The tracks of my tears

EarthApollo8.jpg NASA was 50 years old last July, and the Earth Observatory has been celebrating by reviewing some of the classic images they’ve captured over the years. The image of the Earth at left was captured by Apollo 8 astronauts on December 22nd 1968 – one of the first “blue marble” pictures. Forty years on, it’s sobering to realise that only 24 people have seen the planet from this perspective – from the moon. But the picture that really caught my attention this week was part of a feature where NASA asked earth scientists what “unique insights” spaceflight had given us about the planet.


On page three, you’ll find this stunning image of “ship tracks” – the maritime equivalent of the contrails left by high flying aircraft – over the Bay of Biscay. If you ever doubted man’s influence on the atmosphere, here’s a dramatic confirmation of the large scale impacts brought about by our modern way of life. There are also satellite maps of ENSO sea level changes, Arctic sea ice decline, La Niña-related sea level changes, and many more pretty pictures. Educational eye candy.

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Don’t be a Rodney, John Key!

IanMcEwansmall.jpgDon’t be a Rodney, John, be a Barack on climate change. That’s the central message of the new Don’t be a Rodney, John Key! blog, created to promote a letter-writing campaign to our new leader, urging him to ignore ACT’s call for inaction and recognise that this is an issue that demands clear, consistent leadership. Blogger Morgan points out:

The world is watching. On Tuesday 18 November, Barack Obama made a powerful statement that was heard around the globe: “Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences, too serious.”

Delay? Denial? He’s talking about Rodney!

I wholeheartedly endorse Morgan’s campaign. Write a letter or send an email to Key (details of how on the site), politely urging action. Join the Facebook group. I’m going to write to Key, Nick Smith and my constituency MP, Colin King. I hope they’ll listen.

But I’m not holding my breath.

PS: Russell Brown covers the ACT denial deal in detail here. Worth a read (h/t Carol).

PPS: Jeanette Fitzsimons has a punchy post on Key’s options over at Frogblog.

There she goes, my beautiful world

IanMcEwansmall.jpg Ian McEwan is one of my favourite writers. By chance, whilst reading George Monbiot’s latest offering in the Guardian this morning, I stumbled on a link to an essay by McEwan welcoming Barack Obama, outlining the considerable climate policy challenge he (and we) face. The world’s last chance is a superb summary of the current situation, and a masterful piece of writing. Any article that starts like this deserves a read:

‘I refute it thus!” was Samuel Johnson’s famous, beefy riposte one morning after church in 1763. As he spoke, according to his friend James Boswell, he kicked “with mighty force” a large stone “till he rebounded from it”. The good doctor was contesting Bishop Berkeley’s philosophical idealism, the view that the external, physical world does not exist and is the product of the mind. It was never much of a disproof, but we can sympathise with its sturdy common sense and physical display of Anglo-Saxon, if not Anglican, pragmatism.

Still, we may have proved Berkeley partially correct; in an age of electronic media, where rumour, opinion and fact are tightly interleaved, and where politicians must sing to compete for our love, public affairs have the quality of a waking dream, a collective solipsism whose precise connection to the world of kickable stones is obscure, though we are certain that it exists.

His take on the state of play echoes mine (and Monbiot’s), but he puts it much better than I (or Monbiot) ever will:

Within the climate science community there is a faction darkly murmuring that it is already too late. The more widely held view is hardly more reassuring: we have less than eight years to start making a significant impact on CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, eight years to move from Berkeley’s solipsism to Johnson’s pragmatism. Thereafter, as tipping points are reached, as feedback loops strengthen, the emissions curve will rise too quickly for us to restrain it. In the words of John Schellnhuber, one of Europe’s leading climate scientists and chief scientific adviser to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, “what is required is an industrial revolution for sustainability, starting now”.

If you read nothing else today, read this. And the Monbiot’s worth a look too, as is the Nick Cave title reference…

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Woodman, spare that tree (foresters attitudes to the ETS)

pine.gif As one would expect from a rurally based sector, foresters are a conservative lot. I don’t say that disrespectfully, because societies – for the sake of stability – need a balanced mixture of change-makers and change-resisters. But it did mean that, when in 1989 I started work on Climate Change and forestry, I met with considerable opposition: “what bullshit is this? The climate has ALWAYS changed. Nature is self-balancing.” And so on, you’ve heard it all before.
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Knock on wood

pine.gif Rumblings about the forestry industry’s disappointment with the “suspension” of the ETS have not been slow to surface, but as I’m no expert on the business (though I do like trees) I asked well-known forestry consultant Piers Maclaren if he could provide Hot Topic’s readers with an overview of what’s going on. I must have asked nicely, because within hours he’d supplied an excellent – and forthright – article to post (see above). For those who don’t know Piers, here’s a brief (self-penned) CV:

Piers Maclaren remembers the time he first became aware of the issue of global warming: it was at a student meeting in 1970. Over the years, he came to realise how intractable this problem was, but it wasn’t until 1989 that he had the opportunity – as a scientist working at the Forest Research Institute, Rotorua – to actually work on it. He devised a way to calculate the nation’s carbon budget for forestry, and this yielded a figure that overwhelmed carbon from other sectors.

He has written over 100 scientific papers, attended numerous international meetings, and reviewed all four IPPC reports. He was science advisor to the Minister for the Environment (Hon Simon Upton) at the first Conference of the Parties in Berlin in 1995. He now works as an independent forestry consultant dealing with a wide range of issues, including climate change. He’s read – and strongly approved of – Gareth’s book on climate change “Hot Topic”.

In other words, he speaks with some authority.. 😉 His take on forestry and the ETS is essential reading.