Monday, July 09, 2018

Why US xenophobic isolationism is non-adaptive during Climate Change

There wasn’t enough oomph in the sound system at the Rochester ‘s Families Belong Together rally last week, so it was very difficult for my wife and me to hear the orators amidst the other city sounds at Washington Square Park. But we knew the big picture, the horrific intolerance of the Trump administration’s policies towards those desperately trying to find sanctuary from the violence, economic strife, and Climate Change compelling them to flee to our door. What we couldn’t hear well were the local stories of those trying to keep themselves and their families together while our country gives way to xenophobia.  

Rochester responds to Trump immigration moves Saturday's Washington Square Park rally was part of a national day of action organized by Families Belong Together (Familias Unidas, No Divididas), a group that began holding events and rallies around the country in early June. Some 750 protests took place, bringing out hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for the reunification of families separated at the southern border. Despite the day's heat, hundreds of Rochesterians turned out to hear speakers who included farmworkers, local immigrant-rights advocates, and members of religious organizations. (July 2, 2018 - Rochester City Newspaper)

Given that most of us are immigrants to this country (I descend from potato-famine Irish), the hypocrisy of Trump’s moves to separate families at our borders is hard to stomach. Trying to appease his political base by terrorizing those who help make our country work, who actually make the US the US, only puts everyone else, including our friends around the world, on edge. Many are probably wondering why the Statue of Liberty still stands. Would you leave your ‘No Pesticides’ signs on your lawn if you started to use pesticides?    

The heat at the rally was oppressive. As I write many days later, the heatwave is still going on. It is part of a worldwide, record-breaking string of heatwaves that all but the most indifferent see as another sign that our planet is quickly warming.  [See Red-hot planet: All-time heat records have been set all over the world during the past week, July 4th The Washington Post)

The connection between the heat at our local rally (which was but one around the country) and Trump’s hypocrisy is clear, for it is hard not to see the selfish hypocrisy that our present US attitude towards migration has now taken: We put most of the greenhouse gas emissions into our climate system, which  this system is presently responding to, but we refuse to stop the burning of fossil fuels for energy, refuse to help other nations adapt, and then refuse to let them into our country when climate change makes them desperate.

Migrants Are on the Rise Around the World, and Myths About Them Are Shaping Attitudes Immigration is reshaping societies around the globe. Barriers erected by wealthier nations have been unable to keep out those from the global South — typically poor, and often desperate — who come searching for work and a better life. While immigrants have often delivered economic benefits to the countries taking them in, they have also shaken the prevailing order and upended the politics of the industrialized world — where the native-born often exaggerate both their numbers and their needs. (June 20, 2018) The New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

Then, in the same article:

Global warming is driving migration | Rising average temperatures are already pushing people from their homes in many middle-income countries, according to research by Cristina Cattaneo and Giovanni Peri, increasing migration from rural areas to urban centers and across borders to other nations. As warming continues in the coming decades, it will probably push people from agricultural areas to urban areas and from the global South to the richer global North. (ibid)

Morally, this is despicable, and you don’t have to be a bleeding-heart liberal to understand it.
Practically, it’s insane. We are trying to shut the door on people whose building we have set afire—forgetting somehow that we live in the same building.

The present reign of xenophobic isolationism, trying to pull out of the Paris Agreement, refusing to help the Climate Fund, and slamming our doors shut to the victims of our self-induced conflagration, is not going to make America great or safe again. It’s going to cook us all in a boiling vat of hate.


Time passes. 

Monday, July 02, 2018

Carbon budgets are a dangerous delusion

As I suspected, a 2C safe warming is a dangerous delusion created by man-made agreements when it’s more likely that any more warming is unsustainable. Our planet’s environment is far too complicated and sensitive to think we can safely put any more greenhouse gases into it. We are not going to tinker our way out of Climate Change; we need a full-court press by all nations to address this crisis—and even our major climate studies are bursting with this truth.

Warming of 2C ‘substantially’ more harmful than 1.5C – draft UN report Latest version of major UN science report concludes the upper temperature goal of the Paris Agreement does not represent a climate safe zone A leaked draft of a major UN climate change report shows growing certainty that 2C, once shorthand for a ‘safe’ amount of planetary warming, would be a dangerous step for humanity. The authors make clear the difference between warming of 1.5C and 2C would be “substantial” and damaging to communities, economies and ecosystems across the world. In 2015, the Paris Agreement established twin goals to hold temperature rise from pre-industrial times “well below 2C” and strive for 1.5C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has since been working to assess the difference between those targets, with a view to publishing a sweeping analysis of all available research in October this year. The report summary, which Climate Home News published on Wednesday, is a draft and subject to change. The IPCC said it would not comment on leaked reports. An earlier draft from January was also published by CHN. CHN has compared the January and June drafts. The new version builds a stronger case for governments to rapidly cut carbon pollution. It also strikes a marginally more optimistic tone on the attainability of the 1.5C target. (June 22, 2018) Climate Home News [more on Climate Change in our area]

I’m not a fan of using carbon budgets because they encourage the belief that we can burn any more fossil fuel, though I understand their power in negotiations and Climate Change communications. Carbon budgets seem to promise there’s still a while yet before we must get our act together, shift our economy around, and get on a sound, sustainable footing. This message may placate but also strips the ending the fossil fuel era of its urgency.

As scientists learn more about how sensitive our environment is to temperature changes, they keep noticing new phenomena. For example, Climate Change is turning the Arctic Sea into part of the Atlantic Ocean.

A huge stretch of the Arctic Ocean is rapidly turning into the Atlantic. That’s not a good sign Scientists studying one of the fastest-warming regions of the global ocean say changes in this region are so sudden and vast that in effect, it will soon be another limb of the Atlantic Ocean, rather than a characteristically icy Arctic sea. The northern Barents Sea, to the north of Scandinavia and east of the remote archipelago of Svalbard, has warmed extremely rapidly — by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit just since the year 2000 — standing out even in the fastest-warming part of the globe, the Arctic. “We call it the Arctic warming hot spot,” said Sigrid Lind, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Research in Tromso, Norway. Now Lind and her colleagues have shown, based on temperature and salinity measurements taken on summer research cruises, that this warming is being accompanied by a stark change of character, as the Atlantic is in effect taking over the region and converting it into a very different entity. (June 26, 2018) The Washington Post {more on Climate Change in our area]

These climate changes, many of which hit home when extreme weather fueled by warming waters occur, should remind us that even when we have a known terminal disease, how that disease actually unfolds is of the most immediate interest to us. It is the daily symptoms of cancer, for example, that concern a patient just as much as the fear of the possible outcome. Humanity knows Climate Change is something ominous threating our existence and some of us are already experiencing it more than others—for now. Because we’re talking physics, everyone eventually cooks in a heated pot.

Although Climate Change is a moral and existential issue, it’s the changes along the way that will throw our future into turmoil—unless we act quickly to adapt and mitigate this disaster.

Thinking we can still put greenhouse gases into our climate system seems absurd.


Time passes. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Climate scientists are NOT to blame for Climate Change

Climate scientists should not blame themselves for not making the case for Climate Change clear enough to the public several decades ago. The public should blame themselves for not taking the trouble to listen intently enough about such a moral, scientific, and existential issue.

Listening to James Hansen on Climate Change, Thirty Years Ago and Now On June 23, 1988—a blisteringly hot day in Washington, D.C.—James Hansen told a Senate committee that “the greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now.” At the time, Hansen was the head of nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and though his testimony was certainly not the first official warning about the “greenhouse effect”—a report to President Lyndon Johnson, in 1965, predicted “measurable and perhaps marked changes in climate” in the decades to follow—it was the first to receive national news coverage. The Times ran the story at the top of the front page, with a graph showing a long-term rise in average global temperatures. (June 20, 2018) The New Yorker [more on Climate Change in our area]

Dr. Hansen is quoted in the above article:

A possible answer, which seems to be the one that Hansen himself, at least in part, subscribes to, is that scientists are to blame. Hansen is now seventy-seven and retired from nasa. He recently told the Associated Press that he regrets not being “able to make this story clear enough for the public.”

I think Dr. Hansen and many of the climate scientists at that time; the first (2000), second (2009), third (2014, and fourth National Climate Assessment (2017), the five Assessment Reports from the IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, were entirely clear. The writers, news stories, documentaries, and the efforts of many groups like the Sierra Club have made it abundantly clear early on that the science behind Climate Change was increasing robust and worthy of the public attention. But the public has not responded on a scale and time frame that is consistent with the science.

The public should get addressing Climate Change and taking the trouble to really listen to what climate scientists are saying. If you care to watch, here is a large collection of short videos by climate scientists bending over backwards to explain every aspect of the science behind Climate Change to the public. 

Is the answer to the public’s inertia on Climate Change for activists to reach across the political aisle and appease those who steadfastly refuse to admit what is obvious to most Americans and nations around the world? Is the answer to the rise in racism finding a middle ground? I think not.

Pushing the science does not seem to have moved the public forward towards solutions on a scale and time frame that will matter—but that doesn’t mean we should play down the role of science in an issue that is essentially science. We should work together for solutions, but we can’t have our cake and eat it too: we cannot address Climate Change and have endless growth, an economic system heedless of our environment, and hold ideological stances that don’t match the science of our climate crisis. The science behind Climate Change should be elevated to the position it deserves when addressing this issue—at the top. If it isn’t, then the other issues involved—politics, environmental and economic justice, and energy solutions -- will be moot.

Missed Dr. Hansen’s talk in Rochester, NY on April 21st in 2015 at Monroe County Community College? Watch the entire speech, with an introduction by Dr. Susan Spencer. Very high quality video.


Time passes.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Getting real about renewable energy

Governor Cuomo has some very ambitious green energy goals for New York State. This includes getting our state “Coal Free by 2020”:

Governor Cuomo Announces New U.S. Climate Alliance Initiatives to Mark One-Year Anniversary of President Trump's Decision to Withdraw from the Global Paris Climate Accord U.S. Climate Alliance Initiatives Draw on New York State's Leadership in Combatting Climate Change, Renewable Energy, Reforming the Energy Vision Initiative, and Nation's Largest Green Bank New Commitments Include Reducing 'Super Pollutants,' Expanding Clean Energy Financing, Storing Carbon in Landscapes, and Softening the Negative Impact of Federal Solar Tariffs U.S. Climate Alliance States Remain on Track to Meet Their Share of U.S. Paris Agreement Target for at Least 25% Emissions Reductions by 2025 (June 1, 2018 GOVERNOR ANDREW M. CUOMO)

But this ambition is low on specifics.

Also, New York State’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) #REV4NY is high on ambition and low on mapping just exactly what and where renewable projects can be located so that the goals are achievable. We cannot realistically evaluate the costs/benefits of any one project without a larger perspective on how it impacts our path to 100% renewables. This does not mean that we ignore negative impacts to local biomes or communities, but that negative impacts may in some cases be outweighed by larger needs (addressing Climate Change), or we may recognize that saying “no” to a particular project necessitates finding an alternative that can serve our 100% renewable goal as well.

Even the Assembly Bill A5105A, which “Requires the establishment of a one hundred per cent clean energy system by two thousand thirty”, which calls for climate action planning, still doesn’t specify a statewide analysis of energy needs and sources. This might be inferred from the text of the bill, but it could be interpreted in lots of other ways too.

The problem with many of the efforts of getting to 100% renewable is that many current proposals will never reach fruition. Barriers such as local opposition, going off budget, a drop in the renewable energy market, or failing an environmental impact statement can stop projects we were depending on to get us to 100%. Many solar and wind projects have failed when the public says ‘No!” Not to mention, one of the biggest NYS Off-Shore wind projects, Great Lakes Offshore Wind (GLOW) program in 2009, which died before it got very far.

The overall lack of planning leaves a strong impression that even the champions of these efforts are not really taking them seriously.  We’re like a college freshman who embarks on a degree program, but one in which the course requirements have not been spelled out, and grades are withheld until some years in the future.  The student has no idea if a particular course will satisfy the requirements of the major, and no idea if the work performed in the course is good enough for a passing grade. They also don’t know if some other course(s) that fit into their schedule better might satisfy the program requirements just as well.  And we are far from the point where the degree program undergoes constant re-evaluation to make sure it still satisfies current and projected conditions in the world.

As we go further into the Climate Change Bottleneck, where our past environmental abuses get cooked on a warming planet, the economic and fairness advantages of renewable energy will be amplified and further compelled by the urgency of this energy transition. Which is to say, the consequences of heating our planet are going to compel us to focus on renewable energy-whether it’s convenient or not. And, Dr. Hansen warns us that although many people are thinking we can still use fossil fuels but be rescued  from the consequences through carbon capture, we haven’t really thought that through either.

As Bill McKibben reminded us in his now famous article in Rolling Stone Global Warming's Terrifying New Math, the figures must add up. Dirty energy must go down and renewable energy must go up. When a community says no to a renewable project they must see it in the context of Climate Change. If renewable energy doesn’t add up to 100%, then we’re either deluding ourselves that we’re solving this problem, or we’ve somehow decided we won’t use as much or more energy than we do. Which doesn’t seem likely.


Time passes. 

Monday, June 04, 2018

Earth’s climate system doesn’t care about renewable energy, only fossil fuels

It won’t do humanity much good to increase renewable energy to address Climate Change and still back large fossil fuel projects. [See McKibben’s recent article in The Guardian “Stop swooning over Justin Trudeau. The man is a disaster for the planet”.  Our planet (any planet, really) only cares (responds) to how much greenhouse gases are in our climate system (our atmosphere and waters) to determine how much to heat up its surface. It’s physics. [See: “How Global Warming Works”.]

Earth couldn’t care less about how much renewable energy we generate because renewable energy doesn’t trap the infrared light energy produced when the visible light energy from the sun bounces off the surface of our planet. It’s we who should care about renewable energy because we should like our planet to be habitable for quite a while longer.

This is important to remember amidst all the articles on the rapid increase in renewable energy around the world and renewables’ dramatic drop in costs. At the end of the day, however much renewable energy we produce, if we haven’t stopped and even lowered our greenhouse gas emissions, we will fry—even if we have a planet full of wind turbines and solar panels buzzing away fulfilling all our wants and needs.

It’s important that environmentalist have heralded how renewable energy is lowering costs for households and providing jobs—even compensating for those whose fossil fuel jobs have been displaced by the renewable energy industry.

But we shouldn’t be focusing exclusively on the economics of renewable energy and dropping the moral and global warming aspects of this issue just because it upsets those bound and determined to end the Climate Change discussion. We cannot communicate around the people who don’t like ‘Climate Change’ to solve Climate Change.  

It’s immoral for developed nations to have become rich by the use of fossil fuels and not help the developing nations achieve growth with our renewable energy technology and support. If they grow like we grew, we’ll all perish.

If our growth in the past two hundred years due to the use of fossil fuel is going to end all civilizations, it’s immoral (and certifiably crazy) to continue down this path. 

Climate Change Judge's Homework: Was Industrialization Worth It? Attorneys for the cities of Oakland and San Francisco and Chevron Corp.have homework from Judge William Alsup: prepare 10-page legal analyses on whether a century of American dependence on fossil fuels was worth the global warming it caused. It’s due in a week. The filings will follow almost three-hours of proceedings on Thursday in a San Francisco federal court, where the cities and the world’s biggest oil companies sparred over lawsuits seeking payment for infrastructure to protect against rising sea levels. Alsup, who’s weighing a dismissal bid by defendants including Chevron and four other companies, focused many of his questions on the “broader sweep of history,” and the crucial role oil played in America’s successes in both world wars and its subsequent economic boom. (May 24, 2018)Bloomberg [more on Energy and Climate Change in our area]

Also, it's unrealistic to expect a bright future if we warm the planet beyond our capability to live on it.

Climate Change and Rapidly Intensifying Hurricanes Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1, and last year’s season was devastating for the U.S. Damage from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria cost the U.S. $267 billion. All three hurricanes went through a rapid intensification (RI) cycle, meaning the strongest winds within the storm increased by at least 30 knots (about 35 mph) in 24 hours. Harvey jumped from a Category 2 to a Category 4 just before its first landfall. Maria’s intensification was more dramatic, going from a Category 1 to a Category 5. This type of intensification is common in major hurricanes, as 79 percent of major tropical cyclones globally go through at least one cycle of rapid intensification. We consulted with Phil Klotzbach of the Colorado State Tropical Meteorology Project to examine the historic number of Atlantic named storms that have undergone rapid intensification and to acknowledge limitations in detection. As a result, we are using two starting points for this week’s analysis. The first is 1950, a few years after reconnaissance aircraft analyses began. The second is 1980, a year after regular satellite analyses were available. These data show the active period of the 1950s and 1960s, then a lull, followed by a bigger spike, with the influence of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) driving the lower values in the 1970s and 1980s. In a further analysis, one study earlier this year found an increase in rapid intensification from 1986-2015 tied to warming water east of the Caribbean Sea. While the study suggests the AMO is the primary influence, there has also been a net ocean warming on top of that cycle. (May 30, 2018) Climate Central [more on Climate Change in our area]

We must make sure that our push for renewable energy doesn’t get lost in a fruitless attempt to convince the public that its only about lowering their energy bills. Climate Change is an environmental problem that has festered through a long history of human environmental abuse topped off by a dramatic rise in the use of fossil fuels that has seriously warmed our planet since the mid-eighteen hundreds.

Increasing the use of renewable energy must occur if we desire to maintain the lifestyle we’ve become accustomed to. If we think we can continue to do so while using fossil fuels, that is the only thing Earth will respond to. But not in a good way for us.    


Time passes. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Transitioning to a sustainable energy in the Climate Change Bottleneck

As we move further into the Climate Change Bottleneck, where our planet heats up more and our past environmental abuses (pollution, loss of biodiversity) catch up with us, we should transition quickly to clean energy sources.

If you’re trying to visualize what a Climate Change Bottleneck looks like, check out this recent interactive article in the New York Times that reveals a world steadily getting impacted by climate-related disasters.

“Christina DeConcini, the director of government affairs at the World Resources Institute, said that federal programs do not adequately emphasize adapting to the risks posed by climate change.” (The Places in the U.S. Where Disaster Strikes Again and Again, May 24, 2018 New York Times)

Many people agree with the moral proposition that we must change to a clean energy paradigm. Not doing so means a miserable future for all, which of course, is immoral. But many folks also doubt whether we can actually move to 100% renewables on a scale and time frame that will matter.

The famous Jacobson Study, which concluded that 100% renewable energy by 2050 is very possible, has gained more ground.

New Mark Z. Jacobson Study Draws A Roadmap To 100% Renewable Energy Last August, Mark Jacobson, a renewable energy expert and senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University, was the leader of a study that identified how 139 countries around the world could obtain 100% of their energy from renewable sources by 2050. But that study got some pushback from people who questioned its assumptions. The naysayers said the study relied too heavily on energy storage solutions such as adding turbines to existing hydroelectric dams or storing excess energy in water, ice, and underground rocks. (February 8, 2018) CleanTechnica)

Another study says we can also.

Can we get 100 percent of our energy from renewable sources? New article gathers the evidence to address the sceptics Is there enough space for all the wind turbines and solar panels to provide all our energy needs? What happens when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow? Won't renewables destabilise the grid and cause blackouts? In a review paper last year in the high-ranking journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Master of Science Benjamin Heard and colleagues presented their case against 100% renewable electricity systems. They doubted the feasibility of many of the recent scenarios for high shares of renewable energy, questioning everything from whether renewables-based systems can survive extreme weather events with low sun and low wind, to the ability to keep the grid stable with so much variable generation. (May 17, 2018) EurekAlert! [more on Energy and Climate Change in our area]

However, with the Trump administration fighting hard to bring back coal and discouraging renewable energy, we cannot sit back and assume that this energy transition will occur without our help.
In this context, where the Climate Change Bottleneck is getting worse, environmentalists are helping the public to understand the nature of our energy transition and how, if we get going, our future doesn’t have to be a disaster. The Sierra Club is devoting the entire month of June to showcase this film (see below) around the country in order to show that the energy transition has not only begun, it’s exciting.

Reinventing Power: America’s Renewable Energy Boom takes us across the country to hear directly from the people making our clean energy future achievable. These individuals are working to rebuild what’s broken, rethink what’s possible, and revitalize communities. These stories are proof that America does not need to choose between keeping our lights on and protecting our communities. Critically, Reinventing Power underscores the notion that we don’t have to sacrifice jobs for a clean environment. Supporting a clean energy future means building a better, more prosperous future for everyone. Over the film’s 50 minutes, you’ll meet people in eight states whose lives were changed by the renewable energy industry while exploring various aspects of the clean energy industry from innovation to installation. Sierra Club.

Monday, June 11th at 6:30PM the Rochester Sierra Club will be screening this film at the Brighton Library’s learning Center, 2300 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618.


We hope you will RSVP, show up, see the film, and help us move our region towards 100% renewable energy. We’ll have a discussion afterwards on how to bring our planet’s temperature down. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What are the latest Climate Change indicators telling us?

In The Truth About Animals, author Lucy Cooke explains how incredibly wrong our ancestors got the facts about many animals because of our prejudices. The animals—sloths, bats, vultures, beavers, and many more—are still around and are now understood quite well. But it’s difficult today to imagine how strongly our ancestors believed the most ludicrous myths (migrating birds flew to the moon in winter) about these creatures. A little objective reasoning and keener observations would have relieved many people of their wild untruths about even the most common of animals.

Will those for whom we will someday be their ancestors wonder in jaw-dropping incredulity at our unbelievable intransigence on Climate Change? Why, might they ask, were we not convinced by the science of the day and the facts staring us right in the face?

The answer is that we too still hold prejudices about reality. In our case, it may be because the implications of our admitting the enormity of the crisis keeps putting us off from doing what is needed. Or, we just simply refuse to think about Climate Change. Period.

What we know today about Climate Change, including the consensus of climate scientists who know that this planetary warming is happening and that we are causing it, is that there are many indicators of Climate Change that reveal the wide-ranging changes going on. Climate indicators, observed changes in our climate system, often cover specific regions of our planet. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) indicators cover the US. California has some of the same indicators and some of its own.

Climate change ruining California’s environment, report warns Bigger, more intense forest fires, longer droughts, warmer ocean temperatures and an ever shrinking snowpack in the Sierra Nevada are “unequivocal” evidence of the ruinous domino-effects that climate change is having on California, a new California Environmental Protection Agency report states. The 350-page report released Wednesday tracks 36 indicators of climate change, including a comprehensive list of human impacts and the effects on wildlife, the ocean, lakes, rivers and the mountains. The study pulled together research from scientists, academia and research institutions and found that despite a marked downward trend in greenhouse-gas emissions in California, including a 90 percent drop in black carbon from tailpipe emissions over the past 50 years, CO2 levels in the atmosphere and in seawater are increasing at a steady rate. (May 9, 2018) San Francisco Chronicle[more on Climate Change in our area]

In the above study “Indicators of Climate Change in California”(May 2018) on page S-14, you get a glimpse of how these indicators are arranged so scientists can measure and track our climate crisis:

CLIMATE CHANGE DRIVERS: Greenhouse gas emissions, Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, Atmospheric black carbon concentrations, Acidification of coastal waters
CHANGES IN CLIMATE: Annual air temperature, Extreme heat events, Winter chill, Cooling and heating degree days, Precipitation, Drought
IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON PHYSICAL SYSTEMS: Snowmelt runoff, Snow-water content, Glacier change, Lake water temperature, Coastal ocean temperature, Sea level rise, Dissolved oxygen in coastal waters
IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON BIOLOGICAL SYSTEMS: On humans: Vector-borne diseases, Heat-related mortality and morbidity. On vegetation: Forest tree mortality, Wildfires, Ponderosa pine forest retreat, Vegetation distribution shifts, Changes in forests and woodlands, Subalpine forest density, Fruit and nut maturation time. On wildlife: Spring flight of Central Valley butterflies, Migratory bird arrivals, Bird wintering ranges, Small mammal and avian range shifts, Effects of ocean acidification on marine organisms (Type III*), Nudibranch range shifts, Copepod populations, Sacramento fall-run Chinook salmon, abundance, Cassin’s auklet breeding success, California sea lion pup demography (Note: A “Type III” indicator is conceptual; no ongoing monitoring or data collection is in place.)

After reading the entire report, you may not feel so queasy about California’s attempts to require solar panels on new homes. I know, people, especially people in the developed nations, do not like to be told what to do—so a rule requiring new homes to be built with solar panels may not go so well.
But besides the gloomy report from California, the world itself is seeing Climate Change indicators go through the roof. The Arctic was very warm this year. [See Another extreme heat wave strikes the North Pole a very warm Arctic this year, May 7, 2018 The Washington Post.] And, our planet’s greenhouse gas concentration is reaching new highs. [[See: Earth has crossed a scary threshold for the first time in more than 800,000 years, and it could lead to tens of thousands of deaths, May 9, 2018 Business Insider]

There are also some new studies, reported on this week, that indicate that there might be some more Climate Change indicators we need concern ourselves with: The Atlantification of the Arctic, the slowing down of ocean circulation, and a surprising amount of methane oozing up from our freshwater lakes. Much more methane (a very potent greenhouse gas) comes from our freshwater lakes than all the oceans—who knew? 

Along with the dismal progress in the Bonn Climate talk last week, things are looking a bit bleak for our future. If we find ourselves laughing at how our ancestors thought the world worked back in the day, we might reflect on our own generation’s lack of appreciation of the speed at which our Climate Change indicators are shifting and our increasing disinclination to even look. We are dismantling our climate. Our children won’t think it all so humorous.


Time passes. 

Monday, May 07, 2018

Why doesn’t the new CDC report “Vital Signs: Trends in Reported Vectorborne Disease Cases” mention Climate Change?

From which side of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s mouth should we understand Climate Change’s role in the rapid spreading of tick and mosquito infections? Our public health officials should offer more clarity about Climate Change and public health when communicating to the public.

The report’s abstract does not mention Climate Change, nor does the CDC public information page on the study: “Illnesses on the rise From mosquito, tick, and flea bites”.

In two of our major publications, the same CDC official seems to highlight the importance of Climate Change in the recent spread of vectorborne diseases in one paper and in the other paper shies away from this position.
  • ·         From The Washington Post: “Climate change, which experts say can exacerbate many public health threats, also plays an important role, allowing mosquitoes and ticks to thrive in warmer temperatures, said Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, which produced the report”
  • ·         From The New York Times: “But the author, Dr. Lyle R. Petersen, the agency’s director of vector-borne diseases, declined to link the increase to the politically fraught issue of climate change, and the report does not mention climate change or global warming.” 


In our local Rochester media, we see a little more clarity about the significance of the CDC report and Climate Change. Both The Post and WHEC Rochester use this quote: “The biggest factor behind the boom is climate change, according to Dr. Emil Lesho at Rochester Regional Health. He said that as warmer temperatures spread north, mosquitos and ticks are traveling with it.”

Outside this new study, the CDC understands fully the connection between Climate Change and the rise in “Diseases Carried by Vectors”:

“Climate is one of the factors that influence the distribution of diseases borne by vectors (such as fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, which spread pathogens that cause illness). The geographic and seasonal distribution of vector populations, and the diseases they can carry, depends not only on climate but also on land use, socioeconomic and cultural factors, pest control, access to health care, and human responses to disease risk, among other factors. Daily, seasonal, or year-to-year climate variability can sometimes result in vector/pathogen adaptation and shifts or expansions in their geographic ranges. Such shifts can alter disease incidence depending on vector-host interaction, host immunity, and pathogen evolution. North Americans are currently at risk from numerous vector-borne diseases, including Lyme, dengue fever, West Nile virus disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, plague, and tularemia. Vector-borne pathogens not currently found in the United States, such as chikungunya, Chagas disease, and Rift Valley fever viruses, are also threats.” (Diseases Carried by Vectors, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The New York State Department of Health understands the Health Impacts from Weather and Climate, where vectorborne diseases like Lyme Disease and West Nile Virus are affected by Climate Change. And so does our own City’s climate plan:

Impacts to human health and equity. Climate change will have a variety of public health consequences, including heat-related illnesses, allergies, asthma, water and food borne illnesses, cardiovascular disease, and others. The risk of some diseases carried by insects may increase. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease are active when temperatures are above 45°F. Warmer winters could lengthen the season during which ticks can become infected or people can be exposed to the ticks. Higher temperatures would also expand the area that is warm enough for the Asian tiger mosquito, a common carrier of West Nile virus. Climate change may also exacerbate heat related and respiratory illnesses.” (Page 4, Climate Action Plan)

So, why doesn’t the new CDC study reflect what most experts (even themselves) know about Climate Change and vectorborne diseases?

One of the messages that the CDC seems to be communicating in our troubling climate science times is that only at the local level can we solve vectorborne diseases. In this view, our local agencies and the public need to get on the ball—spray more pesticides, stay inside, etc.

But if Climate Change is one of the major reasons why more people are being bitten by more insects in more regions (and it is), then part of the solution can only be achieved at the federal and worldwide levels. We cannot spray our way out of vectorborne diseases (although the pesticide companies would love this notion to take root in our heads). We need to stop the conditions that allow more vectorborne diseases into previously cooler areas. We need to decrease the heavy flooding caused by Climate Change, which increases the spread of insects in areas like ours, and stop the northward warming trend that tropical-disease carrying insects love so much.

In other words, we need to address Climate Change. All our media need to convey to the public the connections among the consequences of Climate Change—not just through liberal strongholds. What is happening in the USA with the new disrespect for science, especially climate science, is probably happening in other nations. But certainly not to the same extent as here in the USA under the Trump administration, since most nations are scrambling to preserve the legitimacy of the Paris Accord. 

If we don’t solve our present politicalizing of science and trying to adapt to changes in our environment through a contorted view of reality, we are going to be trying to solve the problem without getting at the root cause. We’ll be trying to put out a fire in our stove, while our house burns down.

We and our public agencies need to get on the same page, where 97% of climate scientist agree that Climate Change is happening, and we are the cause. [See “Scientific consensus: Earth's climate is warming”, NASA Global Climate Change.]  We are running out of time:   

Earth’s atmosphere just crossed another troubling climate change threshold For the first time since humans have been monitoring, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have exceeded 410 parts per million averaged across an entire month, a threshold that pushes the planet ever closer to warming beyond levels that scientists and the international community have deemed “safe.” The reading from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii finds that concentrations of the climate-warming gas averaged above 410 parts per million throughout April. The first time readings crossed 410 at all occurred on April 18, 2017, or just about a year ago. Carbon dioxide concentrations — whose “greenhouse gas effect” traps heat and drives climate change — were around 280 parts per million circa 1880, at the dawn of the industrial revolution. They’re now 46 percent higher. (May 3, 2018) The Washington Post [more on Climate Change in our area]


Time passes. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

We cannot volunteer ourselves out of Climate Change or most environmental problems

The French president’s call to “Make our planet great again” is more likely to occur if we renew efforts to make the Paris Agreement work.  

Emmanuel Macron Takes Aim At Trump On Climate Change In Congressional Address Some people care more about job growth than the survival of future generations, he said. French President Emmanuel Macron extolled the Franco-American relationship on multiple fronts but issued a stern warning about the need to address climate change during his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.  Speaking entirely in English, Macron laid out the numerous ways ― human rights, trade, terrorism ― in which both the U.S. and France must strengthen multilateral ties in order to confront what he called a “new world order” marked by violence and conflict.  His most forceful comments came in the form of a veiled rebuke against President Donald Trump on climate policy. Macron has emerged as a leader in the fight to protect the legitimacy of the Paris climate agreement after Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw last June. Minutes after Trump’s announcement, Macron tweeted a slogan riffing off of Trump’s own campaign rallying cry: “Make our planet great again.” (April 25, 2018) Huffington Post [more on Climate Change in our area]

Outside the US, the rest of the world understands that only under a worldwide-agreed framework can humanity address Climate Change on a scale and time frame that will matter. [See: “Governments Meet in Bonn To Step Up Climate Action Critical to the implementation of Paris Agreement” (April 28, 2018 United Nations Climate Change)]

There is an unfortunate truth about humanity’s collective ability for solving issues like Climate Change, which it seems we are going to learn only too late: voluntary efforts are not enough to address big environmental problems. Of course, voluntary efforts are critical, and the public should be engaged in solving them locally. But thinking we can slough off our environmental problems to only those who care enough to inconvenience themselves to take on these problems alone is a delusion.

Voluntary Efforts Aren't Enough To Stop Lake Erie Pollution, Study Shows Research into Lake Erie's toxic algae shows no clear decrease in the pollutants feeding the persistent blooms during the past five years, according to an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency report. The review also finds that nearly all of the phosphorus and nitrogen flowing from Ohio's streams and rivers into the lake's western end is coming mainly from agriculture runoff. The data backs up what environmental groups have been saying for years and what the head of the state EPA said last month: Voluntary steps farmers have taken to scale back the fertilizers feeding Lake Erie's massive algae blooms aren't enough. (April 23, 2018) WOSU Public Media [more on Great Lakes and Water Quality in our area]

Many folks have taken a stance that government, taxpayers’ money, should not be used to support environmental regulations. And some people believe so much in the free market system that they think it alone will solve our environmental problems. There have been and still are innumerable ways we have tried to wriggle out of our environmental responsibilities to future generations.

But the evidence for cleaning up and protecting our environment leans towards strong environmental regulations based on science and strict enforcement.

The evidence is that we will not magically mature ourselves into a sustainable future. Getting back to a planet where our children’s children will thrive is going to be inconvenient and difficult. It’s going to be more so given our inability to appreciate our fundamental relationship to our environment. We have strayed far from the right path: CO2 is Regularly Exceeding 410 Parts Per Million for First Time in Human History (April 25, 2018) ROBERTSCRIBBLER.


Time passes. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Somethings old, somethings new for Rochester NY on Earth Day 2018

As Earth Day rolls around again, there are historic concerns about our environment still to be solved and new concerns we hadn’t even anticipated back at the first event in 1970.  

Old environmental issues are still with us including Climate Change. Climate Change has brought some very inconvenient facts and sense of great urgency to Earth Day. One of the most dramatic moments in the efforts to communicate Climate Change was the ‘hockey stick’ graph authored by Dr. Michael Mann and some colleagues demonstrating a major spike in greenhouse gases in the 20th century. Check out this 20-year update by Dr. Mann:

Earth Day and the Hockey Stick: A Singular Message On the 20th anniversary of the graph that galvanized climate action, it is time to speak out boldly Two decades ago this week a pair of colleagues and I published the original “hockey stick” graph in Nature, which happened to coincide with the Earth Day 1998 observances. The graph showed Earth’s temperature, relatively stable for 500 years, had spiked upward during the 20th century. A year later we would extend the graph back in time to A.D. 1000, demonstrating this rise was unprecedented over at least the past millennium—as far back as we could go with the data we had. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, publishing the hockey stick would change my life in a fundamental way. I was thrust suddenly into the spotlight. Nearly every major newspaper and television news network covered our study. The widespread attention was exhilarating, if not intimidating for a science nerd with little or no experience—or frankly, inclination at the time—in communicating with the public. (April 20, 2018) Scientific America [more on Climate Change in our area]

What’s new this Earth Day is the scale of the Plastic Pollution problem. When you think we didn’t even have plastics until the 1960’s, it’s amazing that a little annoyance a few decades ago has mushroomed into a major world environmental problem today. Check this out:

It's a plastic planet  Plastics are everywhere. They're used to make everything from grocery bags and clothing to medical devices and military body armor. And there are reasons for its popularity. Plastics are comparatively inexpensive to make and work with, they're durable, they resist harsh chemicals, and they're lighter than other materials. But the more pervasive they've become, the more troublesome they've become. A boom in single-use and disposable plastic products has given way to plastic pollution. Bottles line roadsides, shopping bags flap around in trees, and cigarette butts litter beaches, parks, and sidewalks. And scientists have found concentrations of tiny plastic particles — microplastics and nanoplastics – in all of the Great Lakes and in the deepest reaches of the world's largest oceans. Teams led by SUNY Fredonia chemistry professor Sam Mason have also found microplastics in tap and bottled water samples from across the world. (April 18, 2018) Rochester City Newspaper [more on Recycling in our area]

Earth Day is a reminder that only humanity can and therefore should take stewardship of our life support system. We need to continue to fix old environmental problems and understand that now Climate Change has taken top priority, where all our issues (not just environmental issues) must be addressed through the lens of Climate Change. In Rochester there are many events this Earth Day. 

They are all meaningful and attempt to get at the myriad local environment issues that are ultimately linked to this existential crisis coming at us. [Existential? Check out this burning article by Mark Dunlea, Green Education and Legal Fund about the need to march in Albany on the 23rd: “Why I am doing Climate Civil Disobedience this Earth day” from 100% Renewable Now NY Campaign.]

There’s a new kind of Earth Day event for Rochester focusing on land use for Climate Change solutions: Earth Day Celebration! “This Land is Our Land” on Parcel 5 with the efforts of a local coalition called OurLandROC:

Our Land Roc is a coalition of community groups and local residents seeking to cultivate a more equitable, sustainable, and collaborative approach to development in the City of Rochester. We identify and advocate for land use practices that promote the long-term health and stability of our communities, rather than policies that privilege a few. We seek permanently affordable, sustainable development in our neighborhoods. (Posted April 16th, 2018 Earth Day Celebration! “This Land is Our Land” on Parcel 5)

The demands: 1. Community Land Trust 2. Participatory Budgeting 3. Inclusionary Zoning 4. Community Benefits Agreement 5. Adequate Notification of all development proposals  

Six evaluation criteria: 1. Benefit to all 2. Mitigate and adapt to climate change 3. Investment without displacement 4. Increased transparency 5. Addresses root causes not just transparency 6. Socially equable ecologically sound and equally to all

Want to learn more? Come on down Sunday, Parcel 5 275 E. Main St., Rochester, New York ask. Check these Twitter hashtags if you cannot make the event: #OurLandRoc #RocEarthDay
April 22 at 3 PM - 5 PM |

Back in January, I provided a brief overview on how Climate Change could be addressed locally through land use policies: “Addressing Climate Change via land use issues” Check it out and then fill out the City’s survey for its Comprehensive Plan, Rochester 2034 using what you learned.

With good Climate Change plans and actions, maybe we’ll have more hopeful Earth Days ahead.

Time passes.

* Update: Check out a short video of this event. 


Monday, April 09, 2018

Yes, Mr. Trump we still must #MARCHFORSCIENCE

Presidential tweets, however colorful, do not provide the core reasoning upon which societies make policy—it has and will continue to be science. 

Science and the respect for science in human growth are hard-won processes that helps free us from a Stone Age mentality. Evolutionary psychology rests on the observation that most of our modern brain traits are still wired for fighting nature, predators, and anyone who gets in our way. Our ‘gut’ reactions to background stimuli (like a rustle in the grass) are an example.  

Now, with over seven billion of us still growing on a planet filled with our infrastructures (roads, bridges, pipes) and the repercussions of our growth (Climate Change, pollution, loss of biodiversity, over consumption), science is a fundamental necessity for humanity moving quickly to address most of our environmental and technical challenges ahead. Science gives our minds a solid frame of reference that helps keep our paleolithic brains in check and adapt to a modern future.

“The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.[2] To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[3] The Oxford Dictionaries Online defines the scientific method as "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses".[4] Experiments are a procedure designed to test hypotheses. Experiments are an important tool of the scientific method.[5][6]” (Scientific Method, Wikipedia)

A political pushback on science isn’t going to change the facts, but it’s a mistake to think it doesn’t matter at this critical time where the window of opportunity is quickly closing to address Climate Change on a scale and time frame that will matter.

Those who underplay the ramifications of the Trump administration’s back peddling on science and trying to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Accord are not being realistic. Rather than having little or no effect on the renewable energy market, global efforts to address Climate Change, and gutting decades of hard-won environmental regulations, we may doubling-down on business as usual making the worst Climate Change scenarios inevitable.  

Why EPA’s Effort to Weaken Fuel Efficiency Standards Could be Trump’s Most Climate-Damaging Move Yet Weakening the CAFE auto standards could delay action on climate change for a generation — and launch a legal battle with California now. By hitting the brakes on the decades-long drive to reduce automotive carbon emissions, President Donald Trump's administration has taken its most consequential step yet toward undoing his predecessor's legacy on climate change. Scott Pruitt, the embattled chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced the reversal on Monday in a "final determination" that President Obama's plan for the 2022-2025 model years went too far and would be revised. Pruitt did not yet announce a replacement for the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which dictate fuel efficiency and therefore emissions. And even after he does—after more consultations and debate—it's likely to be challenged in court. So would another aspect of his plan: his threat to refuse a waiver to California, which is intent on setting its own tough standards. (April 2, 2018) Inside Climate News [more on Transportation, Air Quality, and Climate Change in our area]

Weakening the fuel efficiency standards will probably have profound effects on our environment, air quality, addressing Climate Change, and even the US car market—which will be trying to push old, polluting technology on a world moving in a more responsible direction.

It’s time to stand up again against the Trump administration’s attacks on science. We need more science education in our classrooms, more scientists, more allotment of public funds for science projects that will keep American competitive in world markets, and more scientific instruments (satellites) to monitor our environment so we can adapt and mitigate Climate Change.

March For Science. There are some marches coming in your community and a big one in Washington, DC to reach the public directly on the importance of science. We are demanding that the Trump administration reinvigorate science back into America’s core. 

#MARCHFORSCIENCE

  • ·         Saturday, April 14 at 12 PM - 5 PM | Martin Luther King Jr. Park at Manhattan Square, 353 Court St, Rochester, New York 14607


o   Rochester NY March for Science - Rally, March and Science Expo | Hosted by Rochester NY March For Science “Please join us for a Day of Science: The Rally will begin at 12:00 PM at Martin Luther King Jr. Park at Manhattan Square. There will be a variety of speakers and Playground Science activities for families. The March will be stepping off from the Rally at 1:00 PM and will lead to the Science Expo at Rochester Riverside Hotel, 120 East Main Street, Rochester, NY 14604. The Science Expo will run from 1:00 - 5:00 PM and feature a variety of interactive table presentations, speakers on a range of topics relating innovative science to everyday life, as well as a science and technical career fair. Plus family activities.”



o   On April 14, 2018 SCIENCE MARCHES ON In 2017, more than one million people around the world gathered together in the largest event for science advocacy in history.  In 2018, we unite again to hold our elected and appointed officials responsible for enacting equitable evidence-based policies that serve all communities and science for the common good. It’s time we held our political leaders accountable for supporting good science policy. It’s time we join together and demand that our leaders use science to inform their work and cast their votes for science. Learn More About Vote for Science ❯❯ From Washington D.C. to Abuja, Nigeria, science supporters across the globe are mobilizing.  Events range from science expos and festivals to rallies and large-scale marches but they are united with shared goals.  March for Science events energize science advocates from multiple spheres to create tangible change and call for greater accountability of public officials to enact evidence-based policy that serves all communities.    More than 70 satellite events around the world have already registered to participate in the 2nd annual event.  Don't see one in your area for 2018?  Plan a new march by registering here! Don't forget to check out the 2017 satellite list to find organizers from last year. Prefer to check by zip code? Click here.

Time passes


My essay before I marched in last year’s Washington, DC March for Science: “U.S. at crossroads: free science from politics and join the March for Science” (April 17, 2017)