Whales are more Important to Climate Change than Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has pulled the USA out of the Paris Climate accord. And I don’t think this matters all that much. For a start, the USA’s emissions are falling. Mostly this is because coal is being replaced by Natural Gas, but also because people are driving less, in smaller vehicles with ever more efficient engines. The motors driving the west’s steady fall in carbon emissions are economic and technological, not political.
Next to the steady decline in carbon emissions from the west, is set a vast increase in emissions from Asia. This represents a shift from billions of people using no net carbon energy, tending crops using animal muscle and burning biomass (and occasionally starving to death) Just a few decades ago, to meeting an Indian chap who was on holiday in Stockholm with his family, and chatting about cricket while we tried to decipher the train times. The rise of a middle class in India and China is a huge flowering of human potential, even if it comes with soluble environmental problems.
As a result of worldwide economic development, the level of Co2 in the atmosphere is rising, and this is changing the climate. Reducing carbon emissions is a noble aim, but it must not get in the way of developing economies’ economic growth. Fortunately, the solution is already with us. Renewable technology is improving. Cars are getting more efficient, and perhaps moving away from fossil fuel (at least directly). And this process will happen in India and China more quickly than it did in the west because adopting what will be soon proven and cheap technology will enable them to miss whole generations of polluting technologies.

Which brings us to the great cetaceans. The southern ocean is the world’s biggest habitat, with the world’s shortest food chain, at the top of which sits the largest animal that has ever existed on earth. The food chain runs like this: Phytoplankton bloom, and are eaten by zooplankton, which are eaten by fish larvae and krill, which are eaten buy just about everything else. The biggest eaters of krill are the baleen whales the biggest of which turn five tons of Krill into iron-rich turds every day. Sperm whales meanwhile are diving to the abyssal deep, turning several tons of squid (including another of my favourite species, Architeuthis dux)  into iron-rich scat and in doing so, moving nutrients from the deep to the surface.

The limiting nutrient at the bottom of the food-chain is iron, so whale faeces fertilise the ocean, and enable more phytoplankton to grow which absorb Co2 from  the air, much of which falls to the bottom of the ocean as marine snow, and eventually become rock. But we killed the whales, and when we stopped doing so, they didn’t recover as quickly as we hoped. We didn’t just kill the apex predators, in doing so, humanity reduced the Southern ocean’s ecosystem’s capacity to create life, and absorb Carbon. The southern ocean may have settled at a lower equilibrium of Iron circulation. The Atlantic on the other hand, which gets tons of Iron from the African deserts every time the wind blows, has seen whale stocks recover better.

Which is why I want to see more research into Iron seeding the ocean, which may give a leg up to Balaenoptera musculus, as well as possibly solving climate change. Climate change is a problem. But while Trump’s petulant gesture doesn’t help us solve it, nor does it make the problem all that much harder. Politicians simply matter less than a whale taking a dump.

Fidel Castro is Dead. (Some of) his Legacy will Live on

Let’s be clear, Castro was a murderous bastard who impoverished his country, and whose views on homosexuality and on the importance of brevity in speeches were nothing short of horrifying. It’s true, Cubans do have access to better healthcare than many countries of equivalent GDP per capita, and if I had to choose a Communist hell-hole to live in, it’d probably be Castro’s Cuba. But the Cuban healthcare system is not the fantasy of western dewey-eyed left-wingers, and Cubans often are excluded from what excellence there is, as it’s one of the few means the country has of generating hard currency earnings. Rich foreigners get the best doctors, and more are exported to other successful “progressive” regimes like Venezuela.
“But he was an anti-imperialist”. So why were cuban troops in Africa in support of the USSR, which was by any measure or definition an Empire? Anti-Imperialsim is just the justification leftists give for knee-jerk anti-Americanism. And the flood of people risking death to reach the USA should tell you all you need to know about the relative merits of America’s and Cuba’s system.
Contrasting the attitudes of the USA to Castro, to their attitude to equally murderous bastards like Pinochet misses the point. The US embargo on Cuba is one of the legacies of the Cold war, kept bubbling by the politics of Florida, home to so many Cuban-Americans. There is no Doubt that the US blocade has impoverished Cubans, and that with the fall in the Berlin wall and the collapse of the USSR, such an embargo was no longer justified. However politics are what they are. Fidel Castro’s death provides an opportunity for further thawing in relations.
The USA supported “our son of a bitch” all over the world, turning a blind-eye to horrific human rights abuses, though often (albeit less often than we should) working behind the scenes to try and mitigate the worst behaviour. Thatcher is rarely credited with preventing the execution of Nelson Mandela, but she consistently urged Mandela’s release, even as she argued against sanctions and branding the ANC “Terrorists”. This is one reason why the cold-war piles of dead of Nasty fascist bastards are usually lower than those of nasty communist bastards. I also think the point made by CS Lewis holds. Right wing dictators rarely pretend to be GOOD, making their appeal more on effectiveness.
“The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
And one by one, following the collapse of Communism, the support from the USA and its allies for these disgusting regimes was withdrawn. Apartheid South Africa, much of South and Central America saw right authoritarian regimes fall. Genuine democracies were often created in the rubble. The USA didn’t support dictators because the USA is an imperialist power, but because it IS a power, and with that comes responsibility. They judged at the time the alternative, Communism, was worse, and represented a genuine existential threat to the USA and its core allies.
This is why for example the USA and its allies mostly support the Regime in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime is repellent, but given the probable alternatives wouldn’t be nice, liberal, democratic-minded progressives, they’d be salafist nutcases who’d have access to billions of dollars of oil revenues and the legitimacy of being the Guardians of the Two Mosques. The House of Saud is all that stands between the West and a plausible salafist caliphate with sufficient legitimacy and money to one day threaten the west. We’d rather do business with nice, stable democracies under the rule of law. But seeing as we cannot do to every country on earth what we did to Germany in the late 40s and 50s, we make the best of the options given.
Castro appeared to be a true beleiver in Socialism, so he refused to recognise his philosophy had failed, and his island limped on, a socialist throwback in the age of globalisation. The current poverty of Cuba is partly America’s doing, but mostly due to decisions made by Castro himself, policies which set him and the Cuban people at odds with the regional hegemon, in persuit of an evil idealogy. Fidel Castro was on the wrong side of history, and his people suffered because of his stubborness. Now he’s dead, it’s Cubans turn to make the most of the positive legacy – Cubans are the best-educated poor people on earth, and the mighty economy of the USA is right on their doorstep. There is going to be a lot of money to be made there, and this time, for the first time, Cubans will share in it.