Saturday, November 29, 2008

E3G report launch: Innovation and Technology Transfer: Framework for a Global Climate Deal

This report, produced by E3G and Chatham House, proposes a new institutional framework for the innovation and diffusion of low carbon and adaptation technologies, and points to critical features needed in the international agreement due to be signed at the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen in December 2009.
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The report argues that:

* Faster and broader innovation is critical for delivering climate security while preserving energy security

* Current innovation programmes are not adequate to manage the risk of policy failures and higher ranges of climate sensitivity;

* Developed countries need to shift their national strategic innovation priorities if international cooperation is to be effective;

* Developing countries require support to build effective innovation systems not just narrow technology transfer;

* Delivering innovation faster and to scale requires the creation of strong new markets for innovative low carbon products and a diversity of cooperation initiatives;

* A failure to constructively tackle IPR and competitiveness issues will limit the pace of innovation and diffusion, and potentially poison the international climate negotiations.

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Executive Summary here
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Full Report here
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Note: E3G is an independent not-for-profit organisation, established in 2004, that works in the public interest to accelerate the global transition to sustainable development.
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E3G website here
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Also check out:
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lawyers call for international court for the environment

By Louise Gray
SMH 27 Nov 2008

Stephen Hockman QC is proposing a body similar to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to be the supreme legal authority on issues regarding the environment.
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The first role of the new body would be to enforce international agreements on cutting greenhouse gas emissions set to be agreed next year.
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But the court would also fine countries or companies that fail to protect endangered species or degrade the natural environment and enforce the "right to a healthy environment".
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More here

United Nations Climate Change Conference


27 November 2008
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The United Nations Climate Change Conference - Poznan„, Poland gets underway on Monday, 1 December. The two-week meeting, the fourteenth Conference of the 192 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the fourth meeting of the 183 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, is the half-way mark in the negotiations on an ambitious and effective international climate change deal. The deal is to be clinched in Copenhagen at the end of 2009 and will enter into force in 2013, the year after the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires.
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Around 9,000 participants, including government delegates from 185 Parties to the UNFCCC and representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions will attend the two-week gathering.
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More here

Coalition building within the context of post-Kyoto climate negotiations

With the Poznan meeting only a few days away (starts 1st Dec); I thought people might like to a short (only six pages) and easy to read summary of issues relating to building an effective post-Kyoto protocol. The paper is called "The challenging Task of Negotiating a Climate Change Protocol", by van der Gaast 2008. It is aimed at people who would like to be quickly briefed on the status of current climate negotiations and the complexities of the climate policy negotiation game (shortly before the Poznan sessions).

It contains the following topics:

  • Our climate and energy challenge (see figure 1 below)

  • Climate negotiations as a complex game (game theory and prisoners dilemma)

  • Current climate policy negotiations (including the United States failure to join Kyoto)

  • Facilitating coalition building and the road forward (e.g. do we lower targets to get the United States to join?)

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Paper here:

China and climate change

Here is a story on China and climate change from the China Daily.
The country will not commit itself to a binding target in the reduction of greenhouse gases at the upcoming UN climate change summit in Poland but will continue its "unshakable commitments" to sustainable development, experts close to the negotiations said Wednesday.
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China has already made tremendous achievements in combating climate change, and will continuously act as a responsible country in negotiations, Lu Xuedu, a senior official from the Ministry of Science and Technology, said.
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"As it is still a developing country, China will not make promises on binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Lu told China Daily Wednesday.
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About 190 nations will meet in Poland next week to discuss global strategies on climate change after 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol expires.
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Also check out:
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Clean Development Mechanism

A new report called "The State of Play with the CDM" has been released. At COP-3 (Kyoto, Japan, December 1997) the clean development mechanism was introduced as a project based emissions trading mechanism. This report looks at the progress of the clean development mechanism and its success factors.
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See here for full report
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Figure 1: The graph shows the growth in CERs (Certified Emission Reductions) for the different countries involved in the CDM (mainly China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico and Malaysia).

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Worth a read if you are interested in how this is all going.


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Note: for those that don't know, COP is 'Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change". COP-3 was in Kyoto in 1997 and today we are preparing for COP-14 in Poznan (which is in Poland).

The BIG meeting is in Copenhagen (Denmark) which is COP-15. At Copenhagen, there is also the 'Meeting of the Parties' to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP) which will be its fifth session.
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COP/MOP-4 was in Bonn (Germany) in May 2008.
COP/MOP-3 was in Curitiba (Brazil) in March 2006.
COP/MOP-2 was in Montreal (Canada) May/June 2005.
COP/MOP-1 was in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) inFebruary 2004.
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The main CDM projects (that produce Certified Emissions Reductions) are:

Hydropower (26%)

Biomass-based energy production (15%)

Wind energy (14%)

[Total renewables 63%]

Methane emission reduction projects at landfills and coal mines/coalbeds (16%)

Supply side energy efficiency (10%).

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See also:

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Joint Implementation (JI)

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Coalition building within the context of post-Kyoto climate negotiations

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Designing the Post-Kyoto Climate Regime: Lessons from the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements

Designing the Post-Kyoto Climate Regime: Lessons from the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements

An Interim Progress Report for the 14th Conference of the Parties, Framework Convention on Climate Change, Poznan, Poland, December 2008.

Contents:
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Executive summary
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Looking Back, Moving Forward
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The Bali Roadmap and the Research of the Harvard Project
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Principles for an International Framework
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Promising International Climate Change Architetures
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Key Design Issues in International Policy Architecture **
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Conclusion
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Full report here
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** This section is great!!! It contains lots of information on issues such as burden sharing in an international climate agreement, technology transfer, reforming the clean development mechanism and addresssing deforestation and making global climate policy compatible with global trade policy.

Well worth a read !!

Project website: www.belfercenter.org/climate

There are also further papers available here

Environmentalists draft roadmap for Obama



A coalition of environmental advocacy groups has sent President-elect Barack Obama its roadmap for change called "Transition to Green".
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This report lays out what the incoming Obama administration can do to achieve the dual goals of cleaning up the environment and revitalizing the economy.
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Full Report "Transition to Green" here
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CSIRO report on water availability in the Murray Darling Basin




The CSIRO has just released a report on the Water Availability in the Murray-Darling Basin
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Key finding:
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The relative impact of climate change on surface water use would be much greater in dry years. Under the median 2030 climate, diversions in driest years would fall by more than 10 percent in most New South Wales regions, around 20 percent in the Murrumbidgee and Murray regions and from around 35 to over 50 percent in the Victorian regions. Under the dry extreme 2030 climate, diversions in driest years would fall by over 20 percent in the Condamine-Balonne, aropund 40 to 50 percent in New South Wales regions (except the Lachlan), over 70% in the Murray and 80 to 90 percent in the major Victorian regions.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

200th post !!


For this historic occasion, I thought I should draw up a list of Top 10 posts at Random Man on Planet Earth.




















Climate Change: Up against a brick wall?


Rather than thinking of being "up against a brick wall" it may be better to think instead that "the political writing is on the wall" when it comes to climate change.
Any thoughts ??

Heat - documentary on climate change

I watched some good TV last night - the documentary on climate change called HEAT which was produced and reported by Martin Smith.

It opens with a good quote from Sunita Narain from the centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi:

We're standing at the precipice of hell. If everybody else was to live like an American, then the planet is doomed” she said.

And then Barack Obama is shown saying this:

“We can't wait to solve one of the greatest crises that mankind has ever faced and roll back greenhouse gases global warming!”

Then the announcer says the documentary “is an investigation of the resistance to change inside major corporations” and “the resistance to change within Washington”.

The first part of the documentary is called “Watching the World Change” and uses the example of comparing photographs of Mount Everest taken in 1921 to those taken today.



Figure 1: British explorer George Mallory took his photograph of Everest in 1921. At the foot of the mountain, the main Rongbuk glacier, a frozen river of ice that flows from Everest's north side.
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Now have a look at the photo taken now below:
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Figure 2: Mt Everest today (Note: much less glacier present - lost up to 40% of its ice).
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And the effect of this?
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RAJENDRA PACHAURI, IPPC:
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"Over a period of time, about 500 million people on the subcontinent are going to suffer from water scarcity as a result of the melting of those glaciers, and 250 million people in China. In terms of the impact on the lives and livelihoods of people, we're turning thousands of years of human history around and perhaps leaving people with no choice now."

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Anyway, you get the general idea.

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Well worth watching, it also has some good interviews with industry leaders from Exxon Mobil, General Motors, Arch Coal and America's two largest utilities, American Electric Power and Southern Company among others. It also tried to speak to a representative from a major ethanol industry leader, but they declined to discuss the fact that ethanol from corn was perhaps not very good for the environment* and was blamed for driving up food prices** (as Obama has recently come to realise).

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*If you look at the net energy or EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) of corn ethanol, it is actually a net energy loser.

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** this is not entirely true as other factors such as a rise in oil prices and fertilizers were some of the main factors involved.

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Transcript available here

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More info and link to watch the full documentary

Monday, November 24, 2008

More Peak Oil Debate


Sorry, but I couldn't resist putting up this reply on the peak oil debate . . .



I am not surprised to hear of this techno-optimism from The Economist.



Be wary of accounting tricks when considering unconventional oil sources. Tar sands can be turned into something resembling oil, for example, but it takes a lot of energy (oil) to do that. The only reason it is being done now is that light sweet crude has been in stagnation for several years and peaked in 2005, so it is profitable now, at least until they get all the easy-to-access stuff at the top of the deposits.



The key is net energy, or EROEI (energy returned on energy invested).



Corn ethanol is another example.

It is actually a net energy loser.

'Oil shales' are a complete joke too.



It can also be potentially misleading to focus on the price of oil when thinking about peak oil. Prices can drop due to economic decline and deflation, but this economic decline has been caused in large part by stagnating energy (and depletion of other resources) in the first place. Supply is the issue, not price. Prices rose wildly up to over $100 a barrel, partly due to speculation. They dropped as the market 'corrected' and also due to 'demand destruction' as the household debt bubble popped, but they are still higher than most peak oil researchers expected them to be at this time.I also think it is potentially misleading to think of demand as somehow separate from supply. When supply drops, 'effective demand' can drop, due to demand destruction.



The leaked IEA report says 'demand' will not be met, but effective demand will drop due to demand destruction (decline in the public's ability to pay for products, due to unemployment, lower wages, higher prices, etc).



But that in no way diminishes the fact that capitalism is in the beginnings of crisis, and that we are on the verge of nothing less than a new epoch. Just remember that the Chinese symbol for 'crisis' includes the characters for 'danger' and 'opportunity'. Oil is not just used for transportation to and from work and to the grocery store. It is central to production and transportation in the whole economy. Everything takes large amounts of oil and other energy sources to produce in our current system.



I checked out the claim that "Chinese symbol for crisis includes the characters for 'danger' and 'opportunity'". It seems this is not so . . . I found this:



How a misunderstanding about Chinese characters has led many astray


There is a widespread public misperception, particularly among the New Age sector, that the Chinese word for "crisis" is composed of elements that signify "danger" and "opportunity."



It goes on to explain further if you are interested.



Hmmm. I think I will have to send that link on.
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UPDATE:
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I got this reply about the chinese characters:
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I asked another student in my graduate program, who is from China, for a second opinion on what the website said. here's what she says:"Many thanks for forwarding the article to me. I think he brings up an important perspective, but the Chinese term for crisis is made up of two separate Chinese characters that can be understood in different perspectives. Generally speaking the understanding of it as an integration of crisis and opportunity stands. But of course, opportunity here doesn't refers to being an opportunist and making money at others' cost. It means an opportunity to bring justice and fairness back, an opportunity to do good for the people, etc.
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This dialectic thinking can tract back to Taoist thinking. Here a quote from Laozi: “It is on calamity that good fortune perches; it is beneath good fortune that calamity crouches.” (Ch. 58, p. 85) So this should belong to same vein of thinking. Another example is the relationship between Yin and Yang. They're just two sides of the same coin. These opposite concepts or trends exist within each other. It's how we act that decides what kind of result we get. If you look up Laozi's Tao De Jing, you get to see how he explained the intergration and converstion of these pair ideas."
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I stand recorrected.
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Please also check out:
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Peak Oil Debate
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Global oil supply crunch looming
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World Energy Outlook 2008

Peak Oil Debate


Here is some of the debate on peak oil and climate change from the viewpoints of a number of sociologists. [I belong to the EnviroSoc listserve which is made up of mainly sociologists and a few other social science types such as myself. The listserve has lots of interesting stuff sent through to my ever filling mailbox]. Anyway, the debate on peak oil starts with this brief email:

Folks,

Have I missed something? There have been a significant number of valuable postings to this list about global warming and exciting announcements about state of the art research findings on a variety of environmental topics.

However, nothing is being said about “Peak Oil”.

Is the informal consensus among sociologist that the topic is not worth our time? Is this a non-issue? Did I miss the article that killed the topic? I have been following the issue of “Peak Oil” for almost a decade now and need some guidance.


Thanks in advance for your comments and thoughts….

Kind Regards,
(name and address removed for privacy reasons)
Associate Professor Department of Sociology
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Here are my initial thoughts:
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Well, the email certainly got me thinking about the massive complexities involved when thinking about climate change (social, scientific, educational, economic, ethical, etc, etc) and also the massive complexities involved when trying to examine the idea of peak oil (and its interest/detractor groups such as NGOs and oil companies themselves) and the interplay between climate change and peak oil (WOW). As oil becomes more difficult to find and extract, it gets more expensive which means that renewable energy options become more price competitive and start to replace the use of oil. But, also other alternative energies will start to become viable such as oil sands (we know that this energy source is large, but it is very highly carbon intensive and terrible news for climate change).
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What about peak oil?
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Is it a hippy myth or have we already passed the 'peak' and this is why we are seeing George Bush (the United States) trying to sure up supplies in the middle east or is it something else again?
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Will we run into trouble because of climate change first or will society possible collapse from dwindling supplies? I think we are already running into trouble from climate change and will be in a lot more trouble before we start to run out of fossil fuels - for example, the Earth has (some say) 200 years plus of coal left plus all the oil sands and peat around to burn). Will society running low on cheap oil actually help to make a transition to renewable energy easier or will it be just be replaced by coal or more likely with Obama nuclear energy (which readers would know I am against). Will 'clean coal' or 'clean oil sands' be possible with improvements in technology? Will it be economical? How will the poor and developing nations cope with this change? Can carbon capture ever be 'safe'. Are we simply burying the problem again for future generations to deal with?
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I needed to know more and it got some other people thinking too.
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Here are some of the replies that came back:
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Professor,
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We are running out of atmosphere much more quickly than we are running out of fossil fuels. We are running out of "conventional" oil but there are plenty of sources of liquid fuels left. We have used only a tiny fraction of the available known or projected sources of liquid fuels - enhanced oil recovery (EOR), tar sands and heavy oil, gas-to-liquid synthetic liquid fuel GTL), coal-to-liquid synthetic fuel (CTL), and oil shale. Each becomes more expensive than the previous one and each becomes more environmentally damaging to obtain and to burn. Relatively speaking, we have used only about 5% of what is out there, if one is willing to pay the price. That's where the problems occur - environmental impacts increase dramatically (2x to 3x for GHG emissions) as do costs (2 to 8-fold) and concomitant social inequities.
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For the source of the data above, see the excellent article by Farrell and Brandt, "Risks of the Oil Transition," Environmental Research Letters , 2006, [Environ. Res. Lett. 1 (2006) 014004 (6pp)], http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/1/1/014004 .
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and this reply:
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Professor,
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I think it is too simple to see it as an either/or between global warming and peak oil. These problems are interrelated in complex ways. For example, James Hansen at NASA has recently come up with a report (referenced in my article) arguing that the peaking of world oil supply over the next couple of decades might aid in the attempt to control global warming. His projections and strategy are intriguing.
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Also the argument in my article to which K linked was that peak oil filtered through geopolitical concerns has been the major focus of the U.S. imperial state with respect to international environmental regimes in the last decade. The emphasis on obtaining more access to oil has sidelined global warming. We have to be sophisticated enough as sociologists to recognize that these issues are interrelated and have to be addressed together. While many of us were debating how to deal with global warming at the earth summit in Johannesburg in 2002 we were all forced to stop and watch helplessly while Bush seized the world stage by threatening to invade Iraq (ostensibly about WMD but really about control over the center of world oil supply).
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My research showed that peak oil (which is of course related to the increasing concentration of the remaining crude oil reserves in the Middle East, Central Asia, and west Africa) was much more central to national security planning than I had imagined. Of course peak oil is going to get less direct attention now since we are in a depression-like economic situation on a scale that increasingly invites comparison with 1929-1939, resulting in a drop in energy demand and prices. The economic disaster generally is mostly checkmating our hopes for progressive solutions to the ecological problem. We are in a new era of economic and ecological restructuring—if only because of the worst economic downturn in eighty years. Economics is king.
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and this reply:
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Professor,
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I don't dispute that "...the increasing concentration of the remaining crude oil reserves in the Middle East, Central Asia, and west Africa) was much more central to national security planning than [you] had imagined. I refer to oil (as opposed to "peak oil") since I am not an expert on oil reserves but am aware of some dispute about the relative abundance of reserves.
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I also think that it is "...too simple to see it as an either/or between global warming and peak oil." I am sorry if I gave the impression that was the case or that I believed it to be true. I would be the last to say these issues can be dealt with separately or in isolation from each other or from their impact on political economy or social equity. Nor do I reduce environmental issues to GHG emissions or climate change. I used the numbers for GHG emissions as an example of the increased environmental impacts as one goes down the chain of available fossil fuels. Surely strip mining or extraction of oil from shale, are environmentally devastating long before the fuel produced is combusted. Regarding the social issues raised by you and Professor C, I simply meant to broaden the focus beyond the overly simple notion of "peak oil" signaling the end of "carbon wars" fought by 'fossil fools' in pursuit of fossil fuels.
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The Abstract in the Farrell and Brandt article I cited reads as follows:
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"The energy system is in the early stages of a transition from conventionally produced oil to a variety of substitutes, bringing economic, strategic, and environmental risks. We argue that these three challenges are inherently interconnected, and that as we act to manage one we cannot avoid affecting our prospects in dealing with the others. We further argue that without appropriate policies, tradeoffs between these risks are likely to be made so as to allow increased environmental disruption in return for increased economic and energy security. Responsible solutions involve developing and deploying environmentally acceptable energy technologies (both supply and demand) rapidly enough to replace dwindling conventional oil production and meet growing demand for transportation while diversifying supply toimprove energy security."
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True, the authors limit themselves to the narrow topic of energy. Posting the reference to their article and extracting some data from it was simply to put oil in the context of the future of liquid fuel and shed some light on the notion that combustion of fossil fuels will diminish as conventional oil runs out. What is certain is that the prices will increase with all the concomitant social costs and geopolitical ramifications.
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And finally this comment on it all:
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Hi all. I agree that we must see global warming, peak oil, and the economy as connected and part of a larger whole, just as we must always look at the totality in order to properly understand its 'parts.' Ultimately, I see peak oil potentially as part of the solution to the larger problem of ecocide, not necessarily as a problem itself.
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The International Energy Agency had a report leaked recently that predicts a 9.1% annual decline in oil production. In its public report on Nov. 12, the IEA distanced itself from that estimate, saying that it was based on outdated data, but there is still a sense of urgency in the public report.http://www.energybulletin.net/node/47190http:// www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0830883c-a55b-11dd-b4f5-000077b07658.html?nclck_check=1i&nclick_check=1
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As already argued, the roots of the current 'financial' (economic) crisis actually lie in the stagnation of the real economy since the 60's. Financialization (credit cards, refinanced mortgages, and subprime mortages) was a temporary 'solution' to the problem of stagnation.
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I would argue that this stagnation of the real economy since the 60's, and hence the roots of the financial crisis, are largely found in energy stagnation. Capitalist expansion has been coming up against peaks in other resources as well, but energy is central, as it can often substitute for other resources in many respects, and it is used to access resources and is generally central to the productive process. The oil boom allowed the immense capitalist expansion after the Great Depression. I am not reducing it to energy by any means, since we have to see the system as an interconnected totality, but I am emphasizing how dependent the system is on expansion of energy resources (and other resources). Recycling (as opposed to reusing) takes a lot of energy, for example.
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The relative stagnation of energy resources is largely why growth in investment (and GNP as a whole) has been slowing since the 60's. Transfer payments and other Keynesian measures to stimulate demand could not expand growth rates, because the resources were and are already being used (and wasted) to the fullest extent, while the fossil fuel and auto industries (and other industries) worked against government investment in alternative energy. As the resources have declined, so has the rate of growth in GNP. Financialization (debt bubbles) and other investment bubbles (the dotcom bubble) simply allowed some illusory profits to keep the system afloat a while longer, and in-the-know bankers made a killing when these bubbles popped, while lesser investors and the general public suffer the consequences. But while the Fed can print and digitally create all the money it wants, that money is still chasing finite resources on a finite planet. It is not possible to keep cancerous, immensely wasteful capitalist "growth" going on a finite planet.
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So I would argue that while we are not yet witnessing the end of capitalism (yet), we are witnessing what is merely the beginning of what will become major destabilization. What happens as a result will be determined in struggle.Capitalism is no longer merely facing stagnation in energy. It is facing sharp declines in energy, along with other resources that have been in decline.
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The collapses of banks, the collapses and downsizing of other corporations, and the job losses have already begun. Really, they began long before the housing debt bubble started to pop. I think we are going to see a rapid acceleration of this in the coming years. Given the reality of global warming and the nature of capitalism, I see this as a potential solution rather than a problem.
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Alternative energy technologies are meaningless as long as we are in a capitalist system. William Stanley Jevons figured this out a long time ago. You can increase the total amount of energy available, but people will simply use more due to the cheaper prices. It will not stop the use of fossil fuels, given the inherent need of the capitalist system for expansion. Indeed, building up alternative energy currently relies on large inputs of fossil energy.
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While government-subsidized alternative energy jobs might help somewhat to keep the unemployed, underemployed, and underpaid from organizing into movements as jobs disappear, and might ease the oil down slope somewhat for capitalism, I think it is far too late at this point.
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I think capitalism is in dire straits.We all need to recognize that our perceived energy "needs" (and hence the massive carbon emissions that are causing global warming) are largely manufactured by the intensely wasteful capitalist system, its reliance on the automobile industry as a source of jobs and profits, its profligate consumption by the wealthy, the intense sales effort which relies on the dissolution of meaningful social ties, an inorganic agricultural system that goes against nature rather than working with nature, etc.
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Capitalism needs massive amounts of energy. We do not. What we need is a democratic economy that combines local autonomy and local food production with regional and global cooperation, and we need to start healing the metabolic rift. Fortunately, the crisis that is now unfolding allows us the opportunity for a massive shift in consciousness. An unemployed person is a desperate person. They will be looking for answers. Social movements will develop.
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Hmmmm. . . there is certainly a lot to think about in all of that !!
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What do you all think ??
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Please also check out:
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Yale Law School does some research into "Emotions, Values, and Information: The Future of Nanotechnology"

I found this link while I was looking for some information on nanoweapons (which I will blog on soon when I can find some more information on the topic):

Emotions, Values, and Information: The Future of Nanotechnology

Members of the Cultural Cognition Project conducted a major experimental survey study of nanotechnology risk perceptions. The study involved 1,800 subjects, whose views were collected in mid to late December 2006. The issues are investigation included: attitudes toward nanotechnology risks and benefits generally; the role of affect and cultural values in the formation of those perceptions; and the response of persons of different values to information about nanotechnology.

The study resulted in numerous important findings, which are set forth completely in The Future of Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions: An Experimental Investigation and Affect, Values, and Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions, and also summarized in a report prepared for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.


The study generated two principle findings.


(1) Existing reactions to nanotechnology are affect driven.

The sign (positive or negative) and intensity of subjects’ visceral or emotional reactions toward nanotechnology explained eight times as much of the variance in their perceptions of its risks as did either gender or race. The impact of affect was approximately seven times larger than the impact of confidence in government to regulate risks effectively, six times larger than the impact of education, and four times larger than the impact of perception of other environmental risks. The next biggest influence — how much subjects reported knowing about nanotechnology before the study — was less than half that of affect.

This finding, of course, begs the question, What explains variance in affect? A variety of things, we found, but among the strongest predictors of our subjects’ affective response to nanotechnology was their perceptions of other environmental risks, such as nuclear power and global warming.

The subjects in our study seemed to have a gut reaction to nanotechnology, a relatively novel risk, that was informed by their attitudes toward more familiar environmental dangers.

(2) The second major finding had to do with what happens when individuals learn more about nanotechnology. To address this issue, we divided our sample into two and furnished one with additional information about nanotechnology before eliciting their views. That information consisted of two, relatively short paragraphs, one setting forth potential benefits of nanotechnology and other potential risks. We then compared the views of subjects who received this information to those who didn’t receive any.

Overall, there was no difference in the views of our “no information” and our “information exposed” subjects on the relative risks and benefits of nanotechnology. Again, perfectly predictable, given the balanced nature of the information we supplied.

But when we examined the views of subgroups of respondents defined with reference to their values, we discovered something much more interesting: polarization of our subjects along cultural and ideological lines.

For summaries of those findings, click on the links below:
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Source:
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'Clean Coal' ???

I was reading an article called "Get paid for solar power on your roof" about Carmel Tebbutt (NSW Minister for Environment and Climate Change) announcing a "feed-in tariff" (i.e. they pay you for any energy you feed into the electricity grid from solar panels) in the environmental section of the Sydney Morning Herald, when I noticed the following click-on advertisment next to the solar energy newstory.


It looks like an advertisment to promote individual awareness about energy conservation - to turn off light-switches when not in use. But is it ?? Lets click on it and see what comes up . . .






Hmmm. . . .
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I agree that everyone can 'do a little' - but I think we need to encourage people to do MORE about climate change.

Oh Geez, the Australian 'dirty' coal industry is trying to go green (I mean 'clean'). Much like the nucler industry is trying to go green by promoting itself as being 'safe' (laughing so hard, except it is not funny!!).

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Gee, maybe I don't need to do anything if the Australian Coal industry is going to reduce its emissions by 'up to 90%) - wrong !! This taps into the 'I will leave it to someone else' or 'there is nothing I can do because I am too small' type thinking that is so common in our society when it comes to climate change.

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Everyone may be worried, but many people just want someone else to 'do something'. This is a problem because people can do a LOT to help reduce the need for more coal power stations by reducing their individual carbon footprint. There are many ways for people to reduce their energy consumption (such as turning off lights when not in use, more efficient appliances, solar panels, gas rather than electric heating). The combined effect of everyone doing MORE will be a reduced need for more dirty coal power stations !!

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Anyway, then this pops up

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So I clicked on it to see what their website had to say. I was guessing 'clean coal' as the 'solution' and I was right. What was funnier, it had a place to "Ask an expert" a question related to "topics like low-emissions coal technology, coal's role in the Australian economy and the challenge of climate change".

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One of my more deeper-green thinking friends believes that the idea of asking an 'expert' from the coal industry "what is the solution to climate change?" is like asking Charles Manson how to keep the streets safe. "Come on, where are most of the emissions coming from?? DIRTY COAL STATIONS !!"

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Anyway, I asked their 'expert' about whether ecological modernisation i.e. “The dirty and ugly industrial caterpillar will transform into an ecological butterfly” (Huber, 1985) is the solution to climate change or if more ecocentric thinking was required.

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I also asked if 'clean' coal was similiar to 'safe' nuclear energy.

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I also asked the 'expert' if renewable energy (such as solar) and individual behaviour change were better options than dirty coal.

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If the coal industry is pushing for a technocratic ecological modernisation approach (which it is), then it needs to realise that one of the main features of ecological modernisation is a change from top-down expert driven kowledge and decision making to bottom-up local knowledge and decision making. The coal industry needs to start listening to the community.

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Yet here is the Australian Coal industry with "ask a coal industry expert'. Australian society increasingly wants renewable energy and real green jobs over dirty coal and its dirty brown jobs. Dirty coal has had its day.

Could the huge amounts of money being invested in clean coal by governments be better spent on renewables (which is also already available) or even environmental behaviour change programs such as Community Based Social Marketing?

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What do you all think ????

For an alternative view to the coal industries - check out www.THISISREALITY.org

Friday, November 21, 2008

Climate Change - Australian Impact


Climate change - An Australian Guide to the Science and Potential Impacts, Australian Greenhouse Office, 2003


"This guide sets out the main facts and uncertainties regarding climate change, and helps provide Australians with policy-relevant, but not policy-prescriptive, advice and source material. It is largely based on, and consistent with, the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC TAR) published in 2001. However, this guide has been substantially updated with relevant summaries of the latest international and Australian observations, scientific developments, and studies regarding the impacts of, and adaptation to climate change in Australia."





Some recent visitors to this blog . . .**

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I have been checking out some of the visitors to this site (thanks to statCounter) and I have had some hits from:
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Australia:
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CSIRO
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Northern Territory Government
Powerhouse Museum
University Of New South Wales
University Of Sydney
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Canada:
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Memorial University Of Newfoundland
Ryerson University
University Of Alberta
University Of Saskatchewan
University of Waterloo
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Denmark
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Danish Network For Research And Education
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Mexico
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Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico
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New Zealand
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Department of Agriculture
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South Africa

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University Of Fort Hare
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Spain
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Universidad De Valencia
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Sweden
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Stockholm University
Swedish University Of Agricultural Sciences
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United Kingdom:
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Cardiff University
Oxford University
South Bank University
University of Reading
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United States:
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Cal Poly State University
Elmhurst College
NASA
State University Of New York
Savannah College Of Art And Design
Science Museum Of Minnesota
University Of California
University Of Georgia
University Of Hawaii
University Of Michigan Law School
University of Minnesota
University Of Nevada
University Of New Hampshire
University Of Wisconsin
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**happy with that
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Chapter on Climate Change



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Obama opens a "new chapter on climate change"

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"my presidency will mark a new chapter in Americas leadership on climate change" he said.

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Obama speaking on Climate Change

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"the science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear, sea levels are rising, coastlines are shrinking, we've seen record drought and spreading famine and stroms that are growing stronger with each passing season" he said.

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Note: This is very promising to hear, but his solutions include "safe" nuclear and "clean" coal.

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He said "we'll tap nuclear power, making sure it is safe and we will develop clean coal technologies".

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I don't agree that nuclear power is a solution to climate change.

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The risks of a nuclear accident and the risks associated with nuclear waste and nuclear weapons cannot be made "safe".

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See also: Dr Gavin Mudd about nuclear issues

Change is in the air


After hearing Arnie talk about climate change and then Obama talk about the change in thinking on climate change in the United States, I then found this story about British lawmakers passing a landmark climate change bill.


British lawmakers pass landmark climate change bill

LONDON (AFP) — Lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a bill committing Britain to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 -- the first country to have such a legally binding framework on climate change.


Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said the bill, which must now be signed into law by the queen, "makes Britain a world leader on climate policy".


"It's the first legislation of its kind in the world. It will tie this and future governments into legally binding emission targets -- an 80 percent cut by 2050, with five-year carbon budgets along the way," he said.


"It sends a clear message before European and global climate talks that serious action is possible."


Britain originally intended to cut emissions by 60 percent on 1990 levels by 2050, but changed this to 80 percent last month on the recommendation of a government-appointed committee.


The committee said the cuts would cost about one to two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and were "challenging but feasible".


The legislation also contains powers to establish emissions trading schemes, measures on biofuels, powers to reduce household waste and to require retailers to reduce the use of plastic bags.

Healthy green space research



This research about green space could help those concerned with health care and social justice to see the value of preserving a more natural world.

Parks and Health


LONDON (Reuters) - Equal access to parks, playing fields and forests greatly narrows health gaps between the rich and poor, and governments should do more to promote and invest in green areas, researchers said on Friday.


Earlier studies have linked living near green space to improved health, but the findings published in The Lancet show some of the impacts are bigger than thought, said Dr. Richard Mitchell, who led the study.


"The size of the difference in the health gap is surprising and represented a much bigger effect than I had been expecting," Mitchell, a researcher at the University of Glasgow, said in a telephone interview.


"So the key message is green spaces are another tool for governments to combat this health gap between rich and poor."


Promoting outdoor recreation and boosting health can in the long run save on health care spending, he added.


Parkland and open space make a difference, Mitchell said, by helping people get rid of stress and allowing more physical activity -- both of which reduce risk of heart disease.


"This is the first time we have demonstrated that aspects of the physical environment can have an impact in such a good way," he said. "It is a combination of exercise and restoration."


Mitchell and colleagues looked at the health effects of parks, playing fields and forests by dividing England into five sectors based on the amount of adjacent green areas and then comparing death rates between rich and poor.

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In the greenest areas, the health gap between the richest and poorest people, as measured by death rates was about half as big as that in the least green areas.

Source

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Climate Change and Human Health Conference


The Climate Change and Human Health Conference was held in Melbourne, Victoria, October 2007. Here are some links to some good stuff.










Also check out:
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Governors' Global Climate Summit


For webcast: http://uctv.tv/climate/
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On November 18-19, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will welcome U.S. governors and internationally-recognized leaders from around the world to Los Angeles for the first Governors' Global Climate Summit.
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The goal -- "to find tangible, sustainable and cooperative solutions to the global climate challenge and develop the partnerships and collaborative actions needed to advance a global climate agreement in Copenhagen next year."
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Update: I have just been having a look at the agenda, first there is a welcome by Arnie, then there are some interesting panel discussions on 'Collaborating on Greenhouse Gas Reporting' and 'Sectoral Cooperation to Combat Global Warming'. Then after lunch, they have all these 'climate action panels' on topics including "Energy", 'Transport and Mobility', 'Cement, Iron, Steel and Aluminium' and 'Forestry and Agriculture'. Hmmm (hopefully the 'action' isn't just all talking and lunching).
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There will also be a signing ceremony to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation (REDD) - The Republic of Indonesia and States from the Federative Republic of Brazil will sign agreements with Americian states to work cooperatively to promote and develop joint REDD programs.
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Update 2:
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Guess who sent a message to the conference??
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In the message, President-elect Obama emphasized his enthusiasm for the Poznan Conference and promised that his administration would mark a "new chapter in American leadership on climate change." (finally!)
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"Few challenges facing America -- and the world -- are more urgent than combating climate change," he said.
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"Many of you are working to confront this challenge....but too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office." he said.

(**RANDOM MAN is very happy that there is finally some good vibes coming from the United States at the federal level, although I don't agree with his stance on nuclear power - how is he going to make it 'safe' ???).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

History of Nanotechnology


Figure 1: DNA origami (approximately 100 nanometers in size)
Source: Rothemund (2006)

The idea of nanotechnology (although he did not call it nanotechnology) started when Richard Feynman (1959) gave a talk at Caltech called “There’s plenty of room at the bottom”. He suggested the “possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom” and “if we go down far enough, all our devices can be mass produced so that they are perfect copies of one another.” The term nanotechnology was first used by Taniquchi in 1974.

In 1977, Eric Drexler began to discuss the possibilities of molecular nanotechnology. He wrote two books on molecular nanotechnology: one for a general audience Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology (1986); and one for a technical audience Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation (1992). In these books Drexler argued that improvements in molecular nanotechnology were reliant on progress to be made in other technologies. The invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1986 was a major help as it allowed atomic resolution for the first time.

Early on, there was a debate between two of the giants in the field of nanotechnology: Eric Drexler, who argued that molecular nanotechnology was possible and Richard Smalley, who argued it would not be technically possible because of steric issues (i.e. “fat fingers”) and molecular adherence problems (i.e. “sticky fingers”) (Phoenix, 2003a). The former refers to the clumsiness to discriminate at the level of individual atoms and the later refers to the propensity of molecules to stick together. This debate was quickly solved by the rapid progress made in nanotechnology (e.g. Eigler & Schweizer (1990) published the finding that they could move a single atom). Thus, many of the technical problems of working at the nanolevel could be overcome therefore highlighting the enormous potential of this technology. The technologies of scanning force and atomic force microscopy have increasingly allowed minute manipulations to be made at the nanoscale.

In 2000, the US Government announced the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) to expand research into nanotechnology and provided funding of US$500 million in the first year (by 2006, this had increased to US$1.4 billion). The ambitious goals of this initiative included shrinking the entire contents of the Library of Congress into a device the size of a sugar cube, assembling new materials from the ‘bottom up’, using gene and drug delivery technologies to detect and target cancer cells, and developing new technologies to remove the smallest water and air pollutants.

Amongst this early optimism, Bill Joy (2000), who was then Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems, published an essay in Wired magazine that highlighted the dangers of nanotechnology. In this essay, Joy called for a “relinquishment” of dangerous research pathways such as self-replicating nanomachines that could get out of control and begin destroying the environment. This created much debate. There was concern amongst nanotechnology scientists that public fears could greatly limit the growth of nanotechnology as a result of funding being denied or ‘over-cautious’ regulations.

The risks of nanotechnology were also discussed in science fiction. For example, Prey by Michael Crichton (2002) highlighted the problem of nanomachines self-replicating out of control to create so-called ‘grey goo’. There was also beginning to be opposition to nanotechnology. For example, the Action group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC) protested against the funding given to the NNI by the US Government. ETC (2003 and 2004) is against nanotechnology because of its risks and has called for a moratorium on nanotechnology.

The insurance industry also began to consider the risks involved in nanotechnology. For example, Swiss Re (2004 and 2005) attempted to assess the risks of nanotechnology given the large number of unknowns and its possible large impact on society. Morgan (2005) suggested that the development of a framework for informing the risk analysis and risk management of nanoparticles was needed.

Nanotechnology continues to quickly progress: Rothemund (2006) used nanotechnology to create Nanoshapes or DNA origami (see Figure 1 above) and published the complex nanoscience behind his creations in Nature. The Robo Cup 2007 featured a remote controlled Swiss-made nanosized soccer player (see Figure 2 below).


Figure 2: Nanosoccer robot competing in the Robo Cup 2007. Although not ‘true’ nano-size because greater than 100 nanometers, it demonstrates the rapid progress being made.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnLGpl1N7Ns

In April 2008, scientists from Hewlett-Packard reported in the journal Nature that they had designed a simple circuit element that they believe “will enable tiny, powerful computers that could imitate biological functions”. The device, called a memristor (see figure 3), could “make it possible to build extremely dense computer memory chips” (Tour & Tao, 2008). This revolutionary device could allow many new developments to be quickly made in artificial intelligence. The ability to create machines that have a ‘consciousness’ is becoming a real possibility. What would this mean for humanity (or other life)? It could radically alter our current systems and institutions.
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Figure 3: The image was taken by an atomic force microscope and shows a simple circuit consisting of 17 memristors. Each wire is 50 nanometers wide or approx 150 atoms.

Source: Tour & Tao (2008)

There are already nanotechnology products widely available for consumers and businesses to purchase, including sunscreens, toothpastes, sanitary ware coatings, car tyres, golf clubs and even food packaging. Although estimates vary, it has been estimated that the current global market for nanotechnology is worth US$40 billion and it has been predicted to be worth up to US$1 trillion by 2015-2020 (Tegart, 2006, p.11). However, there is growing concern that the safety of these nanomaterial products has not been fully tested and many unknowns about the effects of possibly highly dangerous nanomaterials being released into the environment remain. Public trust of nanotechnology is critical. Also current regulations may not be sufficient to cover the risks involved and they may need to be tightened to provide better protection from nanotechnology risks.

The Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars (WWICS)[1] maintains a list of nanomaterial products on its website currently puts the number at 610 products produced by 322 companies, located in 20 countries. However, the exact number of nanomaterial products is contested. Journalist Howard Lovy (2007) has argued the WWICS derives its list from product claims rather than their own criteria or assessment and in this way contributes to public alarm. There are also many products at the early stages of discovery and development. The extent of investment required to develop these technologies is large and possibly high risk. For example, consider the IT boom and the enormous amounts of money made and then the bust and the huge losses incurred [reference needed here]. A number of scholars acknowledge that, as with other technologies, there are both benefits and risks involved in nanotechnology (Treder, 2004; Tucker, 2007). The Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineering (2004) together released a report that highlighted both positive and negative impacts of nanotechnology.
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by Random Man (2008)
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For more see: Nanotechnology - risks and benefits and What is nanotechnology?




Update: see also Electron microscopy enters the picometer scale


[1] Project on Emerging Nanotechnology



http://www.nanotechproject.org/inventories/consumer/

What is nanotechnology?

A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. The science, engineering and technology conducted at usually less than 100 nanometers is collectively called nanotechnology. (Phoenix, 2003a). To compare, the thickness of a sheet of paper is approximately 100,000 nm. However, it must be realised that there is no general agreement on a definition. There are many different definitions of nanotechnology because it is comprised of many separate fields (because of the reductionist splitting of science) such as nanomedicine, nanoengineering, nanochemistry, nanophysics, nanobiotechnology, nanomaterials, and nanoelectronics.
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Nanoscience and nanotechnology are often tightly interwoven and in this post the term nanotechnology will be used to describe both areas. Nanotechnologists are increasingly able to manipulate the building blocks of nature (such as atoms, molecules, DNA, proteins, etc).
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Scientists can take advantage of the sometimes very novel properties of materials that operate only at the nano-scale; however these novel properties may also be the cause of new serious problems. Nanotechnology has only recently being included in university studies. Furthermore, there are a number of research scientists employed within private industries ( majority of nano-scientists however work within private companies (e.g. Hewlett-Packard). Historically universities developed in a privileged position and were seen as the gatekeepers of knowledge. However, increasingly business and science is becoming inextricably linked.
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The area of nanotechnology is highly dynamic and new nanofields and applications are starting to appear around the world. Nanotechnology can be divided into near-term nanotechnology (i.e. new science and technology that takes advantage of the properties operating at the nanoscale) and far-term or molecular nanotechnology (i.e. aims to build from the bottom-up with atomic precision). The rapid pace of new discoveries means that we may soon have the ability to build with atomic precision, although how quickly this occurs is unknown; it may be anywhere from 5 to 25 years away.
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The capabilities of nanotechnology are already significant and its power will continue to grow rapidly. Of critical concern is that power can be used for ‘good’ or ‘bad’ purposes, for example, some experts say that existing nanotechnology techniques designed to deliver medicines in a more effective and targeted fashion could also be used to deliver toxic substances into a person's system.
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by Random Man (2008)
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For more on nanotechnology see:
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Nanotechnology - risks and benefits
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History of Nanotechnology
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** If you enjoyed this post please also check out:
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Splitting: 'jobs' versus 'the environment'.
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New Green Jobs ??
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Boost the economy and tackle poverty at the same time
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Gambling with climate change
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COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME !!
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So please, tell us what you think.



Saturday, November 15, 2008

EPA decides 'no new coal-fired power plants' (Well at least for now)


Here are some articles on the decision by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it has no valid reason to refuse to regulate the CO2 emissions that come from new coal-powered plants.


The decision pointed to a May 2007 ruling by the Supreme Court that recognized CO2, the main cause of climate change, is indeed a pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act and therefore needs to be regulated by the EPA.


The board's decision will force the EPA to consider CO2 when issuing permits for new power plants, potentially making it — at least in the short-term — all but impossible to certify new coal power plants.






** If you enjoyed this post please also check out:


'Clean Coal' ???


Clean Coal?


Greenpeace protests against coal carriers


Should coal-fired energy producers pay for greenhouse pollution permits???


Top 10 Environmental Posts



COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME !!

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So please, tell us what you think.

Environmental consultancy future ?

An interesting article from the Financial Times on whether the economic downturn will take its toll on environmental consulting.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5fefa730-b1e3-11dd-b97a-0000779fd18c.html

It finds that two factors will be key in answering this question

1) whether environmental consultancy can help companies to save money and improve business performance; and

2) whether the regulatory drivers that inspired the rush to environmental improvements hold firm.

Most affected area ?

“So far, the firms most affected by the financial crisis have been those which were engaged in contaminated land consultancy for the development market”

Naked protest anyone ??


Next ride in Sydney:

Saturday 14th March 2009.

For more information: