Climate Emergency

Emergency? Really?

“We are in an emergency. California is on the brink of drought, prompting fears of a new wave of devastating megafires later this year. Rising temperatures could soon make the planet’s tropical regions unlivable for humans. Yet a Guardian investigation recently found that only a small number of major countries have been pumping rescue funds into a low-carbon future.”

The above quote is from “The Guardian” of 12 April 2021.  It continues:

“Two years ago, the Guardian announced it was changing the language it uses to talk about the environment, eschewing terms like “climate change” for the more appropriately urgent “climate emergency”. Today, we are joined by others in the news industry, organizations that recognize that a global catastrophe is already here, and that without immediate action, it will get unimaginably worse.

These organizations are part of Covering Climate Now, an initiative founded in 2019 by Columbia Journalism Review and the Nation, with the Guardian as the lead partner, to address the urgent need for stronger climate coverage. More than 400 newsrooms from around the world – with a combined audience nearing 2 billion people – have joined Covering Climate Now”

On the same day the paper published the following, which just underscore the urgency:

Endangered US rivers at grave risk from dams, mining and global heating. New report lays out dire situation facing the most imperiled rivers but environmental activists say situation is salvable”

(…which is another supporting fact to my What Environmental Crisis? post  – file under Fresh Water)

Airborne plastic pollution ‘spiralling around the globe’, study finds. Rising levels of microplastic pollution raise questions about the impact on human health, experts say”

(…file this under Air)

Fukushima: Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea. Environmental groups and neighbours condemn plan to release more than 1m tonnes of contaminated water in two years’ time”

(…see my Nuclear Energy Story – the waste problem is not solved! Of course the ocean will hide it, like it does so many things – sigh)

For a slightly, only slightly, more lighthearted look at the whole issue look at “First Dog on the Moon”, an Australian cartoon (also published in The Guardian):

And then we have this tangentially related headline:

US CEOs think Biden’s corporate tax rate hike will have negative impact – survey. President’s proposed hike would raise corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% to pay for his $2.3tn infrastructure plan”

Surprise, surprise; CEO’s think paying more tax is not a good idea.

Bottom line: Great move by the Guardian and all the other associated media organizations. My point re 1biosphere remains;  These stories are not influencing enough of the people we need to reach – that silent majority who can move the political and social dynamics.  That needs your help.

What Environmental Crisis?

We are wounding the biosphere.  We need to stop, and then heal

My use of the terms “Environmental Crisis” and “Environmental Healing” needs further explanation.

The subject of Environmental Crisis / Healing is huge.  Trying to write short, sharp, accessible stories becomes very tough.  Maybe I am trying to do too much? 

But then that is exactly the point of “1biosphere” – not to reexamine the underlying research, or to once again produce another report, nor to rewrite an article about what we can expect and what needs to be done. Others, far more qualified, more eloquent and with far greater resources have done that valuable work.

What this site is about are 2 things: 

  • First;  find those very short stories that can capture the imagination of the currently silent majority and create a political, social and economic environment that will allow Environmental Healing, and
  • Second; underpin those stories by chains of fact – through those articles, reports and research – to show 1bio stories to be verifiably “true”.

And it needs your help.

In “The Idea” for 1bio I define the biosphere as being that closed system where all life occurs:

We humans are injuring every part of this system.  Many of these cuts, burns and poisonings are beyond the capacity of the biosphere to repair. Some will set off a cascade of further problems if we do not stop making the wounds bigger every day. That is why it is a crisis.

The biosphere does not care.  It will go on in one way or another.  But we need to care, because each injury to the system will rebound on us – biologically, economically, socially and spiritually.  The more we wound the system, the more we will be hurt in return.

We can’t escape that reality.  There is no alternate biosphere. We are physically part of it.  We are all inside it, together.

Of course there are deniers and vacillators.  They are not stupid.  They are intelligent, quick witted and can see where this is going.  There will be costs!  Costs not just in money terms, but in comfort, luxury, entitlements, rights. They can see these costs and are unwilling to pay the price. So they develop their own stories – sharp, compelling, vivid stories – promising an easy road to the future. Taken at face value their stories are more attractive than ours.  But they lack the supporting chain of facts.  And that is something we need to tackle as well.

By Environmental Healing I simply mean, first, stop harming the biosphere and, second, reverse the harm done – if that is even possible.

Practically every part of the biosphere is undergoing its own crisis.  Each one of these interacts with the others, compounding the difficulty of description, analysis and prediction.

With that said here are some “bullet points” of the  Environmental Crisis:


Global Warming with all the consequences; Climate Change, Sea Level Rise, Intensity of Weather Events and so forth, captures most attention.  It is first because of the many negative effects and the size of the potential economic harm.  

I also believe that this is top of the list because it can be treated as a technical problem.  We speak of Gigatons of CO2, trapping of solar radiation, feedback loops, albedo and global average temperature changes in fractions of a degree.  We speak of the remedies in equally technological terms; carbon dioxide sequestration, solar PV, pumped storage, electric vehicles, advanced SMRs, shoreline protection, disaster resilience, ESG, geoengineering. 


Destruction of environment, pollution from the mining operation, tailing dumps and waste lagoons of toxic materials. Pollution of streams and groundwater.  Health effects on the workers and the surrounding communities.  Destruction of significant sites – biological, archeological and spiritual.

Phosphorus mining tailings and pond.  Riverview, Florida
Juukan Gorge, Western Australia. Site of human occupation for 46,000 years.  Before and after mining activity.


Quite apart from the CO2 released when these fuels are burnt (Really – we unearth these million year old treasures and burn them?) we have accidental releases of gas and/or oil during production, transport and refining. We have negative effects on all the living things near these sites.  Fracking chemicals.


Agricultural practices, Deforestation, Salt pans when farming marginal land, Monocultures.


Currents, Reefs, Aquatic life, Fishing, Acidification, Plastics.


Falling aquifers, Changing rainfall patterns, Pollution from personal, industrial and agricultural sources.


Pollution, Greenhouse Gases, More intense weather, Changed weather patterns.


Deforestation, Monocultures, Loss of diversity, Species loss, Invasive species, Insect infestations, Wildfires.


Loss of diversity, Loss of species, Loss of habitat, Insect “collapse”. 

Wild land animals exist only at our pleasure.  Whales as well.  

Diagram from xkcd, Used under CCANC license and may be copied from here


Too many of us – we have tripled since I went to school.  It’s a hugely difficult subject but has to be discussed.  We consume too much.  We waste too much. We already have climate wars and climate refugees.  There will be more.  We cling to artificial concepts like nations, religions and politics.  The biosphere does not recognize any of those things.

The biosphere has gone through crises before.  Many in the long history of the planet, some within one human generation.  

The ancient crises; climate change, ice ages, meteorites, did massively change the biosphere and cause vast destruction.  But the repairs and adjustments were made over time spans we can barely imagine.  We, with our frantic lives, do not have the luxury of evolutionary or geologic time.

Two recent examples are the acid rain problem of the 1970 to 1990’s and the ozone holes, which came to public attention at much the same time.  Both were overcome, against resistance of course, but nevertheless with reasonable success and without huge economic impact.  

For acid rain the answer was scrubbing the exhaust gases of coal fired plants to reduce the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.  

The ozone holes over each pole were tackled by an international agreement to phase out CFCs and Halons. The task is not over yet; NASA predicts the ozone holes will not return to 1980 levels until 2075.

There are lasting scars from both crises; eroded stone ornaments, disrupted plant and animal life, health issues such as skin cancers, breathing difficulties etc.  

If we could so “easily” resolve those crises why can’t we do the same for the current Environmental Crisis?  Because:

  • The problems were essentially technical and had known technical solutions
  • The problem could be solved by a relatively small number of corporations acting under public and government pressure and in their own self interest
  • The problems, although widespread, were not global
  • Most people did not have to change their way of life (except in some trivial ways; e.g. if you had an old car and could not obtain CFC to recharge the AC then the repair was very pricey)
  • Politics was simpler; governments made binding decisions and enforced them

Sadly none of those conditions apply to what we face today.

We are wounding the biosphere.  We need to stop, and then heal

“Seaspiracy” – Fisheries

You must watch “Seaspiracy”.  (Says he after eating tuna from a “Dolphin Safe”, recyclable can)

It’s not easy to watch.  If you have children preview it first and then decide if you want them to see.

There have been a lot of comments attacking faults in the film.  In particular some Environmental Organizations feel they are wrongly portrayed.  You will need to make your own judgement.

This article by George Monbiot is a very good review.

Let me relate some minor personal experience in this area.  40 (+) years ago, I worked on a computer program for the Western Australian Fisheries Department.  I mention the years only to show that we knew the problems then – and the solution; stop or severely limit fishing.  That knowledge has been ignored by large parts of the global industry for a long time.

A simple diagram shows what happens under intensive fishing.  First, when stocks are plentiful the more you fish, the more you get.  Then comes a phase where no matter how hard you fish, you get no more. That is followed by a massive collapse.  We saw it happen with the Western Australian Salmon (not a relative of the “real” salmon) and to a lesser extent with the prawn fisheries in North-Western Australian waters. The over-simplified sketch below gives gives some idea of what I am talking about:

“Effort” is a combination of time spent at sea (transit time and actual fishing time), time the equipment is deployed, size and type of equipment (size of net, mesh etc. or length of longline, number of hooks etc.)

On the diagram “Time” is not scaled.  It depends.  The first 2 phases can be years or decades.  The collapse is sudden.  For the south WA (Western Australia) salmon fisheries the collapse happened very quickly (3 years? – I am happy to be corrected) and led to the effective abandonment of the shore based industry.

A similar trend is shown in the “Seaspiracy” film and is hinted at in Kipling’s “Captains Courageous” about the Grand Banks cod fishery in the late 1890’s.

The Grand Banks fishery has never recovered to the fabled times of the 1700 and 1800’s or the even more massive industrial hauls of the 1970’s.

The WA salmon has recovered, as have the prawns.  However the industry around the south coast has not grown back (again – I am happy to be corrected).  The prawn fishing is regulated.  

Defendants of industrial fishing say that recovery does and will happen.  True, the species is not extinct, but it takes a drastic reduction, or total cessation, of fishing, plus a lot of time for the recovery.  In the meantime whole ecosystems are out of balance.  Also the people and communities who have invested their lives and their money in the fishing industry go through massive distress.

At about the same time as my little diagram, 40+ years ago, we would see Chinese and/or Taiwanese fishing boats in Fremantle (WA).  They came in to refuel and get supplies. They had lines strung fore and aft.  On these lines were hundreds of shark fins drying in the sun.  We shrugged our shoulders; the ocean was big and if they really liked shark fin soup, why not?  We did not know and did not ask what they did with the sharks. I thought they would be in the hold. Shark was good enough for the local fish and chip shop, so it was a reasonable deduction.  At the time we did not realize the sharks were just trash and thrown away, dead or alive.

Now of course the Chinese/Taiwanese boats are bigger and they get resupplied at sea.  So they can spend more time fishing and do not have to enter “hostile” ports where snoopy people may take photos or inspect their holds.

Which brings me to modern fishing.  I found this archived 2010 article in a surfing magazine.  It shows a kite installed on Germany’s largest fishing vessel the “Maartje Theodora” to make the vessel more efficient while in transit and during open ocean fishing operations.  According to a spokesperson: “As one of Europe’s biggest fishing companies, we consider it an important duty to not only promote sustainable fishing, but to take a leading role in making it a reality. For us, sustainable in this context means acting in a manner that makes both good economic and ecological sense”

 Call me cynical but then we have this article from Greenpeace in 2012 – (summary translated from German): “14 Dec 2012.  German Fisheries Monster Caught in Illegal Fishing.

The largest European fishing vessel, the “Maartje Theodora”, was arrested by French authorities for illegal fishing. On board the German super trawler, the inspectors found two million kilos of fish that was caught contrary to European regulations. Greenpeace had previously criticized the shipping company for its fishing methods”.

Am I too cynical? You decide.

And watch “Seaspiracy”.

Biden $2T plan

Below is a breakdown of the “Biden $2 trillion plan – which is great news but will be subject to a lot of tough negotiation. And here’s a hypothetical question: “Should a country spend the same amount on “green” programs as on the military (approx $5.6T over 8 years), or more?”

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So, what is the story?…

It’s great news, especially after the last 4 years.

But now it will be a fight for every penny. The minority leader in the US senate already announced that “I’m going to fight them every step of the way…”. We can be sure the plan will undergo alteration in the next few months. And who knows what will happen to it over the next 8 years.

We can also be sure that the military budget will be passed year after year.

Almost certainly the economic, social and national security implications of the Environmental Crisis will be larger than anything facing our military. The budget to fight the crisis should be the same or bigger than the military one.


Money is our madness, our vast collective madness.  (D. H. Lawrence)

Given my personal relationship with money it is the height of folly to even approach this subject.  However, elsewhere I state that the Environmental Activists and their organizations are vastly outspent by players in “The Economy”.  So here I quote some numbers just to support that contention.

As a yardstick let me use the Earthshot Prize.  This is a sought after award introduced in 2020, with the first five winners to be announced in 2021.  Each winner will receive 1 million pounds to “inspire and celebrate new, collaborative action to meet the environmental challenges we face”. 

The Earthshot Prize then totals $US 65 million (approx) over 10 years (£50 million).  That sum is enhanced by the prestige, support and publicity surrounding the prize.  It is very generous and will no doubt be leveraged many times over by the recipients and the Earthshot Alliance.  

$65 million is:

  • The net income of Apple Inc. in 10 hours (2019)
  • Jeff Bezos’ net worth increase in 5 hours
  • Lockheed Martin’s sticker price for one F35 aircraft (plus another $65 million to fly it for about a year)
  • The value of oil shipped from Saudi Arabia in 3 days
  • The value of natural gas on 4 LNG carriers
  • US spending on pet food in 15 hours (source:Statista)
  • 5 ½ minutes of super-bowl  (US “football”) ads ($5.6 million per 30 seconds)
  • A bit less than the value of Everydays: the First 5,000 Days; a mosaic of every image that artist Mike Winkelmann, who goes by the name Beeple, has made since 2013. The artwork is attached to a non-fungible token (NFT), a digital certificate of authenticity that runs on blockchain technology.

…which handily provides a segue into crypto-currencies and NFTs


When I saw the headline “Bitcoin uses more electricity than Argentina” my immediate reaction was to add Bitcoin, and all the other crypto currencies into the “bad” column.  Actually the “more bad” column, given my previous dismissal of crypto as a worthwhile investment (a predictable part of my relationship to money).

Then, inevitably, there is an opposing view in Forbes, which makes me rethink crypto. Does it need to go in the “Maybe not so bad” column?  Is it a valuable tool that allows fast and easy money transfers safe from inflation, exchange fees, dictatorial governments and confiscation? Is the energy cost justified?

Based on the Forbes article here are some comparison numbers and a concluding quote:

  • Electricity use in 1 year:
    • Bitcoin   12 TWh
    • Gold mining 132 TWh
    • Banking 140 TWh
    • Grid loss US 200 TWh (my calculation; 4009 TWh generated, 5% loss)

“The bottom line is this: as renewable energies become cheaper, bitcoin will become greener – and so will everything else. There is no question that bitcoin, the blockchain, cryptographic currencies, and DLT [Distributed Ledger Technology] protocols must all seek to lower their energy consumption and reduce their carbon footprints – but we all do: central banks, financial institutions, the mining sector… and you and me.”

The Biden green plan

$3 to maybe $4 trillion !

If the numbers being reported are correct that would be a green and gold* moment for the Environmental Crisis.

But there are a few issues:

  • The actual numbers are hard to parse.  It is just a plan, the numbers are under discussion.The legislation will go through lengthy negotiations and amendments before being passed.
  • Green spending is tied into a huge number of other priorities; highways, bridges, broadband, water and sewer lines, railways, ports, the grid, human infrastructure such as housing and child care etc.
  • Finally all of this spending is subject to reversal if power in the US government shifts again.  Hence 1biosphere and the call for stories to generate political action.

*which happen to be the national colors of Australia. The national colours, green and gold, hold a treasured place in the Australian imagination. Long associated with Australian sporting achievements, the national colours have strong environmental connections. Gold conjures images of Australia’s beaches, mineral wealth, grain harvests and the fleece of Australian wool. Green evokes the forests, eucalyptus trees and pastures of the Australian landscape.

Nuclear Energy Story

Nuclear energy is such a technological and emotive subject that trying to present a simple story is quite impossible for one person (That’s why we need an organization to develop the story). Personally I have vacillated between enthusiasm, while young and stupid, to outright dismissal, while older and equally stupid.  Maybe one needs to think again?(1)

Here are the problems just in formulating an outline:

  • The technology is complex
  • Even when the technology is understood other concerns get in the way:
    • Economics
    • National pride
    • Local resistance
    • Human nature
  • Nuclear energy, nuclear weapons and terrorism are always linked.  That is a reality, even if not justified or just subconscious.

The social contract

I have one great fear about nuclear power and other technologies like geo-engineering; 

If we dither about taking big steps in reducing consumption and moving to renewables we will reach a point where we have no option but to use “big technology”.  

That’s not necessarily bad.  However history has shown us that technological advance often has unintended consequences.  If the technology is powerful enough we are tempted to make social contracts that violate our basic beliefs – for example:

  • Tens of thousands of deaths and more ruined lives per year in return for the motor car 
  • The export of waste “across the border”, as in electronic recycling and ship breaking.  (The biosphere has no borders…)
  • Reliance on fertilizers, specialized seed and pest control chemicals in return for the “agricultural revolution”

With that bias on the table…

Nuclear Technology  

This is just a list of headings and some minor comments;

  • Most commercial reactors are Pressurized Water Reactors using Uranium fuel
  • Over 100 pressurized water reactors power active US navy ships – more than the number of commercial reactors
  • The US Navy has had no major nuclear incident in 70 years (except for the total loss of two submarines, not caused by the nuclear power plant)
  • There is promise in other designs (e.g. thorium fuel, fast breeders, liquid metal or liquid salts)
  • Nuclear plants provide significant amounts of electrical power around the world.  
    • The USA has the largest installed total generation capacity (809,000 GWh) but is #15 in terms of percentage of electricity provided by nuclear; 19.7% – on the same level as Russia.  
    • France is #1 in terms of electricity share at 70.6% and #2 in generation (382,000 GWh)
    • The Ukraine is #2 for electricity from nuclear, at 54%  – despite Chernobyl
    • Germany(2) has announced a total phase-out of nuclear power by 2022.
    • Switzerland plans a gradual phaseout
  • The nuclear waste issue is not solved(3).  Of all the countries using nuclear power only Finland is in the actual construction phase of a High Level/Long Term Waste storage facility.  Many countries, including the USA, China(4), France and Sweden, have identified and planned sites. But all have run into roadblocks preventing construction.
  • Fusion power remains interesting, but even with breakthroughs in design commercial introduction is very unlikely to happen before we reach the environmental “breaking point” mentioned before


Civilian nuclear power plants must supply electricity at competitive rates (except for subsidies when national pride enters the picture). This in turn means that construction, waste management and operations costs must be kept down. In practice this has led to construction flaws, a short term approach to waste handling and, possibly, lower motivation of operational staff.

One opinion(5) states that operational practices are the reason for the US Navy safety record compared to commercial operations.  However military reactors are smaller and built for rugged conditions, unlike commercial units.  The Navy also has less economic restraint than a commercial organization.

Life cycle costs for nuclear power are an area of disagreement. Reactor builders and operators argue that once constructed and in operation, the efficiency of nuclear generation allows for waste handling and eventual decommissioning.  Others claim that waste and end of life costs are externalized to society.

Bottom Line

  • Nuclear power is here to stay
  • It is not “clean”
    • The waste problem is not solved
    • Uranium production causes pollution at the mine site
  • Proliferation and terrorism concerns will remain and impose extra costs
  • We do not want to be forced into major nuclear power expansion through lack of effort in other directions



  1.  In a world changing at unprecedented speed, there’s a new must-need skill on the block: “Intelligence is traditionally viewed as the ability to think and learn. Yet in a turbulent world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn.”  from Adam Grant: “Think again”
  2. Germany is, justifiably, regarded as a leader in environmental action.  However, Germany; 
    • Imports (part nuclear) power from France for load balancing and exports power to France when the reactors there cannot meet peak demands
    • Uses large quantities of brown coal
    • Plans to complete a natural gas pipeline from Russia (Nord Stream 2)
  3.  “It’s a societal problem that has been handed down to us from our parents’ generation. And we are—more or less—handing it to our children.”Gerald S. Frankel, materials scientist, Ohio State University – quoted in As nuclear waste piles up, scientists seek the best long-term storage solutions
  4. Scientists say China has the chance to become a world leader in this field but has to find a way to ensure it does not leak.” “Researchers will conduct tests at the location in Gansu to see whether it will make a viable facility to store highly radioactive waste safely” – South China Morning Post – 5 Sep, 2019
  5. “Edwin Lyman, a senior staff scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C., said commercial nuclear power plants have at times been run haphazardly and sloppily.  The Navy is one thing, Lyman said. “Are they going to be able to run the commercial sector with that kind of discipline? I doubt it.”” – Politifact, June 2008