real juice comes from Snyder's new book "Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning".

In the interview, we talk about how Hitler and his cronies viewed the environment. In some senses, the Nazi's had a tinge of "green". They wanted to restore some natural species (so they could hunt them), and used "nature" in their propaganda. But like modern climate denialists, Hitler also had a phobia, bordering on hatred, for real science. In some cases, like Einstein's theories, he denounced it as "Jewish science". That may be one reason why the Nazi's never developed the atomic bomb.

Tim Snyder tells us Hitler sold the Germans a fear that they could never feed themselves, so they needed "living space" - to be taken by force from others (like the Poles) who would be eradicated. Germans would run out of food, he thought, because fertilizers, hydridization, and other promises of science were false. It turns out he was totally wrong, and after the war Europe became a major exporter of food, using scientific methods.


One of my key take-aways of talking with Tim Snyder is that mass murder does not require a state where people are at or near starvation. All it requires is that people fear it COULD happen, to justify terrible things.

In fact, it may not require a food shortage. Part of Hitler's argument was that the Germans, as a superior "race", should have the highest lifestyles. He specifically pointed to the developing riches of America. Tim Snyder thinks that someone, or some nation, could justify mass murder solely because people thought their lifestyle was threatened (not just their food). Does that raise any thoughts in you? What if there is an economic crash, or fear of one, and Americans, or Brits, think their lifestyle is going downhill? Could we turn that into an excuse to bomb the hell out of some other people far away? Or justify mass-murder at home?

The worst fear is that a national government will purposefully plan, over time, the mass murder of another population, as happened in Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union. We're not talking about murderous riots in the street, although those can be arranged. We're talking about applying computer tech, advanced weapons, money, and administration to depopulate some part of the world, or a sub-set of a national population.

That kind of mass-murder as policy could develop in times stressed beyond imagination by climate disruption. Timothy Snyder explains how. As Snyder writes in the New York Times:

"Denying science imperils the future by summoning the ghosts of the past."

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Professor Timothy D. Snyder in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

If you want to Tweet or Facebook this interview, use this smaller link to the Lo-Fi version:


We're pushing the end of our time - at least for Radio Ecoshock this week.

My special thanks to those who reached out with financial support for this program, without much prodding from me. Aside from the help, it also makes me feel appreciated. Find out how you can help here.

I put in about 40 hours a week to produce this program. It's my "job" but I don't get paid for it. As I hope you can tell, each guest sends me on an adventure of research in preparation, plus time spent distributing the program, answering listener emails (write me radio //at//, staying abreast of global news feeds, this blog, the web site, and all that. It's a life work, and I'm just glad you encourage me to do it.

I'm Alex Smith. As always, thank you for listening, and caring about our world.

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.

Download or listen to this interview with Benoit Lambert in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Use this tiny url to share the Benoit Lambert interview on social media, including Twitter:

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.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

KEVIN ANDERSON: Untold Climate Truth

"The future will be radically different from the present. It will either be radically different because we have significantly - we've grasped the nettle and we'd be prepared to make the sorts of changes that would initially be quite challenging socially and politically, to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions.


A little bit further down the line, we will be faced with huge social and political repercussions because of a very significantly changing climate.

-Dr. Kevin Anderson

That is Dr. Kevin Anderson. As one of the world's top climate scientists, he says the hard facts about climate change are not getting out, and never made it to the Paris climate talks. It's a shocking, revealing interview. Then we travel to Australia, where host Vivien Langford of the Beyond Zero Emissions show talks in studio with David Spratt, author of Code Red, plus a union icon and psychologist - on the eve of the Paris talks. More frank talk.

I'm Alex Smith. Buckle up, this is Radio Ecoshock.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!


During the Paris climate talks, one leading scientist says the fundamentals of the whole process is "wildly optimistic". It starts with climate models that assume too much, spills into unreal scientific advice, and ends with rosy media reports saying we can keep on growing without wrecking the climate. Our Western lifestyles won't be greatly inconvenienced, they say.

The odd-man out at the party is Kevin Anderson. He's a well-known Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester. Anderson is also the Deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, a leading scientific institute not only in Britain, but in the world.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Kevin Anderson in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

My previous show on Kevin Anderson, July 22nd 2015, "What they won't tell you about the climate catastrophe" is blogged with links here.

But I call Kevin this time about a new article he published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The title is "Duality in Climate Science". The paper is available here, in free full-text. A useful article form is here.

Here’s the link to a great piece in Skeptical Science on Kevin's new paper.


During our interview, Kevin mentioned a new paper by Chancel and Picketty, on how a few million top consumers are responsible for the majority of climate change emissions. Find that here.

The full title and citation on the Chancel/Picketty climate paper is:

Carbon and inequality: from Kyoto to Paris

Trends in the global inequality of carbon emissions (1998-2013) & prospects for an equitable adaptation fund

Lucas Chancel, Iddri & Paris School of Economics

Thomas Piketty, Paris School of Economics

3rd, November 2015.


After reports from The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, the assembled government leaders gather in Paris. Their stated goal is to keep global mean temperature rise below 2 degrees Centigrade, from pre-industrial levels. Dr. James Hansen says it's "crazy" to say 2 degrees C would be safe.

Kevin Anderson agrees with Hanson. As I wrote in my blog about Anderson's 2012 speech:

"In fact, says Anderson, we are almost guaranteed to reach 4 degrees of warming, as early as 2050, and may soar far beyond that - beyond the point which agriculture, the ecosystem, and industrial civilization can survive."

Here is another thing that drives me crazy, and Anderson describes it in this new paper. The question set to be answered is: "what do we need to do to have a 66% chance or better of staying below 2 degrees C". Imagine we are playing Russian Roulette. We have a pistol with three chambers, one of which contains a bullet. The stakes are not just our own lives, but those of all our descendants, and possibly most life on Earth. Who in their right mind would pull the trigger with only a 66% chance of surviving?

Is it unreasonable for us to expect a GUARANTEE the climate will not be wrecked, rather than the kind of casino odds being offered by international negotiations?

It's no surprise that major media provides a version of reality that allows advertisers, stockholders, and the public, to continue playing the fossil fuel game as long as possible. The surprise is that scientists who know better, do not work harder to correct obvious "mistakes" and outright fairy-tales about our predicament. I ask Anderson: Why aren't more scientists speaking up?

I say the Paris talks are already set up for failure, depending on they do on voluntary goals, set a long time into the future, and without even the courage to talk about the remaining carbon budget. By the way, another blog, at, uses Kevin's paper to calculate the carbon budget would be all used up by 2034. Would you agree?

So I ask Kevin if the whole Conference of the Parties (COP) approach should be abandoned, having failed for decades to even reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

His answer surprised me. The COP meetings should go on, he says, but they should not be the only game in town, with such huge stakes looming over us. Anderson has said for some time that the rest of the world, all the willing, should forget about trying to get the United States onboard. The retro anti-science crowd in Congress is never going to approve the moves that are needed.

The European Union should go it alone, with whatever trading partners it can bring along. If we say the Europe is involved in about one third of all world trade, if the EU insisted on climate-safe products and production, perhaps with side deals with countries like China, the United States would have to come on board, to protect trade. We can't wait for the last countries to join the movement to save the world climate.

There has never been a greater tragedy than today. We know, based on hard science, what is coming. We can see it coming. Everyone keeps on dancing, with the drugs of consumption, the many energy slaves at our command, as though this party can keep going forever. For the dinosaurs, there was a time of tragedy, and even that time lasted some millions of years. Only the birds survived. Our time of tragedy looks to be very short, a few hundred years at best, just a few generations.

The greatest tragedy is that some of us can see what must be done. We cannot communicate that into action, so deluded are the other players. Even when they know, they will not act to end the addiction. We need greatness from our artists - poets, musicians, authors, film-makers, to express this tragic dream, before it hardens into unstoppable reality (if it has not already).

Kevin says a lot, a lot better than I do. Be sure and listen to this key interview.


I know cutting edge radio when I hear it. I play you part of the Beyond Zero Emissions radio show, on 3CR Community radio in Melbourne Australia. 3CR also broadcasts Radio Ecoshock, as one of our international partners.

Following discussion of the climate action march in Melbourne November 27th, host Vivien Langford starts in-depth with David Spratt, co-author of the book Climate Code Red, and host of the influential climate code red blog. Then you'll hear from Dr Colin Long, leader in the National Tertiary Education Union, who champions workers in the transition away from carbon. Vivien's third guest is psychologist Lyn Bender, from the group Psychology for a Safe Climate.

The groups starts off talking about the climate movement in Melbourne, which I find exciting.. By the way, that was Australia's biggest climate action ever, with 60,000 people showing up in the streets of Melbourne! But trust me, it's not long before these three guests dive into issues that affect us all.

You can listen to this show, and all the programs from Beyond Zero Emissions, here.

Radio host Vivien Langford.

Or to get a taste, you can download this 26 minute segment, as broadcast on Radio Ecoshock, in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

I'm Alex Smith. Please help support this radio show. And as always, thank you for listening, and caring about your world.

CLIMATE MUSIC: I finish off the show with a quick bit of music from the group Eclectic Sparks, in Yorkshire UK, as played at the Yorkshire Climate Festival 2015. "Whatya gonna do with your CO2".. Find that on You tube here. Thanks for the tip Dana!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Welcome back to Radio Ecoshock. Last week's program "Facing the Harsh Realities of Now" with David Wasdell set records for radio and listeners on soundcloud. If you missed it - don't. David Wasdell makes his case that we are already committed to at least 6 degrees of global warming, plus dozens of meters higher seas. Grab it from my web site at, or listen at

This week I've got a broad mix for you. Courtney White says we can capture carbon back into the soil, even if only 2 percent of the population act. I'll talk new science with Justin Mankin - how disappearing snow cover will impact people around the world. We wrap with octogenarian activist and author Peter Seidel, saying we still have time.


Before we get to our guests, dozens of listeners wrote in, saying they were dismayed by the damning climate revelations by David Wasdell. While I agree with David, that our true situation has been downplayed by governments, media, and misplaced scientific caution, I also try to keep balance.

You may want to consider three more ideas. First:

The very high temperatures and sea level rise David describes would likely only be attained in a few hundred years from now. That might give us time to develop ways and technologies to drastically reduce greenhouse gases. We might manage to reduce greenhouse gas levels, say to 280 ppm as was the case in pre-industrial days.

Some glaciers would still melt (once they start they are hard to stop). So we would still get sea level rise. The oceans would continue to give off residual heat. However, temperatures could start to decline, decade by decade. By then of course, the world, and all living creatures would be greatly changed, I think.

Second: In the coming week or two, I hope to present some other points of view, and possible reasons to hope. You'll hear some of those voices in this program.

Third: Keep in mind some scientists, including climate scientists, disagree with David's conclusions. Wise as he is, David is not officially a climate scientist. His high sensitivity figures can be disputed. I'm still looking into that.

But yes, I found Wasdell's interview convincing and rather crushing. I'm still mulling it over, as we all must. The Wasdell show takes the record on Souncloud for the most Radio Ecoshock listeners ever.

Meanwhile, thanks for joining us, and on with the show!

Download or listen to this new Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Or listen on Soundcloud right now!

Photo courtesy of the Guardian newspaper, UK.


You know carbon is already too high in the atmosphere for our own climate safety. Perhaps you've heard the biggest and best solution is to put carbon back in the soil. But what are we supposed to do - go shovel carbon into the lawn after work? Our next guest says organic carbon capture is not a job for most of us, although we can help.

In June of 2014, I asked author and activist Courtney White about his book "Soil, Grass and Hope". You can download or play that interview here, or read the blog about it here.

Now Courtney is back with a collection of inspiring stories which point to fundamental answers. It's called "Two Percent Solutions for the Planet".

From Santa Fe New Mexico, we welcome Courtney Whiteback to Radio Ecoshock. Courtney founded and runs a non-profit called the Quivira Coalition. I ask Courtney what "quivira" means: it is a Spanish word found on the old maps of the rough country now known as "New Mexico". I suppose it could literally mean "who has been there" - but essentially it means "an unknown country". What a handy word and concept. With humans dumping eons worth of carbon into the air in just 2 centuries, we are all headed into "unknown country".

When Courtney left the Sierra Club in the late 1990's, he was heading into unknown country for sure. He wanted to find common ground between environmentalism, ranchers, and farmers - a group formerly not known for deep friendship and working together. Instead of conflict, Courtney literally was searching for common ground, a place to move forward.

Now of course, it turns out both ranchers and farmers may hold the key to preventing the very worst of climate change. Even though this small group forms only two percent of the population of the United States, they could drag all of America's carbon emissions back into the soil.

We learned from our Ecoshock guest Alan Savory that changes in livestock management can turn practices from desertification into enrichment of nature, and particularly add more carbon to the soil. You can download or listen to that 24 minute Allan Savory interview here. Or read the blog about it, with more links, here.

Likewise, farmers who stop plowing the soil, to use cover crops and no-till agriculture, can capture carbon into the soil by mimicking nature. We are not talking about insignificant amounts. Various experts have worked out we can reduce carbon in the atmosphere well below our current levels in just a couple of decades. It would take a multi-billion-dollar public works program, with support from every level of society, but it can be done. Combined with a big bio-char program, It's a climate solution that doesn't make the problem worse, and leaves our soil stronger for every generation that follows.

We end up talking about "Farm Hacking" and all sorts of resources.

Find the Quivira Coalition web site here. A vimeo video for the new book "Two Percent Solutions for the Planet" is here. The subtitle is: "50 Low-Cost, Low-Tech, Nature-Based Practices for Combatting Hunger, Drought, and Climate Change."

Download or listen to this 24 minute interview with Courtney White in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


This is Radio Ecoshock, beaming the real eco-truth out to the world. Now it's time to talk with a leading climate scientist.

Last summer, the river in my little valley displayed it's bottom for the first time. No one living can remember seeing it. It wasn't really lack of rain. It was the thin, thin covering of snow in the mountain head-waters. On a warming planet we will get less snow. But few of us have really worked out what that means, around the world.

A multinational team of crack scientists just released the paper "The potential for snow to supply human water demand in the present and future”. It's not looking good.

From the Columbia University Earth Institute, and affiliated with the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, we talk with Dr. Justin Mankin.

Scientist Justin Mankin

Justin is lead author of the paper that stimulated this call: “The potential for snow to supply human water demand in the present and future.” As the Columbia U press release says: "The other authors of the study are Daniel Viviroli of the University of Zurich; Lamont-Doherty postdoctoral researcher Deepti Singh; Arjen Y. Hoekstra of the University of Twente in the Netherlands; and Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University."

You can read the full text of that paper, as a .pdf file, here. Or read it online as an open access full text paper in the Journal "Environmental Research Letters" here.

It's probably best and easiest if I just reprint the paper abstract here:

"Runoff from snowmelt is regarded as a vital water source for people and ecosystems throughout the Northern Hemisphere (NH). Numerous studies point to the threat global warming poses to the timing and magnitude of snow accumulation and melt. But analyses focused on snow supply do not show where changes to snowmelt runoff are likely to present the most pressing adaptation challenges, given sub-annual patterns of human water consumption and water availability from rainfall.

We identify the NH basins where present spring and summer snowmelt has the greatest potential to supply the human water demand that would otherwise be unmet by instantaneous rainfall runoff. Using a multi-model ensemble of climate change projections, we find that these basins—which together have a present population of ~2 billion people—are exposed to a 67% risk of decreased snow supply this coming century. Further, in the multi-model mean, 68 basins (with a present population of >300 million people) transition from having sufficient rainfall runoff to meet all present human water demand to having insufficient rainfall runoff.

However, internal climate variability creates irreducible uncertainty in the projected future trends in snow resource potential, with about 90% of snow-sensitive basins showing potential for either increases or decreases over the near-term decades. Our results emphasize the importance of snow for fulfilling human water demand in many NH basins, and highlight the need to account for the full range of internal climate variability in developing robust climate risk management decisions.

In the interview, we flesh that out for the rest of us. There are a lot of uncertainties. Some places will receive more rainfall, even enough rainfall to cover the losses from disappearing snow cover. The Indus Valley (Northern India and Pakistan) is such a case, Mankin tells us.

Other regions, including California, will not make up for lost snow with rain. As you can tell from the abstract, around 300 million people will find themselves with insufficient water. They can pump from the underground water table for a while, but then that gets exhausted, because it is not being recharged. Richer countries may be able to build more reservoirs - although that option may already be tapped out in the Western United States.

At that point, assuming desalinization of sea water can't scale up fast enough, I presume disappearing snow will become another driver of vast climate migrations. You heard it here first.

Download or listen to this 18 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with Justin Mankin in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Our next guest was an architect who published designs for ecologically sound cities starting in 1968, and for a model eco-city in the Cinncinati area in the 1970's. Like many who offer technical solutions, over the years Peter Seidel's books began to ask "what is wrong with us?" Why can't we adopt obvious answers to serious problems.

Author Peter Seidel

His 1998 book was "Invisible Walls: Why We Ignore the Damage We Inflict on the Planet ...and Ourselves."

Apparently Peter hasn't given up yet. His latest book is titled "There Is Still Time".

This is how our conversation began:

"ALEX: Just the other day, I considered giving up on this Radio Show. I thought "Humans are not capable of solving the problems we create.

Let me tell you the story of Jack Alpert. Working at General Motors in the 1960's, he found the major cause of death in car accidents was people being thrown through the windshield. As an engineer, Jack invented seat belts and they worked. But he was horrified when people wouldn't wear them, until decades of tickets and fines later. Peter, what is it about human nature that we won't act to save our own lives?

We talk about the probability that our inability to solve problems may be institutional. For example, can corporations and capitalism really prevent a climate catastrophe? I also ask Peter about his earlier work. For example, in 2009, in the journal "Futures", he published a piece called "Is it inevitable that evolution self-destruct?" Then Seidel took another route to painting our predicament, in his science fiction book "2045: A Story of Our Future". That takes current trends, including climate change and corporate conglomeration, and extends them forward to 2045.

I know some Radio Ecoshock listeners feel deep in their hearts that there isn't still time. The infrastructure for a 5 degree hotter world is built, and we don't show any signs of changing. Major ice sheets at the poles seem committed to melting. I ask Seidel why he thinks "there is still time"? Despite the title of his book, Peter admits like most of us, he isn't sure. Maybe we have passed key tipping points. But despite trying to communicate these mega-problems for decades - Peter just can't give up trying. Looking into the faces of our descendants, and the innocent creatures around us, none of us can.

Even as he approaches 90, Peter Seidel tries to stimulate action to save the ecosphere and the future. I admire that.

Download or listen to this 14 minute interview with Peter Seidel in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


In my opinion: humans have a couple of unfortunate psychological traits that can interfere with our ability to see eco-truth, especially about climate change. First of all, I've noticed a tendency among older men to confuse their realization of their own mortality, with the death of everything. If I'm going, it's all going to end with me, they think.

Related to that, and proven by at least two thousand years of history, we have an in-bred cultural expectation that we will live to see the end of days, at least for humanity, if not all existence. It's sad to think that many people left lives well-lived in disappointment, because they did not see the apocalypse, or the return of the Savior.

Both these ideas, or drives really, can lead us to demand the most extreme interpretations of reality. At Radio Ecoshock, I know we are in for difficult struggles ahead, but I hope we all know the last chapter has not yet been written, if there is a "last chapter". The story of natural life on Earth is composed almost entirely of twists and surprises.

I remain convinced there is a future, and we should try, and try again, to make it the best possible for all those who come after us.

I'm Alex Smith. My special thanks to all the wonderful people who supported the continuing production of this program, during our brief fundraising drive this fall. If you missed it, and want to help out Radio Ecoshock, please check out this page for details.

Next week, I've got some special guests to discuss the problems with the Paris climate talks, and real solutions.

Thank you for listening, and caring about your world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Facing the Harsh Realities of Now

SUMMARY: David Wasdell, head of the Apollo-Gaia Project, returns to Radio Ecoshock with devastating revelations about how climate science has been manipulated or ignored by the IPCC, and by the leaders meeting in Paris. We are committed to far more than 2 degrees of warming. A vastly changed world awaits. Radio Ecoshock 151118.

Are you ready for the harsh reality of our future in a hotter world? Can any of us really handle the truth? If you feel strong enough, this may be the most devastating look into where we really stand. Perhaps you remember UK writer Mark Lynas stunning us with the awful changes on Earth if we warm by 5 degrees Centigrade. We may not survive six.

Many hope the climate talks in Paris can reach an agreement that will save a livable climate, keeping global warming below 2 degrees C. But what if the national leaders are just players on a stage of illusion? What if someone told you our current levels of greenhouse gases already commit us to more than 6 degrees of global warming, and over 12 meters, over 36 feet higher sea levels? And that may not be the worst of it.

I'm Alex Smith with a remarkable interview from London. This is Radio Ecoshock, radio you need to hear. Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Or listen right now on Soundcloud!


Last week, a couple of dozen people stepped up to help Radio Ecoshock keep going. There is no secret foundation paying for this program. Nobody pays me for the 40 hours I put in each week to get this critical information out to you, and to the world.

I know some previous green programs, excellent programs with seasoned hosts, had to go off the air due to lack of funding. Usually there was at least one program director on staff, who helped line up guests, and perhaps another doing all the research needed. When people couldn't get paid, those shows closed up.

Knowing there would never be a commercial market for deep eco-truth, I set up Radio Ecoshock ten years ago on the barest budget possible. There is no staff. I do it all. We don't have the overhead of a non-profit society (with high administration costs). There is no fund-raising department. This is it, and you are the co-owners of the program, when you sign up for the $10 a month membership, or make a donation of any amount.

Frankly, a few weeks ago, I felt like giving up. Not because of money, which is always low, but because for the past 10 years our expert guest explained why urgent action is needed. Instead, emissions just went up and up, and our natural environment continues to degrade.

But we can't give up, can we? This is the only world for us, for our descendants, for all the marvellous creatures living on Earth.

I'm re-committing to another year of Radio Ecoshock. I hope you'll join me, to help pay for this project. Check out your options on this page. Thank you.


This is a very intense program, with lots of science, clearly expressed for all of us.

David Wasdell

In order to help everyone, here is a ".pdf" rough transcript of this program, including all the science David lays out. Please feel free to dive in for yourself, add you comments to this blog, and forward both the program and the .pdf transcript as widely as possible. Just copy and paste this address in your browser.

Or download it to your computer.

David's full presentation online is called: "Climate Dynamics: Facing the Harsh Realities of Now

Climate Sensitivity, Target Temperature & the Carbon Budget: Guidelines for Strategic Action"

It's simple. Go to this page at

If you click on the headshot of David Wasdell, you will get a video, 1 hour 16 minutes long, as David explains where we are right now in the climate, and where we are going. It has graphs that make it seem simple, even though he deals with cutting-edge science. If this recorded video conference seems to stop and start, it's likely you are trying in a period of heavy internet use. Try again at a time when fewer people are on the net.

Of course, one of the benefits of my full-length radio interview of David, is that anyone in the world can download or listen to it. People in countries with low-bandwidth, or poor access, should choose the "Lo-Fi" version, which is ten percent the size of the CD Quality broadcast. That's also a good choice if you want to listen online. Or use the soundcloud version here. Soundcloud usually plays well with no interruptions.

If you prefer the print approach, click on the title slide to the right of David's picture. That leads you to the .pdf text to accompany the video, with a full explanation.

Wasdell has gone to great length to make this deep science available to all of us. It's a critical mission. We cannot allow ourselves, or our leaders, to continue using "convenient" science, instead of facing the harsh realities.

All I can tell you is that I've heard from over 100 previous scientists interviewed on Radio Ecoshock - the evidence that David Wasdell adds up for us in this talk. It's sobering, depressing, and maybe yes, liberating. We can only go forward when we know where we are right now.

Please help this message get out widely. Share David's video link, this program, your own thoughts and activism. Giving up is not an option.

I'm your dedicated friend, Alex Smith. My thanks to all those who reached out to support Radio Ecoshock this week, who Tweet and Facebook further than I can. Please don't leave support for this program to "others".

Thank you for being brave enough to listen, and let's meet again next week.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Killing Solar, Killing Us All

SHOW SUMMARY: Who is trying to kill solar power in America? As energy activist Nancy LaPlaca reveals, state-by-state fossil fuels companies are trying to stop competition from safe renewable power. Then we look at developing court evidence in Canada - that fracking for gas and oil IS polluting drinking water. Veteran Canadian investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk fills in this key part of the shadows of fracking. We'll wind up with part of my on-going conversation with permaculture guru Albert Bates: why is the worst news more popular than the best solutions? Radio Ecoshock 151111

I'm Alex Smith, welcome to Radio Ecoshock this week.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Or listen right now on Soundcloud!


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In May of 2013, we asked energy activist Nancy LaPlaca why the sun-drenched state of Arizona burned so much coal. That hasn't changed. You can download or listen to that interview here, or read about it in my blog here.

Nancy has moved to North Carolina, where she's helping uncover a national plot by big power companies to slow down solar power in America. She's working with two activist groups: NC Warn (Building people power for climate and energy justice) and Climate Voices, the science speakers network.

Nancy LaPlaca

According to the Washington Post, March 7, 2015, big U.S. utilities are fighting a campaign against rooftop solar power. In the article "Utilities Wage War Against Rooftop Solar" the Post's Joby Warrick wrote:

"If demand for residential solar continued to soar, traditional utilities could soon face serious problems, from 'declining retail sales' and a 'loss of customers” to “potential obsolescence,' according to a presentation prepared for the group. 'Industry must prepare an action plan to address the challenges,' it said."

You can find that document from the industry group "Edison Electric Institute" online, free, here.

Here is an excellent article, "Blocking the Sun" from the group "Environment America". It names names of the industry groups and big energy companies organizing to make it harder or more expensive for Americans to install rooftop solar.

It's happening in Australia too!

What are we talking about? Mega-energy corporations are trying to protect their big investments in dirty power plants, and their virtual monopoly on our energy system. It's a blow against democracy, where you can choose your own clean power.

In some states, big corporate lobby groups, like "Alec" - the American Legislative Exchange Council - "help" states to write laws and regulations that penalize rooftop solar. In some states, they even charge people $50 a month if they install solar and go off-grid! Behind it all, and behind industry groups like the Edison Electric Institute, are a mix of billionaires like the Koch Brothers, and giant energy companies like Duke Energy.

They like polluting coal plants, very expensive nuclear plants, and any kind of fossil fuel generating facility. They've invested billions in these fossils, and can see their market evaporating as people and communities make their own power from the wind and the sun. They know their products will wreck the Earth's climate for all coming generations - but hey! it's the stock price and profits the Quarter that really matter to them! It all reads like "Mr Burns" from the TV show "The Simpsons" when he blocks out the sun, to increase profits for his nuclear plant.

Nancy LaPlaca describes how it all works. One of the almost unknown ploys are the so-called "Public Utility Commissions" that can set rates and regulations. There is nothing public about them, and the public hardly knows these Commissioners exist, even though they make decisions worth many billions of dollars. In most states, Commissioners are not elected, but appointed by the State Governor. Guess who then gets huge contributions to their next campaign?

It's a shadowy operation at best. In North Carolina, for example, meetings of the Public Utility Commission are not available online or by video. You have to physically drive there and attend if you want to know what is going on. Of course, you probably won't be allowed to speak or ask questions. The results are generally already decided, after local big utilities tell them what they want.

Solar is upsetting all that. "Sunlight is the best detergent".

Find Nancy on Facebook here.

Download or listen to (or share!) this interview with Nancy LaPlaca in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


This is Radio Ecoshock, covering what the mainstream media leaves out. We are often ahead of breaking news. On September 30th I interviewed Neela Banerjee from InsideClimate News about their investigation into Exxon/Mobil. That company was warned by their own scientists, starting in the 1970's, that their products would generate dangerous climate change. In the 1990's Exxon funded groups specializing in sowing doubt, or outright denial of climate change. Now two months later the Attorney General of the State of New York is investigating Exxon/Mobil. The state wants to know if the world's largest oil and gas company misled the public and shareholders. You heard it hear first.

Read that show blog "Criminal Activity" here. Or listen to my interview with Neela Banerjee here.


President Obama killed off the Keystone Pipeline project, which hoped to bring dirty Tar Sands oil south to American refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. In his Press Conference on the Keystone decision, President Obama actually spoke these words, which have been a theme on Radio Ecoshock for almost a decade:

"Because ultimately if we are going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable, but uninhabitable in our lifetimes - we are going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground, rather than burn them, and release more dangerous pollution into the sky."

You can watch that full statement (8 minutes) on You tube here.


The Keystone Pipeline decision is another nail in the collapsing Tar Sands projects. But fracking in Western Canada continues at a mad rate, causing Earthquakes, and widespread pollution of water resources. Let's reach out to the best reporter on the case.

Andrew Nikiforuk

Calgary Alberta is the headquarters of Canada's boom and bust oil and gas industry, including the infamous Tar Sands and fracking. It takes guts to live there doing exposes on the damage done. That's what investigative journalist and author Andrew Nikiforuk did for the past 25 years, and he's still at it. His latest book is "Slick Water, Fracking and One Insider’s Stand Against the World’s Most Powerful Industry".

The heroine of this book is Jessica Ernst. She worked on projects for the oil and gas companies for more than a decade. She's in insider who went along with the game - until her home near Rosebud Alberta was surrounded by noisy fracking rigs.

The frackers were after "coal seam methane". There are various types of rocks that can hold bubbles of methane (known as "natural gas"). The coal seams are very fragile rock, and tend to be closer to the surface. That makes them difficult and dangerous to frack - but profitable too. Jessica was getting all kinds of complaints from ranchers that their water was now laced with methane. Her own well was polluted.

The fracking companies, and then the Province of Alberta, tried to claim methane in their water was always there. Except she had solid proof it wasn't. Using her skills, Jessica thought the Province would act to protect drinking water. In fact, the government just did a phony "investigation" and white-washed the whole thing. So she sued the government and the fracking companies.

The government's defence was that they are not responsible for protecting drinking water - even though they issue the permits to polluters!

Usually, where there is solid proof of groundwater pollution by fracking, the companies want to settle with a cheque. That stops the lawsuit, and includes a confidentiality agreement that hides all the facts. The victims are not allowed to talk about the settlement or the pollution. A lot of damage from fracking has been hidden from the public records in this way.

But not Jessica. She's continued a ten year suit against the companies, mostly paid for out of the last of her savings. She is determined to get this fracking pollution into the court records, and keep it all public.

That's very brave. Other local farmers wanted her to settle because they got money for the use of their property. At one point, secret police - from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police terrorism squad, arrived at Jessica's house. They were told she was a terrorist. They demanded the names of all the ranchers who had complained. Of course she refused, and hosted the plain clothes cops on her porch, in metal chairs, in the Alberta winter. They went away empty handed, after apologizing. So who sent them?

I think that anyone faced with fracking, anywhere in the world, should check out this case and Andrew's book. He's a great writer, with super investigative skills. The facts apply in Australia, the United States, Europe - wherever there is fracking. I'm glad to help Andrew and Jessica get this on the record on Radio Ecoshock.

I've followed Andrew Nikiforuk's writing on the energy industry for years. You can find his other great stuff on his web site here. For example, his previous book is intriguing: "The Energy of Slaves, Oil and the New Servitude." His articles are published by mainstream Canadian media, but also by most of the alternative press.

Download or listen to this interview with Andrew Nikiforuk in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

As always, you can download or forward these interviews, as separate mp3 files, using links in this show blog.


I've had an on-going discussion about solutions with Albert Bates. Regular listeners heard his talk and interviews at the recent Permaculture Convergence in London. Here is an excerpt from another talk with Albert, where I ask him about the mystery of our longing for news of the collapse, and the real meaning of a permanent culture.

I ask Albert to help me with a problem. If I do a Radio Ecoshock show covering how bad things are, we get twice the downloads of a program with positive solutions like permaculture. Why is that?

Bates says most people know, in their heart-of-hearts, that our fragile complex civilization is not sustainable, for a number of reasons. They expect it could, or will, collapse. So when a Radio Ecoshock program has experts pin-pointing those tipping points, and the big-picture risks, it actually helps listeners to formulate what they know for themselves. It's kind of a relief to know it's not just you worrying about the future. I love that Bates doesn't sugar coat it.

I think part of the difficulty is people can't grasp what permaculture is. It's hard. Albert teaches this subject in workshops around the world. What the heck is permaculture? His explanation is clear, I think.

I ask myself, if we want a permanent culture, rather than a crisis-to-crisis throwaway civilization, what would it look like? How could we live decently for a thousand years? For me, that's what permaculture is.

Lately I'm hearing of permaculture economics, maybe permaculture psychology. Can the definition of permaculture grow so large that it's core gets lost?

Albert says "no". In fact, the Australian originators of permaculture soon realized this needs more than a different kind of agriculture, or even food systems. The root of many problems is in our society, and we need "social" permaculture as well, and economics that don't endanger the planet or the future.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks, for more of my discussion with Albert Bates, former environmental lawyer turned permaculture teacher, at the intentional community "The Farm" in Tennessee. Keep up with Albert at his blog "The Great Change".


Next week, I'm scheming to bring you a devastating report on the lies we tell ourselves about climate change, as world leaders prepare for the Paris climate talks. It's harsh news that need to be told.

I'm Alex Smith. Thanks for being brave enough to listen, and for caring about our world. Please don't forget to help me keep going!