Sunday, March 02, 2014

"Global riot epidemic due to demise of cheap fossil fuels"

First a synopsis of the Ukrainian riots from the KyivPost:
A new wave of protests and clashes between protesters and police in Kyiv started after the Verkhovna Rada failed to register a resolution on reinstating the 2004 version of the Ukrainian constitution on Feb. 18, upon which the opposition had insisted. Over 80 people died in the clashes. This ultimately led to the change of government in the country: President Viktor Yanukovych has gone into hiding, and the Ukrainian parliament elected Oleksandr Turchynov as the new speaker and interim president on Feb. 22. The Verkhovna Rada also reinstated the 2004 constitution and scheduled early presidential elections for May 25. Yanukovych was declared internationally wanted on Feb. 24 on suspicion of responsibility for mass killings of peaceful protesters. 
....Most Russians are following the events in Ukraine, and nearly half of them are sure that the recent protests in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities have been influenced by the West, as is seen from a public opinion poll of 1,603 people the Levada Center sociological service conducted in 130 populated areas of 45 regions of Russia on Feb. 21-25. 
In the view of 45 percent of those polled, the Ukrainians are protesting under the influence of the West seeking to draw Ukraine into the orbit of its political interests, 32 percent explain the riots by nationalistic sentiments in society, and 17 percent are sure that the protests were fueled chiefly by hatred toward Yanukovych's corrupt regime.
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That riots would break out as shortages increased was to be expected to happen sometime. This author says it is now. From the Guardian.UK by Nafeez Ahmed:
If anyone had hoped that the Arab Spring and Occupy protests a few years back were one-off episodes that would soon give way to more stability, they have another thing coming. The hope was that ongoing economic recovery would return to pre-crash levels of growth, alleviating the grievances fueling the fires of civil unrest, stoked by years of recession. 
But this hasn't happened. And it won't
Instead the post-2008 crash era, including 2013 and early 2014, has seen a persistence and proliferation of civil unrest on a scale that has never been seen before in human history. This month alone has seen riots kick-off in VenezuelaBosniaUkraineIceland, and Thailand
This is not a coincidence. The riots are of course rooted in common, regressive economic forces playing out across every continent of the planet - but those forces themselves are symptomatic of a deeper, protracted process of global system failure as we transition from the old industrial era of dirty fossil fuels, towards something else. 
Even before the Arab Spring erupted in Tunisia in December 2010, analysts at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned of thedanger of civil unrest due to escalating food prices. If the Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) food price index rises above 210, they warned, it could trigger riots across large areas of the world.
The pattern is clear. Food price spikes in 2008 coincided with the eruption of social unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, Cameroon, Mozambique, Sudan, Haiti, and India, among others. 
In 2011, the price spikes preceded social unrest across the Middle East and North Africa - Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Libya, Uganda, Mauritania, Algeria, and so on. 
Last year saw food prices reach their third highest year on record, corresponding to the latest outbreaks of street violence and protests in Argentina, Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and elsewhere. 
Since about a decade ago, the FAO food price index has more than doubled from 91.1 in 2000 to an average of 209.8 in 2013. As Prof Yaneer Bar-Yam, founding president of the Complex Systems Institute, told Vice magazine last week: 
"Our analysis says that 210 on the FAO index is the boiling point and we have been hovering there for the past 18 months... In some of the cases the link is more explicit, in others, given that we are at the boiling point, anything will trigger unrest." 
But Bar-Yam's analysis of the causes of the global food crisis don't go deep enough - he focuses on the impact of farmland being used for biofuels, and excessive financial speculation on food commodities. But these factors barely scratch the surface. 
The recent cases illustrate not just an explicit link between civil unrest and an increasingly volatile global food system, but also the root of this problem in the increasing unsustainability of our chronic civilisational addiction to fossil fuels. 
...Ukraine is a net energy importer, having peaked in oil and gas production way back in 1976. Despite excitement about domestic shale potential, Ukraine's oil production has declined by over 60% over the last twenty years driven by both geological challenges and dearth of investment. 
...Currently, about 80% of Ukraine's oil, and 80% of its gas, is imported from Russia.   
...Of course, the elephant in the room is climate change. According to Japanese media, a leaked draft of the UN Intergovernmental Panel onClimate Change's (IPCC) second major report warned that while demand for food will rise by 14%, global crop production will drop by 2% per decade due to current levels of global warming, and wreak $1.45 trillion of economic damage by the end of the century. The scenario is based on a projected rise of 2.5 degrees Celsius. 
This is likely to be a very conservative estimate
 ....Unfortunately, simply taking to the streets isn't the answer. What is needed is a meaningful vision for civilisational transition - backed up with people power and ethical consistence....

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The State of the Oceans

I figured I would Google "The State of the Oceans" to see what came up. What I got was links to a newish website, http://www.stateoftheocean.org/ that outlines many of the problems along with suggested solutions.


Professor Rogers: "Human impacts on the oceans are damaging vital food resources and functions that feedback to climate change and move us further towards unpredictable and potentially catastrophic changes to the environment, biodiversity and human society. This is of deep concern to me and the majority of scientists who study the ocean and should be treated as a global emergency of utmost urgency".


Big Threats: 
Climate Change, Over-fishing, Habitat Destruction, (Oil, etc.) Extraction, Pollution & Alien Species Introduction.


"In Brief: Most, if not all, of the five global mass extinctions in Earth's history carry the fingerprints of the main symptoms of global carbon perturbations (global warming, ocean acidification and anoxia or lack of oxygen; e.g. Veron, 2008).
It is these three factors — the 'deadly trio' — which are present in the ocean today. In fact, the current carbon perturbation is unprecedented in the Earth's history because of the high rate and speed of change. Acidification is occurring faster than in the past 55 million years, and with the added man-made stressors of overfishing and pollution, undermining ocean resilience.

.... Continued releases and slow breakdown rates mean that legacy chemical pollution ( such as from DDT) remains a major concern. However, concerns have been raised recently over a wide range of novel chemicals now being found in marine ecosystems or suspected to be harmful to marine life. High-profile examples include brominated flame retardants, fluorinated compounds, pharmaceuticals and synthetic musks used in detergents and personal care products.
Some of these chemicals have been located recently in the Canadian Arctic seas, and some are known to be endocrine disrupters or can damage immune systems. Marine litter and plastics are also of major concern, and there is evidence that certain plastics can transport other harmful chemicals in the marine environment.

…..Scientists at the IPSO meeting agreed that overfishing is exerting an intolerable pressure on ecosystems already under attack by the effects of acidification and warming, and other largely man-made ocean problems. A recent study showed that 63% of the assessed fish stocks worldwide are over-exploited or depleted and over half of them require further reduction of fishing, in order to recover.
The near extinction of a fish called Chinese bahaba (Bahaba taipingensis) is one of the many examples that highlight how overfishing threatens marine biodiversity. It has taken less than seventy years for this giant fish to become critically endangered after it was first described by scientists in the 1930s."

Beijing Air Pollution



View image on Twitter
From a video of the Sunrise - in Beijing - because it is too smoggy to see.

http://youtu.be/co0QxKRLpqY

From the Weather Underground:


BEIJING -- A dense fog shrouded Beijing's skyscrapers as China's capital saw its first wave of dangerous pollution in 2014, with the concentration of toxins registering more than 24 times the level considered safe.
The air took on an acrid odor, and many of the city's commuters wore industrial strength face masks as they hurried to work.
"I couldn't see the tall buildings across the street this morning," said a traffic coordinator at a busy Beijing intersection who gave only his surname, Zhang. "The smog has gotten worse in the last two to three years. I often cough, and my nose is always irritated. But what can you do? I drink more water to help my body discharge the toxins."


The city's air quality is often poor, especially in winter when stagnant weather patterns combine with an increase in coal-burning to exacerbate other forms of pollution and create periods of heavy smog for days at a time. But the readings early Thursday for particles of PM2.5 pollution marked the first ones of the season above 500 micrograms per cubic meter.

The density of PM2.5 was about 350 to 500 micrograms Thursday midmorning, though the air started to clear in the afternoon. It had reached as high as 671 at 4 a.m. at a monitoring post at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. That is about 26 times as high as the 25 micrograms considered safe by the World Health Organization, and was the highest reading since January 2013.
Serious air pollution plagues most major Chinese cities, where environmental protection has been long sacrificed for the sake of economic development. Coal burning and car emissions are major sources of pollution. In recent years, China has beefed up regulations and pledged financial resources to fight pollution.


"December 2013 Global Weather Extremes Summary"

From the Weather Underground:

ASIA

In mid-December a pool of very cold air and a low pressure in the eastern Mediterranean brought exceptionally heavy snow to the higher elevations of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Amman, Jordan reported up to 20 cm (8”) of snow and neighborhoods in Jerusalem saw up to 50 cm (20”). At lower elevations torrential rains of up to 150 mm (6”) caused flooding. Especially hard hit was the Gaza Strip where 40,000 people were displaced and damage was estimated at US$64 million.



Residents of Amman, Jordan enjoy the rare heavy snowfall that deposited 20 cm (8”)on the city on December 13th.Photo from REUTERS.

Temperature anomalies for warmth were near record territory for almost the entire month in Central Asia, especially in Kazakhstan.


AUSTRALIA

It was yet another warmer than normal month for Australia and also a bit drier than average. In fact, Queensland experienced its 3rd driest December on record with a statewide average of just 26.2 mm (1.03”)—the driest was that of 1938 when the average was 19.6 mm (0.77”).


EUROPE

Western Europe was slammed with what seemed like a never-ending series of powerful extra-tropical cyclones. The worst of these hit the U.K. around Christmastime and resulted in near-record low barometric pressure readings for the U.K. Stronoway, Scotland saw the pressure drop to 936.8 mb (27.66”) on December 24th. Fortunately, the tightest pressure gradients (and thus strongest winds) were to the north of Scotland and thus over sea, so given the powerful nature of the storm surprisingly little damage occurred in the U.K. or Ireland. It was the warmest December since 1988 for the U.K. as whole and precipitation was much above average (154% of such) as a result of the many cyclones. Scotland had its wettest December on record (since 1910). 



SOUTH AMERICA and CENTRAL AMERICA

December 2013 was one of Argentina’s hottest months on record. Buenos Aires tied its all-time hottest month (any month) on record (since 1856) with a sweltering 26.6°C (79.9°F) average. The prolonged heat wave caused power outages and water shortages resulting in many large street demonstrations in the city. In the northwest of the country temperatures peaked at 45.5°C (113.9°F) at Chamical on December 26th.

Torrential rainfalls caused flooding in Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo States of Brazil resulting in flooding that took at least 44 lives. All-time monthly precipitation records were set at several sites including 921 mm (36.26”) at Capelinha, 851.6 mm (33.53”) at Aimores, 837.4 mm (32.97”) at Santa Teesa, and 714 mm (28.11”) at Vitoria (Esperito Santo).


NORTH AMERICA

It was a relatively ‘normal’ December in the contiguous U.S. with the most significant events being ice and snowstorms affecting the central and northeastern portions of the country and drought conditions worsening in California.


In the southeast, some all-time monthly heat records were set including 83°F (28.3°C) at Augusta, Georgia on December 21st and 81°F (27.2°C) at Norfolk, Virginia on December 22nd (Savannah, Georgia 83°F/28.3°C) and Jacksonville, Florida 84°F/28.9°C tied their monthly records).


A tremendous plume of sub-tropical moisture invaded the Midwest and East December 20-22. An amazing 10.24” (260 mm) of rain in 24 hours was reported at a site near Williams, Indiana, just short of the Indiana state record for such (for any month) of 10.50” (267 mm) at Princeton on August 6, 1905. 


The massive storm of December 20-23 caused significant ice accumulations from Texas to Canada. Worst hit was the Toronto, Canada where ice accumulated up to 30 mm (1.2”) thick.

Alaska saw some wild swings of temperature that included an all-time ‘heat’ record for any Arctic Ocean-based site in the state for December when the temperature reached 39°F (3.9°C) at Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay) on December 7th. Interestingly a similar event occurred in Sweden’s Lapland on December 11th 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Antibiotic resistance will mean the end of just about everything as we know it"

From Salon.com
In the United States, 2 million people are infected with drug-resistant “superbugs” every year, and at least 23,000 die as a result. Such numbers, journalist Maryn McKenna suggests, will seem trivial if we reach the point when all antibiotics are no longer effective — something that’s on track to become a reality.
Considering the full implications of a post-antibiotic era, McKenna concludes that it wouldn’t be so different from the apocalypse. And to know what we’re facing, we need only look at where we’ve come from:
Before antibiotics, five women died out of every 1,000 who gave birth. One out of nine people who got a skin infection died, even from something as simple as a scrape or an insect bite. Three out of ten people who contracted pneumonia died from it. Ear infections caused deafness; sore throats were followed by heart failure. In a post-antibiotic era, would you mess around with power tools? Let your kid climb a tree? Have another child?
To start with, McKenna writes, the loss of antibiotics will mean the end of modern medicine as we know it, impeding everything from surgery to chemotherapy to the far more prosaic:
At UCLA, [Dr. Brad] Spellberg treated a woman with what appeared to be an everyday urinary-tract infection — except that it was not quelled by the first round of antibiotics, or the second. By the time he saw her, she was in septic shock, and the infection had destroyed the bones in her spine. A last-ditch course of the only remaining antibiotic saved her life, but she lost the use of her legs. “This is what we’re in danger of,” he says. “People who are living normal lives who develop almost untreatable infections.”  ....
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Note: As terrible as it is to have people dying from simple infections, our current medical advantages are not sustainable. Antibiotics are partly responsible for our over-population problem. Various diseases are part of the normal processes that keep people in check. Of course, very few would choose to do without those advantages, if given a choice. Nature taking it's course, is not such a bad thing, however, for life on the planet as a whole.

"Invest, Divest: Renewable Investment To Hit $630 Billion A Year In 2030, Fossil Fuel Stocks At Risk Today"



Bloomberg New Energy Finance has a must-read piece for investors on how the smart money is beginning to notice the quicksand on which fossil fuel stock prices are built.
BNF
We reported back in April that BNEF said 70 percent of new power generation capacity added between 2012 and 2030 will be from renewable technologies (including large hydro).
Indeed, BNEF founder Michael Liebreich posed a good news, bad news story back then:
“By 2030, the growth in fossil fuel use will almost have stopped,” Liebreich told renewable-energy investors…. “We’re told that it needs to happen by 2020” in order to prevent irreversible climate damage. “That won’t happen. But by 2030, it pretty much will.”
Yes, homo “sapiens” will miss by just 10 years or so the window to avert catastrophic climate change — resulting in possibly hundreds of years of misery for billions and billions of people. The tragic irony is the fossil fuel industry is essentially doomed no matter what — but humanity wouldn’t be, if we were just a tad more “sapiens.”
We reported in August that a Goldman Sachs research paper concluded the “window for profitable investment in coal mining is closing” — same for for coal exports.
Now BNEF points out that much the same is true for oil investments:
Last month 70 investors representing $3 trillion of assets under management sent letters to oil-and-gas companies asking them to disclose plans for adapting to a world that may be edging closer to peak fossil fuels. That’s the point when humans stop increasing their annual burn – either because the environmental danger makes it too costly or because buildings and cars run more efficiently. BNEF says peak demand could happen in 2030.
The risk: Oil and coal companies worth more than $7 trillion may be sinking billions of dollars today into projects that will never make sense to finish.
A key point of this article is that it isn’t just enviros saying the days of fossil fuel are numbered. We have institutional investors, Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg New Energy Finance and many, many others in the financial industry:
In 2013, so-called carbon-asset risk “went from a conceptual possibility to a sort of near-and-present reality,” Nick Robins, head of the Climate Change Center at HSBC Holdings Plc in London, said in a phone interview. He wrote a research note in January valuing the risk of “unburnable reserves”: the oil and coal on companies’ balance sheets that will be too expensive to extract. “There is this undertow of demand destruction going on through technological improvement. That’s certainly not fully priced at the moment.”
And that’s without even considering the possibility of the world coming to its senses on the threat posed by unrestricted carbon pollution in time to avert the worst.
There’s more:
“The end is nigh” for global oil-demand growth, proclaimed a Citigroup report in March. Standard & Poor’s cautioned that a patchwork of policies that cut demand for fuels could lead to outlook revisions and downgrades in smaller oil-and-gas companies as early as next year, with a similar shock to the majors in 2016. Goldman Sachs’s advice to oil companies: “invest only in medium-/high-return projects, spend the rest of their cash on buybacks and focus on per share growth.” Translation: prepare to shrink the business.
Divesting from fossil fuels isn’t risky. Not divesting is.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

"Amazing Bird’s Eye View Of Texas Fracking"


Fracking Texas aerial view



















An aerial photo taken on August 3rd of fracking operations in Texas has caused a rumble online, drawing 20,000 views on the photo sharing site, Flckr.
The photo, posted by Amy Youngs, carries the inscription:
Saw these strange new human-made landscapes on my flight from Sacramento to Houston. Not farming, not subdivisions, but many miles of rectangular patches etched out of the earth, some with pools next to them, all with roads to them. I doubt that people see these when driving on major roads – I never have – but they were very visible from a plane. Welcome to your new landscape!
Modern-day hydraulic fracturing was first developed in Texas’ Barnett Shale. As of 2011, the state led the nation with over 100,00 gas wells – many of which have involved fracking in recent years. The water-intensive process is being questioned as Texas faces drought conditions.
See an interactive image of the above fracking operations in google maps.
http://www.popularresistance.org/amazing-birds-eye-view-of-texas-fracking/

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

"Jellyfish taking over oceans, experts warn"


(CNN) -- 
"Jellyfish and tourism are not happy bedfellows," says Dr. Lisa-Ann Gershwin, author of the recently published book, "Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean."

Gershwin says popular beach resorts around the world are seeing huge increases in jellyfish "bloom" activity, a result of overfishing and changing water temperatures.

"The French and Spanish Rivieras, Chesapeake Bay, the Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii ... some of the numbers are staggering," says the American scientist who's now based in Australia.

"In Hawaii there have been times that 800 or 1,000 people have been stung in a day. In Spain or Florida, it's not uncommon in recent years for a half a million people to be stung during an outbreak. These numbers are simply astonishing."

At the beginning of October, a large amount of jellyfish inhabiting a cooling-water intake at a Swedish nuclear plant caused operators to manually shut down production at its largest reactor.

In Ireland, a jellyfish bloom reportedly killed thousands of farmed salmon, according to the Irish Times.
This past summer, southern Europe experienced one of its worst jellyfish infestations ever. Experts there have been reporting a steady increase in the number of jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea for years.

According to a report titled "Review of Jellyfish Blooms in the Mediterranean and Black Sea," written by Fernando Borea for the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean and the United Nations, scientists are catching up to what travelers in the Med have been experiencing for years.

"In the last decade ... the media are reporting on an increasingly high number of gelatinous plankton blooms," reads the report. "The reason for these reports is that thousands of tourists are stung, fisheries are harmed and even impaired by jellyfish."

Although noting that significant jellyfish blooms "have been known since ancient times and are part of the normal functioning of the oceans," the report cites global warming and global overfishing (which removes jellyfish predators) as causes for exploding jellyfish populations in recent years.

The situation in the Mediterranean was dire enough to prompt Britain's foreign office to issue a warning to its citizens vacationing along Europe's southern coast to watch out for jellyfish.

There are more than 2,000 species of jellyfish swimming through the world's waters.
Most stings are completely harmless. Some will leave you in excruciating pain.
Then there are the killers.

Many of the world's deadliest jellyfish are box jellyfish, which refers to the species' cube-shaped meduae.

"There are several species of big box jellyfish that have caused many deaths -- these include chironex fleckeri in Australia, chironex quadrigatus in Japan and related species in Thailand, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia," says associate professor Jamie Seymour, a venom biologist at Australia's James Cook University.

Also known as the sea wasp and the northern Australian box jellyfish, the chironex fleckeri is possibly the worlds most venomous animal.

Its tentacles can reach lengths of up to three meters long, while its bell is about the size of a human head. It can be found throughout the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific.

A close cousin and fellow contender for the "world's most venomous" cup is the Irukandji, which is the size of a thimble.

Good luck scanning the waters for that one before you leap in.

"How toxic they are is just phenomenally frightening and equally fascinating," says Gershwin.
"Just the lightest brush -- you don't even feel it -- and then, whammo, you're in more pain than you ever could have imagined, and you are struggling to breathe and you can't move your limbs and you can't stop vomiting and your blood pressure just keeps going up and up.

"It is really surprising how many places they occur around the world -- places you would never expect: Hawaii, Caribbean, Florida, Wales, New Caledonia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, India ... as well as Australia."

Is any place safe?
"More and more, places around the world that are suffering from jellyfish problems with tourists are developing prediction systems so that tourists can know when it is safe," says Gershwin.

The irony, she says, is that tourists who avoid an area because of the known risk may alter their plans to hit a "safe" beach whose officials are merely less up front about the jellyfish situation, putting themselves more at risk.

A common misconception is that places such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines are free of dangerous jellyfish.

"Jellyfish occur in all marine waters from pole to pole and at all depths," says Gershwin. "The life threatening ones are found from about 40 degrees north to 40 degrees south latitude.

"Australia is upfront about its jellyfish dangers, and also assertive in safety management, whereas other places have them, but may understand less about them or, in some cases, just don't want to say. I think tourists need to be very aware of local hazards and not expect to necessarily be provided with information."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Economists Forecast the End of Growth as We Know It..."

From The Guardian / By Nafeez Ahmed

Unlimited GDP growth is over as we enter a new age of resource scarcity - we must transition to a new economy.



The last few weeks has seen bad news for the global economy, with the US and Europe facing growth slowdowns, and even much vaunted economic powerhouses Brazil, Russia, India and China faltering unexpectedly. While mainstream economists continue to predict an ongoing 'recovery', other leading experts point to the end of growth as we know it for the foreseeable future.
Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) slashed its quarterly forecasts for global GDP growth from 3.3% to 3.1%, and revised down growth estimates for other major powers. The US forecast was downgraded from 1.9% to 1.7%, and Europe is expected to contract 0.6% rather than the originally estimated 0.3%. The IMF also downgraded growth forecasts for 2014.
Against this background, evidence has emerged that the era of booming economic growth is over, and that we are entering an age of permanently slow growth - at best.
A new paper in the journal International Productivity Monitor finds that underlying the US recession is a long-term decline in productivity growth, interrupted briefly by the "dot.com revolution" for eight years, followed by a slump "to 1.47 in the past eight years."
Study author US economist Prof Robert J Gordon of Northeastern University concludes:
"... we face a significant possibility that the disposable income growth for the bottom 99% of the income distribution could be as low as 0.5% per year, or perhaps even 0.2%."
This conclusion complements Gordon's previous prediction last year that by 2100, the US economy would return to an annual growth rate of 0.2%. He describes the second industrial revolution as the core driver behind rocketing growth experienced over the last 250 years, noting that the main factor behind the continuing slump since 1970 - escalating over "the last eight years", was a lack of sufficient industrial innovation capable of fundamentally "changing labour productivity or the standard of living."
He argued:
"Future growth in real GDP per capita will be slower than in any extended period since the late 19th century."
The "headwinds" holding growth back include key economic issues such as "rising inequality", the "end of the 'demographic dividend'", the "overhang of consumer and government debt", as well as "the consequences of environmental regulations and taxes that will make growth harder to achieve than a century ago."
While Prof Gordon has his naysayers, his outlook is surprisingly corroborated by other experts. HSBC Group chief economist Stephen D. King's new book, When the Money Runs Out: The End of Western Affluence, portends how the age of high economic growth will never return, largely due to the "exhaustion of various one-off productivity gains that boosted growth after World War II" and "a tripling in rates of consumer credit founded on an unsustainable increase in housing prices", among other factors. King disagrees with Gordon's worst-case scenarios, but agrees that the dividends that made high growth possible in the past appear largely "unrepeatable."
Last month, King and HSBC also slashed their global growth forecasts for 2013 from 2.2% to 2.0%, which they explained was due to unexpected slowdowns in emerging markets.
These downgrades are yet another example of the failure of mainstream economic models to keep up with the real nature and pace of global economic deterioration. Indeed, missing from the above analyses is recognition of a central factor: that the productivity gains driving industrial growth were enabled by the abundance of cheap fossil fuelsand other resources.
In his latest newsletter, legendary fund manager Jeremy Grantham - who made billions predicting every major stock market bubble of recent decades - warns that cheap resources are history:
"Our global economy, reckless in its use of all resources and natural systems, shows many of the indicators of potential failure that brought down so many civilisations before ours."
Industrial civilisation is currently "completely dependent on the availability of cheap energy." Therefore, resource depletion combined with "the wild cards of rising temperatures, slowly rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and, above all, destabilised weather for farming" could lead to "a rolling collapse of much of civilisation" - unless the world embarks on a "Manhattan project level of commitment" to transition to an alternative energy and agricultural system.  
However, Grantham now highlights two trends that could facilitate the transition to a more stable economy - declining fertility rates and the rise of renewable energy. Garnering data over the last 40 years, he demonstrates a "remarkable drop in fertility" in the US, Europe, the richer East Asian countries including China, and even South Asia and Africa. According to the more optimistic end of UN projections, if such trends continue global population would peak at 8 million by 2050 before declining to near 6 billion by 2100 - a process which could be sped up with appropriate policy measures.
Simultaneously, Grantham argues we may be on the cusp of "a great technological leap that for the first time is accompanied by less energy use – the technologies of solar, wind power, and other alternatives as well as electric grid efficiencies and improved energy storage." By 2025 to 2030, he observes:
"Both solar and wind power are likely to be cheaper than coal... once the capital is found and the project is built, a wind or solar farm delivers far cheaper energy than a coal-fired utility plant, at around one-third of the marginal cost of coal."
He estimates that "nonrenewable energy" could be completely replaced by renewables "in 30 to 50 years", during which the new technologies will become increasingly cheap and efficient.
But Grantham still concurs that these developments cannot herald a return to the era of high growth, although they might smooth the way toward a new economy that is "less overreaching, less hubristic, a lot humbler about growth and our use of resources, and more determined to live in balance with the natural energy we receive from the sun and the heat, food, and water with which we can sustainably be provided."

Thursday, July 04, 2013

" Extreme Jet Stream Bringing U.S. Record Heat, Record Cold, and Flash Flooding"

Here is the Midwest - we are having quite the pleasant summer - unusually so. Relatively cool, low humid, rather rainy - good for the gardens, good for having the windows open.

By Dr. Jeff Masters - From the WeatherUnderground:

"The jet steam is exhibiting unusual behavior over the U.S., a pattern we've seen become increasingly common in summertime over the past decade. There's a sharp trough of low pressure over the Central U.S., and equally sharp ridges of high pressure over the Western U.S. and East Coast. Since the jet acts as the boundary between cool, Canadian air to the north and warm, subtropical air to the south, this means that hot extremes are penetrating unusually far to the north under the ridges of high pressure, and cold extremes are extending unusually far to the south under the trough of low pressure." 


"The ridge over the Western U.S., though slowly weakening, is still exceptionally intense. This ridge, which on Sunday brought Earth its highest temperatures in a century (129°F or 54°C in Death Valley, California), was responsible for more record-breaking heat on Tuesday. July 2. Most notably, Redding, California hit 116°, just 2° short of their all-time record. Death Valley had a low of 104°, the second hottest night on record since 1920 (the hottest was just last summer!) Numerous daily high temperature records were set in Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. It was the opposite story in the Central U.S., where the southwards-plunging jet stream allowed record cold air to invade Texas. Waco, Texas, hit 58°F this morning (July 3), the coldest temperature ever measured in July in the city. Numerous airports in Texas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas, and Missouri set new daily record low temperatures this morning. And over the Eastern U.S., the northward-pointing branch of the jet stream is creating a potentially dangerous flooding situation, by pulling a moisture-laden flow of tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico over the Florida Panhandle north-northeastward into the Appalachians. Up to five inches of rain is expected over this region over the next few days, and wunderground's severe weather map is showing flash flood warnings for locations in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Heat Records Broken in Alaska

From Climate Central:


A massive dome of high pressure, sometimes referred to as a "heat dome," has set up shop over Alaska, bringing all-time record temperatures just a few weeks after parts of the state had a record cold start to spring. In some cases, towns in Alaska were warmer on Monday and Tuesday than most locations in the lower 48 states.
Forecast temperature anomalies on June 19 from the GFS computer model.
Click image to enlarge. Credit: WeatherBell.com.
For example, Talkeetna set an all-time high temperature record of 96°F on Monday, smashing its previous mark of 91°F set a day earlier, and previously set in June of 1969. In fact, it was warmer in Talkeetna, which is about 110 miles north of Anchorage, than it was in Miami, based on data from the National Weather Service (NWS). (As Weather Underground's Christopher Burt notes, there was an unofficial observation of 98°F on Monday, which would rank among the hottest all-time temperature records for the state.)
In Valdez, which sits along the cool waters of Prince William Sound, the temperature reached a remarkable 90°F Monday, beating the previous all-time mark of 87°F. And in Seward, another coastal port, the temperature hit 88°F, breaking the previous all-time high of 87°F that was set on July 4, 1999.
Extreme heat was also felt across the interior of Alaska, where hot temperatures are expected to continue this week until the large high pressure area, or ridge in the jet stream, weakens and moves away. The heat, combined with low relative humidity and the chance for thunderstorms, is raising the risk of wildfires across parts of Alaska.
A map of the upper level air flow at about 18,000 feet. The bright red area over Alaska corresponds to an unusually strong area of High Pressure bringing warmer-than-average temperatures.
Credit: WeatherBell.com.



Alaska is one of the fastest-warming states in the U.S., largely because the nearby Arctic region is warming rapidly in response to manmade global warming and natural variability. In recent years, Alaska has had to content with large wildfiresmelting permafrost, and reduced sea ice, among other climate-related challenges.