Friday, November 23, 2007

Is you is or is you ain't?

Oh how I wish that I can report on an event that is both ecologically friendly and yet meaningful at the same time. Unfortunately these events are so rare that I have no recollection of when the last such event took place.

We are all aware of how the whole world pretends to be concerned about climate change. It is accepted by everyone that global warming, leads to climate change and potentially catastrophic consequences for all of us all over the globe and it is equally accepted that the major cause for global warming is the increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. One would naturally expect that once the potential negative result of an event is clear to all and once practically everyone is in agreement about the major cause for that potential calamity then we would take meaningful action to stop the acts that lead to the inevitable catastrophe. Well let us review the record: The global Meteorological association has just released ( on Friday Nov 23, 2007) its most recent findings regarding carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen again during 2006 to the historical high of over 386 ppm which is over 36 % above what the concentration used to be at the beginning of the industrial revolution. My only question ; with apologies to King Cole; Is you is or is you ain't (CO2 that is) the cause of climate change? If CO2 concentration is the cause then why , in the name of whatever you hold dear, aren't we doing anything about it? Could it be because we are not serious about climate change? You bet.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Our $ Share

"Nations that have grown rich in part by polluting without facing the costs of doing so must now repay their carbon debt to the developing world," said Andrew Pendleton, author of "Truly Inconvenient - tackling poverty and climate change at once."

According to an estimate done by a British economist developed countries need to spend about 1% of their current GDP on efforts to help contain Global warming. Given that the US GDP is estimated to be at over $14 Trillion then our fair annual share would be around $140 billion. Would we ever pay even a tenth of that some? Do pigs fly?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Another Gloomy Environmental Assessment

You are encouraged to take a look at a relatively exaustive analysis of the Global Environmental Outlook by visiting the site of UNEP and then clicking on GEO 4.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sink, What Sink?

The original estimates about the expected level of Carbon dioxide concentration have been too high. Upon further investigations the anomaly was resolved. It turns out that the oceans and the forests do sequester about 50% of all the carbon dioxide that is emitted by human activity. That was the good news otherwise the anticipated rise in temperature would have been far greater that what it has been.
Now for the not so good news. Scientists at the University of Anglia have outfitted some ships with instruments that can measure the level of carbon dioxide that has been absorbed by the waters that they ply. The data supplied by these ships that have traveled the North Atlantic is totally unexpected. Actually if this preliminary finding proves to be accurate then it does not bode well for climate change.
The newly collected observations show that the North Atlantic is absorbing only half of the carbon dioxide that it used to absorb.That is a huge drop by any measure. If this proves to be accurate and if it turns out to be true for the other oceans then we have to revisit most of the projections that had assummed a carbon sink that is much larger than what the current data suggest that it is.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nobel Peace Prize ups pressure for climate action

It is not clear whether Al Gore would have been as influential in spreading the case for the need to take action to control Global Warming had he been elected as a President of the United States. Actually, it would be safe to assume that he would not have had the time to work on "Inconvenient Truth" neither would his message been regarded as an objective assessment . In an ironic twist, it sure was good for Environmentalism and for humanity that the Supreme Court stopped the recounting of votes in Florida. The wonderful unforseen consequence of that act by the supremes is the awawarding of the Nobel peace prize to Mr. Gore and the IPCC .

This award has in effect broadened the definition of peacekeeping operations and it is hoped that the resulting awarness that it brings to the effort to contain Global Warming will play a major role in shaping an effective global policy in a few months from now in Bali.

Not everyone is rejoicing though. As it is to be expected the dissenters, such as Vaclav Klaus, the Czech President, were skeptical of the relationship between global warming and world peace. Obviously the Nobel Committee does not agree with the skeptics . They emphasized that rising sea levels, more floods, droughts and desertification will only lead to " increased danger of violent conflicts and wars".

Sunday, October 07, 2007


The common mainstream environmental wisdom seems to connect poverty with environmental scarcity and degradation. As you might have noticed our text book never tires of making this point.
Does it really make sense to make such assertions in a world where we sell production cars for a $1,500,000.00 a copy, luxury cell phones fetch $17,000.00, swiss made watches go for over $25,000.00 a piece, a designer sofa retails for $30,000.00, an Atlantic City suit costs $10,000.00 a night and to top it all the NYC trend of buying an apartment for $6,000,000.00 only to turn around and spend a few millions on gutting it and redecorating it. Are such activities eco friendly ? Is this the world that we aspire to create? In my book, affluence is the problem and so it cannot be the solution. But hey, the remodeled apartment has triple glazed windows.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Why Climate Change Can't be Stoped?

A short article that appeared as a web exclusive by Foreign Policy argues that we have done too little and that we are too late to stop climate change. Food for thought.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Global Warming Revisited

The UN held a mini summit on Global warming early last week in an effort to galvanize interest in the new Kyoto agreement. The next major meeting to discuss the shape of the new Kyoto; the old one expires in 2012; will take place in Bali, Indonesia next December.
Meanwhile Washington invited the leaders and representatives of the major 16 Carbo emmitters to a meeting at the State Department last Thursday. The current US administration has changed its tone. It no longer denies Global Warming and is trying to portray itself as a leader on the issue. None of the countries; the 16 represent 80% of the global economy and 80% of carbon emissions; welcomed the US conversion because it did not go far enough and seemed to be less genuine that what it was portrayed to be. The US is still adamantly opposed to any mandates and wants to champion technology transfer provided others set up a fund to pay for it. Mr. Bush made it clear that he thinks that Global Warming must be taken seriously but apparently only if the voluntary targets do not interfer with economic growth.
One more time we want to have our cake and eat it too. But this time we were not able to influence anyone. All the countries voiced their dismay at the proposals and have promised to look past the current administration. But what if the new administration does not turn out to be that different? Do we have the right to put the welfare of the future generations in jeopardy?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black !!

Many of the most connected political operatives in the United States have reported on the topics that were discussed by President Bush and his Chinese counterpart President Hu during their summit early last year.

A consensus has emerged among these well connected journalists and opinion shapers that athe main topic that occupied these two leaders was that of energy. President Bush, the political leader of a nation that consumes over 20 million barrels of crude oil a day has expressed concern about the rising level of consumption of a nation that has over five times the US population and yet consumes less than one third the US total. Can anyone pull that with a straight face? Are we truly telling others that we see nothing wrong in consuming fifteen times what they do on a per capita basis and that it is their relatively smaller consumption that needs to be constrained so that we can go on building our large homes, driving our huge SUVs and maintaining our highly energy intensive life style? It does take lots of chutzpah to do that, doesn’t it?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Green Monster

Whoever was it that said you cannot teach old dogs new tricks must have never known about the big bad WalMart that is trying to change its image into that of a Friendly Green Machine.
We all know about WalMart's efforts in selling organic produce but its latest effort is even more impressive. It has at least earned my personal stamp of approval :-)
A number of countries have embraced the CFL light bulbs much more widely than the US. Actually a few countries have even banned the sale of the old fashioned incandescent lightbulb. "Giving" the latest book by Bill Clinton estimates that if we were to replace every regular light bulb in the US by a new CFL then we would in effect eliminate the need of the electricity output from around eighty electric power plants. That is a lot of coal that will not have to be used.

So what is WalMart up to? They plan to sell 100's of millions of the CFL's in at least 3000 stores and they plan to do that by selling their own brand, produced by GE and by Phillips, at a 25% discount. I will be visiting my local WalMart today in order to pick up a dozen CFL's, what about you?

Thursday, September 13, 2007


"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" is one of the most fundamental and most enduring ideas in Economics. Interestingly enough the above expression expresses the same principle that ecologists consider to be paramount; everything is connected to everything else.

When would the "shallow" environmentalist, the world over, start applying the lessons of their discipline ?Don't we have the right to expect a policy designed to be environmentally friendly to live up to its billings or have we gotten soused to sloppy thinking that we have become enamored of faddish behaviour, superficial thinking and yes, even the willingness to deceive.

To understand that ethanol is not a solution to the energy crisis and that it should not be encouraged is a no-brainer. Studies have demonstrated clearly that the production of ethanol from corn in the US uses more energy than the energy that is produced as an output in the process. Add to that the evidence that a strong mixture of ethanol in the fuel appears to be corrosive and the obvious fact that there is no infrastructure to transport ethanol and distribute it across the land and it becomes rather clear that this so called solution is actually one way to aggravate the problem. But if we are to gloss over all of the above glaring shortcomings of ethanol production there is no excuse for not having seen that the rush to grow more subsidized corn by the farmers can only create a shortage of other crops whose production is replaced by corn. And sadly this is exactly what has happened. The projected wheat crop in the US is going to be smaller than expected and that, combined with an Australian draught , has resulted in a major increase in the price of wheat. The future contract hit today an all time high of over $9 per bushel. The price has more than doubled since April.
Ironically the poor nations will suffer the most as a result of our misguided "environmental" policies. The poor will have to deal with a greater incidence of malnutrition, we will have higher food prices, rich ethanol producers , corroded internal combustion engines and no relief from the energy shortage. Oh what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

When Will We Act?

Signs of severe environmental degradation abound on both a local, regional and global scale. Air too dirty to breath, contaminated water sources, aquifers running dry, melting ice caps, increased frequency of flooding, more intense hurricanes... If the above signs of the times are not enough to make us aware of the severity of the environmental crisis all what we have to do is read the dire reports issued by the scientific community all over the world that warn us that business as usual is not an option. The latest such report was released only two days ago in Britain where scientists do not think that we will be able to contain the global warming to the targeted 2 degrees centigrade. Any increase above that is considered to be dangerous.

Yet we do not seem to be overly concerned. Why is that?