Australian author Clive Hamilton on geoengineering & his new book “Earthmasters”. Plots by big oil, Bill Gates & nuke scientists. Shocking new science shows Arctic could melt at current carbon levels. Plus world-wide growth of bike sharing with Janet Larsen of Earth-Policy. Radio Ecoshock 130522 1 hour http://tinyurl.com/mg5uj4w
Welcome traveller. Can you handle the truth?
I didn’t think so. Me neither.
But it will happen anyway. Science is beginning to prove we have already changed the planet’s climate in dangerous ways.
A small group of climate scientists, backed by a billionaire and big oil, are considering taking over control of the climate, to stave off disaster. Then we’ll find proof our current 400 parts per million will melt so much Arctic and Antarctic ice, warming up to 8 degrees C, flooding the world’s largest cities.
We’ll wrap that up with one of the few positive alternatives growing in this disturbed scene: a wave of bike sharing around the world. Includes Europe, U.S., Mexico, South America, China.
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CLIVE HAMILTON – EARTHMASTERS
Gather round boys and girls as we tell the story of the Earthmasters – the men who would take over from nature, to run the climate of the world. Or do they mean to save us from our fossil-addicted selves?
For all who love a conspiracy, geoengineering has it all. The oil companies, far-right think-tanks, nuclear weapons scientists, and even Bill Gates. But you’ll have to hang in, while we first look at a few small problems in their plans.
Our guide is Clive Hamilton. After careers in the Australian public service as an economics and resource advisor, and several stints at Universitites like Yale, Cambridge, and Oxford, Hamilton founded and ran a progressive think-tank called the Australia Institute. Now he’s Professor of Public Ethics in a program run by two Australian universities.
You may have heard of books Clive’s written or co-written, including “Growth Fetish”, “Affluenza“, “Silencing Dissent” and more recently “Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change.” But his latest is “Earthmasters, The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering.“
We reached Clive Hamilton in Canberra.
We cover a lot of important points. One of the big questions: if we start cooling the planet, say with Solar Radiation Management, what happens if we stop? Answer: the temperature goes up very quickly in a matter of months or even weeks, as the aerosols are rained out. It could be a jump of several degrees.
That leads to an absolutely key point: the RATE if temperature increase is possibly more important than the overall increase. If we gain a half a degree per decade, some plants, animals and ocean species will have time to migrate further toward the poles, or higher up mountains, to survive. But if there is a relatively sudden jump of one or two degrees global mean temperature, (more in some areas) – then mass extinctions will result. That is one of the supreme risks of geoengineering.
It’s easy to picture a scenario where a fleet of aircraft spraying sulfates, or a fleet of ships spraying up salt water continuously, could stop. A financial crash, war, plague, or terrorism could end the program. Then all of the heating we’ve covered up with geoengineering would strike the planet. No one has a tenable answer for this problem.
A second key issue: who will decide when and how to start geoengineering? A single country could do it, like Russia, the United States, or even Malaysia. It’s possible a billionaire could decide to cool off the planet, with no public consultation. In fact, we learn that Bill Gates, the Microsoft Founder, has been pouring millions into a research fund to develop science – and patents! – to cool the planet. Some businessmen hope to make money controlling the technology that could save us from extreme climate change.
The Gates foundation has been advised by two scientists in particular, Ken Caldeira and David Keith. These are highly regarded climate scientists, Caldeira from Stanford and Keith from Harvard. David Keith is a great example of a man who seems to deny climate change, or at least thinks it won’t matter to humans, we can adapt – and yet he gets money from Canadian Tar Sands billionaire N Murray Edwards to further the cause of geoengineering. How can Conservatives have it both ways? Another important player in this “geo-clique” is Brad Allenby.
Another associate at Intellectual Ventures is Lowell Wood, a former nuclear weapons researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and protege of the late Edward Teller, inventor of the hydrogen bomb. Before his death, Edward Teller was promoting a scheme to launch millions of mirrors into space to deflect the sun away from the Earth. Teller was a Cold Warrior who also championed the “Star Wars” scheme under President Ronald Reagan. Wood is one of a collection of people who moved from nuclear weapons research into geoengineering. And why not? If you think humans should control the Earth by force, why not control the climate the same way? In fact, some of these men want to control Nature entirely. Former Vice President Dick Cheney or the current Dictator of North Korea would probably agree that’s a good thing.
Such schemes reduce sunlight for all creatures on Earth, including our own needs for agriculture. And they do nothing to stop the equally deadly acidification of the oceans from our fossil fuel pollution.
Obviously, big oil and coal companies would love to have a technological solution that lets them burn even more of their polluting produces. In the interview, and in his book Earthmasters, Clive Hamilton tells us how Exxon/Mobil and Shell are investing in geoengineering schemes.
Strangest of all, the right-wing think tank the American Enterprise Institute also backs Solar Radiation Management, or geoengineering, to stave off global heating. The AEI was previously given millions of dollars, and acted to deny global warming was even happening. That’s quite a switch, going from denial straight to demanding emergency action to stop climate change!
Clive Hamilton suggests the problem of global warming indicates a failing of the free market system – since the true cost of polluting the atmosphere was never factored in. But now, with geoengineering, the capitalists system tries to vindicate itself by converting a horrible problem into a wonderful victory with technology it controls.
Due to time limitations, we didn’t cover technologies to suck carbon dioxide out of the air. People are going to have to buy the book to get that.
Part of the reason Clive wrote the book, and is now touring North America, is to wake up the public and get a real discussion going about who should control this tech, if we ever need it. Naturally, the far better solution is to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions before we lose the climate civilization depends on.
Find out more at Clive’s web site.
Now in fairness, we have to say there are genuine and worthy climate scientists who are terrified about the way the climate trap is going. They don’t get money from the military or Bill Gates. They just see the Arctic meltdown and species leaving the stage forever, and think “we’ve got to do something fast”. What could we do that isn’t too crazy or dangerous?
I think there will be a “climate emergency”. We get two years where crops don’t grow. It could be floods or extreme heat, whatever. Millions die and there is a call for action. The geoengineers step forward with a plan. Will we be able to say “no”?
That’s why I didn’t ask Clive about international negotiations or laws. It’s still the Wild West of the atmosphere, where just one
determined dictator, billionaire, or president could decide to cool the world.
NEW SCIENCE FROM THE ARCTIC: WE MAY HAVE ALREADY PASSED THE BIG MELTING POINT
In the last year, scientists discovered a climate record going back over 3 million years – long beyond the ice core records of 800,000 years. Research led by Professor Julie Brigham-Grette, from the University of Masschusetts, Amherst drastically changes our understanding of the world.
She’s been studying a meteor-impact lake called El’ gygytgyn on the Eastern tip of Siberia.Drilling into a lake in the Russian Arctic, created from a meteor strike ages ago, she found several periods where the Arctic was up to 8 degrees warmer than today. That despite carbon dioxide levels thought to be similar to, or below, today’s 400 parts per million. Zoom out on this Google Map to see where that lake is.
The Greenland Ice sheets have repeatedly shrunk to half current size. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet completely disappeared 1.1 million years ago. The sea level was tens of meters higher than today.
All this happened not with carbon levels like the 600 parts per million and above projected by politicians and planners, but at only 400 parts per million, our current level. It appears we may have already arrived at greenhouse gas levels sufficient to drastically warm the poles, make sea ice history, melt Greenland and parts of Antarctica, and flood coastal areas around the world. All that may be only a matter of time.
In the radio show I play a selection of key clips recorded from a You tube video presentation by Dr. Julie Brigham-Grette, at Amherst, in the summer of 2012 – almost a year ago, and yet hardly anyone has heard of these startling findings. Find out more at frontierscientists.com, hosted by University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
I highly recommend you watch this full Youtube video of Julie Brigham-Grette with all the graphs and charts. Scary stuff.
FINALLY SOME GOOD NEWS: BIKE SHARING IS EXPLODING AROUND THE WORLD!
Quick quiz: what way of getting around is growing faster than “any mode of transport in the history of the planet?”
If you said cars, motorbikes, or skateboards… nope. The right answer is “bike sharing”. It’s almost enough to give us hope – and that’s the intention of the the ongoing work called “Plan B” from Lester Brown’s Earth Policy Institute.
Here to brighten our day with news about the wave of carbon-friendly bicycle travel around the world is Janet Larsen. She’s the Director of Research for the Earth Policy Institute. Over 500 cities world-wide have installed millions of share-able bikes.
Janet Larsen, Earth Policy Institute
There’s plenty of bike action in North America, but we start with Europe. They have been the world leaders in urban biking, other than China. A few of us heard about free bikes in Amsterdam back in the day, but those were stolen to be sold off in Eastern Europe. We talk about bicycle solutions today in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.
The Copenhagen “Bycyklen” system just shut down at the end of 2012, as part of “austerity”. There was such a big public outcry, the government has now promised a new modern bike sharing system to replace it.
The French were never known for their biking, but Citi Group helped pioneer a sharing system in Rouen that was very successful. Now every tourist to Paris enjoys the great bike sharing system there.
I wince with pain when I think about what happened in China. In the early 1990’s, we all saw video of throngs of commuters biking into work in most of China’s cities. Now that’s been wiped out by the same polluting car culture developed in America, and pushed by many of the same car companies, like General Motors. That car-culture is beginning to fail them. China is still the world’s largest bicycle maker, and some Chinese cities have installed a lot of shared bikes, up to 90,000 in one city alone. There are lots of exciting things going on with biking in China.
In our interview, we also look at the challenges facing bicycle transport in Mexico, and innovative programs in Central and South America.
NORTH AMERICAN BIKE SHARING
Another whole aspect of this is bike messengers and inner-city deliveries. We have a small fleet of tricycle “freight” bikes operating in downtown Vancouver.
Freight Tricycle Vancouver (photo Alex Smith)
No doubt you’ve heard that New York City will be opening a giant new bike sharing program later this Spring. The first 5,000 subscriptions for shared bikes sold out quickly. Other cities, even Tusla Oklahoma, are scoring successes with new bike paths and bike sharing.
The list of bike benefits is so long. They offer independence, even if the main grid goes down, or oil prices skyrocket. You help save the climate, and help save your health at the same time. I wonder, is anyone doing the calculations about how fast we need to develop the bicycle transportation network, to be energy secure, and to make a major dent in climate-damaging car emissions?
This bicycle update is part of a series on the positive news coming from the institute, covering everything from clean alternative energy to climate-friendly diet changes. It’s called “Plan B” as advanced by the Institute’s founder, Lester Brown.
Track it down at earth-policy.org.
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Are we out of time? Find out next week, as I look into human extinction. I’m Alex. Thanks for hanging in.