3E Intelligence

A few interesting stories caught my eye over the Easter weekend (which was pretty Xmas-like here in Brussels with snow and winter-like temperatures):

  • At the end of last week, the International Herald Tribune reported about a few older “young boys” on some exotic island “plotting to save the planet”, but only if they could make some big bucks out of the operation. Made me think of “Lord of the Flies”. Maybe these guys should be called “Lords of the Lies”?
  • The Wall Street Journal is one of my favourite newspaper, not so much because I agree with their ideology, but because of the quality of their writing and reporting. To my great amazement its 24 March edition has two excellent pieces on limits to growth, Malthus and our natural resources and population explosion predicament. The first article is called “New Limits to Growth”Revive Malthusian Fears“; the second is a discussion between two eminent scientist under the title “Could Resources Become A Limit to Global Growth?“. Must-read stuff for anyone interested in the climate-energy debate.
  • The last item for today is another thought-provoking scientific piece written by US climate expert James Hansen. In the article, Hansen questions the wisdom of the 450 ppm (2° celcius) target set by the scientific community and the European Union as the maximum acceptible level of global warming. “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm [where we are now – WDB] to at most 350 ppm”, says Hansen.
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  1. Hansen’s recent paper is certainly thought provoking, reminding us that if scientists are increasingly shaken by climate findings we should be, well, stirred.

    To that effect, I’m working with a small team to launch a grassroots effort to organize the world behind Hansen’s profound idea – 350.

    We need to make sure that the solutions the world proposes to climate change are to scale with the level of crisis that this number represents. Everyone on earth, from the smallest village to the cushiest corner office, needs to know what 350 means. The movement to spread that number needs to be beautiful, creative, and unstoppable.

    What we need most right now are ideas for how to take the number 350 and drive it home: in art, in music, in political demonstrations, in any other way you can imagine. We will connect actions all around the world and make them add up to more than the sum of their parts–but we don’t have all the ideas and all the inspiration. We need everyones.

    Don’t hesitate to get in touch: jamie@350.org

  2. Always the same with the Wall Street Journal papers. They don’t look closely at problems. Do you think they will one day understand than growth of the economy and its associated technologies will never replace services provided by ecosystems ? That’s real fear of ecologists.

    “Historically, substitutes for certain natural resources have been found or developed BUT growth of the economy and its associated technologies are not a substitute for healthy, clean, diverse, and sustainable ecosystems. A wetland, for example, provides erosion and flooding prevention; contaminant filtration; habitat for animals that form crucial links in the larger chain of life; oxygen produced for our breathing pleasure. These are essential services, and there is no technological replacement for them; we need to value them accordingly”

  3. Yesterday, I met up with Jaimie and 30+ others who assembled at Pier 33 in San Francisco. We walked across the Embarcadero to the lawn where Senator Barbara Boxer’s office is located. The following press release and letter from Bill McKibben to Sen. Boxer explain the purpose of the event:

    June 6, 2008

    Letter to Sen. Boxer from world-leading activist Bill McKibben and head of Greenpeace USA
    says stronger global warming bill is needed than the one which failed today in the U.S. Senate

    350.org to organize “human 350” outside Boxer’s office tomorrow in San Francisco

    A letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer by leading author and activist Bill McKibben and cosigned by the leader of Greenpeace USA says that the climate bill which failed this week in the U.S. Senate would have come nowhere close to doing what scientists say is needed to halt global warming and stabilize carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a safe level of 350 parts per million.

    350.org, an international campaign to keep the climate livable, will lead a demonstration Saturday, June 7 outside Boxer’s office in San Francisco, in which people will arrange themselves to form a giant “350.”

    Released June 6 to the media, the joint letter says that debate over the Lieberman-Warner bill got “badly off-track” and “left the legislation grotesquely riddled with loopholes and with gifts to the fossil fuel industry.” Also signing the letter with McKibben is John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.

    “In the time between the original writing of the legislation and its eventual demise, sea ice in the Arctic melted so dramatically that scientists pronounced themselves ‘shaken.’ But the bill remained too weak,” their letter says.

    The letter promises they will help lead a movement to support Boxer if next year’s bill measures up to the science: “A bill that simply ‘gets something done’ isn’t actually going to get anything accomplished. Only legislation that meets the real challenge will do the trick. Introduce it, and fight for it, and we will do our best to galvanize the climate movement across America to back you up.”

    Participants in the June 7 350.org demonstration will meet in front of Pier 33, on the Embarcadero, at 11 am Saturday, and proceed to 1700 Montgomery Street, location of the city office of Sen. Boxer, who led debate on a “carbon cap-and-trade” bill this week in the U.S. Senate. That bill was declared dead June 6 after proponents failed to get the support of 60 senators to cut off debate and bring it to a vote.

    McKibben, the award-winning author turned grassroots movement leader, has called 350 “the red line for human beings” because “the most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth.”

    He and others organized 350.org as a successor to last year’s “Step It Up” campaign, saying, “Everyone on earth, from the smallest village to the cushiest corner office, needs to know what 350 means. The movement to spread that number needs to be beautiful, creative, and unstoppable.” Photographs of the campaign’s previous work may be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/350org/.

    Today the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 387 parts per million, and is projected to go much higher this century without a worldwide cut in emissions and conversion to clean energy.

    “Somewhere during the process of bringing this bill to the Senate floor, Congress lost sight of the fact that we’re trying to stop what scientists are telling us is a threat to everyone on earth—runaway global warming,” said May Boeve, Co-Coordinator of 350.org. “Congress needs to do what the science demands.”

    For more information, please see http://www.350.org, where the campaign will launch a dramatic new website this coming Monday, June 9.

    FULL TEXT OF LETTER

    Friday, June 6, 2008

    Dear Senator Boxer:

    Thanks in no small measure to your efforts, the U.S. Senate has just finished the first serious debate in its history on climate change. We’re grateful you did the work to help bring the subject to the floor.

    Now that the Lieberman-Warner bill has failed, it’s time for all of us to understand how badly off-track the debate managed to go. We need your help to make it work much better a year from now, when, under a new president, there’s a real chance for action.

    In the attempt to “get something done,” your committee managed to lose track of the central points of the debate:

    1) That the world’s climate is veering out of control, and hence requires immediate and profound action. In the time between the original writing of the legislation and its eventual demise, sea ice in the Arctic melted so dramatically that scientists pronounced themselves “shaken.” But the bill remained too weak.

    2) Dealing with a crisis of this magnitude will require breakthrough political leadership–not the kind of backroom dealing that left the legislation grotesquely riddled with loopholes and with gifts to the fossil fuel industry. This is not the time for massive corporate giveaways–that money is needed to help solve the engineering problems we face, and to protect middle-class Americans from the price rises that will accompany any working cap.

    We need the debate, and the action, to respond to the science. James Hansen, the NASA climatologist, has published data showing unequivocally that the world is in danger as long as atmopsheric carbon concentrations remain above 350 ppm. To start down the track toward meeting that difficult target, we need 25 percent reductions in our carbon emissions by 2020, and 80 percent by mid-century.

    If that’s going to happen, you’ll need to show even stronger leadership. A bill that simply “gets something done” isn’t actually going to get anything accomplished. Only legislation that meets the real challenge will do the trick. Introduce it, and fight for it, and we will do our best to galvanize the climate movement across America to back you up.

    Sincerely,

    Bill McKibben
    350.org

    John Passacantando
    Greenpeace USA

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