Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for November, 2015

Permafrost not accounted for in global warming

I’ve just had another in-depth article published on Al Jazeera, this time on permafrost and its effects on climate, buildings, landscape, etc. The article came out of presentations at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik last month. New research is constantly coming to light regarding permafrost and global warming, and the US has suggested that the IPCC compile a separate report on the issue. At the moment, permafrost is unaccounted for in global warming calculations, partly due to lack of data.

Nevertheless, twice as much carbon is stored in permafrost than in the atmosphere. So we should be taking it into account.

UPDATE: The article was also published by the NGO Fair Planet, though the stories were edited differently.

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Iceland without specific goals for COP21

The COP21 climate summit begins on November 30 in Paris. Much is at stake if we are to keep global warming under control. Countries are supposed to deliver their climate goals before the meeting starts; so far, out of 195 countries that will be represented at the summit, over 160 have submitted their goals. But not Iceland.

Granted, a few weeks ago it appeared as if we were getting somewhere when Environment Minister Sigrun Magnusdottir told the nation that Iceland’s goals would be outlined a few weeks later. Indeed, at the time we were told that Iceland intended to participate in the joint goals of the EU and Norway, i.e. aiming for a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 cf. 1990. But that’s not the same as proposing our own goals.

Now it turns out that Iceland will not decide on a plan until sometime next year.Nevertheless, a large contingent of Icelanders will travel to Paris for the talks.

In point of fact, for Iceland the talks are only half the story, because aluminium plants and other heavy industry come under the Emissions Trading Scheme which will not be discussed at the meeting. And as everyone knows, Iceland currently has three aluminium plants operating as well as a ferrosilicon plant and plans for at least three silicon plants that will also be big polluters.

In the 2007 climate talks, Iceland pushed, successfully, for including wetland restoration as a mitigation measure. But little has been done here since then in that regard.

Many people are feeling positive towards COP21, partly because powerful nations like the US and China have delivered objectives and will take an active part in discussions. But don’t thank Iceland.

Icelandic bankers demand better conditions in prisons

Recently a number of people shared news on social media about 26 Icelandic bankers either facing or currently serving prison sentences. I also wrote about it as soon the figures were released. In fact, a few more have been sentenced since then.

But there’s more to it than just numbers. It’s also what they do once they’re in prison.

A while ago, some prisoners had asked if they could have wine with their meals. Reports did not say which prisoners had demanded wine, but one doesn’t have to be a genius to guess which ones. The answer was no.

The latest demand is somewhat laughable. Some wealthy prisoners had apparently asked the Agricultural University of Iceland if they could do a riding course that is offered by the university. It is a standard course offered by the university and was supposed to start last weekend, using an indoor school at the adjacent farm, but was stopped by the prison authority at the last minute as the course is not available to all prisoners at all prisons. It would have been an expensive course, but the bankers could afford it. Each banker would have had to come up with a horse and saddlery too.

Pall Winkel, director of the Prison and Probation Administration, says that the wealthy prisoners, i.e. bankers, have their own PR people who have several times asked for perks for the bankers that are not available to other prisoners. Winkel says that he is sometimes asked to say a, b and c or NOT to say a, b and c. There is even a new pressure group that wants better conditions for the prisoners, but the authorities are not going to heed to their wishes. Winkel says he’s had all sorts of requests, including access to a wider range of TV stations and yoga classes.

UPDATE: Said bankers are now complaining about the prison administration allowing film-maker Michael Moore to come to Kviabryggja prison, where they are serving their sentences, and interview fellow prisoners about their experience of serving with the bankers.

Minimalist lifestyles – I can identify with that

Perhaps as a spin-off to the shared economy (Air B&B, Uber, etc.), a growing number of people are practising what is known as minimalist lifestyles. And going to lectures on it, as if it’s something new.

Well, it’s not new. Without giving it a name as such, I’ve been practising a minimalist lifestyle since I was a child. I had no interest in buying clothes when I was a child (which is still the case), I’ve never owned a house, my first car 30 years ago was shared with another friend and we used to let others use it for a nominal charge, my interest in buying “things” equals my interest in buying clothes, etc.

But I’m very interested in people, social issues, feminism, environmental concerns, growing food, riding horses, etc. They are what matters to me – the rest is irrelevant.