Author, professional threats analyst, and host of Robert Scribbler’s Blog – Robert Marston Fanney – on the big picture of climate change and how he struggles to take his emissions toward net zero.
Every couple of years we spend time with Robert Fanney. Robert has gone through multiple evolutions – and that continues. He is a respected science-fiction writer, he has worked for the premier Defense Analyst “Jane’s” as a risk analyst. Robert Scribbler’s Blog became a home base for an active group of climate watchers. Lately Fanney has moved to video blogging on climate, and then just recently, brought out his interests in clean tech and electric transportation. So it’s definitely time for an update from Robert Fanney on Radio Ecoshock.
I begin by asking why he moved more production from his popular Robert Scribbler’s Blog to videos You tube? Essentially Robert says he wants to expand beyond a small (but great!) crowd of climate science nerds to the popular You tube platform – which might also attract more young people. The climate message is urgent and he wants to try every avenue to get it out there. My complaint is that his blog attracted some of the most intelligent climate watchers anywhere. Robert’s astute blog PLUS his comment crowd is one-two punch. I still go back to sift through past posts. Robert is still updating the blog, but not as often as his new videos come out.
Then we go to his solid your mid-April climate update, titled “Present Climate Indicators and the Uncertain Potential for a Record Warm 2019”. It’s a must-see. I guess it matters if 2019 turns out to be the hottest ever, although I’m not sure records matter as much as the steady progression toward a hotter world. Could this be the hot one?
I praised Robert for covering the double tropical cyclones that struck East Africa. Not enough people are paying attention to that. A city in Mozambique was obliterated, but can we say that is the first city wiped out by climate-enhanced disasters? Sort-of. New Orleans was only partly wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, and Fort McMurray Canada was only partly destroyed by the 2016 wild-fire there.
We always think a wrecked city will be rebuilt. But maybe they will be abandoned instead, just like Miami will be. What do you think? I did not have Mozambique and Malawi in my list of climate danger zones. But now it seems almost anywhere in the world is a climate danger zone. Really there are no safe places to run to. Even if one place is not hit by a climate-strengthened disaster, everyone is part of a larger society taking blow after blow. The damage and losses cannot be contained, and neither can the people who must leave, in search of a new home. Being known as “safe” could attract more people too.
Given his background as a risk assessment analyst for Jane’s, I ask Robert for a rating of the risk for humans living now in the new climate age, and then for our kids.
TWO GREAT FEARS: FOOD AND MASS MIGRATION
As the climate morphs, two fears are developing in the public mind. The first is food. Will we be able to eat the foods currently in our diet, and will we be able to eat at all?
The second issue coming soon will be millions and millions of climate refugees. I’m not just talking about cross-border flows of people, although that is huge, but also within countries. For example millions will have to leave coastal cities due to storms and rising seas. They will be internal refugees, in China, India, America, and Europe. Are President Trump and European right-wing parties tapping into that fear of mass movement already?
Predictions are that parts of the Middle East, of Asia, and the tropics generally will become too hot for most humans. Just like the fish, plants and birds, within a century humans will begin the trek toward the cooler Poles.
I’m starting to think that imagination factor is what might do us in. We can barely think about living without flying, or driving, without our fossil-based machine slaves. Apparently, we can’t imagine a future that is much different, much simpler and maybe better or maybe harder. Could lack of imagination be the real block to climate action by masses of people?
Check out Robert’s new videos:
WORKING TOWARD ELECTRIC – PERSONAL “EXTREME CLEAN”
We have to try to modify our carbon-heavy lives. Robert Fanney recently took another revolution in his video blog, to investigate electric cars. He wanted to reduce his personal carbon footprint. But how could he, on an author’s small income, afford an expensive electric car? Robert Marston Fanney found a way. He started driving for the car-sharing company “Uber”. That income was saved to buy his electric car. Meanwhile, Robert tells us, driving for Uber gave him a new way to test people’s thinking on climate change, as he chatted with customers willing to talk. He didn’t offer lectures or a rant, but instead asked questions, prodding to see what people really think and do.
Robert and his spouse just bought a Tesla 3 electric car. But he wants to take his vision he is calling “Extreme Clean” even further. He will work out a way to car-share the Tesla, so that the emissions reduction works not just for he and his wife, but for other people as well. Maybe it’s a step toward the “electric commons”?
ELECTRIC VEHICLES FOR RURAL PEOPLE
Kevin and Elaine first bought the equivalent of a small electric tractor. It is a modified commercial grade lawn mower, but can pull carts full of hay and many more things. Then they bought a Tesla 3, which is expensive in Canada – and they are not rich either.
Going to the West coast, where they still have family, Kevin can actually sleep in the back of his Tesla 3. It also helps that the car has an in-built small heater which keeps the batteries at their operating temperature, which helps heat the floor if he sleeps there in winter in a sleeping bag – while the car is recharging, at a super-charger. Their next project is to build a solar-powered charging station for all that equipment.
THE ELECTRIC PICKUP TRUCK?
My wife and I need an electric vehicle which can go at least 240 miles or 470 km to reach the coast, where we have relatives and work connections. Living in a rural village, heating with wood, we also need an electric pickup truck. I haul manure, gravel, wood, and straw throughout the year. We don’t use that truck often, but do need it for this lifestyle, living cheap in the country.
Ford has announced it will make an electric Ford F150. Rivian makes a pricey electric pickup now. It is billed as an “luxury adventure vehicle”. GM is talking about it, calling it the Electrek model. Tesla has been testing an electric pickup which they are dubbing “Cyberpunk”.
The other things is: I will be getting an electric vehicle later than some people because I’m poor. We have to buy any vehicle used. We can never afford a new one. So there has to be enough electric vehicles in the market that used ones will be available. But then I worry, how good will those batteries be. But Robert Fanney says when the batteries are done their useful lives, they are returned to the manufacturer. There weak cells are identified, fixed, and then the batteries are resold to electric utilities.
MY RESERVATIONS ABOUT BUYING ELECTRIC VEHICLES
From the viewpoint of the environment, I still have doubts about several things about the electric transportation revolution.
1. Most American electric cars are still powered by coal and natural gas.
Mind you, way back I recorded a talk about a book called “Transport-Revolution”. The authors pointed out that electric transportation allows a substitution of cleaner and cleaner sources of electricity as we go along. Gas-powered cars can’t do that. Plus we get a big cut in pollution, so we can all breath easier. The book was co-authored by Anthony Perle, Simon Fraser University Urban Studies Program. Download that book launch speech here. Or listen right now – it’s still great!
2. Those electric cars will still drive on carbon-intensive asphalt or concrete roads plus very high maintenance infrastructure like bridges, etc. Emissions from road repair and replacement costs are very high. Asphalt is made from oil, and producing cement is one of the big emission sources in this world.
3. An intensive wave of people leaving their gas and diesel vehicles to buy new electric cars could by itself make the climate worse. That is due to all the mining, manufacturing, and oil-based plastics, lubricants, etc required to make every vehicle. Multiplied by millions, it’s a lot!
4. The whole electric car game still depends on vast accumulation of energy-intensive resources and a grid that can stay up despite economic and climate crashes. Maybe we will all be reduced to walking and bikes instead, and maybe we should head straight there without still thinking of a car culture. (But as it now stands, that would mean not seeing our kids unless they become super long-distance bikers…)
ADD YOUR COMMENTS
You can add your comments wherever you find Radio Ecoshock, and on this blog. I check in every few hours to approve posts, to keep down advertising, profanity, and hostile clutter from outright shills for fossil fuels. Other than that, I approve practically any of your ideas, so go ahead and post your comments, criticisms, or links to relevant stuff.
IT’S ALMOST MY THEME SONG – SHANE PHILIP “MOTHER EARTH”
We all have to evolve and adapt as technology and society change so quickly, and now as the climate changes quickly too. As if that is not enough, my super-scientist guest next week reveals a problem currently even larger than climate change. Tune in for that.
Way back in 2006 when I started broadcasting Radio Ecoshock, I had just heard Shane Philip, the one man band, on CHLY 101.7 FM, Radio Malaspina, campus-community radio in Nanaimo, BC. I recorded him live. With Shane’s permission, his song “Mother Earth” has played on Radio Ecoshock a few dozen times.
Watch Shane the one man band play “Waterfall” – he does it all!
CAN YOU HELP?
Please help support my work with Radio Ecoshock. I am so grateful to people who make donations, and the small group who sign up to donate $10 a month. That keeps the show alive, and it helps keep me alive. I won’t lie: making this program takes a toll on me. If the environmental truth is tough to listen to sometimes, it’s hard for me too. But we agree this has to be done.
Many of my scientific guests comment they like the questions and the conversation. Of course they educate me each week to know more, and to do better (I hope). People who donate help relieve that stress, by reducing my worry about how to keep this program going out free to non-profit radio stations, on Soundcloud and my web site – free to anyone who will listen. Please check out how to add your support, large or small, on this page.
Thank you for listening – and caring about our world!