Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our economy is changing our climate in dangerous ways

When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up
When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?
              Bob Dylan "When You Gonna Wake Up?

I'm baffled by the fact that here in the U.S. when it comes to climate change, the general public tends to defer to the opinions of politicians over those of the world's most respected scientists. Of course,  we all know it's not really the politicians' opinions we are hearing.  They're merely playing dummy and mouthing the words of their  their corporate donor ventriloquists. (GW)

The Climate Debate is Over. Let's Tap Markets to Save the Trees, the Planet, and Ourselves

By Steve Zwick
November 4, 2011

 Our economy is changing our climate in dangerous ways, and the latest figures show it’s getting worse, with greenhouse gas emissions up a nauseating and unforgiveable 6% in 2010, despite the global economic slowdown. If you’re one of these self-proclaimed “skeptics” who still deny that man caused this mess and that man must fix it, then you’ve sacrificed your credibility as a sentient human being.

That’s the take-home message from the Berkley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) Study, which was funded in part by the Koch Brothers and headed by Richard Muller, a vocal critic of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  BEST examined the evidence that “Climategate” supposedly suppressed, and published its conclusion in mid-October.

“We find that the global land mean temperature has increased by 0.911 ± 0.042 C since the 1950s (95% confidence for statistical and spatial uncertainties)” the authors wrote on the very first page.  “This change is consistent with global land-surface warming results previously reported, but with reduced uncertainty.”

That means that everything you have heard about “institutional bias” among scientists in the IPCC is wrong.  It means everything you have heard about the rate of global warming slowing down in the last decade is wrong.  It means that, if anything, the earth is warming faster than the cautious scientists of the IPCC stated, and all signs point to mankind as the culprit.

If you still want to blame sunspots and volcanoes, read The Discovery of Global Warming by Spencer Weart to learn how those and other theories emerged and failed to pass scientific muster, while the concept of a man-made greenhouse effect not only passed those tests but evolved as new evidence came to light.

The cause is clear, and the solution is obvious – but it’s that solution that has conservatives in a state of paralytic denial. To fix this problem, we must fundamentally change the way our economy prices goods and services so that the cost of environmental degradation is embedded in the cost of production.  If we do that, everything else will follow. That’s the basic premise of carbon finance, and it’s a conservative idea – first proposed and then implemented by fiscal conservatives just a few short years before the whole movement went collectively insane.

The only thing we should be arguing about now is how to transition to a truly new and green economy as quickly and efficiently as possible.  There are no quick fixes, but there are stop-gap measures that will buy us time until we can reduce industrial emissions. Chief among these is to stop paying poor people to destroy our rainforests and start paying them to maintain them.

Smart money is moving in this direction, as we saw at the end of September with the publication of State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2011: From Canopy to Currency. This survey documents a record $175 million flowing to support forest carbon projects in 2010, representing commitments to sequester enough carbon to offset nearly 30 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The money comes from industrial companies that want to reduce their carbon footprint by paying poor people to act as providers of an ecosystem service – usually by either planting trees, shifting to sustainable forestry, or saving endangered rainforests (REDD – Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation).

Encouragingly, the report shows that private-sector companies aren’t just buying credits to reduce their footprints; they are also developing and brokering projects on an ever-larger scale – a role traditionally filled by environmental non-profits. This indicates the market’s growing confidence in our ability as a species to do the right thing.

And, as we all know, the market never lies.


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