100 Years

So… the Earth is headed for 6C of warming.

Emissions rose by 29% between 2000 and 2008, says the Global Carbon Project.

All of that growth came in developing countries, but a quarter of it came through production of goods for consumption in industrialised nations.

The study comes against a backdrop of mixed messages on the chances of a new deal at next month’s UN climate summit.

According to lead scientist Corinne Le Quere, the new findings should add urgency to the political discussions.

“Based on our knowledge of recent trends and the time it takes to change energy infrastructure, I think that the Copenhagen conference next month is our last chance to stabilise at 2C in a smooth and organised way,” she told BBC News.

But don’t worry about all those nasty emissions that will have led to the increase, or the fact that they are from carbon-based fuels sources,which are finite, because we’ve got a 100-year supply of natural gas to rely on!

I saw the ad last night, and it’s pure amazing with an extra dose of stupid. There’s got to be a link somewhere. But just watch football on Thursday – you’ll see it. The Natural Gas coalition or whatever is really proud of themselves. We’re saved! The mother is telling her baby daughter not to worry, because we’ve got 100 years’ worth of natural gas to burn! The amazing unasked question, about her baby’s children and their children… oh yeah: screw them.

Innovative Deception

via Yglesias, the folks who makeup the political opposition to the climate bill have been working nights and weekends, but luckily they’re not coming up with much:

Seven months after first trying to re-brand congressional climate change legislation as an “energy tax,” Senate Republicans were back at it today with a new report and op-ed that attempts to expose the climate bill as a “$3.6 trillion gas tax.”

Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Kit Bond (R-MO) gathered outside the Capitol today, flanked by aides wearing black stickers imprinted with the slogan “CAP & TRADE = GAS TAX,” to promote a new report [PDF] that presents their “gas tax” assertions.

There’s plenty of reasons at the link why this re-branding is lame, wrong and just might work (hey, there’s  slogan!). But holy Chateau D’ what If, batman, what if that proposition was granted? That even though the numbers don’t support it, what if the climate bill was construed as a gas tax ( you know, the gas tax that’s actually needed)? Now, Bailey, Hutchinson et al are doing it simply on the basis of knowing that Amur’cans will reject any tax out of hand, especially a gas tax. But, and this is where we could really use the guile of Edmond Dantes, the only way we’re going slip the chains of present usage and wastage is if the price of energy – and the cost of wasting it – goes up. Land use and urban planning will follow, not lead, this curve. So their ploy might be doubly-ingenious, and may be we protest too much by rejecting it out of hand. Look at the arc of the health care bill; can the lies permeate and end up producing a stronger bill?

Affluence Using Less

Way less. Of everything. Isn’t that what greater efficiency in allocating increasingly scarce resources – and why we’re opposed to it – is all about? We’re scared of being poor. Any way we slice any of the barometers – peak oil, greenhouse gases, climate change… this seems to be why we (Americans) oppose any remedies – they will necessarily lower our quality of life, which to us means necessarily less stuff. Considering the literal impact of that statement, this is saying quite a lot. I always make the point that by driving less, eating less, living in cities and towns instead of ‘burbs, we’ll be changing the things we should want to change. Like Gang of Four sings – open up up the till and give me the change you said would do me good. Well, this is it.

Okay, so not everyone agrees that less stuff would be better. Some posit that we’re the best and this is the best it’s ever been. Driving, getting enraged by talk radio, slurping H-F corn syrup, ahh… passion and freedom twisted around Zion, with sprinkles. Not only that, some think, nay fear, that this is the best things’ll ever be and agitators like me are just trying to bring you all down. whatever. I am. Your mileage may vary on what qualifies as ‘down,’ and the case could be made that this qualitative dissonance is source of many ills. Unless we try to figure who and why it is that our way can’t change or we’ll suffer – god forbid! – we’re only convincing ourselves. And I think we’re already convinced.

So let’s get a beat on people who think things – especially quality-type things – are being taken away from them in the name of planetary-mindedness. Who equate less with poorer and… lower. Yeesh, we’ve got some twisted brethren.  Anyway, biking and eating fresh food from the market is for pinko commies and euro… what a minute, a lot Americans like euro-whatever – remember this? or this? There’s a thousand things those Euros like that seem cute but… well… What’s that saying, a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there? You wouldn’t? What’s wrong with you? Do you think of those people as poor or bereft? I know you could, but let’s unpack this. And while we’re at it, stay a while.

This is just to point out that the only way to know about any other places (places with different and less stuff) other than the place you live is to… go other places. The 15% of you who already have passports can go back to watching the game.

And that these things are connected.

New Bronze Aging

There was a funny quote by a Saudi prince/oil official in an article I read a few months ago, something along the lines of, “the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.” The implication for the fossil fuel age being, of course, that instead of completely running out, we will graduate to an improved energy source. Whatever your feelings on that, it’s a good line.

But before we move along, as we do, such as the case may be, the House of Saud has a master plan to help themselves alongeven as their repositories are abandoned:

Saudi Arabia is trying to enlist other oil-producing countries to support a provocative idea: if wealthy countries reduce their oil consumption to combat global warming, they should pay compensation to oil producers.

The chief Saudi negotiator, Mohammad al-Sabban, described the position as a “make or break” provision for the Saudis, as nations stake out their stance before the global climate summit scheduled for the end of the year.

Can they take a hard line on that? Whatever your feelings, it must noted that the Saudis are working much harder to prepare for an uncertain future than we are, even taking preposterous hard lines in upcoming negotiations that will will wean us off of their product. It’s a question of need, of course, except that we need to get creative like this, as well. But instead, we largely continue to dissemble about what we will, should or might be willing to do, like it’s a waiting game and we only need to last through to the next iteration of… some variant of what we’re already doing. People aren’t even that interested in the upcoming talks in Copenhagen, talks that could create new sets of goals for emissions reductions that could have very significant effects on economies the world over, that could (but not like magic) reset the developed world on a path toward transition and incentivize the developing world to follow along. But most of the moral high ground will likely be compromised away with  easier to reach, lower impact targets that everyone can agree on – more stones to decorate the third place age recital.

Meanwhile, even David Byrne bikes.

What You See

De Stael

‘… is what you get’ is a thoroughly misunderappreciated construct, especially if considered in terms of ‘what you look at’. While you’re here, let me try to explain.

What if your biggest decision this year was about choosing a piece of artwork for your home? No, really. What if your, let’s say, sixth largest investment for the year, this year, was to be made in a painting? No really, people do this, and not just millionaires – well, especially not them. What sort of re-ordering of priorities would it take to make this a viable scenario? Even better, imagine the necessary priorities already reflect yours; what would go into the decision? Being able to afford just whatever it was in first place, of course; but what about the work itself. Deciding on something that you like today but would also be able to live with far into the future adds certain premiums to the work, maybe includes some things you didn’t know you cared about – or maybe just not that much. But… the importance of the work to your state of mind and general well-being would be well-understood; the decision itself invests you with a non-trivial amount of higher order consideraion for what you see and do, think and feel. And, one might suppose, this is how it should be.

Because so many things are or require this kind of consideration; the work you are considering bringing into your home for the long term would be necessarily bled of concepts and ideas, which would grow stale over time. Instead the work would need to be a living part of what you do, say and feel, reliably fading into the background that forms your surroundings as easily as it elevates itself for further consideration, at times. At whose choosing? Well, yours, when you decide to bring the work into your home.

So now that you’re there – here – consider this: making choices on a scale that the atmosphere might someday notice.

image: “Nice”, 1954, by Nicolas de Stael. One of the works the Obamas borrowed from the Hirshhorn Museum and other places, for their private residence in the White House.

No Ideas

That seems to be the case with this almost-unbelievable-except-for-everything-we-know-about-Republicans editorial on Cap and Trade by Sarah Palin in today’s Washington Post. Really. I mean a lot of people are concerned that newspapers are dying, but the dynamic changes when you realize that they may be killing themselves.

About climate change, like economic recessions and health care, the Republican party has no ideas beyond tax cuts and “drill, baby, drill”. And it’s a throughway to understanding how we got to the present predicament in which all three are intertwined and strangling us, if not a purgative toward transcending it.

I won’t detail how one party bent on resentment and victimization is unhealthy for our politics. But for the planet, time’s a wastin’ and the stakes are high. The thing is, as I have tried to outline here from time to time, a sustainable economy and a healthy ecology are very closely related. Having no ideas for how to make them work together with some degree of harmony is simply not an option. That’s what we’re here to figure out. We do politics as a means to solving problems based on mutual consent and the public good. A nefarious strain of anti-public has infested the party with the (R). They lionize the private sector without even acknowledging its significant other – and after a while, there are few routes back to a healthy respect for the public sector. Unwilling to defend it in certain instances, they forget how to do it all. And here they are, with no idea.

Again, as with newspapers, are they dying or killing themselves?


Far be it for me or anybody to tell you that you must take the train, walk to work, know or care anything about the food you buy and feed your kids. I mean, what’s the difference between a choice and a mandate? I can’t get you to consider spirituality when you insist on being religious; we’re talking past each other. The same goes for precious arguments about whether or not the climate is changing – more immediate concerns are either much more important or hardly matter at all. We can’t see rising oceans, after all – wait.

Nonetheless, just because something doesn’t look the same way to you as it does to me does not mean we are not seeing the same thing. The idea of parallax, where an object’s changed appearance is actually due to a change in perspective, is perhaps instructive. As we move through time, embracing or putting off measures to insure (either way) certain outcomes, our relation to, and hence our view of, the world we live in likely will change. Indeed this is the basis, for some, of waiting until conditions are sufficiently dire and all doubt is erased that we are &^%*ed before any remedies are attempted. I’ll leave this absurd fear of doubt for another time. But how to engender changes of perspective, if that is agreed to be one of the keys to planetary-preservation?

In the parallax, example

objects in the foreground appear to move very quickly, while those in the background much less so.  In the case of how our lifestyles impact the planet, what would be some of the objects in the foreground? The methods we use to move about, keep warm or cool, eat, for amusement; when we visualize our lives in a mind’s eye, is it about sitting in a car on a crowded road? Walking up to a school in the morning with your child? A lot of people would be appalled with a mere confrontation with how much time they have spent sitting at a drive through window, without ever considering what they were even buying there. Just that image, and a subtotal of minutes, and its reflection of the priority and our acceptance of it might be enough to create a pause.

Because that, a pause – any pause – seems to be what we strive to avoid. You don’t have to get dystopian about it to see the relation. When we take the time to prepare a meal, for example, we become concerned about ingredients, kitchen implements, the preference of those we’re feeding… the list goes on. Whether see this as a pleasure or a hassle, and the faster you condense the overall activity, the less you need to think about the different elements. Until you skip cooking altogether – and here we are again, sitting in the drive through.

So there’s no reason to demonize ordering a number 4 (again), in order to see it as another object between us and the background of the world we live. It moves quickly, alleviating us of certain concerns maybe, meanwhile our ideas about whether the world is changing seem to move so slowly as to not affect us. But creating pause, with the danger of a change in perspective, is perhaps the only way we ever become concerned about any of the ingredients to our lives, the ones that determine our perspective, the only ones we can change.

Super-Monster(s) of Eventness

Krugman does us all a favor today, by drawing out into the open the massive contradiction at the heart of the debate about doing anything about climate change. Primarily that the same people who say the free-market is so wonderfully dexterous that it is the best mechanism for handling any eventuality also claim that it – and we – would be driven to penury under any regime that would limit carbon emissions.

In honor of which favor I yield the floor to Jacques Derrida, from his essay Typewriter Ribbon: Limited Ink, part of the collection Without Alibi. An aporia is an expression of a kind of doubt or difficulty encountered in establishing the theoretical truth of a proposition, created by the presence of evidence both for an against it.

The machine, on the contrary, is destined to repetition. It is destined, that is, to reproduce impassively, imperceptibly, without organ or organicity, received commands. In a state of anesthesia, it would obey or command a calculable program without affection or auto-affection, like an indifferent automaton. Its functioning, if not its production, would not need anyone. Moreover, it is difficult to conceive of a purely machinelike apparatus without inorganic matter.

Notice I say inorganic. Inorganic, that is, nonliving, sometimes dead but always, in priciple, unfeeling and inanimate, without desire, without intention, without spontaneity. The automaticity of the inorganic machine is not the spontaneity attributed to organic life.

This, at least, is how the event and the machine are generally conceived. Among all the incompatible traits that we have just briefly recalled, so as to suggest how difficult it is to think them together as the same “thing,” we have had to underscore these two predicates, which are, most often, attributed without hesitation to matter or to the material body: the organic and the inorganic.

These two commonly used words carry an obvious reference, either positive or negative, to the possibility of an internal principle that is proper and totalizing, to a total form of, precisely, organization, whether or not it is a beautiful form, an aesthetic form, this time in the sense of the fine arts. This organicity is thought to be lacking from so-called inorganic matter. If one day, with one and the same concept, these two incompatible concepts, the event and the machine, were to be thought together, you can bet that not only (and I insist not only) will one have produced a new logic, an unheard -of conceptual form. In truth against the background and the at the horizon of our present possibilities, this new figure would resemble a monster. But can one resemble a monster? No, of course not, resemblance and monstrosity are mutually exclusive. We must therefore correct this formulation: the new figure of an event-machine would no longer even be a figure. It would not resemble, it would resemble nothing, not even what we call, in a still familiar way, a monster. But it would therefore be, by virtue of this very novelty, an event, the only and first possible event, because im-possible. That is why I ventured to say that this thinking could belong only to the future – and even that it makes the future possible. An event does not come about unless its irruption interrupts the course of the possible and, as the impossible itself, surpises any foreseeability. But such a super-monster of eventness would be, this, for the first time, also produced by the machine.

As a still preliminary exercise, somewhat like musicians who listen to their instruments and tune them before beginning to play, we could try another version of the same aporia. Such an aporia would not block or paralyze, but on the contrary would condition any event of thought that resembles somewhat the unrecognizable monster that has just passed in front of our eyes.

What would this aporia be? One may say of a machine that it is productive, active, efficient, or, as one says in French, performante. But a machine as such, however performante it may be, could never, according to the strict Austinian orthodoxy of speech acts, produce an event of performative type. Performativity will never be reduced to technical performance. Pure performativity implies the presence of a living being, and of a living being speaking one time only, in its own name, in the first person. And speaking in a manner that is at once spontaneous, intentional, free, and irreplaceable.  Peformativity, therefore, excludes in principle, in its own moment, and machinelike [machinale] technicity. It is even the name given to this intentional exclusion. This foreclosure of the machine answers to the intentionality of intention itself. It is intentionality. Intentionality forecloses the machine. If, the, some machinality (repetition, calculability, inorganic matter of the body) intervenes in a performative event, it is always an accidental, extrinsic and parasitical element, in truth a pathological, mutilating, or even mortal element. Here again, to think both the event and the performative event together remains a monstrosity to come, an impossible event. Therefore the only possible event. But it would be an event that, this time, would no longer happen without the machine. Rather it would happen by the machine. To give up neither the event nore the machine, to subordinate neither one to the other, never to reduce one to the other: this is perhaps a concern of thinking that has kept a certain number of “us” working for the last few decades.

But who, “us”? Who would be this “us” whom I dare to speak of so carelessly? Perhaps it designates at bottom, and first of all, those who find themselves in the improbable place or in the uninhabitable habitat of this monster.


Along with being the Trig functions for Theta, 45 degrees is also the number being thrown around for expected sustained temperatures in Australia, which many say is already experiencing the predicted effects of global warming. Massive wildfires, drought, flooding in the northern tropical areas – it’s not pretty.

Climate scientists say Australia — beset by prolonged drought and deadly bush fires in the south, monsoon flooding and mosquito-borne fevers in the north, widespread wildlife decline, economic collapse in agriculture and killer heat waves — epitomizes the “accelerated climate crisis” that global warming models have forecast.

With few skeptics among them, Australians appear to be coming to an awakening: Adapt to a rapidly shifting climate, and soon. Scientists here warn that the experience of this island continent is an early cautionary tale for the rest of the world.

A royal commission has  been convened to determine whether, in fact, global warming contributed to the deaths of 173 people in the nation’s worst wildfires ever and the 200 who died from heat the week before. Farmers are being pushed to the verge of suicide and beyond. Rainfall is down by 70 % in many areas. The commission’s report is due in August.

But in a country that gets 80% of its energy from burning coal, what can the report say?

Scientists are frustrated that such dramatic anecdotal and empirical evidence hasn’t sparked equally dramatic action from Australia’s government. They suspect the inaction can be partly explained by examining the nation’s relationship with coal. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and relies on it for 80% of its electricity. That helps make Australia and its 21 million people the world’s highest per-capita producers of greenhouse gases in the industrialized world.

Climate change researcher Cocklin, who is deputy vice chancellor at James Cook University, said the power of the coal companies and the massive receipts they bring in render the industry politically untouchable.

“The nature of our energy profile is one where coal features significantly,” he said. “There’s no denying it’s a massive problem. I don’t think in the public-political arena it is being challenged with the tenacity that you would want. No Labor [Party] government is going to challenge that.”

So, the prime minister pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5% by 2020 (wouldn’t want to rush things). And I think we can relate. Australia is not just a case in point of what global warming will look like, but also an example of vast government inaction in the face of damning consequences. See one, see the other. Pleasant loud speaker voice: In the name of not kinking solid revenue streams, will everyone please step two miles in toward the middle of the country?

Do we actually think that’s going to work? If we don’t – what actually is the plan?

Ourselves in

Boxing, that is. Via Think Progress, The U.S. Geological Survey now thinks that published estimates on how much sea levels will rise as a result of melting ice caps were a little on the light side.

Tom Armstrong, senior advisor for global change programs at the U.S. Geological Survey, said the report “shows how quickly the information is advancing” on potential climate shifts. The prospect of abrupt climate change, he said, “is one of those things that keeps people up at night, because it’s a low-probability but high-risk scenario. It’s unlikely to happen in our lifetimes, but if it were to occur, it would be life-changing.”

In one of the report’s most worrisome findings, the agency estimates that in light of recent ice sheet melting, global sea levels could rise as much as 4 feet by 2100. The intergovernment panel had projected a rise of no more than 1.5 feet by that time, but satellite data over the last two years show the world’s major ice sheets are melting much more rapidly than previously thought. The Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are losing an average of 48 cubic miles of ice a year, equivalent to twice the amount of ice in the Alps.

So we can continue with the out-of-sight-out-of-mind routine until further notice and new models have been developed which can present finally-irrefutable proof that was has been happening all along has, in fact, been happening all along. Great.

But in the meantime, just until we decide it’s too late to do anything, how about some massive public infrastructure spending to alleviate some of what might be the causes of the above? Ahem.

Building the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles and Anaheim line that will be the spine of the system will cost between $32.8 billion and $33.6 billion, according to the High Speed Rail Authority’s business report. Extensions built later would cost another $12 billion. In addition to the $10 billion from state bond sales, the authority is counting on $12 billion to $16 billion in federal funds plus $6.5 billion to $7.5 billion in private investment and $2 billion to $3 billion in local contributions.

Whoa. Sexy numbers like that are usually reserved an investment bank bailout or derivatives swindle. And this to build something no one will own, that only benefits the public? Who even goes there?

Update: Catching up on Krugman for the last few days, he explains the econ 101 behind my last bit of pith there.