There’s Big Data, Tiny Data, and now Dead Data

You’ve heard of Big Data. You may have heard of Tiny Data. But now, presented in the Harvard Data Science Review, Professor Steve Stigler presents

Dead Data


S. M. Stigler, "Data have a limited shelf life", Harvard Data Science Review, November 2019.


Data, unlike some wines, do not improve with age. The contrary view, that data are immortal, a view that may underlie the often-observed tendency to recycle old examples in texts and presentations, is illustrated with three classical examples and rebutted by further examination. Some general lessons for data science are noted, as well as some history of statistical worries about the effect of data selection on induction and related themes in recent histories of science.

Keywords: dead data, zombie data, post-selection inference, history

Of particular historical interest is whether or not modern scholars can ever properly interpret classic experiments, with their defects, like the Millikan oil drop experiment, or Eddington’s measurement of light deflection to confirm General Relativity.

Also of interest is whether enough metadata about old datasets in business, such as insurance or operations, or even scientific observation, is kept to be able to properly reconstruct the provenance.

Hat tip to Professor Christian Robert for pointing out this article at his blog.

Posted in big data, dead data, statistics, tiny data | Leave a comment

Climate Adam on Greta Thunberg

Posted in #sunrise, #youthvgov, Bill Nye, bridge to somewhere, Climate Adam, climate change, climate disruption, climate mitigation, climate policy, ClimateAdam, forecasting, global warming, Greta Thunberg | Leave a comment



  • D. Engwirda, 2017: JIGSAW-GEO (1.0): Locally orthogonal staggered unstructured grid generation for general circulation modelling on the sphere, Geosci. Model Dev., 10, 2117-2140, doi:10.5194/gmd-10-2117-2017

and a general description at NASA. The figure below is copied from there.

Posted in climate models, climate science, fluid dynamics, geophysics, numerical algorithms, numerical analysis, numerical software | 1 Comment

ClimateAdam opines upon 45


Let it be said, apart from his so-called base, 45 is not a popular guy. Even his bud, Boris Johnson, is making moves to avoid his endorsement.

Yeah, that’s a popular, well respected guy.

Isn’t he?

Posted in Climate Adam, climate denial, climate disruption | Leave a comment

Consumption: Towards the Trillionth Tonne

(Click on figure to see a larger image. It will open in a new browser tab.)

The Trillionth Tonne

Posted in climate disruption, consumption, corporate responsibility, corporate supply chains, economic trade, global warming | Leave a comment

What you need to do

Yes, I know, this is from Orsted, a public company which, primarily, builds offshore wind farms. And, as a result, you out there (which is, frankly, an infinitesimal fraction of the world, because, basically, no one follows me), will critique me for promoting a specific company.


Think of it.

Someone has a good idea. They pursue it. They promote it. They find a way of moving it into people’s lives. Great. What do they do? They found a company which has that as its purpose.

But, oh know, say the Environmental Purists, this is now “corporate greed” and we can’t have anything to do with that. It’s not us!

So, given a group of folks, the Environmental Purists, who want to advance a cause, but, then, deny the means to achieving that, they are either masochists, or they eternally want to be guaranteed of an opposition to fight, but they can never dominate and win.

I’m sick of this nonsense, whether it be Sierra Club or Extinction Rebellion. I want answers and programs, and not sham policies which hijack the hugely important issue of climate disruption to achieve long sought social objectives. I do not say the latter aren’t important. I say holding the rest of society in ransom for their objectives is cruel, heartless, uncharitable, and downright stupid.

Posted in #climatestrike, American Solar Energy Society, an uncaring American public, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, bridge to somewhere, clean disruption, climate disruption, climate policy, decentralized electric power generation, destructive economic development, distributed generation, ecological disruption, ecological services, ecomodernism, economics, ecopragmatism, electrical energy storage, emissions, exponential growth, extended producer responsibility, finance, Friedman, South Shore Recycling Cooperative | Leave a comment

“The trouble with trees” (The Economist)

Posted in afforestation, carbon dioxide capture, climate disruption, ecological disruption, ecomodernism, global warming | Leave a comment

What we’ve done and do to ourselves

Who do you think carries most of the burden for fixing the problem?

Action. “We have work to do.” (Bill Nye)

Posted in #sunrise, #youthvgov, an ignorant American public, an uncaring American public, Anthropocene, attribution, Bill Nye, climate disruption, climate economics, climate justice | Leave a comment

A glimpse of Solar Domination

Hat tip to PV Magazine:

Highlights of Frew, Cole, Denholm, Frazier, Vincent, Margolis

  • Load and operating reserves can be met in US grid with up to 55% PV with storage
  • Power system must rapidly transition between synchronous and inverter-based generation
  • Significant curtailment is seen, with hours of >40% economic curtailment
  • Hours with very low energy prices become more frequent, up to 36% of hours


With rapid declines in solar photovoltaic (PV) and energy storage costs, futures with PV penetrations approaching or exceeding 50% of total annual US generation are becoming conceivable. The operational merits of such a national-scale system have not been evaluated sufficiently. Here, we analyze in detail the operational impacts of a future US power system with very high annual levels of PV (>50%) with storage. We show that load and operating reserve requirements can be met for all hours while considering key generator operational constraints. Storage plays an active role in maintaining the balance of supply and demand during sunset hours. Under the highest PV penetration scenario, hours with >90% PV penetration are relatively common, which require rapid transitions between predominately conventional synchronous generation and mostly inverter-based generation. We observe hours with almost 400 GW (over 40%) of economic curtailment and frequent (up to 36%) hours with very low energy prices.

(Emphasis added in the above.)


Posted in American Solar Energy Society, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, bridge to somewhere, Buckminster Fuller, clean disruption, climate economics, destructive economic development, disruption, distributed generation, EBC-NE, ecocapitalism, ecopragmatism, electrical energy storage, electricity, electricity markets, energy storage, energy utilities, FERC, fossil fuel divestment, green tech, Hermann Scheer, investment in wind and solar energy, keep fossil fuels in ground, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, photovoltaics, Sankey diagram, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution, Spaceship Earth, the energy of the people, the green century, Tony Seba, tragedy of the horizon, wind energy, wind power, zero carbon | Leave a comment

On why I write this blog

I mused a bit about why I write this blog here.

Posted in science | Leave a comment

“On the road again …”

Suggested citation: Davis, Lucas. “Electrification? We Are Already On The Way“, Berkeley Haas Energy Institute Blog.​

Even without environmental incentives, the United States has moved towards greater electrification.

Note, however, that Massachusetts is not numbered amongst the Enlightened.

Posted in adaptation, Amory Lovins, Anthropocene, Berkeley Haas Energy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, bridge to somewhere, CleanTechnica, cliamate mitigation, decentralized electric power generation, decentralized energy, electricity, electricity markets, energy utilities, global warming, greenhouse gases, greenwashing, ILSR, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution | 2 Comments

Wanna buy some cheap land?

Hat tip to the Financial Times.

Posted in coastal communities, coastal investment risks, coasts, risk, sea level rise | Leave a comment

“Microplastics in the Ocean: Emergency or Exaggeration?” (Morss Colloquium, WHOI)

Update, 2019-10-28 00:34 ET

I have compiled notes from the talks above, and from the audience Q&A and documented these in a Google Jam here.

Posted in American Association for the Advancement of Science, bag bans, Claire Galkowski, coastal communities, coasts, diffusion processes, microbiomes, microplastics, NOAA, oceanic eddies, oceanography, oceans, perceptions, phytoplankton, plastics, pollution, quantitative biology, quantitative ecology, science, science education, statistical ecology, WHOI, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Leave a comment


A farmers’ guide to going solar.

Money crop.

Posted in agriculture, agrivoltaics, agroecology, ecopragmatism, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution | Leave a comment

Sir David King (1), climate: What’s it all about, and what it will mean

Note the citing of how talent migrated from the fossil fuel industry to offshore wind energy.

Posted in climate change, climate data, climate disruption, climate economics, climate justice, climate policy, global warming | Leave a comment

“The financial crash and the climate crisis” (The New Yorker Radio Hour)

A great podcast episode.

Check out the thoughts of the late Professor Martin Weitzman as well, in “The man who got economists to take climate nightmares seriously“.

Posted in American Statistical Association, an uncaring American public, Anthropocene, being carbon dioxide, bifurcations, bridge to nowhere, Buckminster Fuller, Carbon Cycle, carbon dioxide, Carbon Worshipers, catastrophe modeling, climate change, climate disruption, climate economics, climate grief, climate justice, climate mitigation, climate nightmares, climate policy, climate zombies, coastal investment risks, flooding, floods, Florida, global warming, global weirding, home resale values, Hyper Anthropocene, objective reality, oceans, Robert Young, Scituate, shorelines, Sir David King, temporal myopia, the tragedy of our present civilization, the value of financial assets, unreason | Leave a comment

House Speaker Pelosi

Update, 2019-10-20, 00:37 EDT

And it’s not only Speaker Pelosi, but Admiral William McRaven, and then General Joseph Votel.

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

two kinds of resilient solar-powered machines

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The CO2 Coalition: A cabal of digital denial

That’s climate denial. And the CO2 Coalition is all over it. Led by 45‘s climate toady Dr William Happer, it is funded by a cast of the usual suspects:

These funds make their way to (at least some of) their members:

William Happer has accepted funding from the fossil fuel industry in the past. For example, in an email chain revealed as part of a undercover investigation by Greenpeace, Happer admitted he had been paid $8,000 by Peabody Energy for a 2015 Minnesota state hearing on the impacts of carbon dioxide. The funds were routed through the CO2 Coalition. [8]

“My fee for this kind of work is $250 per hour. The testimony required four 8-hour days of work, so the total cost was $8,000,” Happer wrote in the email. [114]

As part of a 2018 case where he provided supporting testimony for the side of fossil fuel companies against cities suing for damages related to climate change, Happer was required to disclose any funding he had received in the past. In these disclosures, Happer estimated the amount he received for the 2015 Minnesota testimony as “$10,000 to $15,000, though he does not recall the precise number.” [100], [101]

Happer also noted he had received $1,000 for a speech on climate change at the Heritage Foundation in 2017. [101]

advised by representatives of the climate clowns:

and having prominent members of the denialosphere and luckwarmosphere on their roster:

including a recent visitor in the comments to this blog.

Mr Burton has also opposed measures for coastal protection in North Carolina on political grounds:


and, based upon his own vitae, continues to exaggerate his credentials, claiming there “… the following year [I] wrote this paper, published in the journal Natural Hazards: doi:10.1007/s11069-012-0159-8″ when, actually, all he did was submit a letter of comment to its editors:


Generally “publication” means peer review. This one was not.

Consider the source, and the funding! And the tie to both the Kochs and “beloved” President 45.

Oh, and he won’t appear here again. I have kept (most of) his comments so you can see his style.

Posted in American Association for the Advancement of Science, an ignorant American public, climate activism, climate change, climate denial, climate disruption, CO2 Coalition, David Burton, luckwarmism, William Happer | Leave a comment

Acceleration in rise of Global Mean Sea Level (Yi, Heki, Qian, from 2017)

Most impressive!

This is Figure 2 of S. Yi, K. Heki, A. Qian, “Acceleration in the global mean sea level rise: 2005-2015”, 2017, Geophysical Research Letters:

See also their data supplement.

Of particular interest to me is their use of a Fan filter in order to, in the authors’ words, “restore the leakage of the land signals to the oceans”.

Yi, Heki, and Qian check on the closure of their fits:

and the robustness of their acceleration estimates:

Posted in anomaly detection, attribution, carbon dioxide, climate change, climate data, climate disruption, geophysics, global warming, ocean warming, oceanography, oceans, sea level rise | 21 Comments

Eminent Domain, the Natural Gas Act, and Explosive Methane Pipelines

Courts are beginning to question the appropriateness of eminent domain as applied to rights of way for pipelines.

Damn about time.

Posted in American Petroleum Institute, an uncaring American public, Anthropocene, bridge to nowhere, carbon dioxide, CleanTechnica, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, emissions, explosive methane, FERC, fossil fuel divestment, Governor Charlie Baker, greenhouse gases, keep fossil fuels in ground, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, methane, mitigating climate disruption, natural gas, petroleum, pipelines, politics, public utility commissions, public welfare, PUCs, regulatory capture, rights of the inhabitants of the Commonwealth, stranded assets, the tragedy of our present civilization, tragedy of the horizon, utility company death spiral, zero carbon | Leave a comment

ClimateAdam: “Ice, Sea & Climate Change: The new IPCC report”

Posted in Climate Adam, climate change, climate disruption, global warming, IPCC | Tagged | Leave a comment

Ted Rall’s “Left, Center and Right: We’re All in Denial About Climate Change”

(Friend, fellow congregant, and committee chair Will Rico of First Parish in Needham sent me this highly appropriate link.)

Ted Rall argues at Counterpunch that:

Those who deny that climate change is real are engaging in what psychologists call “simple denial.” But those on the left aren’t much better. Liberals who think global warming is real often resort to “transference denial”: they blame the right and corporate polluters even though we’re all responsible. The scale of the climate crisis and the level of sacrifice and disruption that would be necessary to mitigate it feels overwhelming.

I have argued something similar, , although less eloquently, as has Bill Maher, who is more eloquent than Mr Rall.

Here’s where we are. I’m not focussing upon Republicans, who have, as Mr Rall points out, 44% of their polled cohort denying human caused climate disruption is a real thing. While 92% of Democrats say they consider climate disruption both actual and human caused, this is where their priorities lie:

That’s a summary of a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll from early September 2019 rating the importance of issues to them. Overall, when the Yale Program on Climate Communication and George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication joined to survey American’s views on climate change and its risk, reporting in December 2018, only 70% have any worries about climate change, and just 30% are “very worried”:

Mr Rall quotes and somewhat agrees with Dr Mayer Hillman, a senior fellow emeritus at University of Westminster’s Policy Studies Institute who said:

The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.

I strongly disagree, along with Andrew Gottlieb of APCC and consider it a bit arrogant, reminiscent of “After me, the Deluge“. The biosphere will be just fine. There may be appreciable species rotation, meaning, that, no doubt, a bunch of species will go extinct. But that’s how Life responds to a significant environmental challenge. We seem to have difficulty accepting that all species eventually go extinct and how, the proper response, say, for landscaping is to embrace the hardiest of botanical species, even if it violates canons of landscape management taught, pursued, and implemented over years, even enshrined in law. Wake up: Things have changed. Life will be here, but we shouldn’t be sure of human civilization’s part in it. Pursuit of “sustainability” has failed, and it’s time to make some uncomfortable tradeoffs.

Still, Mr Rall sets out the current problem. We meet in committees, doing cleanups of brooks and streams, hearing lectures about migrating birds, lamenting roaming cats and what they do to wildlife. We rail against fossil fuel companies, and champion measures to defend the vulnerable far away. But we drive CO2-spewing cars, nod in approval of housing developments which keep our taxes low, oppose gasoline taxes, put in that third bathroom, and go crazy buying things for the holidays. Business as usual. We sure aren’t acting like this is urgent. All the Democrats schemes as pretty anemic, for no one wants to utter the essential word: Degrowth (see also).

Mr Rall ends with a flourish:

None of this should come as a surprise. We were warned. “The oceans are in danger of dying,” Jacques Cousteau said in 1970. Life in the oceans had diminished by 40 percent in the previous 20 years.

If you really believe that the planet is becoming uninhabitable, if you think you are about to die, you don’t march peacefully through the streets holding signs and chanting slogans begging the corrupt scoundrels who haven’t done a damn thing for decades to wake up and do something. You identify the politicians and corporate leaders who are killing us, you track them down and you use whatever force is necessary to make them stop. Nothing less than regime change stands a chance of doing the job.

Nothing else—the struggle for income equality, gun control, abortion—matters as much as attacking pollution and climate change.

Anything short of revolution and the abolition of consumer capitalism is “minimizational denial“: admitting the problem while downplaying its severity. Anything short of a radical retooling of the global political system that establishes state control of the economy with environmental impact as our first, second and third priorities is a waste of time that dooms the human race to extinction.

There is no middle ground, no splitting the difference, no compromise. “Good enough” isn’t good enough. Mere progress won’t cut it. Human survival is a pass-fail class. The final exam is tomorrow morning—early tomorrow morning.

Time to get serious, godammit.

Update, 2019-09-26

It’s come to my attention that Kirkpatrick Sale has written a follow-up to Mr Rall’s piece described above, with Mr Sale’s piece titled “The illusion of saving the world“. Whether or not you agree with Mr Sale or, for that matter, Mr Rall, there are a few things about climate disruption Mr Sale gets wrong. I fear many people misunderstand these, too, including many climate progressives and environmentalists who agree upon the urgency of acting on zeroing greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are some basic facts most people do not know, even those concerned about climate disruption:

  1. Carbon dioxide (and its precursors, e.g., methane) is not like other pollutants. The natural mechanisms for scrubbing it work, but half of it remains in atmosphere for 1000 years or more, and the rest takes centuries to remove. This means what matters is cumulative emissions, not emissions intensity. Also, the United States and Europe own most of the CO2 in atmosphere, because of our tremendous growth and success since the beginning of the industrial age.
  2. We know the overwhelming amount of excess CO2 in atmosphere is from human sources. This is because our fossil fuel fingerprints are in the isotopic signatures of the Carbon and Oxygen atoms in the excess CO2.
  3. We have known about the dangers of climate change for a long time: The first U.S. President briefed on the seriousness of the matter was LBJ in 1965. Svante Arrhenius essentially had all the science right in 1896. He even made estimates of warming, but did not foresee the amount of CO2 we’d emit. He was followed by Callendar in 1938, among others, and Revelle in 1958. Each succeeding U.S. President was also briefed.
  4. Because 90+% of the excess warming from greenhouse gases goes into the oceans, and oceans have a huge thermal capacity, even if CO2 emissions were zeroed, we will not see an improvement in climate conditions. Deterioration at that point will stabilize, but it won’t get better on any timescale of typical meaning to people: Thousands if not tens of thousands of years. This is why the expectation, which Sale raises, that things might eventually “cool down” is exactly the straw man it seems. They won’t cool down, essentially ever. We can keep them from getting warming, but that’s about it.
  5. These are all the reasons we need to stop now: It should have happened in 1990, but it didn’t. We need to come down as quickly as possible. And it is so late that to do it fast enough will mean economic hurt. This will, eventually, result in less economic hurt from climate disruption, for everyone, including us.

Posted in #climatestrike, #sunrise, #youthvgov, adaptation, agroecology, an uncaring American public, being carbon dioxide, Bill Maher, bridge to somewhere, Buckminster Fuller, capitalism, carbon dioxide, Carbon Worshipers, civilization, clean disruption, climate activism, climate business, climate change, climate disruption, climate economics, climate education, climate grief, climate mitigation, climate policy, consumption, Cult of Carbon, development as anti-ecology, distributed generation, ecological disruption, ecological services, Ecology Action, ecomodernism, ecopragmatism, energy efficiency, First Parish in Needham, FiveThirtyEight, fossil fuel divestment, global blinding, Global Carbon Project, global warming, global weirding, greenhouse gases, greenwashing, Greta Thunberg, investment in wind and solar energy, IPCC, keep fossil fuels in ground, life cycle sustainability analysis, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution, zero carbon | 1 Comment

“How dare you pretend …!”

“Change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

Update, 2019-09-24

Some reaction, including some from the fiendishly uncivilized. As Ms Thunberg says, this means this movement is having an impact, and Knowles and 45 are afraid.

Posted in #climatestrike, #sunrise, #youthvgov, American Association for the Advancement of Science, an ignorant American public, an uncaring American public, carbon dioxide, Carbon Worshipers, climate disruption, climate economics, climate grief, ecological disruption, Ecology Action, global warming | Leave a comment

Re: “ refused to post my comment on an article …”

Actually, they did. I missed it. (Too many balls in the air.)

Apologies to Moderator Bart and for jumping the gun.

I have withdrawn my misleading post.

Posted in science | Leave a comment

Why a UN Climate Summit is considered urgent

Where we are headed, and how much time we have …

Posted in Carbon Worshipers, clean disruption, climate disruption, global warming, global weirding, On being Carbon Dioxide | Leave a comment

Everything counts. Growth must end.

Keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Fund restoration of natural processes.

Protect natural systems that are left.

Stop development of new land tracts, including new lots and subdivisions for housing and commercial development, especially expensive housing.

A history of degrowth

Posted in #climatestrike, #sunrise, #youthvgov, afforestation, an ignorant American public, an uncaring American public, being carbon dioxide, bridge to nowhere, clean disruption, climate disruption, décroissance, degrowth, destructive economic development, development as anti-ecology, ecological disruption, ecomodernism, ecopragmatism, fragmentation of ecosystems, global warming, global weirding, keep fossil fuels in ground | Leave a comment

How quickly temperature barriers are breached!

This is from the Economist‘s special issue this week on climate disruption.

What’s striking is how quickly delay in substantial action takes us from +1.5C to +2C tp +2.5C to +3C, and it’s almost independent of how much we cut, except for the really dramatic pathway, but just about the schedule. Accordingly, wait 10 years and, accordingly, while it may not be “too late”, it’s gonna be both much harder to achieve, and there’ll be hell to pay whatever we do.

In a tangentially related comment, I wrote earlier today elsewhere about:

[how] some high quantile of climate disruption might come true. The basic rationale is statistical: There are, stochastically speaking, many more long tailed distributions than symmetric ones (proof by 1-1 pairing since asymmetry is a free parameter), so an arbitrary error in forecasting can land you in hotter water than you otherwise thought you’d might, Black Swans and all that. … [P]eople [are] planning as if climate sensitivity [is] Gaussian.

Posted in #sunrise, adaptation, carbon dioxide, cliamate mitigation, climate change, climate disruption, climate economics, climate mitigation, climate policy, ecological disruption, global blinding, global warming, global weirding, On being Carbon Dioxide | Leave a comment

Alex Steffen on The Climate Strike

Excerpted from The Nearly Now at Medium, by Alex Steffen.

“You’re right to strike; you’re right to march; you’re right to feel your fear and rage and longing for a better world. You are the victims of a terrible intergenerational crime, and you are as right as humans can be to demand justice. You are so right that — even though I’ve been fighting this fight for decades— your truth brings tears to my eyes.
“It is so hard to look at a planetary catastrophe and not feel at times lost and lonesome, disconnected and doomed. If older people were less cowardly, the planetary crisis — what it means, what to do about it, how to work with our feelings about it — would be the topic at every public meeting and over every dinner table. Instead, we offer young people stale platitudes and emotional silence.

Of all the many intergenerational injustices, that emotional silence may be the worst, because it leaves each of you to struggling to find connection during the most profound crisis humanity has ever faced.
“You will meet people who tell you to give up, that you are already defeated, that the fight was lost before you even got here. They’re wrong, and their hearts are ugly. Treat them like poisonous snakes.

“You will meet others who want you to be ‘reasonable,’ to believe that acting quickly, and boldly, and in ways that help the most people possible, would be an unfair burden on their business or their wealth. When you meet them, you have met your opposition.

“These days, it’s not the ones denying climate change entirely that you have to watch out for — it’s the ones working to delay action. The world is being destroyed not by monsters, but by committees — committees of smart people with loving families and good educations, following well-planned agendas, and agreeing to do nothing while the ice caps melt and the Amazon burns.

Here is the simplest truth of the climate crisis: Speed is everything.

Excerpted from The Nearly Now at Medium, by Alex Steffen.


Posted in #climatestrike, #sunrise, #youthvgov, Alex Steffen, American Solar Energy Society, an ignorant American public, an uncaring American public, Arctic amplification, Boston Ethical Society, bridge to somewhere, carbon dioxide, climate disruption, climate justice, climate mitigation, ClimateAdam, Ecology Action, global blinding, global warming, global weirding, Greta Thunberg, insurance, Jennifer Francis, Juliana v United States, life cycle sustainability analysis, On being Carbon Dioxide, photovoltaics, science, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, solar revolution, sustainability, sustainable landscaping, wind energy, wind power, zero carbon | Leave a comment

“Sustainability failed. The future is just climate.” (Simon Propper)

Simon Propper has an excellent blog post at Context. An excerpt:

Societies in most countries rumble on, worried about other things. The French are arguing about wealth distribution and church restoration. The Americans about abortion and trade tariffs. The British about Europe. The Chinese worry about – actually, I have no idea. A 2018 OECD survey, “Risks That Matter” identified the issues most concerning the populations of 21 countries. The top issues are health, wealth and accessing social services. – no mention at all of climate change.

So either we aren’t worried about climate change, or we are so worried about it we don’t want to think about it. In fact, there is evidence our populations are divided along climate lines. Many, probably most, continue reaping whatever benefits capitalism and technology provide: fast fashion, disposable packaging, short lived cell phones, cheaper flights. The list is endless. Others (e.g. Extinction Rebellion, are fully aware of the existential threat posed by climate change, and are close to panic. Their protests sound alarmist and shrill. Their remedies draconian and infeasible. Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly fatalistic, feeling there’s nothing they can do to save themselves and their as yet unconceived children. Talk of not having kids, because of climate change, is commonplace.
So what of the sustainability community? I’m pretty sure most of us started out with good intentions. But I think we have gone about it the wrong way. We have spread our efforts thinly over a vast array of issues.

Take a look at a typical company sustainability report. The contents list will include a long list of environmental and social issues, each with its own set of sub-headings, metrics, targets and highlight examples. All wrapped in a viscous layer of management process. Not quite ready to set an absolute CO2 target? Oh well, let’s feature volunteering this year. And so it goes on. Doing some good here and there, but not conclusively dealing with the problem threatening our existence. Can you name the companies that have cut their absolute carbon footprint while growing their business? These should be our role models.

By trying to tackle everything at once we’re diluting our impact, giving too much weight to secondary issues and too little to the really big one.

We must stop talking about water, plastic, diversity, workers’ rights, and volunteering. These are housekeeping issues. Just get on and do them quietly. We need all our energy, resources and focus on climate change. Talk about nothing else, to your board, investors, political connections and customers. Measure your success in $ and tons CO2. If we beat climate change, we will automatically make many of the other problems better, and we will have re-established a collective belief that we can act to save our common future. Don’t tell me if we can cut global CO2 emission by half, we can’t fix packaging.

And Dr Ashley Nunes of MIT has an op-ed at FT Alphaville (paywall), having a headline (paraphrase) Voters care about the planet, just not enough to pay [for fixing it], where he states:

So do Democratic presidential hopefuls who sparred on climate policy last week. While roundly demonising the fossil fuel industry, none called out the American public for embracing a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mentality. None acknowledged that energy has been far too cheap for far too long. And none admitted that if we really want to tackle climate change, we must be willing to pay for it.

He expounded on the climate plans of Democratic presidential candidates earlier.

This has been part of my concern about the emphasis upon environmental justice, climate justice, and a Green New Deal. Surely many people have been harmed in recent history because of exploitation by rich, powerful, and privileged. I simply suggest, as does Propper, that now is not the time to try to set all things right. As Professor Nunes points out, people aren’t getting it, including progressive Democrats.

As Rose Marcario has written:

For starters, let’s acknowledge the truth that climate change is a job killer — and it is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Posted in adaptation, Aldo Leopold, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, alternatives to the Green New Deal, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Amory Lovins, Anthropocene, bag bans, being carbon dioxide, Bill Gates, bridge to somewhere, carbon dioxide, Carbon Tax, Carbon Worshipers, climate, climate change, climate disruption, climate economics, climate justice, climate policy, coastal investment risks, Daniel Kahneman, global warming | 1 Comment