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Musing about Losing Earth

The NY Times Magazine has a special issue this weekend on climate change. The main article is “Losing the Earth” by Nathaniel Rich, is premised on the idea that in the period 1979 to 1989 when we basically knew everything we needed to know that climate change was a risk, and the politics had not yet been polarized, we missed our opportunity to act. Stated this way, it would probably be uncontroversial, but since the article puts the blame for this on “human nature”, rather than any actual humans, extensive Twitter discussion ensues…

Before we link to some of the more thoughtful responses, a quick reminder that a lot of people read the NY Times magazine (far more than follow any climate scientists on Twitter or Facebook), and that as David Roberts at Vox has pointed out, having differently-told climate stories – even if they are manifestly imperfect, might help broaden the conversation and basic awareness that this is a story worth delving into. Secondly, the last big NY Times magazine story I remember related to climate was the execrable profile of Freeman Dyson – a fascinating topic in theory, but one which focused on the least interesting thing about him – a barely warmed up stew of stale climate skepticism.

The article itself is supported by a lot of background work, some visually stunning photography by George Steinmetz and lesson plans hosted by the Pulitzer Center.

So, here is some of the more interesting commentary:

From Emily Atkin at New Republic:

“Losing Earth” is an impressive piece of journalism for several reasons. One is simply that it’s the Times’ longest-ever article—and it’s about global warming. This comes at a time when much of the news media is failing to live up to its responsibilities covering climate change, an issue that affects the entire population, hundreds of ecosystems, and every economic sector. Rich’s story, too, is proof that the climate story can be told in an engaging—fast-moving, human-centric, funny, and frustrating—way.

And the insights about human nature are worth pondering. “We’re a medium-term species,” he said in April. “We plan ahead, but only so far. We’re willing to sacrifice comfort in the present for security in the future, but within reason.” But the fossil fuel industry and Republicans know that, and have successfully exploited it for the last thirty years. “Losing Earth” is thus not the whole story of human’s failure to act on climate change. Its flaw is that it’s painted as such.

From Leah Stokes:

From Alex Steffen:

Both Climate Progress and Huffington Post have quotes from scientists (including Mike Mann, Bob Brulle, Jennifer Francis and David Titley) who are generally not supportive of the main conclusion.

Naomi Klein has her own idea of whose fault it was:

When I looked at the same period, I came to a very different conclusion: that what at first seemed like our best shot at lifesaving climate action had in retrospect suffered from an epic case of historical bad timing. Because what becomes clear when you look back at this juncture is that just as governments were getting together to get serious about reining in the fossil fuel sector, the global neoliberal revolution went supernova, and that project of economic and social reengineering clashed with the imperatives of both climate science and corporate regulation at every turn.

The failure to make even a passing reference to this other global trend that was unfolding in the late ’80s represents an unfathomably large blind spot in Rich’s piece.

At this point in a post, I’m supposed to summarise all of this and give my own informed opinion but… truth be told, I’m on vacation, and I haven’t got around to reading it all yet. So rather than demonstrate my own confirmation bias, let’s open it up. Maybe I’ll have something to say later this week…

207 Responses to “Musing about Losing Earth”

  1. 151

    “Will the Dividend be sufficient to cover those price increases in their lives?”

    In the case of the BC carbon tax, which currently stands at $30/ton, yes, that has been the case for the middle class and down. Obviously, those who consume more, pay more.

    I don’t think that there’s any reason to think it would be any different at $40/ton, since the dividend scales with the tax.

  2. 152
    Carrie says:

    144 nigelj says: Carrie @134
    I gave you an internet link reference on the research suggesting a carbon tax will work. I’m not going to fill up pages and pages on this website with copy and paste.

    NO Nigel that’s a cop out. You do not need to fill up pages here, you only need to do what almost everyone else does, ie make a short copy/paste of a key point and note which page/chapter of that 150 page document you ref’d. Obvious the short quotes or refs should address and support the claims your believe about the efficacy of a F&D as to why you say it’s a good thing.

    You should also do the same with the new refs you’re providing now above. This is how it works if you believe a Paper or a report or an article presents good EVIDENCE of xyz then you direct people directly to the section that supports YOUR contentions to help others to SEE what claim you’re seeing. Other people here including me do this all the time, but you never do it. You make broad based assertions as if they are a given because you claim you have a URL that agrees with you and supports your opinions or beliefs. But you never show why or how it does.

    Now you don;t need to answer all my questions at once but if you really knew what that 150 page document report says then you as sure as hell should be able to address my most important questions first and point me to the sections that say what you think they say – and show how that report is CREDIBLE and worth looking at in the first place.

    Otherwise you’re nothing more than fluff incapable of proving your opinions are valid and supported with real genuine data and evidence. Here’s your chance to prove me wrong.

  3. 153
    Tom Adams says:

    We have room for a $900+/ton carbon tax without increasing the US tax burden by one cent.

    total taxes = $6210 billion
    total co2 equivalent emmissions = 6.51 metric tons

  4. 154
    Carrie says:

    I repeat @137 Carrie said: A pity that real issues in musing-about-losing-earth has been drowned out by the “noisy distractions”

    I’ll be more specific – discussion about Carbon pricing etc are Off-Topic on this thread. It’s a distraction.

    So Nigel, 150 Dan Miller, 149 Kevin McKinney, 148 Jim Eager plus MYSELF and everyone else, there is an Open thread for climate policy and responses.

    I’ll be ignoring all comments addressed to me above until they are posted on that thread. You can do as you wish. Thank you.

  5. 155
    nigelj says:

    Killian @131.

    Your quote: “The specialization, standardization, compartmentalization, and systematization that are inherent features of most Western bureaucratic forms of organization often are in direct conflict with social structures and practices in Indigenous societies, which tend toward collective decision-making, extended kinship structures, ascribed authority vested in elders, flexible notions of time, and traditions of informality in everyday affairs”

    Good quotation, however whats missing from this and your diatribe on human nature is environmental and other circumstances. Hunter gatherer culture lives by foraging for food, is socially tribal and low population density. Given this, collective decision making, cooperative and egalitarian instincts make sense, while there is less use for competitive and aggressive instincts. I think they are there, but remain dormant, until the point that tribes come into open competition for resources, but this is not common because of low population density. And naturally they are in tune with nature because they are so close to it.

    Now enter into the modern world of farming and industrial culture and severe population pressure, and its no surprise to me that we see more large bossy bureaucratic structures, status seeking, aggression and competition. The environment and circumstances favours these instincts. But notice that modern culture does have elements of collective decision making, it is not all absent.

    Just my opinion. Putting it another way our human nature has evolved as circumstances have changed.

    None of this means we cannot cooperate more, and we should cooperate more and be egalitarian, but I think it’s a complex path getting there and theres no simple switch you can turn on. And our technology is dependent on complex organisations, bureaucracies, and also competition to force innovation. Take away all and it will probbaly stagnate and collapse.

  6. 156
    Nemesis says:

    @jgnfld, #117

    “The military is EXTREMELY interested in green energy for a number of reasons.”

    So beautiful to hear that the military is EXTREMELY interested in green energy just like they were EXTREMELY interested in fossil fuels since the industrial revolution 8) They are preparing for CLEAN WAR, right?^^ I’m just wondering how much SCRAP they will have to get rid of while tansitioning to clean war^^ Imagine all these fossil fuel driven aircraft carriers, tanks, planes and what have you turning into SCRAP :’D And imagine the RESSOURCES needed to build all these beautiful CLEAN killing machines completely anew :’D Well then, I always believed in the good, reasonable intentions of the clean and peaceful military, so all I can say is:

    Good luck 8)

  7. 157

    Dan, thanks for laying out clearly some of the salient aspects on Carbon F & D. IMO, it’s one of the single most effective things we could do to address the problem, though there’s no reason that it should be the *only* thing we do.

    I may be a cockeyed optimist, but I suspect that the political prospects for CF & D may look quite different at the end of the year than they currently do. Not a given; even if the anticipated ‘blue wave’ does materialize, there will be a policy/power struggle between Democratic climate hawks and ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ Democrats (so-called Blue Dogs, and some factions of labor, etc.) But it could happen.

  8. 158
    Killian says:

    Re #155 nigelj said Killian @131.

    whats missing from this and your diatribe

    If you’re going to be a rude little twit, expect to be treated like one. Better, stop using rude, negative, pejorative terms to describe my participation, my thoughts, etc.

    Definition of diatribe

    1 : a bitter and abusive speech or piece of writing

    That matches your little whine, not my post on human nature. There was no diatribe. And othing is missing. I posted on human nature, not sustainability/regeneraative systems. What’s wrong with your head that you think a comment on human nature should be a treatise on sustainability/regeneraative systems?

    Still, since you were foolish enough to make the mistake, let me comment: Your assumptions that those superior in knowledge and experience to you have not thought of something you suddenly see sparkling in the sun and get all excited about, as chiildren, or those easily impressed and little informed, are wont to do, continues to fail to impress.

    I have given you more than enough to sort this on your own (hint: patterns and principles), but you will not learn.

    So be quiet until you realize how little you know. Feel free to ask questions, but please stop pretending you are a teacher on this forum. You are not. Your opinion matters on things like whether you should have eggs or pancakes; it does not matter on issues of sustainability because you have no expertise and refuse to listen to those who do.

  9. 159
    Oscar Wehmanen says:

    ZPG Zero Population Growth is/was right! No one can sell that, but it is true. A human population of 4 – 5 billion may be right. Right in the sense that it is sustainable for a few million years. 8 billion is not. There is no acceptable way for human leaders to take us there, Gaia will do it for us. It will NOT be nice, easy, fair, democratic … It will happen! (after I am dead).

  10. 160
    nigelj says:

    Carrie @132, no that’s false. I do often post links with some copy and paste of the key points in the links. But like I say, I get lazy some times and I don’t always have the time to post all the details.

  11. 161
    Mal Adapted says:


    A F&D carbon tax is a massive Govt intervention in the market place which will distort pricing and disrupt the economy in every sector.

    Wow. Tell us how you really feel about carbon fee and dividend, Carrie 8^). IMHO, a US national, revenue-neutral CF&D with BAT isn’t an alternative to something better, it’s the only alternative to something much worse. YMMV, but I’m convinced collective (i.e. government) intervention is required to limit the vastly more costly consequences of continued rapid global warming. Any collective decision to decarbonize our economy, or none, will create relative winners and losers. As far as I can see, CF&D with BAT is the maximum collective intervention in the market that has a finite chance of being implemented in the US in the first half of the 21st century. It offers the most climate-stabilizing bang for the collective buck IMHO, and it needs to be sold as a way to save living voters* a lot more money and tragedy within the future foreseeable.

    Smaller-scale carbon taxes, or regulatory measures like the Clean Power Plan, can achieve incremental emissions reductions, but only a national, revenue-neutral carbon fee/tariff will figuratively nudge – or ‘distort’, if you insist – the ‘invisible hand’ of the ‘free’ market (free, that is, of the ‘visible hand’ of targeted collective intervention) to build out the carbon-neutral economy. Yes, the added production cost for fossil-fuel producers, and importers of manufactured goods, will be felt throughout the existing economy. That’s what internalizing the socialized costs of our private marginal fossil carbon consumption means. The average US consumer will, in fact, experience a slight, temporary reduction in buying power. Consumers who burn, or cause to be burned, less fossil fuel than the national average will lose less money. Those whose consumption is below a certain quantile will actually make money.

    The pressure of competition, meanwhile, will require fuel producers and goods importers to decide how much of their additional cost to add to the price of their products, and how much reduced profit they’ll accept before getting out of the market. The pressure of thrift will motivate some – it doesn’t need to be all – consumers to reduce their fossil carbon consumption, and/or seek newly price-competitive alternative energy sources, with help from the dividend. The net transfer of income from high carbon consumers to low will add an element of sporting competition 8^D! A long-term benefit of the market-nudging solution is that by the time the transition to carbon neutrality is largely complete, CPI should be similar to what it is now. I hereby predict that will be well before 2100, iff CF&D with BAT is enacted substantively as outlined by Citizen’s Climate Lobby.

    Winners and losers? With CF&D with BAT, the biggest losers will be domestic and foreign fossil fuel producers and their investors, whose revenue streams will be curtailed and their assets stranded (giving them an incentive to invest in public disinformation). Some US consumers will lose more than others, while a minority will gain, until the carbon-neutral transition is well under way. Alternative energy producers and entrepreneurs, and their investors, will be clear winners, as will anyone who is spared the cost of future climate change.

    * and voters yet to live, but no “graveyard vote” jokes, thank you.

  12. 162
    Mike Roddy says:

    Dan, #150, good summary of Fee and Dividend.

    My issue is whether it is ever going to happen nationally. The Democrats might take over both houses of Congress, but there are dozens of Blue Dog fossil fuel supporters in that Party. Meanwhile, Koch and the Republicans primaried out Republicans who don’t go with their program. I suppose we will find out next year, but in the absence of a Democratic landslide I’m not optimistic. What solution is your second choice?

  13. 163
    nigelj says:

    Killian @158

    Your response says nothing about the actual issues of human nature, and should have been boreholed.

    You think I’m being rude calling your writing a diatribe? Stop acting like a snow flake. Its perfectly accurate and not half as rude as you are.

    You say “Definition of diatribe. 1 : a bitter and abusive speech or piece of writing.”

    That perfectly describes at least half of what you write on this website.

    If you think what I just wrote on human nature is somehow the obvious things everyone knows to be true, why have you argued so vehemently against it in the past? This is another of your many mysterious contradictions.

    You have a hugely over inflated opinion of yourself, and clearly something is not right with you. Fix the problem because problems can be fixed.

  14. 164
    Dan Miller says:

    #162 Mike: I’m not aware of any other effective carbon policy that will have as much support as F&D. Note that Alaska already has a similar plan: the Alaska Permanent Fund, that pays every Alaska citizens a fixed amount based on oil extraction (which can be mapped to CO2 emissions!). Almost everyone in Alaska loves the policy, even conservatives like Sarah Palin.

    So, the reason that F&D is not already law is not for lack of public support (though it has little public support because almost no one knows about it). The reason that F&D or some other rational carbon pricing policy is not in place is because we have a government that is controlled by special interests. I don’t think many people will debate that. And right now, the special interests with the most money are the fossil fuel companies. That will change… the divestment movement has about $6 trillion under its belt and the fossil fuel companies will eventually be sued for the damages they caused, like the tobacco companies were. Plus, as the effects of climate change rapidly escalate (faster than I thought possible), that will change public opinion and, therefore, policymaker opinion.

  15. 165
    Mr. Know It All says:

    102 – Fergus
    I always figured it would be good for cars to be fuel efficient so we’d have more fuel for the military and for tractors to grow food. In an war situation, if needed, they’d ration fuel for civilians.

    103 – Zebra
    Immigration is very bad for CO2 production. Soon as they abandon the grass hut and show up here, they buy cars and burn fuel 24/7/365. Probably a significant component of CO2 production. Stand on any street corner in the USA and guess where the drivers are from. It’s eye opening. The left wanted it – best be careful what you wish for.

    105 – Dan H
    All those on the left say renewables are as cheap as, or cheaper than FFs, so making poor people use renewables should help them out, right? Or are you saying those on the left are lying? To electrify a grass hut, all you need is a solar panel, charge controller, and battery. No power plant, no electricy grid, no coal mining, no dam, etc.

    144 – nigelj
    Don’t “google”, use They don’t track you and aren’t subversives like google.
    On farmers – I’d say they should be exempt for any carbon tax. Ditto any other essential industry that has little or no alternative to FFs.

    147 – nigelj
    D’s give great lip service to the environment when they are not in power to do anything, but when they are in power they do very little. Ds essentially controlled all federal government in the US from the 60s until 1994 when the Rs took over; during that time most forests in the NW USA were decimated. Great job, Ds. NOT! In 2010 they passed the ACA and now healthcare is unaffordable to most Americans.

  16. 166
    Mr. Know It All says:

    156 – Nemesis
    As far as I know, all US aircraft carriers are nuke powered. The planes are FF powered, but not the ship.

  17. 167

    KIA, #165–

    All those on the left say renewables are as cheap as, or cheaper than FFs…

    Er, no, impartial analyses by companies and agencies around the world and across the political (or apolitical, often) spectrum say that increasingly that is the case.

    For example:

    (And note that the EIA are fossil fuel-oriented, with a long history of underestimating RE’s potential.)

  18. 168
    Dan H. says:

    Mr. KIA,
    Possibly. I cannot say for sure. A recent study put solar power in Africa at about 4x the levelized cost of coal. Oil is even cheaper, and more widely used, but biomass (wood and grasses) is the most widely used resource. The other issue is infrastructure; many households (grass huts) are not connected to the power grid. Even the minimal hardware necessary to electrify a grass hut far exceeds other resources, and may exceed the annual income of its inhabitants.

  19. 169
    John says:

    Wow. I haven’t been here in many months. And apparently, I’ve missed nothing in regards to how the scientific community understands this “problem”.

    You’re all just as clueless as you were before. Stupidly engaging in useless debate. Arguing among yourselves. Proffering the same unworkable ideas that won’t solve anything.

    Just wow. I’m disappointed – in myself. I should have realized that if you didn’t know back then – you obviously would not know now. You’re all still stuck in the same box, using the same tools, and drawing the same useless diagrams to come up with the same non-answers. You keep doing the same things – and getting the same non-results. Just wow.

    a) Carbon credits will not change anything. Remember Jevon’s Paradox.
    b) Not addressing root causes means failure.
    c) Time is a wastin’ – or haven’t you noticed?
    d) Capitalism, materialism, population and fossil fuel dependency isn’t being addressed – I don’t care how many solar panels or wind farms or electric cars you build. They are all derivatives of fossil fuels – and always will be.
    e) The lack of insight exhibited is appalling. I can only surmise that it is because you still don’t actually believe in your own data and the conclusions it represents for a non-habitable planet. Which obviously means I’m giving your more credit then you may deserve.
    f) You all seem much more energized to engage in useless debate versus practical solutions, ie., “making the effort” even if the effort won’t be enough. Or don’t you want to even try?
    g) You don’t have any solutions. This is blatantly obvious. But you won’t admit it, which makes you dishonest, even to your own selves (let alone every reader on this site). Is this your own cognitive dissonance? Scientific reticence? Stupidity?

    The answers are right in front of us all. But we can’t seem to have “that” conversation with any seriousness – certainly not from the science community. No, let that be a fringe conversation / ideas from the alternative community of “climate alarmists” instead – that way, you can maintain your credibility even if “they” are actually right. Which they are – in the end.

    You can’t save this civilization like you think. So stop trying. Start working on adaption, mitigation and downsizing on a massive GLOBAL scale (especially in the worst polluter nations), so that something can be saved.

    Recognize that every aspect of our “way of life” is now on the chopping block and will soon be pruned, whether anybody likes it or not.

    Either do this willingly – with a decided focused effort – or suffer through it unwillingly – with catastrophic and fatal effects for millions of people. Put THAT on your conscience as you “debate” useless, impractical ideas.

  20. 170
    nigelj says:

    John @169

    Being so very shouty may get some attention, but may be much less likely to change peoples hearts and minds.

    “a) Carbon credits will not change anything. Remember Jevon’s Paradox.”

    Yes they will. I assume you mean cap and trade carbon credits, or possibly carbon tax (levy) and dividend. From wikipedia “In economics, the Jevons paradox (/ˈdʒɛvənz/; sometimes Jevons effect) occurs when technological progress increases the efficiency with which a resource is used (reducing the amount necessary for any one use), but the rate of consumption of that resource rises due to increasing demand.[1]”

    Clearly jevons paradox has little relevance to carbon credits or dividends. Clearly it has little relevance to converting to a new energy source, which is a matter of substitution, not an attempt to increase efficiency or output as such.

    And if renewable energy was to become more effecient than fossil fuels, a possibility, using more of it would clearly not be a climate problem, however there are ways of countering Jevons pradox, if we were to want that.

    Remember carbon tax and dividend pushes up the cost of fossil fuels so shifts the balance in favour of alternatives.

    In addition cap and trade schemes and consumption taxes have demonstrably worked in the past, however they need quite strong settings to work well. Thats not to say we dont need additional policies as well operating in parallel.

    “d) Capitalism, materialism, population and fossil fuel dependency isn’t being addressed – I don’t care how many solar panels or wind farms or electric cars you build. They are all derivatives of fossil fuels – and always will be.”

    Well you are right to highlight that we could do a lot better in most of those areas, however even if fertility dropped to zero tomorrow, which it obviously won’t, it cannot do a whole lot to stop climate change if you look at the maths. That’s not so say we shouldn’t promote lower population growth for a range of reasons.

    Obviously solar power and wind power will not “always” be reliant on fossil fuels provided the grid is completely or largely based on renewable energy. Any minimal use of fossil fuels is not ideal, but can be cancelled with carbon sinks. Maybe your comment was a ‘typo’.

  21. 171

    J 169: You don’t have any solutions. This is blatantly obvious.

    BPL: Carbon fee and dividend. Move to renewables, promote conservation and mass transit, stop cutting down forests, promote biochar and other methods of recycling carbon.

    You can say we don’t have any solutions, but that doesn’t make it true. Just because you personally reject all the solutions offered doesn’t make you right.

  22. 172

    Dan, #168–

    “A recent study put solar power in Africa…”

    No. The paper is from 2014, and in a field moving as rapidly as RE, that does not remotely qualify as ‘recent’.

    During the period 2010 to 2017, utility-scale
    total installed cost reductions in many markets
    have exceeded 70% (Figure 3.5). (p. 65.)

    So you can estimate that the figures cited need to be adjusted downward by something like 30-35%, perhaps more.

    The chapter cited above doesn’t offer a whole lot on the African scene specifically, nor does it do the comparison with coal. But I do note that Figure 3.12 (p. 72) puts levelized cost in South Africa more or less in the mid-range, comparable to Germany–which is to say, well under 20 cents a kilowatt hour.

    (Note that that is for residential solar, which is much pricier than utility-scale. The chapter doesn’t, as far as I see, give a number for the South African commercial sector (probably because it’s still very small), but for Germany the LCOE for commercial solar PV is below 10 cents, probably around 8. The data is available for download elsewhere on the IRENA site, if you’re interested. But I suspect that the South African solar resource is significantly superior to the German, so there’s a lot of potential, I think, for costs to continue to fall there, as the market becomes established and financing becomes easier and easier.)

  23. 173
    Mal Adapted says:

    I’ve responded to John’s provocative opener on the Forced Responses thread. IIUC, that’s where we talk about the human behavioral constraints on collective action to decarbonize the global economy.

  24. 174
    JoeT says:

    Just showed up today online. Don’t know why it’s dated August 16 however:

    “Correction August 16, 2018

    An earlier version of this article erroneously cited a 1974 C.I.A. study. The study was about climate change; it was not specifically about global warming caused by carbon dioxide.”

  25. 175

    John, #169–

    a) Carbon credits will not change anything. Remember Jevon’s Paradox.

    Understand Jevon’s paradox–and how markets work.

    b) Not addressing root causes means failure.

    Well, identify what you think they are–so far, you haven’t.

    c) Time is a wastin’ – or haven’t you noticed?

    Yes, that’s one thing (almost) everyone present agrees on.

    d) Capitalism, materialism, population and fossil fuel dependency isn’t being addressed – I don’t care how many solar panels or wind farms or electric cars you build. They are all derivatives of fossil fuels – and always will be.

    “Capitalism, materialism, population and fossil fuel dependency” have been addressed at length, as a matter of fact, and as you can verify for yourself. There is, admittedly, no consensus emerging so far.

    As to the notion that clean technology “will always be… derivatives of fossil fuels”, well, you’re just wrong (except historically). Wring FF out of the system–doable!–and all that manufacture becomes low-emission.

    Disagree with me? Fine, but let’s have some evidence. Your assertion doesn’t cut it.

    e) The lack of insight exhibited is appalling. I can only surmise that it is because you still don’t actually believe in your own data and the conclusions it represents for a non-habitable planet. Which obviously means I’m giving your more credit then you may deserve.

    Yada, yada… who cares what you think? And why should ‘we’?

    f) You all seem much more energized to engage in useless debate versus practical solutions, ie., “making the effort” even if the effort won’t be enough.

    (See previous response.)

    g) You don’t have any solutions.

    You haven’t mentioned yours… but actually, several of us have proposed solutions of various degrees of comprehensiveness. Those who have, are one up on you.

    Disagree? Fine. But again, show me, because assertion doesn’t cut it. To quote Yoda, “do, or do not.” I really don’t care which you pick; little as you may have missed RC, RC has missed you still less.

  26. 176
  27. 177
    Carrie says:

    169 John +1

  28. 178
    Hank Roberts says:

    Remember, type your dearly beloved “facts” into Google before you post them here. You may learn something rather than misleading others. E.g.:

    One of the most misrepresented places on earth is Africa. Even though the continent is home to more than 1 billion people, there is so much misinformation and myths about its people and their ways of life.

    In my line of work, I have come across misconceptions and stereotypes about the continent I call home. This is both abroad and at home. I have heard and even asked about various myths about Africa that people throughout the world believe to be true. The fact is that these misconceptions are embedded due to misinformation, lack of knowledge, and stereotypes.

    Among the many misconceptions, one of the most common is that all African people live in grass-thatched huts ….

  29. 179
    Dan H. says:

    Kevin @172,
    I think the key takeaway from your post is that is does not offer a whole lot on the African scene. Using South Africa as an example is like using the U.S. as an example for Mexico and Central America. There is no comparison, as the earlier report to which I linked showed the vast difference between South Africa and the rest of the continent. The reality is that outside of South Africa, there is really no movement totals solar energy throughout Africa. The reality is that much of Africa does not have a reliable source of energy, let alone renewables.

  30. 180

    Hank, #176–

    Good one. But Florida /= the Southeast. Heck, here in the midlands of South Carolina, it’s only our family and friends in the ‘Low Country’ that have to worry about hurricanes and sea level rise… and besides, the next two days are forecast to have highs that don’t reach 90 F!

  31. 181
    Hank Roberts says:

    … half of Africans are without power, most living in remote villages that are unlikely to be connected to the grid in the foreseeable future. But now, thanks to falling prices for solar panels and increasing efficiency of LED lights and small appliances, rural Africans are obtaining electricity off the grid.

  32. 182
    nigelj says:

    Carrie @177, do you often give yourself likes?

  33. 183
    Mr. Know It All says:

    178, 181 – Hank
    Those “modern” looking cities spell doom for the world if the gist is that Africans are becoming like the consumers of the western world. Not that we can blame them for wanting better living conditions, but that comes with a cost.

    Yes, rural, developing nations can cheaply provide enough power for a light bulb or 2, etc, in private homes using off-grid solar.

  34. 184
    Nemesis says:

    @Mr Know it all, #166

    ” As far as I know, all US aircraft carriers are nuke powered. The planes are FF powered, but not the ship.”

    Oh beautiful, then the US military can get rid of the nuclear waste by using uranium munition to devastate entire countries like the US military did in Syria:

    And also in Iraq:

    Yes, the military is hugely progressive in terms of doing clean war :)

  35. 185

    Dan H., #179–

    I think the key takeaway from your post is that is does not offer a whole lot on the African scene. Using South Africa as an example is like using the U.S. as an example for Mexico and Central America.

    There’s a kernel of truth there, but you are exaggerating it a bit, IMO.

    There is no comparison, as the earlier report to which I linked showed the vast difference between South Africa and the rest of the continent. The reality is that outside of South Africa, there is really no movement totals solar energy throughout Africa.

    That’s exaggerating a lot. As I said, 2014 is just way too old (and the data were probably a year or two older than that. So, maybe in 2012 (say) there was not much going on outside South Africa. That’s not true today. For one instance, Morocco. (Not sub-Saharan, to be sure.) It’s added a lot of capacity, very rapidly, and at rates that have been very, very affordable.

    Then there’s this, from Rwanda (and went in in 2014):

    Or this:

    And speaking of Kenya, in East Africa there is also development of their geothermal resource going on. That’s worth looking into, too.

    The reality is that much of Africa does not have a reliable source of energy, let alone renewables.

    “The reality” is that renewables are the most promising avenue for providing such in sight today, and it’s an avenue being increasingly utilized. I don’t have to do a lot more digging just now, but the sources above took about 30 seconds. So I invite you to do some more of your own digging; I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. (And I’d suggest browsing other IRENA reports than the one I cite, as well; they do do regional assessments, and I think they are really good.)

  36. 186
    Hank Roberts says:

    > nuke powered … waste …. depleted-uranium-in-syria/

    Whoah, check your source, there’s a lot of bogosity around on all sides of the politics.

    That’s not used-up fuel from fission plants, it’s the U238 left after the U235 was extracted from naturally occurring uranium, which is a mix of isotopes.

    Not that there’s anything smart about using U238 as a projectile.

    It’s a stupid warrior thing to use any toxic heavy metal for projectiles and spread it over any human-occupied area. So was/is lead in its day, of course. Flint arrowheads, now, those were toxicologically innocuous. But, ya know, those who used them lost.

  37. 187
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I can attest to the ubiquity of solar power in Madagascar. We were there last year, and you saw solar panels of all shapes and sizes. This is still not a solution that a typical villager can afford, but in just about every village, some enterprising individual has bought a solar panel allowing people to charge cell phones… for a small fee. Clinics can now afford refrigerators.

    And even in major towns that are on the power grid, solar panels serve as a backup when the unreliable grid goes down. It really is the beginning of a revolution.

  38. 188
    Nemesis says:

    @Hank Roberts,#187

    ” > nuke powered … waste …. depleted-uranium-in-syria/

    Whoah, check your source, there’s a lot of bogosity around on all sides of the politics.”

    There’s a lot of bogosity around for sure, could be the Pentagon shows a little bogosity too from time to time:

    ” 16.2.2017 – The United States used depleted uranium anti-tank rounds on two occasions in 2015 during devastating air strikes against convoys of Islamic State tanker trucks, the Pentagon said Thursday…”

    But let’s poke right into the belly of the beast:

    Do you believe in some “green, clean, healthy” war machine of any sort? Maybe one day the US might shoot flowers at people, not bombs and bullets, as the US is gawd’s own country I heard the other day. No, I don’t think so. War, the weapons industty and the fossil fuel industry (summed up as the military-industrial complex) is a wonderful business that will go on for quite a while until there will be no need anymore for any weapons at all, then there will be peace, ultimate peace on the boneyard of earth’s history. Btw, how many ants, flies, bugs, butterflies, bees ect and birds did you count today?

  39. 189
    Hank Roberts says:

    NYT: Aug. 21, 2018

    LOS ANGELES — A recent New York Times Magazine article about climate change and the political forces that have stymied efforts to combat the phenomenon will become an Apple television project.

    Apple announced on Tuesday that it had bought the rights ….

  40. 190
    Hank Roberts says:

    carriers are nuke powered. … then the US military can get rid of the nuclear waste …

    Nemesis, you mistakenly give the impression you believe waste nuclear power plant fuel is used as a munition. That’s wrong. Used fuel is insanely dangerous, it’s full of short-half-life fission products.

    Depleted uranium is waste, but not from fission power plants, it’s left over natural uranium, mostly U-238, after much of the U-235 is extracted.

    Yes, it’s a stupid material to use as a munition, a toxic flammable heavy metal

  41. 191
    Dan H. says:

    Yes, DU may not be the best choice based on residual contamination and health hazards. Then again, the military seldom worries about after-effects of its weaponry. Due to its high density, DU is used for armor and ballast, but mostly in munitions for its high penetrability. Ironically, DU is also used as a radiation shielder. DU is more effective and cheaper than lead, due to the stockpiles amassed during enrichment. Just another reason to avoid war zones.

  42. 192

    More on Africa and renewables.

    Here’s an interesting report from IRENA, dating from 2016. It shows how Dan H’s report just missed the boat, as, dating from 2014, it came out in the very year that African PV installations started to take off:

    New capacity additions of solar PV in Africa in 2014 exceeded 800 MW, more than doubling the continent’s cumulative installed PV capacity. This was followed by additions of 750 MW in 2015. By 2030, in IRENA’s REmap analysis of a doubling of the share of renewable energy globally, Africa could be home to more than 70 GW of solar PV capacity.

    More recently, this RE jobs review for 2018 offers a few insights about the African scene, including the growth of, and challenges faced by, the ‘pay-as-you-go’ off-grid household ownership model for solar PV, and the related question of indigenous vs. imported panels. Interestingly, Kenya now has a small capability to manufacture panels for its own internal market.

    Unsurprisingly, as Dan and I discussed, South Africa remains the continent’s renewables powerhouse, with RE jobs there amounting to more than the rest of the continent combined.

    The 2018 RE statistics report, which consists largely of enormous data tables, does break out Africa as a continent. Total RE capacity 2014-17 is as follows:

    2014: 32,753 MW
    2015: 34,972 MW (+7%)
    2016: 37,267 MW (+7%)
    2017: 42,624 MW (14%)

    Proceeding to source breakdowns, you find that wind and especially solar are showing much higher growth rates, with the latter nearly doubling from 2014 to 2016:

    Wind capacity:

    2014: 2,396
    2015: 3,317 (+38%)
    2016: 3,828 (+15%)
    2017: 4,576 (+19%; +91% over 4 years)

    Solar capacity:

    2014: 1,718
    2015: 2,203 (+28%)
    2016: 3,349 (+52%)
    2017: 4,155 (+24%, +142% over 4 years)

    Why? Because solar and wind are affordable, and because they are relatively modular. A solar plant in particular can go up more rapidly than just about anything else–especially attractive for a government looking for a quick approval boost.

  43. 193
    Scott Nudds says:

    Political systems don’t exist in a vacuum. They exist because people adhere to them.

    In this instance the Republican party has been the exclusive party of denial (in the U.S.)

    This is not the fault of only the Republican party leadership. It is the fault of American citizens who call themselves Republicans.

    Over the last 50 years, Republicans have gone from some denying the science of evolution to the plurality now denying not only science, but obvious, self evident reality.

    The failure on the right is the spectacular failure of reason in favor of tribalism, ideology, and faith.

    There failure on the left has been the essentially non-existent response to the self delusion of the Republicans.

    It’s has been like watching a family excusing the alarming behavior of Uncle Bob until one morning one wakes up to find that the kids have been killed by bob in one of his delusional fits.

    Liberals are largely complicit by their inaction, and by their incompetent response to Republican lies, deceit and delusion.

    Any other conclusion is a tacit denial of responsibility for the state of the rapidly failing American nation, and the world in general.

    The American people, as a collective, are responsible for their own collective actions, and no amount of creative scapegoating will change that fact.

  44. 194
    Carrie says:

    Does this help Scott?

    Washington, D.C. – Ipsos has been running studies on how wrong people are about key social realities in their country since 2014. These have been brought together in a book, The Perils of Perception – Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything, to be published on September 6th. The full series of studies can be found at

  45. 195
    Nemesis says:

    @Hank Roberts, #190

    Ok, it’s not nuclear waste, but:

    ” Yes, it’s a stupid material to use as a munition, a toxic flammable heavy metal.”

    I agree. But what about my question?:

    Let’s poke right into the belly of the beast: Do you believe in some “green, clean, healthy” war machine of any sort?

  46. 196
    Al Bundy says:

    Scott Nudds: The American people, as a collective, are responsible for their own collective actions, and no amount of creative scapegoating will change that fact.

    AB: As a collective, eh? Well, them’s actuarial terms, not responsibility/blame terms. An insurance pro will tell you how many people will do what given the system. It’s always the system. And the problem in the USA is that folks took some very good systems, for their times, and enshrined them. No changes allowed. No updates. Of course the thing is falling apart. It’s built with hemp and hemp is illegal now!

  47. 197
    nigelj says:

    Scott Nudd @193, yes liberals need to be much blunter and to the point in their criticism of bad policies and Republicans, while obviously avoiding ad hominems. The stumbling block is liberals value inclusiveness and this is a good thing, but it makes them excessively polite at times, and petrified of offending anyone. There’s a happy middle ground that they should be able to find.

  48. 198

    This article was a good read, but unfortunately nothing really new… Growing up in the 1980s, we learned about the dangers of the greenhouse effect and global warming in school, but being young and optimistic, I assumed that science and technology would solve the problem before it was too late. Being older now and more aware of human nature and how we keep repeating the Tragedy of the Commons, the outcome seems inevitable. Perhaps the best we can do is try to understand how climate change is affecting life on earth, like what the Biomeridian project is doing, and use that information to figure out how to best adapt and survive – not just the human species, but the whole web of life to which we are inextricably connected.

  49. 199

    Scott & Al, #193 & 196–

    My perspective, based on Jane Mayer’s Pulitzer-winning “Dark Money,” is that American democracy was deliberately hacked.

    The process took decades and involved the creation of ‘alternate institutions’, including academic school and chairs, media outlets, political action organizations, and policy institutes. The point of this was to create a universe of ‘alternate fact’ in which it would be acceptable for Big Fossil and allied interests to continue polluting the environment without limit for as long as possible.

    Trump (and this goes double for Pence, McConnell et al.) is not a fluke. He’s a product–a tool, crafted for a specific purpose.

    It is, I know, an extraordinary claim. But the evidence is all around us. Ms. Mayer just did a great job of summarizing. I commend her work to your attention.

    (To be clear, she’s not the only reporter to chronicle this tragic reality; just the most prominent.)

  50. 200
    Al Bundy says:

    Kevin McKinney

    A grand companion book to “Dark Money” is “Democracy in Chains” by Nancy McLean.

    The scary thing is that if Trump gets booted Pence becomes president.

    Long live Drumpf (until January 2021).