Daily Archives: April 17, 2015

AFTERBURN: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels Post Carbon Institute | Richard Heinberg

The advent of fossil fuels changed the world profoundly (giving us everything from plastics and automobiles to global warming); the inevitable and rapidly approaching end of the oil-coal-and-gas era will likewise bring overwhelming transformation in its wake. My new book Afterburn explores

that transformation—its opportunities and challenges—in sixteen essays that address subjects as varied as energy politics, consumerism, localism, the importance of libraries, and oil price volatility.

Afterburn is a book of “greatest hits”—that is, popular essays that have been previously published—similar in that respect to an earlier book of mine, Peak Everything (2007). Like that previous collection, this one has been carefully selected and arranged, and features an all-new Introduction.

Here are just a few of the highlights:

“Ten Years After” reviews the debate about “peak oil” from the perspective of over a decade’s work in tracking petroleum forecasts, prices, and production numbers. As we’ll see, forecasts from oil supply pessimists have generally turned out to be accurate, far more so than those of official energy agencies or petroleum industry spokespeople.

Environmentalists tend to agree that consumerism is a deal-breaking barrier to the creation of a sustainable society. It’s helpful, therefore, to know exactly what consumerism is (not merely a greedy personal attitude but a system of economic organization) and how it originated (not as a natural outgrowth of “progress,” but as the deliberate creation of advertising and marketing firms). “The Brief, Tragic Reign of Consumerism” tells this story, and explores how we might go about building an alternative sufficiency economy.

Some long-time environmentalists have been anticipating global social and ecological catastrophe for many years, yet it has so far failed to manifest in all its devastating glory; what we see instead are periodic localized economic and environmental disasters from which at least partial recovery has so far been possible. “Fingers in the Dike” explains why industrial society has been able to ward off collapse for as long as it has, and suggests ways to best make use of borrowed time.

…(read more).

See also:

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

The Law of Diminishing Returns & The Great Burning & Our Renewable Future| Richard Heinberg

The Law of Diminishing Returns


Published on Apr 7, 2015

In this new short video Richard Heinberg explores how — in our economy, the environment, and energy production — we may well be. When previous societies have hit similar limits, they often doubled-down by attempting ever more complex interventions to keep things going, before finally collapsing. Will this be our fate too? And is there an alternative?

This video is the first in a four-part series by Richard Heinberg and Post Carbon Institute. The themes covered in these videos are much more thoroughly explored in Heinberg’s latest book, Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels.

The Great Burning


Published on Apr 16, 2015

In this short video, Richard Heinberg explores why The Great Burning — the combustion of oil, coal, and natural gas — must come to an end during the next few decades. If the twentieth century was all about increasing our burn rate year after blazing year, the dominant trend of twenty-first century will be a gradual flame-out.

This video is the second in a four-part series by Richard Heinberg and Post Carbon Institute. The themes covered in these videos are much more thoroughly explored in Heinberg’s latest book, Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels.

Thank you to our partners New Society Publishers. Buy the book (use coupon code PCI2015 for a 20% discount through June 14, 2015): http://newsociety.com/Books/A/Afterburn

Our Renewable Future


Published on Apr 23, 2015

Can we keep growing the economy and avoid diminishing returns by switching energy sources?

The transition to renewable solar and wind technology is both necessary and inevitable. But can it solve all our problems?

This video is the third in a four-part series by Richard Heinberg and Post Carbon Institute. The themes covered in these videos are much more thoroughly explored in Heinberg’s latest book, Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels.

Purchase Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels using discount code PCI2015 by June 14, 2015 and get a 20% discount: http://newsociety.com/Books/A/Afterburn

Read the book’s introduction: http://www.postcarbon.org/announcing-…

See also:

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Market Forces Driving “Great Transition” to Clean Energy, Says New Book

April 16, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – The global economy is now undergoing a transition from fossil and nuclear energy to clean power from solar, wind, and other renewable sources, according to the latest book from environmental analyst Lester Brown and his colleagues at the Earth Policy Institute (EPI).

The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy lays out the rapidly evolving global shift toward cleaner sources of energy, driven by economics, policy, and the hard realities of accelerating climate change. Brown and co-authors Janet Larsen, J. Matthew Roney, and Emily E. Adams, stress that the shift taking place now represents a lasting change in the way we power the world economy.

“The worldwide transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy is under way,” said Lester R. Brown, EPI President and lead author. “As fossil fuel resources shrink, as air pollution worsens, and as concerns about climate instability cast a shadow over the future of coal, oil, and natural gas, a new world energy economy is emerging. The old economy, fueled largely by coal and oil, is being replaced with one powered by solar and wind energy.”

The Great Transition details this evolving trend, focusing on falling prices and rising adoption for wind, solar, electric vehicles, hydropower, geothermal energy, and energy efficiency; and the emerging turn from coal, nuclear power, oil, and traditional transportation that is happening faster than anticipated.

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics

Environment Justice

Fossil-Fuel Subsidy Reform Communique | IISD


Published on Apr 16, 2015

Fossil-fuel subsidy reform offers a major opportunity for sustainable development. As countries prepare for a major climate change conference in Paris, the International Institute for Sustainable Development makes the case that phasing out fossil-subsidies is a priority.

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The elimination of fossil-fuel subsidies would make a significant contribution to this shared objective. By keeping prices artificially low, fossil-fuel subsidies encourage wasteful consumption, disadvantage renewable energy, and depress investment in energy efficiency. Fossil-fuel subsidy reform also has both economic and environmental benefits, thereby supporting our shared global commitment to sustainable development.

There is now an urgent need to convert these high-level commitments into practical action. This should be informed by the following three interrelated principles:

  • Communication and Transparency about the merits of subsidy policies and reform timetables, including through engagement and communications with the general public and civil society stakeholders to ensure a smooth, inclusive, bottom-up approach to reform;
  • Ambition in the scope and timeframe for implementing reforms; and
  • Technical and financial support to developing countries to help overcome the practical challenges they face in implementing reforms in a manner that safeguards the poor and vulnerable.

This Communiqué invites all countries, companies and civil society organizations to join us in supporting accelerated action to eliminate inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies in an ambitious and transparent manner as part of a major contribution to climate change mitigation.

* * *

GENEVA—17 April 2015—A coalition of governments are calling for the phase-out of subsidies to fossil fuels in the lead-up to a major climate conference in Paris.
A group of eight countries known as the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform today released a Communiqué encouraging governments to prioritize the reform of fossil-fuel subsidies ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this year. The Friends, with the support of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, are encouraging other governments to endorse the statement. France today became the first country outside the Friends group to do so.
“By endorsing this Communiqué, we highlight the importance of fossil-fuel subsidy reform as a key climate change mitigation policy with clear economic, social and environmental benefits. I am proud that Denmark has been leading in supporting fossil-fuel subsidy reform through the past years and would hope for others to join our efforts going forward,” said Denmark’s Minister of Trade and Development Cooperation, Mogens Jensen.
 Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, which make up the Friends group, point to the fact that fossil-fuel subsidies are harmful to the environment and economic development. Often the benefits of subsidies disproportionately benefit wealthier households, which consume more energy.
 “By launching this Communiqué we invite countries and other actors to come forward and publicly express their support to phasing out harmful fossil-fuel subsidies. The timing is right with Paris on the horizon and a growing number of countries considering or undertaking reform,” said New Zealand’s Minister for Trade and Climate Change Issues, Tim Groser.
“Fossil-fuel subsidy reform has both economic and climate benefits. Reform will free up financing for sustainable development. Norway will contribute 100 million Norwegian kroner (app. US$ 12.5 million) to fossil-fuel subsidy reform, and we strongly encourage other countries to increase their efforts and support the call for reform,” said Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende.
 Recent years have seen significant progress to advance fossil-fuel subsidy reform; however, these subsidies are still a huge burden on public finances in many countries. In 2013, governments around the world spent more than US$ 548 billion on fossil-fuel subsidies.
 By keeping prices to consumers artificially low, fossil-fuel subsidies encourage wasteful consumption, disadvantage renewable energy and drain scarce public resources that could be better spent on other sustainable development goals.
 The elimination of fossil-fuel subsidies would make a significant contribution to the goal of keeping average temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
 “The evidence is actually quite clear. Estimations show that eliminating fossil-fuel subsidies would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by between 6 and 13 per cent by 2050 and can be done without harming the poor,” said Swiss Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann.
 The Communiqué is being presented to the public by Ministers from the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform and France at the World Bank on Friday April 17 at 4:00 p.m. in Washington, D.C.
A new motion graphic on fossil-fuel subsidy reform and the Paris Climate Change Conference is available here: http://www.iisd.org/video/fossil-fuel-subsidy-reform-and-road-paris
Hashtag: #fossilfuelsubsidyreform
 For more information please contact:
 Damon Vis-Dunbar at dvis-dunbar@iisd.org or +41 22 917 8848 (in Switzerland).  Lasse Christensen@iisd.org at ltchristensen@iisd.org or +41 78 873 8978 (currently in the United States) Sumeep Bath at sbath@iisd.org or +1 (204) 958 7740 (in Canada)

….(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Sizing up climate change | Harvard Gazette

April 13, 2015 |

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

With Charlie Rose as moderator, a panel of experts in science, politics, business, economics, and history shared their views during Monday’s Presidential Panel on Climate Change at Sanders Theatre. “The challenge of climate change is profound. The risks it poses are dire. Confronting those dangers is among the paramount tasks of our time,” said President Drew Faust in introducing the discussion.

By Alvin Powell, Harvard Staff Writer

There is hope in global action to fight climate change, in the slow adoption of wind and solar power, in moves by the U.S. government to cut emissions from vehicles and power plants, in the lead taken by some businesses to clean up operations and draw attention to the problem.

But it’s too late to avoid several more degrees of warming by the turn of the next century, too late to completely stave off dramatic melting, and too late to avoid the slow swamping of Pacific island nations, whose thousands of years of history and culture seem certain to be swallowed by rising seas.

A panel of experts in science, politics, business, economics, and history shared their views of the massive challenges presented by climate change Monday in a talk at Sanders Theatre that was by turns hopeful and gloomy.

Worries about political intransigence, massive energy-system inertia, and an active campaign to sow doubt that the problem even exists sparred for 90 minutes with heartened references to clean-energy innovation, an increasing acceptance that adaptation and mitigation are wise, and, perhaps most importantly, the passion exhibited by tomorrow’s leaders, who today fill classrooms at Harvard and other colleges and universities.


Getting the message across to the public presents a communication challenge to scientists who are used to being able to make their cases by presenting facts, said History of Science Professor Naomi Oreskes (second from right). Among the seven panelist were Rebecca Henderson (from left), John Holdren, Richard Newell, Oreskes, and Daniel Schrag. Panelists not pictured include Joseph Aldy and Christopher Field. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

“The challenge of climate change is profound. The risks it poses are dire. Confronting those dangers is among the paramount tasks of our time,” Harvard President Drew Faust said in introducing the discussion. “We owe it to one another and to future generations to meet the challenge with the intensity, the creativity, and the cooperative effort that the situation demands. … Universities have a crucial role to play: We act through our research, our educational programs, our embrace of sustainability on our campus, our engagement with the wider world.”

The Presidential Panel on Climate Change, moderated by journalist Charlie Rose of CBS and PBS, consisted of Assistant Professor of Public Policy Joseph Aldy; Christopher Field, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II and a Harvard overseer; John and Natty McArthur University Professor Rebecca Henderson; John Holdren, a former Harvard professor and the White House’s current assistant to the president for science and technology; Richard Newell, a Duke University professor and director of the Duke Energy Initiative; History of Science Professor Naomi Oreskes; and Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology Daniel Schrag, director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

…(read more).

See also Harvard Gazette – continuing coverage on environment.

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

The sacred middle | Harvard Gazette

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

“I know of course that there are those who ask, ‘Why should I read it anyway?'” said Hollis Research Professor of Divinity Emeritus Harvey Cox. “My answer is it that if you don’t know something about what’s in the Bible, you are not a fully educated person. It informs our literature, our poetry, films, plays, and, whether we like it or not, it has deeply influenced the history and value structure of our whole civilization.”

© 2015 The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Cox hopes to bridge two minds — scholar and lay reader — in new guide to the Bible April 15, 2015 | Popular

By Colleen Walsh, Harvard Staff Writer

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Harvey Cox has spent years reading and studying scripture. In his new book, “How to Read the Bible,” Cox, the Hollis Research Professor of Divinity Emeritus at Harvard Divinity School, argues that even in a secular age, a close reading and deeper understanding of sacred texts is vital to understanding who we are. His approach combines a reading of the original texts with the most recent literary and historical biblical studies.

GAZETTE: What inspired you to write this book?

COX: As both a minister and a professor I have lived my life on the border between two ways of looking at the Bible. On the one hand, I have participated in how the Bible is read and heard in churches, synagogues, and Bible study groups. On the other, I have worked for 50 years with Harvard colleagues who do some of the best research in historical biblical studies. Being an insider in both worlds has made me notice the big gap between what you might call the ordinary lay reader of the Bible, of whom there are millions, and a rather small group of people who do the exciting research in biblical archaeology, history of interpretation, source analysis, and other kinds of scholarly work in biblical studies. Unfortunately, there is often a degree of mistrust between these two clusters of Bible readers, and it seemed to me that my in-between position put me in a good spot to try and bring them more closely in touch with each other.

Most people, even very educated ones, don’t really know how to approach the Bible. They don’t realize, or at least it doesn’t register as important, that it is a collection of over 60 books representing various voices and genres. It includes history, parables, legends, poetry, love songs, visions, and letters. This means that when you read it you should try to find out what kind of material you are reading. Otherwise you miss whole realms of what it’s about, and you deprive yourself of [a] certain richness in how you understand the Bible.

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice