Saturday, August 28, 2010

Peak oil: two words to worry about

The crisis would be so severe, we wouldn't be able to run our tractors, heat our homes or drive our cars 

AUGUST 27, 2010 - As if you don't have enough to worry about, add two more words to your list: peak oil.

Forget climate change -peak oil is the biggest problem on the human horizon according to some. Bullcrap, say others.

The idea is actually hard to explain, which may be why many have never heard of it. But if the peak oil theory is true, it will affect us all drastically, so it's worth a shot:

Technically, there is lots of oil left in the world. We're often told the supply could last 40 or 50 years. But peak oil is the exact point at which oil production peaks. The idea is you don't need to run out of oil to get into trouble. You just have to reach the "peak," the point where you've passed maximum output and start to run out. At that point, oil becomes finite and something big happens -the price surges. That jump would be so violent and unavoidable, say some, that the global economy would simply run out of affordable gas and, in a worst-case scenario, would collapse. The crisis would be so severe, we wouldn't be able to run tractors, heat our homes or, naturally, drive our cars. Soon we'd be living like 17th-century pioneers in the shell of our former gas-driven civilization. More >>>

Monday, August 23, 2010

If a Country Sinks Beneath the Sea, Is It Still a Country?

Rising ocean levels brought about by climate change have created a flood of unprecedented legal questions for small island nations and their neighbors. 

Among them: If a country disappears, is it still a country? Does it keep its seat at the United Nations? Who controls its offshore mineral rights? Its shipping lanes? Its fish?

And if entire populations are forced to relocate -- as could be the case with citizens of the Maldives, Tuvalu, Kiribati and other small island states facing extinction -- what citizenship, if any, can those displaced people claim?

Until recently, such questions of sovereignty and human rights have been the domain of a scattered group of lawyers and academics. But now the Republic of the Marshall Islands -- a Micronesian nation of 29 low-lying coral atolls in the North Pacific -- is campaigning to stockpile a body of knowledge it hopes will turn international attention to vulnerable countries' plights.

"At the current negotiating sessions and climate change meetings, nobody is truly addressing the legal and human rights effects of climate change," said Phillip Muller, the Marshall Islands' ambassador to the United Nations. More >>>

Friday, August 20, 2010

Caribbean Storm Damage Costs May Rise 50% With Global Warming

Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Climate change may add 50 percent to the storm damage costs incurred by some Caribbean nations over the next two decades, said Swiss Reinsurance Co., the world’s second-largest re-insurer. 

Wind, storm surges and inland flooding already cost some Caribbean nations up to 6 percent of their economic output each year, the Zurich-based company said today in a statement on its website. Global warming could add costs amounting to another 1 to 3 percent of output by 2030, it said.

Insurers are being hit with more claims as damages from natural catastrophes rise. Costs to clean up after storms and other natural disasters reached a record $180 billion in 2005, of which insurers covered about half, according to Munich Re, the biggest re-insurer. More >>>

Monday, August 9, 2010

How Will Small Businesses Survive Peak Oil?

From Yahoo to Virgin, big business is waking up to the threat of peak oil.  

So much so, that Virgin bross Richard Branson believes we should bemobilizing for peak oil as if for war. But what about the little guy? It's often assumed that because peak oil will make global shipping a challenge, that we'll just transition back to smaller, more local economies. I suspect the truth will be a little more complicated than that.

As much as we TreeHuggers like to espouse the virtues of local business and human scale economies, there can be few businesses out there—big or small—that find themselves immune to the threat of rising energy prices or economic volatility. And as recent events have shown, while corporations may find themselves on shaky ground, there is often a helping hand out there to stop the giants from failing. Will that be the same for the small operators? A small social enterprise in the UK is aiming to ensure that we head the problem off before it becomes a crisis.
 More >>>

Friday, August 6, 2010

Clean Energy and Cultural Survival in Nicaragua

Clean Energy and Cultural Survival in Nicaragua

PARIS, Aug 1, 2010 (Tierramérica) - For the past six years, French and U.S. engineers have been installing solar panels and wind turbines in the southeastern Nicaraguan town of Bluefields, promoting clean energy and development among the region's Rama indigenous peoples.

In 2004, French engineer Lâl Marandin and the Franco-U.S. brothers Guillaume and Mathias Craig founded blueEnergy, a non-governmental organisation with resources and donations from companies and foundations in France and the United States. 

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

12 Events That Will Change Everything: # 1 Sea Level Rise

This Web-only article is a special rich-media presentation of the feature, "12 Events That Will Change Everything," which appears in the June 2010 issue of Scientific American More >>>