Planet on Fire

High Park Fire

I just finished Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math by Bill McKibben in the Rolling Stone. It begins:

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.

…Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

So Climate Change Deniers, in case you missed that, the chance that our hellish weather pattern is the result of chance is statistically ZERO. It’s time to stop arguing about whether or not climate change is a reality and to start working as frantically as Bruce Willis at the end of an action flick to avert our destruction. This is due to some very stark math:

  • 2 degrees Celsius – the amount nations agreed to in Copenhagen as the maximum rise our biosphere could tolerate and still (maybe) maintain civilization as we know it. We’re at 0.8 C increase right now and computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees … and 2 degrees C might actually even be too high.
  • 565 Gigatons of carbon – how much can be burned before we hit that 2 degree number – 16 years is how long it will take at the current rate.
  • 2,795 Gigatons of carbon – how much is already on the books of energy companies, enough to raise temps 11 degrees Fahrenheit and create a planet straight out of science fiction. Energy companies are already treating that as extracted, borrowing money and setting value and it’sFIVE times what’s necessary to destroy our way of life.

McKibben continues with a look at what strategies have failed and what might possibly work. It’s clear that to have any chance, we must treat this issue as the single greatest threat to our society we’ve ever faced … because it is.

The photo is High Park Fire by The National Guard. See more in their 2012 Wildfire Response slideshow.

Warren Buffett calls his own bluff … by not bluffing I guess

Warren Buffett with Fisher College of Business Student

“I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions.”
~Warren Buffett

Late last summer, Warren Buffett broke ranks with most of the other dedicated men and women of Occupy the Top 1% and called for more taxes for top earners. Senator Mitch McConnell, a millionaire in his own right and champion of the uptrodden, said that if Buffett was feeling guilty about his tax bill, he should send in a check. Senator John Thune rushed to the rescue with the cynical Buffett Rule Act, placing an option on tax forms allowing people to donate more in taxes to help pay down the national debt. In an interesting new TIME interview with Rana Foroohar, Buffett says:

“It restores my faith in human nature to think that there are people who have been around Washington all this time and are not yet so cynical as to think that [the deficit] can’t be solved by voluntary contributions,” he says with a chuckle. So Buffett has pledged to match 1 for 1 all such voluntary contributions made by Republican members of Congress. “And I’ll even go 3 for 1 for McConnell,” he says. That could be quite a bill if McConnell takes the challenge; after all, the Senator is worth at least $10 million. As Buffett put it to me, “I’m not worried.”

I wouldn’t be worried for my money if I were Buffett either.

The photo is by Aaron Friedman.

#occupywallstreet

Check out the livestream channel via Adbusters. The images look like they might have come from any of the protests that are sweeping the world. Do you think we’re heading into our own “American Spring”?

Here’s a photo from the occupywallstreet slideshow on Flickr.

Day 12 Occupy Wall Street September 28 2011 Shankbone 33

The photo is by David Shankbone who has his own photographic coverage. On his blog he writes:

The cops arrested over 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters today, and the people on this post are the kinds of people they are slamming around. Today Zennie Abraham said in a video posted on the San Francisco Chronicle‘s website that the Goethe girl photograph above has “signaled the start of a movement”:

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has something the Tea Party could never claim to have: hot chicks at its protests quoting Goethe. This woman, photographed by David Shankbone during the protest at Wall Street, looks like a cross between Laura Croft and Norma Jean. It’s possible to see a whole line of fashion spring forward just from this photo – the latest in protest wear.

Additionally she, whoever she is, totally alters the image of the female protestor: gone is the dirty-haired earth girl with hairy arm pits; fashion models take to the streets.

We are winning the race to the bottom

Sudane Famine

Jeffrey Sachs is the Director of The Earth Institute and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is also Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, directed the UN Millennium Project and was Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals. In short, he is one leading international economic advisors in the world.

In Stop This Race to the Bottom on Corporate Tax he writes that we surely need to reduce deficits but in a fair, efficient, and sustainable manner, by levying higher taxation on those who are enjoying a boom in living standards and a share of the national income unprecedented in modern history:

With capital globally mobile, moreover, governments are now in a race to the bottom with regard to corporate taxation and loopholes for personal taxation of high incomes. Each government aims to attract mobile capital by cutting taxes relative to others. Governments like Ireland have created tax havens that drain revenues from the rest and act as conduits to tax-free Caribbean hideaways such as the Cayman Islands. The rich are doubly benefited: by the underlying market forces of globalization and by their governments’ policy response.

Another reason for the lavish attention to tax cuts at the top is of course the tawdry role of big money in political campaigns. No country tops the US in shamelessness. US national campaigns cost several billion dollars every two years, and fundraising is relentless. The main difference between the two parties is that Big Oil tends to finance the Republicans while Wall Street tends to finance the Democrats. Otherwise, both parties are in the hand of big-money interests that exacerbate the dangerous inequalities opened by globalization.

The end result is that both the US and UK are battling deficits of about 10 per cent of gross domestic product. The situation in the US is far graver. Total government (federal, state, and local) revenues as a share of GDP in the US are now 32 per cent, roughly 9 percentage points below the UK and 15-20 percentage points below countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, which all have much lower budget deficits (or a surplus in the case of Norway) and highly effective public services.

Read the rest and really: can anyone tell me what the hell our elected officials are thinking as they dismantle our public services and hand billions and billions MORE of our children’s future income for massive personal and corporate tax cuts to those who already have so much more than they need?

Our priorities, it seems to me, are for shit.

The photo is Sudane Famine from cliff1066™. It was taken by Kevin Carter of The New York Times and won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography. I don’t think it needs any explanation.

dealing with the collapse

dealing with the collapse

Scott begins:

just returned from visiting family in south Florida. They are experiencing a collapse in real estate that, in some measures, is more severe than Detroit. What is troubling for the sunshine destinations is their economy seems to be premised mostly on people moving in. They don’t really make anything in south Florida and this time the troubles in the rust belt are so severe we are not providing the grist for their economy – people with U- Hauls.

Click to read his solution to get both economies humming again.

I find myself thinking more and more about this sad sorry mess that all of us are in and wonder how a paltry $30 billion settlement is going to ever make up for the destruction of our economy. It’s like Wall Street just blew a hole in the Federal Reserve and calmly walked away with our money and the public discussion is whether or not they should have to pay for repairs to the vault.

Cabbages, Cows & Carbon Free Current

I keep hearing an argument against wind farms is that they are ugly. I can’t understand that. To me, ugly is more like this.

What is it going to take for us to invest in wind and other alternative energies the way we do in fossil fuels. How much is that, you ask? According to The Ecologist:

Subsidies for oil, coal and gas sectors were six times higher than those for renewable energy in 2009, the latest International Energy Agency (IEA) assessment has revealed

Ending government subsidies for fossil-fuels is the best way of cutting demand and stopping rising carbon emissions from the energy sector, says the Paris-based IEA, which urged the money to be switched to supporting the renewable sector.

Total subsidies paid to support fossil fuels amounted to more than $312 billion in 2009 in comparison to $57 billion in support for renewables. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India and China accounted for more than half of all the coal, gas and oil subsidies.

The photo was taken by southgeist, and is awesome. See the whole photo right here.

I’m not sure if this qualifies as “intelligent risk”

My sister has been scanning in family slides and I have been crazy busy, working on our Taste the Passion and Traverse City Wine & Art Festival Winter Wine Wonderland events closing our office in Leland (where we’d been piling up stuff for 12 years) and opening an office at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons aka Building 50. Here’s my porch.

I believe that my dad is explaining to me the finer points of being a stock broker.