Monday, March 11, 2019

Walking is the first step towards addressing Climate Change

Regardless of how you get around, at some point, you’re a pedestrian, which includes those using ambulatory devices. Walking isn’t just fundamental to being bipedal, it must be a critical way we address Climate Change. Active Transportation (walking and bicycling) can dramatically reduce the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. Especially if you move to a place where you can walk to most of the places you need and want to go.

According to the EPA, “transportation accounted for the largest portion (28%) of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2016.” But, despite decades of efforts by countless concerned citizens, pedestrians are continually being slaughtered by our vehicular transportation system. We won’t significantly reduce our greenhouse gases until we stop killing ourselves when we go for a walk.

Being able to walk safely in Rochester is a focus of our City, county, and state governments. But their efforts are not enough.

Pedestrians Dying at Highest Rate in 30 Years The number of pedestrians killed on U.S. roads in 2018 hit the highest record in nearly three decades.   Based on data during the first half of 2018 by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), its projected 6,227 pedestrians died. That number is up 4 percent from 2017, marking the highest recorded number since 1990. "The alarm bells continue to sound on this issue; it’s clear we need to fortify our collective efforts to protect pedestrians and reverse the trend,” said GHSA Executive Director, Jonathan Adkins (March 4, 2019) Spectrum News Rochester [more on Transportation in our area]

Those of us who walk as our primary transportation option know that despite the City’s best efforts there are many challenges for us pedestrians: Too many times we must walk (or wheelchair) around improperly placed recyclables that block our sidewalks; too often our sidewalks are used as temporary parking for vehicles, lawn waste, and construction materials; and, too often our sidewalks are filled with snow and lined with ice. Even though the City plows our sidewalks in the winter (Buffalo doesn’t, and Syracuse is just starting up, using Rochester as a model) our sidewalks are unpassable to many. Remember those using ambulatory devices are trapped or are forced out into traffic if our sidewalks are not clear.

So, even though walking can help us alleviate Climate Change, we continue to kill ourselves in appalling numbers when we morph from drivers to walkers and bicyclists:

Why US cities are becoming more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians As cities strive to improve the quality of life for their residents, many are working to promote walking and biking. Such policies make sense, since they can, in the long run, lead to less traffic, cleaner air and healthier people. But the results aren’t all positive, especially in the short to medium term. In Washington D.C., for example, traffic fatalities as a whole declined in 2018 compared to the year before, but the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increased by 20 percent. Pedestrian deaths also have risen in New York, and pedestrian and cycling fatalities have increased in Los Angeles in the past several years. Across the nation, cyclist fatalities have increased by 25 percent since 2010 and pedestrian deaths have risen by a staggering 45 percent. More people are being killed because cities are encouraging residents to walk and bike, but their roads are still dominated by fast-moving vehicular traffic. As my research has shown, this shifting mix can be deadly. (February 20, 2019) The Conversation [more on Transportation in our area]

What is the answer? I don’t know, but I do know that just accepting pedestrian deaths and Climate Change as inevitable are immoral and unsustainable. As mentioned above many communities are adopting a policy that attempts to get the number of pedestrian deaths down to zero. Rochester should join.

“The Vision Zero Network is a collaborative campaign aimed at building the momentum and advancing this game-changing shift toward safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. The Network brings together local leaders in health, traffic engineering, police enforcement, policy and advocacy to develop and share strategies, policies and practices that make Vision Zero a reality.” (the Vision Zero Network)

To get involved and bring a sane attitude towards our transportation system locally, join this very effective group:

Reconnect Rochester is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization working to build a more sustainable transportation network for the greater Rochester community.

Remember, we keep talking about Climate Change and that we need to get our greenhouse gas emission down, but we don’t. “Half of all emissions produced from fossil fuels have come in the last 30 years.” (David Wallace Wells) That is, ever since we knew Climate Change was a major problem we’ve acted in the worse possible way to put off this disaster.

Time passes. 

Monday, March 04, 2019

Wish-cycling is recycling’s evil twin

Watching this Monroe County Recycling Center (MCRC) Video Tour is like opening the Wizard of Oz’s curtain in the Emerald City because, guess what, your recyclables don’t just magically get processed. Your stuff, if you haven’t wish-cycled it into your recycling bins, gets transformed into valuable resources. If you have been wish-cycling (putting the unrecyclable into your curbside recycling bins), your stuff gums up the machinery, poses a danger to workers (especially if you’ve thrown that spent propane tank into the bin), and gets landfilled after wasting our government’s time and money. Which is to say, yours.

Help Put a Stop to Wish-Cycling “Wish-cycling might start with the best of intentions, but it’s one of the biggest issues facing waste management today. This is because it actually creates more waste in the long run. It also makes recycling potentially unsustainable, which is obviously a bad thing.” (recyclecoach)

Before humanity invented agriculture, some ten thousand years ago, there was no waste. Not in the 3.5 billion experience of life on Earth. As hunter gathers, we melded into nature’s regenerative system as seamlessly as the wildebeests on the Serengeti. Waste is a human invention, a spectacularly loathsome and unsustainable notion that wreaks havoc on our life support system. [See Jeremy Iron’s documentary film, “Trashed”.]

You cannot tour our county’s recycling center because they say it’s too dangerous. But it’s instructive to watch the official video on how our recycling is handled and prepared for markets. Instead of feeling annoyed by the county’s strident message to recycle properly, you’ll understand why our county tries to educate us on the fine art of recycling here in Rochester and Monroe County (all recyclables go to the same place). [See “Monroe County's Recyclopedia! Click here for in-depth answers to recycling questions!”]

When the public recycles properly, conforming with what the county can recycle, instead of what the public just wishes were recyclable, it’s more likely that our county will have the time and money to discover more recycling market opportunities. Instead of just trying to keep up with what’s being thrown at them.

Recycling, along with reuse, reduction, and composting won’t by itself put humanity back on the kind of sustainable footing we were hundreds of thousands of years ago, but it is a step in the right direction, and we can do better. Better business practices, including ‘cradle-to-cradle design’, and responsible consumerism will move us closer to helping our environment instead of choking it to death with our stuff.  

We go into Climate Change with the environment we have. If that environment is less robust and resilient because we have degraded it with our trash, adapting to the quickly warming crisis will be much harder, for which we will pay with our money and with our lives. Paleoclimatologists research past climate changes via proxies like sediments, tree rings, shell growth, etc., in order to glimpse how our environment has previously reacted to worldwide warmings (or coolings for that matter). This gives us an idea of what’s coming. However, climate experts cannot input the kind of trash we have dumped into our environment into their climate models and come up with any predictions that will do anyone any good. There simply wasn’t trash back then, but now there’s a freaking planet full it. 

Adapting to Climate Change is going to be hard enough without wish-cycling our environment until it seizes up and dies. If you think a product should be recycled, but it isn’t yet, contact our county government and talk to them about that. Also, the county’s Ecopark can recycle some of the hard-to-recycle stuff. Don’t just chuck stuff into the recycle bin because it makes you feel good.  

Time passes. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Are we allowing this climate change to bring our civilization to an end also?

There is increasing evidence that past climate changes have influenced the collapse of civilizations. By influence, I mean prolonged droughts or climate disruptions that amplified problems that were already affecting many past civilizations—especially as related to food production and distribution. This notion is (of course) controversial and much more research needs to be done. But it does seem plausible that if a civilization is unable to respond to sudden shifts in their climate, it’s not only possible but entirely probable, that this disruption could tip a civilization over the edge.

When Civilizations Collapse The new study suggests merely that climate change caused the late Ottoman abandonment of the Khabur River valley, not collapse of the entire Ottoman Empire. But it also makes the case that archaeologists and historians ignore climate change at their peril. “There is an environment in which history occurs,” said Weiss. “There are reasons for regional abandonments that are definable, observable and testable,” even when ancient peoples have left no written record of climate changes. (environment Yale)

Over the last several decades, climate scientists have tried to paint a picture of what the world will look like if we dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and what the world will look like under business-as-usual or the worst-case scenario. Despite heading wildly towards the worst, the Green New Deal is a bill that offers our government the chance to address this crisis in a way that might give us a chance.

The worst-case scenario will affect regions of the world differently. If you live in Rochester, you can expect major challenges by about 2050. According to @ClimateCentral, Rochester will experience more intense precipitation, more warming, more droughts, and more heatwaves by 2050. Other communities will likely fare far worse.

CLIMATE PILE-UP: Global Warming’s Compounding Dangers Recent research shows that unchecked warming pollution could bring concurrent climate crises to U.S. cities by midcentury — and that emissions cuts could reduce the danger. Scientists tend to study the risks of climate change separately. Some papers consider how higher temperatures contribute to drought. Others assess the connection between warming and wildfires. Still others look at the links between carbon emissions and flooding, heat waves, or ocean acidification. In the vast library of climate science, these subtopics might occupy separate shelves, each adding its part to humanity’s understanding of the consequences of climate change. In reality, climate change’s risks have more in common with an overturned bookcase than with a tidy library. The various effects of global warming can and increasingly do materialize in particular places almost simultaneously, in messy jumbles. Last year, for instance, Florida experienced severe drought, record high temperatures, wildfires, and the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Panhandle. California, meanwhile, saw record-setting wildfires and extreme heat waves. As such hazards accumulate and intensify, each can become harder to manage, as our ability to respond becomes more strained. (February 20, 2019) Climate Central [more on Climate Change in our area]

But the GOP ridicules the Green New Deal as “zany”. And because the GOP holds so much political power at the moment this new proposal to avoid the worst-case scenario will be mocked and dismissed to death.

A Green New Deal is Technologically Possible. Its Political Prospects Are Another Question. President Trump derided the Green New Deal as a “high school term paper that got a low mark.” Congressional Republicans mocked it as “zany.” Even Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, called the proposal a “green dream,” and some of the party’s 2020 candidates are starting to describe it as merely aspirational. Yet, despite that disdain, the goals of the far-reaching plan to tackle climate change and economic inequality are within the realm of technological possibility, several energy experts and economists said in recent interviews. (February 21, 2019 The New York Times)

This Climate Change is different from any other climate changes humanity has ever experienced. This Climate Change is occurring much faster than any of the previous climate changes since we’ve been walking the Earth. This one is global instead of regional. We are causing it and we know we are causing it, instead of this Climate Change being an invisible phenomenon that has unknowingly crept up on us. It is occurring at the same time as our mass pollutions (of our air, water, and land) and mass extinctions are catching up with us—surely, a time when our environment is not at its best. And while most of humanity understands the existential threat Climate Change presents, our leaders are failing to act on a scale and timeframe that will matter.

Isn’t it quite likely that despite our technological prowess our politics is jeopardizing our survival? Might we go the same way that other civilizations have gone because our governments haven’t realized the priority that must be given to Climate Change? Are we really that special that our environment isn’t unimportant anymore?  

However awful and inconvenient it may be to contemplate this, before you dismiss the #GreenNewDeal, the growing protests by students, and the accumulated evidence by climate scientists of the urgency needed to address Climate Change, you might want to consider the ghosts of the climate yet to come.

 It is absolutely time to panic about climate change Author David Wallace-Wells on the dystopian hellscape that awaits us. “It is, I promise, worse than you think.” That was was the first line of David Wallace-Wells’s horrifying 2017 essay in New York magazine about climate change. It was an attempt to paint a very real picture of our not-too-distant future, a future filled with famines, political chaos, economic collapse, fierce resource competition, and a sun that “cooks us.” Wallace-Wells has since developed his terrifying essay into an even more terrifying book, titled The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. And it is a brutal read. Wallace-Wells was criticized in 2017 for being too hyperbolic, too doom-and-gloomy. But as Vox’s David Roberts explained at the time, those criticisms were mostly misplaced. Wallace-Wells isn’t counseling despair or saying all is lost; he’s merely laying out the alarming facts of what is likely to happen if we don’t radically change course. (February 22, 2019) VOX [more on Climate Change in our area]

Time passes. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Maybe there’s hope on addressing Climate change this time around

For those with most of their lives ahead of them, the #GreenNewDeal is likely to look more hopeful and possible than for those of us with more of our time behind us. The history of the climate movement has been a long journey (not from a social activist’s’ perspective, perhaps), filled with hope and despair in equal parts of downright exasperation at the scorn heaped on climate science.

Presently, we are witnessing a surge of youthful exuberance on climate action that hasn’t yet been soured by the calcification of sentiments hardened by the fruitless political wrangling over the years that even when successful succumbs to the inevitable backlash in the next election.  But, maybe there’s hope on addressing Climate Change this time around.

The Climate Kids Are Coming With a Green New Deal and Student Strikes For Climate, will young people save us yet? If you don’t know who Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg is, you can think of her as an international climate-change counterpart to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Like the rock-star congresswoman from New York, Thunberg is a charismatic young woman whose social-media savvy, moral clarity, and fearless speaking truth to power have inspired throngs of admirers to take to the streets for a better world and call out the politicians and CEOs who are standing in the way. Ocasio-Cortez, 29, is known for championing the #GreenNewDeal and schooling right-wing haters on Twitter. Thunberg, 16, is known for launching the #SchoolStrike4Climate movement—tens of thousands of high-school students worldwide are skipping school on Fridays until their governments treat the climate crisis as an emergency—and for torching billionaires and heads of state at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week. (January 28, 2019) The Nation [more on Climate Change in our area]

What’s in the Green New Deal?

The Green New Deal is ambitious: “A historically ambitious agenda, A punch back at climate denial, The “just transition” enters Congress, Calling for an energy revolution, The nuclear option, Large-scale investments in infrastructure, Building climate policy from the bottom-up,” (see below)

Seven take-aways from the Green New Deal launch Sweeping in scope, an agenda to transform the US into a green leader has been launched in Washington DC, here are the key points On Thursday, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and senator Ed Markey presented an outline of a sweeping federal programme aiming at decarbonising the US economy. The text makes for the most earnest attempt yet to define a concept that has been backed by many a Democratic presidential candidate, often with little detail. The agenda would touch every aspect of the US economy and calls for carbon emissions and inequality to be tackled as one. “Today is the day we truly embark on a comprehensive agenda of economic, social and racial justice in the United States of America,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a press conference launching the resolution. (February 7, 2019) Climate Home News [more on Climate Change in our area]

Though, as we go further into the Climate Change Bottleneck, where our past environmental abuses get cooked on a warming planet, even this attempt may not be enough.

Environment in multiple crises - report Politicians and policymakers have failed to grasp the gravity of the environmental crisis facing the Earth, a report claims. The think-tank IPPR says human impacts have reached a critical stage and threaten to destabilise society and the global economy. Scientists warn of a potentially deadly combination of factors. These include climate change, mass loss of species, topsoil erosion, forest felling and acidifying oceans. The report from the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research says these factors are "driving a complex, dynamic process of environmental destabilisation that has reached critical levels. "This destabilisation is occurring at speeds unprecedented in human history and, in some cases, over billions of years." (February 12, 2019) BBC News [more on Climate Change in our area]

The critics of the Green New Deal are battling to make sure they and the rest of us don’t get a livable future. These naysayers see this new attempt by activists to address Climate Change as the sum of all their fears—socialism, taxes, big government, change, loss of power and wealth—so they are digging in their heels. Because they have had their unscientific ideology confirmed by their stranglehold on our politics, they merely ridicule the Green New Deal instead of approaching this new proposal with the solemnity it deserves and/or coming up with an alternative proposal. Although Trump uses it a lot, name-calling isn’t actually a proposal or a program.

In the craven world of politics, it is getting elected that drives the behavior of those in power—instead of reason, science, humanity, and sustainability. Even though climate scientists have clearly described the threats of quickly warming world, our political world is deviating from reality on a scale not seen in human history.

Whether the New Green Deal or anything like it gets passed and eventually sticks must and will happen. That is, at some point in time (hopefully sooner rather than later), humanity will at long last recognize the peril we are in. We will reign in our most selfish (bad) collective behaviors and release our better angels (good behavior), because we’ll be desperate to survive. Hopefully in time.

Bouncing back and forth between good and bad behavior on Climate Change is almost as bad as continual bad behavior. In this sense, the Climate Change crisis is not like other issues that have seen successes and failures because this climate crisis cannot have this back and forth. We either move forward quickly or perish. This is the way our warming world works now. This the way science has always worked. Screw up your environment, you become extinct. You don’t get to play another day.

We need an overriding philosophy that describes this quickly warming world, what is good behavior, what behavior is not. Our old world, where we did as we pleased and drove ourselves relentlessly towards irresponsible growth was a dream. A bad one.

Time passes.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Revisiting high-speed rail to address Climate Change

High-speed rail (or trains, if you will) to address Climate Change and update our transportation options has been suggested many times before in our Rochester, NY region. It offers a way to curb vehicular (pollution and CO2) emissions, reduce transportation costs, and get to places hours away in minutes.

America’s trains are a drag. The Green New Deal wants to fix that. High-speed trains already compete with planes in many parts of the world. They also have far lower carbon emissions. Ever since the midterm elections, there’s been quite a bit of buzz about the possibility of a Green New Deal, a comprehensive national plan to tackle climate change and inequality all in one. On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) finally unveiled a resolution on Capitol Hill. Rather than a set of distinct policies, it’s more of a set of goalposts with ambitions for fighting climate change and transitioning the economy in a just way. Because it’s so vague in its particulars, the resolution has become something of a Rorschach test as observers try to figure out how a Green New Deal would materialize in the real world. Some clues emerged in what looked like a hastily assembled FAQ on Ocasio-Cortez’s website that’s since been taken down. Specifically, the section of the FAQ on transportation calls to “build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” The resolution itself doesn’t mention air travel at all but does call for the goal of “investing in ... clean, affordable, and accessible transportation; and high-speed rail” as part of a 10-year national mobilization. (February 8, 2019) VOX [more on Transportation and Climate Change in our area]

One of the tragedies of Climate Change (there are and will be many more) is that many excellent solutions have been offered over the years—like changing our eating habits and agricultural practices—but rejected and then brought back after the public and our leaders finally come around—though probably too late to matter on a scale and time frame that will matter.

High-speed rail means we could reduce the traffic on highways between cities—like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, and Albany. We could lower our transportation infrastructure costs, both maintenance and new construction. And, if a lot of folks (I realize that many people wouldn’t have this option) used active transportation (walking and bicycling) for short trips and high-speed rail for longer trips, we’d put a serious dent in our greenhouse gas emissions.

Fast Facts on Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions | The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to anthropogenic U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990–2016 (the national inventory that the U.S. prepares annually under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), transportation accounted for the largest portion (28%) of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2016. Cars, trucks, commercial aircraft, and railroads, among other sources, all contribute to transportation end-use sector emissions. (Green Vehicle Guide, Environmental Protection Agency)

I suspect, as time goes on and we go further into the Climate Change Bottleneck, where our past environmental abuses get cooked on a warming planet, we’ll come up with more and more major climate solution packages like the Green New Deal that will sweep up a lot of past solutions we never adopted.

The positive spin on this is that like high-speed rail many of these ideas have advanced to a certain point where we can learn from these projects instead of beginning from scratch. The negative spin is that no matter how much we learn about past efforts at solutions for Climate Change, these past efforts would have been designed for a cooler, more potentially sustainable world.

As it gets hotter, we’ll be more frantic and less capable of doing much more than desperate adaptation.

Time passes.

Here are a few of my essays on high-speed rail in the Rochester region back in the day:

·         High Speed Rail in New York State falls away, but Climate Change will soar” (TUESDAY, JUNE 05, 2012)
·         Much about High Speed Rail in local transportation news recently:” (TUESDAY, MAY 10, 2011)

·         High Speed Rail and our environment on the rails:” (FRIDAY, MARCH 25, 2011) 

Monday, January 28, 2019

In what way do Americans care about Climate Change?

It’s really nice that poll results show that American think “Disasters influence thinking on climate change”. However, it would be more helpful if Americans acted on this thinking in a way that will matter. Our grandchildren won’t be pleased if all we did was think about the crisis we put them in.

AP-NORC Poll: Disasters influence thinking on climate change When it comes to their views on climate change, Americans are looking at natural disasters and their local weather, according to a new poll. Lately, that means record deadly wildfires in California, rainfall by the foot in Houston when Hurricane Harvey hit and the dome of smog over Salt Lake City that engineer Caleb Gregg steps into when he walks out his door in winter. “I look at it every day,” Gregg said from Salt Lake City, where winter days with some of the country’s worst air starting a few years ago dinged the city’s reputation as a pristine sports city and spurred state leaders to ramp up clean-air initiatives. “You look out and see pollution just sitting over the valley.” “I’ve never really doubted climate change - in the last five-ish years it’s become even more evident, just by seeing the weather,” the 25-year-old said. “We know we’re polluting, and we know pollution is having an effect on the environment.” The poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago finds 74 percent of Americans say extreme weather in the past five years — hurricanes, droughts, floods and heat waves — has influenced their opinions about climate change. That includes half of Americans who say these recent events have influenced their thinking a great deal or a lot. (January 22, 2019) AP News [more on Climate Change in our area] 

Decades ago, many of us thought that once the obvious consequences of Climate Change kicked in, we’d not only see a major shift in public opinion on this crisis, we’d also see an end of inaction. Admittedly, in many ways, we are seeing a rise in climate action from environmental groups, communities, states, and some nations. But we’re not seeing massive changes in voting habits, pressing our leaders to adapt to the changes, and we even haven’t rid ourselves of the climate denial meme running like a virulent virus through our life support system.

The City of Rochester is upping its game. Improving building energy efficiency is one of Rochester’s ways of implementing climate mitigation strategies through its Climate Action Plan. (I implore everyone to read the City’s plan to deal with Climate Change.) This makes the Sustainable Homes Rochester program an important component of addressing Climate Change in our region. Our buildings and homes are leaking a lot of fossil-fuel heat causing a substantial part of our greenhouse gas emissions problem. Learn more from this new City program to stop heat leaks and warm your house efficiently from one of the many Sustainable Homes Rochester Information events near you.

SUSTAINABLE HOMES ROCHESTER “Sustainable Homes Rochester (SHR) is a community campaign designed to encourage residents to install clean heating and cooling (CH&C) technologies and improve home energy efficiency. The City of Rochester received a $150,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to launch the SHR campaign in partnership with PathStone Corporation Home Rehabilitation and Energy Services (PathStone) and the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition (RPCC).” (City of Rochester, NY)

We have a long way to go in a very short amount of time. One author thinks we’re out of time altogether: see Learning to Die in the Anthropocene | Reflections on the End of a Civilization, by Roy Scranton. I’m still reading this book, but I’ll let you know how it turns out (probably not well).

(As I’m writing this essay, I’m overhearing a conversation about Climate Change in a local coffee shop. It’s mostly climate denial, a rambling litany of self-justifying talk about climate myths that seem quite true to the two guys who obviously have been avoiding all the recent climate studies described in most mainstream media recently. Nevertheless, they think some kind of climate change is happening. Their conversation makes me think of a lecture by philosopher Daniel Dennett’s on “The Magic of Consciousness” I watched recently on YouTube. The human mind, our consciousness, has an amazing ability to fill in the gaps when presented only partial information about reality. With only an incomplete hold of the facts, our brains have the “magical” ability to fill in the blanks based on what we expect. It all makes me think that we need to know a lot more about ourselves as we go further into the Climate Change Bottleneck. How do we think? How do most people come to their most fervently held convictions—even though they are desperately short of facts? Why, if we are such a ‘wise man’ species, are we plunging headlong into a demise of our own making?)

Anyway, as far as addressing Climate Change is concerned, our environment only understands actions—trees falling, greenhouse gases accumulating, not thoughts. If we don’t act to bring down greenhouse gases and adapt to the warmup that’s already baked into our climate system, we’ll get no pity from nature. Nature doesn’t care what we think. It just responds to actions—not prayers, hopes, or half-baked rationalizations.

Time passes. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Before we dismissed Climate Change adaptation, perhaps we should have considered whether we could

Addressing Climate Change means both adapting to the changing conditions and mitigating the damage, i.e. bringing down the planet’s temperature as quickly as possible. According to the article below and my own observations, most climate activists’ efforts have leaned heavily towards mitigation—and ignored the problem of adaptation.

“As early as the 1990s, and then in climate-treaty talks in 2002, there was talk of the need to adapt to a changing climate even as nations struggled to curb emissions. But what some called the “A” word was anathema to many global warming campaigners, who saw efforts to adapt to climate extremes as capitulation and a distraction from the need to curb emissions from fossil-fueled smokestacks and tailpipes, cattle pens, cement factories, and felled forests.” (January 9, 2019) Once derided, ways of adapting to climate change are gaining steam  National Geographic [more on Climate Change in our area]

While it is crucial that we drop greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions significantly and quickly, we must at the same time adapt to the changes planetary warming brings. Discovering that your ship is slowly sinking in a sea of ice means you must act quickly to both stop the leak and keep from drowning while you do so.

One of the assumptions that those who think we should focus exclusively on mitigation must be that we’ll have time to adapt later. Put all our energies into mitigation, then we’ll worry about adapting. But this assumption ignores many absolutely essential aspects of adaptation.

You must make sure that while you’re changing the energy system the public doesn’t freak out (major social unrest) when faced with more floods, heat, lack of food, infrastructure damage, or economic collapse in the meantime.

Climate Change’s Giant Impact on the Economy: 4 Key Issues Many of the big economic questions in coming decades will come down to just how extreme the weather will be, and how to value the future versus the present. By now, it’s clear that climate change poses environmental risks beyond anything seen in the modern age. But we’re only starting to come to grips with the potential economic effects. Using increasingly sophisticated modeling, researchers are calculating how each tenth of a degree of global warming is likely to play out in economic terms. Their projections carry large bands of uncertainty, because of the vagaries of human behavior and the remaining questions about how quickly the planet will respond to the buildup of greenhouse gases. A government report in November raised the prospect that a warmer planet could mean a big hit to G.D.P. in the coming decades. (January 17, 2019) The New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

Adapting or preparing the world that now holds over seven billion people and their infrastructure takes time. It takes time for the public to back their leaders for the necessary changes; it takes time to change the millions of structures and services our species cannot live without—transportation, for one. If you wait until you’ve brought our emissions down to a level our species can thrive in, humanity may be too overwhelmed by the changes to tackle adaptation. Especially when you consider that even if we brought down our planet’s temperature tomorrow, we’ll have decades (probably centuries) before the consequences of the energy (heat) we have already put into our climate system plays out and stabilizes at an endurable level.

Our reluctance to highlight the importance of adapting to Climate Change has squandered valuable opportunities to inform the public that Climate Change is already happening. Knowing this early on would have helped the public prioritize this crisis when choosing their leaders. We are now dramatically increasing our GHG emissions, breaking down our ability to work with other nations on this planetary problem, and forfeiting our environmental health by electing leaders who don’t have a clue about what Climate Change actually means.

If you’re focused only on mitigation, you’re missing the daily updates about how our environment is changing due to this rapid warming, which will determine how and where we should place our efforts.

To me, adapting to Climate Change has been the most obvious mandate for addressing this crisis. Decades ago since I first became familiar with this existential threat, I have thought that humanity should mitigate Climate Change because it is a moral issue and because it will cause catastrophic damage soon, I nevertheless thought the public must (meaning they would have to whether they wanted to or not) adapt to Climate Change because any living being that wanted to survive would have to. Those billions upon billions of creatures in our planet’s past that no longer exist are not around because they didn’t adapt to existing conditions. We are not that exceptional; in fact, we are displaying an appalling disposition towards planetary ecocide.

So it is with increasing wonder that I view humanity’s response to this crisis; we still seem oblivious to the importance of adapting—as if keeping your kid healthy and safe were second to saving for their college education.

Time passes.

My articles on Climate Change adaptation:

Monday, January 14, 2019

Climate Change is provincial, and it isn’t

Island nations already experiencing catastrophic extreme weather and regions where food production is in jeopardy because of Climate Change may take umbrage at the news that experts think “Oswego County could be ground zero for climate change harm” (see below). There are many very vulnerable regions around the world, including Eastern coastal cities, where Climate Change harm is and will be for quite some time far greater than central New York.

Experts: Oswego County could be ground zero for climate change harm OSWEGO — Scientists say warmer temperatures and heavier rainfall could be coming to the region sooner than previously thought and without significant investment in mitigation and precautionary measures, the area could be caught “flatfooted.” The Fourth National Climate Assessment, released late last year by federal officials, describes the future climate of the Northeast region of the United States as one with increased rainfall intensity and escalating average temperatures. Scientists warn the changing climate could have a dramatic effect on agriculture and recreation and note significant preventative measures and improvements to infrastructure are needed. Cornell University Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Professor Art DeGaetano said in many cases what the national climate assessment says for the Northeast region could be an indication of what central New York or the Great Lakes Region should expect to experience in the coming years. (January 7, 2018) Oswego County News Now[more on Climate Change in our area]

It's important that our media bring home Climate Change so that locals realize that there are many subtle and dramatic changes coming to their region that need to be planned for and addressed. At the same time this crisis is a worldwide problem, it is also a provincial issue. Hyperbolic headline aside, the article above does a fantastic job in presenting a comprehensive look at how Climate Change will affect Oswego, Central New York, and much of America’s Northeast. It really nails the urgency to get our public and our infrastructure prepared, so we aren’t caught ‘flatfooted’ when the accumulated problems begin to overwhelm us.

I like that the article references former Governor David Patterson, who has not been given enough credit for his role in putting a moratorium on Fracking in New York State while we took time to think about it.  His climate study captured this critical issue well before Cuomo took office. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) still uses Governor Patterson’s Climate Action Plan Interim Report published in 2010. (It should be updated.) Governor Patterson’s role helped legitimize the Climate Change issue, showing that we have known about it for quite some time now and reporting what we should have been doing about it.

In our attempt to get the message home and gain the attention of the public, our journalists should use caution—so they don’t mislead. Central New York is not ground zero for Climate Change harm. It might be more appropriate to say that the Arctic is ground zero, as this region of the world is warming the fastest and could experience the most dramatic change—no ice in the summer within decades (thereby impacting our weather due to changes in the jet stream), opening up a pristine region of the world to oil drilling and a massive increase in shipping traffic.

Further, there are very densely populated regions where millions of people may have to move or die because it will be too hot to work and too dry to grow food. That won’t be Western New York or Central New York.

“Last June, temperatures in Iran and Pakistan soared above 129 degrees. As climate change continues, one study suggests that parts of the Middle East and North Africa will suffer heat waves so intense that they could become uninhabitable. Indonesia is sinking as the sea level rises, making disasters like the 2018 tsunami deadlier. As sea level rise increases flooding and threatens freshwater supplies in some island nations, they could be uninhabitable by the middle of the century.” (How soon will climate change force you to move?  (January 8, 2019) Fast Company )

As a matter of fact, we may see a great influx of people in our neck of the woods due to regions (for example South and West USA, who’ll be running out of water). Because we won’t be harmed as much as many places around our country and the world, we should be preparing for new arrivals and upgrading our infrastructures—transportation, wastewater, water, electricity, and telecommunications that our vast human populations cannot live without. 

That said, other than the error of overstating who gets to be called “ground zero” on Climate Change in order to draw attention, the above article is one of the best encapsulations by a local media of the threats we need to address in our region. 

Time passes. 

Monday, January 07, 2019

Rarely do environmental pollution problems have an ‘easy solution’

Beware when the media suggests that “there might be an easy solution” to a major environmental problem. The recently discovered proliferation of microfibers in the Great Lakes is unlikely to be solved with a simple solution because (for one) the ‘solution’ won’t remove the microfibers already in our waters.

The Great Lakes are full of microfibres — but there might be an easy solution A new study will put filters on about 100 washing machines in Parry Sound to catch the plastic particles A new study is taking the fight against microfibres in the Great Lakes back to the source: washing machines. The tiny particles of plastic are shed by synthetic fabrics like nylon and fleece when they're washed, slipping through water treatment plants and into the lakes. To stem the flow, researchers will install about 100 special filters on washing machines in Parry Sound, Ont. to see if they reduce the amount of plastic particles that show up at the town's water treatment plant. "We think that because Parry Sound is small, there might be a noticeable decrease," explained Lisa Erdle, a PhD student at the University of Toronto's Rochman Lab, who is leading the project. (January 2, 2019) CBC News [more on Water Quality and Great Lakes in our area]

Presumably, there’s a lot of microfibers in the Great Lakes, a condition that’s been known for a couple of years. Which is to say, this sort of pollution has probably gone on a lot longer than we first observed it.

ARE YOU EATING YOUR FLEECE? The I-Team has uncovered hair-like plastics in our water and they are connected to the clothing we wear and wash. Scientists looking into the clothing dilemma are asking, "are we consuming our fleece?" These tiny plastic particles hidden in our water systems could end up in the food we eat and what we drink. According to researchers, the newly discovered strands are even smaller than tiny beads of plastic in toothpaste and personal products that the I-Team has previously reported. The tiny microspheres of plastic in toothpaste and facial scrubs are officially banned in the U.S., but the problem of microplastic pollution is far from solved. The newest plastic threat, according to new and convincing research, is microfibers: miniscule filaments of plastic showing up where they shouldn't; inside fish and seafood, bugs and even some beer and sea salt. (May 8, 2017) ABC News [more on Water Quality in our area]

Another reason why the microfiber pollution issue is not likely to be solved easily is because microfibers, which are teeny-weeny plastics, come from a variety of manmade products, including cigarette butts, probably litter in the form of plastics (bags and other stuff) that have been broken up by weather and heat from the sun.

And they are more than annoying:

“Sherri Mason, a chemistry professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, says “microfibers are not as easily excreted as other plastic fragments. Each fiber that makes its way into the environment is a poison pill that can absorb chemicals and make its way into a fish.” (Microfibers emerging as new environmental threat as Canada moves toward banning microbeads (November 13, 2016) The National Post [more on Water Quality and Recycling in our area]

The media should not be focused on this incredibly sticky problem with a cheery solution that most certainly isn’t. The media tends to frame some environmental issues as ‘new’ and ‘easy’ to solve once you read their article. This is more journalistic rhetoric than how our environment deals with pollution. Because mostly, when we discover pollution in our environment, we notice it’s just the tip of something deep and ominous.  

Microfibers in our freshwater system have probably been a threat for a long time; it’s going to be very hard to solve because the threat is coming from a large variety of sources, and it’s going to be expensive. Somehow, we are going to have to filter our wastewater better, filter our drinking water more thoroughly, and get folks to stop trashing our beaches. A relatively few people who are willing to change their laundry habits will not likely address the microfiber problem and a warm and fuzzy article to this effect does not help. It borders on irresponsible.

Time passes. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

2019: What Climate Change reveals about us

That we’re not so concerned about our fellow man as many of us profess.

That we are far more concerned about our immediate self-interests than those of future generations.

That just being smart and powerful doesn’t mean you get to have a future.

That our youth, unencumbered by politics and a lifelong addiction to fossil fuels, understand the perils of Climate Change more than we adults do. 

That we’ll discover when the Trump administration finally goes away that our environment is less resilient than we hoped, and we will have to scramble faster to get greenhouse gas emissions down to prevent major catastrophes.

That leaving our science and our morality to the markets (which got us into this mess) is the worst way to address Climate Change.

That we are leaving our children with a mess with little more than excuses to offer them as an explanation.

That despite 30, 000 years as a distinct species we cannot distinguish between real threats and threats we have manufactured in our minds.

That the resiliency built up in our environment over billions of years has been squandered by our treatment of our environment, making it very difficult for our life-support system to bounce back as our climate becomes more disruptive.

That we still cannot differentiate between the previous climate changes our species adapted to and the present Climate Change that is quickly and drastically changing the world that our species (now over 7 billion) thrived in for 10,000 years.

That by closing our borders and refusing to work with other nations to address this worldwide crisis, we are far more comfortable fighting old battles that will put us deeper into peril, rather than thinking through this worldwide crisis and working together to solve it.

That our species is still incapable of prioritizing our collective efforts towards a sustainable future.

That despite all evidence to the contrary, most of us are still planning for a future that cannot be.

That too many of us think we personally can avoid the worst consequences of Climate Change, even knowing most people won’t.

That we have an almost infinite capacity to avoid evidence that we don’t want to accept, while inversely scouring for schemes we want to accept, no matter how spectacularly false.

That by denying or refusing to understand science, we’ll be exempt from its laws.

That merely tweaking our present economy (which has brought us to this existential Climate Change) will solve all the problems coming with this warming.

That there’s a quick technological fix for Climate Change, when this crisis is far more complicated than a little warmup.

That if you just green up your life, we’ll address this worldwide crisis.

That despite bringing ourselves to the brink of extinction, most of us think our way of life is still worth pursuing unchanged.

That we still think we can vote Climate Change out of existence.   

Time passes. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Climate Change education

Imagine that along with reporting on carbon emissions and contributing money to Green Climate Fund, every country agrees on a comprehensive Climate Change education program to make sure every person is aware of every aspect of this crisis.

"ACE [Action for Climate Empowerment], which is also the focus of Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the parent treaty of the Paris Agreement, covers education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and international cooperation. Each country is encouraged to name an ACE focal point and prepare an ACE national strategy." (Education Requires Prominent Place in Countries’ National Climate Plans) (December 14, 2018) United Nations Climate Change [more on Climate Change in our area]

Note: There is no shortage of Climate Change information. On the internet, there are many expert resources on the science behind Climate Change. Check out Dr. John Cook’s web site Skeptical Science – “Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation”. 
In fact, there are innumerable places on the internet to learn about Climate Change—though you must know the difference between a good site and a bad site. The Trump administration has muddied the waters by systematically scouring its official web pages (think EPA) from the findings of 97% of climate scientists and tried to focus on climate denier’s ideology. [Check out: The Silencing Science Tracker “a joint initiative of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. It tracks government attempts to restrict or prohibit scientific research, education or discussion, or the publication or use of scientific information, since the November 2016 election.”
Also, our government is continually and insidiously silencing science and crippling our ability to deal with Climate Change.

Climate Team, and Its Boss, Just Got Harder to Find at Top Health Agency WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has quietly folded its Climate and Health Program into a branch that studies asthma and expunged the word climate from the name of the newly consolidated office, the agency confirmed on Thursday. An agency spokeswoman, Kathryn Harben, said in a statement that the move was part of a broader reorganization within the agency’s environmental health division that pared eight programs down to four. The climate and health office is the agency’s only program meant to help state and local governments prepare for the health consequences of fiercer storms, longer droughts and other extreme weather events. It was also an important contributor to the National Climate Assessment, a landmark government report that detailed new health hazards related rising greenhouse gas emissions. (December 20, 2018) The New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

The reason why a worldwide effort to educate all people on Climate Change is critical because this issue is complicated, extremely divisive (due to bad players with their own agenda), and urgent. Each region of the world is going to be impacted by global warming differently and each region will have to respond accordingly—though the basic goals of cooling the planet down and finding a sustainable way of life are the same everywhere. #ScienceMatters.

Because of the controversy surrounding and choking this issue, too many people are unlikely to search for expert information on Climate Change. Instead, many people will search (if they search Climate Change at all) within constraints that already agree with their worldview, their political persuasion, and their personal interests. How do you get humanity to educate themselves on an issue that’s extremely inconvenient and (let’s face it) depressing? Answer: Highlighting the need for Climate Change education through the Paris Agreement, local climate plans, in our schools, universities, our local social groups, and even businesses are excellent ways to prioritize this aspect of the warming crisis. When you know what happening, how it’s happening, and where it’s happening, you’re more likely to respond appropriately. Also, with everyone educated on Climate Change it’s more likely we’ll find solutions that are fair, reasonable, inclusive, and tailored to your region’s needs.

Educating ourselves on Climate Change includes understanding the science, discovering how the consequences are rippling through each society, and how our environment (our life-support system) will be impacted. In order to grasp the fullness of Climate Change, I suggest that it be capitalized to communicate just how unique and important this issue is. See my essay below:

Why this Climate Change should be capitalized” In order to prevent confusion between past climate changes and this Climate Change, I humbly suggest that we capitalize this one. There’s something special about today’s Climate Change. It’s not like the other major climate changes, which have occurred throughout our planet’s history. So, for clarification, we should capitalize this manmade, unprecedented climate change event that has warmed the planet since about the mid 1800’s and continues to jeopardize our future. We often capitalize events that stand out as extraordinary—The Great Depression, the Middle Ages, the McCarthy Era, etc.—where we differentiate the specific from the common, so this wouldn’t really violate grammatical protocol or precedence.” (JANUARY 18, 2016)

At I have tried to include all the possible ways Climate Change will affect one community--Rochester, NY. Over the twenty years I’ve been working on this website and I’ve come to believe that we should turn from a general concern about environmental matters to a position that increasingly sees all environmental issues through the lens of Climate Change. Everything—our society, Wetlands, Brownfields, Urban Sprawl, Plants (Rochester's flora), Air Quality, Great Lakes, Pesticides, Water Quality, Recycling, Transportation, Food & Environment, Genesee River, Wildlife, Environmental Health, Invasive Species, Energy and education--is going to be affected by a quickly warming world.

Especially, our children. More than humanity has ever thought about it before, our children need to be included in our plans for their future.

Education Day COP24 Education is the most powerful tool to fight climate injustices in the world. Join #EducationDay at #COP24 to step up climate education and raise awareness. The more you know, the more you can do. Read more >>

Time passes.