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  • El cisne negro. Nueva edición ampliada y revisada - Nassim Nicholas Taleb October 17, 2017
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What Brexit might mean for climate, energy, pollution and yes, light bulbs

It’s the Telegraph newspaper trying to convince people to vote leave, but it is indicative. […]

Waste of Energy Dept: The new extreme sport of vacuum cleaner climbing

On the other hand, these cordless vacuum cleaners really suck. […]

Should We Respond to Climate Change Like We Did to WWII?

Should We Respond to Climate Change Like We Did to WWII?

Posted by on Thursday, May 19, 2016

The controversial theory of “climate mobilization” says we should.

War Production Co-ordinating Committee/Wikimedia Commons

This story was originally published by The New Republic.

On December 7, 1941, Japan’s surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor killed more than 2,000 people and drew the country into World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Production Board to oversee the mobilization, as factories that once produced civilian goods began churning out tanks, warplanes, ships, and armaments. Food, gasoline, even shoes were rationed, and the production of cars, vacuum cleaners, radios, and sewing machines was halted (the steel, rubber, and glass were needed for the war industries). Similar mobilizations occurred in England and the Soviet Union.

Today, some environmentalists want to see a similarly massive effort in response to a different type of existential threat: climate change.

These proponents of climate mobilization call for the federal government to use its power to reduce carbon emissions to zero as soon as possible, an economic shift no less substantial and disruptive than during WWII. New coal-fired power plants would be banned, and many existing ones shut down; offshore drilling and fracking might also cease. Meat and livestock production would be drastically reduced. Cars and airplane factories would instead produce solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewable energy equipment. Americans who insisted on driving and flying would face steeper taxes.

Though climate mobilization has existed as a concept for as many as 50 years, it’s only now entering the mainstream. Green group The Climate Mobilization pushed the idea during a protest at the April 22 signing of the Paris Agreement. On April 27, Senators Barbara Boxer and Richard Durbin introduced a bill

Despite these inroads, climate mobilization remains a fringe idea. Its supporters don’t entirely agree on the answers to key questions, such as: What will trigger this mobilization—a catastrophic event or global alliance? Who will lead this global effort? When will the mobilization start? And perhaps the greatest hurdle isn’t logistical or technical, but psychological: convincing enough people that climate change is a greater threat to our way of life than even the Axis powers were.

Lester Brown, environmentalist and founder of the Earth Policy Institute and Worldwatch Institute, says he first introduced climate mobilization in the late 1960s. His approach is holistic—and ambitious. “Mobilizing to save civilization means restructuring the economy, restoring its natural systems, eradicating poverty, stabilizing population and climate, and, above all, restoring hope,” he wrote in his 2008 book, Plan B 3.0.

Brown proposes carbon and gas taxes, and pricing goods to account for their carbon and health costs. In his “great mobilization,” all electricity would come from renewable energy. Plant-based diets would replace meat-centric ones. According to Brown, this new economy would be much more labor-intensive, employing droves of people in services like renewable energy and in compulsory youth and voluntary senior service corps. Brown also advises the creation of a Department of Global Security, which would divert funds from the U.S. defense budget and offer development assistance to “failed states,” (he cites countries such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Iraq) where climate change’s impact on available natural resources will exacerbate political instability.

This may sound far-fetched, but Brown believes we’re at a tipping point for climate mobilization. The economy is increasingly favoring renewables over fossil fuels, and grassroots campaigns like the Divestment Movement are gaining steam. Any number of circumstances could push the globe over the edge toward mobilization: severe droughts that create conflicts over water, or the accumulation of climate catastrophes from raging fires to hurricanes. When we cross over, Brown told me, “suddenly everything starts to move. … We’re just going to be surprised at how fast this transition goes.”

For environmentalists who’ve seized upon Brown’s idea, the transition has not been fast enough. They’ve tailored their plans to include more explicit links to the war effort and a new sense of urgency. In 2009, Paul Gilding, the former executive director of Greenpeace International and a member of the Climate Mobilization’s advisory board, and Norwegian climate strategist Jorgen Randers published an article outlining “The One Degree War Plan.” The authors set out a three-phase, 100-year proposal for healing the planet, beginning with a five-year “Climate War.”

In that first phase, a cadre of powerful countries—the United States, China, and the European Union, for example—would act first, forming a “Coalition of the Cooling” that would eventually pull the rest of the globe along with them. Governments would launch the mobilization and reduce emissions by at least 50 percent. One thousand coal plants would close. A wind or solar plant would blossom in every town. Carbon would be buried deep in the soil through carbon sequestration. Rooftops and other slanting surfaces would be painted white to increase reflectivity and avoid heat absorption from the sun, which makes buildings and entire cities more energy-intensive to cool. Later, a Climate War Command would distribute funds, impose tariffs, and make sure global strategy is “harmonized.” According to the paper, this Climate War should start as early as 2018.

Much has changed since the release of Brown’s Plan B 3.0. Months after Gilding and Randers published “The One Degree War Plan,” climate negotiators faced the crushing defeat of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, where delegates left without toothy commitments. The world has experienced one record-breaking temperature after another, and two of the three global coral bleachings on record. Last year’s climate conference in Paris was a relative success, as an unprecedented number of countries proposed plans to cut their emissions. And although the final agreement won’t bind countries legally, the consent to meetings every five years to consider ramping up commitments and the efforts of groups like the “high ambition coalition,” which pushed for a legally binding agreement, showed progress. But even before the ink dried, environmentalists and some politicians condemned the wishy-washy language and limp goals.

Leaving the fate of the planet up to such diplomacy has “always been a delusion—one that I had, by the way,” says Gilding.

“In that diplomatic world they have a notion of political realism which is quite separate from physical reality,” says Philip Sutton, a member of The Climate Mobilization’s advisory board and a strategist for an Australian group advocating a full transition to a sustainable economy. “The physical reality is now catching up with us.”

To compare the fight against climate change to WWII may sound hyperbolic to some, but framing it in such stark, dramatic terms could help awaken the public to that “physical reality”—and appeal to Americans less inclined to worry about the environment.

“It’s not tree hugging—it’s muscular, it’s patriotic,” said Margaret Klein Salamon, director and co-founder of The Climate Mobilization. “We’re calling on America to lead the world and to be heroic and courageous like we once were.”

When Salamon began working on the group that would become the Climate Mobilization, she was earning her PhD in clinical psychology. “I view it as a psychological issue. What we need to do is achieve the mentality that the United States achieved the day after the Pearl Harbor attacks,” Salamon said. “Before that there had been just rampant denial and isolationism.”

Indeed, climate denial is still pervasive. Only 73 percent of registered U.S. voters believe global warming is even occurring according to the most recent survey. Only 56 percent think climate change is caused mostly by human activity. It’s going to take a catastrophe much worse than Hurricane Katrina or Sandy to alter public opinion to the degree necessary for a climate mobilization—and even then, achieving that war mentality may be impossible.

“We’re good at fighting wars. … We fight wars on drugs and wars on poverty and wars on terrorism,” says David Orr, a professor of environmental studies and politics at Oberlin College. “That becomes kind of the standard metaphor or analogy for action.” But climate change is “more like solving a quadratic equation. We have to get a lot of things right.”

There are other reasons the war analogy doesn’t hold up. WWII mobilization was prompted by a sudden, immediate threat and was expected to have a limited time span, whereas the threat of climate change has been increasing for years and stretches in front of us forever. But perhaps the biggest difference is that our enemies in WWII were clear and easy to demonize. There is no Hitler or Mussolini of climate change, and those responsible for it are not foreign powers on distant shores. As Orr says, “We’ve met the enemy and he is us.”

that would allow the Treasury to sell $200 million each year in climate change bonds modeled after WWII War Bonds. Bernie Sanders has mentioned mobilization on the campaign trail and in a debate. And Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced last week that if she’s elected, she plans to install a “Climate Map Room” in the White House inspired by the war map room used by Roosevelt during World War II.

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We’ll Always Have Paris: Climate Change Success Runs Through Forests

The landmark climate agreement signed last weekend in Paris is notable for many reasons, including recognition that renewable energy alone won’t solve the climate crisis. Carbon emissions will continue despite best efforts, as the agreement notes, and it says there should be new investment in “negative emissions technologies” to remove carbon from our air. While the phrase might call to mind giant vacuum cleaners or carbon-zapping lasers, the planet already has the perfect carbon scrubbing device in hand–our forests. Sure, tropical forests have received some attention in past climate agreements, as the world realizes these carbon-rich forests are at extreme risk to being cleared for agriculture. But the new climate agreement reached in Paris provides broader recognition that all the world’s forests can play a huge role in capturing and storing carbon. In fact, it says forests must play a role if we are to meet the goal of holding warming to 2 degrees Centigrade or less. This has significant implications in the U.S., where our forests and forest products capture and store more than 800 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. That is equivalent to almost 15 percent of our annual carbon emissions. But new science from the U.S. Forest Service has warned that this powerful carbon sink is at risk from being developed for housing and other purposes, and faces threats like fire and pest infestations that will get worse with climate change. In fact, some U.S. forests could turn from being a carbon-trapping “sink” into a source of emissions within a few decades if we don’t take action. We have a head start on solutions, thanks to important forest sector actions already underway through President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new carbon strategy announced last April. But more can be done. There are four key steps the U.S. government can take to fully leverage American forests as a major part of the post-Paris climate solution: 1. Keep Forests as Forests: Every time privately-owned forests are cleared for housing, commercial development, or agriculture, we lose a little of our carbon capture potential. The Forest Legacy Program is a federal grant program that has conserved more than 3 million acres of private forest, but is significantly underfunded, receiving only $50 million to $60 million per year. An “all in” forest carbon strategy would invest in this program at the same level as we promote renewable energy–on the order of hundreds of millions each year. 2. Plant More Forests.: If conserving forests is good defense for carbon, replanting forests is like going on offense. There are large swaths of the U.S., like the Lower Mississippi Delta, where marginal agricultural lands are being replanted with carbon-hungry native forests. In the Delta’s rich soils, each acre of forest will capture and store 320-350 tons of carbon dioxide. That means one large-scale replanting project, like my organization advanced in the Tensas River Basin of Louisiana, can capture and store carbon equivalent to taking a coal fired power plant offline for 7 months. Federal programs like the USDA Agricultural Conservation Easement Program have been very successful in helping private landowners plant forests, but we need to invest more to reach the scale of reforestation that is needed. 3. Invest in Science: Much of the carbon loss projected by the U.S. Forest Service is a result of declining forest health. Forests under stress from fire, pests, disease, and dramatic temperature shifts are more likely to lose carbon, and less likely to capture carbon through vigorous growth. The Agriculture Department, which oversees the Forest Service, has created a network of “Climate Hubs” to give forest landowners the information they need to effectively manage their lands to remain healthy and productive through the changes ahead. We should invest heavily in the Climate Hubs to provide not only research funding but also technical assistance capacity to get that information to landowners. 4. Build With Wood.. While some people might imagine that maximizing forest carbon is about leaving our forests alone, most forest systems will capture the most carbon through a careful mix of harvested forest products–which store carbon–and carbon uptake in the healthy, well-managed forest that remains after logging. The federal government can help create incentives for building with wood, which displaces more carbon intensive building materials while creating forest products markets for landowners to keep forests productively managed. While the federal government should provide this kind of clear leadership for forests, there is also a critical role for states. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan has triggered widespread climate action at the state level, including new state legislation proposing cap and trade systems, carbon taxes, and other measures. States need to use this political moment to identify how they can also leverage forests as a carbon solution, whether through investment of cap and trade revenues in forests–as California has done–or other approaches. The Forest-Climate Working Group , an important public-private partnership involving leading organizations across the forest sector, will be releasing a new Carbon Solutions Toolkit this week to help states plan successful policy measures. The Paris agreement was historic, but now the real work begins. If our forests are to play the role envisioned in the Paris agreement, federal and state policymakers will need to make commitments that match the moment. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

Your Tongue is Not Toilet Paper: Conversations With My Dog

This is Gus: (Photo credit: Sam Hassas) When I first met Gus I thought he was the most obnoxious beast I’d ever had the misfortune of encountering. My husband, Cameron, got Gus as a puppy several years prior to our meeting and hadn’t had the heart to discipline him much. When Cameron first brought Gus home he let the puppy sleep in bed with him curled up on his chest until one night Cameron awoke to Gus happily taking a dump there. After that Gus was crate trained, but that was pretty much the extent of his training. By the time I was in the picture Gus was sleeping in the bed again, although he had thankfully learned to poop elsewhere. I actually had to fight Gus for space on the bed at first. My general dislike for the mongrel wasn’t changing towards admiration. Especially since he tended to try to dart out the front door and run away as often as possible, causing me or my husband to chase after him. He was still intact then and constantly on the prowl for bitches. Trying to corral his energy to walks proved disastrous. Gus nearly pulled me down the street. He also constantly jumped up on me and peed with reckless disregard for furniture and feet alike. I assumed that Gus was just something I would have to deal with because my husband (then boyfriend) loved him. Then one day I got a frantic call from Cameron at work. We were just dating, but I had already moved in. He was out of town on a training mission. Our roommate had taken Gus for a walk that morning. Gus had broken free of his collar and ran straight into the path of a minivan. Cameron was gone, and I had to do something. I was 25 and broke, but I didn’t hesitate to put down a $500 deposit so that the vet could get to work. It was tense waiting to hear if he would be alright. He almost lost a leg. It still bears the scars and he limps in the cold. Thankfully, the rest of him was undamaged, and today only the scars give proof that he was ever injured. Before I took him home that day I bought him a new dog bed and special treats. It cost me another $100, but I wanted him to be comfortable. I couldn’t let him up on the people bed where he usually slept, because if he tried to jump down he’d hurt himself even worse. I got the largest, plushest bed I could find and set it up in the bedroom. Lying in his new dog bed on the floor next to me, he kept crying in pain, even though I’d given him all of the pain medicine I could. I got down next to him with a pillow and the comforter and cooed at him while gently stroking his fur to try to calm him down. It was the hardest night of my life. That night Gus became my dog too. He went from an unimaginable annoyance to my baby. There are more pictures of him on my phone now than anything else. I have many conversations with him, although his English skills are lacking. It’s ok though; I’ve become a master of interpretation. When he goes swimming he makes little grunting noises that are his way of singing “happy swimming, happy swimming!” His barks indicate either fear or annoyance- sometimes both. His whimper after I’ve stopped scratching his back translates to: “why did you stop petting me? Don’t you love me so much that you want to be petting me and playing with me ALL THE TIME?” I do love him. I love this dog so much that I’ll pick up his poop with a plastic bag and let him lick my face even though I know he also loves to lick his butt. Gus became even more important to me when we did our first PCS to New England as a family. I went from working full-time to unemployed. I volunteered and started hobbies, but found that Gus was my constant companion. Cameron had to leave for various trips, including an 8-week stint in another state while I stayed home. Gus made me feel safe, even though he is afraid of almost everything including rain, stairs, small dogs, kitchen gadgets, vacuum cleaners, the ukulele and baths. His presence was enough to make me feel less lonesome during days at home or when my husband had to leave for extended periods. Now I know that when Cameron goes on deployment, Gus will be there to dutifully notify me with a howl whenever a leaf passes before a streetlamp at 3 in the morning. He’s done it before, and while a bit startling, it’s also a comfort I never knew I’d need. If I lived near family or had a husband whose job didn’t require him to leave for months at a time, it might be different. But as it stands this goofy pup is the glue that keeps it all working, and I love him for it. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

From Crushing, Creation

Times Square on any day is a sensory overload. The whirlwind of billboards and larger-than-life advertisements, the cacophony of car horns and street hawkers, the sea of Elmos and Buzz Lightyears and frenzied tourists — I thought I had seen and heard it all. But there was one spectacle I had not beheld in the storied junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue until Friday, the 19th of June: that of a 25-ton crushing machine grinding one ton of seized elephant ivory to a pulp. Does the method sound medieval? Perhaps slightly. But it was in fact part of an incredible effort by wildlife advocates, lawmakers, and celebrities to demonstrate that the illegal ivory trade cannot continue. The event, dubbed the Times Square Ivory Crush, began with a series of speeches featuring environmental activists such as U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Executive Vice President of the Wildlife Conservation Society John Calvelli. They spoke of the grim reality elephants face due to the demand for their tusks. This ivory is used to make piano keys, chopsticks, and all manner of other trinkets […]