How Rich are You Anyway?

As it becomes obvious that there will be no rapid decarbonization (not, at least, on the scale needed to avoid a global climate catastrophe) unless “the rich” pay the costs of that rapidity, the question of who is rich, and how rich, is taking on a strange new importance. Which is why we like this little calculator. The data behind it, by the way, is taken from the work of Branko Milanovic, whose new book Words Apart: Measuring International and Global Inequality sets the gold standard, when it comes to, well, measuring international and global inequality.

Am I Meaningfully Participating Yet?

The Chinese government is preparing to impose minimum fuel economy standards on their burgeoning auto fleet, standards far more stringent than those in the US. To be clear, the new standards aren’t intended to address China’s rapidly rising carbon emissions, but rather to force foreign automakers to introduce the latest hybrid engines and other technology into China, fast, in hopes of easing the nation’s swiftly rising dependence on oil imports. Which, actually, makes excellent sense. And the situation is not without its humorous sidelights. Here’s one: the New York Times article, China Set to Act on Fuel Economy; Tougher Standards Than in US, reports that “two executives at Volkswagen, the largest foreign automaker in China” .. told the Times that “They had no choice but to agree.”

Those damn Market-Leninists!

Landmark Study from Old Europe!

The German Scientific Advisory Council on Global Environmental Change (WBGU) has just released Climate Protection Strategies for the 21st Century: Kyoto and Beyond, and it’s a milestone. For one thing, it calls for a 2C “guardrail” to prevent dangerous climate change. For another, it promotes an idea which has long and unjustly been marginalized by calling for “Contraction and Convergence” to be the basis of the post-Kyoto regime.

This is a big step forward for a major quasi-governmental think tank, even a European one, but it remains to be seen how much traction these ideas will win. Even if the E.U. were to adopt the WBGU’s proposal for convergence to equal per capita rights in 2050, the South’s response would remain uncertain. Continue reading “Landmark Study from Old Europe!”

After Cancun

You know that the international trade talks are in trouble. What you may not know is that Cancun saw the emergence of a newly coherent Southern negotiating bloc – the “Group of 21” – and that it may (cross your fingers) portend good news spreading even as far as the climate talks. Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but here’s an interesting analysis by Focus on the Global South’s Walden Bello, who by the way just won the Right Livelihood Award. In it, Bello discusses “the possibility that the Group of 21 can serve as the engine of South-South cooperation that goes beyond trade to coordination of policies on investment, capital flows, industrial policy, social policy, environmental policy.”

The Perfect Firestorm

Mike Davis isn’t the only writer to say “global warming” while commenting on the California fires, but his Perfect Firestorm is probably the only essay to link the outsized economic damages to “stupid development,” or to note that “Republicans tend to disproportionately concentrate themselves in the wrong altitudes and ecologies.” Read this one; it’s short and anything but sweet.

Strange Augusts Yet to Come

Perhaps you’ve read Mike Davis’s Late Victorian Holocausts. More likely you’ve looked at the cover photos, grimaced, and turned away. But do take a look at Our Summer Vacation: 20,000 dead wherein Davis ties this past August’s wave of European heat death to the more routine suffering of the poor and the forgotten, and then shares his personal greenhouse nightmare: a positive feedback caused by the now almost inevitable melting of the Arctic ice cap.

Speaking of August, 2003’s was the Northern hemisphere hottest on record, and according to the Earth Policy Institute’s Janet Larson, whose detailed numbers nice supplement Davis’s, it actually accounted for 35,000 deaths.

More Death and Suffering: This Just In!

Speaking of greenhouse body counts, the estimate of 160,000 deaths a year has been in the news lately, thanks to a new report from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The majority of these deaths occur in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, where people are more vulnerable to malnutrition, malaria, and diarrhea as hotter temperatures settle in and floods and droughts become more common.

This figure demands to be put in perspective. Here’s one place to start: the World Health Organization estimates that indoor air pollution causes 1.6 million deaths per year. That’s an even power of ten greater than the greenhouse body count, and this time the situation is crystal clear: the killer here is poverty, pure and simple.

The London Guardian Draws Conclusions

If the WMO press release is too understated for your taste, try the articles that George Monbiot and John Vidal have been publishing in the Guardian recently. Particularly notable are:

* Monbiot’s Shadow of Extinction which presents evidence that the great Permian extinction may have been caused by a mere 6C degrees of climate change. (July 1st)

* Vidal’s Global Warming may be Speeding Up, which evocatively argues that this summer’s global drought/heatwave could indicate that the warming has already begun to accelerate. (Aug 6th)

* Monbiot’s With Eyes Wide Shut, which reviews some of the more terrifying of the recent science, and suggests that we are, perhaps, living in a dream. (Aug 12th) All three of these articles cite a recent workshop where top atmospheric scientists, including Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen and Bert Bolin, former chairman of the IPCC, concluded that the masking effect that aerosols are having on the warming could be far greater than previously thought, and that, therefore, the IPCC’s estimate of the “high end” danger could turn out to be far too low. For more on this, see First, the Bad News in the current issue of Climate Equity Observer.