Broadcast 12/12/2010 from The Armstrong & Miller show Series 2 Episode 6.
- Start Here
- Peak Oil
- Debt Crisis
- My Work
- The Blog
A great little 6 min video by Peter Sinclair for The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media contains most of the important visualisations of how the extent of Arctic sea ice has declined over the last 30 years, reaching the lowest volume since records began in September of 2012.
In one of the better talks about climate destabilisation I have seen, David Roberts of Grist.org talks about the main causes and effects surrounding the topic. He covers the various scenarios of temperature rise in particular the really dangerous possibility the many positive feedback loops the earth’s climate system has will cause irreversible temperature rise that cause such profound change that will make much of the planet uninhabitable or in his words “you go outside and die of hotness”.
He ends on the note that global carbon emissions need to peak within the next 5-10 years and rapidly decline every year thereafter. Every year we wait will just mean that it costs us more. Addressing this challenge will be the next generations job for the rest of their lives. Indeed.
There is also a remixed version with some video and music mixed in. The video bits were good but I found the music a little distracting on occasion. Up to you which you would like to watch, same basic content. Click here to watch the remixed versionClimate Change, Climate Destabilisation, Climate Science, fossil fuel, Global Warming
I finished reading Paul Gilding’s book The Great Disruption earlier today and I believe it is the most important book I have read since Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers and would heartily recommend both. In the absence of the book I have found a video of a 30 min talk Paul gave to the World Affairs Council (with another 35 mins of Q&A). Or you can view the abridged 16 min version at the bottom.
The main ideas of the book are that the environmental movement has failed to cause a cultural change that will enable us to take pre-emptive action and avoid the serious impacts of climate change and resource depletion. Despite decades of effort, the world is still in denial. But when looking at human psychology and serious world events this is not actually surprising. As Paul argues – we are slow, but not stupid. The obvious prior example is World War II. Hitler and the stirring of Germany was not a new idea when war was declared in 1939. Prior to that there was much denial about the real threat of Germany, most notably the political policy of appeasement. But once war was declared things changed remarkably quickly and policies and achievements that seemed impossible before all of a sudden happened. Paul believes we are in much the same situation and it will take a great deal of climate pain for the world to wake up from its state of denial. Once this happens the world will go to war decarbonising our economies and it will happen at a pace that seems incomprehensible now. Paul argues that this will happen because there is no other choice. This is the key problem now, there is a choice.
But the story doesn’t end there. Paul argues that the climate problem is not the base problem, but the symptom of a much larger issue – the worldwide pursuit of endless economic growth on a finite planet. The economic model on which we base our societies is flawed and at some point needs to change to a steady state economy. Again this is not a new idea, it was acknowledged my many of the fathers of economics. But listening to politicians of today, the mantra of growth is so firmly embedded in our attitudes that it will take many years of failed growth for the idea that we have reached our planetary limits to sink in. While the transition will likely be unpleasant, the destination of an economy that has limits on the resources it uses and the pollution it produces is a positive one. It will mean a redistribution of wealth and a more equitable society. Despite the commonly held view that more money equals happiness (true only if it pulls you out of poverty), research shows that more equitable societies are much healthier societies. It could mean that advances in productivity translates into less time working.
One can argue that the book has a slightly optimistic outcome, one where we are successful in meeting the climate challenge. We could fail, just a few different decisions taken in WWII might of resulted in the citizens of the UK saluting the Fatherland. It does gloss over the difficulties to come. But (again as Paul touches on) if we are to be successful in meeting the upcoming challenges we will have to be outwardly positive and optimistic even if we sometimes inwardly doubt ourselves. It is equally incorrect to assume that society will just collapse without a fight and we are often pessimistic of what we can achieve when we really put our minds to it.
Where the truth lies I don’t know, but this book has articulated many of the feelings I have on where the world is at. You can argue about the details but the underlying ideas in the book are spot on. It is an important book as it has helped me come to the realisation that those of us not in denial need to spend less time fighting those that are (as the evidence will become overwhelming) and more time preparing for the great disruption.
I urge you to buy the book The Great Disruption. The link goes to amazon so you have the most amount of reviews to read, but please try and buy from your local bookstore (unless you have a kindle/ipad).China, Climate Change, Climate Destabilisation, Climate Science, Economics, Economy, environment, fossil fuel, GDP, Global Warming, Growth, Paul Gilding, population, Renewables, sustainability, Video
I just finished watching a BBC Storyville documentary “Deadline: The New York Times” which has my head filled with an issue that has been a huge concern of mine for a while. The doco follows key members of the NY Times over the last few years during which there has been a massive change within the business profile of traditional print media. The rise of the internet combined with the financial crisis has lead to a sharp dip in advertising and sales revenue. It has caused a number of US newspapers to go under and those that remain are operating in a restricted manner. What does this mean for transparency and accountability in our societies?
This is a complex question.
I personally have never bought more than a few newspapers in my life and get most of my news through the internet versions of newspapers and various blog sites. Besides the fact I find the whole idea of chopping down trees, processing into paper, printing, distributing and then paying for a giant wad of paper that I will spend say 30 mins flicking through to read on balance a handful of articles, perhaps 1% of the actual paper before casually disposing of it (hopefully recycled) completely ludicrous and deeply unsustainable, I personally don’t find too much relevant with what the mainstream media reports. For me there are a few inherent flaws with the way in which the news is reported that means the idea of buying a paper rarely enters my mind.
Firstly, it is a slave to the 24 hour news cycle. This in some ways has made the media into a wing of the entertainment industry. People get bored with the same old news and are wanting fresh stories, the more scandalous the better. This has led to three things, the dumbing down of the stories reported, recklessness with the truth and the overuse of the word crisis. Everything is a crisis these days, so much so I think that the word has almost lost meaning and has made it harder to sort out what the real problems are in the world at the moment. The other problem with the 24 hour cycle is the constant pressure of deadlines, to pump out material regardless of it’s journalistic quality. We often assume that because something is in print that it is correct and has been validated, just as we assume most of the products we buy from the store are completely safe for human consumption/use. But the reality is much farther from this than we would care to admit. My last job was in a government water utility and we tracked all mentions of us in the media. The amount of times the articles mis-reported an issue or simply got some facts wrong was quite astonishing. It made me wonder just what percentage of the newspaper articles were correct and what the impacts of this mis-information had on public opinion.
This leads me to my main issue of contention. Editorial direction. Being an Australian most of our papers are owned by one Mr. Rupert Murdoch and the same can be almost said for many of the US and UK papers. Now what control management has on editorial direction and content I can not say, but there clearly is varying levels of bias. Now I am not naive enough not to expect any bias, but the big papers, such as the NY Times have a duty to maintain journalistic and editorial integrity to accurately reflect the most important issues going on in the world today. In this I think they have failed. I believe that climate change and the broader issues of sustainability is THE most important issue in the world today. It underpins the economic crisis, our political systems, our societal values and ultimately the direction of where humanity is heading. I have my own bias but the actual impacts a changing climate will have on us all means it is the biggest issue facing us all by about a dozen country miles. But this is not the impression you would get from sampling a bunch of broadsheets today.
But the design of traditional newspaper media process means that it is almost inevitable that it will fail in reporting such a complex issue. The complexity of the world and science has magnified exponentially over the years making it increasingly more difficult for a reporter or a reader to wrap ones head around the issues. Take me for example. I left my job as an energy efficiency engineer a little over a year ago. In the process of trying to figure out how I could help with the climate situation on meaningful scale I ended up latching onto the subject of peak oil. I have spent a fair chunk of the past year researching the topic, reading numerous reports hundreds of pages in length. Before all of this I thought I was reasonably knowledgable on the subject but now I realise just how little I knew and also how much mis-information is out there on this topic. It’s up there in terms of importance with the financial/debt crisis stuff rampant in the media today but I would guess it wouldn’t get 1% of the coverage. But how many reporters would actually have the time to read all of these various reports properly? How many have the background knowledge built up over many years to understand it all? Then how would one actually be able to present the complexity of the topic so that the average reader would really get it or would want to read it in the first place? We can see by the quality and quantity of the general media on the topic of climate science that it is a little beyond most journalistic entities. As I have been struggling with all of this for almost a year now I am not surprised.
But what of the alternatives? Blogging and the internet is better at serving my specific interests but they too have far more bias than the average newspaper. It’s just usually a bias that I prefer. But what does this mean for the general knowledge of the people and society? Will peoples views be more fractured and society less able to find common ground? Also, what does this mean to the foundation of investigative reporting? A blog site can hardly pay to have a reporter on the ground in Baghdad or be bothered to cover the more mundane aspects of politics and governmental accountability. This costs money and as I am painfully aware, there is very little financial incentive to choosing to be blog reporter for a living.
There is no question that the role mainstream media has performed in the past is critical to a healthy society/democracy. But in so many ways it is becoming redundant and a new model needs to emerge. The future of where we will view this media is no doubt on the internet, but how to fund and maintain the required foundation of journalists, in both terms of numbers and variety of fields, remains an unanswered question. As much of the internet is stealing or at least basing themselves of the the journalistic foundation that the NY Times and other such news sources provides, can these existing private models continue to exist? And what will be the consequences if they disappear?
One obvious solution is through tax payer funded institutions such as the BBC and the Australian ABC but this will hardly deliver the variety of opinion needed. As the internet has now become this virtually free domain we can all play in, maybe the role of government to support the workability of this platform needs to increase. The industry is struggling to find a financial model that will work, but they are having to compete with sites and organisations that are able to externalise many of the costs. In the meantime I can only hope we can honour the original source of our news and if asked, be prepared to pay a little for the service they provide.Climate Science, media
I discovered this brilliant Channel 4 documentary series late night on TV which tracks man’s struggle with a constantly evolving climate over our last 200,000 years of history. Climate change is not new and the show goes back in time to try and discover how various groups of humans dealt with the challenges of changing weather patterns which affected their ability to feed themselves and have enough water to survive. Some groups were successful in adapting, some weren’t. It will likely be the same story for us in the future, but unlike then, the sheer number of us on the planet today will be another huge factor in how we can adapt. It also highlights how humans have flourished only in the last few thousand years during a period of almost unusual climate stability.
Will the modern human with it’s knowledge base and technology be able to adapt to the now inevitable changes to our climate that are already locked in and will we be smart enough to avoid the more disastrous changes that are on the cards if we don’t change our ways.
I unfortunately cannot embed the videos so you’ll have to click the link on the episode heading but the copy and paste job of the episode description should help.
Tony Robinson explores how a small group of our earliest African ancestors were rescued from extinction by the last great global warming 130,000 years ago. The barren landscape surrounding the oases in which they lived was transformed to lush savannah, enabling them to traverse the continent and eventually make it to Europe. As temperatures rose, so they would also later fall: in the Russia steppes Dr Joy Singarayer finds out how the European Homo Sapiens adapted to survive the last great Ice Age. But not all humans coped so well. In Gibraltar, Tony finds the last resting place of our Neanderthal ‘cousins’. Lacking our ‘social brains’, which enabled us to trade and get help from outsiders, the Neanderthals starved, dying out in lonely communities, and even resorting to cannibalism.
Tony Robinson traces how global warming at the end of the last Ice Age was the catalyst for the dawn of civilisation, but also unleashed devastation. Twelve thousand years ago our planet emerged from the last great Ice Age, with temperatures rising by five degrees in just a few decades. After 190,000 years living as nomadic hunter-gatherers, our ancestors were forced to change with the world around them. In Europe the rise in temperature unleashed an agricultural revolution, while in North Africa around 7,000 years ago a savage drought led Saharan refugees to settle along the River Nile. In the limited space they had to learn new skills and form new social structures, going on to found the Kingdom of Egypt. Five hundred years later this same global warming triggered catastrophe as Canadian ice sheets containing 900,000 trillion tonnes of water melted into the Atlantic, causing massive flooding. In less than a year Britain was amputated from mainland Europe, and the Black Sea was formed, washing out the pioneer farmers from that region. What happened to the people that had cultivated this fertile land changed the future of the continent.
Tony Robinson picks through the ruins of three great civilisations from the last 2,000 years to ask what made these civilisations more vulnerable to climate catastrophe than the ones who survived. In the jungles of Central America he investigates how decades-long drought brought the advanced Mayan civilisation to an apocalyptic end, resorting to human sacrifices to plead to their gods for salvation. Dr Joy Singarayer travels to the extraordinary landscape of Greenland to discover how the mini-Ice Age of the 13th century wiped out the ‘advanced’ Vikings, while their ‘savage’ Inuit neighbours developed new tools and strategies to stay alive. Meanwhile, in the deserts of America’s southwest, Dr Jago Cooper investigates the climate crisis that made the Puebloan inhabitants of extraordinary cliff cities homeless 750 years ago.
Tony Robinson examines societies similar to our own, who not only survived climate change, but flourished. In Peru the Hauri people embraced a savage drought, developed advanced techniques of water management and founded a great empire, itself the basis of the great Inca nation. In Europe, Tony learns how a mini-Ice Age triggered the Black Death; but rather than cripple medieval Europe it launched a period of unprecedented progression. The Industrial Revolution and globalisation were hastened by the benefits of a stable climate, but Tony also learns how this stability appears to be ending, bringing a new threat to human societies.Climate Change, Climate Destabilisation, Climate Science, environment, Global Warming
This National Resource Defence Council 21 minute documentary explores the startling phenomenon of ocean acidification, which may soon challenge marine life on a scale not seen for tens of millions of years. The film, featuring Sigourney Weaver, originally aired on Discovery Planet Green.
Interview with Prof. Naomi Oreskes co-author of the book “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming”. The quality of the video isn’t so great but that is more than made up by the quality of Naomi as a speaker. Extremely knowledgable she answers the questions with a depth that isn’t off putting which makes her quite easy to follow. Well worth a listen.
She traces the current debate in the media on climate change to roots of key right wing think tanks promoting free market, non regulatory ideology during the 80′s and 90′s. The handful of scientists who founded this movement through the Marshall Institute near the end of the Cold War started attacking the science of various issues (including environmental regulation) and demanding equal media time. They adopted the playbook from tobacco’s long held strategy of arguing that there was no direct evidence that smoking caused cancer and until the science was settled there should be no need for regulation. It is not the often assumed story of corruption, more a story of strongly held belief of the free market. A world in which tobacco and fossil fuel companies are a lot more happy operating in and thus their decision to start funding these think tanks during the 1990′s. Naomi squares a lot of the blame to these parties, but the insidious tactic would not of been as successful as it has if journalists and scientist hadn’t been willing to question and argue the issue more. It looks as though the US is almost a lost cause for the moment on this issue while the rest of the world, minus those under a Murdoch media umbrella see the real story of climate science much more clearly.
We are still a long way from real action though.
A mock rap video on the media and the fact that climate scientists themselves are rarely heard in the Climate Destabilisation debate. Hilarious and has a point. Gold. Thank you Hungry Beast and ABC. Ha. I’m still chuckling away.
I don’t mind swearing but if you do, click the link for the cleaner vid below. Also for the lyrics.