Welcome to another Radio Ecoshock Show. I'm Alex Smith.
Some big icons like General Motors go crash, but most of it just goes quietly, with little announcement. I'm talking about all the small shops going dark, the once-famous magazines gone and hardly remembered.
Just a couple of years ago, I wished I'd taken videos of some of our major streets. Little malls and corner garages disappeared overnight, replaced with a big hole and a sign advertising Fenway Gardens, another deluxe condo tower. The building boom was disorienting. It's easier now. Nothing new - and the old is slipping away.
I should be happy. Finally the fake consumer world is caving in. People are driving less, to fewer jobs. Did we pull back just at the edge of carbon disaster? Just before the oil ran out? The collapse surprised common people and the Left, who didn't care much about banking and stock talk. Maybe we should have paid closer attention.
You'll hear from Max Keiser, the lefty stock expert who did know, and tried to warn us.
In today's program you'll also hear Professor Lord Anthony Giddens from the London School of Economics. He explores the links, good and bad, between the financial crash and the climate crisis. Lord Anthony also offers up three reasons why humans just don't get the climate predicament. We hear about it, and do mostly nothing. Find out why.
We'll touch on disappearing media and adaptation fairs. A couple of songs but no dance.
But first let's get right to an interview with Stephan Faris, author of "Forecast: The Consequences of Climate Change, from the Amazon to the Arctic, from Darfur to Napa Valley." He's traveled the world only to find that climate disruption is already with us. His new book is one of the must reads of the season.
Most important links for this show:
speech by Lord Anthony Giddens, London School of Economics, February 28th, 2009 on "The Economic Crisis, Climate Change and Energy."
Max Keiser Radiance FM Podcast: "The Truth About Markets" March 28th 2009
“Melting Ice Eco Rap” by Lil Peppi (You tube) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjXuldy-Ilw
Christian Aid Climate Demo (You tube)
"Morbid Magazines" by Bill Dyszel
[Stephan Faris interview]
[audio from climate protest in UK by Christian Aid and enviro groups]
That is from a climate protest led this time by Christian Aid in Britain, March 19th. There was a New Orleans style funeral march, starting out from Coventry Cathedral, led by the Reverend James Stuart Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, by the green actress Greta Scacchi, and by Dr. James Hansen, a top scientific expert on climate. More than a thousand campaigners from all over the United Kingdom joined in.
These mourners for the future spoke outside the headquarters of a European power company headquarters called E.ON - just the letter E dot ON. The problem? E.ON wants permission to build a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent. The company promises carbon capture and storage, eventually, should that technology morph from fairy land into reality. The British public has had enough bad promises, enough floods and heat waves, and just plain screwy weather.
E.ON, a German multinational pushing coal tech throughout the world, and other British power producers, are demanding up to 340 billion dollars candy money from the government - threatening the lights will go out in Britain by 2025 if they don't get it.
The British Labour government has literally promised the sky for the past decade, but haven't delivered much other than wildly expanded airports, more roads, and hot air from politicos. The government has set up a special department, headed by Ed Miliband, to keep pushing for coal, with some sort of carbon capture. Margaret Thatcher got the country out of coal mining, now the new boys want to leap back in. It's like choosing the Middle Ages, with the global thermostat cranked up to maximum.
Why can't they see it? We'll get to that twist in human psychology, in just a few moments, with Lord Anthony Giddens.
There was a plan, widely announced and producing much hope, to power one quarter of London with a giant off-shore wind park. Imagine! The start of a sustainable world city. Just last year, Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised 7,000 offshore wind turbines, taking alternative energy from the current 4 percent, to 15 percent of all UK production by 2020, 11 years from now.
The plans to take London one giant step toward energy self-sufficiency fell out when oil multinational Shell backed out. The price of oil got cheaper, so climate-safe power goes out the window. Had the government stepped in immediately, that wind park would be under construction now, for a tiny fraction of the money passed over to the banks in the past few months. In the scale of history, it is more important to balance paper bets, than to preserve a livable planet. Of course.
On April 1st, the Wall Street Journal reports the UK government will add a whopping 10 million British Pounds to help wind energy. Set that against the hundreds of billions, if not trillions, poured into big bank gambling. A pea-sized donation from a government that is still betting on coal.
It is heartening to see big religion joining the scientists, environmentalists, and the public at large, just saying "No" to coal. American James Hansen, chief scientist from NASA's Goddard Space center, has gone from publications in journals, to the front line. He is desperate to prevent the climate catastrophe studied for so long.
Here is Hansen speaking in the UK, courtesy of Kent TV:
And here is Dr. Hansen, who I am now proclaiming a saint for science, explaining his role at the anti-coal protest March 2nd in Washington D.C.
[D.C. protest clip]
James Hansen goes, where we all need to go.
This is Radio Ecoshock, with Alex Smith, looking for hope under any rock. Big car dealerships are closing in America. Famous gas guzzlers may finally disappear forever. Air traffic is way down, ditto long range ships. Some Chinese factories have shut down. Can this human turmoil slow down our damage to the atmosphere?
Let's go to a speech by Anthony Giddens, Baron Giddens, famed British sociologist, author of 34 books, and Professor Emeritus at the influential London School of Economics. He described the social structure of modern life. Now he is re-examining it's validity, speaking lately of the future of world society. Google Scholar lists him as the most widely cited sociologist in the world.
On February 28th, in the Sheikh Zayed Theatre at the LSE, Professor Giddens topped the Literary Weekend with his speech "The Financial Crisis, Climate Change and Energy." I've put a link to the whole speech in the Radio Ecoshock blog entry for April 2nd. Just click on the Blog button at ecoshock.org to find it.
I was surprised to hear the first estimate of the impact on greenhouse gas emissions caused by the economic downturn. It may be the silver lining of a cloud that has darkened the lives of millions. The guestimate in Giddens' speech comes originally from another Lord, Nicholas Stern, who has reported on climate change for the British government. Let's listen in, her is Anthony Giddens.
[Giddens excerpt on the climate impact of the economic crisis]
So, Anthony Giddens tells us, "we get a temporary respite" from escalating greenhouse gas emissions, simply because so much of the industrial economy has scaled down or shut down. A one percent reduction in GDP - gross domestic product - should lead to almost a percent fewer greenhouse gases - .9 percent, according to Nicholas Stern.
Of course, that is a reduction from the ridiculously high production of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that are leading us to climate catastrophe. Not a real reduction in damaging emissions, but a reduction in the carbon spewing path we were on. Keep that in mind.
Still, some polluting countries are going through a terrific drop in production. For example, Russia is predicted to suffer a 7 percent loss of GDP - which could amount to about 6 percent fewer greenhouse gases? I'll add several question marks - because this is more or less a guessing game until real measurements come back from the various scientific sampling stations around the world. We could expect a report on our new carbon path within a couple of months, I would think.
The best we can hope is this: greenhouse gases will likely continue to increase in the atmosphere, simply due to the continuing industrialization of China and India, not to mention the rest of the developing world. Most of us are still driving around. We all continue to pollute - must a little less. Perhaps the worst of global warming will be delayed a few years by the fall of the grand Ponzi scheme.
But it is no where near enough to stop serious terra-forming, like melting the polar ice cap and the world's glaciers. Those mega-events are predetermined by the greenhouse gases we have already shot into the atmosphere, the heating in the pipeline described in the Radio Ecoshock program of February 20th, 2009. Find that in our program archive at ecoshock.org The climate has already tipped. Now we are waiting to see how far.
Why don't humans act to save themselves? Why, why, why?
As a world-renowned student of human society, Lord Giddens offers three answers to this key question. We'll hear them now.
[Giddens on 3 reasons why humans don't act]
That is Anthony Giddens, Professor at the London School of Economics, speaking on February 28th, 2009 in Britain. Find a link to the full speech in my blog for this program.
Since our survival depends on this issue, let's quickly review Giddens' three engines of climate defeat, as it were. The first he calls :Giddens' Paradox": "Climate change is a unique threat, which we've never had to face before, because it is based on abstract future risk." We cannot mobilize as in war time, because either there is no visible enemy in the climate change problem. If there is, WE are the enemy. The risk is mainly in the future, although our first guest today, Stephan Faris, found plenty of climate damage already. I've seen it myself in the dead pine forests of Western Canada. The polar ice has already melted dramatically. So climate disruption is less abstract, and less futuristic.
Still, we are asked to make dramatic sacrifices for the next generation, for a climate that many of us will not live to see. That's hard. Doubly hard, when the gambling game of Wall Street has already grabbed the main stage, and most of our collected wealth. We'll have to fight the climate dragon with one hand tied behind our backs.
But here is the real paradox that Giddens offers. It is likely that human populations will only respond to climate disruption when it really impacts most lives. When the heat comes, the big storms wipe out cities, when new diseases arrive, when the Arctic is totally ice free. The horrible truth is: then it will be too late to do anything useful about it. We are programmed to react to reality, but this reality is ungiving. It means mass extinctions, including mass deaths for humanity. To overcome Giddens’ Paradox, we almost need an evolution in human consciousness beyond anything yet seen in our existence here on planet Earth. We need a quantum jump in social planning and action.
Will it come?
The second barrier to human action, Giddens suggests is the difficult idea of "future discounting." Humans value the present over the future. Imagine a monkey being offered a banana now, or a promise of a banana a day starting a month from now. The monkey hand goes out for the banana in reach now. That is us, and that is future discounting.
The third big problem is "free riding." While some of us give up a polluting car, someone else is buying a super gas guzzler. They ride free on our sacrifice. Take that to the national level, and you see the problems facing climate negotiators. If one country takes an economic hit by limiting fossil fuels, another might go ahead with more coal burning. It's not insoluble in theory, but it will be very difficult in the real world.
I recommend you listen to the whole speech by Professor Anthony Giddens, titled "The Financial Crisis, Climate Change and Energy" Goggle it, or get the link from my blog.
The challenge seems so huge, and our political circus so impotent, that climate despair is spreading. Even the long-time campaigner, author and journalist George Monbiot is feeling the weight of inevitable failure. His March 17th column in the UK's Guardian newspaper is titled "A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy". He might as well have called it "No Surrender."
Monbiot starts out saying, quote:
"Quietly in public, loudly in private, climate scientists everywhere are saying the same thing: it's over. The years in which more than 2C of global warming could have been prevented have passed, the opportunities squandered by denial and delay. On current trajectories we'll be lucky to get away with 4C. Mitigation (limiting greenhouse gas pollution) has failed; now we must adapt to what nature sends our way. If we can.
This, at any rate, was the repeated whisper at the climate change conference in Copenhagen last week. It's more or less what Bob Watson, the environment department's chief scientific adviser, has been telling the British government. It is the obvious if unspoken conclusion of scores of scientific papers. Recent work by scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, for instance, suggests that even global cuts of 3% a year, starting in 2020, could leave us with 4C of warming by the end of the century. At the moment, emissions are heading in the opposite direction at roughly the same rate. If this continues, what does it mean? Six? Eight? Ten degrees? Who knows?
Faced with such figures, I can't blame anyone for throwing up their hands. But before you succumb to this fatalism, let me talk you through the options."
Find the full article at monbiot.com spelled Monbiot.
George Monbiot concludes: "If we behave as if it's too late, then our prophecy is bound to come true. However unlikely success might be, we can't afford to abandon efforts to cut emissions - we just don't have any better option."
On his web site, he adds: "If you think preventing climate change is politically difficult, look at the political problems of adapting to it."
Personally, I don't think our political system can survive a rapid shift in climate, and all that comes with it. In fact, our current politics may not even survive the great global financial swindle already upon us. I welcome your opinions. Here is the email address: radio [at] ecoshock.org. This program often reflects listener suggestions and tips, this week especially from Carl, who also created our Green 960 AM radio web page. Thanks Carl.
Maybe the next civilization will be more sane, just to survive at all. That's the hope.
[quote from Giddens on Freud, the opportunity of crisis]
I'm Alex Smith, this has been Radio Ecoshock. We'll go out with this entertaining little ditty, "The Morbid Magazine Song" by Bill Dyszel.