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Signs of Hope – A continuing series October 18, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

We’ve been doing this a while and it struck me perhaps it might make sense to sharpen up the question above, at least once a month, so…

Depressing conversation on climate change and the recent IPCC report on the Slate.com political gabfest podcast. In it David Plotz suggested that he was now deeply pessimistic about a political solution that would reorient the world along the lines the report suggested in order to merely ameliorate the negative impacts of climate change. Granted he then quoted Bjorn Lomborg which is never a good look, but I have to think Plotz may be correct in the broader brushstrokes. When one sees the sheer inertia in regard to relatively rapid logistical, communication and infrastructure projects in cities or states globally and the resistance to any inconvenience the idea that societies, or humans, are prepared to make the scale of sacrifice necessitated by the crisis seems unfeasible. Or how about the super local? Having seen the sheer lack of comprehension at a local level in respect of the seafront at Clontarf and the inability to understand that sea walls are a necessity the idea that broader deeper longer taking responses are politically or otherwise feasible strikes me as unlikely.
Plotz argues that R&D should be vastly expanded in order to arrive at cleaner solutions, but the point was made by John Dickerson that this requires political input in terms of choosing what was supported and what wasn’t, and as this Presidency shows that’s a problem in itself (though he also made the point there was a gap between Trumps views on climate change and those of his administration).

Here’s the NYT’s take on the IPCC report.

And likely implications of climate change as the report details them. Note sea level rises.

When one considers one aspect alone, the fact that in some of the second best case instance we lose coral reefs and what that implies…

And here’s a quote that also makes me doubt techno-fixes will save the day either…

At 3.6 degrees of warming, the report predicts a “disproportionately rapid evacuation” of people from the tropics. “In some parts of the world, national borders will become irrelevant,” said Aromar Revi, director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and an author of the report. “You can set up a wall to try to contain 10,000 and 20,000 and one million people, but not 10 million.”

So on this topic, any positive thoughts as to how matters might proceed?


1. yourcousin - October 18, 2018

Well I don’t have anything to add at a macro level, but I must say that I find it hopeful that solar on a commercial scale (100+ acre jobsites) is booming across the country, from California, to Tennessee. Especially in rural areas where the work also helps the local community in green job training.


Joe - October 18, 2018

Harnessing the wind is the thing here, rather than solar. Not without its detractors, plusses and minuses.

Probably a thread in itself – the future of electricity generation. The pros and cons of fossil fuels, solar, wind, nuclear…


GW - October 19, 2018

Not just harnessing the wind, Joe, but storing the energy from the wind.

One of the best solutions I’ve seen is to use excess wind energy to split water into hydrogen and store this in compressed form in abandoned mines.

When the wind doesn’t blow the hydrogen can be burned to produce electricity producing mainly water as waste.

And/or being sufficiently connected to European and North African producers to be able to export and import electricity via the grid, depending on who’s got most wind and solar at any time.

But this takes supranational organisation through entities like the evil capitalist club the EU. And it’s another illustration of why Brexit is as dumb as nuts from an ecological point of view.


yourcousin - October 19, 2018

Hate to say it but those points all make eminent sense GW.

Now help CoW with his sales pitch and just maybe he can convince me of the cultural necessity of veganism (as my gear is packed for my hunting trip).


Citizen of Nowhere - October 19, 2018

Funny you should mention that YC.

I was just thinking how massive reforesting would work and I’m thinking that there should / could be two exceptions to universal veganism. One is the keeping of few egg-laying chooks under an orchard for protein, and the other is hunting beasts that are excessively damaging the bark and roots in a forest. Your probably familiar with what a deer can do to a tree trunk.

Once they are culled someone should eat them.

This is the opposite of wild boar hunting practice in Germany where hunters feed and fatten up the boars that they later hunt.


yourcousin - October 19, 2018

So can I still hunt birds?


yourcousin - October 20, 2018

Also can I still hunt antelope on the prairie (asking for a friend)?


2. Citizen of Nowhere - October 18, 2018

The lack of response to the IPCC report struck me as well. The nihilism of Trump’s response is at least honest, compared with the hand-wringing and declarations of intent to become chaste, but not today, from the capitalist class and their governmental proxies.

We don’t have to share the nihilism, but we do have to recognise there is little prospect of much happening in time within the current configuration of capitalism and its governance.

What needs doing technically and structurally is fairly clear:

a) Energy production: Moving rapidly away in the space of a decade from a fossil-fuel based economy to one based on wind and solar power with massive energy storage.

b) Food, agriculture, land-use and energy use: Pretty universal veganism, coupled with using the freed-up land for deep multi-layer reforestation to maximise carbon re-capture

c) Transport and energy use: The end of the private car, whether fossil-fuel based or electric in favour of electrified rail, ship & bus public transport. The end of secular air travel and their replacement with solar and wind powered, slower ship journeys.

d) Architecture: Insulate / shade all buildings as appropriate.

e) Durable design for re-use: Standards-based everything that is designed for multiple uses (e.g. batteries, containers etc., motors) and to last.

f) Data and control: Low-power open networks to maximise efficiencies to be gained from network information and sensors.

g) Mass migration from the tropics north for those who’s lives have been made unviable by existing climate change.

All of these goals are AFAIK – and it’s been a hobby of mine for a while – technically doable. The barriers are political and cultural.

All of the above strands run up against powerful sectoral capitalist interests, which is why government for capital does little about them. A classic case in point is the degree of capture of the German government by the auto industry, while the same government waffles about ambitious CO2 reduction targets.

But each of them are amenable to instertitial political action, which weaken the capitalist power that prevents change.

Such as:

i. Campaigns for public transport and the end of fossil-fuel based energy generation.

ii. The cultural normativity of veganism or near-veganism

iii. Calling out greenwash. From the electric car to Green parties like that in Baden-Würtennberg who are part of a pro-auto industry state government.

iv. The socialisation of and public investment in energy, transport as part of a European New Deal.

v. Support of supra-national bodies like the UN and the EU in this area – the only nation states big enough to make a difference in action and decision are China, India and the US.

vi. Politics to normalise the reality and necessity of mass migration.

The UN IPCC reports were conservative and there may well be feedbacks not in their models and points of no return that will make these reports seem optimistic. But even so.

I think the most hopeful (in the sense of practical political hope) statement was from James Hansen, who pointed that for every 0.1 degree Kelvin of global temperature rise that is avoided, a greater room for action is conferred on our descendants’ chances of mitigating and avoiding the worst.

Liked by 1 person

Lamentreat - October 20, 2018

“The end of secular air travel and their replacement with solar and wind powered, slower ship journeys.”

When I read that first I recoiled at the idea of a de facto end to air travel, but in fact the globe recalibrated to a return to ship travel (it would have to be on a much larger scale than any maritime traffic seen before) could be great. Fast shuttle liners across the Atlantic or whatever.

Thanks for that summary, it’s a useful list.


3. CL - October 18, 2018

“Hansen’s strategy, however, like most others, remains based on the current system, that is, it excludes the possibility of a full-scale ecological revolution, involving the self-mobilization of the population around production and consumption…..
If today’s planetary ecological emergency is a product of centuries of war on the planet as a mechanism of capital accumulation, fossil-capital generated geoengineering schemes can be seen as gargantuan projects for keeping the system going by carrying this war to its ultimate level….
it is the present mode of production, particularly the system of fossil capital, that needs to change on a global scale”

Liked by 1 person

4. Joe - October 19, 2018

Yep, not an expert on this by any means. But I have heard spokespeople for ‘traditional’ electricity suppliers slagging off wind power – cos when the wind doesn’t blow there still has to be enough capacity from the other sources to keep the lights on.
Is storing energy from the wind a thing much yet? Don’t think it’s done in Ireland anyway.
But, eh, nuclear anybody?


Joe - October 19, 2018

Oops. That was supposed to be a response to GWs post above.


Citizen of Nowhere - October 19, 2018

Nuclear fission: No. It turns out that, apart from the health risks, the energy return on energy invested isn’t worth it if you consider the whole process from uranium mining to waste storage, and financially it is massively costly.

But I’d much rather see money spent on nuclear fusion research then putting Elon Musk’s car into space.


FergusD - October 19, 2018

Joe, there was this idea to solve the energy storage problem, doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere



Joe - October 19, 2018

I vaguely remember that from a few years ago. Doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere, as you say FergusD. And nuclear fusion – wasn’t there a plant built/being built in France to try and make that happen?


6to5against - October 20, 2018

Theres a fusion research facility in France, and one in Oxford, and one in the US and one in Korea. All multi – billion euro projects, all within 5 – 10 years of success. As they have been since sometime in the 80s.
Its very frustrating because the basics are all in place. We have the fuel, the heat source and the means of turning the energy released into electricity. The problem as I understand it is that the process has to be carried out at several million degreees and so the whole thing has to be suspended in a magnetic field to keep it together. And the engineering of that is so far proving elusive.


WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2018

I wonder if fusion isn’t a long long way off. As you say it’s been 5-10 years for the last thirty forty years.


5. Miguel62 - October 20, 2018

I’m not so sure about wind. Looks like there’s a few commercial operations creaming off guaranteed profits which we’re all paying for with carbon tax, levy etc. Ultimately, it’s an expensive option. Solar photovoltaic technology is improving all the time and is already a no-brainer in hot climates. It is rapidly becoming a realistic option here too. It has the very nice feature that it’s a localised technology with each building’s roof hosting its own mini power generation unit. It’s scalable down in a way that wind just isn’t. And with battery technology improving too, it’s not hard to see homes becoming almost self sufficient in free solar energy.


alanmyler - October 20, 2018

But that’s a very individualist approach isn’t it. Considering the problems in society around housing in general I can’t see the economics of house-level electricity generation being something that’s going to save the planet anytime soon. Nice idea for those who can afford it of course, but no substitute for the economies of scale involved in nuclear.


Joe - October 20, 2018

At last. Someone says…. nuclear. The option that dare not speak its name. Anyone out there willing to make the case for nuclear fission power?


CL - October 20, 2018

‘EirGrid welcomes the recent announcement of the EU’s €4 million investment in the Celtic Interconnector project.
This project involves the development of a potential electrical connection between Ireland and France, utilising subsea cables, with the capacity of approximately 700 megawatts (MW), enough to power 450,000 households.’

“France derives about 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy, due to a long-standing policy based on energy security.
France is the world’s largest net exporter of electricity due to its very low cost of generation, and gains over €3 billion per year from this”


WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2018

I’d very very cautiously argue for nuclear in extremis. But I don’t think (or at least hope not that) we’re in extremis yet.


Miguel62 - October 20, 2018

I don’t know about nuclear, I mean I see the point about efficiency and all that, but are long term costs fully factored in? However, it is carbon neutral in fairness so it should be considered as part of the mix.
I would have thought that the efficiency of small scale solar photovoltaic is pretty much the same as large scale. And there’s no transmission costs. Or am I missing something?
The savings should outweigh the costs anyway. Repayable grants conditional on achieved energy efficiency might be the way to go.


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