Monday, January 14, 2019

Climate Change is provincial, and it isn’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Time passes. 

Monday, January 07, 2019

Rarely do environmental pollution problems have an ‘easy solution’

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

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

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

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

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

And they are more than annoying:

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

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

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


Time passes. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

2019: What Climate Change reveals about us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Time passes. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Climate Change education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education Day COP24 Education is the most powerful tool to fight climate injustices in the world. Join #EducationDay at #COP24 to step up climate education and raise awareness. The more you know, the more you can do. Read more >> https://bit.ly/2zWOEFH


Time passes. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Climate Change and the specter of social unrest

Given the potential for climate-related displacement to instantly amplify social unrest, priority should be given to “developing nations that are struggling to adapt to the hastening impacts of climate change” (see below).

COP24: NEW U.N. GUIDELINES WILL HELP PEOPLE DISPLACED BY CLIMATE CHANGE The agreement marks a rare moment of unity on an increasingly fraught topic. Nations agreed to consider new policies on climate migration at the United Nations climate negotiations in Poland on Saturday, approving a set of guidelines aimed at helping migrants driven from their homes by climate change. The agreement marked a rare moment of unity on an increasingly fraught topic, and activists celebrated that President Donald Trump's divisive rhetoric around migration had not managed to "pollute" the global discussions. Those tensions were evident at a separate U.N. meeting in Morocco, however, where nations adopted a separate pact that would help deal with the subject of migration more widely; notably, the pact was adopted without the approval of a cluster of countries, including the United States, that had rejected its message. Despite the positive outcome in Katowice, the subject of climate-related displacement has been slow to get serious attention at the U.N. climate negotiations, although it's long been a priority for developing nations that are struggling to adapt to the hastening impacts of climate change. Developed nations have historically avoided the topic, and there were fears at COP24 last week that the guidelines would be rejected or sidelined entirely. (December 12, 2018) Pacific Standard [more on Climate Change in our area]

It may be that the most dangerous first consequences of Climate Change won’t be the usual predictions of climate studies—more extreme weather, more sea level rise, more heat-related health problems—but the uneven and unfair distribution of these penalties and the resulting social chaos. Even our military is quite aware of the relationship between Climate Change and social disruption, but they can only do so much about it. And it’s quite reckless, immoral, and probably impractical to expect our military to solve this crisis—as it is the failure of our collective ability to address Climate Change that would stimulate a military response. [See: Don't turn to the military to solve the climate-change crisis, 6/03/2018 The Guardian)

Climate Change is complicated because humanity hasn’t experienced a climate change with so many of us, so much of our crucial infrastructures, and our accumulated environmental abuses (pollution) catching up with us, so that using our past to predict our future is very difficult.

However, there is one aspect of humanity’s past that we know quite well, our penchant for unbridled and quickly escalating social turbulence if grievances are not immediately addressed.

Thinking that those who we leave to confront the worst of Climate Change first will silently put up with their dire situations (caused mostly by developed nations) is a dangerous delusion that those dragging their feet on addressing this humanitarian crisis avoid at our own peril.

Social unrest because of Climate Change is happening now at our borders and it will get far worse very quickly if we maintain a nationalistic, isolationist, protectionist, and selfish agenda.

We will all boil together on a quickly warming planet unless we get our priorities straight as we go further into the Climate Change bottleneck.


Time passes.  

Monday, December 10, 2018

Insuring yourself against Climate Change

Some people think they can insure themselves against Climate Change by buying enough insurance or having a second home in a ‘safer’ place.

Climate Change Insurance: Buy Land Somewhere Else Mark Dalski is an owner of Highview Creations, a company that designs and builds green roofs in New York City, and he knows a lot about climate change. That’s why he is working on his escape. Mr. Dalski, 33, lives in Greenwich, Conn., but he can envision a time when his home there might be besieged by extreme weather and rising sea levels. So he bought four acres of land in the Catskill Mountains, in Roxbury, N.Y., where he is building a home that is as sustainable and self-sufficient as possible. To date, he has drilled a well, set up poles for power lines and designed a septic system that has been approved by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. (The property is in the city’s watershed.) He is working on designing and then securing building permits for the house. He wants it to be no more than 1,200 square feet — “it should be simple, small and sustainable,” he said — and to have an open floor plan and a lofted master bedroom. The windows will look out over land where he can grow corn, collard greens and root vegetables. “Will I need it 10 years from now, or 30 years?” he said. “I don’t know.” But if his part of Greenwich is ever in jeopardy, he added, “I’ll have a safe space.” (November 30, 2018) The New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

Most of us aren’t heading for the hills as Climate Change becomes more dire because it’s unethical and besides where do you run on a finite planet that’s boiling life away? This great warming is an existential problem, where there might be no collective afterlife. A collective afterlife is something so baked into how we think that we don’t even think about it. We may or may not think there is a spiritual hereafter, but all of us believe that when we die, life will carry on.

But what if it doesn’t? That is what makes Climate Change an existential problem. What’s the point of running away from this warming crisis if all that we knew and know will be gone? If humanity eventually existincts itself (as those in the #ExtinctionRebellion movement fear) there will be no one to remember anything humanity accomplished and learned.  

Isolationism, nationalism, selfish-ism, and libertarianism don’t make any sense in the long run and would be clearly suicidal if we all tried to take up these necessarily doomed ideologies. If everyone relied on everyone else to stave off Climate Change by running away, who would fix this problem?
Most of us are relying on our leaders to make sure our communities are adapting to and preventing the worldwide warming. This attitude is akin to drinking public water instead of drinking bottled water. If you drink bottled water and refuse to drink public water because you don’t think it is safe or its taste doesn’t suit you, you aren’t going to demand that your public officials keep your water safe and tasty. We are our communities and they grow healthier with our involvement.

Besides, how do we want to survive Climate Change? Do we want our way of life on this planet to remain intact or scattered willy-nilly on a dreary landscape where our social order has broken down, huddled in a cave with limited food supplies?  

The best way to insure yourself, your family, and our future is to get engaged with this worldwide crisis. Hold your leaders accountable. Make sure your elected officials protect your water, keep your transportation systems viable, your health and emergency systems on track as your region become more inundated by the consequences of Climate Change. Demand that your government create a climate action plan that is continually updated as scientists and we learn more about this catastrophe. And be sure that our climate plans are in sync with everyone else’s plan—something the Paris Accord is desperately trying to do—right now.

Climate talks shift to nitty-gritty details of Paris accord Negotiators at the U.N. climate talks got down to the nitty-gritty task Tuesday of finalizing the rules for the Paris accord, a landmark agreement by countries three years ago to curb global warming. The 2015 accord set a goal of keeping average global temperature increases well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. Scientists say the deal’s most ambitious goal — limiting the rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 C) — is still feasible, but increasingly challenging. The two-week meeting brings together diplomats from almost 200 countries, often with differing agendas. Some, such as the small Pacific islands, are pressing for urgent and drastic action, especially from developed countries, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Others, such as the European Union, agree on the need to cut emissions but want to ensure all countries contribute a fair share. The U.S. is also taking part, despite announcing last year that it’s pulling out of the Paris accord. Decisions on crunch issues, which may include financial aid for poor countries, are expected to be left to ministers when they gather at the domed conference venue in the southern Polish city of Katowice next week. (December 4, 2018)AP News [more on Climate Change in our area]

Humanity’s usual response to climate changes in the past or other natural disasters was to run. But back in the day, there were places to run to. Today, having allowed this present phenomenon to go so far unsolved, there’s no place to run. We, when we stand and address Climate Change, are our own insurance against the worst.


Time passes. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The importance of continually adjusting our understanding of Climate Change

Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) and the National Climate Assessment’s (NCA) reports provide continual corrections to our understanding of Climate Change. Our quickly warming planet is undergoing vast changes that would be harder to ‘see’ if we didn’t have reports like these:

  • FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States The National Climate Assessment (NCA) assesses the science of climate change and variability and its impacts across the United States, now and throughout this century. "Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future—but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur. Americans increasingly recognize the risks climate change poses to their everyday lives and livelihoods and are beginning to respond (Figure 1.1).  " (November 2018, FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT)
  • Global Warming of 1.5 °C an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty (October 8, 2018) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)


There are other climate reports, of course, around the world and focusing on various sectors, but few get the attention these two get. And, I suspect if the public was going to read a climate report, it would most likely be one of these two.

The impacts of Climate Change as our world quickly warms constantly alters our environment, our ability to adapt, and our choices. Both reports above provide more clarity about this manmade phenomenon so our choices in the future stay in sync with what is actually going on as we go further into Climate Change. This is important because what might have worked ten or twenty years ago may not be very effective on a scale and timeframe that will matter now.

These major reports coming at regular intervals give us the kind of feedback about the complexities of Climate Change with more objectivity than most of our other information sources. Scientists—not politicians and the media—take the lead in giving the public the most up-to-date, accurate model of reality from which we can plan. (Which is not to say that these reports haven’t been shaped by non-scientific hands also.)

One of the issues the NCA Vol. II focuses on is “Critical Infrastructure Service Disruption”, in other words, the importance of keeping our infrastructures intact as more flooding and heat come our way.

 “In order to make Northeast systems resilient to the kind of extreme climate-related disruptions the region has experienced recently—and the sort of disruptions projected for the future—would require significant new investments in infrastructure. For example, in Pennsylvania, bridges are expected to be more prone to damage during extreme weather events, because the state leads the country in the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges.” (Critical Infrastructure Service Disruption, Chapter 8 Northeast, FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States)

Pennsylvania’s bridges may be in poor conditions, but New York State’s bridges are probably not much better. We still cannot adequately fund the regular maintenance of our bridges build decades ago, let alone marshaling our collective will to fund for the future. So when these reports say that we’ve already done much to address Climate Change that may be more hopeful rhetoric than is warranted. After all, it’s getting hotter.

These reports don’t cover everything about Climate Change. They don’t cover how pollution, loss of biodiversity and bio-mass, occurring in parallel and because of Climate Change can profoundly alter our life-support system—as this incredibly comprehensive and insightful article on insect loss does in the New York Times.

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here What does it mean for the rest of life on Earth? We’ve named and described a million species of insects, a stupefying array of thrips and firebrats and antlions and caddis flies and froghoppers and other enormous families of bugs that most of us can’t even name. (Technically, the word “bug” applies only to the order Hemiptera, also known as true bugs, species that have tubelike mouths for piercing and sucking — and there are as many as 80,000 named varieties of those.) The ones we think we do know well, we don’t: There are 12,000 types of ants, nearly 20,000 varieties of bees, almost 400,000 species of beetles, so many that the geneticist J.B.S. Haldane reportedly quipped that God must have an inordinate fondness for them. A bit of healthy soil a foot square and two inches deep might easily be home to 200 unique species of mites, each, presumably, with a subtly different job to do. And yet entomologists estimate that all this amazing, absurd and understudied variety represents perhaps only 20 percent of the actual diversity of insects on our planet — that there are millions and millions of species that are entirely unknown to science. (November 27, 2018) The New York Times [more on Wildlife and Climate Change in our area]

While we are warming up the place, we are losing a healthy, robust, and resilient environment that might have alleviated the worst of crop failures the spread of infectious diseases.

And these reports don’t cover what may now be our biggest hurdle in addressing Climate Change: How our dysfunctional politics and the dismal shift worldwide towards nationalism threatens humanity’s ability to address Climate Change collectively.

These reports also demonstrate the urgency that we shift away from the use of fossil fuels immediately.

 Another more recently released UN report makes the case against fossil fuels more starkly.

 It's Not Just America: Climate Policies Are Stumbling Worldwide According to the UN, most major polluters are not on track to meet their Paris goals. But critics say that accounting may be too pessimistic. Humanity is losing ground in its battle against climate change. On Tuesday, a new UN report warned that the world is farther than it was last year from meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. More than half of the planet’s richest countries—including Canada, Australia, South Korea, the United States, and the nations of the European Union—are not cutting their carbon pollution as fast as they promised under that treaty, it says. If humanity does not change course, then Earth could warm by roughly 6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, the report suggests. This is enough warming to set off some of the most feared consequences of climate change, including deadly heat wavesravaging wildfireswidespread plant and animal extinctions, and potentially many feet of runaway sea-level rise. (November 27, 2018) The Atlantic [more on Climate Change in our area]

The next reports coming out of the IPCC and the NCA are likely to be more dire because of the heat we’ve already baked into our climate system. But hopefully, they’ll also include real hope based on dramatic increases in humanity’s ability to address this crisis resulting in a dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.


Time passes.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Don’t bury the NCR4 Volume II on Climate Change in the US

In what might be a craven diversionary tack to bury the release of the National Climate Assessment (NCA) Volume II on Black Friday, Trump tweeted on November 21st “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS - Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

'Absolute Disgrace': When No One Looking, White House Plans to Dump Major Climate Report on Black Friday The administration just announced Wednesday that the National Climate Assessment Volume II would be released Friday afternoon Environmental groups, journalists, and climate scientists are reacting to the Trump administration's decision to release a major climate report the day after Thanksgiving—a move some are describing as an effort to bury an assessment packed with an "astonishing amount of science," and they are hoping to see that effort backfire "bigly." "It's an absolute disgrace to bury the truth about climate impacts in a year that saw hundreds of Americans die during devastating climate-fueled megafires, hurricanes, floods, and algal blooms," said National Wildlife Federation president and CEO Collin O'Mara. (November 22, 2018) Common Dreams)

What’s important (and obvious) is that the NCA reports (there have been 4 of them, each more dire) by 13 governmental agencies responsible to “develop and coordinate a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”(1) is so incredibly different from Trump’s playing-dumb stance on this worldwide crisis. Playing dumb means you never have to say, “I will lead on this worldwide crisis and do so justly for all mankind.

I wrote this back in 2014 with the release of the NCR3:

The release of the third National Climate Assessment, which will direct President Obama’s Climate Change efforts until he leaves office, proves Climate Change is happening now. Tragically, the release of the NCA earlier this month has been met with distain by the few, but very powerful and influential, leaders of the Climate Change denial camp:
A power grab by political con artists “Here are the top 10 reasons Congress should ignore advice to pass major legislation to combat climate change:…,” (May 21, 2014) Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel)
This is tragic because, despite all reason to the contrary, Climate Change deniers have a good chance of not only staying in control in the House, but maybe taking over the Senate. Thirteen agencies of our government (Department of AgricultureDepartment of CommerceDepartment of DefenseDepartment of EnergyDepartment of Health & Human ServicesDepartment of the InteriorDepartment of StateDepartment of TransportationEnvironmental Protection AgencyNational Aeronautics & Space AdministrationNational Science FoundationSmithsonian Institution, and Agency for International Development) not only participated in the findings of the NCA, but their actions will be based on this particular study. If our Congress is jammed up with Climate Change denial, all the efforts of these agencies of our government to fulfill their responsibilities to the NCA will be castrated. (May 30, 2014, The 2014 Climate Change elections)

My projections on how a power change in Washington would damage our ability to address Climate Change have come to pass. We are decades behind addressing this crisis on a scale and timeframe that will matter. There will be climate and environmental disruptions no matter what we do, though we can tone it down and even halt the worst if we make societal transformations. 

As I await the NCA4 Vol. II later today, I remember having a chance to see and comment (the public was asked to comment for about a month) on Volume II last year. It focused on how Climate Change will impact regions like the US Northeast. I found it quite alarming and I’ll just have to wait a few more hours before I see the official Volume II release today.

Time passes.

In the meantime, it’s helpful to read NCA4 Volume 1 and understand how Volume II will differ from Volume I and the last report—NCA3.

Most fundamentally, the majority of the report’s focus has shifted from national-level chapters to regional chapters, in response to public demand for more localized information on climate impacts. As a result, the regional chapters provide more detail, the Great Plains chapter has been split into separate Northern and Southern Great Plains chapters, and a new chapter focusing exclusively on the U.S. Caribbean has been added. Volume II also reflects a number of advances in the science of climate change impacts and adaptation with the inclusion of new national-level chapters on Air Quality; Climate Effects on U.S. International Interests; and a chapter on Sectoral Interdependencies, Multiple Stressors and Complex Systems. Finally, and again in response to public feedback and input, the report reflects three cross-cutting contextual advances: (1) added international context, (2) enhanced coverage of the economic impacts, and (3) greater focus on risk-based framing. (NCA4 Vol. I and II: FAQs, GlobalChange.gov) 

Time passes.

So, it’s a little before 2PM on Black Friday and the FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT Volume II has been posted online.

In the moral sense, you should read it. You should get everyone you know to read it. You should make sure your media covers it. Our climate scientists have done their job. Some of our media have done their job. Now we need to make sure this US climate report doesn’t get buried.
I haven’t had a chance to read all of it yet, but I’m going to finish it and report on the most salient points in later essays. Meanwhile, remember this volume II covers the regional impacts of Climate Change, like our Northeast:

“By 2035, and under both lower and higher scenarios (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), the Northeast is projected to be more than 3.6°F (2°C) warmer on average than during the preindustrial era. This would be the largest increase in the contiguous United States and would occur as much as two decades before global average temperatures reach a similar milestone.36.” (Chapter 18, 2018, Northeast FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT Volume II)

Time passes.


Monday, November 19, 2018

Do we have the will for the societal transformation needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C.?

Sustainable development supports, and often enables, the fundamental societal and systems transitions and transformations that help limit global warming to 1.5°C. Such changes facilitate the pursuit of climate-resilient development pathways that achieve ambitious mitigation and adaptation in conjunction with poverty eradication and efforts to reduce inequalities (high confidence). {Box 1.1, 1.4.3, Figure 5.1, 5.5.3, Box 5.3} (Page 24, IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, H. O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P. R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J. B. R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M. I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, T. Waterfield (eds.)]. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 32 pp.
The good news is that renewable energy is ramping up significantly. The bad news is that fossil fuels are not dropping significantly—that is, on a scale and time frame that will matter.

World has no capacity to absorb new fossil fuel plants, warns IEA Watchdog says new projects must be low carbon or existing plants must be cleaned up The world has so many existing fossil fuel projects that it cannot afford to build any more polluting infrastructure without busting international climate change goals, the global energy watchdog has warned. The International Energy Agency said almost all of the world’s carbon budget up to 2040 – the amount that can be emitted without causing dangerous warming – would be eaten up by today’s power stations, vehicles and industrial facilities. Fatih Birol, the executive director of the Paris-based group, told the Guardian: “We have no room to build anything that emits CO2 emissions.” The economist said to limit temperature rises to 2C, let alone the 1.5C as scientists recommend, either all new energy projects would have to be low carbon, which was unlikely, or existing infrastructure would need to be cleaned up. (November 12, 2018) The Guardian [more on Energy and Climate Change in our area]

Many groups around the world, including environmentalists Rochester, are working furiously on environmental concerns. They are part the societal transformation needed to tamp down our need for fossil fuels.

But. Denial springs eternal, I guess. For example, despite no clear evidence that we are reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, which you would think would give people pause when building in high flood risk zones for most coastal states, new homes are being built there like crazy regardless.

Ocean at the Door: New Homes and the Rising Sea In 2012, Hurricane Sandy slammed into New Jersey, producing a major storm surge and damaging or destroying many thousands of homes. Over the years that followed, builders put up new houses and reconstructed damaged ones — in many areas that will be vulnerable to more flooding in the future. The post-Sandy rebuilding was a striking example of a broader pattern. Across the United States, coastal communities have recently built tens of thousands of houses in areas at risk of chronic future flooding driven by sea level rise from climate change. That has put homeowners, renters, and investors in danger of steep personal and financial losses in the years ahead. And while municipalities are increasingly developing plans to cope with sea level rise, the pattern of actual recent construction may be a more robust guide to which places are taking the threat most seriously. In what we believe to be the first country-wide analysis of its kind, Climate Central and Zillow have isolated the number of new homes in low-lying coastal areas in all 24 coastal states, projecting how many will become exposed to chronic ocean flooding over the coming decades — depending on what choices the world makes around greenhouse-gas pollution today. (November 13, 2018) Climate Central [more on Climate Change in our area]

And our federal government is actively working in the opposite direction from what climate science studies say we need to do.

Exclusive: At U.N. climate talks, Trump team plans sideshow on coal The Trump administration plans to set up a side-event promoting fossil fuels at the annual U.N. climate talks next month, repeating a strategy that infuriated global-warming activists during last year’s talks, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. (November 15, 2018, Reuters)

The kind of transformation change we need in the time we need it to happen doesn’t look hopeful. If humanity does have the will to make the necessary changes, we will need to see evidence of that very soon.


Time passes. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Addressing Climate Change after the US midterms

The results of the US midterm elections, with the Democrats retaking the House and some governorships, are a victory in the sense that our country avoided falling into the abyss—a horrible place where our economics, our humanitarian values, and our politics run amuck. Supposedly, there will now be checks on Trump, his administration, and the GOP’s attempts to undermine our environmental health while trying to erase Climate Change from our nation’s responsibilities:

With Democratic Majority, Climate Change Is Back on U.S. House Agenda Fossil fuel supporters will still control the Senate, but the House will soon be able to turn a spotlight on climate change and Trump's retreat from responsibility. With their win of control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats will now have the numbers to put climate change issues back on the congressional agenda. But the Republicans reinforced their firewall against any legislative efforts in the Senate by gaining at least two new members with poor records on confronting the climate crisis. (November 7, 2018) Inside Climate News [more on Climate Change for our area]

Still, we are poised on the precipice and will only back away from it when our country not only acts on Climate Change, but when we free the science of Climate Change from our politics altogether. In recent years, every US election seems to amplify our country’s ambiguity towards Climate change, instead of clarifying it.

Some suggest that the Democratic victory may yield little with regard to Climate Change action, that Democrats may muffle a strong Climate Change agenda because this issue is still so divisive that it may hinder party unity and prospects for more victories to come.

Dems damp down hopes for climate change agenda Democrats are unlikely to pursue major climate change legislation if they win the House majority, despite a growing body of evidence suggesting time is running out to address the issue. 10/17/2018 The Hill)

If we leave our efforts to address this crisis to our political convenience, it seems unlikely that we’ll make sufficient progress—even if the consequences of extreme weather, flooding, and the heat become more dire. Denier backlashes against catastrophes, or the latest refuge of climate denial – that it’s too late to do anything about it -- seem more likely to drive our politics awry on this crisis rather than a collective rational move towards it. All our other efforts—greening our businesses, honing the economics of renewable energy, and shaping our own lives to live more sustainably—are limited, perhaps prohibitively so, because of our political dysfunctionality.

In the New York Review of books “A Very Grim Forecast”, Bill McKibben, our foremost environmental writer and climate activist, provides a sober look at the background to the new IPCC’s report. It is, indeed, grim. But it’s important feedback at this critical stage that we aren’t doing remotely enough to address Climate Change. 

There are those messaging Climate Change who focus on humanity’s amazing ability to adapt—where we shouldn’t worry about the day-to-day seesaw of climate action and the resistance to that. This brand of human hubris goes something like this: We’re not only really good at adapting but excel when confronted by a climate change. Neandertals, a tough, cold-weather sister species (they weren’t our ancestors), perished during a long cold spell but our species met the challenge and prevailed. However, thinking that just because homo sapiens are able to disrupt an entire planet’s climate system doesn’t mean we have a clue on how to restore it to a livable world. It’s absurd. It’s like thinking because you have the ability to wreck something profoundly intricate, you can fix it. (Try that with your Smartphone.) How do we get 7+ billion people to quickly bring down our planet’s temperature and put back together the resiliency and robustness of our pre-industrial environment? How? Details, please?

However aware we are of the implications of Climate Change and despite the clarity coming from scientists on this crisis, we still don’t have a unified planetary response that will avoid a complete disaster—for humanity that is (Earth doesn’t really care if we’re around or not). The midterm elections can only be hopeful if whatever we gained are now pressed.

Democrats cannot be shy about pushing our country to address Climate Change and putting our fossil fuels legacy behind us. This includes not just winning battles but framing the problem so that the public understands its priority and urgency. It’s going to be far tougher than before the 2016 elections because the Trump/GOP debacle affords too many people the delusion that some could weather this existential crisis unscathed in a finite planet. They won’t. Because this crisis is a complete environmental breakdown, we will all get swept away eventually.   

Climate Change must rise to the top of our country’s concerns, where the US not only returns to the spirit of the Paris Accord, but leads this worldwide effort. Is this a mind-blowing fantasy? Not really. What is a mind-blowing fantasy is thinking we can fix this crisis with anything less. Remember, it’s not just the warming, it’s everything else too—justice, poverty, pollutions, loss of biodiversity, and centuries of humanity’s environmental abuse that are bottlenecking Climate Change into an emergency.

No half-hearted efforts, mixed messages, muted language on the full implications of Climate Change and what needs to be done to fix it will do. Politely giving in to those who want business as usual and pandering to the same political strategy that is only capable of moving one step forward and two steps backward will produce the very catastrophe that we must avoid. The planet will warm more, with us and our future cooking on it.


Time passes. 

Monday, November 05, 2018

What our youth know about Climate Change

It is hard to understand why those who deny Climate Change haven’t at least explored how this crisis will affect their kids. Because if they had, we’d all be making the necessary changes to protect our children. We know what to do, we just need the will to do it.

Kids’ Health and Climate Change Our changing environment—caused by carbon pollution from coal, oil, and gas—is already affecting children’s health and changing how they grow up. Many people are familiar with climate change impacts like flooding and sea-level rise, but rising temperatures and decreased air quality are already affecting kids: Increasing asthma attacks and allergies; Creating food insecurity; Mental health problems; Developmental delays; and Changes in their genetic makeup. Kids are not little adults. Their health is impacted more by climate change. Children’s immune systems and organs are still developing, and they eat and drink more for their size. They also breathe at a faster rate, increasing their exposure to dangerous air pollutants that can damage their lungs. Climate change is making heat waves hotter and longer, and more heat means more kids aren’t able to go outside and play. This is a critical issue because the number one health challenge facing our children today is obesity. When they do play outside, it can lead to heat stress and greater exposure to disease-carrying insects like ticks and mosquitoes. (October 17, 2018) C-CHANGE: THE HARVARD CENTER FOR CLIMATE, HEALTH AND THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT [more on Climate Change and Environmental Health in our area]

Our youth have already paid a heavy cost because the adults on our planet have refused to see our atmosphere for what it is: Life.

Polluted Air Affects More than 90% of Children A new report by the World Health Organization on air pollution and child health, launched on the occasion of their first Global Health Conference on Air Pollution and Health, shows that almost all of the word’s children are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution. The report also finds that in an increasingly populated and warmer world, still heavily dependent on carbon-based technologies, the air we breathe has serious effects on our health, accounting for a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease. Air pollution is a major environmental health threat, and children are the most vulnerable to it. “Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their full potential.” Every day, around 93% of the world’s children under the age of 15 years (1.8 billion children) breathe air that is so polluted it puts their health and development at serious risk, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Tragically, many of them die: WHO estimates that in 2016, 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air. (October 29, 2018) United Nations Climate Change [more on Climate Change in our area]

Here in the Rochester region, our youth hosted a #TrialoftheCentury rally. There wasn’t much press coverage but still, about a hundred folks showed up. Click here to find out more. Because many of our youth know the challenges of Climate Change, they want to accomplish things right now on a scale and time frame that will matter. One of those things is to get Monroe County to join with Rochester in a comprehensive Climate Action Plan (CAP) that recognizes the threat and the important role our government plays in addressing this crisis. Check this out:

“Please sign this petition (https://chn.ge/2OUvU3s) asking the Monroe County government to create and implement a Climate Action Plan - a detailed program of greenhouse gas emissions reductions that could transform Monroe County into a leader of sustainability policy.”

Here’s what our youth already know: It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a few places like the city of Rochester to accomplish a CAP if the surrounding county, state, our nation, and all nations don’t get together solve this worldwide crisis.

Our youth know the environment being bequeathed to them from us has been seriously compromised and may not support their future. They want you to help them to have a promise of a future like you had.


Time passes.