This caught my eye because the one point is just so Catch-22, do-you-laugh-or-cry, insane…

From Conservation Magazine, 15 for ’11. “15 emerging issues that could have a substantial impact on conservation this year, according to a recent “horizon scanning” exercise. Last year, more than 150 scientists and specialists were asked to identify one to four issues that “might affect species, ecosystems, or regions of global interest” in 2011.”

Here’s number 9:

“Social psychologists suggest that denial is expected to INCREASE both in extent and intensity as scientific evidence of a threat from phenomena such as climate change or biodiversity loss ACCUMULATES.”

Expect denial to increase as evidence accumulates… How screwed up is that? How screwed up are we?

Crazy. (Lyrics follow…)

I remember when, I remember
I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place
Even your emotions have an echo in so much space

And when you’re out there without care
Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough
I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?

And I hope that you are
Having the time of your life
But think twice
That’s my only advice

Come on now, who do you
Who do you, who do you, who do you think you are?
Ha ha ha, bless your soul
You really think you’re in control?

Well, I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
Just like me


I was updating the slides in an old presentation, and… time waits for no one.

The first image below is a screenshot from According to the “created” and “last edited” stats on my presentation, I must have captured the screenshot somewhere around early November 2009. (Click on the images themselves for easier reading, or, for the second one you can just click to the website itself.)



The folks have since updated the format of their site, so I decided to update that presentation slide as well.

Here is the new screenshot, taken today – mid-January 2011.


Our emissions over those 14 months have released about another 12 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere. (Or about 44 tonnes of CO2 for those that are more familiar with that metric).

But look at what’s happened to the implied “remaining time” and “required rate of change” numbers.

According to the “Trillionth Tonne” methodology and assumptions, to have a 75% chance of avoiding a 2° Celsius temperature rise, the “remaining time” before emitting that amount of carbon has been squeezed from both ends because we have not yet begun to reduce emissions. Back in late 2009 we still roughly had a leisurely 18 years, 10 months to achieve that rather ambitious goal. And to avoid ever emitting that amount, we needed a reduction rate of about 4.54% a year.

Now we have about 17 years, 4 months… and, or to avoid that we need to accelerate the reduction rate to about 4.84% a year.

Want a more “realistic” target? Ok, let’s gamble and relax the assumptions so that we would accept just a 50% probability we’ll avoid a 2° C temperature increase?

For that scenario, because of inaction over the last 14 months, our “time remaining” has been reduced by 2 years. From about 35.4 years initially, to about 33.4 years now. And, again, to avoid that eventuality we would now need to kick the reduction rate up a notch as well.

I was just struck that the two snapshots are real-life, real-time reminders that Figure 22 (below)  from the Copenhagen Diagnosis is not just an abstraction. It’s a reminder that we are painting a real curve now.


Time waits for no one. “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”

Well, that’s all… just my little personal, real-time, tick-tock anecdote.

And here’s a “glimmer twins” song about all this stuff… (bonus – clever! – look for a “Tom Waits” cameo in the “Time Waits” video…)

“Yes, star crossed in pleasure the stream flows on by
Yes, as we’re sated in leisure, we watch it fly

And time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me
And time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me

Hours are like diamonds, don’t let them waste

Time waits for no one, no favours has he
Time waits for no one, and he won’t wait for me”

I want to draw attention to two books due out in March and April 2010, by Danny Harvey at University of Toronto:
Energy and the New Reality, Volume 1: Energy Efficiency and the Demand for Energy Services (March 2010 publication)
Energy and the New Reality, Volume 2: Carbon-Free Energy Supply (April 2010 publication)
Both are available in full as pre-publication downloads at the bottom of this page.
I had not realized Danny was working on these, and only became aware on the weekend at one of the Cafe Scientifique sessions here.

Update (Sept. 23/09): The “Planetary Boundaries” paper is now published in Nature. Full access and links to opinion and commentary here. David Roberts at Grist comments here. Carl Zimmer here.

Some interesting bits and pieces I bumped into that I didn’t see much in play elsewhere:

From the June 2009 Tällberg Forum, all of the talks are online. Of the few I’ve watched, I particularly enjoyed the following two.

First was a discussion and update on “Planetary Boundaries”. At the previous year’s session, a commitment was made to investigate key “planetary boundaries”, and initial contributors included James Hansen, Tim Lenton, Robert Costanza and others. Apparently there is an upcoming paper in Nature based on the nine identified “boundaries”:

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Well, since I don’t see this up on Desdemona yet… and this struck me, personally, as particularly sad: About this time of the year in 1982, my father, brother and I travelled down the Chilcoton and Fraser rivers in B.C. The Fraser teemed with sockeye, and we saw bears all the time… It is quite unnerving to see what appear to be sudden “flips” of state in these various ecosystems…

Grizzlies starve as salmon disappear
First the salmon vanished, now the bears may be gone too.
Reports from conservationists, salmon-stream walkers and ecotourism guides all along British Columbia’s wild central coast indicate a collapse of salmon runs has triggered widespread death from starvation of black and grizzly bears. Those guides are on the front lines of what they say is an unfolding ecological disaster that is so new that it has not been documented by biologists.

and, earlier on the Fraser salmon:
No answers in B.C.’s sudden salmon collapse
This year was supposed to be a big one, with estimates predicting as many as 10.5 million fish would swim up the Fraser after spending two years in the open ocean…
 But those estimates have since been dramatically reduced, now putting this year’s Fraser sockeye run at just 1.37 million — the lowest on record.

“He came dancing across the water,
With his galleons and guns,
Looking for the new world,
And the palace in the sun.
He came dancing across the water,
Cortez, Cortez,
What a killer.”

Way to go, Josh Farley and many others!

I seldom read John Tierney’s spew in the NYTimes “science” section… let alone the comments… but I am glad I did today. Tierney lamely offers up the Environmental Kuznets Curve as some sort of shrewd insight into our carbon dilemma… and gets called on it, big time.

The balance of responses from commenters is, frankly, derisive… They call out Tierney’s risible research and bizarre stance that his lack of scientific bona fides is something to celebrate as he “rethinks conventional wisdom about science”….

There are a number of excellent comments that expose Tierney’s cherry-pick and logical fallacies, but I thought I would just highlight this bit from UVM  Gund Institute for Ecological Economics Prof. Josh Farley:

I find it interesting that you willingly point out in your online bio that you recognize that your work would not pass scientific peer review. Scientists make an effort to familiarize themselves with the literature. You seem to rely on the works of Julian Simon and Bjorn Lomborg, both of whom makes exactly the same claim as you…  Right now I wish the scientific review process were not so strict. You could then be a scientist, publishing your ‘research’ in lousy journals that no one would ever read. Instead, because you don’t qualify as a scientist by your admission, the NYT has given you a position as ’science writer’, where thousands of people read your shoddy work… Perhaps you (could) write an article on why belief in science has become a partisan issue.

I know that Tierney is a bit player, but I found this dismantling even more encouraging than those of George Will, et al.  Even the most “scientific” amongst them are being publicly called on their irresponsibility and ignorance, and they are silent in response.

Tell it like it is.   

“But you and I we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now
The hour’s getting late.”
(love this version of All Along the Watchtower… )

Just a quick note for any interested souls in the GTA. Paul Falkowski is presenting the last of this season’s distinguished lecture series at the UofToronto Centre for Global Change Science. It is tomorrow (Tuesday April 7) at 3:30 pm in the Koffler Centre 

His lecture topic “The Biology of Greed and the Future of Humans” is rather different from most of the lectures earlier in the series, which focussed primarily on geophysics, climate, etc. I suspect his lecture will have some overlap with his talk at the Smithsonian last month; an overview was posted by thingsbreak at A Tale of Two Ocean Lectures.

Hmmm… got my first “can’t make it” from an email I sent around on this earlier… Has a prior meeting to “discuss Usain Bolt”. That actually sounds pretty interesting too!

There is a relatively new Canadian climate change blog/site: Zero Carbon Canada, a project of PowerUp Canada. (h/t Mom for bringing it to my attention!) It’s an initiation of several groups, including The Pembina Institute, Environmental Defence Canada, The Ivey Foundation and others. An interesting group of early supporters includes Thomas Homer-Dixon, Marc Jaccard… and even celebrities! My first public post on this little blog tried to convey three things: 1) The most recent science is confirming that our challenges are immediate and immense. 2) A request that you press your political representatives to take the required action as dictated by that science. 3) A request that you get personal about this – “lather, rinse, repeat” some sort of personal verison of this communication with your friends, family and neighbours. Well, the Zero Carbon is doing all three a heck of a lot better than I ever could (and much more to boot!). There are simple letters to the Canadian political party leaders that you can sign/send from here. And Prof. Andrew Weaver’s essay states the scientific urgency case very eloquently and bluntly. Excerpts:

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Not something I was going to write about, but I don’t see how I can pass up a post on “Rust”!

From the Oil Drum: “The Cost of Corrosion”.

At $2 trillion per year (the earlier rough estimate for the current cost of corrosion) it would take fifty years to rebuild 100 trillion dollars of infrastructure (across all industries). Since much of our infrastructure is 20, 50 or even 100 years old, renewing it over a period of half a century seems reasonable.

On the other hand, it could be reasonably argued that the condition of our infrastructure is getting worse on average and that the rate of spending needs to increase. But there is a limit to how much a $60 trillion world economy can spend on renewing infrastructure…

Whatever the actual cost is, engineers everywhere have plenty of work ahead; managing ageing infrastructure and delivering new projects, while meeting sustainability challenges and protecting scarce resources…

Should I link to “Hey hey, my my”? Nah, that would be too easy… oh, what the heck. Can I still use it later?

“There’s more to the picture
Than meets the eye…

It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.
The king is gone but he’s not forgotten…”

**This post was originally a personal email that I sent to friends (and may get slightly editted…). I’m responding to Stephen Chu’s appeal “to convince your friends and neighbours of this”. I have a hunch that we need more people doing the convincing directly and one on one, rather than through the “pull” media of websites, newspapers, tv, etc. If it’s coming from reasonably well-informed old hockey teammates, etc., rather than a Nobel physicist, perhaps all the better…**

Hi all,

Well, I know that this note will be a bit out of the blue for many of you, but like the post title (and Neil Young) says – “there comes a time”… This is something important, something I want to “pay forward”.

Right now, we are all understandably concerned and immediately focussed on the global economic turmoil – politicians, business leaders, the media, etc.

But I am convinced we face even larger, urgent challenges with respect to our global energy-environment-economy dilemma.

Why am I writing to you about this? Well, partly because I was inspired by new US. Secretary of Energy Dr. Stephen Chu’s words the night of the recent U.S. Presidential inauguration. At the Environmental Ball, commenting specifically about climate change, he said:

“We all know how serious our challenges are and what the implications would be of unchecked climate change… We are on a path that scares me… We have a hard task ahead of us. What unites us is a concern for a better world for ourselves and our childrenYou have to convince your friends and your neighbors about this.”

So, that’s what I am trying to do.

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