Archive for the month “July, 2015”

News update

Continued destruction of Earths plant life places humans in jeopardy
Science Daily
Unless humans slow the destruction of Earths declining supply of plant life, civilization like it is now may become completely unsustainable, according to a paper published recently by University of Georgia researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You can think of the Earth like a battery that has been charged very slowly over billions of years, said the studys lead author, John Schramski, an associate professor in UGAs College of Engineering. The suns energy is stored in plants and fossil fuels, but humans are draining energy much faster than it can be replenished.

Worlds Oceans Could Rise Higher, Sooner, Faster Than Most Thought Possible
Common Dreams
If a new scientific paper is proven accurate, the international target of limiting global temperatures to a 2°C rise this century will not be nearly enough to prevent catastrophic melting of ice sheets that would raise sea levels much higher and much faster than previously thought possible. According to the new study—which has not yet been peer-reviewed, but was written by former NASA scientist James Hansen and 16 other prominent climate researchers—current predictions do not take into account the feedback loop implications of what will occur if large sections of Greenland and the Antarctic are consumed by the worlds oceans.

Heat is Piling Up in the Depths of the Indian Ocean
Climate Central
The world’s oceans are playing a game of hot potato with the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists have zeroed in on the tropical Pacific as a major player in taking up that heat. But while it might have held that heat for a bit, new research shows that the Pacific has passed the potato to the Indian Ocean, which has seen an unprecedented rise in heat content over the past decade.

Nonlinear: New York, London, Shanghai underwater in 50 years?
Kurt Cobb
Those under the impression that climate change is advancing at a constant and predictable rate dont understand the true dynamics of the issue. The rate of increase of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, the main driver of climate change, went from 0.75 parts per million (ppm) per year in 1959 to about 1.5 ppm each year through the 1990s, to 2.1 ppm each year from 2002 to 2012, and finally to 2.9 ppm in 2013. The fear is that the ability of the oceans and plants to continue to absorb half the carbon dioxide human civilization expels into the atmosphere each year may have become impaired. That means more carbon dioxide is remaining in the atmosphere where concentrations are building at the fastest rate ever recorded in the modern era.

Climate change: world’s wealthiest understand, but only half see it as threat
The Guardian UK
People living in the world’s wealthiest nations generally understand what climate change is but in many countries just half perceive it to be a threat, new research has found. The analysis of perceptions in 119 countries found living standards and relative wealth are “poor predictors” of whether someone considers climate change to be a severe risk. While more than 75% of people in Australia, the US, UK and most of the rest of Europe were aware of climate change, far fewer considered it to be detrimental to themselves or their families.

Nine Reasons Why Low Oil Prices May “Morph” Into Something Much Worse
Gail Tverberg
It looks to me as though we are heading into a deflationary depression, because the prices of commodities are falling below the cost of extraction. We need rapidly rising wages and debt if commodity prices are to rise back to 2011 levels or higher. This isn’t happening. Instead, we are seeing commodity prices fall further and further. Let me explain some pieces of what is happening.

Hardins tragedy of the commons explained with a practical example: a tourist trap in Florence
Ugo Bardi
Garrett Hardins idea of The Tragedy of the Commons has become well known, but not always really understood. In my case, I can say that I have big troubles in having my students grasping its mechanism; that is the interplay of individual advantage versus public goods; the basic factor that leads to what we call overexploitation. So, let me propose a different example for the mechanism of overexploitation, based on a real event that happened to me. Maybe it can explain the concept better.

Resilience: A New Conservation Strategy for a Warming World
Jim Robbins, Yale Environment 360
Resilience, in a nutshell, means preserving options — no one can predict the climate future with any certainty and how the biodiversity deck will be reshuffled. So that means protecting landscapes that maintain as wide a variety of characteristics to preserve as many species as possible, in order to maintain both ecological function as the world changes and the ability to recover from disturbance.

Shashank Kela: Some notes on the ecological crisis in India

Who cares about the environment? Some notes on the ecological crisis in India

Shashank Kela

The past few months have been exceptional, in one respect at least, for the Indian press: a serious structural problem has actually been given the attention it deserves. The Economic Times continues to play a prominent part in discussing air pollution in Delhi – there is no other city in the world where it is so bad. Nor is this all: including Delhi, India now boasts thirteen out of twenty cities with the worst air. More recently, the uproar over supposedly high levels of lead in a brand of junk food led to a (very) few articles on groundwater contamination: after all, the reason why lead and other poisons get into food is because they are present in the soil in which crops grow. Another piece, in the Guardian this time, speculated that the recent Sahelian heat wave in the Deccan might be a symptom of climate change (an “extreme” climate event of the kind likely to become all too common).[1]

These stories are only a tiny fraction of those that could be reported, for we are already in the throes of an unprecedented environmental crisis. Large swathes of our agricultural soils are contaminated or saline. Pesticide residues and heavy metals form part of our food. The air of our major cities is unfit to breathe. Freshwater availability is declining; most rivers, especially in the south, do not flow at all, or only seasonally, since their runoff is impounded in dams and used for irrigation (with very high rates of seepage and evaporation loss). Groundwater tables are falling as a consequence of over extraction and the disappearance of vegetative cover enabling percolation. The pattern of weather is being reset with gaps and lags – the available evidence indicates that the onset of the monsoon is changing and precipitation becoming more uneven. Our offshore seas are denuded of marine life thanks to trawler fishing at ever greater distances. Himalayan glaciers are shrinking with obvious long-term consequences for the hydrology of river systems dependent upon snow-melt. Sudden, destructive floods, exacerbated by embankments and dams, the building over of river valleys and floodplains, have become a regular occurrence. Read more…

News update

Warming of oceans due to climate change is unstoppable, say US scientists
The Guardian UK
The warming of the oceans due to climate change is now unstoppable after record temperatures last year, bringing additional sea-level rise, and raising the risks of severe storms, US government climate scientists has said. The annual State of the Climate in 2014 report, based on research from 413 scientists from 58 countries, found record warming on the surface and upper levels of the oceans, especially in the North Pacific, in line with earlier findings of 2014 as the hottest year on record.

Climate Change And India: The Way Ahead
Kashif Islam, Countercurrents.org
Since climate change is a global and not national problem, any successful climate action must include both today’s emitters as well as limit future emissions. If it’s India and China who ask for exemptions today, it will be Africa’s turn tomorrow. In the absence of alternatives, the poor and low consuming Indian or African of today becomes perforce the polluter and wasteful consumer of tomorrow. We simply don’t have that kind of leeway and time in dealing with climate change.

Wicked problems and wicked solutions: the case of the worlds food supply
Ugo Bardi
Im back from two days of full immersion in a meeting on something rather new for me: the worlds food supply. I am still reeling from the impact. Whenever you go in some depth into anything; you see how immensely more complex things are in comparison to the pale shadow of the world that you perceive in the glittering screen of your TV. Everything is complex, and everything complex becomes wicked once you start seeing it as a problem. And wicked problems usually generate wicked solutions.

What Greece, Cyprus, and Puerto Rico Have in Common
Gail Tverberg
We all know one thing that Greece, Cyprus, and Puerto Rico have in common–severe financial problems. There is something else that they have in common–a high proportion of their energy use is from oil. Figure 1 shows the ratio of oil use to energy use for selected European countries in 2006. Greece and Cyprus are at the top of this chart. The other “PIIGS” countries (Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Portugal) are immediately below Greece.

Austerity and Degrowth
André Reichel
I want to argue about the strange siding of degrowth thinkers and activists with Syriza, its stimulus-oriented economic agenda, and their overall rebuttal of ‘austerity’. Because suddenly growth-oriented policies appear to be OK if they are somehow against ‘austerity’ or ‘neoliberalism’. Can it get, intellectually, any more shallow than that?

Muslim scholars say climate change poses dire threat
Climate News Network
Human beings could cause the ending of life on the planet, says a group of Islamic scholars − and countries round the world, particularly the rich ones, must face up to their responsibilities. Climate change, they say, is induced by human beings: “As we are woven into the fabric of the natural world, its gifts are for us to savour – but we have abused these gifts to the extent that climate change is upon us.” The views of the scholars – some of the strongest yet expressed on climate from within the Muslim community – are contained in a draft declaration on climate change to be launched officially at a major Islamic symposium in Istanbul in mid-August.

The real ‘struggle of our generation’ is not terrorism
George Monbiot
In the longer term, climate change, antibiotic resistance, soil loss and nuclear proliferation by states (including our own) are orders of magnitude more dangerous. But a Churchillian struggle against an identifiable enemy is grander and more glamorous than the battle against faceless but much greater threats. It is also politically less costly, as it offends the interests of neither corporations nor billionaires.

Straight Talk On The Pope And Climate Change
Raymond Lotta, Revcom.us
Many within the environmental movement, including some of its most prominent leading figures, have jumped on the encyclical as a “game-changer.” People are making the argument that one of the world’s most powerful religious-moral voices is now sounding the climate alarm, that he is opening Church discourse to the science of global warming, and that the pope is uniquely capable of inspiring and moving public policy in the right direction. So we should welcome the pope’s encyclical on climate change. To which our reply is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

Global threat interactive: Whats the world scared of?
The Guardian UK
Climate change is what the world’s population perceives as the top global threat, followed by global economic instability and Isis, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center. The report focuses on those who say they are “very concerned” about each issue. India, and the African and Latin American countries top the list when it comes to climate change and economy. Tensions between Russia or China and their neighbours, “remain regional concerns”.

40% Of Russia’s Food Is Grown From Dacha Gardens
Trueactivist.com
While the majority of citizens in developed nations rely on transported produce and packaged goods to satiate their grumbling stomachs, the people of Russia feed themselves. They have little need for large-scale agriculture, as their agricultural economy is small scale, predominantly organic, and in the capable hands of their nation’s people. Natural Homes has reported that in 2011, 51% of Russia’s food was grown either by dacha communities (40%), or by peasant farmers (11%). The remaining 49% of production was left to large agricultural enterprises.

India: Make-Or-Break Player For Climate Change

Sajai Jose

620poll

Earlier this month, the U.N.’s climate chief Christina Figueres told the media that an Indian pledge to voluntarily cut carbon emissions is “critically important” to any meaningful agreement at a crucial UN climate summit in Paris in December.

As IndiaSpend reported recently, India has bucked a global trend of declining CO2 emissions to emerge as the world’s fastest-growing major polluter and is the single most critical player when it comes to global climate change.

This was revealed in the latest edition of British Petroleum’s comprehensive Statistical Review of World Energy, which showed that for the first time in history, India’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which had increased by 8.1% in 2014, accounted for the largest share of global emissions growth. Read more…

News update

New coal plants most urgent threat to the planet, warns OECD head
The Guardian UK
Governments must rethink plans for new coal-fired power plants around the world, as these are now the “most urgent” threat to the future of the planet, the head of the OECD has warned. In unusually strong terms for the organisation – best known as a club of the world’s richest countries – its secretary general Angel Gurria, told governments to think “twice, or three, or four times” before allowing new coal-fired plants to go ahead.

Wars, Water Shortages & Heat Waves: Are You Prepared ?
Prachi Salve, IndiaSpend.com
Lives, properties and economies stand to be affected by climate change as we understand it. While debates on the significance and impact of climate change rage furiously, a new multi-nation study has argued that preparing for the risks of climate change is an imperative now. Particularly so for a country like India which is likely to have a greater economic impact as prosperity rises in the coming years.

Unnatural Disaster: How Global Warming Helped Cause India’s Catastrophic Flood
Daniel Grossman, Yale Environment 360
The flood that swept through the Indian state of Uttarakhand two years ago killed thousands of people and was one of the worst disasters in the nation’s recent history. Now researchers are saying that melting glaciers and shifting storm tracks played a major role in the catastrophe and should be a warning about how global warming could lead to more damaging floods in the future.

With One-Third of Largest Aquifers Highly Stressed, It’s Time to Explore and Assess the Planet’s Groundwater
National Geographic
One-third of the world’s 37 largest aquifers are highly stressed to over-stressed, according to a companion study published in the same issue of WRR. The eight most highly stressed aquifers receive almost no natural recharge to offset human use – including aquifers in Saudi Arabia, northwestern India and Pakistan.

Saudi Arabias solar-for-oil plan is a ray of hope
Damian Carrington, The Guardian UK
So what to make of the statement by Saudi Arabia’s oil minister that the world’s biggest oil exporter could stop using fossil fuels as soon as 2040 and become a “global power” in solar and wind energy? Ali Al-Naimi’s statement is striking as Saudi Arabia’s wealth and influence is entirely founded on its huge oil wealth and the nation has been one of the strongest voices against climate change action at UN summits.

Why a Leading Indian Politician Is Now an Environmental Hawk
Yale Environment 360
Former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh believes the “cult” of unfettered economic growth has been ruinous for India’s environment. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about his vision of “green growth,” which he says is essential for his nation’s future.

The Limits to Growth and Greece: systemic or financial collapse?
Ugo Bardi
Could it be that all the financial circus that we are seeing dancing in and around Greece be just the effect of much deeper causes? The effect of something that gnaws at the very foundations not only of Greece, but of the whole Western World? Lets take a step back, and take a look at the 1972 study titled The Limits to Growth (LTG). Look at the base case scenario, the one which used as input the data that seemed to be the most reliable at the time. Here it is, in the 2004 version of the study, with updated data in input.

The Mystery of the Missing Carbon
Courtney White, A Carbon Pilgrim
It’s a whodunit with huge consequences for life on Earth. Somehow, a whole lot of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) has gone missing and it’s becoming a scientific detective story to figure out where it went and why. The Principle Investigator into this mystery is NASA, which launched a satellite called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) on July 2nd, 2014, into an orbit around the Earth in hopes of cracking the case.

The Multi-Trillion Dollar Oil Market Swindle
Leonard Brecken, Oilprice.com
In the past, I documented the overstatements by both the IEA and EIA in 2014 & 2015 in terms of supply, inventory and understatements of demand. Others also noticed these distortions and, whether intentional or not, they exist and they are very large in dollar terms. These distortions, which are affecting price through media hype and/or direct/indirect price manipulation, are quite possibly the largest in financial history.

If everyone lived in an ‘ecovillage’, the Earth would still be in trouble
Samuel Alexander, The Conversation
According to the most recent data from the Global Footprint Network, humanity as a whole is currently in ecological overshoot, demanding one and a half planet’s worth of Earth’s biocapacity. As the global population continues its trend toward 11 billion people, and while the growth fetish continues to shape the global economy, the extent of overshoot is only going to increase.

38th Indian Social Science Congress Task Force Report

Task Force Report (TFR) of the 38th Indian Social Science Congress
29th March – 2nd April, 2015; Visakhapatnam, India.

Prepared by Dr. Claude Alvares, Dr. J.B.G. Tilak and Sumana Nandi

Introduction:
The Indian Academy of Social Sciences (ISSA) in association with Andhra University held the 38th Indian Social Science Congress on ‘Knowledge Systems, Scientific Temper and the Indian People’ between 29th March to 2nd April, 2015 at Visakhapatnam. The objectives of the Congress were to explore critically the status and relevance of the present educational system and the quality and nature of the knowledge produced in our universities and research institutions in the context of the democratic needs and aspirations of the peoples of India.

A serious effort was made to get the inputs of the young social scientists (who had registered) through separate sessions in this conference.

A separate seminar on Peoples Art and Knowledge Systems was also held at the same venue as part of the Congress but for two days only. It hosted a separate set of speakers and presenters, including artists and dancers. Read more…

Why the Greek Tragedy is Just the Opening Act

Sajai Jose

Alexis Tsipras, the first Left Greek Prime Minister. Credit: SpaceShoe/Flickr, CC 2.0.

Alexis Tsipras, the first Left Greek Prime Minister. Credit: SpaceShoe/Flickr, CC 2.0. Cover image of old woman in Athens is also by Spaceshoe

Greece has become the first developed country to default on an International Monetary Fund loan, itself a fraction of a €323 billion national debt equivalent to more than 175% of the country’s GDP.

Responsibility for the crisis has been pinned on, among others, the “Gucci-wearing thieves” of Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s largest investment banks. Whereas, Greece’s creditors, together known as the troika”- the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other European countries (represented by the EU commission) blames it on Greek profligacy.

In a way, both sides are right, but the question worth asking is why a default by tiny Greece, with a mere 2% of the EU’s population and 1.2% of its GDP, gives the impression of such high stakes riding on it. And if Greece is such a small player in the EU, it’s still smaller in global terms. So what explains the world’s overwhelming interest in Greece? Read more…

Financial crash alert!

(Note: As the world watches the unfolding crisis in Greece with bated breath, heres a look at other, perhaps lesser known trends that indicate a global financial crash is in the offing. Heres a collection of articles by prominent economists and analysts that  make that case. Some pieces are dated, but have been included here for their insight on the malaise plaguing the global financial system.)

World economy may be slipping into 1930s Great Depression problems: RBIs Raghuram Rajan
The Economic Times
When Raghuram Rajan warned about a looming financial market crisis a decade ago, former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said he was being Luddite. In the event, Rajan was right. Now the Reserve Bank of India governor is sounding the alarm again — the very efforts of central banks in the developed world to avoid another Great Depression by keeping interest rates at zero may lead to precisely that outcome.

Has Chinas Stock Bubble Popped?
Jesse Colombo, Forbes.com
China’s red-hot stock market fell approximately 25 percent in the past couple weeks due to increasing regulatory scrutiny and growing bubble fears. The 145 percent rally began last summer after the government further opened the nation’s equity market to foreign investors, and domestic retail investors have scrambled to get a piece of the action.

New Global Crisis Imminent Due To “Poisonous Combination Of Record Debt And Slowing Growth
From Zerohedge.com
A “poisonous combination” of record debt and slowing growth suggest the global economy could be heading for another crisis, a hard-hitting report warns.The 16th annual Geneva Report, commissioned by the International Centre for Monetary and Banking Studies and written by a panel of senior economists including three former senior central bankers, predicts interest rates across the world will have to stay low for a “very, very long” time to enable households, companies and governments to service their debts and avoid another crash.

The Coming Crash of All Crashes – but in Debt
Martin Armstrong, Armstrong Economics
Why are governments rushing to eliminate cash? During previous recoveries following the recessionary declines from the peaks in the Economic Confidence Model, the central banks were able to build up their credibility and ammunition so to speak by raising interest rates during the recovery. This time, ever since we began moving toward Transactional Banking with the repeal of Glass Steagall in 1999, banks have looked at profits rather than their role within the economic landscape.

The case for a global recession in 2015
Chris Matthews, Fortune
Optimists hope that an accelerating U.S. economy will have what it takes to drag the rest of the world out of the doldrums, as it has done during so many past recoveries. But David Levy, economist and chairman of the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center, argues that the problems of the rest of the world will end up taking the U.S. down, rather than the other way around.

Is a global economic recession coming? Copper price say yes
Debbie Carlson, The Guardian UK
The copper market crashed overnight to its lowest level since the middle of the financial crisis in 2008, fueling fears that the global economy is slowing more sharply than many experts had anticipated. Like oil, copper has a deep effect on the world economy because it is key for phone lines, cables and other infrastructure. It is also important to several world economies; the world’s largest copper producers, in order, are Chile, China, Peru, the US and Australia. The copper market is just the latest commodities market to suffer from a kind of panic, as oil prices have halved in just a few months.

Monetary Policy for the Next Recession
Clive Crook, Bloomberg View
By pre-crash standards, the big central banks have made and continue to make amazing efforts to support demand and keep their economies running. Quantitative easing would once have been seen as reckless. The world avoided another Great Depression. Yet even in the U.S., this is a seriously sub-par recovery; growth in Europe and Japan has been worse still. Now imagine a big new financial shock. Its quite possible that all three economies would fall back into recession. What then?

The Liquidity Time Bomb
Nouriel Roubini, Project Syndicate
A paradox has emerged in the financial markets of the advanced economies since the 2008 global financial crisis. Unconventional monetary policies have created a massive overhang of liquidity. But a series of recent shocks suggests that macro liquidity has become linked with severe market illiquidity.

The Dollar Will Die with a Whimper, Not a Bang
James Rickards
The decline of the dollar as a reserve currency started in 2000 with the advent of the euro and accelerated in 2010 with the beginning of a new currency war. That decline is now being amplified by China’s emergence as a major creditor and gold power. Not to mention the actions of a new anti-dollar alliance consisting of the BRICS, Iran and others. If history is a guide, inflation in U.S. dollar prices will come next.

The Insatiable God
George Monbiot
Another crash is coming. We all know it, now even David Cameron acknowledges it. The only questions are what the immediate catalyst will be, and when it begins. You can take your pick. The Financial Times reports today that China now resembles the US in 2007. Domestic bank loans have risen 40% since 2008, while “the ability to repay that debt has deteriorated dramatically”. Property prices are falling and the companies that run China’s shadow banking system provide “virtually no disclosure” of their liabilities.

Book Extract: The Ingredients Of A Market Crash
By John Hussman, Zerohedge.com

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