Gore on BP disaster: “This is a consciousness-shifting event. It is one of those clarifying moments that brings a rare opportunity to take the longer view. Unless we change our present course soon, the future of human civilization will be in dire jeopardy.”

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"Gore on BP disaster: “This is a consciousness-shifting event. It is one of those clarifying moments that brings a rare opportunity to take the longer view. Unless we change our present course soon, the future of human civilization will be in dire jeopardy.”"

The Nobel-Prize-winning former VP has an article in The New Republic, “The Crisis Comes Ashore:  Why the oil spill could change everything.”  Here are some excerpts:

The continuing undersea gusher of oil 50 miles off the shores of Louisiana is not the only source of dangerous uncontrolled pollution spewing into the environment. Worldwide, the amount of man-made CO2 being spilled every three seconds into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding the planet equals the highest current estimate of the amount of oil spilling from the Macondo well every day. Indeed, the average American coal-fired power generating plant gushes more than three times as much global-warming pollution into the atmosphere each day””and there are over 1,400 of them.

Just as the oil companies told us that deep-water drilling was safe, they tell us that it’s perfectly all right to dump 90 million tons of CO2 into the air of the world every 24 hours….

The direct consequences of burning these vast and ever-growing amounts of oil and coal are a buildup of heat in the atmosphere worldwide and the increased acidity of the oceans. (Although the world has yet to focus on ocean acidification, the problem is terrifying. Thirty million of the 90 million tons of CO2 being spilled each day end up in the oceans as carbonic acid, changing the pH level by more than at any time in the last many millions of years, thus inflicting every form of life in the ocean that makes a shell or a reef with a kind of osteoporosis””interfering with their ability to transform calcium carbonate into the hard structures upon which their life depends””that threatens the survival of many species of zooplankton at the base of the ocean food chain.)

But rising global temperatures and increasing acidification in the ocean are only the beginning. These processes have triggered a cascading set of other impacts, which include:

  • The melting of virtually all of the mountain glaciers in the world””already well underway””threatening the supplies of fresh water for drinking and agriculture in many parts of the world.
  • The prospective disappearance of the North Polar Ice Cap, which for most of the last three million years has covered an area roughly the size of the continental United States. Approximately 25 percent-30 percent of this ice cap (measured by the area that it used to cover) has disappeared in the last 30 years during summer. The thickness of the remaining ice has also sharply diminished.
  • The melting of the two largest masses of ice on the planet””on top of Greenland and Antarctica (especially West Antarctica, where the bottom of the ice rests under the sea atop submerged islands) is already accelerating far beyond earlier estimates””threatening catastrophic increases in sea level worldwide.
  • As the seas rise more rapidly, many millions of climate refugees will be forced to flee from areas they have long called home. Indeed, thousands have already been forced to move from low-lying island nations. The government of the Maldives has included a new line item in this year’s budget for a fund to buy a new country. That option will not be available to Bangladesh.
  • Deeper and longer droughts in mid-continent regions, as soil moisture evaporates more rapidly with higher temperatures.
  • More and larger forest fires as drier vegetation becomes kindling for lightning””which, according to researchers at the University of Tel Aviv, is also predicted to increase at the rate of 10 percent with each additional degree of temperature.
  • The migration of tropical diseases to temperate latitudes, as new ecological niches invite the intrusion of viruses and bacteria and the mosquitoes, ticks, and other “vectors” that carry these diseases. This process is also already underway.
  • An accelerated extinction rate which, according to E. O. Wilson and other biologists, threatens to reach levels not seen since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago.
  • The increased destructive power of tropical storms coming off the ocean (hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons””all different names for the same phenomenon). Though the number of these storms is not predicted to increase, their destructive power is””due to increases in wind speeds and moisture content.
  • Increased large downpours of both rain and snow””with a steady shift from snow to rain””resulting in an increased frequency of large floods on every continent.

This last phenomenon””long understood by scientists to be one of the most confidently predictable consequences of global warming””hit home for many of my neighbors last week when Nashville, the city where I live, suffered what the Army Corps of Engineers described as “a 1,000 year rain event” that caused horrendous flooding, mostly in neighborhoods that had no flood insurance””because homeowners there had been assured that they lived well outside the historic flood plain. The tragic loss of many lives was accompanied by the ruination of thousands of homes and property damages that Mayor Karl Dean estimated at one and a half billion dollars.

Scientists are always careful in the way they describe the cause-and-effect relationship between global warming and such events: It is a mistake, they say, to attribute any single extreme weather event only to global warming, because there is large natural variability in weather””but the odds of extremely large downpours, scientists repeatedly insist, are steadily increasing with global warming, and such events are predicted to become far more common with each passing decade because when water evaporates from the warmer oceans, warmer air holds more of it. Average humidity worldwide has already increased by 4 percent since 1970, and each additional degree Fahrenheit increases it by another 3 percent-4 percent.

For more on TN, see AP: Calling deadly Tennessee superstorm an “unprecedented rain event” did “not capture the magnitude”

The whole piece is worth reading.  Here’s the conclusion:

It is understandable that the administration will be focused on the immediate crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. But this is a consciousness-shifting event. It is one of those clarifying moments that brings a rare opportunity to take the longer view. Unless we change our present course soon, the future of human civilization will be in dire jeopardy. Just as we feel a sense of urgency in demanding that this ongoing oil spill be stopped, we should feel an even greater sense of urgency in demanding that the much larger and more dangerous ongoing emissions of global warming pollution must also be stopped to make the world safe from the climate crisis that is building all around us.

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34 Responses to Gore on BP disaster: “This is a consciousness-shifting event. It is one of those clarifying moments that brings a rare opportunity to take the longer view. Unless we change our present course soon, the future of human civilization will be in dire jeopardy.”

  1. paulm says:

    I have to say I think that extreme events like this should be able to be attibuting to the changing climate.

    For instance I think there is already a paper out showing the direct link of incresed precipitation with temp. Warming temp increase the envolope in which these events happen.

  2. Bill W says:

    Sadly, the people who most need to read this message, American conservatives, won’t read past the byline. They’ve already decided anything Al Gore says is bunk.

  3. Ian says:

    I’ve never understood why people who reject the idea of global warming seem to equate global warming or environmentalism with Al Gore. Al Gore is a popularizer and educator of the problem of global warming, but he isn’t a scientist. He certainly isn’t the “leader of environmental movement”. I’m not knocking him — I’m just confused by the AGW = Al Gore equation.

    I appreciate that he isn’t well liked, but what gives here? I hear this all the time, even from people I would regard as pretty intelligent.

    That said, I think that checklist is pretty good. I should print it out and carry it around in my wallet.

  4. daniel smith says:

    Regarding who needs to read this, I’m not sure conservatives are at the top, actually. The President might want to have a look. The silence from the administration on the larger implications of the spill, and the political opening it presents, is defeaning. With friends like this, who needs Rove and Limbaugh?

  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    Bravo! I agree. That said …

    To that end, let’s see if The New York Times provides prominent coverage of the letter, published in the journal Science yesterday, from over 250 scientists. I’ll be getting the paper a bit later this morning to look through it carefully, and I’ll get tomorrow’s paper as well.

    Will The Times begin covering these matters with the prominent coverage that they deserve?

    (As far as I could tell, The New York Times never covered, in the paper itself anyhow, that amazing letter that the AAAS and seventeen scientific organizations, in total, sent to members of the U.S. Senate late last year. And The New York Times sometimes wonders why public understanding is so insufficient!?)

    OK Times, let’s see what you cover, and how well you cover it.

    (Thanks to Al Gore for this piece and to CP for covering it.)

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  6. daniel smith says:

    Allow me to retract the Rove/Limbaugh comment above. Unfair. But still, that Al Gore has to carry the leadership burden on this by himself seems to me a very serious problem.

  7. Leif says:

    “Average humidity worldwide has already increased by 4 percent since 1970, and each additional degree Fahrenheit increases it by another 3 percent-4 percent.”

    A few months ago we were confronted with this 4% number and in an effort to understand just how much water 4% amounted to johna did some calculations. (comment #14)

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/02/20/president-obama-explains-the-science-behind-climate-change-and-extreme-weather-climatologist-kevin-trenberth-and-meteorologist-jeff-masters-on-npr/

    To summarize: 4% is equivalent it the volume of 1.5 times the water in Lake Superior. Extra water in the atmosphere in the last 40 years. Due to double in the next 40 years! Three Lake Superiors extra by 2050! I would point out that a heavy rain event does not eliminate the water from the atmosphere for long. This is the new normal. The warmth quickly evaporates the needed replacement. What goes up must come down. It is the LAW. Reality bites! Even nonbelievers…

    So be prepared to swallow your gum on a regular bases going forward.

  8. Bob Wallace says:

    daniel – “The silence from the administration on the larger implications of the spill, and the political opening it presents, is defeaning. With friends like this, who needs Rove and Limbaugh?”

    You might want to take a few minutes and consider President Obama’s style. He is not one to rant and rave at the drop of a hanky. His is a deliberative, thoughtful approach.

    Spend a few minutes with your favorite “google” and see what Obama has accomplished in his first year and a bit in office. I think you’ll see that he’s less of a screamer and more of a doer.

  9. daniel smith says:

    re. Bob Wallace’s rejoinder: Bob, I think my addendum, above, responds to the tone of my initial post, which was made sarcastically and, again, unfairly. As for taking the time to consider the President’s style, I surely have done this and assume we all have, and further that despite this, we will disagree on the value of that style in various circumstances. I agree that he is more of a doer than a screamer. But I hardly see the style of Gore’s contribution here, which I was implicitly calling for more of from our political leadership, to be one of screaming. I find Gore’s article to be thoughtful and sober. I also agree that Obama has done a great deal within the machinery of the political status quo, but that isn’t enough, in my opinion. I suspect that if we do not get some significant bully-pulpet leadership soon we will be in deeper trouble than we already are. So, my two cents. Perhaps you could explain why you think it is unnecessary or inappropriate for the President to use the oil spill as an opportunity to make the sorts of point that Gore does?

  10. Bob Wallace says:

    Gore is an independent party, free to write an opinion piece.

    Obama is the head of the administration and is involved in creating and attempting to pass legislation to take the country forward. His is a combined effort along with dozens of major players and hundreds of individuals working on the problems, both inside and outside the administration.

    Gore is apparently not running for office in the future.

    Obama has to consider the effect of his words and actions on the election outcome for members of his party six months from now and his own reelection in 2012. He has to balance his statements in a way to minimize the number of toes stepped on.

    Right now the climate change bill is being crafted in Congress. I’m not sure it would be helpful were the President to start beating on his lectern.

  11. BBHY says:

    Any specific event cannot be directly attributed to climate change. But when 100 floods happen occur within 10 years, 500 year floods happen every 20-30 years, and 1000 year floods happen every 40-50 years, then that is almost certainly attributed to climate change.

  12. Mike Roddy says:

    I don’t think Al Gore’s personality is a major issue. Sure he’s not especially charming, but the Right would attack him no matter who he was, because he’s not afraid to tell the truth.

    Lesser Democrats punch their buttons more. Nancy Pelosi, for some reason, is equated with the devil, and our middle-of-the-road president is accused of all kinds of weird things, including being called a socialist Muslim plant.

    I only wish Gore would use stronger language in fighting back against the extremists who make those personal attacks. People like Limbaugh, Perry, and Boehner exemplify this target rich environment. Let’s start calling them the cheap whores that they are.

  13. prokaryote says:

    Not sure if this was posted here somewhere …

    Related

    Jeremy Jackson: How we wrecked the ocean

    http://www.ted.com/talks/jeremy_jackson.html?utm_source=newsletter_weekly_2010-05-05&utm_campaign=newsletter_weekly&utm_medium=email

  14. fj2 says:

    China’s Energy Use Threatens Goals on Warming
    New York Times, May 6, 2010

    “Coal-fired electricity and oil sales each climbed 24 percent n the first quarter from a year earlier, on the heels of similar increases in the fourth quarter.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/07/business/energy-environment/07energy.html

    China’s accelerating use of fossil fuels and resultant emissions will likely be part of the “Pearl Harbor Event” emerging around us.

  15. fj2 says:

    re: #14. fj2

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/07/business/energy-environment/07energy.html

    This NYT China article gives further credence to the urgency of broad implementation of transportation and material science revolutions.

  16. Richard Miller says:

    I am going to join the camp that holds that Obama needs to tell the public the truth about the coming climate catastrophe. Congress’s approval rating is abysmal (I think 20%), while Obama’s is over 50%, letting the climate bill run through the Senate the way Health Care did is a mistake. Come out and tell the American people the truth about what we are facing in prime time from the oval office. Put pressure on Senators to do the right thing and not cave to special interest. The Senate would be pressured by an Obama speech. To put it a little stronger, it disgusts me that Obama has not done this. We are treating this issue as if it is 1992, well we lost 18 years and now we have to have courage to speak the truth and take some risks. In reality the greatest risk is the lethargic way in which we are approaching the coming climate catastrophe. It is like living in the Twilight Zone.

  17. fj2 says:

    16. Richard Miller, ” . . . Obama needs to tell the public the truth about the coming climate catastrophe.”

    Absolutely. He is not playing it safe by not creating intense public awareness of the environmental crisis and creating infrastructure for mitigation and adaptation — especially, politically! — while evidence of the crisis is greatly accelerating.

    War-room mode seems inevitable and would provide a highly cohesive effect on this country and the world.

  18. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    fj2 at #14

    “China’s accelerating use of fossil fuels and resultant emissions will likely be part of the “Pearl Harbor Event” emerging around us.”

    Short of taking appropriate action to govern, research, develop, and finally deploy the means to temporarily control global temperature,
    (while GHG output is ended and carbon recovery is implemented)
    then we’ll certainly see the warming and climate destabilization from China’s current emissions – in about 2045, when global 2010 emissions take effect.

    On the offchance you’re not aware of it, that delay is due to the 30 to 40 year timelag on emissions’ warming impacts, owing to the oceans acting as a heat sink until they have reached the relevant new temperature.

    Perhaps it needs saying that current warming is from the GHG concentrations of the mid-’70s (with CO2 at ~330 ppmv) when accumulated US emissions were an even more dominant fraction of the whole problem than they are today.

    Be alert – as Obama comes under steadily greater pressure to take commensurate action on the climate threat (viz Gore’s fine article) there appears to be a corresponding rise in the western media of articles blackening China’s conduct.

    “Why should we act if they don’t ?” is a meme going back to before GWBush’s first election.

    Put it this way – just how many dozens of gas-power stations are there in the US standing idle tonight because coal-fired power is marginally, almost insignificantly, ‘cheaper’ ?

    regards,

    Lewis

  19. substanti8 says:

    Many thanks …

    1.  to Al Gore for writing one of the best short summaries I’ve ever read about the climate catastrophe. Among his wise and clever prose was this gem, near the end:

    “There is new hope that by the time the gusher from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico is capped, so will carbon emissions from the burning of oil and coal.”

    2.  to Joe Romm for alerting his readers.

    3.  to prokaryote for posting this absolutely stunning lecture by Jeremy Jackson.

    4.  to Richard Miller for summing up my reaction to the widespread human ignorance:

    “It is like living in the Twilight Zone.”

  20. Roger says:

    I’m in the “speak out” Obama camp, with Richard Miller(16) and others.

    Twilight Zone or nightmare, it’s astounding to me that the following five points could be true–and I’m convinced they are:

    1) We have this huge, slow-motion, ICBM-like ‘incoming’ climate change problem heading right at us–approaching a point where it might be essentially unstoppable,

    2) Our government and all of it’s top scientists have the equipment and expertise to see it coming,

    3) Our President, through his Secretary of Energy, Chu, and his Science Advisor, Holdren, assuredly has direct knowledge of the threat,

    4) Most of our citizens are so badly misinformed–by those who profit from our doing nothing–that they don’t have a clue about what’s really happening, and thus don’t support taking corrective steps, and

    5) Given all of the above, our president has yet to get on prime-time TV to inform the nation of the existential, life or death choice we face for ourselves, our children and the next 50 generations!

    It’s simply unbelievable. I’m still pinching myself, but to no avail.

    Hey Obama, please lead our nation, give us climate edu-ca-tion!

    “The price of freedom is an educated electorate.” –Jefferson

    Except we’ve got much more than freedom at stake now.

    Urge Obama to lead; call him at 202-456-1414.

  21. Whatshisname says:

    The 2010 U.S. census will be worth watching because it may yield some eye-opening statistics on the number of climate refugees in the contiguous states alone. As just one example, you may recall in 2006 an interim census by Houston officials determined that 115,000 Katrina evacuees decided to make Houston their permanent home. I am unaware of anything other than estimates from other Texas cities but it appears that additional tens of thousands also chose to remain in the state. Not all were from New Orleans proper but almost overnight we did indeed gain a massive percentage of one of the world’s most famous and enduring cities. We couldn’t be happier to have them, but it’s also very sad knowing they all likely suffer from post traumatic stress. It will take time to get that famous gleam back in their eyes.

    What the census won’t have time to count is the number of persons moving away from the Gulf in the aftermath of the BP oil spill. Big Agro got its foot in the door after family farmers were forced off the land during the dust bowls of the 1930′s and ’50′s, and entire communities disappeared with them. We now face a similar situation with independent fishermen. Giant commercial fleets will fill in the vacuum and fish where the independents won’t, meaning food safety will become an urgent concern.

  22. Wit's End says:

    Sustanti8, I have thought of it as the parallel universe. Twilight Zone is pretty good too.

    That lecture is riveting. What I love about it is he uses a comparison with having all the trees drop their leaves and die to illustrate the collapse of coral reefs – when I use the reverse image! That’s just what the trees are doing now – they only partially leafed out this spring, and already the leaves are starting to fall off.

    Powerful stuff.

  23. fj2 says:

    #18. Lewis Cleverdon, Yes, general agreement.

    But, please de-emphasize “western media of articles blackening China’s conduct,” since China knows all too well the terrible cost of cannibalizing current and future generations by destroying the livable environment in the effort to rapidly eliminate poverty which is a very laudable achievement.

    China knows full well that things are out of control as perhaps, now many of those in power know in hindsight the tremendous brutality and humanitarian cost of its otherwise highly successful population control policies; and even more so, past highly repressive activities.

    As mentioned at

    #15. fj2, “This NYT China article gives further credence to the urgency of broad implementation of transportation and material science revolutions.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/07/business/energy-environment/07energy.html

    What is required is intense rapid development of WMDs (weapons of mass development) tightly integrated with ECASs (eco-amplification systems) and scale-appropriate ECACS (eco-amplification city states) capable of rapid conversion of tens of millions of people at a time.

    Solutions should include:

    1. Mass migration to LTHVs or lighter-than-human vehicles and more importantly, HMLTVSs (highly-modular lighter-than-human vehicles) based on technologies existing here-and-now capable of reducing emissions and environmental footprints to less than one percent of transportation systems based on cars with completely positive disruptive mobility advancement.

    2. Mass migration to CSAs (carbon-sequestering agriculture) and more importantly HLCSAs (highly-local carbon sequestering agriculture)

    3. Mass migration to CSRF (carbon sequestering reforestation) and more importantly CSRFES (carbon sequestering reforestation economic systems building forests that have sustainable food and other — civilization-crucial — economic value

    4. “Manhattan Project” scale rapidly accelerated commercialization of molecular strength material science based on carbon nanotubes and graphene with typical strengths 100 to 200 times that of steel per weight; with commercialization currently projected for about the middle of this century or about 2050 AD. This would likely empower modern massive industrial development of civilization’s built environments to much less than one percent of current environmental footprints.

    It should be noted that wood has about the same strength per weight as steel so massive migration to building with molecular strength materials — 100 to 200 times the strength of steel per weight and made out of carbon — will be a truly positive disruptive development empowering advanced sensible and sustainable human civilizations for years to come along with ongoing revolutions in electronics, data, communications, and other intelligence and human-capital amplification industries such as health care and education.

  24. JW Miller says:

    Too late. The future of human civilization is already in dire jeopardy.

  25. fj2 says:

    24. JW Miller, “Too late. The future of human civilization is already in dire jeopardy.”

    This is true but not necessarily too late.

    Do not be so cynical or naive!

    Intelligence is evolution on steroids.

  26. Wit's End says:

    I tend to be pretty pessimistic but Greenman’s latest video is encouraging, and evidence that China is serious about clean energy:

    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=greenman3610#p/u/0/llIbjC49Fjs

  27. fj2 says:

    24. JW Miller, “Too late. The future of human civilization is already in dire jeopardy.”

    We are mobile ecosystems and the stuff of billions of years of evolution virtually immortal.

    Life is intelligence and virtually the same.

    Nature provides everything.

    Survival is the only option.

    What part of this do you not understand?

  28. Leif says:

    “I do not know the weapons of WW III, but WW IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” A. Einstein.

    Most of us on CP agree that a WW III effort will be required to have any chance of meaningful climatic mitigation. President Obama surely knows that as well. Many in the Military are awakening to that realization. Many on Wall Street are not deluded. Scientists and Universities likewise understand and make personal adjustments within their sphere of influence. Many millions of the general population, if polls are to be believed even the majority, are on the bus or poised to step aboard, yet nothing happens.

    WHY?

    The science is too complex to many of our science deprived citizens.
    Large segments of our economy are dependent on the status quo.
    Many of our politicians are either shills of industry or ignorant of the consequences of inaction.
    Lifestyle changes required to make the transformation are too great to contemplate.
    The World economy is teetering on collapse as is.

    President Obama is therefor faced with motivating the population to a war effort with very few arrows in his quiver. How to proceed? When an apparent typo can instigate a 1,000 point drop in the stock market it becomes obvious that the system is not very robust and a gentle touch is warranted.

    I tend to agree with Roger above and feel that efforts at the education and enlightenment of the public is paramount.
    Strong Leadership a must.
    Emphasis of fact over fiction. Perhaps laws requiring truth in free speech.
    Pearl Harbor event.
    Laws requiring capitalism and corporations to factor long term sustainability into GDP and Corporate decisions before short term profits.
    Re-evaluation of defense spending to reflect the true current enemy of humanity. Not the straw men of the past.
    Elimination of world wide poverty.
    Lowering population
    Educating women, men to if they prove able to learn.
    Rejuvenate small agriculture.
    etc. etc….

    All in all, it looks like sticks and stones for the few that, unfortunately?, make it thru the approaching bottle neck.

  29. substanti8 says:

    Responding to message #23 …

    I see a major contradiction within your thoughtful list of suggestions.  You strongly advocate “highly-local carbon sequestering agriculture,” but then you advocate “massive industrial development” with “Manhattan Project scale” based on “commercialization of … carbon nanotubes and graphene.”

    Our history shows that industrialism demands centralization.  I would not expect decentralized agriculture to peacefully coexist with Industrialism 2.0.  Will human society decentralize or not?

    I’m also amused by the apparent aversion among many people (not just in your message) to use the word “bicycle”.  Perhaps your clever phrase – “highly-modular lighter-than-human vehicles” – is good marketing to the modern expectation of continual technological progress.

  30. fj2 says:

    29. substanti8,

    re: “I see a major contradiction within your thoughtful list of suggestions. You strongly advocate ‘highly-local carbon sequestering agriculture,’ but then you advocate ‘massive industrial development’ with ‘Manhattan Project scale’ based on ‘commercialization of . . . carbon nanotubes and graphene.’”

    A built environment largely based on carbon molecular-strength materials — 100 to 200 times stronger than steel and wood per weight — would likely have a carbon footprint much less than one percent of the current built environment and be a real game changer. Just think about what could be done with very small expenditures of energy including human power. Further, if the built environment is made out of carbon it may even serve as ways to sequester the carbon resulting from prior much more primitive ways of building things.

    In addition, molecular-strength material science and other nanotechnologies may well provide extremely powerful tools for restoring and even amplifying natural systems. Humans alone are mobile ecosystems composed of an unfathomable amount of biological nano-machines.

    Broad availability of molecular-strength materials changes the entire scale at which we deal with the physical world much as if we were the size of insects we would likely have our skeletons on the outside.

    **********
    re: “Our history shows that industrialism demands centralization.”

    Most people on this planet now live in cities so it would seem that highly-local carbon sequestering agriculture would be centralized as you mention.
    **********

    **********
    re: “Perhaps your clever phrase — ‘highly-modular lighter-than-human vehicles’ — is good marketing to the modern expectation of continual technological progress.”

    It is not really marketing. In fact, it is intense marketing that has helped perpetuate certain monopolistic practices promoting really awful transportation. It is looking at existing technology giving an indication where it should be going to provide the best global mobility.

    A simple upright bicycle is not the same as a much safer higher-performance recumbent or semi-recumbent self-standing hybrid human-electric tricycle with a very comfortable Aeron-style seat suitable for virtually everyone including the elderly, disabled (even visually disabled using systems), mothers with very small children, etc. Modularity provides for considerable adaptability and extensibility depending on use, local conditions, etc.

    It is not a process of reinventing the wheel. It is simply product design and development as outlined in the basic college text on industrial design “Product Design and Development,” by Karl T. Ulrich and Steven D. Eppinger (ISBN 0-07-247146-8). It is reinventing human mobility based on extremely practical, efficient, agile technology designed around the fundamental scale of the human body, human-powering capability, and mobility needs. And, it is based on existing technology integrated in the most sensible way. Anything more is a huge waste and ultimately impractical even though most people get used to doing things the difficult way and will swear that travel in huge, heavy, difficult, very expensive, dangerous vehicles is the practical way to go.

  31. substanti8 says:

    A human system is not “local” if you remove the humans from the locality.  If a person lives in New York City, and her food is grown on an industrial farm near Rochester (300 miles away), she is not being sustained by “highly-local agriculture” – no matter how good the carbon sequestration or other natural systems around Rochester might be.

  32. fj2 says:

    #31. substanti8, Like Woody Allen said: “Everything is relative and all my relatives live in Jersey!”

  33. James Newberry says:

    Just say it: A civilization that defines the mined material resources of uranium, and hydrocarbons perversely as “Energy Resources” will contaminate the ecosphere to the point of economic bankruptcy.

    We have a military/industrial fraud complex that owns government and has contaminated public discourse and behavior through outrageous propaganda. Economist: Eco? No. Mist! We have not one but two undeclared wars.

    Remember: the sun’s energy received by the planet in an hour exceeds all human use of measured energy during an entire year.

  34. Richard Brenne says:

    Gore is amazing. What other politician has taken climate change on even one-hundredth as much as he has?

    He gets the science of climate change about as well as anyone who is not a climate scientist (Joe Romm and Bill McKibben are others, as well as many CP commenters).

    He communicates the science amazingly well.

    It is not his fault that we are so pointlessly and needlessly polarized as a nation that he is a deeply polarizing figure.

    Like FDR said about the selfish self-interests of the rich who hated him while the vast majority of Americans loved him, “I welcome their hatred” because that means he’s doing something very right while those only selfishly self-interested are doing something very wrong.