But you might be wondering if certain dog breeds are better for living with families than others.
The Dodo spoke with Iris Ulbrich, a behavior consultant and owner at Trust Your Dog in Los Angeles, who explained why you should actually pay more attention to a pup’s personality than his breed.
The best dog breeds for families
While there are some dog breeds that tend to be a bit more inclined for family life, it’s super important to remember that breed is not everything.
“Yes, there are characteristics that are tied to dog’s breed, but a lot has to do with the quality of breeding as well as the first few months of a puppy’s life,” Ulbrich told The Dodo.
What’s most important is an individual dog’s personality because, ultimately, that will determine whether or not he will work great in a family environment, regardless of his breed.
With that in mind, here are some dog breeds that — on average — tend to have traits that make them good family pets:
“Both [Labradors and golden retrievers] are very friendly, active, good with kids and eager to please,” Ulbrich explained.
As for wheaten terriers, they don’t shed. So if someone in your family has allergies, these terriers could be a good fit.
“Collies are very devoted family dogs and can be both very active but also know how to relax and be calm at home,” Ulbrich said.
That being said, these are just generalizations! There are some labs out there who are absolutely terrible with kids — and literally millions of individual dogs from breeds not on this list who are perfect family pets.
Which is why your best bet is to go to a rescue center, where adoption counselors can match you with a pup who has the exact personality you’re looking for.
Personality traits that make a dog the best fit for a family
Since personality is far more important than breed when finding your perfect pup, you should know which traits to look for in your family’s potential new addition.
After all, a rescue is going to help you find a dog that’ll vibe with you and your loved ones, since you’ll be able to pick a pup with a fully formed personality. If you get a puppy from a breeder, on the other hand, you’ll have no idea if he’ll grow up to be a good match for your family.
When it comes to finding the best dog for your family, here’s the personality traits Ulbrich recommends you look for.
“A healthy amount of energy in combination with eagerness to please their owner is usually a great combination,” Ulbrich said.
And since families are all different, it’s actually most important to look for a dog that’ll mesh with your family’s interests, hobbies and lifestyles.
“An active and outdoorsy family with slightly older kids that live in a house would pick a different dog to a family that lives in an apartment and has twin toddlers,” Ulbrich explained.
In those cases, both of those potential pups might not even be any of the breeds listed above, since it all boils down to each individual pup’s personality.
“A dog’s demeanor also plays a big role in [a] successful family integration,” Ulbrich said. “I try and recommend people ask a trainer to temperament test a puppy before making a final decision on breed and particular puppy within a litter.”
And since that individual temperament is so important, any dog breed can be the best dog breed for your family.
I hadn’t thought of it before but Iris Ulbrich stating that personality was far more important than the breed of the dog. Of course! Perfect sense! And always take in a rescue dog!
Yet another article about a sweet dog! Keep them coming!
I know Jeannie and I are very biased but so are millions, literally, of other good folk around the world. I am speaking of people who love dogs. And thank goodness that is the case because The Dodo is just one of a number of doggie websites and in the absence of such websites Learning from Dogs would have never got started!
So I am pleased to present another story from The Dodo about Levi. Read on:
Very Sweet Dog Always Welcomes Mom Home With A Gift
Levi knows to never greet someone empty-handed. The Lab mix gets so excited every time his mom comes home that he immediately has to find the perfect gift to show his love.
However, when it comes to Levi’s presents, his mom knows it’s the thought that counts.
“The very first thing that stands out was when he brought me an open, half-chewed box of screws,” Lori Eddins, Levi’s mom, told The Dodo. “So I took him to the vet for X-rays.”
Thankfully, Levi hadn’t snacked on any of the hardware and got a clean bill of health, but Eddins’ reaction to the “gift” encouraged Levi to start an adorable routine.
“I think my begging and baby-talking for him to surrender the box of screws might be what inspired his deliveries,” Eddins said. “He thought it was great!”
Now, the rescue dog always gives his mom something special when she comes home after a hard day’s work.
“He has brought everything from his toys, to bones and blankets, to clumps of grass, pieces of cardboard or paper (I call them ‘cards’) and landscape timber,” Eddins said. “My favorite was when he found where the flower bed had been cleaned out and he brought me flowers.”
“If he meets me at the gate empty-handed, I let him carry my keys to the door, and he is so proud,” she added.
Some of Levi’s gifts are not necessarily what Eddins would pick out for herself. Occasionally, he’ll bring her clumps of horse manure or try to pick up one of the chickens on the property to deliver to his mom.
Though Eddins’ chickens aren’t so fond of this gift-giving, Eddins is so grateful to have such a generous, happy-go-lucky dog bringing joy to her life — and she makes sure Levi knows it.
“I give him huge hugs and thank him as if he brought me the winning lottery ticket,” Eddins said. “Most things I give back to him, some end up in the trash. I did keep the flowers!”
It is a delightful story and one that rings true for so many people. Lori knows the golden rule in the way that she praises Levi.
Always make a dog feel as though he or she is such a special animal that life wouldn’t work without that dog. Always praise them and when a dog does something negative do not punish them. Just don’t praise them.
“She was so determined that there was something amazing at the bottom of the box, and couldn’t get to it quick enough.”
While Noora is a lazy bulldog at heart, she’s grown up around a bunch of Labs, so over time, she’s slowly become more and more fascinated with the concept of tennis balls.
“Noora has almost always had a tennis ball-obsessed Lab in the house with her, and while the concept of repetitively chasing a tennis ball makes no sense to her, she’s intrigued by the obsession with something she can’t eat,” Katie Swartout, Noora’s mom, told The Dodo.
Noora’s family definitely goes through a lot of balls, so when they recently found a great deal on a box of 350 tennis balls, everyone was pretty excited — including Noora.
“Noora LOVES when packages come,” Swartout said. “It started with BarkBoxes coming to the door, and the queen of the house deciding that every box that comes must be for her! When this box came, Noora immediately started crying for joy, and doing everything she could to get into the box!”
As her family opened the box, Noora got a little overexcited — and quickly dumped the entire box all over the living room floor.
Instead of excitedly playing with every single ball, though, Noora dug her way to the bottom of the box, and found the one ball that she had apparently been looking for.
“She was so determined that there was something amazing at the bottom of the box, and couldn’t get to it quick enough,” Swartout said.
Once Noora had picked out her ball, and subsequently spilled the rest of them onto the floor, she refused to play with any of the others. Out of the 350 balls, there was only one that was meant for her.
“For a few hours, Noora wanted nothing to do with any other ball or toy,” Swartout said. “She was very protective of ‘her ball’ and if any of the other dogs would come near, she made sure they were aware of who was boss!”
For some reason, that one ball at the very bottom of the box was the only one Noora wanted, and she was completely confident in that decision.
Eventually, though, Noora got bored of her coveted chosen ball and went on with her life — until she rediscovered the box. Then she got excited all over again.
“Noora has moved on to other toys, demonstrating she has the attention span of a 3-year-old, but when she sees the bin of tennis balls in the garage now, she still gets as excited as she did when the box first arrived,” Swartout said.
You see! We don’t really know what Noora is thinking of but that doesn’t take away for one moment the joy that Katie gets from Noora’s behaviour!
To be honest this is more about the Spitfire! The Spitfire SX336.
Raymond was working on the design of his dog tags and to nail stuff about the way to make them, the material thickness, how to work with it (2MM thick brass) and how to stop them failing, when he turned to a contact he had who is a Spitfire Engineer. At that point Ian, the contact, was up the road from Hertfordshire at The Shuttleworth Collection, getting AR501 back in the air.
However, mid-2019 he moved across the airfield to Kennet Aviation. That’s the home of Spitfire XVII.
At that point Raymond was still pestering for help with a fair few aspects of the manufacturing, from working with the five-ton fly-press that was recommended (from a closed aircraft factory south of Birmingham) to using high-speed polishing tools, but – above all – the position of the hole in relation to the edge of the tag, which is the same distance rivets are from the edge of the wing in a Spitfire.
In return, Raymond offered to build a few websites, one for Kennet Engineering and one for Kennet Aviation. Both the same company really, the Engineering one to try and get more work for a few huge and expensive CNC machines they’ve recently acquired to make spitfire parts they couldn’t get hold of.
Anyway, it was when researching regarding the Spitfire that he, Raymond, came across my Spitfire content and obviously noticed the title of the website he was looking at: LearningFromDogs.com, saw I had a tremendous-looking book and thought ‘hang on a minute!’ this is all too much of a coincidence, he must say hello AND introduce me (Paul) to the SX336.
So Raymond finally said ‘hello’ and let me know there is indeed another Spitfire still flying somewhere in the world.
At approximately 3pm on Tuesday 25 April 2017 The Shuttleworth Collection’s Spitfire under restoration fired into life for the first time in 12 years.
A first stage engine run took place on the airfield with volunteers who have been working on the project watching with fingers crossed. The Spitfire has recently been fitted with new propeller and spinner, with testing on all systems from hydraulics, electrical, coolant and air being undertaken in the engineer workshop where visitors have been able to follow the project’s progress.
Project engineer Ian Laraman expressed his relief that all had gone to plan, saying, “With any engine being tested for the first time you always hope it will run smoothly, and happily today the Spitfire’s first engine run couldn’t have gone any better. Higher power runs will now follow, which will give us a better indication of how close we are to flight testing, but for now hearing this aircraft powered up again after all the work that’s gone into it has just been fantastic!”
The coolant systems will now be flushed out, and checks carried out on the oil filters in advance of further testing of the Spitfire’s 1,440hp Rolls Royce Merlin V12 engine in the next fortnight. To follow the progress of AR501 as it moves toward the end of its restoration come along to see the aircraft in the engineering hangar or follow The Collection’s Facebook and Twitter pages!
As can happen from time to time, I was contacted by Ray Dunthorne in England. He very kindly said that he had been following Learning from Dogs for a while and also was aware of my previous interest in flying.
So I emailed Ray saying that I would love to publish his account as a guest post and lo and behold in came the following story.
The Story of Lulu
Ah hello again, I’ll try ever so hard not to give you my full life story, but just stuff you might find interesting and relevant, but can’t promise to get the balance right!
Willows Activity Farm St Albans
My adult dog journey began with Lulu, 15 years ago, but the seed was sown some 5 years earlier at a city farm. We’d gone with the then middle-born five-year-old for his birthday party. The shepherd who did herding demonstrations was over from New Zealand and had two dogs who’d just had a litter of puppies, which we were shown. We’d never heard of the New Zealand Huntaway, it was described as a combination of German Shepherd, Border Collie and Labrador, with a few other breeds thrown in for good measure.
They’d been consistently bred in, yes, you guessed it, New Zealand for over 100 years, specifically to help move large herds of sheep or cattle over long distances. The agile New Zealand Huntaway became known for its ability to move across packed, penned herds by leaping from the back of one sheep to another. Its loud LOUD bark was also required, as if not busy barking to get cattle or sheep moving, the Huntaway would be sent after a sheep or lamb that had strayed out of sight, hold it down (I don’t know how) and BARK so the shepherd could locate the unruly pair.
Little thought was given to the New Zealand Huntaway for a few years, when – on the other side of divorce – my then ex-wife and I decided to get a dog to raise collaboratively, to keep the disparate family united in some way. Divorce-wise, it wasn’t so amicable initially, as these things usually aren’t, but soon settled down with the three growing boys being the priority.
Lime End Farm, Sussex
Of course we couldn’t agree on the type of dog. I’d always wanted a German Shepherd, madame a Border Collie and a Labrador was a popular choice with Stanley, Arthur and Sidney (the aforementioned three boys). I bet you can tell where this is going. Yes, I remembered the New Zealand Huntaway. In 2006, it was a lot harder to find a litter in the UK than it is now, but I did. Down on a farm in Sussex. Lulu’s mum and dad were also over from New Zealand with a shepherd, this one herding cattle at Lime End Dairy Farm.
Lime End is in Herstmonceux, East Sussex, which is as Olde English countryside as it sounds, with a castle and an annual Medieval festival to complete the picture.
As soon as we arrived in the classic farm yard, all the puppies bumbled out to say hello, emerging three at a time from under an old caravan where they’d been sheltering from the sun. Their dad, Lord Toro was tied to a nearby barn, doing some general barking ‘he’s frightened of the puppies’ the lady told us. The nine puppies all toppled about us for a few minutes, then all rushed off to find dinner. All except one.
Eight week old Lulu came back with me, Sidney and Helen, my new girlfriend at the time, who I’d charmingly had to borrow the £300 needed to secure Lulu from. It was a four or five hour round trip for the three of us, four including Lulu. A bonding opportunity all round.
I always remember that – to add to the idyllic Sussex farm scene, as if it wasn’t enough like a scene from a film Hugh Grant drives a Mini in – just as we were leaving, an old barn door got pushed open from the inside and a litter of Border Collie puppies and their mum and dad ran out, to say hello to the remaining Huntaways and good bye to us.
Best Laid Plans
The wisdom of bringing that hard-working herding dog into two separate St Albans houses didn’t cross my mind. It probably should have, especially as my ‘house’ was a rented Maisonette, no dogs aloud. The theory was Lulu would be at the children’s house in the week, mine along with the children at the weekends. It didn’t turn out like that.
After a few months both me and my ex-wife got short contracts that meant heading off to work in an office for the day. Far from ideal, but no money at that point meant no choice. At least it was only temporary. Lulu would have been about six months old by then and absolutely should not have been left alone FOR A SECOND.
The office was just 15 minutes away (PC World, Maylands, Hemel Hempstead). I did manage to pop back at lunchtime most days and a child would pop round a few hours later after school. New Zealand Huntaways are like any puppy only more so. They need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation, or else you will pay.
A novice dog guardian then, I learned everything the hard way. Before her first birthday, Lulu had removed the floor covering in the kitchen and the lounge. She’d moved a large old cathode ray TV across the room, knocked bookshelves over and generally done over £1,000 of damage. I know it was that much because I got a bill from the landlord. I paid.
What dogs do
I will cut to the end here. That was in the first year of Lulu’s life.
The contract I mentioned was my first proper BIG company for the digital stuff I was doing, without it I wouldn’t have been able to have the career I’ve had, which started late as I accidentally tried to be a musician for ten years. Not too successfully. That doesn’t matter though.
The 14 years has gone by and even Sidney, who was about five years old when he came with us to East Sussex to meet Lulu, has gone off to university, the older two long-since moved away, to Nottingham and London respectively, leaving me, Lulu and my Helen, that new girlfriend who’d come to Sussex with us on that early date, who moved in a year or so later and is still here.
What Lulu did was tie us all together. Yes, she was a nightmare initially. Yes, she would run away, out of sight chasing imaginary deer, for 30 or 40 minutes at a time. Yes, she’d bark at everything, constantly herding the children when they were small, stopping them from fighting among each other as they got bigger, becoming more and more generally in control and charming with each year. Almost without us noticing. All of a sudden, she was one of us. Not a pet, not a ‘furry friend’, not even a dog really.
She could sense when someone was ill or in distress and would attend accordingly. She loved small children and even when in a fierce mood, if a small child the same size as her approached, she would sit down and raise her head waiting for a pair of tiny arms to be thrown around her. It had all just got normal for us. Pretty much every time when we were out with her, she’d do something that would further add to our respect for her understanding of what’s going on. She WAS one of us.
Now it’s all gone
It’s only when Lulu was finally gone I noticed everything else that’s passed too. All that time, pretty much my entire career, moving from acrimoniously divorced to getting along just fine and concentrating on giving the three boys as good a start as we could manage. The three boys no longer the children they were when Lulu was working out her role in the family, now all long-since scarpered and working harder than I ever have.
My career is pretty much done too. I’m finding it harder to get new contracts or jobs in digital. ‘What are you doing working in digital? I thought that was a young man’s game’ one marketing director interviewing me for a dull digital role I didn’t want tactfully said, almost ten years ago too. I won’t say where, for reasons of professional discretion (David Lloyd Leisure, Hatfield, Monday 4th March 2013)
Lulu’s Legacy is Ten Year Tags
Phew, we’re getting up to date at last. Lulu lost dog name tags like it was something she was born to do. Sometimes in a few months, sometimes in a few days. We got through dozens. I’m a bit slow on the uptake, it took me a while to work out the dog name tags on the market just might not be up to the job.
It took about a year of fact-finding, market assessment and trying to work out how to make a better dog name tag before I was ready to start planning the equipment we needed. Having wasted months liaising with companies in China to get the tags made in volume, I gave up on that idea to both keep our carbon footprint down AND have more control over any supply chain and not have to worry about any one critical supplier.
With over 9 million dogs in the UK alone, there’s a good sized market. Research quickly revealed this ubiquitous, low price point product has largely been ignored, especially digitally. Consequently many competitors are getting away with minimal product quality and poor customer experience (I’ll come back to this). This surprised me, as not many products pretty much anyone can manufacture are actuallyrequired by law in the UK courtesy of a stupidly out of date Dog Tag Law.
I pretty much, at least subliminally, thank Lulu for every tag I press out and when it’s a busy day that started at 6 am and is only drawing to a close with a 6pm trip to the sorting office with a sack of 50 or more orders, I’m ever so grateful to Lulu, as without her showing us the flaws in all those substandard products over the years, patiently waiting until Raymond here got the hint, we probably wouldn’t be coping at all right now. Lulu is still looking after us.
Thank you, Ray.
This is such a delightful story. So much so that I am going to post another story for Saturday. Namely, a short article, broadly written by Ray, and featuring the Spitfire.
Since No More Pain Rescue doesn’t have a physical shelter, Mahnken and Favor needed to get Ashley straight into a foster home. They had friends in the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), and knew there used to be a dog at the Fort Pitt station. So Mahnken and Favor asked if the firefighters would hold onto Ashley until they found her a proper home.
Ashley seemed just fine with this arrangement.
“As soon as she walked into the firehouse, her tail was wagging, and she was licking and greeting everybody,” Mahnken said. “She was super happy. From where she came from, you wouldn’t really expect that. You would think that she’d be a little skittish, but she wasn’t at all.”
“They said, ‘We’re going to adopt her. We just love her so much. She is at home here,'” Mahnken said. “So I was thrilled. And as soon as I walked her in there, I knew that that’s where she belonged.”
Ashley now lives at the firehouse full-time.
“She’s constantly on the go – she goes on smaller runs with them, she goes on the fire truck with them,” Mahnken said. “They walk her about 30 times a day. They bring her on the roof to play. She’s constantly in the kitchen watching them eat. She has endless supplies of treats. She has the life over there.”
Ashley even has her seat in the fire truck, according to Mahnken.
“I’m so glad we got her into a home that will show her nothing but love, and not make her into the pit bull that people love to hate so quickly,” Mahnken said. “It was an unbelievable feeling to know that that’s where she belonged.”
Four years later, Ashley is still loving her life at the firehouse — and the fire fighters love her.
Just another example of what good loving people can do for a dog and the dog’s obvious pleasure at being loved.
Sometimes realisation comes in a blinding flash. Blurred outlines snap into shape and suddenly it all makes sense. Underneath such revelations is typically a much slower-dawning process. Doubts at the back of the mind grow. The sense of confusion that things cannot be made to fit together increases until something clicks. Or perhaps snaps.
Collectively we three authors of this article must have spent more than 80 years thinking about climate change. Why has it taken us so long to speak out about the obvious dangers of the concept of net zero? In our defence, the premise of net zero is deceptively simple – and we admit that it deceived us.
The threats of climate change are the direct result of there being too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So it follows that we must stop emitting more and even remove some of it. This idea is central to the world’s current plan to avoid catastrophe. In fact, there are many suggestions as to how to actually do this, from mass tree planting, to high tech direct air capture devices that suck out carbon dioxide from the air.
The current consensus is that if we deploy these and other so-called “carbon dioxide removal” techniques at the same time as reducing our burning of fossil fuels, we can more rapidly halt global warming. Hopefully around the middle of this century we will achieve “net zero”. This is the point at which any residual emissions of greenhouse gases are balanced by technologies removing them from the atmosphere.
This is a great idea, in principle. Unfortunately, in practice it helps perpetuate a belief in technological salvation and diminishes the sense of urgency surrounding the need to curb emissions now.
We have arrived at the painful realisation that the idea of net zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier “burn now, pay later” approach which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar. It has also hastened the destruction of the natural world by increasing deforestation today, and greatly increases the risk of further devastation in the future.
To understand how this has happened, how humanity has gambled its civilisation on no more than promises of future solutions, we must return to the late 1980s, when climate change broke out onto the international stage.
Steps towards net zero
On June 22 1988, James Hansen was the administrator of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a prestigious appointment but someone largely unknown outside of academia.
By the afternoon of the 23rd he was well on the way to becoming the world’s most famous climate scientist. This was as a direct result of his testimony to the US congress, when he forensically presented the evidence that the Earth’s climate was warming and that humans were the primary cause: “The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.”
If we had acted on Hansen’s testimony at the time, we would have been able to decarbonise our societies at a rate of around 2% a year in order to give us about a two-in-three chance of limiting warming to no more than 1.5°C. It would have been a huge challenge, but the main task at that time would have been to simply stop the accelerating use of fossil fuels while fairly sharing out future emissions.
Four years later, there were glimmers of hope that this would be possible. During the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, all nations agreed to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gases to ensure that they did not produce dangerous interference with the climate. The 1997 Kyoto Summit attempted to start to put that goal into practice. But as the years passed, the initial task of keeping us safe became increasingly harder given the continual increase in fossil fuel use.
It was around that time that the first computer models linking greenhouse gas emissions to impacts on different sectors of the economy were developed. These hybrid climate-economic models are known as Integrated Assessment Models. They allowed modellers to link economic activity to the climate by, for example, exploring how changes in investments and technology could lead to changes in greenhouse gas emissions.
They seemed like a miracle: you could try out policies on a computer screen before implementing them, saving humanity costly experimentation. They rapidly emerged to become key guidance for climate policy. A primacy they maintain to this day.
Unfortunately, they also removed the need for deep critical thinking. Such models represent society as a web of idealised, emotionless buyers and sellers and thus ignore complex social and political realities, or even the impacts of climate change itself. Their implicit promise is that market-based approaches will always work. This meant that discussions about policies were limited to those most convenient to politicians: incremental changes to legislation and taxes.
Around the time they were first developed, efforts were being made to secure US action on the climate by allowing it to count carbon sinks of the country’s forests. The US argued that if it managed its forests well, it would be able to store a large amount of carbon in trees and soil which should be subtracted from its obligations to limit the burning of coal, oil and gas. In the end, the US largely got its way. Ironically, the concessions were all in vain, since the US senate never ratified the agreement.
Postulating a future with more trees could in effect offset the burning of coal, oil and gas now. As models could easily churn out numbers that saw atmospheric carbon dioxide go as low as one wanted, ever more sophisticated scenarios could be explored which reduced the perceived urgency to reduce fossil fuel use. By including carbon sinks in climate-economic models, a Pandora’s box had been opened.
It’s here we find the genesis of today’s net zero policies.
That said, most attention in the mid-1990s was focused on increasing energy efficiency and energy switching (such as the UK’s move from coal to gas) and the potential of nuclear energy to deliver large amounts of carbon-free electricity. The hope was that such innovations would quickly reverse increases in fossil fuel emissions.
But by around the turn of the new millennium it was clear that such hopes were unfounded. Given their core assumption of incremental change, it was becoming more and more difficult for economic-climate models to find viable pathways to avoid dangerous climate change. In response, the models began to include more and more examples of carbon capture and storage, a technology that could remove the carbon dioxide from coal-fired power stations and then store the captured carbon deep underground indefinitely.
This had been shown to be possible in principle: compressed carbon dioxide had been separated from fossil gas and then injected underground in a number of projects since the 1970s. These Enhanced Oil Recovery schemes were designed to force gases into oil wells in order to push oil towards drilling rigs and so allow more to be recovered – oil that would later be burnt, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Carbon capture and storage offered the twist that instead of using the carbon dioxide to extract more oil, the gas would instead be left underground and removed from the atmosphere. This promised breakthrough technology would allow climate friendly coal and so the continued use of this fossil fuel. But long before the world would witness any such schemes, the hypothetical process had been included in climate-economic models. In the end, the mere prospect of carbon capture and storage gave policy makers a way out of making the much needed cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.
The rise of net zero
When the international climate change community convened in Copenhagen in 2009 it was clear that carbon capture and storage was not going to be sufficient for two reasons.
First, it still did not exist. There were no carbon capture and storage facilities in operation on any coal fired power station and no prospect the technology was going to have any impact on rising emissions from increased coal use in the foreseeable future.
The biggest barrier to implementation was essentially cost. The motivation to burn vast amounts of coal is to generate relatively cheap electricity. Retrofitting carbon scrubbers on existing power stations, building the infrastructure to pipe captured carbon, and developing suitable geological storage sites required huge sums of money. Consequently the only application of carbon capture in actual operation then – and now – is to use the trapped gas in enhanced oil recovery schemes. Beyond a single demonstrator, there has never been any capture of carbon dioxide from a coal fired power station chimney with that captured carbon then being stored underground.
Just as important, by 2009 it was becoming increasingly clear that it would not be possible to make even the gradual reductions that policy makers demanded. That was the case even if carbon capture and storage was up and running. The amount of carbon dioxide that was being pumped into the air each year meant humanity was rapidly running out of time.
With hopes for a solution to the climate crisis fading again, another magic bullet was required. A technology was needed not only to slow down the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but actually reverse it. In response, the climate-economic modelling community – already able to include plant-based carbon sinks and geological carbon storage in their models – increasingly adopted the “solution” of combining the two.
So it was that Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage, or BECCS, rapidly emerged as the new saviour technology. By burning “replaceable” biomass such as wood, crops, and agricultural waste instead of coal in power stations, and then capturing the carbon dioxide from the power station chimney and storing it underground, BECCS could produce electricity at the same time as removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That’s because as biomass such as trees grow, they suck in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By planting trees and other bioenergy crops and storing carbon dioxide released when they are burnt, more carbon could be removed from the atmosphere.
With this new solution in hand the international community regrouped from repeated failures to mount another attempt at reining in our dangerous interference with the climate. The scene was set for the crucial 2015 climate conference in Paris.
A Parisian false dawn
As its general secretary brought the 21st United Nations conference on climate change to an end, a great roar issued from the crowd. People leaped to their feet, strangers embraced, tears welled up in eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep.
The emotions on display on December 13, 2015 were not just for the cameras. After weeks of gruelling high-level negotiations in Paris a breakthrough had finally been achieved. Against all expectations, after decades of false starts and failures, the international community had finally agreed to do what it took to limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.
But dig a little deeper and you could find another emotion lurking within delegates on December 13. Doubt. We struggle to name any climate scientist who at that time thought the Paris Agreement was feasible. We have since been told by some scientists that the Paris Agreement was “of course important for climate justice but unworkable” and “a complete shock, no one thought limiting to 1.5°C was possible”. Rather than being able to limit warming to 1.5°C, a senior academic involved in the IPCC concluded we were heading beyond 3°C by the end of this century.
Instead of confront our doubts, we scientists decided to construct ever more elaborate fantasy worlds in which we would be safe. The price to pay for our cowardice: having to keep our mouths shut about the ever growing absurdity of the required planetary-scale carbon dioxide removal.
Taking centre stage was BECCS because at the time this was the only way climate-economic models could find scenarios that would be consistent with the Paris Agreement. Rather than stabilise, global emissions of carbon dioxide had increased some 60% since 1992.
Alas, BECCS, just like all the previous solutions, was too good to be true.
Across the scenarios produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with a 66% or better chance of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C, BECCS would need to remove 12 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. BECCS at this scale would require massive planting schemes for trees and bioenergy crops.
The Earth certainly needs more trees. Humanity has cut down some three trillion since we first started farming some 13,000 years ago. But rather than allow ecosystems to recover from human impacts and forests to regrow, BECCS generally refers to dedicated industrial-scale plantations regularly harvested for bioenergy rather than carbon stored away in forest trunks, roots and soils.
Currently, the two most efficient biofuels are sugarcane for bioethanol and palm oil for biodiesel – both grown in the tropics. Endless rows of such fast growing monoculture trees or other bioenergy crops harvested at frequent intervals devastate biodiversity.
It has been estimated that BECCS would demand between 0.4 and 1.2 billion hectares of land. That’s 25% to 80% of all the land currently under cultivation. How will that be achieved at the same time as feeding 8-10 billion people around the middle of the century or without destroying native vegetation and biodiversity?
Growing billions of trees would consume vast amounts of water – in some places where people are already thirsty. Increasing forest cover in higher latitudes can have an overall warming effect because replacing grassland or fields with forests means the land surface becomes darker. This darker land absorbs more energy from the Sun and so temperatures rise. Focusing on developing vast plantations in poorer tropical nations comes with real risks of people being driven off their lands.
And it is often forgotten that trees and the land in general already soak up and store away vast amounts of carbon through what is called the natural terrestrial carbon sink. Interfering with it could both disrupt the sink and lead to double accounting.
As these impacts are becoming better understood, the sense of optimism around BECCS has diminished.
Given the dawning realisation of how difficult Paris would be in the light of ever rising emissions and limited potential of BECCS, a new buzzword emerged in policy circles: the “overshoot scenario”. Temperatures would be allowed to go beyond 1.5°C in the near term, but then be brought down with a range of carbon dioxide removal by the end of the century. This means that net zero actually means carbon negative. Within a few decades, we will need to transform our civilisation from one that currently pumps out 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, to one that produces a net removal of tens of billions.
Mass tree planting, for bioenergy or as an attempt at offsetting, had been the latest attempt to stall cuts in fossil fuel use. But the ever-increasing need for carbon removal was calling for more. This is why the idea of direct air capture, now being touted by some as the most promising technology out there, has taken hold. It is generally more benign to ecosystems because it requires significantly less land to operate than BECCS, including the land needed to power them using wind or solar panels.
Unfortunately, it is widely believed that direct air capture, because of its exorbitant costs and energy demand, if it ever becomes feasible to be deployed at scale, will not be able to compete with BECCS with its voracious appetite for prime agricultural land.
It should now be getting clear where the journey is heading. As the mirage of each magical technical solution disappears, another equally unworkable alternative pops up to take its place. The next is already on the horizon – and it’s even more ghastly. Once we realise net zero will not happen in time or even at all, geoengineering – the deliberate and large scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system – will probably be invoked as the solution to limit temperature increases.
One of the most researched geoengineering ideas is solar radiation management – the injection of millions of tons of sulphuric acid into the stratosphere that will reflect some of the Sun’s energy away from the Earth. It is a wild idea, but some academics and politicians are deadly serious, despite significant risks. The US National Academies of Sciences, for example, has recommended allocating up to US$200 million over the next five years to explore how geoengineering could be deployed and regulated. Funding and research in this area is sure to significantly increase.
In principle there is nothing wrong or dangerous about carbon dioxide removal proposals. In fact developing ways of reducing concentrations of carbon dioxide can feel tremendously exciting. You are using science and engineering to save humanity from disaster. What you are doing is important. There is also the realisation that carbon removal will be needed to mop up some of the emissions from sectors such as aviation and cement production. So there will be some small role for a number of different carbon dioxide removal approaches.
The problems come when it is assumed that these can be deployed at vast scale. This effectively serves as a blank cheque for the continued burning of fossil fuels and the acceleration of habitat destruction.
Carbon reduction technologies and geoengineering should be seen as a sort of ejector seat that could propel humanity away from rapid and catastrophic environmental change. Just like an ejector seat in a jet aircraft, it should only be used as the very last resort. However, policymakers and businesses appear to be entirely serious about deploying highly speculative technologies as a way to land our civilisation at a sustainable destination. In fact, these are no more than fairy tales.
The only way to keep humanity safe is the immediate and sustained radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in a socially just way.
Academics typically see themselves as servants to society. Indeed, many are employed as civil servants. Those working at the climate science and policy interface desperately wrestle with an increasingly difficult problem. Similarly, those that champion net zero as a way of breaking through barriers holding back effective action on the climate also work with the very best of intentions.
The tragedy is that their collective efforts were never able to mount an effective challenge to a climate policy process that would only allow a narrow range of scenarios to be explored.
Most academics feel distinctly uncomfortable stepping over the invisible line that separates their day job from wider social and political concerns. There are genuine fears that being seen as advocates for or against particular issues could threaten their perceived independence. Scientists are one of the most trusted professions. Trust is very hard to build and easy to destroy.
But there is another invisible line, the one that separates maintaining academic integrity and self-censorship. As scientists, we are taught to be sceptical, to subject hypotheses to rigorous tests and interrogation. But when it comes to perhaps the greatest challenge humanity faces, we often show a dangerous lack of critical analysis.
In private, scientists express significant scepticism about the Paris Agreement, BECCS, offsetting, geoengineering and net zero. Apart from some notable exceptions, in public we quietly go about our work, apply for funding, publish papers and teach. The path to disastrous climate change is paved with feasibility studies and impact assessments.
Rather than acknowledge the seriousness of our situation, we instead continue to participate in the fantasy of net zero. What will we do when reality bites? What will we say to our friends and loved ones about our failure to speak out now?
The time has come to voice our fears and be honest with wider society. Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate. If we want to keep people safe then large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now. That is the very simple acid test that must be applied to all climate policies. The time for wishful thinking is over.
I can’t add anything to this article because it is written by scientists and that is one thing that I know I am not!
But I can comment as a very concerned adult and really can do more that repeat what I said in yesterday’s post:
Thank goodness for our younger generation. Because these young people are coming together to fight for change. May they have universal encouragement from those of us who will never see our younger days again!
Dan sent me a wonderful photo a couple of days ago!
His covering email also included:
Here was my favourite car of all time. A 1957 Ford hard-top convertible. 312 cu. in. V8 rebuilt with 3/4 race cam and Holly 950 com 4 barrel carb. Reverse traction masters and front lift. Borg-Warner T-10 4 speed with reverse lock out.
Dan went on to add: Tana our wonderful Silver Grey German Shepherd and yes, that’s little bro Chris Gomez at 12 or 13. I was 19 and in Pasadena City College just before going to Switzerland to study French (and ski!) and then into the Navy during the Vietnam War.
Head shape and playfulness can play a part, study finds.
How much time does your dog spend looking into your eyes? It could depend on the shape of their head, among other factors.
Making eye contact is an important part of human relationships and it can be key in person-canine bonding too. But all dogs aren’t equal when it comes to eye gazing, finds a new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports.1
“Eye contact is an important non-verbal signal in humans. We use it in conversations to show that we are paying attention to each other,” study first author Zsófia Bognár, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, tells Treehugger. “Also, the oxytocin levels in both parties rise, which plays a role in the development of social bonding.”
This social connection is easily observed when a bond is formed between a mother and a baby, she points out.
But eye contact is not so important for dog relationships. They don’t look into each other’s eyes very often, and when they do, it’s antagonistic and challenging behavior.1
“Dogs tend to make eye contact with humans, and research found that oxytocin levels also rose in both parties when owners and dogs formed eye contact,” Bognár says. “It is also known that dogs do not behave the same, differences can be found between them.”
Earlier studies found that shorter-headed dogs were more successful at following pointing gestures from humans and watched pictures of faces for longer periods of time.21
Snub-nosed dogs have a more pronounced area in the retina of the eye responsible for central vision, so they can better respond to things happening right in front of them.1 Longer-nosed dogs have a more panoramic vision, so they’re more easily distracted by things going on all around them.1
The researchers decided to see how head shape and other factors also influenced eye contact.
Why Head Shape Matters
Researchers worked with 130 family dogs for the study. First, they measured the length and width of their heads to determine what’s called the cephalic index—the ratio of the maximum length and width of the head.
Short-headed or brachycephalic dog breeds include boxers, bulldogs, and pugs.
Long-headed or dolichocephalic dog breeds include greyhounds, Great Danes, and German shepherds.
Medium-headed or mesocephalic dog breeds include Labrador retrievers, Cocker spaniels, and border collies.
Then, on to the testing.
First, the experimenter would call the dog’s name and reward the dog with a treat. Then the experimenter would stay silent and motionless, waiting for the dog to establish eye contact. They then rewarded the dog with a treat each time eye contact was made.
The experiment ended after five minutes or after 15 episodes of eye contact were made. During this test, the dog’s owner remained in the room (silent, motionless, and not looking at the dog) so the dog wouldn’t be stressed due to separation.
They measured how many times the dog made eye contact as well as how much time elapsed between eating the treat and the next time the dog made eye contact. The team found that the shorter the dog’s nose, the more quickly it made eye contact with the researcher.1
“We assumed that due to this, snub-nosed dogs could focus their attention better to their communication partner because other visual stimuli coming from the periphery could disturb them less,” Bognár says.
But there’s also the chance that pugs, bulldogs, and other similar dogs just get more of a chance to interact with people because of the baby-like way they look.1
“We couldn’t exclude the possibility that these dogs have more opportunity to learn to engage with humans and make eye contact with them,” Bognár says. “Because humans have a preference for ‘baby schema’ features, and the characteristics of snub-nosed dogs’ heads are in accordance with these features, thus the owners of these dogs may pay more attention towards them and are more likely to engage in mutual gaze with their animals.”
Age, Playfulness, and Breed Characteristics
But the head shape wasn’t the only factor that came into play. Researchers found that a dog’s age, playfulness, and general cooperative nature due to breed characteristics all played a role in how much eye contact they made with the experimenter.1
They found dogs that were originally bred to take visual cues made more eye contact. For example, herding dogs who follow directions from the owner to work livestock, are “visually cooperative” breeds that are more likely to make eye contact. Sled dogs that run in front of a musher or dachshunds that are bred to chase prey underground are “visually non-cooperative” breeds that rely on vocal cues and don’t have to see their owners.1
Interestingly, dogs that were mixed breeds performed just as well as cooperative breeds. About 70% of the mixed breed dogs in the study were adopted from a shelter. Maybe their eagerness to make eye contact helped get them adopted in the first place, the researchers suggest.1
The researchers also found that older dogs made less eye contact. They had a harder time controlling their attention and were slower switching from the treat to the experimenter.1
A dog’s playfulness was another factor that impacted eye contact. To measure a dog’s playfulness, the off-leash dog was in a room with the owner. The experimenter walked in with a ball and a rope and offered them to the dog. If the dog chose one, they played with the toy for a minute. If the dog didn’t choose a toy, the experimenter tried to initiate a social interaction.
A dog was given a high playfulness score if it played enthusiastically with the experimenter, brought the ball back at least once, or tugged on the rope. It was given a low playfulness score if it didn’t touch the toys, ran after the ball but didn’t bring it back, or took the rope but didn’t tug on it. Researchers found that dogs with high playfulness were quicker to establish eye contact than dogs with low playfulness.1
“Eye contact can help dogs to decide whether the message/command what the human says/shows are directed to them. They are more likely to execute a command if the human looks at them than shows its back or looks at another human/dog,” Bognár says.
“Dogs also use their gaze to communicate with humans, for example, gaze alternation can be a way to direct humans’ attention to different objects like an unreachable piece of food or a ball,” adds Bognár. “And it can also play a role in social bonding through oxytocin hormone.”
Interesting! No, it is more than that. It is science at work.
Zsófia Bognár, the study’s first author, makes the point that: “Eye contact is an important non-verbal signal in humans. We use it in conversations to show that we are paying attention to each other. Also, the oxytocin levels in both parties rise, which plays a role in the development of social bonding.“
So returning to our dear Oliver we can see that the levels of oxytocin rise in Oliver and in Jean or me depending on who Oliver has engaged with.
Speaking of Oxytocin let’s go across to an article in Psychology Today that explains a little more about this important hormone.
Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It plays an important role in reproduction, initiating contractions before birth as well as milk release. And it is thought to be involved in broader social cognition and behavior, potentially ranging from mother-infant bonding and romantic connection to group-related attitudes and prejudice. The hormone is produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland.
Why Is Oxytocin Called the “Love Hormone?”
Oxytocin has been called “the cuddle hormone” or “the love hormone” due to its association with pair bonding. It appears to help reinforce the early attachment between mothers and their infants, as well as the bonds between romantic partners. Animal research has connected oxytocin (along with another hormone, vasopressin) with the lifelong pair-bonding of prairie voles, and scientists have reported increases in oxytocin levels following orgasm in humans. There is also evidence that increases in oxytocin may encourage prosocial behavior, though not all studies have found these positive results, and some experts have undercut the idea that the hormone is a “trust molecule.”