Monday, December 12, 2011

"Supply Side" Disaster in Durban

The "News:"  How Much Do YOU Know?

The following quiz can be taken in the privacy of your own home.  Test results are your property and need not be shared in situations which might be embarrassing or otherwise compromising.

The quiz:

What Happened At The 2011 Durban, South Africa,
Climate Change Conference?

a.) Nothing.                                               
b.) More of the same.                                 
c.) About the same as the previous conferences.
d.) All of the above.                                                                                                                                 

If you answered "D," congratulations!  

Is this because the climate change problem has tapered off and isn't such a pressing threat any longer?  Were all the hysterical predictions actually much worse than turned out to be the case after all?

Rather than start off on another ranting and raving tirade, MeanMesa will offer just a couple of interesting "news" facts.

1.  Carbon dioxide and Methane Levels

Carbon dioxide and methane levels for the planet have increased much more than expected.  So have methane levels.  Turning to an ultra-liberal, generally hysterical source (The New York Times, read the article here.), we find this report. [There are thousands more...]

Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, the principal heat-trapping gas, are continuing to rise at an accelerating rate, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported. And after a decade of stability, levels of an even more potent heat-trapper, methane, rose as well. The agency said atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide reached nearly 385 parts per million last year, up from 280 in 1850 and an increase of 2.6 parts per million from 2006, chiefly from the burning of fossil fuels. The methane situation is less clear. Methane is produced naturally by swamps but also by activities including burning fossil fuels. The issue is important because climate experts have long worried that if Arctic permafrost thaws, the process would release potentially catastrophic amounts of methane into the atmosphere. In a statement, the agency said the most likely causes of the methane increase were economic development in Asia and emissions from Arctic wetlands. It said it was “too soon to tell” if the increase signals an Arctic thaw. 

This article is from April, 2008.  Most folks who have looked at the Arctic ice lately don't believe it's "too soon to tell" if it's melting.

Since 2008, the date of the article, the follow has happened.

See the little red dots?  They're going to eat us alive.  (data source)
2.  Climate Change Denial 
Rises With Green House Gas Levels

A few hundred postings could be generated by the tsunami wave of climate change denials being trotted out daily in the corporate media.  (The paper linked below speaks of "media sobriety.")  So, rather than dredge out dozens of examples, MeanMesa will present only the following.  It sets the stage for all the rest for anyone interested in an upset stomach.

Here is Senator Inhofe, R-OK, from DemocracyNow (Read the whole article and watch the video  here. )

Republican James Inhofe, R-OK
"While no members of the U.S. Congress attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma recorded a video message that was aired at a press conference of climate change deniers here at the summit on Wednesday. 

"Tossing out any remote possibility of a U.N. global warming treaty is one of the most important things we can do for the economy," Sen. Inhofe said. "I’m making this announcement from Washington, D.C., where I am confident that the only person left talking about global warming is me. The message from the Washington to the U.N. delegates in South Africa is this, this week, could not be any clearer: you are being ignored."

The final statement by the conference's head pretty well sums up the results.

"The grim news is that the blockers lead by the US have succeeded in inserting a vital get-out clause that could easily prevent the next big climate deal being legally binding. If that loophole is exploited it could be a disaster. And the deal is due to be implemented 'from 2020' leaving almost no room for increasing the depth of carbon cuts in this decade when scientists say we need emissions to peak," said Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director.

"Governments departing the UN talks should be ashamed. When they return home we wonder how they will be able to look into the eyes of their children and grandchildren. They have let us down and their failure will be measured in the lives of the poor, the most vulnerable and least responsible for the global climate crises."

(Read the whole article from  here.)
 We Won't Know What Hit Us

In the admittedly over dramatic cinema, 2012, a program management approach was taken to meet the challenge of the catastrophe which was going to fall on the planet.   Although any precise account of the money involved was, tastefully, omitted from the script, the story pictured gigantic ships, capable of surviving the worst of the holocaust with enough humans on board to repopulate what was left.

Of the seven, eight or nine billion people on the Earth at the time the movie depicts, perhaps 100,000 to 200,000 survived the calamity aboard the giant  vessels.  The ships had to be built in China with a massive amount of foreign money.  The project could not, according to the story, have been accomplished fast enough in the democracies.

Looking at the scope of the story presented in the film, we are able to take a few "pot shots" at the fictional project's budget.  Of course, there is little prospect of making a really accurate estimate of the cost of half a dozen megalithic ships like the ones in the film, ships which have never actually been designed, estimated or built, not to mention the additional expense of establishing a global police state overnight  to suppress the violent desperation of seven or eight billion people facing an inevitable death sentence in a few days or weeks.

However, MeanMesa has never strayed too far from diving right into the middle of issues with such a "little prospect."

Let's say that the ships in the film cost, maybe, $3 to $5 Tn.  For this price, a couple hundred thousand humans survived.

We must probably add that such a "cash price" would seem quite reasonable, since the value of cash after the calamity would be reduced to basically nothing.  In terms of "paying the bill," the global police state would also, most likely, be quite helpful.

So, are numbers such as these -- 200,000 survivors at a cost of $4 Tn -- sensible?  The movie did a great job with them, but that story doesn't really map out any sort of reasonable plan for the actual planet and its likely catastrophe.
What we see in the film is a definite project management problem.  The screaming failure is one of scope, but the underlying causes are exactly the same ones which doom thousands of lesser undertakings daily:  cost and schedule.

Managing Global Warming Solutions
Of course, all sorts of innovations have managed to creep forward in spite of the constant onslaught of the petrogarchs and the coal mine owners, but the cultural priority to actually "run" with one or more of them remains morbidly absent. 
MeanMesa uses the term, "morbidly," because we are talking dead people here, lots of dead people.

In the 2012 movie, the death toll was about 99.99%.  In real life, should we continue on our present path, we'll do quite a lot better than that, maybe only around 40%.  Right up to the very end, it looks like we will still remain resolutely, steadfastly determined to pursue the prospect of "saving all the money" we might have otherwise wasted on managing -- or even partially mitigating -- the inevitable collision.

It's very unsettling to see the pilot of your jet liner running to the rear of the plane in hopes of living a few seconds longer.
Yes, you guessed it, MeanMesa has resurrected the old "Managing Global Warming Solutions" post from June of 2008. The original has been revisited with greatly improved graphic diagrams and a few -- but not many -- editing changes.  The old diagrams were a product of changing computers and graphics which didn't bear up under the burden very well.  Now, visitors can actually read the content of those bar charts.

An example of the improved graphics in the revised paper.

Visitors can now read the content of those bar charts and think about it.

The post describes a scenario where the problem of climate change can be entirely corrected at a cost equivalent to the total number of dollars which got plowed into the financial gizmos which caused the current depression.  The loss of human life, under the plan there, would be reduced from 3 billion to around half that number.

Perhaps even more important, the future course of human life on this planet would be irrevocably altered.  There would be no more impending ecological disasters, and homo sapiens could finally get down to the business of normal development, real improvement and expansion.

It's clear that we don't know how to solve the climate change challenge -- especially not painlessly.  On the other hand, we do know how good management practices have solved other immense challenges in our history as a species.  This is no time to quietly allow screaming mimmies or out of date corporate fascists to sign our collective death warrant.

As humans, we have a remarkable record of solving problems, even big ones that seem insoluble when we first start to work at them.  MeanMesa's discomfort here comes from the dismal reality that we seem quite unwilling to start actually working to solve this one.  There are far too few voices speaking of a permanent, complete solution amid the overly popular hand wringing and moaning.

So, if you've read this paper before, visit it again -- especially the improved graphics.  If you've never read this paper, settle in on a long winter's night and read it.  Give yourself a break.  Enjoy a little real hope for a change.

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