Carbon Emissions Record, Food to Double in Price

It is hard to decide which is the worst news in the International Energy Agency’s new study.

The central piece of bad news is that as the world recovers from the 2008-2009 crash, it is spewing record amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In 2010 human beings sent 30.6 gigatons of carbon into the air, 5% more than in 2008, beating that previous record.

A lot of the sources of emission are fixed coal and other hydrocarbon plants that will likely go on operating through 2020, suggesting that there will be annual increases in emissions into the next decade.

In turn, this steady production of atmospheric poison, which causes the atmosphere to retain the heat of sunlight and interferes with it being radiated back out into outer space, is likely to increase the average global surface temperature by more than 2 degrees. Climate scientists had hoped that international protocols and government efforts would hold the increase to that amount. An average increase of 3 degrees would suggest that in some times and places it would be hellish, with a deleterious impact on crops and human health.

Oxfam has just issued a warning that food staples will likely double in price by 2030, in part because of climate change. A billion people in the world go hungry already, and spend 80% of their income on food. If the world envisaged by Oxfam materializes, obviously there is the potential of widespread starvation.

The Big Oil and Big Coal executives attempting to stop efforts to reduce emissions are thus in effect mass murderers of a future generation.

America’s corporate police state has decided that ecological activism is a danger that it needs to spend millions combating. (In fact, genuine ‘eco-terrorism,’ as opposed to FBI entrapment of aging hippies, is rare.)

Given what is being done to the planet, the FBI should instead be having agents sit outside Big Oil and Big Coal corporate offices tracing how the money goes out from them to buy our political representatives (that is illegal, guys) and have them work against green energy and engage in climate change denial.

Aljazeera English reports:

16 Responses

  1. In asking us to read this story and despair and hope for change you are asking us to totally alter the global capitalist system from the top down. Change powerful economies, change established status quo, alter mind sets, confront vested interests, in short confront ‘power’ in the philosophical sense.

    I don’t think the odds are in your favour.

    • If the minds of those in power can’t be changed as you suggest, then millions will starve and suffer destruction of their environments. One way or the other, Nature will kick back, and humanity will suffer the consequences of its actions.

    • Well, that’s pretty much the same thing you can say about Juan’s anti-war articles or the anti-war movement in general. Findings ways to spew more CO2 and arms contracts are two of the easiest ways to make a billion bucks and the people who really want to do that will fight like the Devil to preserve their opportunities.

  2. Divide 30 billion tons by 7 billion people and you get average emissions of a little more than 4 tons per capita. In the US, the average is about 20. Remember this every time someone complains that other countries should do more first.

  3. From all that I have read, a 2 degree C rise would make most of the planet too hot to support agriculture, and it was chosen several years ago, before the full impacts were understood, as a reasonable attainable level. IIRC, 2 degrees C correlates to 450 ppm.

    Here are some of the problems:

    We (planet) are already at or have just passed the carrying capacity based on arable land and fossil fuels. This means disruptions in the weather or in fuel/fertilizer will send significant populations into famine. With last year’s wheat harvest destructions in Australia and Russia, and this year’s disaster, which is still unfolding, in the American Midwest, more people will face food insecurity this year.

    Dmitry Orlov characterized excess deaths (mortality above the average rates for a cohort): Unless you work in a morgue, you don’t see it as it happens, but one year you go to a class reunion and you realize many of your classmates are gone.

    so, we might not even see the excess deaths until several years after the fact just as we could not see peak oil when it occurred in 2005, but only the effect on the economy/housing market/debt system in 2008.

    All this from just one half a degree (F) warming.

    There is the problem of cascading effects. When one system breaks, the ones dependent on it may also break. We do not know how many instances of death via starvation this will cause.

    At some point, the non-linear effects will kick in. Take sea level rise. When the wet process of glacier disintegration accelerates, then this previously untabulated cause of sea level rise (because scientists do not know how to quantify it, they do not include it in their calculations) becomes a major factor. Hundreds millions more displaced onto non-arable land.

    It just gets worserer and worserer.

    So, all the dismal projections are based on linear effects, but the larger non-linear effects are not figured in because we do not know how to do so.

  4. The “American corporate police state” will never willingly or democratically cede its power or lucre. While Americans are fine and dandy with bombing brown people into oblivion to alter their realities over there, we docilely shuffle along in the US, with baffling faith in our failed democracy. All the while, in its name the oligarchy strips us of our rights and profits obscenely by making renters of us all.

    As opposed to our brutal global policies, domestically, we cling to a naive and unquestioned pacifism, a recipe for our continued sink into a state only Orwell could have fully described. If we’re not willing to stir things up, wind up in prison, face billy clubs or tasers, if we’re not prepared for full-scale civil disobedience, then we’re all wasting our breath. So few on the left are prepared to face this reality, though I’m sure they acknowledge it on some level. Until they do, we’re going nowhere, until the discomfort bleeds a little further.

    For now, in lieu of the civil rights or anti-war movements, the most impressive demonstration we’ve observed was the vacuous nonsense from Colbert and Jon Stewart last year. We don’t need self-absorbed, priviledged moderates, we need hungry, pissed off radicals, and more than that we need leaders on the left who tell them the truth, if they can face it themselves.

    Voting for the dems, participating in this joke called electoral politics only postpones the inevitable. But, yes, if we’re not prepared to act, then only James’ despair is left to us.

    • Orwell could not have described this state because he grew up in a Britain where most people were poor and worked in horrible factories and coal mines and bitched loudly about it. Only Terry Gilliam could describe the state we’re in, because he grew up in America when it was full of people who thought they were middle-class and white-collar. “Brazil” is a dystopia of greedy, narrow-minded people who cling to the barren proofs of their success while objective conditions worsen. There doesn’t need to be a great dictator in such a system; everyone feels he must terrorize everyone else to fear change as much as he does.

  5. I’ll have MORE GASAHOL puhleese!

    Here’s a bit of philosophical grist for the mill. I live in California quite near a grove of Manarch butterfly roosting trees where they stop yearly in their migration when it gets cold. An amazing spectacle that people come from all over the region and state to see… Eucalyptus trees covered in layers and layers of Monarchs with their wings imperceptibly vibrating to develop a column of moving air to keep them from freezing in the cold.

    The layers are getting thinner. It appears a particular GMO corn (Monsanto BT for gasahol to be specific) has pollen that kills the Monarch’s larvae and the Mexican agribiz interests have invested heavily in type of corn… That the butterglies pass over on their migration route.

    Mexicans find they’re paying a higher price for tortillas and El Norte gets the ethanol… and a diminshing butterfly population.

    MEANWHILE, the state of California upped the amount of ethanol allowed in California’s gas mix further dooming the Monarchs in their overflight of Mexico even as the tourists drive to the trees wondering where all the butterflies went.

    For the most part they’d just stare at you in disbelief or anger if you ever indicated their own lifestyle was responsible for the fact there aren’t many butterflies left.

    …and as the layers that the Monarchs roost on the trees in get thinner, more of them die, even further diminishing their number.

    People… Whatareyagonnado!

  6. Ways exist to stimulate plant growth so as to suck down some of the airborn carbon and bio-sequester it either in plantmass or in and under the soil. Ways also exist to manage agriculture so as to raise the amount of persistent rootmass and humus below the soil surface. The problem is how to support using these methods over millions of square miles of ag-and-pasture/range land so as to suck down and bio-sequester billions of tons of carbon over millions of square miles of land area. But people can’t begin to even think about driving carbon bio-sequestration unless they know it even exists and can be applied.

    A first step might be for growing numbers of people to realize such a possibility actually exists. And offering pathways to information about it might help such growing numbers to realize it. Then they can think about how to drive the process a tiny bit by their own individual actions, and how to drive it harder by organized political and economic pressure.

    So here are a few links to bio-sequestration possibilities. First, a very elementary Wiki-Overview:
    link to en.wikipedia.org
    Then, terra preta: link to en.wikipedia.org
    and biochar: link to biochar-international.org
    Finally, a researcher with a company has been studying mycorrhizae and micorrhizal production of humus-precursors in the soil around their host plantroots as a way to increase soil humus loads. Just because he has based a company around his researches does not automatically make him suspect, I don’t think.
    link to soilsecrets.com
    link to sustainableabq.com

  7. For years I have wondered when (if ever) people would (again) talk about over-population. I’m still wondering, or waiting. Too much CO2 and methane? Surely it would go down if the number of people went down, especially in high-CO2-producing countries like the USA. Too little food? Ditto.

    Nothing is served by an increasing population adn much would be served by a steeply decreasing population.

    How to do it? Well, EITHER by deliberate-rational-humane-decision-making; OR by starvation, war, etc., brought onto (usually helpless) people by the failure of humane behavior of the world’s leaders.

    When you look at the working of the oligarchic political system so favored by free-market-capitalism (in which the buying and selling of legislative votes plays so great a part), it is hard to imagine the circumstances under which the path of starvation-war-emigration-atrocity so very, very much favored (in effect) by the capitalist masters will ever be replaced by anything humane.

    • Plenty of old, affluent societies have falling populations. But according to the “laws” of economics, this is Bad because children force parents to spend more and work harder, and then enter the workforce and drive down wages, which is Good. Instead, parents have few children in those countries because they expect Social Security to be there for them, so you end up with not enough new workers to prop up Social Security. Oh, but the problem would be solved by getting rid of Social Security so that the unproductive old would die off, and parents would want more children to leech off of in their old age. But population expansion would increase pressure for territorial expansion and war.

      Twisted, isn’t it? You can’t get around the problem without dealing with redistribution of wealth, either from old to young or young to old or rich old to poor old.

  8. The Inuit people of the Canadian Arctic have an oral history tradition that goes back thousands of years. In their telling, never has the Arctic ice been so thin nor appear so late and disappear so early as is happening now.

    Meanwhile, no-nothings like Sen. James Inhofe and his puppet masters at C Street poo-poo climate change as nonsense (because it will only affect brown and black heathens in Africa and India) and think there’s nothing that needs to be done to avert catastrophe – because he and his ilk don’t want to believe decades of research by thousands of legitimate scientists.

    Oh, wait. Most of the climate change deniers also deny the existence of science. Odd, isn’t it, that the same people who think there’s nothing to see here also think that the universe is only 8,000 years old.

    There was a time in my life when people like this were dismissed as lunatic fringers. How did they start being taken seriously by anyone?

  9. “Oxfam has just issued a warning that food staples will likely double in price by 2030, in part because of climate change.”

    The problem with projections like this is that they don’t include the assumptions upon which they are based. I assume (heh) that this projection is based on the “economic recovery” continuing on the path of the 1st quarter of this year but, as the 2nd quarter is beginning to demonstrate, that is very unlikely to happen.

    Projections tend to be self defeating, in fact. Oil prices are projected to reach $230/bbl, for instance, except that long before they reach that level the price of oil will have cratered the economy, driving the price of oil back down to $90/bbl.

    None of which means we should ignore rising food prices, of course, but these long term projections are just…

  10. “The Big Oil and Big Coal executives attempting to stop efforts to reduce emissions are thus in effect mass murderers of a future generation.”

    Were it not for the obstruction of the Republicans, the US would be well on its way to leadership in developing alternative energy sources. The world won’t come to terms with the problem without the US.

    Thus the Republicans are not just our problem; they represent a tragedy for the planet and humanity.

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