Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | February 5, 2013

EP report says: President Obama will deliver his climate pledge to cut CO2 emissions by 20% for the US by 2020

Waking up in snowy New York one gets a skewed picture of America.

A beautiful Central Park vista from the upper Parkside terrace solarium, allows one’s mind to wander far and like the eye take it all in. When you step out to the balcony, you certainly feel the frosty air cleansing the mind and see the snow flurries drop like manna from heaven. Yet when it hits the ground it becomes muddy black slime… Same as the concerns of lower Manhattan are not far away even on a glorious snowy cold day like this.

When you look up — the skies are pregnant with the white stuff. Yet turn back down and look at the street bellow — the slush is dirty and grimy from the salt trucks and the whole lot appears far more dismal, than the park vistas would have you believe. It’s always a matter of where we focus our eyes. On positivity or negativity. Always this has been our Choice.  Always.

Same as the city itself, it’s beautiful and yet has a grimy polluted look all around. This is a good metaphor for the country as a whole, cause when seen from up high — the view is clean.  Great vitas of natural wonder still exist and the great plains and the great mountains are as pristine as ever. But that is misleading. Because the source of our worries is invisible, tasteless, odourless and deadly. Carbon in the air, soot, aerosols, potent greenhouse gases and CO2 in particular can only be measured with scientific instruments to deduce the concentrations PPMV in the atmosphere and the air we breath.

All else is ideology. Same as when we make climate change predictions. Most of it is ideological and not scientific. Because progress in one way or another can be easily quantified by the measurement of CO2 ppmv and it is a definite marker of success or failure. Still the uninitiated are easily bogged down to the nitty gritty polluted front, and overlook the grand vistas of this great nation and it’s achievments on the Climate Change front. But it is up to us and our scientific advisors to choose which side has a positive impact and what kind of leadership we want to present to the world. To do this properly, we always need a bit of distance – just to see things clearly – and then share with the world the best of our accomplishments.

Because Climate Change same like New York makes life harder than it needs be. And for all it’s loveliness Manhattan can be a diquieting place. And the general zeitgeist in the New York state of mind is of a mild [?] psychosis… Still it makes for lively conversations but it certainly appears far more difficult to see the greatness of America when treading in the Manhattan canyons of rushed individuals scurrying along like so many lab rats on a giant treadmill  called New York minute. I for one, would recommend to New Yorkers to give up coffee and switch over to tea to take things down a notch and chill out a bit because their zaniness is not helping… But that’s just me.

And as far as climate change goes their “mildly” psychotic behaviour is exaggerated – yet somewhat justified by the still visible damage of New York and New Jersey coastal eroding areas. It’s amazing with this city. First 9/11, then Sandy freak and one wonders what next? Ounds like the Babylon story. The whore of cities getting punished for her errant ways. But what about the people?

Walking about in the hardest hit areas, far more damage is still visible and unsorted from the ravages wrought by super freak storm Sandy. This is what has people on edge. Going to Staten island and Roackaway and Long Island and seeing it all still damaged now is certainly eerie. Yet it served us well as a wake up. Now from Wall street to the Avenue of Americas and Madison Ave, everyone in position of authority including the Mayor Bloomberg are on edge waiting for the next catastrophic storm to wash over Manhattan and drown the city. People are obsessed with the weather. Almost like Englishmen used to be and still are. Last time I checked there were no real farmers in Manhattan but all the same people are talking about the weather as if their crops and livelihoods are dependent upon it.  It’s easy to see that people are scarred and scared, with many taking their families to the Catskills to construct their Life Arc. We’ve finally crossed the Berkeley line… This imaginary line the Environmental Parliament established more than ten years ago as the imaginary Rubicon to cross in the minds of the people. A Rubicon line to be crossed with a catastrophe large enough to wake people up to the dangers and effects of inaction in the face of Climate Change.

We believe we crossed this Berkeley line in New York with the Super Storm Sandy’s far reaching consequences. It is not accidental that the Environmental parliament a dozen years ago had assigned Manhattan as the defenceless island to be assaulted by Climate Change for the American public to change it’s views on the subject. ANd now it is happening with both the President and the Mayor seeking shelter from the storm through enlightened leadership.

But it is in the nature of New York to exaggerate  a bit and make things overly dramatic. No wonder so many musicals on Broadway have sold out show every night of the week. Nasty weather or not the theatres are all booming. And so are the smart nightclubs. Try to get at the Greenhouse after 11 pm… But the drama is real. And weather permitting we’ll see more Sandys washing over Manhattan and some ferocious enough to be catastrophic. A good friend born a New Yorker told me that living in Manhattan after Sandy and with the constant movie dramas about the city being sunk in the Atlantic — make one feel like being on a slowly sinking ship, being swamped yet without access to lifeboats. Overly dramatic indeed. Needless to say — she is a well known beautiful theatre actress with exaggerated mannerisms and nary any scientific Climate Change knowledge. Still her heart and mind – body too – are in all the right places ;-)

And even though the Street has been delivering steadily great returns, the notoriously pessimistic New Yorkers, blaming everything on someone else – now have found a new fix. The weather… This time around they tracked some obscure statistic that it was the most extreme Super Bowl weather conditions in history. Go Figure … Shrinks are truly having a bang up business here along with all the bars and the ever present dope peddlers medicating the populace.

So from the sinking feelings of the Manhattanites to the fast warming planet causing these Sandy-size superstorms and the Mayor’s admission that we don’t have neither the money nor the time to just built Dutch type defences for the sinking city’s Manhattan coastline — we certainly get the message that we need to act fast. Still the naysayers are calling all and sundry the end is near – no matter what we do – but my feeling is, that we’ll prove them all wrong. Because the Environmental Parliament is working out a short term and a long term contingency plan for New York city in cooperation with the Mayor’s office and the findings report and recommendations are due this spring. We’ll chart a reasonable course of action then. And of course we’ll keep you posted.

Yet at least on the CO2 emissions causing this warming planet phenomenon, due to the Greenhouse effect — New York grogs this. They get it it far better than the Hill in Washington ever did.  And although the House is divided and unlikely to respond to the threat even if Manhattan become Venice and goes six feet under water, this time around, President Obama is certainly talking the talk on climate change – promising to put the fight against global warming at the heart of his second term in office as he so adamantly put it in his energizing inaugural speech. And that is the only real lifeboat out there. We need to address the root cause and not just try to build defences and seawalls after the fact. The low lying lands of Holland have been building sea defences since the sixteenth century and certainly have a national unity front massive effort financed with all the country’s wealth for the last sixty years… New York simply hasn’t got the time to respond in that time frame. So it needs more entrepreneurial solutions.

The real world solution is that we are all New Yorkers now same as we are all citizens of  the low lying islands of the Pacific ocean and of the coastal areas circling the Bay of Bengal where many thousands of Bangladeshi people drown each and every Monsoon season, due to climate change’s new ferocity.  We are all in this sinking Manhattan size “boat” together. We can row to safety or stay idle and drown. You now this is our ship. We have to take command and man up the pumps. it’s now or never as the old saw goes. Because upward of eighty five percent of the world’s populace lives in low lying coastal areas, river deltas, and water systems. The rising tides affect all of us. And the effect is asymmetric. When people talk of the sea level rise in inches or feet, they speak of something illusory: The mean. The Average… This doesn’t exist anymore than medial life time expectancy for the individual. people die when they die… Some die as unborn fetuses or as a young babe cradled in her mother’s arms. A Mother with nary a tear in her eyes as a result of dehydration and a starving baby suckling her dry teat waiting to die so she can move on. I saw her sitting by the roadside as so many Climate Refugees I saw streaming aimlessly here and there in the Horn of Africa’s climate catastrophe this last year. Unable to get help, or reach the refugee camps — they die from exhaustion, hunger, thirst and simple ennui. Ennui same as the leading cause for those centurians who have lived above the age of a hundred plus years and are tired old geezers that have had enough…

What a difference each individual life makes…

Same as the purported one to two feet of mean oceanic water level rising as an average across the globe by 2050 might mean a staggering and overwhelming 36 feet rise when the tide swells and hits Manhattan like a tsunami, inundating the perpetually water logged Wall Street and all of the south side of the island. The other thing the responsible leaders and all the well meaning builders of same steady slowly evolving scientific models, failed to tell you — is that when you are once under water as Manhattan and the Jersey coastline were with Sandy – more water is going to be coming ashore easily, each and every time a storm rises. It’s a natural phenomenon well observed and carefully measured over the last century – thanks to the estimable actuarian capacities of the British civil service at the time of the Raj in India. It is still measured around the Bay of Bengal where Indian and Bangladesh coastal erosion sinks whole cities and villages into the sea. Minute erosion channels – unseen through naked eye observation – allow salt water  to inundate the soil undetected, because it is underneath the landmass bordering the sea. This process allow far more seepage through the permeable porous earth and muddies the tidal flows in and out. All previous storms cause billions and trillions of the tiniest of rivulets over millions and billions of times the water pushes in and out in the daily cycles of nature’s tides. These unseen water pathways steadily undermine the land and inundate more and more inland with each and every new storm until the whole permeable soil crust, falls into slush and washes away. This process has been at work all around Manhattan and is only now understood by the experts. Imagine a swiss cheese type of eroded soil throughout. Where water has once been it will return easier and claim more land with each successive return of the tides.

It is a similar process to something well understood by advanced financiers of Wall Street as the increasing returns emergent economics phenomenon. The Climate Change folks and the Mayor’s office along with most Manhattanites, simply haven’t caught on yet…

Still as we fight the good fight we now have as allies all those people who live and work in New York’s Manhattan island.  Of course there are those climate denying “sticks in the mud” people and politicians out there, claiming the gradual sinking of Manhattan is due to the weight of the sky-scrapers and all that nonsense – but they are now a fringe element to the conversation. A mere side show. The real show has moved on…

The main show is now in addressing the systemic causes of climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions at a global level must be sorted and that is well understood by Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama, et al those that matter. And in order to do that we need a globally binding treaty – much like the START treaties with the old Soviet Union where the US had to show leadership to avert the threat of a global catastrophe. And it worked. see we are still here pretty much intact from Nuclear Armageddon…  That leadership on the climate change front though is still lacking. Because the US didn’t share with the world the grave concerns about climate change, during the dismal Cheney’s bush era and certainly was hampered from exhibiting leadership during the first term of office of Barack Obama as the President of these Untied States. But now things are different. New York under Sandy’s waters was a wake up call. And the widespread damages including the shut down of the street are also a clarion call to industry, finance and banking who along with the insurance and reinsurance business transact the highest volume of trade world wide. They now all get it and are thinking of ways to deflect the damage at the lowest cost. Sensible thinking and business mannerism prevents them from gushing all over Obama and Bloomberg with affable support – but there you have it.

Still the baby step this Administration has been taking were expected by all who fought alongside the President a realpolitik battle to address Climate Change’s root causes. A battle that included the aim for him to remain in office long enough to see the results of our collective baby steps in the right direction. All these Policy papers we distributed to Senators and Congressmen to arrive at the effort of Waxman-Markey pivotal yet failed legislative effort at “cap and trade” and the subsequent Kerry, Lieberman, Graham bills — were all interspersed with Environmental Parliament’s policy innovation is proposals that had already been tested in Europe and elsewhere. Realpolitik policy initiative that were actively run in the European Union and beyond and were not just untested policy models. We had done the simulation of how they would have played out in the US economy and the world at large, through the positive domino effect dropping all resistance to binding global emission reductions targets and not hampering the economy. Yet the opposite is true because our policies are stimulating growth through the New Green Deal – we had proposed to the White House as early as 2009.

Now we have to get there through different means. Still in a hurry, though. And we’ll be using the regulatory and executive branches taking active role in the environment. That’s more or les what the next four year will be like. No New york drama. Still that’s how we’ll get there together. Because the US  historically, the world’s biggest emitter — is actually now just waking up.

And this President is walking the talk. Slowly to be sure — yet steadily.  This year – auspicious 2013 – the US is on track to meet Obama’s 2009 pledge to cut US emissions by 17 per cent, from 2005 levels, by 2020. This is a soft target and could very well be exceeded, by a margin of + 5% due to the increasing affordability of utility size renewable energy across the United States. The incredible power of Moore’s law having taken effect in the solar cell manufacturing process of these simplest of semiconductors is the leverage which will give the needed boost to the grid parity paradox and deliver 10x better results to the overall Power & Utility industry.

Of course, still there’s no realistic possibility of passing new laws to curb US greenhouse gas emissions. That ship has sailed with the Waxman-Markey bill that died an ignoble death at the Senate… And now due to the Republican control of the House of Representatives – we stand little chance since the House is stuffed with oil industry lobbyists masquerading as Congressmen. But we will see to achieving that same emissions reduction effect through regulatory and executive action. Surely we’ve all done the math and the President s famous for poring over the spreadsheets diligently.

Many well meaning journalists fell in the trap sprung by some Johnny come lately & erstwhile climate skeptics and FOX type pundits who were questioning and mocking Obama’s climate pledge made during his inaugural address. Yet the Environmental Parliament analysis of the US emissions trajectory puts the fear of failure to meet the President’s goal to rest. Our analysis of the US emissions trajectory and released report paints an upbeat picture of the progress the country can make simply by enforcing existing laws, driving through the current EPA regulations and leveraging the power of the courts to set examples and punish wrongdoers – especially within the Power & Utility industry.

After the gloom that followed the failure, in Obama’s first term, to pass a national cap-and-trade scheme to cut emissions, the new mood of optimism may seem surprising. Yet it is backed by hard numbers, laid out in the Environmental Parliament analysis and the White House studies all the same.

The emissions reductions likely to result from action taken by states and cities, and cuts that will occur through market forces as the drop in price of Solar and Wind to grid parity with cost of Coal energy generation , and thanks to a concurrent glut of cheap natural gas, all “encourage” power utilities to turn to renewable and at least if they have need to burn — burn gas instead of coal – which emits far less CO2 and associated greenhouse gases than coal, for the same amount of energy generated. Together, all these developments will get us about a third of the way to Obama’s pledge.

But the biggest contribution comes from regulations under the EPA’s Clean Air Act, including Power & Utility emissions since the supreme Court last year decided that CO2 is a toxic gas and a such is under the purview of the EPA to regulate. This along with the vehicle fuel economy standards that are already in place and other regulatory mainframes will help us get there the second half of the way. Third is the actual controls on emissions from all the US power plants that are expected from the US Environmental Protection Agency and that will make up the rest of our emission cuts.  Given all this, the Environmental Parliament estimates that the US could cut emissions by 19% by 2020.

And this comes very close to the European Union stated goal enacted in binding legislation of 20-20, that was instituted by the Environmental parliament more than ten years ago. 20-20-20 is the law for Europe and as things look, it might be the reality for America and China as well… Great things blossom from a tiny acorn of innovative change, visualized, shared and executed as fashioned by this humble servant more than a decade ago…

And I say this with vast amount of pleasure that the US had been doing quietly far more than what has generally been given credit for. And as an American citizen, I’m proud…

The 2020 target of 20% CO2 emissions reduction seems to be within reach… under the leadership of President Obama. And to reach the remainder for a full 20% by 2020 emissions reductions, we could position the EPA in a slightly more aggressive mood when regulating all existing US power plants according to today’s existing regulations.

No sweat and no cost to taxpayer from any of that.

Yours,

Pano

PS:

That’s the beauty of politics.

The Art of Possible and Compromise to keep on moving the wheels of progress.


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