Daily Archives: August 2, 2015

Mayor’s Epiphany at the Vatican: Climate Debate Is Over for the Rest of the World

Peter Rugh | July 23, 2015 1:32 pm |

It is often said that travel broadens horizons. Such was the case when Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges left the City of Lakes for Rome this week. About half-way through her second day at the Vatican, attending an international conference of mayors organized by Pope Francis that began Tuesday, Hodges had an epiphany: climate change isn’t up for debate in the rest of the world.

“[I] just realized that climate change deniers cast a pall on the conversation in the United States,” Hodges, a Democrat, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune Wednesday. “And that as far as I can tell, it does not extend to anywhere else in the world.”

Actually, maybe it does. According to a study published in the journal Global Environmental Change recently, Australia has the largest flock of climate deniers. Seventeen percent of Aussies are doubtful global warming exists while Norway and New Zealand follow—15 percent and 13 percent of their populations respectively are climate skeptics. In the U.S., 12 percent of us don’t believe climate change is taking place, according to the study.

Yet figures vary when researchers have focused on likely voters, rather than the population at large. A survey conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication last year found just 66 percent of U.S. voters thought that climate change was happening.

Doubters in the U.S. are most highly concentrated in the Republican party and their beliefs are reflected in the crowded field of Republican candidates currently running for president, only two of whom—former New York Gov. George Pataki and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who entered the race Tuesday—acknowledge climate change is real.

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Get Ready for Ugly as Markets Begin to Deal With Climate Crisis

Two powerful forces are currently driving energy markets and climate outcomes.

Carl Pope | July 28, 2015 9:31 am | Comments
Advocates of “market-based” climate solutions paint pastel pictures reflecting smoothly adjusting macro-economic models. Competitive markets gradually nudged by carbon pricing glide into a low carbon future in a modestly disruptive fashion, much as sulfur pollution from power plants was scaled back in the 1990’s.

But commodity markets for oil and gas don’t work that way. These real markets are poised to savagely strand assets, upset expectations, overturn long established livelihoods and leave a trail of wreckage behind them—unless climate advocates start owning the fruits of their own success and preparing for the transition. Schumpeter’s destructive engine of capitalism is about to show its ugly side.

Fossil fuel prices are indeed opening the door to climate solutions, but not through the gradual carbon pricing mechanisms so favored by economists (and recently, reluctantly beginning to be explored by conservative thinkers). Instead, the divergence between clean energy price curves, which fall rapidly with market share and fossil fuel prices, which rise with consumption, are about to collide explosively.

Second, Investors are indeed, moving away from fossil fuel stocks and bonds, but not out of ethical concern over climate risk, or even an expectation of global regulation of carbon combustion. They are racing to the exit as bloated coal and oil stock values collapse on the other side of the “Commodity Super-Cycle” which until early 2014 was the dominant paradigm.

Two weeks ago I wrote two pieces in Bloomberg Views suggesting that the fossil divestment movement was arguably behind market trends in arguing that coal and oil were bad investments. The following week witnessed a cascade of commentary making my pieces look milquetoast and timid. Markets are abandoning carbon companies—even if society continues to burn far too much of it.

Look at the numbers:

U.S. coal consumption has fallen, in the face of competition from performance (efficiency), alternatives (natural gas) and disrupters (solar and wind.) Five years ago we burned a billion tons of coal; now we burn 850 million tons. Solid progress. But still 850 million tons.

What happened to coal company share values? In the last five years, a coal company has gone bankrupt on the average every month. The second largest U.S. coal company, Alpha, after one bankruptcy and reorganization, was just dumped from the NY Stock Exchange because its price fell below $1.00. Even a coal producer (Walter)

whose output, metallurgical coal, still enjoys a strong market had to file for bankruptcy. The biggest U.S. coal company, Peabody, which traded in 2011 at $73, is now selling at $1.29. The bond markets have abandoned coal. All coal company debt is now graded “junk.” In the last quarter the three worst performing major U.S. bonds were all coal:

Alpha Natural Resources: -70 percent
Peabody: -40 percent
Arch: -30 percent

Coal, as an investment class, is effectively finished—coal companies will go through a series of reorganizations. After each one only those with the best balance sheets and cheapest mines will remain. The reclamation bonds which the U.S. government and the State of Wyoming allowed these companies to self-insure against their balance sheets are about to go south, creating sequential calls on capital that will push even more companies first into Chapter 11 and then into Chapter 7. Outside the U.S., 1/6th of Australia’s coal mines now operate at a loss. Companies in the sector are in liquidation, even though the world will use a lot of coal for quite a while to come. Eventually slumping demand will be overtaken by declining production and more mines will become cash flow positive, but existing stakeholders will be liquidated first. That’s the dynamic of shrinking commodity markets—investors, communities and workers lose fast even as markets shrink slowly.

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Monsanto Fires Back at Neil Young Over New Documentary


wochit Business

Published on Jul 24, 2015

Monsanto, a company that manufactures genetically engineered seeds for agriculture that has sparked the ire of Neil Young, has issued a statement to Rolling Stone responding to the singer-songwriter’s mini-documentary Seeding Fear. Young co-executive-produced the film, which examines the repercussions of a lawsuit between the corporation and farmer Michael White, whom it sued for patent infringement. “Protecting patents and copyrights can be difficult in any business including the entertainment industry,” the rep continues. Young wrote in an introductory statement, “The film I would like you to see tells the story of a farming family in America, but the same thing is happening around the world.”

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/new…
http://www.wochit.com

Food-Matters
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Neil Young and Monsanto Reignite War Over GMOs Since Release of ‘Seeding Fear’

http://ecowatch.com/2015/07/25/neil-young-seeding-fear/

Lyrics from Neil Young’s song, “The Monsanto Years”: “The farmer knows he’s got to grow what he can sell, Monsanto, Monsanto / So he signs a deal for GMOs that makes life hell with Monsanto, Monsanto / Every year he buys the patented seeds / Poison-ready they’re what the corporation needs, Monsanto.” Photo credit: Flickr

Lorraine Chow | July 25, 2015 9:57 am | Comments

Neil Young and Monsanto are once again trading barbs over genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This time, it’s over Young’s new documentary, “Seeding Fear,” the story of Alabama farmers Michael White and his father who were sued by the agrochemical giant in 2003 for patent infringement of its GM soybeans.Lyrics from Neil Young’s song, “The Monsanto Years”: “The farmer knows he’s got to grow what he can sell, Monsanto, Monsanto / So he signs a deal for GMOs that makes life hell with Monsanto, Monsanto / Every year he buys the patented seeds / Poison-ready they’re what the corporation needs, Monsanto.” Photo credit: Flickr

The lawsuit between the Whites and Monsanto was settled in 2006 out of court.

“Even after the lawsuit was over, I couldn’t make him believe it was over. He would cry and keep saying, ‘Oh, they’re going to come back and sue me again,’” Michael says in the documentary. “It destroyed him. It destroyed his life. He went to his grave—this grave—still afraid of [Monsanto].”

Young, a co-executive producer of the film, wrote on Facebook, which has more than 3 million likes, “Monsanto is a corporation with great wealth, now controlling over 90 percent of soybean and corn growth in America. Family farms have been replaced by giant agri corp farms across this great vast country we call home. Farm aid and other organizations have been fighting the losing battle against this for 30 years now.”

“The film I would like you to see tells the story of a farming family in America, but the same thing is happening around the world,” Young added. “It is a story that takes 10 minutes of your time to see. It is a simple human one, telling the heartbreaking story of one man who fought the corporate behemoth Monsanto, and it illustrates why I was moved to write ‘The Monsanto Years,’” referring to the “Rockin’ in the Free World” singer’s latest album that attacks the corporation.

(READ MORE)

KINGS POINT PRODUCTIONS

Published on Jul 23, 2015

The story of a 4th generation farmer and seed cleaner who went toe to toe with Monsanto.

A Kings Point Production
Presented by Shakey Pictures
Directed/Produced by : Craig Jackson
Edited by : Justin Weinstein and Craig Jackson
Executive Produced by : Neil Young and Elliot Rabinowitz

Food-Matters
Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Managing The Artificial Intelligence Risk | On Point

July 16, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Making artificial intelligence work for, not against, humanity. We’ll look at a big new push to get it right.

In this March 18, 2009 photo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Huan Liu of Shanghai, China, positions a robot gardener near a tomato plant while demonstrating its capabilities in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory on the schools campus in Cambridge, Mass. (AP)

Artificial intelligence has always struck humans as exciting and scary. We can’t resist it. And we don’t know where it will take us. Now that we’re talking to Siri and going where Google Maps point us and contemplating self-driving cars, it’s getting more present, more palpable. And still come the warnings. Elon Musk calls AI our biggest existential threat. Stephen Hawking asks if it can ever be controlled at all. Musk and others are funding an effort to design safe AI. That will not take over the world. Can that be done? This hour On Point: controlling artificial intelligence.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Max Tegmark, co-founder of the Future of Life Institute, a research organization focused on addressing the risks of artificial intelligence. Professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Author of “Our Mathematical Universe.” (@tegmark)

Manuela Veloso, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research focuses on ways to help robots explain their behavior to humans.

Thomas Dietterich, professor of computer science at Oregon State University, where he is also the director of intelligent systems research the school of electrical engineering and computer science.

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Chris Hedges interview with Derrick Jensen June 21, 2015


VulgarTrader

Published on Jun 22, 2015

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. — the first sixteen years

Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:24

doi:10.1186/2190-4715-24-24

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24

Abstract

Background

Genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant and insect-resistant crops have been remarkable commercial successes in the United States. Few independent studies have calculated their impacts on pesticide use per hectare or overall pesticide use, or taken into account the impact of rapidly spreading glyphosate-resistant weeds. A model was developed to quantify by crop and year the impacts of six major transgenic pest-management traits on pesticide use in the U.S. over the 16-year period, 1996–2011: herbicide-resistant corn, soybeans, and cotton; Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn targeting the European corn borer; Bt corn for corn rootworms; and Bt cotton for Lepidopteron insects.

Results

Herbicide-resistant crop technology has led to a 239 million kilogram (527 million pound) increase in herbicide use in the United States between 1996 and 2011, while Bt crops have reduced insecticide applications by 56 million kilograms (123 million pounds). Overall, pesticide use increased by an estimated 183 million kgs (404 million pounds), or about 7%.

Conclusions

Contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%. The magnitude of increases in herbicide use on herbicide-resistant hectares has dwarfed the reduction in insecticide use on Bt crops over the past 16 years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

…(read more).  http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24

…read full report:

see also:

Food-Matters
Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
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