Sunday, October 19, 2014

Censure a remedy for powerful political climate change deniers

 

CCOutOfOrderSAs those who don’t exclusively get their news locally already know, September 2014 “is now the hottest on record, according to NASA”1 That jaw-dropping reality goes along with NASA’s conclusion that “Earth Just Experienced the Warmest Six-Month Stretch Ever Recorded.”2 I could go on with an endless litany of grim facts (benchmarks) from scientists proving every day that we are headed for disaster.

But one thing the public must be wondering: If things are this bad, why isn’t our media apoplectic with alarm, politicians pounding the pavement with their local solutions for addressing this crisis, or folks with their hair on fire over this?

Good question.

Actually a lot of your friends and neighbors were out in the streets, their hair on fire as it were. The People’s Climate March (PCM), beginning in Rochester with the People’sClimateMarch/WesternNY, was a massive demonstration that is finally starting to sink in. Social experts are stating that because of the march “The Climate Change Movement Is Not Wishful Thinking Anymore”3 and may actually be “a burgeoning social fact” [ibid] Burgeoning, beginning to grow or increasing rapidly; flourishing.

What may be the most immediate result of the PCM comes from Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change at the US State Department: “Todd Stern says that mounting public pressure could rapidly force GOP to address global warming, and urged people to demand action. Climate change denial will switch from being a litmus test for major Republican politicians to a liability in the near future.” More:

Stern said that mounting public pressure would eventually force American politicians' hand on global warming. The People's Climate March in New York City last month, he noted, was a start. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Manhattan calling for action—any action—on climate change. The event took place 48 hours before world leaders, including Stern, gathered at the United Nations to lay the groundwork for climate treaty talks. "It's a basic rule of politics that politicians listen to the voice of potential voters," he said. "When politicians come to believe that not listening could be detrimental to their political health, they listen." Will Climate Change Denial Become a Political Liability? U.S. Treaty Envoy Thinks So (October 15, 2014 Inside Climate News)

Climate Change denial could become a political liability? Wow! Kind of unbelievable given the dreary assumption that climate deniers may flood the Mid-term elections. Yet historic social conditions thought to be so entrenched as to be impossible to transform have changed with amazing rapidity. Recent examples include the acceptance of gay marriage. Nowadays you don’t going around in colleges blurting that you’re a knee-jerk bigot on this issue.

But, before we get too giddy, drunk with success, let’s face a very unpleasant denier obstruction, one that goes to the heart of our collective inability to address Climate Change. What do we do with the denier-in-chief: Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee?

Just this week the US Department of Defense made it crystal clear that Climate Change is not only happening but is a prime concern of our military.

The Department of Defense Must Plan for the National Security Implications of Climate Change The responsibility of the Department of Defense is the security of our country. That requires thinking ahead and planning for a wide range of contingencies. Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe. In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts. (October 13, 2014) White House Blog

Climate Change for the US Military is a ‘threat multiplier’, which is to say the military must view all global military issues through the lens of Climate Change.

But how can our military act on Climate Change if a key figure in the Senate Armed Services Committee says “It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the president and his administration would focus on climate change when there are other, legitimate threats in the world.” (Emphasis added) (Pentagon Signals Security Risks of Climate Change   (October 13, 2014) New York Times)

Climate Change isn’t a ‘legitimate’ threat? Really? The worldwide public, our military, our government, and most scientists agree that Climate Change is something we ought to plan and protect ourselves from, but a few powerfully political ideologues say no. So we’re screwed?

Is there no accounting for powerful deniers who block the rest of us from protecting ourselves? Censure might send a signal that Climate Change denial, just as slavery, is off the table at the US Congress.

In 1954, the censure of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy [5] effectively shut up the rabidly irresponsible senator. Perhaps Congress should consider other well-placed censures so ’we the people’ can get on with addressing the most important crisis of our age.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mid-term elections: We must not put a climate denier into public office

 

CCVoteForMeSPlease note: this essay is not about politics. I find US politics as they are presently practiced bewildering and nasty. I have no stomach for the slings and arrows of outrageous US politics. Nor is this a diatribe about climate deniers. These are other people’s battles, battles that should have ended years ago.

This essay is a plea to remove Climate Change denial from US politics. Climate Change should be apolitical, as if it were as much about our environment as our environment—our life support system. I know, it seems at this moment in time like an impossible request in every sense …, except we do not have the time to remove Climate Change denial from a position it should have never been placed. Inserting Climate Change denial into the mêlée of US politics has put everyone, including the party embracing it, in an impossible position. We can and should debate how to address Climate Change, but it’s suicidal for our country to doubt that it exists.

Voting is important. It has always been integral to democracies. Folks have lived their lives and died so others of different races, genders, religions, and financial status can vote. Getting people to vote is difficult at this point in history because of a prevailing mood that because of money and political influence one’s vote doesn’t count. Corporations, many of which are extremely politically influential, are now ‘people’, according to the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission These corporate-backed groups have almost unlimited funds to manipulate votes. This befouls our political system with pervasive lobbying and makes these powerful Climate Change deniers the puppeteers of our legislative puppets.

So why bother voting?

Attempting to get beyond the voting malaise of the present generation is a great get-out-the-vote video going viral:

'Turn Out for What' Video Aims to Get Millennials to the Voting Booths “Rapper Lil John (the name on his ballot is Jonathan Smith) has repurposed his 2013 summer anthem "Turn Down for What" into a celebrity-filled parody music video, "#TURNOUTFORWHAT," appropriately employing a hashtag to encourage millennials to post, tweet, and share the video with their peers.” (October 8, 2014 Yahoo News)

This video is wonderfully whacky and poignant, but it does throw a grab bag of issues at potential voters. Nonetheless, no one in the video is trying to make up your mind for you on any particular issue; they’re just trying to get you to vote. It doesn’t matter what you vote on, just vote.

But it does matter not only that you vote, but vote through the lens of Climate Change. The warming of our oceans and air temperatures due to manmade Climate Change is accelerating, not abating. It does matter that we understand and accept that humanity’s use of fossil fuels is causing this condition, because we cannot solve the effect if we deny the cause.

We need to prioritize our issues in accordance to Climate Change because in order for our candidates to do their job, they need to plan. That means there needs to be plans and actions in place long before our infrastructures crumble, our food security fails, and disasters due to sea rise and extreme weather events overwhelm our ability to adapt. It’s not that Climate Change is more important and urgent than jobs, public health, equality, justice, energy and anything else; it’s that they all must be addressed within the context of a warming world. You would not carry on normal activities on a cruise ship that was quickly sinking. You’d be preventing the ship from sinking and prioritizing all other issues and activities accordingly.

The mid-term elections (by definition) do not include voting for the next president, which will be held in 2016. But they will be setting the table for the direction for the future. If the people don’t clearly demonstrate in the voting booth that climate denial is not acceptable in a candidate or party, this particular suicidal form of delusionalism will rule. Our ship, as it were, will continue to sink.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The People’s Climate March from the voice of the people

 

CCPCMLotSNews of the People’s Climate March (PCM) got headlines all over the world, except Rochester, NY, of course.  As a matter of fact when I mentioned that I went to the march to an acquaintance she said, “How nice that must have been for you folks who believe in global warming.” (It’s as if those of us in this special club of science lovers had a great big party for ourselves. Ya gotta laugh.) Local media has so much to account for, for not messaging this worldwide crisis.  

Admittedly, the PCM efforts to get Rochesterians to the march got some press before the event. Not much ((as some mentions (below) were letters to the editor and our own coverage of ourselves)) given the enormity of the march but some nevertheless.

  • Connections: Climate Change “Coming up on September 21, the People’s Climate March takes place in New York City. The organizers describe the event as the largest single event on climate ever organized. The march is designed to get the attention of world leaders about the issue. Our guests today will tell us about the march and discuss the issue of climate change: Susan Spencer, Ph.D. candidate at RIT, Susan Smith, Dr. Abigail McHugh-Grifa”
  • People’s Climate March |Coalition recruits climate marchers  On September 21, hundreds of thousands of people will march through Manhattan to show leaders from around the world, particularly US politicians, that the American public supports and demands action on climate change. (September 3, 2014) Rochester City Newspaper
  • Rochester group to join climate march Early on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 21 — very early — people will filter into a parking lot in Pittsford and board a bus. Their intended destination? A future that’s a little less overheated than it otherwise would be. The Sept. 21 bus-riders from the Rochester area, and others who will travel by train and car, will be among several hundred thousand people expected to descend on New York City that afternoon for an event known as the People’s Climate March. Participants hope to focus attention on the need for the United States and other countries act more aggressively to reduce emission of the greenhouse gases that are altering the Earth’s climate. The protest march is timed to bring pressure on international leaders attending a climate summit two days later at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. More than 100 people from the Rochester area are expected to join in. (September 8, 2014) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
  • Rochesterians Prepare for Climate March in NYC A group of Rochesterians are headed to the Big Apple to take part in a historic march.  The Rochester “People’s Climate Coalition” is organizing a trip to send about 200 people to the “People’s Climate March” in New York City on September 21st. The coalition is made up of several local organizations and agree that climate change and carbon emission reduction are two of the most serious issues facing us today.  “Locally we want to raise awareness about the concern our community feels about climate change. and the speed with which organizations have come together and the number of people who are going down to the march speaks to the concern that does exist here in Rochester addressing climate change,” said Sue Smith of the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition.  (September 9, 2014) RochesterHomePage.net
  • “The local chapter of the Sierra Club staffed the Community Tent. Holly and Frank discussed Sierra Club programs and the upcoming People’s Climate March in New York City.” (9/08/2014The Monroe Village Farmers’ Market News)
  • Our press conference was videotaped and is now available on our hub site. Please distribute the press release web address to everyone on your distribution lists, your websites, and when you talk to the media.  We cannot depend on historical media to message Climate Change, an issue they’ve completely failed us on.  There’s a reason why so many in the public still deny Climate Change science and how it will affect our region and how our leaders must respond to it.  So we have to become the media.  You all have spoken eloquently and put much effort and concern into your statements.  Please don’t let this evaporate; this chance will not come again anytime soon.
  • Letter to the editor: Why march for the climate? “Is the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21 a waste of time? Even hardcore environmentalists are questioning the political efficacy of major street demonstrations to produce significant legislative action...” (9/17/2014) Rochester City Newspaper.
  • GUEST ESSAY: Why I’m going on the people’s climate march By Sue Staropoli is a wife of 48 years, mother of 6, grandmother of 11, volunteer facilitator for the Pachamama Alliance (9/18/2014) Brighton-Pittsford Post).

And much of this coverage occurred because those who thought waking up our leaders to take action on the mother of all problems contacted the media—not because our local media themselves thought this worldwide event might be newsworthy.

How about after the march?

For a moment, it would be interesting to find out what the participants in the march thought of it. Why did they go? (Trust me it wasn’t because those who boarded a bus at 2 in the morning and stayed up for 30 hours are particularly fond of this kind of endurance experience.) Many (non-local) talking heads, media pundits, and show hosts got their inordinately loud utterances shouted to the world as why they thought so many (400.000) individuals attended this historic event, but little from the marchers themselves. As you know, some networks seem solely preoccupied to talking to only themselves about issues they haven’t a clue about—Climate Change a noteworthy case in point.

In a democracy our media should find out what the people think, instead of what the media think.

Thankfully, there are sources where you can find out what participants thought of their participation in the biggest climate march in history. These sources, though, aren’t mainstream sources. First is the local People’s Climate March/Western New York hub page: WHY WE ARE GOING TO PCM. Then there’s a great article in “Happenings the monthly newsletter of the Finger Lakes Institute” on the efforts of Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) called: The Green Hand: HWS At The Climate March Of The Century. Finally (but not least, because zillions of folks using their social media have spread photos and stories of their experience) is the People’s Climate March Wrap-UP web page. This page hosts an almost endless string of ‘everything’ connected to that amazing day.

That’s not the end. Locally there’s an event to find out what folks in our region who went to the march thought about their experience and why it was so important to them. Come. Check this out CLIMATE MARCH REPORT TO THE COMMUNITY, WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 8, 2014 FROM 7-8 PM, Church of the Assumption, 20 East Avenue, Fairport, NY 14450.

Bring your friends, bring your media, and let’s not pretend the greatest gathering of folks concerned about Climate Change didn’t happen.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

After the People’s Climate March, a Rochester manifesto

 

PCMPhotoSThe public has delivered a clear mandate on Climate Change. The People’s Climate March (PCM), which drew 400,000 concerned souls, demanded that their governmental leaders act on the most pressing crisis of our age. However milquetoast the UN Summit in NY turns out to be (the summit the PCM tried to kick start), the march will change everything. The media, despite their intentional use of the word ‘activists’ to dismiss most of the world’s peoples as only a special interest group, will have to change too.

Never again. Never again will it be fashionable to deny or dismiss what most people know to be true: that our present way of living is causing our planet to warm up far quicker than most plants, animals and we can adapt to. Never again will our leaders be able to speak as if Climate Change is not occurring. Never again will public pressure cease to compel businesses and governments to respond to the climate crisis with actions that actually bring down greenhouse gases. Promises will be held to a strict standard of compliance—regardless of weak-kneed leaders. The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, whose “objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world”1 must not fail.

Even in Rochester, where the Climate Change crisis goes unheeded by the public, the media, and our leaders, there will be change. Rochester runs with the top third of fastest growing cities, but it is also the 5th poorest city in U.S. Though most think there are more pressing issues to be addressed, it will become increasingly clear that the ‘we’re-too-busy’ approach demolishes any chance to plan properly. Growth and making Rochester habitable for all can only work through the lens of Climate Change because Rochester (as with every other community) will be in climatic chaos. The stance that addressing Climate Change can only occur within the confines of our present economic zeitgeist will have to give way to reality. Already, within many of the organizations that comprise the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, a group that helped propel hundreds of Rochesterians to the PCM in NYC, excitement for change is growing. A major press conference in front of Rochester City Hall on local Climate Change concerns and a local march in support of the PCM show that change is happening—even in Rochester. But it’s not enough and it’s not soon enough, not even close.

Over a span of several years, I have suggested many local solutions to Climate Change in my essays and Daily Updates on RochesterEnvironment.com. (Also, I have been chair, transportation chair and zero waste chair for the Rochester Sierra Club, and endured polite Climate Change denial from the trenches.) At this pivotal moment, I reemphasize the need to act locally to this worldwide crisis on the level that will matter. If the moral imperatives of our region acting immediately on Climate Change are not enough to drive us, then the need to plan adequately in the proper time frame should. As climate scientist Michael Mann says there is a "procrastination penalty" for not acting on Climate Change.

Most immediately, there will probably be an effort to contact local media and community leaders about taking local action on Climate Change. Sounds obvious. But our media and our leaders already know most of the gory details; they need to be pushed. Two major climate studies in our region--Responding to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID) and New York State Climate Action Plan Interim Report ( Governor Patterson, 2010)--spell out clearly what climate changes we are already experiencing, likely changes coming, and what needs to be done. What needs to be done will require massive changes to business as usual. The public must compel both our leaders and our media to act: Demonstrate outside the offices of local leaders and media—in large numbers. Drop subscriptions to local media that do not connect the dots of the local consequences of Climate Change. Become the media by using all online and off-line connections to connect the dots on local Climate Change that our media are not doing. Create islands of Climate Change education through outlets like what “Climate Change Central” did a few years ago, where two marvelous women dedicated their time and money to offer a library of books, videos, and even some coffee. (This could be achieved through grants from state and municipal outreach programs, something they should be doing anyways.)

On transportation there must be a major transformation in the way we get around. Even before we update and make our transportation infrastructure resilient, we should consider whether we should spend more billions of dollars on a system that will increasingly be impossible to maintain. Enhancing our present system with high-speed rail is continually put on and off the table because of funding gymnastics. But it, along with active transportation, could get folk around with a much lower carbon footprint than our present system. Because US transportation emits 27% of our greenhouse gas emissions, it must be a major area of focus. It has not. Instead, active transportation (walking and bicycling) have been languishing behind a tepid program to increase bicycling with painted road symbols that few understand and a sidewalk/trafficlight situation that turns individual pedestrians into packman-like casualties. Unlike New York City (where we marched for Climate Change) both pedestrians and bicyclists in Rochester are the first to be sacrificed for construction projects, trash collection, parking, deliveries, lawn service and telecommunications equipment parking.

One of the best Climate Change adaptation strategies we’ve got for the City of Rochester is also one of the best kept secrets (so where is the local media on this?). In a recent study from the Genesee Transportation Council released in March 2014 “Planning for Transportation and Climate Change: Model Ordinances, Incentives, and Other Resources”, Rochester’s urban active transportation efforts have been heralded as a model for addressing Climate Change – a rather ridiculous assertion. You can find it starting on page 223. Also, the two surveys from Genesee Transportation Council (GTC)--Help shape western New York’s trail network and Long Range Transportation Plan 2040—ask for public input on local transportation planning, but nary a word about the warmer future we must plan for. Education on this issue must be seriously ramped up. For more details read these essays on local transportation.

On public health, there is little at all happening on the local or state level to educate the public about impending health issues related to Climate Change. It took me awhile to find this, but NYS Dept of Health is offering information on public health and Climate Change buried on their website, called Climate, Weather & Health. You have to do a separate search on their site to find it. You won’t find this information at the Monroe County Public Health Department or the city of Rochester for that matter. Though you will find some information on Rochester’s Climate Change efforts buried here: Office of Energy & Sustainability and Climate and Environment Protection Resolution, with a City of Rochester Municipal Operations Climate Action Plan still in progress (though years have gone by). Zilch on Climate Change and public health.

On recycling, though it is integrally related to Climate Change in our region, there are almost no dots being connected, which is alarming because this is where most individuals can act on Climate Change. We are transitioning to a single-stream waste system and highlighting the virtues of burning methane gas (a major greenhouse gas) from our landfills. There is precious little in the press about how all that is working out. If we had serious investigations into Monroe County’s recycling stats, like they do in Buffalo (Investigative Post), we might have a better grasp about what is going on. Presently, the Buffalo Recycling Alliance is conducting Buffalo Recycling Thoughts and Habits; something like this in Rochester would be revealing.

Ok, there’s more on Wetlands, Brownfields, Urban Sprawl, Plants (Rochester's flora), Air Quality, Great Lakes, Pesticides, Water Quality, Food & Environment, Genesee River, Wildlife, Invasive Species, Energy, Wind Power, Solar Power, and Fracking, but I’ve probably already tested your patience. However no manifesto on Climate Change would be complete without action bullet points. In the immediate aftermath of the People’s Climate March, it feels like the low roar that came down the long, long march of 400,000 souls following the moment of silence at 12:58PM, which then quickly crescendoed into a deafening roar. It was a call for humanity to pay attention to Climate Change. On a level that will matter, there is much in Rochester that can be done to change everything:

  • Stop Fracking (a method of using undisclosed chemicals to drill a hole in the ground for more GHGs to send up into our atmosphere) and go 100% renewables. Living off the sun and wind is not insane; it’s a real choice: Read: Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight
  • Read and get others to read climate studies; stop listening to media that don’t report reality. Especially read ClimAid if you live in New York. The studies are long, but bumper-sticker talking points on Climate Change are not enough to understand the crisis of our age.
  • Learn about the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, and have your group join it.
  • Encourage High Speed Rail and Active Transportation instead of throwing more public money at our present transportation infrastructure that’s too fossil-fuel intensive and costly.
  • Get your community to sign up to New York State’s Climate Smart Communities program.
  • Become a citizen scientist to help monitor what’s happening to our environment and help provide more robust data for climate modeling.
  • Conduct more climate studies to fill in holes in our knowledge. Check out these amazing photos of the Finger Lakes with the smaller lakes completely frozen over by this year’s whacky weather. These lakes will be profoundly affected by Climate Change, but few studies exist. Each lake will react differently to Climate Change. There should be a dramatic push to undertake more climate studies on the Finger Lakes and surrounding region.
  • Refrain from the high-tech lure of nuclear power (which is too hot to for us to handle) and most geoengineering schemes—except planting trees. Plant as many trees as you like and keep them in the ground.
  • Do everything to protect our soil, as there are absolutely no high-tech solutions to decomposing life and making things grow. Consider massive organic farming by listening to folks like these, who know about keeping our soil healthy and farming: NOFA-NY, Northeast Organic Farming Association. Leaves and soil are really, really important and both will be severely challenged by Climate Change.
  • Get your government to get moving on infrastructure—transportation, waste water, water, and telecommunications—fixes and updates geared towards mitigating and addressing Climate Change.
  • Get meteorologists talking about Climate Change. If you think weather prediction is problematic, Climate prediction will be a doozy. It’ll be more than a parade that gets rained on if the projections are wrong. We’re going to have to plan our future based on climate predictions and free it up as much as possible from politics, economic jitters, and ideology, or else our predictions will be completely delusional.
  • Get wealthy Climate Change deniers out of American politics. Move to amend Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and gets some of ‘we the people’ back into it.
  • Stop the XL Keystone Pipeline “Stop the fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.”
  • Morph social media into something useful. If environmentalists were to direct the energy that our youth pour into social media towards Climate Change, instead of inadvertently pushing corporate agendas, we would have a society tuned in to the most important crisis of our age. Corporations, the film industry, and the fashion industry, have learned how to leverage Youth Power and social media to make big bucks for themselves; why can’t scientists and environmentalists get our kids to focus on something important to Generation Like’s continued existence?  Just saying… Think of all this as you watch this insightful program “Generation Like”:  Generation Like | Frontline | PBS
  • Vote. Do not vote a climate denier, or someone without a strong climate policy, into office, regardless of their position on other issues. Here’s what happens when that happens.
  • Encourage all environmental groups, politicians, and countries to advocate for a top-down, worldwide, binding agreement on lowering GHG’s. [See: IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] Don’t fall for the lie that climate talks won’t work: Addressing the Big Lie that there are alternatives to the Paris Climate Conference 2015
  • Get politics out of our Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) so that projections of future catastrophes include Climate Change predictions. When your property is destroyed by extreme weather due to Climate Change, you’re going to need a well-funded FEMA to help you pick up the pieces.
  • Pass a single payer health care system. Hurricane Katrina, probably a Climate Change event, showed that everything fails everyone at once. Hurricane Sandy, also probably a Climate Change event, showed that everything fails for those without health insurance.
  • Stop shopping for stuff you don’t need. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. And if you do have to shop, make sure those you buy from a green use cradle to cradle design.
  • Climate Change educational outreach team ready to go to any local school, business, faith group, governmental group, neighborhood association, festival, or whomever with brochures, short films, lectures, displays, and whatever it takes to educate our community on Climate Change.

The People’s Climate March in New York City (and many events like it around the world) has already vanished from the attention of most—including our media. But it was a watershed moment, a moment when hundreds of thousands walked with others of a similar view that everything has changed.

We won’t forget.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Before: Rochesterians going to the People’s Climate March in NYC

 

CCBeforeSMany folks who live in the Rochester, NY region are preparing to arrive at the largest climate march in history—the People’s Climate March. I view this march as an attempt to capture the media’s attention and demonstrate how important it is to our leaders and fellow human beings that the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris must not fail. Other climate talks, especially 2009 in Copenhagen, failed miserably and this leads some to conclude that climate talks—worldwide binding agreements to keep greenhouse gas emission down and do so fairly—are not the answer. But climate talks are the only answer to a worldwide crisis that involves all people, all governments, all corporations, all animals, all plants, and our life support system. Just recently, ‘experts’ realized that our population growth assumptions were off by about 2 billion people. This makes 12 billion folks who by 2100 will have to eat, earn a living, and adapt to a warmer world. We still don’t fully understand all the ramifications of this aspect of the looming disaster.

One thing is for sure, absolutely nothing but a successful climate conference in Paris 2015 can adequately address Climate Change. Without the force of law throughout the world on mitigating Climate Change within a level playing field soon, we’ll be left to the forces of the invisible hand and voluntary efforts. The invisible hand, free market fundamentalism, allowing the market to supplant our moral system, is too selfish and heedless to anything but its own inhuman survival. Voluntary efforts, heroic though they may be, will not be comprehensive and rapid enough to address a problem that has grown exponentially because we’ve let it go for a very long time.

Will the People’s Climate March work? Many obviously don’t think so or they’d be going. I do not know if the People’s Climate March will get people’s attention to the most important crisis of our age. Many who are going to the march are going because of a deep, visceral urge to do something about the complacency they see in their neighbors, powerful corporations, and their governments. Some are going because they’re hoping hundreds of thousands of people marching around New York City on a Sunday afternoon might capture the media’s attention and give Climate Change the top priority it deserves. For those who think they just have to ignore this one because their plate is full, this is not one of those kinds of issues. You will have to adapt to Climate Change, just as you would have to respond to any immediate disaster.

Some are going because they hope. They hope this march will change everything. (A full discussion of this need for a complete change is probably best developed by Naomi Klein in her just-released book.

Naomi Klein: Only a Reverse Shock Doctrine Can Save Our Climate In her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein argues that if we had taken action years ago when scientists first established that human activities were changing our climate, we might have been able to deal with the problem of global warming with only minimal disruption to our economic system. But as we approach a tipping point, and the consequences of climate change come into sharper focus, that time has passed, and we now have to acknowledge that preserving humans’ habitat requires a paradigm change. But Klein doesn’t just offer us a depressing litany of the damage we’ve already done. She calls on us to seriously rethink the way our economy is structured to address not only climate change, but also other longstanding social problems like persistent global poverty and rising inequality. (September 16, 2014) Moyers and Company

The People’s Climate March is not an attempt to defend science, which many who speak to the media about this issue tend to find themselves doing. (It’s like having to explain gravity every time a reporter asks a passerby why some poor soul just jumped from a tall building.) The media, still in its infancy on messaging Climate Change, still wants to give denial a chance, and appease those who might find this subject too alarming and dreadful. So, we still have to march and make a lot of noise to grab the media’s attention because the media cannot get their heads around the all-inclusiveness of this issue.

The science of Climate Change can speak for itself, as it has in many climate studies around the world. The People’s Climate March is about reaching the public at a gut level (beyond politics and the will not to believe) and getting them to demand that their media and their leaders get moving.

Before this march, we still can hope. I find myself, someone who has seen almost no local action on Climate Change, hoping for a new day on climate responsibility when I return. A day where we wake up to the world we are really living in, a warmer world that is quickly getting warmer and a community ready to get their hands dirty. Before this march, I wonder if the local media will find it in their hearts to cover this issue after a great jolt of adrenaline from New York City. I wonder whether the public will continue to only muse about Climate Change, if they think about it all, or might instead become engaged with the issue of their generation. I wonder, as a soldier might before a great war, if all the planning and inconvenience of getting to and experiencing a great human movement whether it will be worth it all. But this last question will be answered after the march, not before it.

I acknowledge that many are working towards a sustainable future, doing their part and all that. But we must ask ourselves, is what we are doing going to make a difference? If our actions don’t address the immediate problem of lowering greenhouse gases on a planetary scale, it’s not enough. Unlike many of the great issues, where we won’t know the outcome of our actions, the need to lower GHGs is clear. We cannot dodge this one with rationalizations.

After the march, after the dust settles as it were, I’ll be back with my observations.

BTW: If you really cannot make the march, check this out: “5 Ways to Support the People's Climate March Without Marching” (9/18 The Huffington Post)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Climate Change from special interest to mainstream

 

PCM2It’s been an interesting week messaging the People’s Climate March (PCM) from Rochester, NY. The PCM occurring in New York City on September 21st will be the largest climate march in history. It’s a demonstration by over a thousand organizations and hundreds of thousands of ordinary folks and their children (not activists as mainstream media tends to characterize them). The march is but a single (though dramatic) event among many others going on in many other places: a Global Day of Action. Still, in Rochester, Climate Change is viewed by most people as a special issue. A special issue is something only a select group of people think is important, while the rest of us need not worry ourselves.

Of course, Climate Change is not a special interest, nor is it the concern of only a few. Every aspect of our environment, which is to say our life support system, and our entire social fabric will be challenged by this sudden shift in greenhouse gas concentrations (GHGs). Climate changes are already happening as the National Climate Assessment states, a report by 13 federal agencies that don’t have the luxury of avoiding this crisis. Climate studies that inform our leaders and agencies what’s happening, what to plan for, and what to do about Climate Change present the many practical solutions that must be occurring now. Again, Climate Change is not a special interest issue, and should not be treated as such.

In Rochester Climate Change is still seen by most as a minor annoyance or possibly a somewhat greater inconvenience. Those trying to communicate the necessity of adhering to the critical measures recommended by most official climate studies are thought to be overwrought and ‘passionate’ about this issue. Such ‘zealots’ are asked to restrain their enthusiasm for the proper venue. For example, on a local neighborhood social network, my announcement that a Rochester neighborhood association agreed that it was important to send locals to the PCM was received by one of the administrators of the popular program with distaste, suggesting if I wanted to mention ‘Climate Change’ I should create a special group for my special interest. Maybe go to a coffee shop and spill our hearts out. Climate Change, presumably, is more upsetting than house break-ins, robberies, and car thefts to the general public.

This isn’t simply a rambling rant of greeny woes. What is happening in our overloaded information age is that the gatekeepers of media--mainstream media editors and our social media administrators--are forcing us into silos where important stuff gets ignored and too often drivel rules. Owners of the mediums we now communicate through direct, and too often constrict, what we can transmit and what we can receive. Few issues highlight this alarming muzzling effect as Net Neutrality, where if we don’t act soon, only those with a lot of bucks will have the opportunity to communicate their message to most of the public. That happened with radio and TV and now the Internet is in jeopardy.

When Rochester region’s media were asked last Tuesday to attend a press conference, only one TV station showed up. Folks representing over 30 organizations, themselves representing over 100,000 Rochesterians, eloquently spoke in front of Rochester City Hall about the importance of getting local folks to the PCM. But, as usual, they ended up speaking largely to the converted. (You can Become the Media! by posting videos of the press conference all over the place.) Attending the PCM, an activity on the level that could force change in a timeframe that will actually matter, effectively got hushed up. Already, it is quite likely that the low-emission scenarios (where New York’s climate will be like Virginia’s) have passed us by as GHG accumulation rates break records. Today’s Florida climate is now more likely for New York even if we stop all anthropomorphic GHG emissions right now. This isn’t a special issue; it’s a practical emergency. If Neil Armstrong had reported from space to Huston that a vital component in the spaceship was failing and the moon mission was in trouble, Houston would have listened and acted.

Of course, not all efforts to get the 700,000 inhabitants of Monroe County energized about the People’s Climate March have been in vain. There are already two buses filled with local folks, a lot of car-pooling, train riders and other ways available to get to the march. There will be local actions for those who cannot go. Generous donations have been made so many can come. There has been some press. You can find out all about local efforts here http://peoplesclimate.org/westernny/. As I mentioned above, many local organizations have come together to speak as one on the urgency of Climate Change. This is good, the actions of a relative few; but it’s not enough. More folks live in Monroe County than the entire state of Vermont. We should be seeing a proportional response.

Sure, our region has many pressing issues. Yet despite the urgency it seems as though everything else but Climate Change comes first. But if not now, when? If not in Rochester, where? When will it be the appropriate time to lift Climate Change to the level of concern it deserves? When will climate change denial and not Climate Change messaging be appropriate? When will the citizenry demand of their leaders an accounting of their plans to address Climate change? When will it be ok to talk about climate change with your friends and family? When will our local media editors instruct their reporters to connect the dots on the local expression of Climate Change.? In other words, how should a message as grave as Climate Change be messaged to the greater local public--who do not want to hear about it, even though they must? Being nice and patient hasn’t worked.

In a time where many issues are competing for our limited attention, we need to prioritize. Climate Change, the mother of all problems, should long have been a mainstream issue, not in the embarrassingly discomfiting squalor of unseemliness it now resides. It should be at the top of our priority list if we wish to give our children a fighting chance.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Rochester, NY groups join efforts to get locals to People’s Climate March

 

CCHelpComingSMore than 20 organizations in the Rochester area are helping to boost awareness that getting local folks to the People’s Climate March is absolutely crucial. Business as usual is not acceptable anymore. Rochester’s efforts, the Western New York hub of the People’s Climate March, joined over twenty groups, businesses, organizations of faith, and labor organizations, to support getting Rochesterians to the ‘Largest Climate March in History.’ Already, Rochester People’s Climate Coalition gets big local press coverage:  

  • Connections: Climate Change “Coming up on September 21, the People’s Climate March takes place in New York City. The organizers describe the event as the largest single event on climate ever organized. The march is designed to get the attention of world leaders about the issue. Our guests today will tell us about the march and discuss the issue of climate change: Susan Spencer, Ph.D. candidate at RIT, Susan Smith, Dr. Abigail McHugh-Grifa”
  • Coalition recruits climate marchers  On September 21, hundreds of thousands of people will march through Manhattan to show leaders from around the world, particularly US politicians, that the American public supports and demands action on climate change. (September 3, 2014) Rochester City Newspaper

If you don’t get your butt to the People’s Climate March and back your leaders’ substantial actions on Climate Change, you can kiss it “Goodbye!” Look, for those who pour scorn on the Peoples Climate March as being some desperate symbolic measure by some frustrated liberals to change the world, let them be accountable for less than a great outpouring of humanity to demand that greenhouse gases be lowered, and done so fairly. If, after you have gotten out of your chair and out from behind your excuses, and joined with hundreds of thousands at the People’s Climate March in New York City, then you can carp with righteous self-importance about how you did your part.

To better understand the implications of how wimpy leadership on Climate Change threatens our ability to adapt to Climate Change, read this special investigative series “Water’s Edge” from Reuters (not exactly a bastion of liberal, bleeding-heart journalism). Despite the rage against the inconvenience of addressing Climate Change, against the climate science, the clogging affect of our ineffective politics, and the distraction of our loud but loony ideologies, the rising seas near our most populated regions are relentless. Let me repeat “relentless” (persistent, unyielding, unremitting, inexorable, insistent, harsh, unrelenting, ruthless, and uncompromising). We are going to have to understand the role of government and insurance and private property and a whole lot more in this world of warming.  This Reuters story proves we don’t get Climate Change yet: 

As the seas rise, a slow-motion disaster gnaws at America’s shores Part 1: A Reuters analysis finds that flooding is increasing along much of the nation’s coastline, forcing many communities into costly, controversial struggles with a relentless foe. WALLOPS ISLAND, Virginia – Missions flown from the NASA base here have documented some of the most dramatic evidence of a warming planet over the past 20 years: the melting of polar ice, a force contributing to a global rise in ocean levels. The Wallops Flight Facility’s relationship with rising seas doesn’t end there. Its billion-dollar space launch complex occupies a barrier island that's drowning under the impact of worsening storms and flooding. NASA's response? Rather than move out of harm’s way, officials have added more than $100 million in new structures over the past five years and spent $43 million more to fortify the shoreline with sand. Nearly a third of that new sand has since been washed away. (September 4, 2014) Reuters

Back six years ago, many, many folks in New York State thought Fracking was inevitable and Governor Patterson’s Fracking moratorium would quickly dissolve. But that did not happen. Folks from all over the state, including the heroic work of R-Cause in Rochester, blocked that Fracking nonsense—at least for the time-being. People getting together en masse can make big changes and the People’s Climate Change march ain’t nothing; check this out:

This is an invitation to change everything. In September, world leaders are coming to New York City for a UN summit on the climate crisis. UN Secretary­ General Ban Ki-­moon is urging governments to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution. With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the course of history. We’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities To change everything, we need everyone on board. Sunday, September 21 in New York City. Join us.” (People’s Climate March)

Join with the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition in our effort to get local folks to the march. Contact me [FrankRegan@RochesterEnvironment.com] to sign on.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

People’s Climate March: “You will have to answer to your children.”

 

CCSorrySLet me use a quote from Dr. James Hansen to motivate you to come to the People’s Climate March: “Why march? You will have to answer to your children. You understood the situation at a time when it was not too late. Instead of standing up for them, did you choose to sit at home?” (“The People’s March”, 8/29/2014 Dr. James E. Hansen,)

President Obama, after staring politics in the face, has blinked from a full engagement at the Paris 2015 Climate Treaty. He’s going for an end-run around Congress for a nonbinding treaty:

Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of Treaty WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress. In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. (August 26, 2014) New York Times

This political maneuvering comes about the same time that the New York Times also mentions that it just got hold of a UN draft that says “new U.N. report warns climate change could become "irreversible" if greenhouse gas emissions go unchecked,” (U.N. Draft Report Lists Unchecked Emissions’ Risks , (8/ 26, 2014) New York Times). That’s a show stopper, stop anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions NOW! or...  

However, rather than finally grasping the reality of Climate Change, the media and our leaders view Congress’s intransigency as some sort of irreversible reality. Some godly decree. So the US Congress’s inability to understand Climate Change science means we’ve encountered an unmovable body and we must go around it? Really? Congress has decided Climate Change does not exist, therefore it does not exist?

Not really. Congress can change. The laws of physics cannot change—you put more greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, the place warms up. People can change Congress’s mind. When enough folks come out and demonstrate to their leaders and their media that they must wake up, alarm bells can go off. Even Congress (believe it or not) must eventually bow to the people’s will. Sooner, rather than later, would be nice if we hope to have time enough to plan.

Listen to this critical interview with Bill McKibben on why folks like you and I must not let leaders get away with some kind of go-around deal. “Your body is badly needed on the streets of New York City on September 21, 2014…”

As Obama Settles on Nonbinding Treaty, "Only a Big Movement" Can Take on Global Warming As international climate scientists warn runaway greenhouse gas emissions could cause "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts," the Obama administration is abandoning attempts to have Congress agree to a legally binding international climate deal. The New York Times reports U.S. negotiators are crafting a proposal that would not require congressional approval and instead would seek pledges from countries to cut emissions on a voluntary basis. This comes as a new U.N. report warns climate change could become "irreversible" if greenhouse gas emissions go unchecked. If global warming is to be adequately contained, it says, at least three-quarters of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. We speak to 350.org founder Bill McKibben about why his hopes for taking on global warming lie not in President Obama’s approach, but rather in events like the upcoming People’s Climate March in New York City, which could mark the largest rally for climate action ever. "The Obama administration, which likes to poke fun at recalcitrant congressmen, hasn’t been willing to really endure much in the way of political pain itself in order to slow things down," McKibben says. "The rest of the world can see that. The only way we’ll change any of these equations here or elsewhere is by building a big movement — that’s why September 21 in New York is such an important day." (August 28, 2014) Democracy Now!

Without you at the march, Congress will seriously screw up your future, and you will have to answer to your children. If you cannot come by bus, if you cannot come by train, if you cannot come by car-pooling, if you cannot come at all donate, if you cannot donate please make a commitment to get someone else in your stead to do at least one of these things. If you live near Rochester, NY here’s how you can be among those who showed up: http://peoplesclimate.org/westernny/

Saturday, August 23, 2014

People’s Climate March in NYC matters to Rochester, NY

 

CCLeadersOfWorldSTwo buses and a train full of Rochester folks will be heading to New York City for the September 21st People’s Climate March. This demonstration, likely to be the largest ever on Climate Change, will be an expression of the public’s will to get their leaders to prepare responsibly for a warming world. Adapting to and mitigating Climate Change should be humanity’s top priority. But for far too long our media has treated Climate Change as a special interest, failing to adequately inform the public of the most important issue of our time. Our politics, which is supposed to hone in on the issues most important to the public, has been paralyzed by anti-science ideology on this worldwide crisis. Government agencies, which manage and update our various infrastructures, are preparing us for the wrong future. And the public feels helpless, trying to decide how to influence something as overwhelming as Climate Change. The People’s Climate March is the public event which will affect change on a level that will actually matter. This may be the last chance for mitigation to play a real part in solving this crisis. It’s 2014; at the present trajectory, we’re are not going to keep global temperatures at the world consensus, and more changing of light bulbs won’t do the trick.

There will be hundreds of thousands of ordinary people, including over 750+ myriad groups, marching through the streets of Manhattan on a Sunday afternoon demanding that our leaders (including President Obama) make responsible choices at the UN Climate Change Summit in NYC, so that this time we can reach a worldwide binding treaty in Paris in 2015 on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions —and doing so equitably. These climate talks have failed over twenty times, but if they fail again in Paris, we will lose our last chance to bring GHG down emissions before worldwide catastrophic disruption to our life support system. Not to mention a world warming up ten times faster than the Holocene will be pretty darn inconvenient, eventually impossible to adapt to.

Historically, only when people go to the streets in large numbers do their leaders begrudgingly shift their attention from everyday politics, the interests of the few and powerful, and begin the hard work of democracy. Gay rights, women’s rights, living wages, racial equality, and many more critical issues only made progress after being kickstarted by ordinary folks like you taking it to the streets. Climate Change is the mother of all critical issues: no future, no critical issues.

Like many places this year , Rochester NY has enjoyed a moderate summer because of the two giant cool spots in an otherwise very warm July. This kind of local weather anomaly tends to distract the public from the global warming trends. Yet, instead of frequent heatwaves this year, our region has been nailed with extreme flooding that has put a lot of raw sewage into our Great Lakes waters and jeopardized local crops. Frequent heavy flooding is one of the predictions of climate studies for our region. But the local press doesn’t mention that.

Because Climate Change doesn’t lend itself to short, pithy sound bites, only continual reporting by local media can lift the shroud of indifference that covers Rochester, and too many more communities. This indifference means the public begins to believe that addressing and mitigating Climate Change can be put off. It cannot. Climate Change is not about scaremongering, it’s about planning so the worst doesn’t happen. For one example, right now the Genesee Transportation Council (GTC) is planning for our local transportation infrastructure updates (fixing roads, bridges, and accommodating active transportation) covering the period of 2015 through 2040.They want your input. But even though we’ll be well into the consequences of Climate Change in our region by that time (more frequent extreme flooding, heat waves that wreak havoc on pavement not designed for that, and the cause of 27% of our GHGs) nary a mention of all that. This means the GTC will probably have to scrap the new plans right after they make them and redo them for a warmer Rochester.

Also, local media reports on fights over lake levels without bringing in Climate Change, which will ultimately determine the lake levels anyway. Though our region is experiencing more dangerous algae outbreaks in our lakes, more cases of Lyme disease and West Nile Virus, more ash borers killing our ash trees, more sewage entering the Great Lakes because of flooding, a longer growing season, and more whacky weather, all of which are connected to Climate Change, our local media does not connect this to Climate Change—nor our local governmental agencies for that matter. Consideration of any clean energy policy by the state that will keep more GHGs out of our atmosphere has been hijacked by the Fracking (more freaking fossil fuels) issue. It’s gonna be hard to keep pace with swatting every fly if someone doesn’t shut the door.

To shut that door, as it were, to mitigate Climate Change, to wake up our media, our leaders, and our neighbors, we call on the public to come to the People’s Climate March in New York City on September, 21st. If you cannot come, we call on you to donate so more can come. We also call on the public to: create or join a local PCM event, write letters to the editors of your media about this march, get involved, comment on articles in local media that don’t connect the dots, press community leaders to inform the public and to base community planning on Climate Change, to read some of the many climate studies for expert information, and (quite frankly) to give a shit about Climate Change.

Damn the excuses and full speed ahead to the People’s Climate March and then to Paris 2015. You can find out how to get to the People’s Climate March from Rochester, NY by going here: http://peoplesclimate.org/westernny/.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Addressing the Big Lie that there are alternatives to the Paris Climate Conference 2015

 

CCSolutionSIt is rubbish to suggest that there is any real alternative to the Paris Climate Conference 2015 in actually bringing down manmade greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). In the first place if there was an alternative to a worldwide binding agreement to keep world temperatures to 2°C and do so in a way that would be fair and equitable to both developed nations and developing nations, that would already be happening. It is not. Worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are going dangerously up.

Admittedly the climate talks have failed over twenty times, but that does not mean there is any real alternative; it merely means that those who have fought against doing the only thing that will actually bring down worldwide greenhouse gas emission have been successful in thwarting the rest of us. Thinking we can replace the moral imperative to mitigate Climate Change with our present economic system is folly, as our present economic system is the very system that has hijacked our moral system and put us in this worldwide climate crisis in the first place.

The United Nations (UN), which is hosting the Paris Climate Conference 2015 under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was established to end worldwide conflagrations such as the first and second world wars. No other process than this, representatives of each nation continually talking and compromising, could have achieved this goal. Sure there have been many conflicts -- the Korean War, the Cold War, you-name-it -- but not another world war since the UN’s founding. Bad as the innumerable wars and nasty skirmishes that have gone on since the establishment of the UN in 1945 are, a third world war with the specter of a nuclear exchange would probably be the end. Now, though there is almost as much aspersion heaped on the UN as when President Wilson tried to start the first UN (called the League of Nations), it again is being called upon to solve an issue only it can solve. A successful Paris climate talk will not in and of itself solve Climate Change, just as the UN did not solve all world conflicts. But providing a platform where all nations meet and talk about Climate Change mitigation and find consensus in orchestrated agreements it can do. No other course of action has even a remote possibility of doing so.

In an otherwise important article “Why A New Study Thinks Next Year’s Climate Talks Won’t Keep The World Under 2°C” in Think Progress/Climate Progress, where a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) analysis predicts failure at the Paris talks, the writer includes a statement by a Paris 2015 contrarian. This article borders on the irresponsible, reminding me of Jon Oliver’s “statistically representative climate change debate.” From the study by MIT that the Paris Climate Talks will probably fail, the writer leaps to an interview with someone who says we don’t need this 2015 climate talk anyways: “We do not need a new international process to do this…”and we already have “The infrastructure already exists in other multilateral frameworks.”

It would have been more responsible for the writer to demand some evidence for these purported alternatives to the Paris 2015 talks. (And, maybe just for good measure, we might think about making those who dismiss and work against worldwide binding agreements accountable.) The truth is that after Paris 2015, there is no Plan B. If we cannot agree on a worldwide effort to mitigate Climate Change, we will be left trying to only adapt to the consequences of warming, and probably with little regard for those nations who did not cause Climate Change, who will be left to struggle with the consequences.

There are many ways we are going to have to accomplish fixing something as incredibly vast as bringing down GHG concentrations—and adapt to the inertia of warming already built up in our atmosphere and water since pre-industrial times. Clean energy; more efficient and less polluting transportation; quickly getting consumers to consider cradle-to-cradle design in their buying habits; a carbon tax, and much, much more will have to be implemented to adequately address Climate Change. But all of these actions must happen and they must happen in concert with the rest of the world or they’ll be ad hock and less than adequate for the situation—which is to say catastrophic.

Only a successful climate summit can compel governments and their peoples and their economies to comply with an orchestrated worldwide effort to bring GHG concentrations down. Nothing in our present economic system, or the religions of world, or even a major catastrophic event will get all seven billon of us on the same page. (Actually major catastrophes like 9/11 seem at least as likely to bring out the worst in our nature.] We cannot carbon capture or geoengineer ourselves out of Climate Change, because in many ways these ‘magic bullets’ will only enable us to dismiss the entire scope of Climate Change and continue on business as usual: buying more stuff, having more kids, and believing that there are no limits to our desires on a finite planet.

It is a Big Lie and it is irresponsible to suggest that because previous climate talks have failed, that because developed nations have refused to step up to the plate and lower their GHS and help those nations that did not cause this catastrophe in the past, that we must adopt plans that do little more than continue business as usual. So-called alternatives to Paris 2015 aren’t alternatives; they are deliberately sabotaging the only solution that will work for their own ideological and economic gain.

Adapting to and mitigating Climate Change in a way that sustains all life while striving to do so equitably is the defining issue of our time. How we comport ourselves during this historic trial by fire will reveal our true nature.

Lying to ourselves, looking for the quick-fix or the silver bullet, won’t solve an issue that has been building up for centuries due to overpopulation, overconsumption, and a great indifference to the workings of our life support system.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Climate Change mitigation (People’s Climate March ==> Paris 2015) & adaptation: what’s the diff?

 

CCPCM4Climate Change demands we walk and chew gum at the same time. We will have to Adapt to Climate Change and we should Mitigate Climate Change simultaneously. There are important differences between mitigation and adaptation. So that we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot while attempting both, we ought to be clear up front what we are talking about. The long road that leads us to the People’s Climate March in September and then to the Paris Climate Conference in 2015 is fraught with denial, political intrigue, physics, biology, and (dare I say it) hope.

Mitigation, taking actions to reduce the greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions so that our atmosphere does not warm up even more, is at its core a moral issue. So that others—plants, animals, soil, and ourselves—have a viable future, we should do everything we can to stabilize or return to the climate we, and most of the life around us, thrived in. (I say ‘most’ because many creatures like amphibians and reptiles probably could have done without the Holocene altogether.) We have caused Climate Change; therefore, we have a moral responsibility to stop it. There are books and books that ruminate ad infinitum on this connection, not to mention religious leaders, including Pope Francis, who have waxed eloquently on this. But the moral imperative of Climate Change should be obvious to all; even an old atheist like me gets it.

Regardless of our mitigation efforts, we will, sooner or later, be compelled to adapt to Climate Change as well. The consequences of Climate Change—more wildfires, more extreme weather, rising seas, melting glaciers, and overwhelming insurance costs—will force us to adapt. Even those who deny the science of Climate Change*. Those who think Climate Change is so overwhelming and hopeless that they just go fall into a paralyzing pit of despair don’t understand the adapting part of Climate Change. It’s one thing to say, for example, that a nuclear holocaust is going to happen tomorrow (as we once thought in the sixties) and just go about one’s business as usual, hoping those fools in government won’t push the button—or whatever you use now to set those things off. It is quite another thing to say during a 100-degree-plus heatwave that you’ll just keep exercising outdoors and suck it up. Or, when your water is undrinkable because of sewer overflows (CSO) due to frequent extreme rainfall, you’ll just drink bottled water. Bottled (plastic really) potable water will run out very quickly in a parched, public shitstorm. All living organisms, even humans with cars and houses, have to adapt to every little change in their environment or they don’t get to live and procreate another day.

Since we are clearly not (yet) moved by the moral aspect of Climate Change (and it appears that we in the aggregate are not), we find ourselves instead shooting ourselves in the foot, as it were, by adapting to Climate Change by using more fossil fuels to keep ourselves cool. If we don’t change to a renewable energy grid, we’ll be cooling ourselves in the short term while setting the table for disaster. It would be the height of moral depravity to adapt to Climate Change by doing more harm than good. But adapting to Climate Change without mitigation would be like a worldwide whack-a-mole, starting more fires as you’re trying to put them out.

This brings us to the People’s Climate March and the Paris Climate Conference in 2015. GHG concentrations have gone up significantly since the 1980’s (when dramatic action was called for by Dr. Hansen in a speech to Congress in 1988), so much so that the time has long since past when a few good actions by a few environmentally-minded folks alone could have any chance of mitigating Climate Change. This is the message we must all understand now: Mitigation actions now must be on a very grand scale to matter. (Let those who disagree be held accountable.) We can adapt, and we will for awhile, but ultimately our efforts to save ourselves (outweighing all our other hopes and dreams) will fail unless mitigation and adaptation go hand in hand. The physics of trapping greenhouse gases more quickly than our biology can handle them will spell doom unless we understand the compelling nature of Climate Change. (Sorry to be a ‘Debbie Downer’ but Climate Change is not a special interest.)

The People’s Climate March, where hundreds of thousands of folks will demand that their leaders take action on Climate Change, is a moral action on Climate Change mitigation on a level that will really matter. Maybe one of the last. The potential of impact of this march is summed up here:

“The September march will be more globally relevant, as Ban Ki-moon has raised expectations that world leaders from across the world will attend, in order to raise ambition ahead of the UN’s climate conference in Paris 2015, where all countries have agreed to sign off a legally binding deal to prevent dangerous global warming.” Bill McKibben issues ‘call to arms’ for New York climate summit  (May 22, 2014) Responding to Climate Change RTCC

The more you know about the Paris Climate Talks in 2015 the more you will realize it must not fail. There is no Plan B. This conference may be the world’s last chance to mitigate Climate Change and keep our greenhouse gas emissions to a sustainable level. If it does fail, most likely we’ll all be scurrying around trying to only adapt to Climate Change—which is ultimately hopeless. 

The great moral leaders of our time are urging folks to understand the important of Paris 2015:

WORLD LEADERS MUST ACT IN 2015: TUTU, MALALA AND BONO’S STARK WARNING Today is Mandela Day. Desmond Tutu, Bono, Malala Yousafzai, Graca Machel, Muhammed Yunus and Mo Ibrahim have written a powerful letter to world leaders  to make 2015 a transformative year in the fight against poverty, inequality and climate change.  Dear World Leaders, We write to sound a warning. A warning that 2015 will be a year of huge opportunity, but also of huge risk. What is at stake here could not be greater, for it is not less than the future of our human family and the world upon which we all depend. Two global processes – the replacement of the current UN development framework and the conclusion of a new climate treaty – culminate within months of each other at the end of 2015. They require us to decide which future we want for people and planet. For there are two dramatically different futures we could live in by 2030. Down one hopeful path we have built on progress, and learned how to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger, as well as put an end to preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths. In so doing, we will give everyone everywhere opportunity and the right to lead their lives with dignity without jeopardising our planet’s ability to provide for its people now and into the future. This is an entirely possible outcome if we do the right thing. (July 18, 2014) Save the Children

So connecting the dots between the People’s Climate March in September and the Paris 2015 Climate Conference (COP21) is crucial. The world has come together over twenty times to do something meaningful on Climate Change and failed. The window of opportunity is closing because if global surface temperatures are not kept below 2°C (a world consensus) over the pre-industrial average, this may well be more warming than humanity’s amazing ability to adapt can handle.
*Of course, all of the above will seem absurd and look like the mere hysterical rantings of a Chicken Little (actually, Penny Henny) if you’re still in Climate Change denial mode. However, there are folks who can help with ‘Climate Change denier Syndrome”. They are called scientists.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Local media must adapt to Climate Change & #climatemarch

 

CCAwesomeSConsider: You are sitting in a crowded movie theater and someone yells, “Fire!” but nobody moves. You look around to people’s faces around you and no one registers alarm. You don’t actually see a fire, or smoke, and no alarm goes off. Odds are that you will probably sit right there until folks just start piling out of the theatre, or some kind of appropriate response to a threatening situation.

The above, of course, is a thought experiment about how we humans react to danger. One of the ways we react to stimuli is to look around, social creatures that we are, and see how others are reacting. Did something significant happen, or was it just our imaginations? That’s adaptive because we’d lose a lot of energy if we jumped through the roof (so to speak) every time something caught our attention.

There are things we need to pay attention to, though. The severe lack of local media coverage on Climate Change feeds the delusion that there’s no danger. You look in the local news and there’s no sense of alarm about what alarmed folks around the world are saying about Climate Change. Locally, you see happy articles about how a few are living green and some are even starting up green business. Rarely do you see real investigative inquires as to whether we are actually preparing properly and on a scale that will actually make a difference. Rarely do you find any local media connecting the dots with this worldwide crisis and the Rochester region. One exception is the efforts of Rochester City Newspaper, as in this recent article:

Get used to the downpours Rochester has had a pretty wet July. Going by National Weather Service records, the area has had 7.51 inches of rain this month through yesterday, when the normal level is 3.11 inches. And yesterday's intense rains broke the daily record: the 2.42 inches measured by the NWS at the Rochester airport topped the 1966 high water mark of 1.94 inches. Outside of the city, some areas received much more rain: Richmond Fire Chief Ken Adami told the Democrat and Chronicle that the town, which suffered substantial flood damage, received 7 inches. It's worth looking at the storm through the lens of climate change, with the caveat that it's difficult to tie individual weather events to climate change.  (July 29, 2014) Rochester City Newspaper

Articles like that above are crucial for the public to understand the nature of Climate Change in our area. We don’t just have to get used to more frequent heavy downpours in our regions. We have to adapt to that, and we have to mitigate (stop) an increase in greenhouse gases, so the consequences of Climate Change don’t get worse. Sure California would love to have some of our rain right now, but it doesn’t work that way and besides, we cannot handle frequent massive flooding unless we start planning and acting on this immediately. When raw sewage overflows into our drinking water or our roads collapse too quickly for us to handle the new normal, the public is going to be pointing fingers. They will ask: Why weren’t we informed in a timely manner so we could plan and fund the efforts to update our infrastructures? This wouldn’t be a failure of government but a failure of our media to properly inform local citizenry of clear and present dangers. Without proper coverage of Climate Change the public thinks the deniers still have a case.

Jon Oliver’s video, criticizing the media’s false balance about Climate Change, went viral recently, probably long after most folks already knew this particular failure of media. But still, this is quite entertaining: John Oliver's viral video: the best climate debate you'll ever see. This week Senator Bernie Sanders forwarded this report by Media Matters Climate Change and Network News proving that an unbalanced view of Climate Change still pervades mainstream media.

Of course there are other reasons besides media dysfunction or intentional obstruction why this worldwide crisis of a warming planet doesn’t get the attention it deserves. In another thought experiment—the essay “The Collapse of Western Civilization” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway—describes many other reasons why the public is not alarmed about Climate Change. Some are misinterpreting historical events, some are the inertia of old thinking in a new warming world , and some are the results of orchestrated efforts by rogue scientists and rich climate deniers who battle what they perceive as a threat to their livelihood. BTW, Oreskes and Conway also authored Merchants of Doubt, which is required reading if you want to stand a chance of understanding the malfeasance behind climate denial—and the concerted efforts to mislead the public on the dangers of DDT, tobacco smoke, and acid rain.

To circumvent and combat media’s failure to inform the public on a warming world, new global media efforts to message Climate Change are being developed. Some major media are offering environmental sections to their news lineup. Leaders in Congress, like Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), attempt to fill the media/Climate Change gap by continually lecturing on Climate Change to their colleagues—your representatives. Rochester is experimenting with media options for the public like Rochester Free Radio; but I suspect it will be the dickens trying to get the majority of the public to tune in. Scientists continually develop Climate Facts online to unravel the complexity of this singular issue. But all present efforts still remain in silos, which the mainstream treats as special interests—as if only a few were concerned about their life support system.

The Mexican tetra or blind cave fish lost its eyes because eyesight in a dark cave environment is a complete waste of energy. (Eyes, usually very evolutionary adaptive, consume a lot of energy, energy in the case of a blind cave fish better spent on fine-tuning other senses.) In the same sense, mainstream media cannot continue on its present trajectory of Climate Change misrepresentation. Not because folks will finally realize that this would be immoral (which it is), but because their ‘news’ will be useless as an extension of our senses. The complexity of modern life requires a capable media in the same sense we need our own eyes and ears. If these senses are delivering nonsense, they are as worthless as a blind cave fish’s eyes.

At this point in time, 2014, climate denialists with the help of an attention-deficit media have hijacked our Climate Change adaption and mitigation efforts that should have already begun on a large scale. As California burns and manmade greenhouse gas emission rise, Rochesterians are still depressingly lackluster about this issue, even as worldwide grassroots efforts on Climate Change gather in our own state. For example, however long it might be before local Rochester media finally reports on the People’s Climate March [#climatemarch] in September, it will most likely be after the spectacle of 300,000 ordinary people march through Manhattan demanding their leaders take action on Climate Change. Reporting on this event as it develops, bringing to the public’s attention the importance of this demonstration, would bring many more folks to the level of alarm that many around the world are feeling—and make a greater impact on our leaders. But I suspect most reading this article haven’t even heard of the People’s Climate March and aren’t likely to until they switch media and begin to sense what’s really happening in our environment.