Archive for December, 2009

The practice of buying climate quotas

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

According to the deal made in Kyoto the Norwegian CO2 emissions are far too high. The government intends to solve this by buying climate or CO2 quotas in diverse projects all over the world.

So far the government has bought quotas for NOK 1,5 bill. or USD 250 mill.. For 2010 the Government  has a budget of NOK 1,22 bill. or USD 203 mill.

The control that the cuts are done as intended is done by the UN via third-party companies like the Norwegian Veritas. The Norwegian government is participating in specific projects,  and the list of projects spans from Africa (South African biomasspower), Asia (Chinese windmills), South America (Chilean compost), etc….

There are no guarantees what happens with the projects, and so far only 660 mill. tons out of the projected 12 bill. tons contracted are in the clear – the rest is waiting for a UN approval.

The system is not fully developed – the practical, legal, practical consequences are not fully in place. There also seems to be two markets – UN and EU with different prices.

2008: In the EU CO2 quotas of about 1600 mill. tons were traded at a price of about EUR 30 per ton. There is criticism the traders are busier making money than achieving emissions cuts! The money must flow into projects of sustainability.

Let us be content that trading has started, money is being pulled in, and gradually we improve the system.

The lame WTO

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

The recent meeting of the World Trade Organisation was barely noticed. Ministers from more than 150 countries came to Geneva to talk about the international trading system. We have a depression, and the world does not care what the WTO does!

The WTO is working on trade wars, protectionism, export-tax rebates, direct subsidies, unfair trade practices, dealing with complaints, trade disputes and all sorts of trade-laws for the international community. This seems to have worked well.

We had the Doha development rounds to try to reduce tariffs and end discrimination against foreign goods, but with no mentionable results. New deals are being made directly between between countries, fragmenting the world and breaking down the WTO stature and its rules.

Political agendas and priorities change, and a number of big bites are already upon politicians plates: climate, financial crises, re-election (always that), emerging heavy entrants on the world stage.

The big question now is how to increase world trade – trade presumably fosters prosperity. Can the WTO come back in that area? Are the participants willing to let it be a force? Are world leaders willing to let trading start?

Media – getting back to itself – in new armour

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Media houses, especially newspapers and TV-channels, are finding it hard to survive in the web-world.  The net has changed the way we do things and more changes are coming via the many writers – bloggers – aggregators that are sprouting.  Anybody can comment – it hardly costs a thing to start – and the amount of information and commentary is already huge. Many of the new channels are now quite good.

But big fixed costs like printing presses, staff are difficult to sustain. New business models are required – the economics of providing information and news is being reinvented.

An independent press has been the ideal for a long time – to give correct information, to balance the forces in a society, to be a watchdog.  At the moment the big question for the old media seems to be survival – nobody seems to be willing to pay them for news and commentary, and advertising is not giving enough income.

At the same time it can be said that the new media are technically oriented, but not very conscious about its role in society. The new technology is truly awesome – it provides vastly improved possibilities.

Apart from technology and business models there is the question of the public availability of information. Public debate is a prerequisite for a sound society. The old media has been taking this job seriously, and in the new world there is a real danger that the flow of information will change. The access can possibly be controlled by “someone”: the state, the “rich”, the organizers of scams, the lobbyists, the spinners, the marketeers (the mad people).

The conspiracy people are now busy telling the world what goes on, and this is probably a good thing.

But surely people are willing to pay for independent news, commentary, good editing. Public openness must be part of our future – transparency, critical journalism, boldness, journalistic depth, digging out information, perspectives.

The new media is surely arising – but we must also get rid of the old media that we don’t need.

Urban progress – new thinking

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Urban visionary Mitchell Joachim
The visionary in urban planning sees stackable cars and houses in trees. Radical thinking in a future green city: Soft and edible cars and new transportation systems, weaving energy-efficient houses into existing trees, making inter-skyscraper blimp ferries.

There are many factors to consider: The goal is to reach a better understanding of ecological urbanism and what cities might be in the future: cities should nurture and sustain themselves! Urbanism carries a carbon footprint beyond the physical limits of the city. Future cities will need to be carbon negative, including off-setting the city’s embodied energy – have you seen a thermo-photographed city?

Can cities increase the production of energy, food and improve public health? The heating of a city is not efficient and well understood and waste control is primitive.

Jobs for the urban planners – get going!

Dangerous art!

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Street artist Banksy makes art dangerous (in hiding)

The outlaw street artist has hidden himself because his art is dangerous and has also made him famous! He is a graffiti man, but he has taken to culture-jamming — painting a hole on a West Bank security wall, hanging a “Mona Lisa” with a smile in the Louvre. What can we expect next?

Streets are no longer boring as he works to bring culture awareness back.


Virtual world coming to you

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Maps of the world are being realized as more and more of the world is being mapped and photographed. Google Maps and Google Earth has already mapped out areas covering half the world’s population and aim to have almost total global coverage in about 5 years. They seem to want the internet to become a mirror world! Or is it virtual reality?

Many good uses can easily be found – The state of California is using it already – Californians are at risk from rising sea levels, a longer dry season has worsened the fire season, less winter snow is harming water supplies. This is illustrated in a Google Earth map unveiled by the state! The edges of San Francisco Bay appear coloured to show the effects of sea level rises of up to 150 cm – San Francisco International Airport would be under water. The map also shows snow density decreases since the 1950s with projections for the future, temperature change, growing fire risks.

Laser technology will enhance the maps: Light detection and ranging LIDAR will furnish you with a three-dimensional map of the ground and objects on the ground, and can show you changes over time – water, forests, animals etc. Ideas for further use, anybody?

Sweden has started laser-mapping the whole country.