Monday, November 28, 2016

The importance advanced feedback during Climate Change

One of the features that come with a roof-top solar system is monitoring software so you can tweak your energy usage. If you’re watching too much TV, for example, you can switch that off and read a book. An electric or hybrid vehicle owner also can manage their energy use by numerous gauges that are part of the vehicle’s package. If you’re getting low on battery power, just turn off your heated seat.

Feedback, knowing how and where you are using energy, can give you a lot of control over your energy costs. Without adequate feedback on many of the complicated contraptions we use today, we wouldn’t have a clue how they (and by electronic proxy, ourselves) are performing.   

If we are seeking to live sustainably, control our energy costs, and evaluate our footprints on our environment, we need good feedback because the world has become a very complicated place. Of course, our bodies came with a lot of feedback mechanisms—sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste—but these senses are no longer sufficient to survive and live sustainably. We cannot see how much carbon dioxide or any other kind of greenhouse is in our atmosphere. We cannot hear the slowing down of a glacier-fed river that supplies our community with water. We cannot smell methane gas, the odorless but a very potent greenhouse gas, leaking from our gas lines or bogs we are melting with Climate Change.

We need enhanced feedback abilities, or instruments that allow us to fly and land our jets, drive our cars, predict our weather, and monitor our water quality. You name it. These advanced abilities that our instruments provide us now were not necessary for our survival during most of our evolution.  

Now they are. Now most of us realize at this point in our history that good feedback in the form of scientific instruments that measure sea level rise, pollution in our atmosphere, and our impact on our ecosystems is critical.

I belabor the obvious need for scientific instruments as feedback because of the potential loss of NASA’s space monitoring of Earth’s ecosystems by Trump. It would be suicidal to blind ourselves to Climate Change just when we need very sophisticated monitoring systems the most.

Trump to scrap Nasa climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’ Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding as the president-elect seeks to shift focus away from home in favor of deep space exploration Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said. Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century. (November 23, 2015) The Guardian 

BTW: There are other kinds of feedback related to Climate Change and that’s when 97% of climate scientists and 196 nations and say we should address Climate Change. Though not electronic, this is also good feedback from our fellow humans and we should pay attention to it.

196 countries to Trump: UN must tackle climate change Nations stand as one in Marrakech to reaffirm their commitment to the fight against climate change in the face of populism and division in America The governments of the world have issued a repudiation of the voices of doubt by reaffirming their commitment to defeat climate change. At a UN climate conference in Marrakech, ministers and negotiators from almost 200 countries stood as one to applaud a document  that reaffirmed the world’s commitment to climate progress in the face of the shock election result in the US. “We call for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority,” said the Marrakech Action Proclamation, read by Morocco’s foreign minister and conference president Salaheddine Mezouar. (November 17, 2016) Climate Home


Time passes. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Rethinking Climate Change activism after Trump

Since Trump won, climate activists are rethinking their strategies. Organizations like 350.org are conducting national call-ins for this very purpose.

I understand this sentiment: “The climate movement needs to connect with other conversations like the ones on trade, on gender, on economic rights, because we realize that people are disenfranchised for a reason.” (Trump won: It’s time for climate NGOs to stop preaching to the choir  (November 11, 2016) Climate Home

But I’m not so sure that trying to fit the urgency of Climate Change solely into other people’s concerns is the way to go.
Though it is important to focus on the relationships between what folks are concerned about (like clean water and justice), it is also imperative that we prioritize how the physics of Climate Change will affect not only the present but the future.

We must get folks to understand that their concerns are linked to Climate Change. For the sake of our future, addressing and mitigating Climate Change must come first—no matter where the public puts Climate Change on their list of concerns.

The planet is burning up, and if that doesn’t get addressed quickly, all other concerns won’t matter.

I oftentimes think that climate messaging is thought of as an advertisement for a great product that everyone should buy because it has something for everyone. There is an attempt to sound so positive and hopeful about addressing Climate Change by activists that sometimes the message becomes downright cheery. Not so. There are some solutions that include desirable changes we need to make, but it’s not all peaches and cream.

While advertisement experts have learned a lot about selling products to folks who probably don’t even need them, it doesn’t mean consumer psychology has anything to do with Climate Change. Climate Change is not like a product the people might buy or an issue they might chip into to if they have an inclination. 

Climate Change is a clear and present threat to our existence.  The public must understand the full implications of this—regardless of how remote it seems to their lives or how horrible it is to contemplate.

We shouldn’t have to re-package climate messaging to connect the dots between what the public is concerned about at the present moment and climate science just because a climate denier got installed into the head of our government.

Somehow we have to get the public to appreciate the absolute priority of science so they can understand how our planet is being affected by our suddenly warming it up. We don’t do that by pandering to their interests.

Climate activist didn’t do anything wrong because Trump got elected. Trump got elected because our media failed to amplify our crucial message and deliver climate science to the masses.


Time passes.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

Climate Change activism after the 2016 US elections

Many are feeling pretty hopeless after the US just installed a climate denier for President together with a political majority in both the House and Senate opposed to addressing Climate Change. Let’s face it, now the United States is a great concern to a world that just made the Paris Agreement official. 

Donald Trump Could Put Climate Change on Course for ‘Danger Zone’ For a look at how sharply policy in Washington will change under the administration of Donald J. Trump, look no further than the environment. Mr. Trump has called human-caused climate change a “hoax.” He has vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency “in almost every form.” And in an early salvo against one of President Obama’s signature issues, Mr. Trump has named Myron Ebell of the business-backed Competitive Enterprise Institute to head his E.P.A. transition team. Mr. Ebell has asserted that whatever warming caused by greenhouse gas pollution is modest and could be beneficial. A 2007 Vanity Fair profile of Mr. Ebell called him an “oil industry mouthpiece.” (November 10, 2016, New York Times)

Climate scientists are very concerned too, which is to say we should all be very concerned. Which is also to say, their voice should have been the most important voice we listened to as we voted in this historic election. Theirs was the voice of a reality that must be addressed above all others.  (Or there won’t be other issues.)

Donald Trump presidency a 'disaster for the planet', warn climate scientists Leading scientists say the climate denier’s victory could mean ‘game over for the climate’ and any hope of warding off dangerous global warming The ripples from a new American president are far-reaching, but never before has the arrival of a White House administration placed the livability of Earth at stake. Beyond his bluster and crude taunts, Donald Trump’s climate denialism could prove to be the lasting imprint of his unexpected presidency. “A Trump presidency might be game over for the climate,” said Michael Mann, a prominent climate researcher. “It might make it impossible to stabilize planetary warming below dangerous levels.” (November 11, 2016 The Guardian)

But enough of us didn’t listen to these voices; we as a nation listened to other voices.

For whatever reason the majority of the electoral votes went to a climate denier, we will pay a dear price. If it was frustration, hate, or a profound despair that things couldn’t get any worse that brought Trump to power, it is now more likely that things will get worse. We probably should have addressed, or at least listened to, the concerns of those who staged this political upset before this national calamity occurred.  As Russell Brand suggests in his rant, Trump. Right. Okay, the world's gone nuts: Russell Brand The Trews, it might now be the time to figure out how to talk to those to who believe (or have been lead to believe) that our political system has not served them.

Before many of us launch a crusade against the results of the past election, it might serve us well to find out what actually happened. It certainly would have served us better if, after the attack on 9/11, we had paused and tried to figure out why we were attacked before we ourselves launched an attack on a country that didn’t even attack us—throwing the Mideast into a horrific turmoil that seems likely to last forever. Not everyone who voted for Trump voted against women, against common decency, against minorities, against gun regulations, or what they perceived would be our nation’s response to addressing Climate Change. What caused so many to vote for a person distinctly unqualified be President of the United States?  

While we ponder the question above, we must still deal with Climate Change. Just because it was kept from the presidential elections by our media and resulted in this state of denial by the most powerful country in the world, physics still reigns. Climate Change cannot be voted out of existence. 

Like the many consequences of Climate Change we are now experiencing—more extreme weather, more wildfires, glaciers melting, and sea levels rising—the election of Trump and his fellow deniers presents innumerable challenges to what is already a complicated myriad of environmental problems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NASA, NOAA, and many more scientific agencies that monitor climate changes and educate the public about our environment are going to be burdened with directions from those who do not accept what the world’s climate scientists have told us: That our environment is warming quickly because of our way of life and we need to change immediately.  

Though many of the specific repercussions of our dependence on fossil fuel energy were unknown a couple of decades ago, climate scientists quickly learned that our climate was very sensitive, indeed. Land, air, and water around the world has reacted instantly (though unevenly) to more heat. We did anticipate some possible outcomes. Many of us knew there were going to be a lot of challenges. Scientists, environmentalists, and many more anticipated social strife when heat was turned up on our planet. For example, many of us knew that humanity itself would be part of the trials ahead.

Some people are galvanized by a great catastrophe and lead thousands towards solutions. But others think differently. They prioritized their own concerns, maniacally working towards how they think the world should be and how they can profit from the turmoil. Efforts to warn the public about the dangers of acid rain, cigarette smoke, second-hand smoke, holes in the ozone, and DDT have been fought and foiled for years. (See: Merchants of Doubt.) Humanity’s history is littered with actions based on wrong-headed notions, no matter how much evidence there was at the time to the contrary.

Those choosing to address Climate Change decades ago knew the job was dangerous when they took it. They knew there would be push-back against trying to solve this crisis—it’s part of human nature. A Trump win is but an atrocious manifestation of this human inclination for short term gain at the cost of future sustainability. Although these folks who are going to do everything in their power to increase fossil fuel use, thwart environmental regulations, and stop the worldwide attempt to make the Paris Agreement work have names, they are but part of this human condition. We are an adolescent species, hoping to mature. This is to say, the road ahead that we knew would be bumpy has now gotten very bumpy. Not only are the physical challenges going to get more difficult because we have allowed so much GHG’s to build up, the human reaction against the major changes needed to solve the warming crisis has metastasized into a powerful and irrational force against our efforts. It is a force that has to be overcome in some ways like all the other obstacles in front of us for a bright future.  

What now? This isn’t a time for despair, this is a time to assess our strengths and double-down on them.

Many who are trying to get their heads around this catastrophe are thinking that now the focus for addressing Climate Change must come from all our other tools in our toolbox, everything except our federal government. It must come from individuals, leaders, businesses, communities, environmental groups, local government, state, and other nations besides our own. 

Other countries are going to do what they can with a blind, deaf, and dumb elephant in the room:

Turnbull signals Australia won't follow Trump's lead on Paris climate agreement Prime minister confirms Australia will ratify agreement despite opposition from One Nation and conservative Coalition MPs Malcolm Turnbull has signalled Australia will not seek to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement even if the US president-elect, Donald Trump, follows through on his threat to cancel the emissions reductions commitments made by Barack Obama last December. Turnbull on Thursday confirmed Australia had ratified the Paris agreement despite domestic opposition from the One Nation party, a critical Senate bloc for the government, and persistent climate change scepticism roiling within Coalition ranks. After Trump’s victory, and ahead of Turnbull’s confirmation of the government’s intentions with ratification on Thursday morning, the chairman of the government’s backbench committee on the environment and energy, the Liberal MP Craig Kelly  (November 9, 2016) The Guardian

Or, how about this scenario? A major power like China takes advantage of the US’s climate paralysis and becomes the world leader on addressing Climate Change, leaving US in the dust:

Trump win opens way for China to take climate leadership role Beijing is poised to cash in on the goodwill it could earn by taking on leadership in dealing with what for many other governments is one of the most urgent issues on their agenda. "Proactively taking action against climate change will improve China's international image and allow it to occupy the moral high ground," Zou Ji, deputy director of the National Centre for Climate Change Strategy and a senior Chinese climate talks negotiator, told Reuters. (November 11, 2016 Reuters)

Not even Trump can tell China what to do.

If it is so that for now and for the time being much of the effort to address Climate Change in our country will come from the states, New York State may (as it did with stopping Fracking) show the nation a way through the coming anti-science miasma. 

Trump win means little for NY climate programs President-elect Donald Trump's pledge to roll back federal environmental regulations will likely have little effect on New York's efforts to combat climate change, according to the state's top energy official. Richard Kauffman, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's chairman of energy and finance, touted New York's various clean-energy programs Thursday while noting they predate the federal Clean Power Plan, an emissions-reductions program Trump has vowed to scale back. Should Trump curb environmental regulations at the federal level, New York's programs — including the Clean Energy Standard, which subsidizes renewable and nuclear energy — would remain in place. (November 10, 2016) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 

But let us not get too cocky. In order to address Climate Change, we have to adapt to the changes, and we have to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions on a scale and time frame that will avoid the worst consequences of this crisis.

One can say that “President-elect Donald Trump's pledge to roll back federal environmental regulations will likely have little effect on New York's efforts to combat climate change”, yet, it is delusional. First and foremost, Climate Change cannot be compartmentalized when it comes to being affected. When the temperature goes up on our planet, everything will be affected as there are no safe zones that won’t experience this planetary phenomenon. Some places will be affected differently and more quickly than others, for a while, but like cooking a great big pot of soup, eventually the whole pot will get hot if you leave the flame on long enough.

So if the federal government is dragging its feet or thwarting progress by doubling down on fossil fuel infrastructure (take the Dakota Access Pipeline for example), New York as all regions will eventually be affected and threatened by planetary tipping points. Holding back funds for infrastructure repair and development that is resilient enough to withstand the extreme weather that comes with Climate Change is going to affect New York. The energy aspect of Climate Change, though critical, has little to do with adaption, which will require a federal response at times, and is only a part the mitigation part of this crisis.

However committed we are individually or at the state and local level on addressing Climate Change, there’s no denying our job has been made exponentially more difficult by this election. It’s pretty late in the day for our country to have made such a colossal error in judgement. Our prospects are grim if we don’t find a way to encourage this new administration to do the right thing. In this effort we should leave no stone unturned, no vote unchecked, no bill un-scrutinized, no bad media report unchallenged, no rally for climate action and justice unattended, no chance for despair to creep into our soul. Climate denial is batshit crazy at any level.


Time passes. 

Monday, November 07, 2016

DAPL rally in Rochester wakes up local media on Climate Change–sort of

Rochester’s local media probably wouldn’t have shown up to yesterday’s rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) if this massive fossil fuel infrastructure development hadn’t been such a wickedly ill-conceived boondoggle. This violent power grab of Native American’s burial grounds, which threats their water, has garnered worldwide attention and motivated hundreds of Rochesterians, including Congresswoman, Louise Slaughter to speak in support of the #NoDAPL protesters.

World attention has focused on the horrific police response to Native Americans protesting the destruction of their own lands (in their own nation). Even mainstream media cannot suppress the brutal and craven treatment by the fossil fuel industry when those people get a sniff of more oily profits.  All you have to do is go to #NoDAPL on Twitter and Facebook to find hundreds of thousands of citizen testimonials to the importance of the Dakota lands to their people—and the brutal treatment inflicted on them as they attempt to protect their birth right.

Several local media ‘covered’ the Rochester rally but only one even hinted at the important backdrop in which this tragedy is unfolding--Climate Change.

·         Rochester protests Dakota Access Pipeline The protest took place downtown at the Liberty Pole Support on stopping an oil pipeline in North Dakota has reached Rochester. The Dakota Access Pipeline would run near a Sioux reservation. Those who oppose the pipeline say it would damage sacred Indian ground, and damage the ecosystem. Popular movie stars like Shailene Woodley and Mark Ruffalo are just a few who have spoken out against the pipeline. Woodley even was a protester and was arrested. (November 5, 2016 RochesterFirst.com)
·         Rochester protesters decry North Dakota pipeline A crowd of Rochester protesters denounced the Dakota Access Pipeline on Saturday, pointing to its potential effect on drinking water and Native American burial sites along its planned route. The pipeline, which was approved over the summer, would carry a half million barrels of crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois daily. Native American groups in the area have protested its construction for weeks, and police clashes have resulted in dozens of arrests and reports of protesters being attacked or hit with rubber bullets. (November 5, 2016 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)
·         Rochester protesters rally for 'Standing Rock' Sioux tribe Hundreds of people lined the streets of Downtown Rochester Saturday in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline project. It’s an oil pipeline that will stretch 1,200 miles underground through the Missouri River. It has garnered national attention because part of the river is the primary drinking source for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in central North and South Dakota. (November 6, 2016 WHAM Rochester)

This last article, the most responsible of local coverage, does mention that “the pipeline will eventually affect the climate.” But even then, that’s like saying when you light a fuse to a stick of dynamite, the dynamite will ‘eventually’ blow up. It’s true but it doesn’t really capture the compelling causal relationship. When you develop a major fossil fuel infrastructure you are immediately threatening our future because we are already slated to overshoot a safe level of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Our media still hasn’t grasped that Climate Change is happening, not eventually, but right now. It would have been nice if they could have put the tragedy in the Dakotas in the proper context—a world already too warm for another major fossil fuel pipeline.

The Paris Agreement, which was just made official this week, has as one of its provisions that we must switch to renewable energy immediately and stop major fossil fuel projects if we are to avoid the worst climate scenarios. Obama has indicated, despite his role in making the Paris Agreement work, that once he finds an alternative pipeline route around the Native American issue he’d be fine with that.

Obama is not getting it; the media are not getting it: Keep it in the ground!  

BTW: The DAPL protests highlight another truth emerging from Climate Change besides endless peer-reviewed science proving we are putting our life support in danger with our greenhouse gas emissions. It’s that disadvantaged communities will suffer the consequences of this great warming the first and worst. They and their supporters around the world are beginning to realize that putting a climate denier at the helm cannot trump the power of the people. 




Monday, October 31, 2016

Connecting the dots between Rochester’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) and our disadvantaged communities

On Wednesday, November 9, 2016, 6 - 8 pm, at the City Hall Atrium, Second Floor, 30 Church St, Rochester, NY 14614, the City of Rochester will unveil the latest progress in its Climate Action Plan (CAP). You can drop in anytime during these hours and engage the City on its CAP before this plan is submitted for approval.

This meeting gives the Rochester public a chance to explore the myriad ways the CAP can address the local threats from Climate Change. Our region is already experiencing more extreme weather in the form of heavy precipitation events—71% since 1958. There will also be more heatwaves, droughts, public health issues and continual disruptions to our infrastructures-- water, waste, transportation, energy, and telecommunications.  For a more comprehensive list of how Climate Change is already affecting our region check here and for a list the likely of consequences coming, check here. These disruptions will affect all of us but they will affect disadvantaged communities first and worst.

According to ACT Rochester, “Poverty within the City of Rochester continues to be extraordinary, with a rate of 33.8% (up from 31.1% in the first report).” Much of the misery and stress of being poor is the lack of jobs, the means to get to them, adequate health coverage, and affordable housing that is properly heated or cooled for the vagaries of our Northern climate. During and after extreme weather events (like Hurricane Sandy and Katrina), disadvantaged communities not only get less help and less protection by their governments, they receive less (if any) of the recovery aid and the means to relocate. (This is one of the reason why our poorest areas also are the most polluted from abandoned Brownfields—folks who could get up and move already did that.) Climate Change amplifies and accelerates most of the stress by those without the financial resiliency to bounce back from tragedy.

Too often Climate Change has been viewed by the public and our officials as just another of the many serious problems we must address. But Climate Change isn’t going to be added on to the problems in your life, it’s going to be the new normal that you will be living in. Like a fish put into your aquarium, it’s not ever going back to its old home. When viewed this way, the solutions for many of our social and health problems can be tackled as we address Climate Change locally. As we improve the lives of our least fortunate in a warming environment, we raise the security and quality of life for everyone—regardless of race and economic circumstances—in our Rochester region.

Appropriately, the City’s Climate Action Plan is part of its Comprehensive Plan Update – Rochester 4.0 because plans for our future absolutely must be part of the all-inclusive challenges Climate Change presents.  

The main elements of the City’s CAP--energy use and supply, transportation, waste and materials management, clean water, and land use—contain both the climate pressures to our area and the potential answers for a sustainable future. Plans in the CAP include the retrofitting of local buildings to heat more efficiently and lowering heating costs. Better public transportation and increased safety for active transportation (walking and bicycling) will offer low-cost solutions for getting to essential destinations, like jobs and groceries. Protecting our water and making sure that it’s clean and plentiful before and after climate disruptions will help ensure continued public health. And making sure our urban parks and local infrastructures are resilient and robust enough to withstand the rocky road ahead protects the vital interests of all the people in Rochester.  

Cities like Rochester are at the forefront of lowering greenhouse gas emissions by providing an existing political framework for common actions. The Climate Change challenge may well be ‘won or lost in cities’.

With more than half the human population already living in cities, urban areas are now disproportionately responsible for the planet’s emissions. While they cover less than 2 percent of the Earth’s surface, they consume 78 percent of its energy and produce 60 percent of its CO2 emissions. (“Why world's climate response 'will be won or lost in cities'”, 10/17/2016, Christian Science Monitor)


Many local groups and organizations, like the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, have participated in the City’s CAP outreach program for the last year working to tailor this plan and make it sensitive to the needs of our city. I encourage community leaders, especially those in disadvantaged communities, to bring their constituents to this important public meeting at City Hall and be an integral part of the City’s plans. Many jobs, better public health, more accommodating public transportation can be realized if the voices who have hitherto been quiet on Climate Change speak up so that their city hears them.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

Can dinosaurs save us from Climate Change?

One of the recent developments in paleontology is the possible resurrection of the dinosaurs. As fascinating as realizing a Jurassic-Park scenario may be, I’m not so sure spending our time and money on such an ‘accomplishment’ is such a good idea. As our world quickly and disastrously warms, our best and brightest should be finding out exactly how Climate Change is most likely to unfold and how we can adapt to that. Stopping and maybe even reversing Climate Change would be good too.

This notion of bringing back dinosaurs isn’t as fantastic as you might think. Soft Tyrannosaurus Rex tissue has been discovered and may include some of ancient DNA we may use for reconstruction. Check this out:  

Dinosaurs: The Hunt for Life The hunt for life within the long-dead bones of dinosaurs may sound like the stuff of Hollywood fantasy, but one woman has found traces of life within the fossilised bones of a T rex. Dr Mary Schweitzer has seen the remains of red blood cells and touched the soft tissue of an animal that died 68 million years ago. Most excitingly of all, she believes she may just have found signs of DNA. Her work is revolutionising our understanding of these iconic beasts. (2013-14, BBC)

Besides being a mob of rapacious creatures that kept our ancestors rat-sized for millions of years, T-rex and the whole family of dinosaurs (actually of the clade Dinosauria) were victims themselves of a climate change. They didn’t adapt to the climatic changes that came as a result of a 10-mile asteroid plunging into our planet, blanketing the skies with sun-blocking soot. They died off wholesale. If anything, bringing the dinosaurs back to a world we are warming up would most likely make the world better fit for them, not us.  

This idea (albeit a remote one) of bringing back dinosaurs reminds me of the present attempts to bring back another fossil of sorts, a living fossil. In places like Rochester and around the state there is a concerted effort to bring back the large populations of lake sturgeons we used to have.

Comeback of lake sturgeon continues When determining water quality, scientists can study samples for things such as temperature, bacteria, dissolved oxygen, nutrients and toxic substances. Or they can just see how the sturgeon are doing. Dubbed “living fossils,’’ lake sturgeon with their bony backs and side plates are an ancient bottom feeding fish that once supported a robust commercial fishing industry in the Great Lakes into the early 1900s. Overfishing, pollution and loss of habitat led to a drastic population decline and extirpation from many bodies of water. But what man ruined, man is fixing. (October 21, 2016) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Our state’s environmental officials are attempting to preserve and increase the Lake Sturgeon that can grow as large as “7+ feet and 300+ pounds.” This primitive fish is listed as ‘threatened.’

Lake Sturgeon Fact Sheet: The American Fisheries Society has listed the lake sturgeon as threatened in all the states where it occurs. Although it is difficult to determine the specific causes of lake sturgeon population declines, several factors have been blamed, including: over exploitation of stocks due to high demand for their eggs (caviar) and smoked flesh; construction of dams that cut off spawning and nursery areas; and possibly byproducts of urban and rural development such as pollution and channelization that caused degradation of habitat.” (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

I suppose it’s comforting to believe we can bring back the lake sturgeon in large numbers. However, is it even possible with Climate Change? Are we wasting our time trying to reestablish a creature that probably won’t survive very long anyway? Here’s what the National Wildlife Federation says: 

“Climate change is expected to further threaten this fish as rising water temperatures greatly decrease the quality and quantity of spawning and nursery habitats. Climatic variability could also disrupt the timing of sturgeon reproduction and length of optimal fish growth periods as environmental cues shift and warming waters affect stream ecological processes and ecosystem health. Lake sturgeon are also vulnerable to changes in water levels and increased runoff associated with extreme weather and climate change.” (Global Warming and the Lake Sturgeon)

And another thing, shouldn’t our media tell the whole story about reintroducing wildlife into our environment, an environment that is getting warmer and perhaps not suited for some species that used to thrive in our past environment?

Wouldn’t it be wiser to help the species we need to foster critical ecosystems by prioritizing efforts to provide passageways through our urban areas and infrastructures, so that they (and we) can adapt to Climate Change?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to disparage either dinosaurs or sturgeons. They were very cool in their day. We can learn a lot about adaptation from these creatures, but our focus should be on the creatures we need to survive the great warming we have created. 


Time passes. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Terrible ticking of the Climate Change clock goes on despite US elections

One of the more maddening characteristics of being human is that we don’t usually get our priorities straight until we’re past the age where we could have prevented the worst consequences of our actions. Youth is wasted on the young and all that. In my case, it took me too long to realize that it was far more important to lift barbells correctly rather than adding weights quickly. I’d like to go back and tell my younger self that keeping my back safe should have been my priority. Not how much weight I could lift in the shortest possible time.

Likewise, I suspect we will look back on this presidential election and wonder why we got our priorities so screwed up. Why wasn’t Climate Change the top priority? Many of those who will live to 2050, when there will be nine billion of us trying to thrive on a rapidly warming planet, will be wishing we could change the outcome of one of the last times in our history when we could have pivoted and saved ourselves from the worst consequences of Climate Change. One of those last moments would be now, 2016, as someone takes the helm from President Obama just as the Paris Agreement goes into effect.  

While our elections churn on in the most distracting and godawful way, the terrible ticking of the Climate Change clock goes on. We’ve reached the point (400ppm) where the lowest concentrations of carbon dioxide each coming year are the highest we have ever experienced. The glaciers are melting from above and below in ways our experts don’t completely understand, which may cause a devastating sea level rise much quicker than expected. And the closer we get to a price on carbon emissions, the less likely it will be nearly enough to address the problem. [See: Why We Need a Carbon Tax,  And Why It Won’t Be Enough by Bill McKibben]

Key in shifting our attention and actions to address Climate Change is leadership by the most powerful office in the world, the President of the United States.

But the opportunity to focus on Climate Change during this election season has been completely hijacked by the specter of placing a person in the highest office who lacks the basic standards of human decency. First Lady Michelle Obama totally nails this crisis and why it must be addressed now:
Michelle Obama Gives Powerful Speech Roasting Trump For Predatory Comments (VIDEO) "The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for president of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign has said things about women that are so shocking. So demeaning," she said. "I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can't believe that I'm saying that." (October 13, 2016, TalkPointsMemo.com)

When something truly awful transpires (what if Hurricane Mathew had remained a level 5 all the way up the US eastern coast?) and bankrupts our government’s ability to recover, many will finally understand why years before this terrible calamity we should have put addressing Climate Change front and center of this particular election.  

As things get worse, ‘shoulda woulda coulda’ may be the epitaph chiseled on humanity’s gravestone.

Time passes.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Take note: Earth’s environment experiences our existence via our infrastructures

Humanity is frantically updating and building its infrastructures during Climate Change but not necessarily the right ones. Infrastructure—gas and oil pipelines, telecommunication networks, water pipes, roads and bridges, waste treatment lines, buildings etc.—is a boring term that describes human built systems that supply 7 billion of us with vital life-sustaining elements. Cave men and women didn’t need gasoline pumps, electric outlets, Internet connections, toilets, a kitchen sink with hot and cold running water, but now humanity does. However, despite the message from climate scientists and the Paris Agreement, we are still putting too much of our time and money into the very infrastructures that got us in this climate mess.

Our survival requires that we shift gears on infrastructure development immediately—if not yesterday.

World needs $90tn infrastructure overhaul to avoid climate disaster, study finds Report by Global Commission on the Economy and Climate says world needs ‘urgent’ shift away from carbon-heavy infrastructure over the next 15 years A gigantic overhaul of the world’s buildings, public transport and energy infrastructure costing trillions of dollars is required if dangerous climate change is to be avoided, according to a major new report. The study by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which is co-chaired by prominent climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern, found that the world is expected to invest about $90tn in infrastructure over the next 15 years, requiring an “urgent” shift to ensure that this money is spent on low-carbon, energy-efficient projects. Such smart investment over the next two or three years could help ameliorate the climate crisis, but “the window for making the right choices is narrow and closing fast”.  (October 6, 2016) The Guardian

This week the Paris Agreement got ratified and will go into effect soon. While not perfect, as it is not legally binding and it doesn’t press hard enough for realistic carbon emission limits, the treaty does demonstrate that the world is waking up to the existential threat posed by our use of fossil fuels. That is to say, we have a real chance now that the Paris Agreement officially puts climate denial to rest.

The Paris climate agreement is entering into force. Now comes the hard part. The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to ratify the Paris climate accord, a move that will make the sweeping international agreement a legal reality long before even those who negotiated it expected. “We made the deal in Europe, and we make it a reality in Europe,” Miguel Arias CaƱete, the E.U.’s climate and energy commissioner, said on Twitter after the vote. The Paris agreement enters into force when at least 55 countries, representing 55 percent of global emissions, have joined it. Before Tuesday, those numbers stood at 62 nations and just shy of 52 percent of emissions, thanks to ratification by India over the weekend. (October 4, 2016) The Washington Post 

Our infrastructures, a great serpentine extension to our existence, are our environmental footprints. We are a great beast upon the planet. We share in our environmental impacts via our built conduits as we drink in humongous amounts of water from our lakes, streams, and aquifers, then excrete back contamination. We breathe in the life-giving by-product of our planet’s flora and exhale dangerous pollution that is killing millions. Our transportation systems trample and bifurcate innumerable ecosystems so we can get around.  Thousands of miles of fossil fuel pipelines network through land and water, oftentimes bleeding their contents into their hosts and poisoning them.

At the same time, all these critical infrastructures are vulnerable to the very forces they unleash— ecosystem destruction, contamination, and warming. (If you’re having a hard time envisioning how our infrastructures are impacted by Climate Change, you need to look no further than Hurricane Mathew which is (as I write) chewing up communities, highways, homes, businesses, and farms.)

To sustain our existence, we need to quickly transform our infrastructures into benign systems that operate in harmony with life. Not in a warm fuzzy way but in a scientifically rigorous way.
In part, the Paris Agreement is an attempt to shift our energy infrastructures to renewable energy, ones that don’t heat up the planet. 

In Rochester last Thursday, there was a press conference, part of a state-wide effort to get Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the Geothermal Tax Credit Bill A9925/S6249. It was an excellent opportunity to hear about the importance of this renewable energy option from an exceptional group of speakers—our representatives, installers, environmental leaders, and geothermal business people--who articulated the importance of this pivotal moment in saving a crucial part of our renewable energy mix in New York State.

But only one local media showed up so you might not have heard about this conference.

Call for tax credit bill to support the geothermal industry and jobs in New York There is a mandate in New York State to reduce greenhouse gases by 40 percent by Some New York State Senators, geothermal installers, and other supporters, are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign a tax credit bill to support the geothermal industry and jobs in New York.    The group came together today at a building on Russell Street in Rochester. That building is being retrofitted with geothermal heating and cooling. (October 6, 2016 WROC Rochester) 

Heating your home or business with geothermal energy can be expensive if there isn’t a tax credit to help offset the costs of installation. After an installation you’re good to go on a very inexpensive, non-polluting, non-greenhouse gas producing, and non-controversial renewable energy source for years and years. Those trying to save geothermal businesses in New York are trying to reach the public but that’s going to be very difficult if the press doesn’t show up. Our present media is an infrastructure also, an eclectic system of message magnifiers who are supposed to amplify what we need to know, not what the media wants us to know.   

The fossil fuel industry still gets billions of dollars in yearly subsidies to continue an energy option that is warming up the planet, while the geothermal renewable energy option, which can alleviate much of the greenhouse gases emissions (up to 35% in NYS) that come from warming buildings with fossil fuel, are dangling from a precipice, struggling to survive.

Alliance for a Green Economy invites you to sign a postcard asking Gov. Cuomo to sign the bill for a geothermal heating & cooling tax credit: Postcard request: Geothermal Heating and Cooling tax credit for NYS

Our infrastructures are now the way our life support system experiences our existence. This great beast, extending so many tentacles into our planet’s life-giving systems, must not be allowed to kill the host.


Time passes. 

Monday, October 03, 2016

Rochester People’s Climate Coalition (RPCC) launches Writing Group to help members reach media

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” ― James Madison

Loosely based on the Niagara Sierra Club’s successful Writing Group, the RPCC is starting a Writer’s Group of its own. This group will help all RPCC member organizations amplify and accelerate its mission by assisting them in working out the best possible language and strategies for reaching the mainstream media. We’ll also leverage all the possible social media aspects of the Internet to get our member’s message to the public.

When: Thursday, October 13th, at 7PM
Where: St. Thomas’ Church of Rochester, 2000 Highland Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618

This group will meet monthly to discuss how RPCC member organization are addressing Climate Change and talk about how to reach local media most effectively. While we wouldn’t be actually writing articles and press releases for our member groups, we will be assisting in all other aspects of shaping the message and getting it to the media—both print and digital media. Neither will the Writing Group be speaking for the RPCC, we are a service of the RPCC for our members. (BTW: If your group isn’t a member of the RPCC, sign up here.) 

With almost 100 member organizations, the RPCC is already reaching many folks though their membership and has become an effective vehicle to bring the crisis on Climate Change to the media’s attention.

“The Rochester People’s Climate Coalition unites local organizations to address the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to a clean energy economy, and prepare for the impacts of global warming.  Through our coordinated, collaborative efforts, we will create a more environmentally just and sustainable community.”   

The Writing Group hopes to noodle through all the opportunities such a vast and diverse coalition can exploit to focus local media’s attention on RPCC’s actions, events, and positions on Climate Change.
Climate Change has metastasized past the point where only a few people can make a difference on this worldwide crisis; now it’s all hands on deck. Check out this recent article by Bill McKibben:

Recalculating the Climate Math The numbers on global warming are even scarier than we thought. The future of humanity depends on math. And the numbers in a new studyreleased Thursday are the most ominous yet. Those numbers spell out, in simple arithmetic, how much of the fossil fuel in the world’s existing coal mines and oil wells we can burn if we want to prevent global warming from cooking the planet. In other words, if our goal is to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius—the upper limit identified by the nations of the world—how much more new digging and drilling can we do? Here’s the answer: zero. (September 22, 2016) Bill McKibben New Republic [more on Climate Change in our area]

The Writing Group will host ongoing presentations on the nuts and bolts of writing articles, discussions by experts on how to get articles published, meetings with member groups on what they’d already learned about reaching the public via the local media, and discuss new ideas on how engage the public on the crisis of our age. If you have experience or interest in editing, writing, teaching, communication, social media, or web editor skills, come on over.

I’ll be hosting these monthly meetings and try to keep them lively and informative. I was communications chair of the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club for many years, and for almost twenty years my website, RochesterEnvironment.com, has offered me an opportunity to focus my message around the urgency of environmental issues and Climate Change. Your thoughts and experiences are pivotal to the success of this group.


The Writing Group will be fun and useful.  

Monday, September 26, 2016

US Military is compelled to address Climate Change, so should our potential leaders



When will mainstream media start grilling presidential candidates on how our next President will address Climate Change and direct our military’s role?

We should mitigate Climate Change by halting any more human-caused, greenhouse gas emissions; but we will have to adapt to the devastating consequences of more flooding, more extreme weather, and more social unrest.

President Obama’s “Presidential Memorandum -- Climate Change and National Security” makes it clear that our military must be prepared for what Climate Change portends by planning on a scale and time frame that will matter. 

Obama Just Tied Climate Change to National Security On Wednesday, President Obama took another step toward securing his climate legacy. This time his focus wasn’t on energypublic lands or international diplomacy. It was on national security and making sure the U.S. military is prepared for a more unstable future. The White House published a presidential memorandum setting up a timetable for more than 20 federal agencies to come up with a plan to put climate science into action when it comes to national security. “It’s not a new direction, but it is reinforcing and formalizing a direction in which the U.S. government was already headed,” Sherri Goodman, a fellow at the nonpartisan Wilson Center, said. “That’s how you turn concepts into action in the government. You have to have plans to get agencies to act.” (September 22, 2016) Climate Central

Our responsible political leaders and our military have long known that our military must be prepared for the heighten disruptions that will be caused by Climate Change and one must wonder why any leader would do any less than prepare the public for the worst.

Whatever a leader’s ideology or political position on Climate Change, he or she must fulfill their responsibility to address clear and present dangers to the US public.

The Presidential Memorandum is an amazingly clear description of how Climate Change affects our national security and the need for “… setting up a timetable for more than 20 federal agencies to come up with a plan to put climate science into action ...” (1)

With such a clear message about the actions needed to be taken on this climate crisis, shouldn’t our media press all our political leaders responsible to explain their support or lack of support for military preparation for climate actions?

How many scientists and military figures will it take for our media to wake up and do their job on the crisis or our age? 

US military issues climate security warning Senior military figures in the US warn of national and international security threats posed by the impacts of climate change A group of senior defence experts in the US has warned that climate change is a threat to the country’s security, with the stark message that “the impacts of climate change present significant and direct risks to US military readiness, operations and strategy”. They are members of the Climate Security Consensus Project, a bipartisan group of 25 senior military and national security experts − many of whom have served in previous Republican or Democratic administrations. Meeting at a forum in Washington DC organised by the Centre for Climate and Security (CCS), the group said the effects of climate change “present a strategically-significant risk to US national security and international security”. (September 23, 2016) Climate Home