Monday, April 11, 2016

As presidential candidates descend on Rochester, think Climate Change

President Reagan launched the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) in order provide a “… comprehensive and integrated United States research program to assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” (THE NATIONAL GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH PLAN 2012–2021)
Just this week, the USGCRP released a compelling report-- HUMAN HEALTH THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON IN THE UNITED STATES—that establishes the scientific relationship between public health and Climate Change. It’s compelling.

White House: Climate Change Poses Urgent Health Risk Climate change is a major threat to human health, with extreme heat likely to kill 27,000 Americans annually by 2100, according to a report released Monday by the White House. The report, by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, outlines numerous ways global warming could devastate public health in the U.S. this century. Global warming will lead to heat waves so extreme that in the hottest times of the year, it will be “physiologically impossible” for people who work outdoors to do their jobs, John Holdren, a science advisor to the Obama administration, said during a news conference about the report. (April 4, 2016) Climate Central

As the presidential candidates descend on Rochester for our NYS primaries this week, we should all reflect for a moment on this report and consider who will lead us during Climate Change. Thirteen agencies of our government contributed to the report on human health; I mention this because, once elected, one of the candidates will be in charge of those 13 governmental agencies.

The next President will be a major factor in our ability to adapt and mitigate Climate Change. Public health is but one of the concerns with Climate Change.

Those candidates who believe that there are more important problems than Climate Change don’t understand that even if the nuclear threat trumps Climate Change, he or she will still have to deal with Climate Change. Our new normal will be public health and Climate Change, social unrest and Climate Change, extreme weather and Climate Change, food and Climate Change, ad Infinitum.  

These presidential candidates coming to Rochester should be pressed hard on their approach to Climate Change. Failure by the media to do so would be shirking their responsibility to us. We should demand that our media not shirk their responsibility.

Time passes. 

Monday, April 04, 2016

Rochester’s Earth Week highlights Paris Agreement and agriculture omission

There have been many Earth Day’s since the first in 1970. Each has been important. Each has been a benchmark along the continuum of our environmental awareness and Climate Change has stoked that fire of concern dramatically. This Earth Day in Rochester, NY is going to be observed within ‘Earth Week 2016: A menu of Climate Actions to Suit Every Taste.’ The theme of food and how its consumption and production is related to Climate Change will showcase one of the historic Paris Agreement’s shortcomings. So, like all the other Earth Day’s, this isn’t just another Earth Day. It’s a reminder, a warning of sorts, that the window of opportunity to prevent catastrophic warming of our life support system is quickly closing and a plea for all to get involved. 

One of the successful parts of the Paris Agreement is a united focus on clean, renewable energy. Already, there are encouraging signs that our energy dependence on fossil fuels is shifting.

Wind and solar are growing at a stunning pace (just not enough to stop climate change) There's good news and sour news on climate change in this hefty new report on renewable energy from the UN and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. (March 24, 2016 VOX

And while this is very good news the increase in clean energy threatens to be too little too late. Good intentions on Climate Change are not enough. Warning: dismal alert -- You are not going to want to hear this:

“Just considering wind power, we found that it would take an annual installation of 485,000 5-megawatt wind turbines by 2028. The equivalent of about 13,000 were installed in 2015. That’s a 37-fold increase in the annual installation rate in only 13 years to achieve just the wind power goal,” Jones says. And similar expansion rates are needed for other renewable energy sources. (WHY ‘PARIS AGREEMENT’ TO LIMIT GLOBAL TEMPS IS DOOMED TO FAIL, March 25, 2016 Futurity)

This is to say we have much to do to make Paris work. First, we need to get the agreement signed and make it official. UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon has asked world leaders to come together this Earth Day and ratify the deal so it can become legally binding. We need 55 nations whose greenhouse gas emissions add up to 55% of the world’s total in order to ratify Paris; if that doesn’t happen this Earth Day, there’s still a year to do so. We can name and shame those who don’t keep their promises but there is no enforcement apparatus to hold nations to strict greenhouse gas emissions limits. However, what Paris does do (and this is really important) is provide a mechanism where every five years adjustments can be made on nations’ goals as the warming situation changes. In other words, the Paris Agreement can grow, evolve, and mature into a healthy adult treaty that can provide a future for our children.

To get to our goal (sustainability), we have to update Paris to make it a truly realistic mechanism for humanity to address Climate Change. Besides the issue of scalability of renewable energy, Paris needs to adequately deal with food and agriculture. This op-ed in The Washington Post nails the issue:

“Unfortunately, the world leaders who gathered in Paris this past week have paid little attention to the critical links between climate change and agriculture. That’s a huge mistake and a missed opportunity. Our unsustainable farming methods are a central contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change, quite simply, cannot be halted without fixing agriculture.” (A secret weapon to fight climate change: dirt, December 4, 2015 The Washington Post)

We have proven that humanity can feed 7 billion people (though millions still starve) but we haven’t acknowledged the cost our environment has paid. Our soil must be healthy, not reduced to a substance that has been ‘fortified’ with fertilizers and poisoned with herbicides and pesticides. Because we have landfilled a lot of our waste, including food waste, we have somehow come to believe that decomposition and other amazing (many still unknown) properties of our soil are insignificant. As we march towards 9 billion people in 2050 and perhaps as high as 12 billion people in 2100, we will desperately try to feed them all. It’s most likely that we will increasingly give top priority to that goal. But in that process we could render one of the most vital ingredients of our existence null and void. You cannot vote soil out of our existence. Not including agriculture in the Paris Agreement was a mistake that must be fixed. 

Mindful of this omission in the Paris Agreement, Rochester, NY seeks to highlight not only the treaty signing, but also the importance of agricultural practices during its Earth Week 2016 – A Menu of Climate Action to Suit Every Taste. This is a week-long series of events of actions and lectures on food and agriculture, culminating in an Earth Eve Climate March Forward.

Engaging the public on this worldwide crisis is still an uphill climb. We haven’t heard much about the ‘successful’ Paris Agreement lately in the media, which is odd considering the whole point of Paris was to get everyone galvanized and make Climate Change adaptation happen. Voluntarily.

Paris is a bottom-up, non-authoritarian approach that critics of the 20+ previous top-down approaches demanded. Now that the bottom-up strategy for addressing Climate Change is in play, those who fought against a top-down approach must realize that “unless the private sector gets involved in a substantive and meaningful manner”(see below), the new strategy will fail just as the window of opportunity is closing.

We have an agreement in Paris: So, what’s next for the private sector? It's been two months now since the historic climate change conference, COP21, wrapped up in Paris, concluding with 195 countries pledging to take actions to keep global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius. This is an unprecedented achievement in the long history of international climate policy.   Compared to past negotiations, there was a different atmosphere in Paris. The negotiators were determined to find common ground rather than draw insurmountable lines in the sand. Investors lined up with billions of dollars in new financial commitments in addition to the suggested roadmap for developed nations to contribute to the needed $100 billion annually for mitigation and adaptation efforts. (February 9, 2016) The World Bank

If folks think that the Paris Agreement was a great treaty and now we can all go back and continue business as usual, they’re going to have a rude awakening when they find out this is the worst possible scenario of all—ignoring this issue completely just when it matters most. Paris, a bottom-up approach to dealing with Climate Change, cannot work if the public, our media, businesses, and our governments don’t continually breathe life into it. Our life support system needs life support.

To that end, we ask that you demonstrate your commitment to addressing Climate Change in the Rochester area by joining one or more of the Earth Week activities, thus helping to get our media’s attention. This worldwide crisis will require all hands on board.

Time passes. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Rochester’s environment in 2050 will prosper—if…

Bleak though the prospects for our planet’s environment may because of Climate Change
Rochester could be set to prosper for a while. By 2050 the planet and our Rochester, NY region will be a much warmer place (on average).

There will be more heavy rainfall events (which means more flooding), more tropical disease threats, more damage to our trees as invasive species are able to tolerate our winters, and, of course, more heat. Our local climate will suddenly feel like Virginia’s after it’s been put through a blender (abnormal will be the new normal).

Unpleasant as most of Climate Change’s consequences are, Rochester is not, and probably will not be for a while, experiencing the worst of the disastrous storms, sea level rises, droughts, and life-threatening heat waves already occurring around the world.  
If Rochester acknowledges the threat from Climate Change and begins intense planning, we will be ready for the influx of climate refugees looking for a place with a lot of good water and healthy soil to produce food.

If we re-adapt our energy sources to accommodate renewables (wind and solar power), Rochester’s air will be cleaner and there would be more jobs.

If we use Climate Change as an opportunity to address many of our past environmental abuses, our environment will be in better shape for the vicissitudes of a warmer world.

If we address Climate Change justly, all Rochesterians will prosper.

If our local media connects the dots with the local consequences of Climate Change, the public will be more supportive of their leaders and businesses trying to address this crisis.

If we make it easy and inexpensive to update our old buildings so that they are energy efficient, we’ll have happier and healthier homeowners.

If we update our transportation infrastructures so that they are more robust and resilient, more folks will get to all the new jobs that come with proper planning.

If we pay attention to this worldwide crisis as we did with women’s rights and abolishing slavery, by 2050 Rochester will again be a beacon of hope. 


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Ground rules for deciding on large-scale wind farm placement

Large-scale wind farms (LSWF) in the Great Lakes region are integral to adapting to Climate Change but there is still much local opposition to specific projects. When the NY State Power Authority (NYPA) tried to implement their Great Lakes Offshore Wind (GLOW) program in 2009, they were met with stiff resistance from many effective shoreline property owners. Eventually, NYPA gave up: “NY Power Authority Trustees Vote to End Proposed Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project”. (True, the failure of GLOW may not have hinged on local opposition but there was major resistance. Also, many folks may have forgotten about GLOW because the public’s attention on this renewable energy program was completely hijacked by six-long years of the New York State Fracking fight.)

Things don’t seem to have changed much as opposition mounts against the Apex Clean Energy’s wind power project in Somerset and Yates—Lighthouse Wind. This is particular wind project is an on-land wind project that promises to produce about 200 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power up to 53,000 homes. The resistance by locals to wind farms isn’t unique to our region; it’s prevalent nationwide. A search for “opposition to wind Power” brings up innumerable articles and anti-wind groups. This article by The Seattle Times presents a good overview of the issue: “As wind power surges, opposition grows”.

These ongoing conflicts present a great conundrum for addressing Climate Change in New York State because there is no doubt that renewable energy (of which LSWF’s are vital) is a critical component. In fact, Governor Cuomo’s green energy plan, Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), includes the Lighthouse Wind project (see Find a REV Project Near You). The Solutions Project for New York, hailed by many environmentalists because it provides a map to 100 % renewable energy by 2030, is highly dependent on LSWF’s. This is a quote from the study from which the Solutions Project is based on:

“Year 2050 end-use U.S. all-purpose load would be met with ~30.9% onshore wind, ~19.1% offshore wind, ~30.7% utility-scale photovoltaics (PV), ~7.2% rooftop PV, ~7.3% concentrated solar power (CSP) with storage, ~1.25% geothermal power, ~0.37% wave power, ~0.14% tidal power, and ~3.01% hydroelectric power. (100% clean and renewable wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) all-sector energy roadmaps for the 50 United States† Mark Z. Jacobson,*a Mark A. Delucchi,b Guillaume Bazouin,a Zack A. F. Bauer,a Christa C. Heavey,a Emma Fisher,a Sean B. Morris,a Diniana J. Y. Piekutowski,a Taylor A. Vencilla and Tim W. Yeskoo)

A business and social movement in New York, NY RENEWS, advocates for “100% clean energy of accessible and affordable 100% clean energy by 2050 with a benchmark goal of 50% by 2030.” Wind power is an important component of this movement to get jobs and energy that won’t warm the planet.

The urgency of addressing Climate Change by reducing greenhouse gases is clear. This from the recently agreed upon Paris Agreement says:

“Recognizing that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries, and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions,” (Paris Agreement, the United Nations)

It’s doubtful that any real reduction in greenhouse gases can be accomplished without large scale wind projects.

Clean energy is win-win for the US Simply implementing its Paris climate conference commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions could save the US billions of dollars – and save hundreds of thousands of lives. Scientists have worked out how the US could save as many as 300,000 lives by 2030, and get a tenfold return on its investments at the same time. It’s simple. All the nation has to do is what it promised to do at the Paris climate conference last December − launch clean energy and transport policies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds or more, and pursue the international goal of keeping global warming to below 2°C. (March 13, 2016) Climate News Network

Given the critical importance of LSWF’s in addressing Climate Change on a scale that will matter, you’d think the public and environmental groups would have devised a way to make their peace with clean energy. Instead, the battles rage on.

Shouldn’t there be a way for the majority’s desire for clean energy, which includes LSWF’s, to result in actual local implementation?

I suggest baking in some ground rules for the public debate about the local implementation of LSWF’s so that the debates don’t devolve into the same not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) strategies that killed many a fossil-fuel (brown energy) infrastructure. Yes, NIMBY concerns have been important in stopping the historical environmental abuse of projects that impose undue burdens on local residents and businesses for energy options no longer viable on planet that is quickly warming. But how do we transition NIMBY effectiveness so that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, that is, how do we prioritize renewable energy so that grassroots action can be leveraged toward addressing Climate Change?

These are my proposed ground rules, guidelines that we should all agree upon so we can move forward and ultimately make our way of life sustainable. We accept that:

  • ·         Climate change is real and humans are causing it.
  • ·         100% renewables is key to Climate Change mitigation and large-scale wind projects (on-shore and off-shore) are a necessary component if Western New York State is to achieve anything close to this goal.
  • ·         The Paris Agreement puts a sense of great urgency behind renewable energy production.
  • ·         There is a moral imperative for those regions (developed nations) that were most responsible for producing and using brown energy to now be a major player in producing green energy.

If these ground rules are not accepted by developed countries for addressing for LSWP placement, we are lost. There are two compelling reasons why these ground rules should be accepted: Continual resistance to LSWP’s will dramatically slow down our ability to provide sufficient clean energy for a growing population and at some point governments will inevitably institute more powerful rules for LSWP placement. Our need to adapt to Climate Change will force our governments’ hands. Already, our government uses Eminent domain to take over private property for the public good. As the consequences of Climate Change become more dear, government policies to protect the public are more likely to reflect that urgency.

It’s also important to note that the National Audubon Society, arguably the strongest advocate group for healthy bird populations, understands that that the ultimate threat to birds is not wind turbines but Climate Change:

Audubon's Position on Wind Power “Audubon strongly supports properly sited wind power as a renewable energy source that helps reduce the threat posed to birds and people by climate change. However, we also advocate that wind power facilities should be planned, sited, and operated in ways that minimize harm to birds and other wildlife, and we advocate that wildlife agencies should ensure strong enforcement of the laws that protect birds and other wildlife.” (Audubon)

The moral imperative for wind placement in our area comes about as a simple case of fairness. It’s getting hot but not evenly all over the world. The countries most responsible for the heating are not reaping the worst consequences. Human conflict will increase as the temperatures rise and the human body has a limit to how much heat it can tolerate. Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are the cause of Climate Change and the low latitudes will soon become inhospitable if we continue business as usual. In this article by Dr. James Hansen, one of our greatest climate scientists provides his most pithy and cogent arguments on the need for Climate Change action, detailing the inherent unfairness: 

Regional Climate Change and National Responsibilities Global warming of about 1°F (0.6°C) over the past several decades now "loads the climate dice." Fig. 1 updates the "bell curve" analysis of our 2012 paper for Northern Hemisphere land, which showed that extreme hot summers now occur noticeably more often than they did 50 years ago. Our new paper shows that there are strong regional variations in this bell curve shift, and that the largest effects occur in nations least responsible for causing climate change. In the United States the bell curve shift is just over one standard deviation in summer and less than half a standard deviation in winter (Fig. 2). Measured in units of °F (or °C) the warming is similar in summer and winter in the U.S., but the practical implication of Fig. 2 is that the public in the U.S. should notice that summers are becoming hotter but is less likely to notice the change in winter. Summers cooler than the average 1951-1980 summer still occur, but only ~19% of the time. Extreme summer heat, defined as 3 standard deviations or more warmer than 1951-1980 average, which almost never occurred 50 years ago, now occur with frequency about 7%. (March 2, 2016) The Huffington Post 

Having said all this, I am not arguing for or against any particular LSWF project. There are many ways that LSWP can be made more accommodating to locals. Germany and other countries that have successfully implemented LSWP’s have used a variety of financial incentives including community choice aggregation (public utilities) that don’t result in a single, large industrial company taking charge.

What’s happening now is very corrosive because, in their efforts to stop LSWPs, locals are injecting climate denial rhetoric into their campaigns, thereby encouraging more fossil fuel use and infrastructure. The argument that we want green energy but not in our backyard must change soon if we intend to adapt to a warmer world.  

Time passes. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Media often misses Climate Change in Great Lakes ice coverage

Starting around 1970 Great Lakes ice coverage began decreasing because of Climate Change. Then ice coverage spiked upwards in the winters of 2013/2014 and 2014/2015. There has been less ice coverage this winter, harking back to the overall trend towards less ice on the Great Lakes. You wouldn’t know this if you only paid attention to some local news whose weather myopia blinds their readers to the big picture.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Great Lakes ice cover: See the dramatic difference a year makes What a difference a year can make when it comes to weather on the Great Lakes. That also means ice cover can vary greatly. There is a vast difference in the amount of ice on the Great Lakes now compared to this time last year. Currently, the Great Lakes in total are covered with only 9.7 percent ice. This time last year the Great Lakes were 83.2 percent covered with ice. This means there was 70,300 square miles more ice at this time last year. (March 8, 2016) Michigan Live

While it is true that “ice cover can vary greatly,” this article is very misleading because the article only focuses on last winter and this winter.

Here’s another example of short-sighted ice coverage by the media; this time back in 2014 when ice cover shifted dramatically upwards. The article obsesses about the almost record high but doesn’t put this anomaly in perspective.

Freeze pushes Great Lakes ice cover toward '79 record The Great Lakes are on the cusp of a record for ice cover - but if the record does stand another winter we can blame Lake Ontario.” “The ice cover on other lakes, including Lake Superior, Huron and Michigan, though, has increased from 79.7% to 88.4% just in the past week, putting the region close to the record of almost 95% set in February 1979, according to data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.” (February 14, 2014 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

Not all media get it wrong. This article appeared before the 2013/2014 hard winter. 

Shrinking ice worries Great Lakes scientists Winter ice cover has decreased 70% since 1970s. Why? Great Lakes ice is shrinking. Ice cover has decreased nearly 70% on the five Great Lakes since the early 1970s, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The five Great Lakes hold 20% of the world's fresh water and have more than 11,000 miles of shoreline. Every one of the lakes has endured the winter meltdown: Lake Ontario saw the most dramatic decrease with an 88% drop in ice coverage. Lake Superior lost 76% of its ice. Lake Michigan saw a decrease of 77%. Lake Huron's ice has decreased 62%. Lake Erie, the shallowest of the lakes and therefore the first to freeze every year, lost half of its ice cover. Scientists blame global warming. Hotter days mean warmer water. (March 7, 2013) USA Today)

Information from the experts on Great Lakes ice coverage is not misleading at all. It’s very clear where the trend is going. But the general public doesn’t read climate experts’ data, they attend to the mass media. Here’s the information about Great Lakes ice coverage from just one expert group:  

Great Lakes Ice Coverage From 1973 to 2010, annual average ice coverage on the Great Lakes declined by 71%. From 1975 through 2004, the number of days with land snow cover decreased by 15 days, and the average snow depth decreased by 2 inches (5.1 cm). Snow and ice levels on the Great Lakes and on land will likely continue to decrease. Reduced lake freezing will result in more exposed water that could increase lake-effect precipitation. Ice coverage declined by 71% overall on all five Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair since from 1973-2010. Total losses of annual lake ice coverage varied from lake to lake, ranging from 37% in Lake St. Clair and 50% in Lake Erie to 88% in Lake Ontario. Though the long-term trend has been downward, high ice winters, such as 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, can still occur and illustrate the complexity of this system. (The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Program (GLISA))

Great Lakes ice coverage presents the media with an excellent opportunity to educate the public about the seemingly confusing yearly weather trends against the backdrop of Climate Change. A melting Arctic, which often pushes jet streams into our region, can make it appear as if our winter temperatures and ice cover are bouncing all over the place. A step back in perspective clearly shows that the trend in our weather is matching the predictions of Climate Change. A media that properly characterizes what’s going on with our wacky weather will better inform the public (and businesses) so they can make better choices in a warming world. 

When our media fails to adequately present the new normal of Climate Change and falls back into shifting baseline syndrome  (a sort of environmental amnesia), the public will think Climate Change is true every time it gets warm and false every time it gets cold.

Climate Change is a complicated issue and one that needs public knowledge and support for any real actions to address this worldwide crisis. Our media is the way our public understands the world around them and only an accurate portrayal of reality will do. 

Monday, March 07, 2016

Viewing local transportation plans through the lens of Climate Change

When asked most folks in the Rochester region would not give up their personal vehicles regardless: “Nothing will replace my car as my main mode of transportation.”(Page 11, Long Range Transportation Plan 2040 (LRTP)). And while public input is important for Genesee Transportation Council’s (GTC)’s plan, the LRTP is funded by the federal government. This is not to suggest that what the public wants right now from its transportation system is much different from the goals of the LRTP, only that the federal government rules:

“Absent a change in priorities at the Federal and State levels, fiscal constraint dictates that we maintain the existing condition and performance of our most crucial assets as best we can, manage the decline of less critical assets and structures without compromising safety, and implement limited expansions whenever feasible.” (Page 5, LRTP)

‘Existing condition’ above is meant to mean our present transportation system—thousands of miles of asphalt/concrete roads and bridges. All created and driven by fossil fuels. But by 2040 our present transportation system could be under a great threat by Climate Change. There will be more flooding, more traffic, and more frequent congestion due to more extreme weather, which in turn will be due to probable increases in lake-effect snowstorms caused by Climate Change. Cold, moist air crossing warmer water from an ice-free Great Lakes will probably produce more stormageddons. In fairness to the present LRTP, the consequences of Climate Change are already baked into the planning.

“In addition, these opportunities represent the ability of the transportation system to meet the challenges of sustainability and climate change adaptation through the use of new materials and design elements that were not available when the facilities were first built or last reconstructed.” (Page 19, LRTP)

However, in a time of Climate Change we must reconsider our priorities. Maybe we ought to think about changing our priorities so that our long-range transportation plans are in sync with a rapidly changing climate. Because Climate Change at the core is a problem of physics, adapting and mitigating to this human-caused new normal in our climate will increasingly rise to the top of our concerns. Extreme damages caused by more frequently occurring extreme weather will quickly overcome our ability to cope. This means we may have to rapidly view all of our planning through the lens of Climate Change. That includes our transportation system.

One of the problems with the LRTP is that it continually sets the table for our present transportation system at the exclusion of other possible transportation alternatives. (It’s not their fault; it’s their mandate at this point.) This means that when we focus our finances and infrastructures on a system that is heavily indebted to fossil fuels, we threaten our ability to shift quickly to another system that isn’t going to warm our planet. Throwing millions, perhaps billions, of dollars into fixing old roads and bridges in order to make them more resilient to extreme weather means you don’t have the means to create a new, more adaptable system, nor an inclination to do so. 

Let me put this another way. This is a quote from the same folks providing money for our region’s long-term planning, our federal government.

Besides being affected by climate changes, transportation systems also contribute to changes in the climate through emissions. In 2010, the U.S. transportation sector accounted for 27% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with cars and trucks accounting for 65% of that total. Petroleum accounts for 93% of the nation’s transportation energy use. This means that policies and behavioral changes aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions will have significant implications for the various components of the transportation sector. (National Climate Assessment: Transportation.

Our present transportation system is a major cause of Climate Change and at the same time will be greatly threaten by Climate Change. We have a tiger by the tail. We have latched on to a transportation system that will do us in if we don’t find a way to get off it.

If we look at our present transportation system through the lens of Climate Change, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to be doubling-down on a system that is doomed and dangerous to our collective existence. If we put all our eggs into one basket, that is, if we put all our monies and efforts into preserving this transportation system, we do so at the exclusion of developing a more climate-friendly system. That is because we’ll run out of time and money to revamp the entire system on a scale necessary to adapt. Remember, we aren’t even properly maintaining the system we have, let alone trying to develop another system that will be in compliance with what we predict about our climate.

Report gives NY's roads, bridges poor grades A C-minus grade is nothing to brag about. But that's the overall assessment earned by New York's infrastructure systems — sewers, bridges and roads, public parks and solid waste — according to the state chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The group released its inaugural Infrastructure Report Card during a press conference Tuesday at the Blue Cross Arena. "One-third of New York's major highways are considered to be in poor or fair condition ... creating crippling congestion and climbing operating costs," according to the report card, which gave the state's road network a D-minus. "New York City-area drivers, accounting for half the state's population, each waste 53 hours per year just sitting in traffic." The organization gave New York Ds for its bridges, roads and wastewater. The state's aviation, drinking water, dams and transit systems earned Cs, and its parks and solid waste systems earned Bs. (September 30, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Climate Change

If our present transportation infrastructure is so bad, what other system could we develop? Good question because there is no easy answer. In our present system, even if you choose to bike, or use an electric car that uses renewable energy to charge your batteries, you still need millions of miles of asphalt (fossil-fuel created) roads.

Even if we were to move to another system not dependent on our present roads and bridges, we would still have to maintain our present system until we are ready to shift to another system. We still need to get around the way we are now until we can get around in some other fashion.

OK, you’re waiting for my magical solution that will solve our transportation/climate issues but..., I don’t have one. Sorry, I know, it’s not fashionable to present a major problem without coming up with a major solution.

Even if I did have a solution, most folks would resist it anyway because they have no intention of giving up their vehicles. They are going to expect that the system that keeps their vehicles moving now to be maintained by their government.

If we move quickly and dramatically to a public transportation system—more buses, high speed rail, light rail, and the like—all this will do is decrease the amount of traffic on our existing roads and bridges. This more favorable than business as usual but it won’t solve the fundamental problem. This, of course, is because these transportation options do not arrive at your home—or anybody else’s. We would still need to be able to walk and bike on something from our homes to whatever system we developed. These measures to lessen our impact on our existing system will buy us time. But if we are honest with ourselves, we are already doing these things with minimal effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

Back in the 1950’s some folks were thinking everyone would have helicopters instead of road vehicles. This might work if helicopters weren’t out of the price range of all but the very rich, and if our air traffic issues wouldn’t soon overwhelm us. Drones aren’t going to work either. However smart and cheap we make them, they are still going to fill our skies if everyone has one. 

Many experts say we can do a lot more to make our present transportation system less vulnerable to Climate Change and less likely to contribute to this warming crisis. We can use active transportation (walking and bicycling) for short distances—about 6.5 miles, which constitutes most of our personal driving. We could increase fuel efficiency; increase gasoline taxes, increase public transportation, decrease building in the suburbs, car pool, and many other things to lighten the carbon footprint of our present transportation system. It is possible that we could change our attitudes about traveling, like conducting online meet-ups instead of meeting in person. Maybe we could send our transportation system deep underground, a newfangled subway or something, where its carbon emissions and environmental disruptions could be better controlled. 

But remember (again), when given a choice most folks will drive their own vehicles, thank you very much. While in Portland, Oregon recently I couldn’t help noticing how many cars clogged the streets in a city that represents one of our country’s most advanced public and active transportation options. Although a lot of folks in Portland could live without a car, they don’t.  

This would seem to settle the case: we have the transportation system we have and so we just have to make this one work as well as we can in a warming world. It’s probably what we will do given our penchant for Freedom at any cost. Even if that’s suicidal.  

But we should ask ourselves, if we properly viewed our future through the lens of Climate Change, instead of the way we would like things to be, how would we plan our transportation system? Just maintaining and making our existing transportation system more resilient seems more like someone making due with a house that keeps blowing over in a windstorm than actually dealing with the problem.

Some guidelines on making a dramatic transformation in transportation might be useful. As developing nations develop, the developed nations could help developing nations leapfrog over our transportation system—like cellphones have eliminated the need for telephone poles and other telecommunications infrastructures. This would curb the worldwide contribution of more carbon emissions from transportation and encourage new enterprises without having to tear down an old system. We could build our cities so that they better accommodate active transportation instead of gas-guzzlers.

We could do a lot of things if we were ready to give up our vehicles, or at least entertain the idea if viable solutions came up. We should at least be willing to lessen the impact of our transportation system on our fragile, troubled planet.

BTW: You have until March 18th to send your comments on how to make our present transportation system safer and more efficient. Please consider mentioning your ideas on transportation in the light of a warmer world, a world where 2040 shouldn’t bring all our present infrastructures to a grinding halt. 

Long Range Transportation Plan 2040 A safe, efficient, reliable transportation system isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. Making the most of the limited resources we have requires thoughtful planning. The Long Range Transportation Plan for the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region 2040 (LRTP 2040) will identify the direction for the region’s transportation system and serve as the framework for future planning and investment through 2040.   The LRTP 2040 Public Review Document provides an introduction to the LRTP 2040 planning processes, includes a summary of customer engagement feedback, a financial analysis with revenues and costs, and draft recommendations based on regional needs and customer feedback. Genesee Transportation Council 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Climate Change: what did we know and when did we know it?

As we get deeper into Climate Change , Howard Baker’s famous question “What did the President know and when did he know it?” (during the Watergate scandal) is starting to resonate.

The question mattered to the Watergate issue because it got to the heart of whether the President of the United State was legally culpable for crimes committed during this growing scandal. Did the President try to cover up this "third-rate burglary"? (It appears that he did.)

Now, we are starting to ask that famous question of the fossil fuel industry. What did the fossil fuel industry know about their industry’s effect on Climate Change and when did they know it?

Oil Industry Group's Own Report Shows Early Knowledge of Climate Impacts A report the American Petroleum Institute commissioned in 1982 revealed its knowledge of global warming, predated its campaign to sow doubt. A Columbia University report commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute in 1982 cautioned that global warming "can have serious consequences for man's comfort and survival." It is the latest indication that the oil industry learned of the possible threat it posed to the climate far earlier than previously known. The report, "Climate Models and CO2 Warming, A Selective Review and Summary," was written by Alan Oppenheim and William L.  Donn of Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory for API's Climate and Energy task force, said James J. Nelson, the task force's former director. From 1979 to 1983, API and the nation's largest oil companies convened the task force to monitor and share climate research, including their in-house efforts. Exxon ran the most ambitious of the corporate programs, but other oil companies had their own projects, smaller than Exxon's and focused largely on climate modeling. (February 5, 2016) Inside Climate News 

It matters legally if the fossil fuel companies committed fraud. But does it matter otherwise? In other words, whether or not the fossil fuel industries knew about their industries’ effect on Climate Change, it is still the case that greenhouse gases (mostly, our burning of fossil fuels) has brought us where we are today, 1C above preindustrial rates. We are more than half-way to the agreed danger zone of 1.5 C.

I suppose, if found guilty, there might be a way to levy large fines on the guilty parties and use that money to help our country adapt to the environmental changes caused by too much manmade greenhouse gas emissions. Penalties might also send a message out worldwide that misleading the public on fossil fuel use will have consequences and maybe quicken the movement towards renewable energy.

Environmentalists Call for Investigations of Exxon What did Exxon know about climate change and when did it know it? That's what environmentalists want state attorneys general to investigate. Activists from on Tuesday presented signed petitions to the National Association of Attorneys General in Washington. Lindsay Meiman, U.S. communications coordinator for the group, said Exxon Mobil executives knew that fossil fuels were causing global climate change in the 1970s but hid that information from shareholders. "Exxon instead poured millions of dollars into think tanks and lobbyists to sow doubt and confusion among the public and government," she said. (February 24, 2016) Public News Service

This leads me to another troubling question we should be asking. This time of ourselves: Climate Change: what did we know and when did we know it? In other words, is it true as some have suggested that humanity didn’t know about human-caused climate change until recently, and therefore we shouldn’t blame ourselves? The answer is interesting and complicated and instructive.

There is evidence that beginning in the early 1800’s, many were asking just this question:   

“It was here, at Lake Valencia, that Humboldt developed his idea of human-induced climate change.”Wulf, Andrea (2015-09-15). The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World (p. 57). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In a wonderful new biography of Alexander von Humboldt ("The Invention of Nature"), it is clear that a very influential thinker* was changing minds on the how our environments around the world were connected. Humboldt’s painstakingly accurate observations on nature were proving to many that mankind’s actions were profoundly affecting environmental systems and that human-induced climate change was a distinct possibility.

Of course, Humboldt was probably talking about microclimates, not the whole planet’s climate, and he was not suggesting that our use of fossil fuels was the cause for warming up our atmosphere. But in the beginning of the 1800’s he was starting to realize that mankind’s environmental disruptions were having a dramatic effect on nature’s systems.

So did we know before the mid-1900’s that Climate Change was caused by humans burning fossil fuels? Not specifically. We did consider that how we treated the land, exhausting the soil and destroying forests, would accelerate and amplify desertification which might have an influence on weather patterns. We were given many warnings by early naturalists that our way of life, even before we launched the Second Industrial Revolution in the United State, was dramatically changing our environment. Even if we didn’t know the exact cause of Climate Change, our destructive way of life has made Climate Change the mother of all problems. Instead of being cautious with our life support system, we went for broke.

I’m not suggesting that we sit around wringing our hands, blaming our ancestors over Climate Change. Much of what makes the developed countries desirable is a result of our predecessors’ responding to a biological urge to make the world better for us.  I am suggesting that ‘we’ (humanity, for we have to be as one on Climate Change) take full responsibility that we have knowingly brought ourselves to this state of affairs, where dangerous warming and a full blown catastrophe is only a few decades away. If no other past event can convince us that we are the cause of Climate Change, the Paris Agreement convincingly makes the case that most of us now know that Climate Change is true and that we are the cause. This crisis has been building up for a long time no matter how many times we try and convince ourselves these environmental emergencies have just suddenly appeared.  

This self-knowledge about our own culpability in Climate Change should spur us into action. We should make sure that our government ratifies the Paris Agreement on Earth Day this year. We should understand that there are no single solutions to adapting to and mitigating Climate Change because the impacts are systematic and interrelated. This is to say, we have been living unsustainably for a very long time within what appears to be a very sensitive environment. Despite the benefits we have realized from a fossil fuel paradigm, our continual indifference to the evolving environmental sciences has gotten us into a state of impending existential collapse unless we immediately change direction.

We demand of our leaders and our industries that they own up to what they knew about their transgressions and when they knew so that we can determine the point from which the consequences of their bad actions lead us down the wrong path. So we can right ourselves.

Humanity should do likewise on Climate Change where we hold ourselves accountable for learning what we knew and when we knew it. It will help us to unravel the thread of bad choices and their consequences that has led to this dire situation, so we can make our way back (like Theseus in the Minotaur’s labyrinth) to a sustainable existence.

If we don’t, we will continue business as usual, thinking that bettering ourselves without considering the whole environment, will solve this worldwide crisis with only a few adjustments (carbon pricing, changing our light bulbs, altering our eating habits, making our buildings more energy efficient, or driving only electric vehicles). In truth, we’re going to have to do ‘all of the above’ to address Climate Change and then some.

It’s not hopeless if we act. Watch Al Gore’s incredible TED talk on ‪Climate Change: “The case for optimism on climate change
Time passes.

* Although most have not even heard of Humboldt (I’ll admit until I just read this book, I didn’t either), his ideas on nature were extremely influential. The author says:

“On 14 September 1869, one hundred years after his birth. Alexander von Humboldt’s centennial was celebrated across the world. There were parties in Europe, Africa and Australia as well as the Americas.”  “In Cleveland some 8,000 people took to the streets and in Syracuse another 15,000 joined in a march that was more than a mile long.” Wulf, Andrea (2015-09-15). The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World (p. 6). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Will pricing carbon emissions save us from Climate Change?

The quick answer as to whether carbon pricing offers a quick and relatively easy way to save us from Climate Change is no. Climate Change is too complicated for such a simple solution. But carbon pricing may be the way to save Capitalism.

Here’s a recent news story that highlights the continued effort to pass carbon pricing and the continual push back to stop it:

Lawmakers consider putting price on carbon Lawmakers in the state of Washington this month began discussing a measure that could make the state the first to tax residents and businesses on their carbon emissions. You can watch the two-hour work session, or watch this video, which explains everything you need to know about carbon pricing in three minutes. (February 19, 2016) Innovation Trail

Capitalism’s successes have always been delusional in that its accounting ignores environmental costs incurred in the production and distribution of goods and services.  In actuality, those costs have been carried by people getting sick from bad air and our ecosystems crashing.  Capitalism must learn to adopt accurate accounting, or it will die a painful death, and may take human civilization with it.

Climate Change, the mother of all problems, is making the burning of fossil fuels a major threat to our existence. We could dramatically curb our carbons emissions if we put a price on those emissions because it would be cheaper to use clean, renewable options. Carbon pricing would put the environmental equation back into the cost of burning fossil fuels where it always should have been.

Would pricing carbon be difficult? Yes. We waited too long to begin and now the industries that haven’t paid the true costs of their products are too used to not doing it. They got a lot of money using our environment for their profits and they are not going to want adjust for this tragically unfair mistake.

Would pricing carbon make tremendous strides towards addressing Climate Change? It would. Folks would use less fossil-fuel intensive products and services and use more of those that rely on renewable energy. This would quickly change everyone’s buying habits so that our economy would really mimic the very environmental system it needs to be in compliance with. We and our environment would fare better; not just the polluters.

Would pricing carbon save us all? No. Pricing carbon would go a long way to making it clear the days of using our life support system as an invisible hand to prop up an economic system are over. 

Making our environment healthy would pay better than making it sick. But there are many other aspects to Climate Change that carbon pricing would not fix. Carbon pricing would not provide leadership on adapting to the consequences of a warming planet, nor would it help to address this crisis equitably. There is no one solution to a problem that will engulf all aspects of our existence. That will take leadership and a pervasive attitude towards stewardship of our planet. We have a lot of work to do.  Carbon pricing will help a lot. It won’t save us. But it might save Capitalism.

Why would carbon pricing save Capitalism? Filling this tremendous flaw in Capitalism, where our environment was not factored into this theory from the beginning, might just give this economic system a way to make itself viable. Providing humanity with a financial incentive to bring down greenhouse gas emissions, instead of sending them through the roof, might just change a lot of people’s behavior in a short amount of time without too much disruption and inconvenience. If not, we’ll have to try something else.   

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Worrying about sustainability via Climate Change

For most of humanity’s existence we have not thought or worried ourselves much about sustainability.  Homo sapiens, like all of the other life forms on this planet, concerned themselves (consciously or not, mostly not) with survival. We ate, drank, procreated, hunted, gathered, and eventually died. We climbed trees, moved under their branches hand over hand, straddling one tree while we shifted our weight on our new evolved pelvic bones to another tree. At some point we came down from the trees, freed up our hands for gathering stuff and evolved our two other appendages for walking and running—and started worrying.

Once out of the trees and on the ground we began to worry where our food and predators were. Up in the trees our food was relatively easy to get at. However, because of climate change there were fewer trees so we had to get creative at acquiring food. On the ground there were more predators too. They were often larger than us, faster, stronger, so we got running. Opportunities for worrying grew exponentially once out of the safety of the trees. Our brains grew in proportion to our worries and became very large indeed. Because we shared our worries with each other, our social skills increased and we were able to hunt together for those creatures who worried us so. (I suspect, since most animals are wary of humans on their first encounter, our predators began worrying about us in return.)    

Besides worrying, our large brains made it possible to think about ways to keep ourselves warm as the climate changed. We learned how to control fire. We learned how gather up all kinds of eatables and hunt for all kinds of animals. We learned to cook many of our foods, a sort of pre-digestion tactic, which dramatically increased our food choices. We still worried about dying and finding enough food. But we also addressed our worries by increasing our ability to plan ahead for better hunting and gathering and even storing and planting for more food for the future.

We began to worry about how much food we could accumulate to keep our families and whatever ruling groups (chiefs, kings, high priests) we institutionalized. We worried about storms. We worried about the seasons and what time of year to start moving to better hunting grounds. We worried about when to sow and when to reap.

These sustainability worries were not simply aimless, fruitless concerns. We acted on our worries. We made stronger houses, developed better weapons, developed better hunting stills, communicated more effectively for more efficient gathering teams, and found ways to predict some disasters like floods and dangerous seas.

Who knows when this capacity of ours to worry about our future, to endure, to live sustainability, began. It might be hardwired into all creatures intent on survival. But as a conscious worry sustainability only occurs in modern humans. Other creatures just do it or die.

When we created large communities and began farming on a large scale, we started worrying on a much greater scale. We worried that some other group might take our stuff and jeopardize our ability to endure and so we went to war with those groups. We started gathering as much land and water as we could, thinking perhaps if we acquired enough land and water we and our descendants would never perish.   

At some point, some of us began to worry about our effect on our environment, on our life support system. Native Americans, who probably suffered the effects of over-hunting, starting thinking more about their actions and their long-term survival. Seven generations sustainability is a conscious effort to be mindful of at least seven generations after you go. This kind of thinking creates the communal habit of thinking about where your peoples’ next meal will come from. But the majority didn't heed this wise advice. 

In 1864, George Perkins Marsh wrote a very influential book—“Man and Nature”--about how many European societies failed because of their lousy treatment of their environment. In this book, Marsh warned Americans and future generations to take it easy on nature if you want it for a tomorrow. He wasn’t against development and getting ahead. He just thought we should live more sustainably so our wants would last and last. Marsh’s warnings and the counsel of many other early naturalists after him help slow down our some of our wasteful and damaging effects on our air, land, and water. But not much. The Industrial Revolutions unleashed a lot of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Around the same time we developed an indifferent and amoral attitude towards our environment called ‘economics,’ which created a great estrangement between us and our life support system. Heedlessly we struck hard at the core of our environmental vitals.  

From the mid-1800’s our development and our negative effects on our environment took off like there was no tomorrow. We chopped down forests of forests, dammed every river and stream we could, and dumped old and new toxins into our air, water, and land.

It got really bad. Some of our rivers caught on fire they were so polluted and so the public rose up in the millions to protect our home planet on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. Sustainability was becoming a worldwide worry a planetary scale. With the advent of nuclear weapons and incredible jumps in human population, the nations of the world started to come together to address what sustainability actually meant and how we would achieve it. 

We decided sustainability was about us, humans and our desire for more stuff.  The rest of creatures and plants were on their own.

 “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report)

Then, in the mid-1990 the climate talks began one after another until the 21st in Paris resulting in Paris Agreement. The world has come to understand that all our problems with sustainability are intertwined with wildlife and plants and soil and poverty and justice and all dependent on addressing Climate Change.

This Earth Day the world comes together to celebrate our environment and watch our leaders sign the Paris Agreement that will make the agreement official.

Our worries about sustainability are far from over. In a way, they’ve just begun. In the sense that we are just beginning to truly understand how humanity must curb its own selfish tendencies to attain sustainability, the road ahead is clear.

Be worried. Be very worried.  

Monday, February 08, 2016

The COP21 Paris Climate summit remembered in Ithaca

For all of Homo sapiens’ braininess perhaps our short attention span will be remembered as our most defining characteristic. It’s not just that our minds often wander during boring speeches; collectively we tend to lose focus on really important stuff before that stuff has time enough to play out. The historic COP21 Paris Summit is barely two months old and is already fading from the public’s attention. It has certainly vanished from local media’s awareness. However, in Ithaca the other day, Climate Change came to the forefront when six panelists spoke about their experiences at the Paris summit to an overflow audience earnestly attentive to what these experts had to say. 

Panelists review Paris climate summit at Ithaca event Six panelists, including Cornell faculty members, who attended the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris last fall recalled the historic proceedings for a spirited audience that spilled into the hallway of the Tompkins County Public Library’s BorgWarner Room Feb. 3. The panel, “COP21: Reflections on the Historic Climate Agreement,” was co-sponsored by Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, local government agencies and community groups. Topics discussed ranged from methane emissions to agriculture to civil disobedience, but panelists agreed that the COP21 made history by producing a 195-nation commitment to combat climate change that, while not nearly strong enough, they said, was a remarkable achievement nonetheless. (February 4, 2016) Cornell Chronicle 

The article above and these short videos from two of the panelists-- Colleen Boland and Sandra Steingraber-- capture some of the tone and content of the event in Ithaca. I’m not going to go over all that they said, except to say Climate Change has not faded from their attention. Not in the least.

I sensed that if every community around the world responded to the Paris talks the way Ithaca did that evening, Climate Change would remain fixed in all our minds as a top priority. For as long as it takes for us to address this crisis. Even when our media does cover the Paris talks, they cannot reproduce the town-meeting effect that allows for give-and--take discussions between members of a community on issues crucial to their lives.

In fact, many of the advances in our communications technologies seem to detract from the town-meeting experience, reinforcing our inclination to silo our conversations, where like-minded people talk to each other and the rest get ignored. I suspect that even when we climate activists march in the streets to focus media and leadership attention on Climate Change, we tend to alienate the rest who view such actions as extreme.

What would a conversation with the rest look like in Monroe County? Let’s say we get 700 folks (~ .1% of our county’s population) into a town meeting setting at, say, one of our local university’s auditoriums. Let’s say we can bring in a representative demographic, and could invite some key panelists -- mayors, our governor, some local climate experts, faith leaders, business leaders, community leaders -- to speak for five minutes each on how their groups perceive Climate Change. Then, with a lot of folks with a lot of microphones running around so everyone in the audience could get heard, we’d have a long conversation about Climate Change in our region:

The governor might speak about how we must lead on Climate Change and what their office is doing about changing our energy options. Climate experts could point out some of the many consequences of Climate Change already happening, then consider what’s in store for us if we continue business as usual. Climate experts could give expert testimony on how many aspects of local ecosystems, our lakes, and our agriculture are already being affected. Our faith leaders could talk about the moral imperative of addressing Climate Change. Community leaders could express the concerns of people already disadvantaged—even without Climate Change bearing down on them. The business community could talk about their understanding of Climate Change and some of the solutions they’ve come up with themselves. Then the floor could be opened to the public. And someone would stand up and speak into a microphone:

“I cannot get a job because I cannot afford a vehicle that will take me to where the jobs are.” “Well,” a panelist might say, “We understand this problem and we are trying to update the public transportation system so that it goes to where folks have to go to keep a job.” “But my taxes are already too high.” “My taxes are so high I can hardly keep my mortgage payments going.” “There are programs to help homeowners get energy audits and get the upgrades you need with little cost.” “You talked about our drinking water being affected by more heavy rain causing more sewer overflows.” “We are working to get our waste water system more resilient so it can handle the increase.” “Won’t that cause my taxes to go up more?” “Your taxes might go up a little more or even down if the burden is shared equally.” “I hear the experts about all the changes coming with our weather and climate, but I got problems now with violence, with poor health.” “There will be opportunities for groups who can provide volunteers to grow more gardens for more local healthy food, help out in heat and flood emergencies, and much more.” “I’m a young person and I won’t be able to afford my college fees if I don’t get a good paying job immediately.” “There will be positions opening up to transition business models towards new services and products in a warming world.” “We have a great responsibility to look out and help those who cannot by themselves adapt to Climate Change.” and so on. People who have never talked about Climate Change in the same room would do just that and everyone would remember.  

One of the main conundrums of Climate Change is that the rest are actually a vast majority of the population, and they haven’t been part of the conversation. The rest are going to feel the worst Climate Change consequences sooner and to a far greater degree than those actually paying attention to this crisis because the rest didn’t understand the importance of planning.

The event in Ithaca reminded me that many folks actually understand the urgency of Climate Change (especially when too many of us are stuffed into a room designed for smaller audiences). But put in perspective, only a vanishingly small percent of our country’s population see the warming threat for what it is, as Paris summit fades away for the rest and something else catches their attention.

Time passes.