Monday, June 26, 2017

Remember, no matter how divisive Climate Change is… there’s the heat.

“A Diſpute once aroſe betwixt the North-Wind and the Sun, about the ſuperiority of their power; and they agreed to try their ſtrength upon a traveller, which ſhould be able to get his cloak off firſt. The North-Wind began, and blew a very cold blaſt, accompanied with a ſharp driving ſhower: But this, and whatever elſe he could do, inſtead of making the man quit his cloak, obliged him to gird it about his body as cloſe as poſſible. Next came the Sun, who, breaking out from a thick watery cloud, drove away the cold vapours from the ſky, and darted his warm ſultry beams upon the head of the poor weather beaten traveller. The man growing faint with the heat, and unable to endure it any longer, firſt throws off his heavy cloak, and then flies for protection to the ſhade of a neighbouring grove.” (Page 68, FABLE XLI. The WIND and the SUN, The Fables of Aesop and Others By Samuel Croxall, D. D.: London: Printed for A. Millar, W. Law, and R. Cater; and for Wilson, Spence, and Mawman, York, M, DCC, XCII, (1792))

·         Even if you and your family and friends don’t want to talk about Climate Change, there’s the heat.
·         Even if you think your one geoengineering or tax solution will fix it all, there’s the heat.
·         Even you don’t believe in Climate Change, there’s the heat.
·         Even if you don’t believe humanity has the moral or physical capacity to transition to another energy source that doesn’t warm the planet, there’s the heat.
·         Even if you think there are more important issues than Climate Change, there’s the heat.
·         Even if you think your enemies are using Climate Change to set their outlandish agenda, there’s the heat.
·         Even if you thought the Paris Accord and the previous twenty climate talks were a waste of time, there’s the heat.
·         Even if you think you’re so well off you won’t get the worst of Climate Change, there’s the heat.
·         Even if you don’t care about other people in other nations and future generations, there’s the heat.
·         Even if you think those people demonstrating in the streets with all their crazy signs about the urgency of addressing Climate Change are silly, there’s the heat.
·         Even if you think there have been many other climate changes and our own species were made stronger by these changes, there’s the heat.
·         Even if you believe in the science behind Climate Change is real but don’t think it will be that bad, there’s the heat. 
There’s the heat (energy) building up in our climate system and if we don’t stop dragging our feet it’s going to get hotter than hell.
95-Degree Days: How Extreme Heat Could Spread Across the World Extremely hot days, when temperatures soar to 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, can be miserable. Crops wilt in the fields. Electric grids strain to keep pace with demand. People are at greater risk of dying. And those hot temperatures are expected to be much more frequent in the coming decades. The map above, based on a new analysis from the Climate Impact Lab, shows how 95-degree days (35 degrees Celsius) are expected to multiply this century if countries take moderate climate action. In this scenario, countries would take some measures, but not drastic ones, to curb emissions — roughly the trajectory of the current pledges under the Paris climate agreement. The resulting global warming would still cause significant shifts for many cities” (June 22, 2017) New York Times

Time passes.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Pruitt’s EPA trying to adapt to a fantasy world

The problem of trying to make science political is that a tortuous joining of facts and fantasy only works politically, until it’s exposed as boloney. Then it often creates terrible collateral damage. Social Darwinism and Lysenkoism are two examples where politically motivated pseudoscience crusades ended up in the trash bin of history. Rightly so because both were nonsense on stilts, quite immoral, and wreaked bloody havoc.

Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been working furiously to get the EPA “Back To Basics”, which is to say turning our environmental protection agency upside down so that it views environmental problems through the lens of businesses’ priorities. This stance is ridiculous because most businesses want good stable environmental regulations from which to operate, not cherry-picked, politically-derived rules that simply remove obstacles to pollute. To accomplish his fantasy objectives, Pruitt seems hell-bent on gutting the EPA by asking Congress for a 31% budget cut.

But Congress said, NO!

Congress to Pruitt: We’re Not Cutting EPA Budget to Trump’s Levels House Republicans say they’ll protect programs that affect their districts. That’s a lot of the EPA’s work. Members of the congressional committee responsible for the Environmental Protection Agency's budget—Republican and Democrat alike—made clear Thursday they have no intention of approving the White House's proposal to slash the agency's spending. In a hearing, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt defended the Trump administration's budget plan for the first time on Capitol Hill, insisting that the agency he leads could fulfill its mission under a plan that cuts its budget more than any other federal agency's. (June 15, 2017) Inside Climate News)

However, trying to stop Pruitt from taking away our environmental protections with the power of the purse is not exactly a resolution of the problem. Congress can force Pruitt to take money for EPA, but they cannot make him do his job. Those looking for a silver lining with Pruitt in charge of the EPA should be considering the situation of an impotent EPA from a larger perspective. An environmental agency trying harder to fit their agenda to our life support system does not a sustainable existence make.

The same Congress who could sit on their hands while the Trump administration pulled us out of the Paris Accord is the same body that dare not let go of the environmental protections their constituents have come to expect. While this might seem like a nice compromise politically, it doesn’t solve the problem of stopping our environmental crisis any more than the Compromise of 1850 stopped slavery or war. Rather, trying to quell the storm between contending factions by trying to accommodate the irreconcilable truths of reality (science) with shoddy political scaffolding makes the eventual collapse of our political and environmental problems more inevitable.


Time passes. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Should we thank Trump for galvanizing the US and the world into Climate Change Action?

Thanking Trump for pulling the US out of the Paris Accord because his administration’s anti-environmental policies have galvanized the US and the world to address Climate Change would be like wheel-chairing over to the guy who ran over you with his truck and giving him a bouquet of flowers because your being crippled by what he did spurred you to write the great American novel.

Although the Trump administration’s anti-environmental actions, including ditching the Paris Accord, have crystalized the extremes these people will go to push their insensitive ideology upon the world, there’s absolutely no reason to believe we can, however exercised, overcome the blow of a crippled worldwide agreement. The players in the Trump administration have proven that they will plow through anything to hold on to their power and wealth created from an energy option now proven to be lethal to our life support system. What has not been proven (nor can it) is whether we can overcome the Trump administration’s foot dragging and achieve a sustainable environment.   
Since Trump dumped the Paris Accord, many cities, states, and nations are now stepping up to the plate to address Climate Change. It remains to be seen just how Trump is actually going to accomplish leaving this deal, or whether he can. But the line has been drawn and the world now knows that the US leadership is not on board with the science, justice, and moral issues embedded in Climate Change.

Despite the initial despair of having worked so hard and for so long to get a worldwide binding agreement to address Climate Change only to see it seemingly dumped in an instant, many are finding hope in the recent resolutions by many organizations working an end run around US leadership.

There’s a New Way the U.S. Is Committing to Paris It’s been a week since President Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement. In that time, a remarkable transformation has taken place. As the federal government abdicates its responsibility to address climate change, a groundswell of support has sprung up at the state, city and corporate levels. Those sub-national actors are making the case on the international stage that the U.S. will meet its Paris Agreement commitment That includes a first-of-its-kind effort called America’s Pledge, spearheaded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, that’s been dubbed a “societally nationally determined contribution.” States, cities and other groups can sign on to meet the U.S. pledge to the Paris Agreement of reducing carbon pollution 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.David Hart, a political scientist at George Mason University, said that the new initiative bears some similarity to the 1980s anti-nuclear movement when cities and states declared themselves “nuclear-free” zones, but it’s the only time he can recall sub-national action in the U.S. being linked to an international treaty. (June 8, 2017) Climate Central [more on Climate Change in our area]

Rochester addresses Climate Change

Mayor of Rochester, NY, Mayor Lovely A. Warren, joins with other mayors to ramp up addressing Climate Change after Trump dumps Paris. 

NEWS RELEASE - MAYOR WARREN JOINS CLIMATE MAYORS Mayor Lovely A. Warren announced today that she has joined the Mayors National Climate Change Agenda, a coalition of U.S. mayors who have vowed to work together to strengthen local efforts for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and support federal policies that combat climate change and protect the environment. “President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords was reckless and short-sighted,” Mayor Warren said. “Future generations deserve to inherit a healthy planet, therefore I am proud to join with mayors from across the country to support this agenda. As Mayor, I am committed to reducing our city’s carbon footprint and protecting the environment.”  Mayor Warren also signed on to an open letter to President Trump regarding the roll back of U.S. Climate Actions. (June 5, 2017) City of Rochester, NY) [more on Climate Change in our area]

Rochester, NY recognized as a model city planning for Climate Change.

Governor Cuomo Recognizes Rochester as Model City for Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Build Climate Resiliency Rochester Designated New York's 11th Certified Climate Smart Community and 50th Clean Energy Community Supports the Governor's Goal to Reduce Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions 40 Percent by 2030 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today recognized the City of Rochester as a model municipality for the city's actions to strengthen resiliency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In recognition of this achievement, New York designated Rochester as the 11th Certified Climate Smart Community and the 50th Clean Energy Community in New York State. These achievements support the Governor's aggressive goals to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050. "New York is leading the nation in reducing our carbon footprint, and thanks to Rochester's efforts in building green infrastructure and supporting a more resilient community, we are one step closer to achieving our aggressive climate goals," Governor Cuomo said. "As we continue to bolster our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the state, I commend Mayor Warren and the city of Rochester for transforming the Finger Lakes community into a clean energy city and encouraging all of New York's municipalities to become climate smart." (June 9, 2017) GOVERNOR ANDREW M. CUOMO

Also, word has it that the City’s Climate Action Plan will soon be passed. This will be an invaluable resource for the City, our local media, and environmental groups to motivate and relate individual initiatives to the overall strategy for addressing this crisis. (Check out my 2016 essay: “Why Climate Action Plans (CAP) are so important for every community”.

This month’s Rochester People’s Climate Coalition (RPCC) newsletter demonstrates how groups in our area are kicking into high gear since Trump abandoned us to the elements. The RPCC, which now has well over 100 local member organizations, is becoming a major player in our region’s efforts to adapt to and mitigate Climate Change. Some of those member groups, including Pachamama, the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club, and Mothers Out Front are themselves ramping up their efforts. Since Sierra Club President Aaron Mair came to town during Earth Month, there is an increased focus on diversity and environmental justice within local environmental issues. Stay tuned, as I learn more. 

We have to go forward

On the one hand we have no choice but to move forward. Even if Trump wakes up for his morning Tweeting Hour and tweets, “Been so wrong on Climate change. From now on giving this issue top priority! Sad. I was bad!” we are running against the clock. Renewable energy businesses and supporters of a green economy have speeded up their efforts but so have the consequences of Climate Change—threating to spiraling out of our ability to adapt.

We are in a transition crisis, transitioning from one energy option to another, as we have over much of humanity’s history. (We don’t burn whale oil for lighting anymore and we ain’t going back.) This means we are not just compelled to move forward because of Climate Change; we are entering a new and exciting energy phase that is cheaper and more accommodating to our lifestyles. Check out this possible scenario by former Executive Director of the Sierra Club:

“I think the solar panels will be built in into the building when it’s built. And I think the heat pump will be built into the building when it’s built and the water recovery system will be part of the system and it'll be called the utility free building. And it'll be, yeah, you’ll be able to borrow more money for your mortgage because the bank will understand which banks have been very slow to understand that if you don't have a utility bill, you can pay for the mortgage and you're less likely to default. So I think it's gonna happen because the builders now, you know, right now they’re saying maybe it cost 7%, 8% more to get rid of the utility bill that's already paying for itself in three or four years. But in five years I think that margin will be much smaller. “(HOW CITIES CAN SOLVE THE CLIMATE CHALLENGE, May 4, 2017, Climate One) 

Unlike the previous transitions in economic development (ironically called creative destruction, where the losers lose all) this new transitions is using this crisis as an opportunity to retrain workers and work with instead of against our environment.  

There’s hope despite Trump’s headlong rampage towards digging up our past to forge our future. It would have been far better if Trump had kept the US in the Paris Accord and avoided making the US a pariah. Nevertheless, there’s still hope because many are exponentially ramping up their efforts to make up for Trump’s mistake. 

There’s no guarantee that we’ll succeed if we all put all our efforts into addressing Climate Change. But there is absolute certainty that we won’t if we don’t.

Time passes.




Monday, June 05, 2017

Speaking out against US Paris Accord withdrawal in Rochester

Friday’s (6/2/2017) rally in front of the Federal Building in Rochester to protest Trump pulling out the US from the Paris Accord was an expression of outrage, then determination, and then inspiration.

Listen to Linda and Abby describe the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition’s reaction to Trump’s “stupid and reckless” move that has been condemned worldwide.

Though thunderstruck by Trump’s recklessness that will have severe consequences to our environment, our economy, and our international relationships, we are more than Trump.  The nations of the world (all but two) that signed on to the Paris Accord must see us not Trump.  

Because of Trump’s reckless decision, people from all walks of life are coming together to address Climate Change with more urgency and resolve than ever.  Despite negative actions of The Unwilling, most of humanity recognizes threat Climate Change presents to us and are willing to do what must be done to make our children’s future possible.

Time is not on our side anymore, as we have passed 410ppm of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Unlike any other issue we face, addressing Climate Change has a deadline. And though we don’t know exactly where that deadline is, we dare not exceed it.


Time passes. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Controversy over Plan 2014 is a Climate Change adaptation issue

(This essay is a continuation of my essay “Climate Change and the Butterfly Effect”)

This brave and comprehensive article from Rochester City Newspaper (see below) demonstrates the complexity of addressing Climate Change now—before things get impossible to solve.

The water will win A very wet spring means that bodies of water across Upstate New York are spilling over their banks. Wetlands and swamps are full. And so is Lake Ontario, which is what the other water would normally drain into. For the home and business owners on Lake Ontario's southern shore, the flooding has been a slow-moving nightmare. Water – pushed some days by high winds – has been clawing into beachfronts and lawns, shifting sand, flooding buildings, closing roads. Docks at marinas are under water. Businesses have been closed. Homeowners have been piling up sandbags, trying to stave off the lake. And many of the lakefront landowners and the elected officials who represent them are furious, blaming the loss of property and revenue on new regulations that control the flow of water out of Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River. (May 25, 2017) Rochester City Newspaper [more on Climate Change and Water Quality and Great lakes in our area]

On the face of it, this lake level controversy is an easy one for politicians to take advantage of, the public (who haven’t been directly affected by the damaging waters) to ignore, and the media to leverage for sensationalism.

Town of Greece wants the county to pursue possible legal action over Lake Ontario flooding The Greece Town Board on Wednesday passed a resolution to ask Monroe County to explore possible legal action regarding the high levels in Lake Ontario. Property owners in Greece are among those along the lakeshore who have been hit by flooding in recent weeks, and the resolution passed by the town board makes reference to changes brought about by Plan 2014. That’s a plan that changes the way water levels are regulated on Lake Ontario. However the International Joint Commission, which approved the plan, has maintained that the plan is not responsible for the flooding, saying it was the very wet Spring that lead to this year’s high levels on Lake Ontario. (May 24. 2017) WXXI News [more on Climate Change

Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Plan 2014 (Plan 2014) is an attempt to contain the larger climate crisis but it is falling victim to our complacency towards science and its implications. For quite some time now, the National Climate Assessment has verified that heavy downpours are increasing for our Northeast region -- by 71% since 1958. This means that it is more likely homes and our infrastructures are going to be affected in just the way we are seeing now. Until Climate Change is dealt with and planned for on the scale and time frame that will matter, we will continue to blame the messenger and squander our resources until they are no more.

It’s instructive to note that trying to re-adjust the Lake Ontario water levels is an adaptation issue. The efforts to reduce fossil fuels emission by increasing renewable energy is a Climate Change mitigation issue. We should mitigate Climate Change because it’s the moral thing to do (saving our future), but we absolutely must adapt quickly to increased warming in order to survive right now. See my 2014 essay: “Climate Change mitigation (People’s Climate March ==> Paris 2015) & adaptation: what’s the diff?

Because Climate Change has become very divisive, many are disinclined to speak about Climate Change when discussing local environmental concerns. While this tactic might quell many family feuds and make for calmer political campaigns, climate silence is a disastrous strategy for future survival. You cannot cure a cancer without addressing the cancer, nor can you address Great Lakes problems (including invasive species, harmful algae outbreaks, and water quality) without addressing Climate Change. In fact, if we don’t understand the priority of Climate Change in our present environmental issues, if we don’t view our present and future environmental issue through the lens of Climate Change, we are very unlikely to address them. This quick warming is amplifying and accelerating all environmental issues and trying to solve all of them without talking about Climate Change is unscientific--undoable.  

The key reason Climate Change is so divisive is because addressing Climate Change is very inconvenient to many powerful people. For those not willing to see the bigger picture, that we are fundamentally disrupting our climate, it means higher taxes, bigger government, more environmental regulations, political and economic intransigence. But even if these repercussions are more likely to be felt if we start seriously addressing Climate Change, that doesn’t make the science behind Climate Change any less true. It is as irrational and depraved as saying “I don’t need to feed my family because to do so would cost too much money”. Further, the scenarios people fear most are more likely to occur the longer we drag our feet. (See my 2013 essay: “Why Climate Change means big, really big government”.

With the heavy flooding around Lake Ontario, the Rochester region is now experiencing one dramatic impact of Climate Change. Shoreline property owners are understandably upset. But the answer to their plight is ultimately contained in addressing the Climate Change crisis at large, not in attacking the Plan 2014 that was designed to make our Great Lakes basin habitable to all.


Time passes. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

No climate deniers in a raging storm

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our teeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurour and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!―
 William Shakespeare, King Lear

Most people tend to think of Climate Change as a slow and gradual climate disruption occurring sometime in the future. Even if that is true, and scientists have overestimated as to when the most dire consequences of this crisis may transpire, you should still consider what it is we are unleashing on our children. (Actually, most evidence seems to be leaning towards the conclusion that Climate Change is happening far more quickly than scientists predicted.)

Anyone who has experienced a major storm must have had at least one moment when they wondered if the great forces that brought life on our planet had suddenly turned and threatened to extinguish it. Few things in our existence can trigger such a profound sense of peril as one’s world being turned upside down by a major storm.

Yet, even though this response is hard-wired (via evolution, of course) and provokes our keenest sense of dread, we seem to quickly forget this terror once it passes and carry on heedless of the future.

When her doctor tells us that the small growth on our child’s brain is malignant, we do not respond by saying, “My daughter looks just fine and besides her cancer treatments would be very expensive.”

But this is how Trump and climate deniers are responding to Climate Change. They toss a snowball into the Senate chambers (supposedly proving it cannot be warming if we can still make snowballs) and rail about how the liberals are trying to take over the country by increasing government to address this ‘hoax’.

Parents often respond immediately to an unseen growth in their child’s brain with denial but quickly come to their senses knowing that every minute counts. We too must get over our disinclination to put off future threats and deal with them on a scale and time frame that will matter.

The melting of the ice and permafrost in the Arctic and the glaciers calving in the Antarctic are an indication of an unstoppable catastrophe unless dealt with immediately, just like a cancer.

That all-shaking thunder of a storm should remind us of that we have the power now to help our children adapt and maybe lessen the consequences of Climate Change.

Time passes.



Monday, May 15, 2017

Climate Change and the Butterfly Effect

And the way that I look at a lot of climate change things is, at a certain point, you have nice, friendly oscillations in the weather cycle, globally. And, at a certain point, the string on your pendulum breaks and things go flying off. Or another way to think of it is, things are pretty steady state, up until the point when you tip the system such that your state slides down.” Dr. Pamela Gay (January 10, 2017, Ep. 435: The Butterfly Effect, Astronomy Cast.) 

If we understood Climate Change properly, we would appreciate that the time for emergency measures for protecting our infrastructures is now, if not sooner. The Butterfly Effect relates to Climate Change, resulting from the dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions starting with the industrial revolutions around 200 years ago, and having already led to many local consequences. Temperature increases and ocean acidification have already begun a chain of effects, some perhaps unstoppable. One of the local consequences is the increase in heavy precipitation. The pre-Pruitt EPA explained how our state’s precipitation patterns have been changed by Climate Change:

Increasing Temperature and Changing Precipitation Patterns Rising temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns are likely to increase the intensity of both floods and droughts. Average annual precipitation in the Northeast has increased 10 percent since 1895, and precipitation from extremely heavy storms has increased 70 percent since 1958. During the next century, annual precipitation and the frequency of heavy downpours are likely to keep rising. Precipitation is likely to increase during winter and spring, but not change significantly during summer and fall. Rising temperatures will melt snow earlier in spring and increase evaporation, and thereby dry the soil during summer and fall. As a result, changing the climate is likely to intensify flooding during winter and spring, and drought during summer and fall (What Climate Change Means for New York, August 2016, EPA)

Because of Climate Change, emergency responses to infrastructure damage will likely occur more often unless we finally start planning and getting ahead of them. We’ve known for some time now that our infrastructure, the bloodlines of our way of existence, are going to be under tremendous strain due to more extreme weather, warming, and a history of their not getting maintained. 

We won’t fix our infrastructure by frantically looking for emergency solutions every time something disastrous happens. Unless we plan for Climate Change on a massive scale, we are soon going to be overwhelmed. (I know, this is what scares the bejesus out of the proponents of small government, free market fundamentalism, and climate deniers. But as the local consequences of Climate Change get worse, we’ll be forced to look to our governments for a strategic plan to deal with all of this.)  

Expediting state aid for municipalities for water infrastructure Lawmakers gathered Thursday in a flooded area of a Webster tavern to announce legislation that would expedite emergency funding for counties and towns dealing with water infrastructure issues. The entertainment area and rear docks of the Bayside Pub on Irondequoit Bay are submerged. State officials used that as a backdrop to announce that legislation which would provide emergency assistance immediately for municipalities has passed the Senate and is now in the Assembly. (May 11, 2017) WXXI News [more on Climate Change in our area] 

Not only has this recent spate of heavy rainfall in our area been predicted by climate studies, some media are reporting on this responsibly:

Historic flooding in Quebec probably linked to climate change: experts Some may blame the gods, Hydro-Québec or their own bad luck, but climate change scientists say the heavy rains and terrible flooding plaguing Quebec this spring are almost certainly caused by global warming. “There is a very clear picture emerging that we’ve changed the chemistry of the atmosphere with our greenhouse gases and we are really seeing the consequences now,” Paul Beckwith, a climate systems scientist who teaches at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, told the Montreal Gazette in an interview Tuesday. Record amounts of rain this spring in Quebec and Ontario have meant the soil is saturated and can’t absorb any more water. The run-off adds to the water levels in already bloated rivers and streams. Lake Ontario has now hit its highest recorded level since 1880, when record-keeping began. The St. Lawrence River is about 1.2 meters higher than it normally is this time of year. (May 9, 2017) Montreal Gazette [more on Great Lakes, Water Quality, and Climate Change in our area]

xperts link the present major flooding around Lake Ontario to Climate Change. Our local media should start to reflect this reality. But nary a word in our Rochester local news about this connection. They have not even mentioned a possibility of a connection between the very hard flooding in our area and Climate Change—though it has been predicted in many climate models.

There is a reason why people still continue to vote for climate deniers, and one of them is media’s unwillingness to report current events as the local consequences of Climate Change. The public needs to see how Climate Change is already dramatically affecting our lives—not some nebulous time in the future as is now in fashion. We need to plan for the future, which in our region is a lot more heavy precipitation, which means our homes and infrastructure need to be made more resilient and robust.

The Butterfly Effect in Climate Change also means that at some point our relatively stable climate can suddenly become very chaotic. Ignoring this possibility means emergency responses won’t be nearly enough.

Time passes.

Check out: “Heat waves, heavy downpours, and sea level rise pose growing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast. Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised. Many states and cities are beginning to incorporate climate change into their planning.”(Northeast, National Climate Assessment)

Check out: “Heavy rainfall has increased over the last 50 years, Trend projected to continue Localized flash flooding. Flooding has the potential to increase water pollution Water treatment plants mainly on floodplains” from Hell and High Water: Climate Change Effects in the Empire State 


Check this out from Climate Change in New York State Refined and Updated Projections “Projections for New York State Updated climate models and methods have helped scientists refine their previous projections for higher average temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and sea level rise in New York State. Scientists also project an increase in the frequency of extreme events, such as heat waves, heavy downpours, and coastal flooding.” Climate Change in New York State Refined and Updated Projections 

Monday, May 08, 2017

The marches in Washington DC to change our future

In between marching at the March for Science on Earth Day and the People’s Climate March on April 29th in Washington, DC, I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum reminds us of the unimaginable evil that can be unleashed from within ourselves when we fail to keep our lesser angels in check. Much of the journey through the museum described events that led up to the Holocaust and the systematic slaughtering of six million Jews.  Its purpose was not to provide an excuse for this great human failure, but rather to put us on notice of where our future can stray when we don’t get our priorities straight.

An excellent description of this kind of ethical problem is pithily examined in an essay by a local ethics expert, Lawrence Torcello, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology:

“There can be no greater crime against humanity than the foreseeable, and methodical, destruction of conditions that make human life possible. Hindsight isn’t necessary.” (Yes, I am a climate alarmist. Global warming is a crime against humanity, (April 29, 2017, The Guardian)

We should be alarmed by Climate Change now because if we don’t, there won’t be enough healthy people to build a museum to our nostalgic collective disinclination to act on this crisis.

Before I went to DC for the marches, I attended the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club’s 19th forum with keynote speaker Sierra Club President Aaron Mair. This set the tone for my week-long trip because it signaled a major change in direction on how to address Climate Change. Many failures in our elections and climate talks have awakened minorities, the poor, and the disadvantaged that they are most likely to be hit first and worst by radical changes in our climate. Aaron’s talk, both at the forum and on WXXI’s Connections, provided ri,veting examples of how quickly environmentalism of the past must shift to environmentalism for the future by working with many disparate groups—many not historically focused on our environment.

National Sierra Club President Aaron Mair Discusses Climate Change Movement: It’s Ineffective Without Diversity National Sierra Club President Aaron Mair spoke in Rochester Thursday on the importance of diversity in the climate movement, without which he said would lead to an ineffective climate movement. He spent the evening showing a clear connection between the environment and race, discussing his work in Albany, NY shutting down a state-run incinerator and agency, or people of color’s ability to make the change they want to see. “At the end of the day, the key point is at what stage things get settled,” he said, referencing the fight for voting rights. “This is an important piece because a lot of folks when I start to take them on a journey…they say ‘that’s not environmentalism.’ Why protecting voting rights is critical to saving the environment, ‘well that’s civil rights. That’s not environmentalism.’ When I talk about the human condition and the human condition being a function of the environment ‘well, that’s not environment’…’So you mean I have a civil right to environment?’ Yes you do.” (April 21, 2017 Open Mic)

The March for Science

On Earth Day, in the drenching rain, we marched through DC trying to explain to an administration that doesn’t respect science how incredibly batshit crazy that is. I’m not a scientist but I do understand how difficult it has been for humanity to finally develop a way of thinking, testing, and coming to conclusions on important matters free of prejudice, ideology, and ignorance. So I can only imagine how those who have devoted their lives to science how they feel about having a real estate mogul who has flagrantly disregarded environmental regulations for most of his career telling them to forget what they know and let an angry and selfish belief system rule the day.

Did we change the Trump administration’s mind about science? Probably not. What is more likely is that we convinced each other (about 100,000) that we were ready to stand up to his bullying madness. Similar science marches around the country and other countries convinced us too. We likely made it clear to our representatives in Congress and in local governments, that there will be consequences for those representative who don’t respect science. And, it is quite likely that scientists, college students, and others who never, ever, would have considered getting into politics will now do so. 

The Media and Climate Change

During my week in DC, I also visited the Newseum. The thought running through my head as I made my way around this trophy to our First Amendment was not the usual stuff about freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, freedom to petition, freedom of religion, nor freedom of speech. It was this: How are we going to move our historical notion of the media into a medium that can effectively communicate Climate Change now? How are we going to free climate denial from our collective need to address Climate Change? Or, how can we have our cake and eat it too, that is, how can we keep all these First Amendment freedoms and at the same time focus on a long-term ethical and existential crisis that is Climate Change? Will our media continue to descend into myriad silos of self-absorbing ideologies, or will this medium finally be able to focus on the priorities inherent to this issue on a scale and in a timeframe that will matter?

It doesn’t look good. While the news is very good at obsessive reductionist tendencies toward the spectacular, it seems incapable of communicating a seemingly slow-moving physical disaster persistently and free of divisiveness. Our media still doesn’t respect science and this has created bedlam for the First Amendment. (For example, how do we stop climate deniers from sowing doubt about the science behind Climate Change so we can address this crisis in time? Do we value Freedom of the Press over existence itself?)

Press conference and a red line

After checking out the American Indian Museum and the Air and Space museum, I had a chance to attend a press conference outside Congress with Senator Merkley, Senator Sanders, Senator Markey, and Bill McKibben:

100% Clean Energy Bill Launched by Senators and Movement Leaders Legislation comes ahead of Peoples Climate March on April 29th WASHINGTON - Ahead of the Peoples Climate March, Senator Jeff Merkley, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Ed Markey stood beside movement leaders to introduce legislation that will completely phase out fossil fuel use by 2050. The “100 by ‘50 Act” outlines a bold plan to support workers and to prioritize low-income communities while replacing oil, coal and gas with clean energy sources like wind and solar. (April 27, 2017) Common Dreams)

If you can, check out some of my videos of the press conference--Senator Sanders and Bill McKibben—because although there seemed to be a lot media there, it is the dickens to find coverage of this event in the media. This bold energy plan obviously isn’t of the same eye-catching theatre as a bug-eyed Trump rant for the media.

Just after that press conference, more dramatic but even less covered by the media, was the Takes Roots Red Line Action where I joined in a passionate march for those who are going to are already getting nailed by Climate Change. I doubt you can find much media coverage about this dramatic event, even though hundreds of us (most dressed in red) circled the freaking Capital building with full police escort. Check out some clips I shot of the event (Clip One and Clip Two) because our media just covers events that fit in their agenda. This event, Mother Earth’s RED LINE, clearly did not fit their agenda.

Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ) is a national alliance of US-based grassroots organizing (GRO) groups organizing to build an agenda for power for working and poor people and communities of color. We understand that there are important connections between the local issues we work on and the global context, and we see ourselves as part of an international movement for global justice. (About Grassroots Global Justice)

The People’s Climate March

An event that did reach the media was the 200,000 strong march to address Climate Change. Though only about half as large as the People’s Climate March in New York City in 2014, we marchers exhibited no less enthusiasm. For the best press coverage of the march in DC, I recommend DemocracyNow! which spent five hours interviewing and looking into our concerns in depth:

Watch: Democracy Now! Special Broadcast from the 2017 People's Climate March On Saturday, April 29, Democracy Now! will provide special live coverage of the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., organized to protest the Trump administration’s climate change-denying agenda. (April 29, 2017 DemocracyNow!) 

Loud and numerous though we were, I doubt most of the public had more than a fleeting view of the march in the media because the Trump Show is endlessly diverting and distracting. Though the consequences of Climate Change are clearly upon us, our generation, like other generations, still has not sifted through our priorities and found that singular issue, which after many, many years will define our age. Something we would someday be likely to create a museum in DC for, wondering how, after all the blood and tears, we could have missed it.  

Time passes.




Monday, April 17, 2017

U.S. at crossroads: free science from politics and join the March for Science

The complacency by too many Americans while their government is gutting science harkens back to those onerous days in the 1850’s when our fragmented country tried tooth and nail to hold on to slavery—despite the evil. Russia (1723) and the British Empire (1808) had abolished slavery. New York State had made slavery illegal in 1827.

Yet, at the federal level: “Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave-holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers”(Wikipedia). Though most people believed that slavery was truly evil by the 1850’s, most of the public still sat on the sidelines until they were forced into the fray with their very lives, the Civil War, where 600,000 people perished.

The war was terrible; it wasn’t inevitable; it could have been prevented had it not been part of our compromised Constitution. We could have given into our better angels. But we didn’t.

The Three-Fifths Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution, which reads: Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. (Wikipedia)

Those in the middle, those who stayed quiet while slavery raged on, were forced off the sidelines anyways with a war that might have been prevented if more had spoken up sooner.  The Abolitionists did get off the sidelines, but these relative few were accused of causing violence instead of trying to right a wrong. (What if everyone had joined the Abolitionists early on? What if everyone just got off the sidelines at crucial moments in human history?) 

We are at a crossroads again.

This time it’s about not so much a great divide on the value we place on people’s lives as how we shall govern at all. Will science form the backbone of our country or will we succumb to a relatively small group’s ideology? Will our government base its decisions on our accumulated knowledge and science, or cherry-pick fact and fiction to suit a minority’s agenda? Will science be the priority it has been for two centuries in this country, or will we give up and condemn future generations to hell?

Those in the middle now, those staying quiet while science is being gutted are going to be affected whether they think so or not. There may not be a war, but we will be much inconvenienced by a planet warming up far quicker than our species has ever experienced. There are no sidelines in science.

The Fugitive Slave Act was an attempt at compromise on an issue where there was (and is) no compromise. This law placed the Northern states in the impossible position of sending free Americans to a region of the country where they would be returned to slavery. With the growing turmoil, our country in the 1850’s was finally having to face our original sin: How could we promote our country around the world as a free nation when we were enslaving millions of our people? We couldn’t. It was one or the other. No middle ground. Our founding ideals was either true, or they were a lie.  

Sitting home and doing nothing on Earth Day to stop the federal government from muzzling scientists is akin to allowing the Fugitive Slave Law to stand. Because powerful ideologies in Washington really want to rip out science by the roots, all of us must now #StandUpForScience:

Scott Pruitt Faces Anger From Right Over E.P.A. Finding He Won’t Fight When President Trump chose the Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, his mission was clear: Carry out Mr. Trump’s campaign vows to radically reduce the size and scope of the agency and take apart President Barack Obama’s ambitious climate change policies. In his first weeks on the job, Mr. Pruitt drew glowing praise from foes of Mr. Obama’s agenda against global warming, as he moved to roll back its centerpiece, known as the Clean Power Plan, and expressed agreement with those who said the E.P.A. should be eliminated. His actions and statements have galvanized protests from environmentalists and others on the left. But now a growing chorus of critics on the other end of the political spectrum say Mr. Pruitt has not gone far enough. In particular, they are angry that he has refused to challenge a landmark agency determination known as the endangerment finding, which provides the legal basis for Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan and other global warming policies. (April 12, 2017) New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

Pruitt hasn’t done enough damage to our county? Please. EPA boss: US should exit Paris climate agreement, April 13, 2017 Climate Home)

We must free Science from Politics

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL nails it: A country as large and complicated as ours must get on the same page on science. 

Nelson, near Trump’s Palm Beach resort, calls for end to attacks on climate science  Three years after he held a field hearing in Miami Beach to draw attention to a region at ground zero for climate change, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson convened a second hearing in West Palm Beach on Monday with a new target: the Trump administration’s attack on climate science. Held just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s vulnerable island retreat, the hearing highlighted worsening conditions — and the need to free science from politics. “There are people trying to muzzle scientists. I’ve seen it in Washington. I’ve seen it here in the state of Florida,” said Nelson, a Democrat and the state’s former insurance commissioner. (April 10, 2017) Miami Herald [more on Climate Change in our area]

The essential problem

How far will the ideologues get before the public stands up? Science, however powerful a discipline, does not automatically motivate humanity. For example, how many freaking times does your river have to catch on fire before you act?

“The Cuyahoga River was once one of the most polluted rivers in the United States. It has caught fire a total of 13 times dating back to 1868, including this blaze in 1952 which caused over $1.3 million in damages.” HOW A BURNING RIVER HELPED CREATE THE CLEAN WATER ACT (April 14, 2016 The Alleghany Front)

We can depend on science for a lot of things. In fact, it was science that helped lift humanity out of the Dark Ages and moved us into the Age of Enlightenment. But obviously, we cannot depend on science to overcome our Janus-faced tendency towards the love truth and also an inclination to revert back to our gut reactions—fear and mysticism. To do that we need everyone out in the streets this Earth Day to March for Science, Saturday, April 22, 2017.

Act

We cannot wait for public opinion to someday reach a tipping point; the time is now to right our course. For the March for Science in Rochester:


ROCHESTER MARCH FOR SCIENCE Marchers will gather at Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park at Manhattan Square at 9:30AM on April 22nd. At 10:30AM, we will begin marching towards the Hyatt Regency. Upon arriving at the Hyatt, you are cordially invited to attend the first Rochester Science Expo. Please visit our facebook page to RSVP to the event!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Not so easy to be green, especially since Trump

(This is an update of my 2008 article: Not So Easy To Be Green.)

It should be easy being green. That is to say, it should be easy to live sustainably. It should be easy to work and play and move from place to place and keep ourselves warm (or cool) and eat and breathe and allow our children and those in the future to do the same without crashing our life support system. But unless you are living in Ashton Hayes, England, “a well knit community of about 1000 people that is aiming to become England's first carbon neutral community”1, you’re probably going to find being green tough. 

Fossil fuels, which Trump is trying to resuscitate and reinvigorate, are so ensnarled into our way of life that even the best of efforts to go green are still going to have a significant carbon footprint. If you travel, what you drive is either power by fossil fuels or made with them. Even if you walk, that involves fossil fuels because sidewalks are made with machinery made from burning fossil fuels. If you eat, fossil fuels in some way probably got that food to your table. If you heat or cool your building, most likely fossil fuels make that possible. 

I could go on, but you get the idea. Our lives are so riddled with burning fossil fuels, which are warming the planet, it is almost inconceivable to quickly rid ourselves of this energy source. But we have to do so and we have to do so soon.

Since Trump

Trump has allowed the very convenient (although wrong) position that business as usual is not only desirable but sustainable. Polluting our collective natural resources, by continuing to burn fossil fuels and ratcheting down environmental regulations only allows us the delusion of growth, especially for those already benefitting from these outdated practices. But this way of existence is truly delusional because it threatens everyone, including those doing well, only a short time longer. Just about the time Trump leaves office, we will have blown our carbon budget:

Analysis: Just four years left of the 1.5C carbon budget Four years of current emissions would be enough to blow what’s left of the carbon budget for a good chance of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5C. That’s the conclusion of analysis by Carbon Brief, which brings the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) carbon budgets up to date to include global CO2 emissions in 2016. Our infographic above shows how quickly the budgets for 1.5C, 2C and 3C will be used up if emissions continue at the current rate. For 1.5C, this could be a soon as four years’ time. (April 5, 2017) Carbon Brief [more on Climate Change in our area]

Trump is allowing too many of us to give into our worst angels just when the doors to hell are opening for our arrival. The American dream is not going to happen if we’re all cooking in our own juices.

Hope

Just after our Civil War, when Reconstruction was but a dream, many former slaves risked life and limb informing authorities about violence from the white community. These former slaves expected justice beyond all evidence to the contrary that they would get it. But these people who had been beaten and abused for decades believed that our country could be the place where all people are created equal. They didn’t just pine away and dream; they attempted to conduct their lives as if the reconstructed country was actually going to practice what they preached. This took an incredible amount of faith in humanity, a faith that someday a people thrown into slavery would someday be treated as equals, get an education, and own businesses themselves.

They kept their eyes on the prize. Their struggle provides a beacon of hope that humanity can change, and do so quickly.

It can be easy to be green if we envision what a sustainable existence can be and move inexorably towards that goal. Once accomplished, once we have rid ourselves of burning up dead animals and plants and redesigning our way of existing as fair and sustainable, it will be easy. Being green will be easy because it will be built into the very fabric of our existence.

A beacon of hope:   

Check out one of the major environmental events this Earth Month 2017, by the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club. The president of the national Sierra Club, Aaron Mair, is going to be speaking on Intersectionality and Building a Strong Climate Movement:

“This year, your Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club is bringing a distinguished advocate for environmental justice to Rochester. He is Aaron Mair, the President of the Sierra Club and a powerful speaker who can inspire our community. Our hope is that this can be a ground breaking event for Rochester bringing together the white progressive community with the communities of color. Aaron has a long history in working for environmental change. He succeeded in shutting down a dirty incinerator plant in Albany, NY by revealing how pollution was causing sickness in the people of color who lived around it. ”2:

More details:

“Thursday, April 20th from 7-9 PM at the New Bethel CME Church located at 270 Scio Street, Rochester, NY 14605. Come early to visit tables of local environmental groups to find out what they are doing in our area from 6-6:30 PM. This event is free and open to the public. He will also be addressing classes at the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology. You can find a schedule on our Facebook page early April. We are very excited the opportunity has arrived to join forces with the communities of color on the issues that affect us all.”3.


Time passes.  

Monday, April 03, 2017

Trump’s anti-science experiment is unethical and unprecedented in U.S.

One of the problems in conducting risky experiments are the ethical problems highlighted by the infamous USPHS Syphilis Study. It was called the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male" and was conducted between 1932 and 1947. When the study of syphilis in poor black sharecroppers began, there was no known cure for syphilis. But “When penicillin became the standard treatment for the disease in 1947 the medicine was withheld as a part of the treatment for both the experimental group and control group”:

“While the panel concluded that the men participated in the study freely, agreeing to the examinations and treatments, there was evidence that scientific research protocol routinely applied to human subjects was either ignored or deeply flawed to ensure the safety and well-being of the men involved. Specifically, the men were never told about or offered the research procedure called informed consent. Researchers had not informed the men of the actual name of the study, i.e. "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male," its purpose, and potential consequences of the treatment or non-treatment that they would receive during the study. The men never knew of the debilitating and life threatening consequences of the treatments they were to receive, the impact on their wives, girlfriends, and children they may have conceived once involved in the research. The panel also concluded that there were no choices given to the participants to quit the study when penicillin became available as a treatment and cure for syphilis.” (About the USPHS Syphilis Study, Tuskegee University)

As you can imagine, all hell broke loose when the details were made public. A panel looking into this case determined that the experiment was "ethically unjustified." Yeah, no kidding.
Similarly, although we are existing in a free society where we can attend to the media we wish and vote as we choose, the vast majority of Americans never expected to be forced to engage in an experiment involving dismantling of science-based safety regulations. This experiment could be called, ‘What would be the effect if the world’s most powerful and influential nation abandoned science?’ Like the sharecroppers in the study, it would never have occurred to us that those running the experiment would hold to their ideology even if it meant a craven disregard for our lives.

The science behind gravity, flying jets, public health, ecosystems health, and climate is all the same science. When a country that once based public policies on sound science suddenly reverts to a pre-science stance, it can only be called an experiment. It’s one thing to want the world to reflect your ideology; it’s quite another thing to challenge the very science that provides the foundation of all governmental policies—and life itself. That’s not only dumb, it’s unethical. It’s unethical in the same way that denying known treatment to subjects of an experiment is unethical. (Although, the consequences in our present experiment will be far more extensive.)

The editorial board of the New York Times recently tried to characterize the unrivaled hubris and recklessness now rampant in our government:   

President Trump Risks the Planet That didn’t take long. Only 10 weeks into his presidency, and at great risk to future generations, Donald Trump has ordered the demolition of most of President Barack Obama’s policies to combat climate change by reducing emissions from fossil fuels. The assault began with Mr. Trump’s pledge in Detroit to roll back fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, continued with a stingy budget plan that would end funding for climate-related scientific programs and reached an unhappy apex Tuesday with an executive order that, among things, would rescind the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s clean power strategy, a rule that would shut down hundreds of old coal-fired power plants and freeze the construction of new ones. None of this was unexpected from a man who has described climate change as a hoax invented by the Chinese to destroy American industry and who has surrounded himself with cabinet officers and assistants who know or care little about the issue of global warming and its consequences — and who, in many cases, owe their political success to the largess of the oil, gas and coal companies. (March 28, 2017) New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

One can be on the sidelines on almost any issue. From your TV set (or wireless device), you can watch thousands protesting on issues like race, gender, justice, worker rights, and do nothing. One shouldn’t do nothing to stop evil, but one can. That is, one is physically able ignore the plight of others. 

However, with Climate Change, you cannot be on the sidelines. If you and your neighbor live on shoreline properties and the ocean is rising, both of your properties are affected. This will occur whether you like it or not.

You can deny the science behind Climate Change (and gravity for that matter), but you’d be wrong. 

You’d be wrong morally (because you’d be doing nothing at a time when something needs to be done), and you’d be factually wrong because eventually our environment will be unlivable unless steps are made on a level and time frame that will matter to us.

You can sit on the sidelines when scientists are being dismissed by their government. But you cannot sit on the sidelines of science itself. In other words, you cannot exist outside the laws of physics. You cannot start flapping your arms and fly to another planet.

Let’s face it. It’s one thing for folks to hold climate denial as their abhorrent opinion at this point in human history; it’s quite another for our government to be run this way.

We should not allow ourselves to be unwilling victims to this anti-science experiment. Earth Month is now happening in Rochester. ACT!


Time passes.  #ScienceMatters