Monday, January 31, 2011

State of the Union Address and Rochester, NY‘s environment

 

Several prominent environmental writers noted President Obama’s neglect to mention the world-wide crisis of Climate Change in his State of the Union Address.

Obama Ducks and Covers on Climate “The “C-word,” climate, appears to have become to the Beltway what the “P-word,” population, has been in climate treaty negotiations for a long time — unmentionable. It’s one thing to cave to a wave of naysaying climate rhetoric and build a new American energy conversation on points of agreement rather than clear ideological flash points like global warming.” Andrew Revkin ( 1/26/2011) New York Times.

And:

Obama was wrong not to mention climate change in his State of the Union | Grist “In his 2009 State of the Union-esque speech, Obama spoke of "saving our planet from the ravages of climate change." In his 2010 SOTU, he affirmed the "overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change." In 2011, fresh off the hottest year on record, Obama said ... nothing about climate change. It didn't come up. This is a failure on Obama's part. A moral failure, a failure of leadership, but also, I would argue, a political failure.” David Roberts (1/26/2011) Grist

While this omission may comfort those who think there are more important, or more immediate matters for our country to consider (or just don’t believe in physics), our planet is still going to warm up. And, despite Obama’s back-peddling on his promise to address Climate Change our Rochester, NY region is going to change: how Climate Change will impact the Rochester, New York area.

Despite what voters might think, our public officials will be held accountable for not addressing Climate Change because they are the ones in a position to be held accountable. That’s their job: a public servant’s purpose is to protect the public. They do not have the luxury of ignoring or pushing it aside because Climate Change is the environmental issue that connects all environmental issues. Water quality, air quality, pollution, energy, transportation, invasive species, biodiversity, and you-name-it will all be affected by the extreme weather events and other complications due to Climate Change. Just like when your streets don’t get quickly plowed in a snowstorm, you’re going to blame your public officials for not having addressed Climate Change—even if you voted for tax cuts over getting the job done.

Trust me, when things get dicey you won’t care if you didn’t believe in Climate Change and did your darnedest to vote against anyone who mentioned the word. You won’t care if you sat and listened to all those pundits in Washington who told you Climate Change was a bunch of hogwash and don’t let those crazy liberals spend a cent on preparing or informing the public on it. You won’t care because you’ll be too angry at your public officials who didn’t act in your behalf and too busy trying to keep everything you held precious from being destroyed by a world heating up. Here’s a statement by our top climate scientist

James A. Hansen: "Climate change is likely to be the predominant scientific, economic, political and moral issue of the 21st century.  The fate of humanity and nature may depend upon early recognition and understanding of human-made effects on Earth's climate (Hansen, 2009)" Paleoclimate Implications for Human-Made Climate Change

Sadly and profoundly tragic, we are living in a world where there is little accountability anymore. Lie us into a war, and we’ll only hold those trying to fix it accountable. Destroy our economy by gaming the housing market, and we’ll only hold the public who do their job day in and day out accountable by confiscating their future. Forsake the planet for your own political and industrial gain, and you’ll get showered with money and fame beyond all measure. But there’s one entity that holds all accountable for violating her rules—Mother Earth.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Maintaining our NYS environment in bad economic times

 

Many environmental groups challenge our new NYS governor to keep his eyes on our environment.  There are many environmental issues that need to be addressed and many environmental groups that want to help. 

Check out this good encapsulation of our environmental issues and suggestions as to how to solve them:  

green Groups send to-do list to gov. cuomo, nys legislature "12 PROPOSALS INCLUDE:, INVESTING IN SOLAR ENERGY, FIXING BROWNFIELD INCENTIVES & RESTORING ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION FUND (ALBANY, NY)—Public policy, environmental, transportation and energy groups today released a green to-do list for Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Green Memos to the Governor & the State Legislature includes proposals designed to bolster economic development while addressing New York’s high profile environmental challenges, including hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, reducing energy use, and providing resources for the state’s environmental agencies. “During the campaign Governor Cuomo unveiled his big picture vision for protecting New York’s environment. Our Green Memos fills in the blanks with the details and policy proposals that will help the Governor achieve his vision of a ‘cleaner, greener’ New York,” said David Gahl, Policy Director, Environmental Advocates of New York. " (January 13, 2011)  Environmental Advocates of New York

Not every community is ignoring Climate Change:

 

Some communities recognize the dangers of ignoring and dismissing Climate Change and are doing something about it.

We have a great challenge before us: the more imminent the consequences of Climate Change, the more this issue is being ignored by the press and even our President, as he failed to bring it up in his State of Union address. 

A chance has been lost to highlight and education the public on the greatest challenge of our times—an environment changing and moving inexorably towards a tipping point.

Community battles climate change "Two organizations recently launched an energy conservation program this week to show how community efforts can lessen climate change in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Trust and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore staff hope to prevent 165,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere and save Alger County residents about 1.7 million kilowatt hours. " (January 27, 2011)  Great Lakes Echo - Environmental news across the basin

Friday, January 28, 2011

Preparing for Climate Change

 

Because of the massive changes that Climate Change predicts for our area  (List of possible changes to our Rochester-area environment because of Climate Change (Keep checking back, this list is being constantly updated)) it is critical that our local representatives and authorities not only accept this change, but actually know how to adapt to it. 

Our public officials will be held accountable for taking action to protect the public from Climate Change

So, how do our public officials do that?  How does a community prepare for Climate Change?  Check here: 

Climate Adaptation — ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability USA "ICLEI is an international membership association of local governments dedicated to climate protection and sustainable development. The organization was established in 1990 when more than 200 local governments from 43 countries convened at the World Congress of Local Governments for a Sustainable Future, at the United Nations in New York. Established as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, the official name is now ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.  " Local Action Moves the World — ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability USA

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Are major wildlife die-offs common?

 

I suspect that massive bird die-offs like this article (below) describes were common before humanity arrived on the scene, but I cannot imagine that noise or pesticides or other manmade causes were the blame. 

When we start to say that it’s “common” for major catastrophes to occur, we should be careful not to become used to or indifferent to major changes in Wildlife.

It’s common for natural shifts in our environment to result in major wildlife die-offs.  However, human-caused die-offs should not be understood in the same sense that a naturally occurring event is meant. 

If mankind is the cause of major die-off, we need to change our collective behavior.  

Despite 2010 being the year the United Nations hoped to focus the world’s attention on the loss of biodiversity (2010 International Year of Biodiversity) little was done and not even mentioned in our local media.  You would think that major wildlife die-offs would attract public attention and the media, like thousands of birds dropping out of the sky, but it doesn’t.  Humanity can be like a great big buzz saw ripping through our environment with development and pollution and little thought is given to its affect on wildlife, plants, and our future.   To equate human-caused die-off with natural die-offs is a dangerous delusion about our role in our environment.

USGS Release: Wildlife Die-Offs are Relatively Common, Recent Bird Deaths Caused by Impact Trauma (1/10/2011 4:51:01 PM) "Large wildlife die-off events are fairly common, though they should never be ignored, according to the U.S. Geological Survey scientists whose preliminary tests showed that the bird deaths in Arkansas on New Year’s Eve and those in Louisiana were caused by impact trauma. Preliminary findings from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center's Arkansas bird analyses suggest that the birds died from impact trauma, and these findings are consistent with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's statement. The State concluded that such trauma was probably a result of the birds being startled by loud noises on the night of Dec. 31, arousing them and causing them to fly into objects such as houses or trees. Scientists at the USGS NWHC performed necropsies—the animal version of an autopsy—on the birds and found internal hemorrhaging, while the pesticide tests they conducted were negative. Results from further laboratory tests are expected to be completed in 2-3 weeks. " Welcome to the USGS - U.S. Geological Survey

Monday, January 24, 2011

Environmental Story that should be on our radar

 

Thought I do not know the actual state of the Rochester, NY region’s water infrastructure, this is a monumental country-wide issue: our crumbling water infrastructure.  Repairing decades old water pipes that take water in and out of our communities is critical. 

Climate Change, which will deliver more extreme weather like flooding, will create events in which massive amounts of raw sewage will be released into our drinking water sources—because our crumbling waste water systems won’t be able to handle them.  

Despite our poor economy and the other myriad of financial problems are communities are facing, this problem cannot be ignored.   

Video - Breaking News Videos from CNN.com - America's crumbling water infrastructure "A water main breaks in the U.S. every two minutes. Alison Kosik looks at what is -- and isn't -- being done about it. " CNN.com - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Don’t feed black bears because they are important—I think.

 

There isn’t much news coming out of the New York State Department of Environmental Information (DEC) lately, except this news about not feeding the bears.

Feeding black bears now prohibited statewide” (January 21, 2011) Home - Canandaigua, NY

This is strange because lots of people being have been fired and let go at the DEC lately. There will probably more cuts coming up with the governor’s new job cuts, but little about all that even though the up-and-coming gas drilling will need a lot of DEC personnel to monitor hydrofracking.

So, while black bears are leading their agenda over there at DEC, let’s ask: Why are bears important? Except for harvesting then (shooting them))and taking photos of them, what purpose do bears serve our environment, now that humanity is the top dog in our environment and we’ve killed off most of the bears in NYS? We don’t eat them. There’s not enough of them to make their seed dispersal (via droppings) worth mentioning. So, aren’t they just lucky we’re letting them roam around and produce news stories (last year was filled with bear sightings, see Glut of bear sightings around Rochester, NY - Rochester Environmental News | Examiner.com) anyway?

Of course I’m being facetious, but shouldn’t it also be the role of the DEC to let the public know what role bears play in our environment—besides something magnificent to shoot? Bears help shape what is now our environment, but do they play an important role anymore? If so, what is it?

Not going to find that info here:

Black Bear - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation Feeding of Black Bears is Prohibited in New York  "Feeding of Black Bears is Prohibited in New York DEC has adopted a rule prohibiting the deliberate and intentional feeding of black bears. The incidental, indirect feeding of black bears also is unlawful after a written warning has been issued by the department. For details, read the Black Bear Feeding Regulations and the Summary of Public Comment (PDF 347 kB). Learn More about Living With New York Black Bears The recently produced video, "Living with New York Black Bears" explores the history of black bears, the challenges that face New York bear biologists, and how landowners can responsibly and safely share their neighborhood with bears. The video is available at most local libraries, high school and college libraries throughout the State, or at your local DEC regional wildlife office. "

Friday, January 21, 2011

Taking a step back on Climate Change

 

Why is it the greater the proof and peril of Climate Change, the more the United States retreats into fanaticism and ideology?  When Climate Change talks recently have failed, you’d think the US would relish the ability to do something about the greatest threat to humanity: manmade climate Change. 

But we have faction in our country whose belief system doesn’t allow for physics and a healthy environment.  Will they be held accountable for stalling effort to address Climate Change?  Probably not. 

When the worst and most immediate effects—drastic weather, sea level rise, and change of growing seasons—those stalling our efforts to address Climate Change will probably blame those who tried to address Climate Change of some silly charge—because admitting that they were wrong is not in their game plan.  It’s how they do. 

With health care 'repealed,' GOP turns to climate change | McClatchy WASHINGTON — Now that the House of Representatives has voted to repeal the health care law, Republicans say they're likely to move soon to another target — a rewrite of the Clean Air Act so that it can't be used to fight climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency in December said it would draw up performance standards that would help cut heat-trapping gases produced by refineries and coal-fired power plants. The EPA hasn't proposed the specifics yet, and existing plants wouldn't be affected until the later years of the decade, but opponents of regulation aren't waiting. (January 20, 2011)  McClatchy | Homepage

Caving in: Is the minority ruling against renewable energy for Rochester, NY?

 

Why, when 68% of Monroe County voters approve of off-shore wind power in Lake Ontario, does the Monroe County legislature oppose it?

Majority of Monroe County legislators oppose state's wind farm plan The New York Power Authority continues to consider proposals to build offshore wind turbines, but a majority of Monroe County legislators have now gone on record opposing the idea. The Power Authority, an independent arm of state government, solicited proposals in 2009 from the private sector to build one or more wind farms in the near-shore waters of Lake Ontario or Lake Erie. Five proposals were submitted last June, and authority officials have been studying them since then. Officials have refused to reveal any information about the proposals.” (January 19, 2011) Democrat and Chronicle

Is it politics? Is it the media’s inability to frame this renewable option to the public coherently? Has the fossil fuel industry effectively prodded the government to not act in its own (and their constituents’) best interest? Are our Monroe County Legislature and the media caving into a small number of shoreline communities who happened to have an unfair (location, location, location) advantage on this matter?

“But opposition has surfaced in a number of shoreline communities, with county lawmakers in Wayne, Oswego, Jefferson and Chautauqua counties coming out against the idea.” (January 19, 2011) Democrat and Chronicle

Our lakes, the Finger Lakes and the Great Lakes, are not private swimming pools of the few; they are a natural resource for all citizens. The rage against off-shore wind turbines by shoreline property owners is hard to understand as anything but a NIMBY (not in my backyard) issue. If the concerns were environmental concerns, these groups would be fighting tooth and nail against the myriad of serious environmental problems with our lakes. If you care, take a moment and review the news and reports about the tragic state of our Great Lakes from just the last twelve years: Great Lakes | Rochester, NY Perspective | RochesterEnvironment.com—which include invasive species, fish diseases, phosphate pollution, warming waters due to Climate Change, sewage from overworked waste treatment plants, and much more.

Besides, the New York State Power Authority (NAPA) has addressed the environmental concerns in depth on this page: Great Lakes Offshore Wind (GLOW) Myths vs facts

Let me be clear: I am not against or being dismissive towards shoreline property owners and their concerns about placing wind turbines off-shore from their homes. I lived near the shores of a Finger Lake for 15 years. I am concerned about the disproportional influence these groups have in deciding on a major renewable energy source for our region.

We have to ask ourselves: How are we weighing critical environmental decisions like whether to develop renewable energy in a time of Climate Change? There is no shortage of facts flying about as to why we should or should not place off-shore wind turbines in our region. But what principles are we using to judge so important a matter? The most important issue (the elephant in the room) should be the most discussed and pivotal to this decision—Climate Change. But it isn’t even mentioned in the media as a consideration. Tragically, we cannot have a full and complete conversation about off-shore wind power here, or anywhere in the United States, even though wind power (together with conservation and battery storage) could make a substantial contribution to reducing greenhouse gases.

Our local media is obsessed with why the New York State Power Authority isn’t saying exactly where the off-shore wind projects will be placed.

“Some lakeside counties and communities want to know exactly where the proposed projects - the NYPA could select some, all, or none of the proposals - would be located. But NYPA officials say they aren't releasing details yet because the review is a competitive process and they want to be fair.” (January 18, 2011) ENERGY: Offshore wind proposals still under review - - Rochester City Newspaper

While this may be important to shoreline property owners, the media doesn’t include this: When we stop efforts to develop wind power In NYS, here are your energy choices (as of 2003):

“…nuclear 29%, oil 12%, solid waste 1%, solar 1%, wind 1%, biomass 1%, hydropower 17%, coal 18%, natural gas 22%... “ AskPSC - NY's Green Power Program

Those who don’t want wind turbines because they mar the beauty and naturalness of a lake don’t understand that Climate Change will dramatically alter water levels, increase invasive species, change all the fauna and flora in and around our lakes.

So if you don’t choose wind power or solar, you choose by default natural gas (which will involve hydrofracking, possibly contaminating our water sources, and warming up the planet because it’s a fossil fuel; coal (which is destroying other community’s mountain tops, seriously warming up the planet, and polluting our atmosphere with particulates and heavy metals like mercury); hydroelectric (which dams up our waters and negatively impacts fish life); nuclear (which is so dangerous and expensive that it’s the bane of most bankers); or biofuels (which, though easily accommodated by our existing engines and less polluting than fossil fuels, still warms up the planet and would better be used to enrich our soil, from whence it came).

Our Power Authority does not have the luxury of not providing us with power. They have to by law. And the public is not going to opt for no power. And New York State has a goal of greatly increasing renewable energy:

“A Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a policy that seeks to increase the proportion of renewable electricity used by retail customers. New York has adopted an aggressive goal of obtaining 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015 – referred to as 30 x15.” NYSERDA - The New York Renewable Portfolio Standard

Our elected officials and power authorities do not have the luxury of not addressing Climate Change and protecting our environment. They must protect our water infrastructure, for example, when as predicted by Climate Change; there will be more extreme weather events like flooding which will put raw sewage into our waters when they are overwhelmed. The only people who have the luxury of denying Climate Change are the Climate Change deniers who likely will never be held responsible for the climate change they help to unleash.

The Monroe County legislature should be listening to everyone on off-shore wind power in our region and properly weighing their decisions using both facts and environmental principals (physics) in a time of rapid Climate Change. Meanwhile, the public (yes, our regional public) has a moral responsibility for future generations to evaluate the serious arguments on Climate Change.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Focusing on nuclear power

 

Although our region is fighting off-shore wind as a major renewable energy source and our local media presents little of the on-going news about regional issues with nuclear power, there’s much reason for concern. 

Nuclear power, which to many people may seem like a real solution to our energy needs and curbing greenhouse gases, is not benign or cheap.  Our media fails to focus on the real and present danger nuclear power presents.

One of the concerns, besides the how to store spend nuclear material, or possible terrorist attacks, or serious accidents, are the reluctance of the media to thoroughly investigate safety at our nuclear plants, and the reluctance by nuclear power plant personnel to be open with all that goes on with these power plants.  (Not to mention that the costs of building a new nuclear power plant often go wildly beyond their estimates.) 

We the public tend to think about nuclear power is that it has problems like any other power sources.  Drilling for gas and oil can contaminate our waters, wind turbines can kill birds, coal mines cave in, and on and on until it all burrs into a cloudy haze of mindless fears. 

But, nuclear power accidents are an (admittedly rare) occurrence that is a factor of danger far beyond a blade fall off a wind turbine.  Your property might look the same after a nearby nuclear accident, but you won’t be able to go back to it.  Learn more:   

West Valley's legacy: teachable moments for other nuclear cleanups | Innovation Trail "Unlike other nuclear failures like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, West Valley Reprocessing Plant in New York never became a household name. But even though it was open for only six years in the late 1960s, the plant has polluted soil, air, and water - and may have sickened employees. Ever since then hundreds of workers have been decontaminating the property, and there's no end in sight for West Valley’s story. " (January 6, 2011) Innovation Trail

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How do you preserve and protect our flora and fauna when Climate Change rules?

 

This is going to be a major question for environmental groups, agencies of the government, and everyone who has been trying to protect our environment. 

Our environment as we know it is changing so much and so quickly that it is going to be very difficult to determine what keeping it at a sustainable state will mean as further changes from Climate Change occur.  In other words, how does an agency responsible for keeping our parks healthy do their job if Climate Change is going to change rapidly all the plants and animals in that park anyway? 

What many might have thought of as a static environment, where we just maintained our natural areas (those that are left) and that was that, doesn’t make sense anymore. 

Check out this short paper from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:  

Dandelions and Climate Change: Lessons from Your Front Lawn U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of International Conservation, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Virginia 22203  "Now that premise, a central tenet of the protected areas system, is no longer valid. The vagaries of climate change are such that despite our best efforts, what a particular parcel of natural landscape will look like but a few decades from now is anyone’s guess. Instability and uncertainty are the new driving forces when it comes to land management. Such forces create habitats most suitable to r-selection strategies. How does the conservation community adopt an r-selection strategy? Rather simply on paper, but not easily in practice. An r-selection conservation strategy would involve hedging our bets with regard to protected areas " Scientific Journals -

You’re going to see more Climate Change news like this story from Charlotte, NC

 

As the consequences of Climate Change kick in they are going to be so obvious and continual that we will be wondering how anyone could have denied them.  The truth is that rising sea levels are going to wreak havoc on communities near oceans—and a large part of humanity resides there.  

So while the majority of our public still is on the fence about the validity of Climate Change, those who live near our oceans and their public officials who will be held accountable for public safety will not be on the fence.  For many, and an increasing amount of people being affected right now on Climate Change, they will not be on the fence.   

Rising waters threaten the coast of North Carolina - CharlotteObserver.com "MANNS HARBOR The sea that sculpted North Carolina's coast, from its arc of barrier islands to the vast, nurturing sounds, is reshaping it once again. Water is rising three times faster on the N.C. coast than it did a century ago as warming oceans expand and land ice melts, recent research has found. It's the beginning of what a N.C. science panel expects will be a 1-meter increase by 2100. " (January 16, 2011) The Charlotte Observer

Monday, January 17, 2011

Recycling and ‘going green’ aren’t a fad

 

Survey’s or not, the public should get on board with the habit of recycling.  Buying environmental friendly goods and disposing of them properly is a necessity.  Not just a moral necessity, but a necessary behavior so that our way of life can survive. This survey  shows that less American are ‘going green’ (who knows how accurate it is?).  This should not be a warning that ‘going green’ isn’t worth it? Quite the reverse.  If this survey is a warning about anything, it should be a warning to government and businesses that the public needs to be better educated as the state our environment is in.   

Harris Interactive: Press Releases > Environmental Advocacy Grows Stronger for LGBT Americans  “As more Americans take steps to understand and protect the environment, there now appear to be widening gaps in attitudes between LGBT Americans and their heterosexual counterparts. For instance, one in three (35%) LGBT adults state that the self-label of "environmentalist" describes their identities completely or very well, when contrasted with just 15% of heterosexuals who believe this self-label fits themselves that same way.”

Somehow we have to deal with American exceptionalism that somehow Americans don’t have to consider environmental degradation.  We are in large part causing much of the Climate Change and pollution and energy use on this planet.  Americans need as consumers to take responsibility for their behavior towards our environment.  

One way to understand what I’m writing about it to watch this incredibly insightful film about taking responsibility for how we live: The Fever (2004) - IMDb “Tells the story of a woman who gets involved in politics with no previous contact with world events.”  The main character begins to understand at a visceral level that how she lives affects others living conditions. Read on: 

"Green" losing its glow? | Resource Recycling "Fewer Americans are "going green" according to the results of a new survey, by Harris Interactive. The survey of 2,352 adults found that fewer reported making lifestyle changes to protect the environment compared with the results of a similar poll in 2009. Just one in three respondents expressed support for conserving the environment, compared to two in five adults the previous year. " Resource Recycling

Friday, January 14, 2011

Unintended consequence of Climate Change

 

This story about how the spread of a hantavirus that is killing our forest highlights a very hunting aspect of Climate Change.  There are a lot of possible consequences of Climate Change that our scientists know are possible—and they are many

However, that may only be a fraction of what will actually happen because of Climate Change.  Only human hubris would keep us from avoiding Climate Change because we think we can handle a little warming up.  But Climate Change is far more complicated than that.  Check out this critical article:

Deadly Virus Tied to Decline of Aspens - NYTimes.com "Around 2004, large numbers of aspens in the West began dying off, and with no immediately identifiable cause, scientists dubbed the phenomenon “sudden aspen decline.” Ultimately the die-back was pinned on a severe 2002 drought and heat wave that left aspens vulnerable to pests, cankers and fungi. Now, a new study suggests that the decline of the West’s aspens is not just marring the landscape, but also helping to spread a strain of hantavirus fatal to humans. The spread of hantavirus among mice in the wake of the aspen die-offs should already be considered an “unintended consequence of climate change,” Dr. Lehmer said. She noted that other studies have shown an increase in human hantavirus infections in Germany during years of above-average warmth. " (February 13, 2011) The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How will Climate Change affect our region’s Water Quality?

 

Fresh clean drinking water is critical to our existence.  Current and thorough information about how the warmer atmosphere and increased rainfall and intensity and frequency of our area’s rainfall will affect our waters. Water Quality issues, I suspect, are going to be one of the most immediate and critical consequences of how Climate Change reveals itself in our region. 

The Rochester, NY area includes several of the Finger Lakes, Lake Ontario (last in water flow before the St. Lawrence River) of the Great Lakes, the Genesee River, and many other ponds and streams.  It’s quite a number of water bodies where higher temperatures, increase or decreased rainfall, and extreme weather events like floods will have a profound impact. 

We need a way to stay constantly informed on how our water is going to be affected by Climate Change so that the public and our officials can monitor it correctly.

An Overview of Possible Changes in Regional Climate and Hydrology "In general, nearly all studies focused on the Northeastern US have estimated that on average annual streamflow should change little (Hayhoe et al. 2007, Neff et al. 2000, Frei 2002).Additionally, these studies project increased late winter and spring flows and a shift in the timing of spring snowmelt. This means that even if there is more annual streamflow, it may be distributed unevenly over the year, with lower flows in the late summer and autumn, and higher flows in the late winter and spring. This temporal shift in flow magnitudes has already been observed in stream records, as noted above. " New York State Water Resources Institute - Home

Climate Change: Mom’s on the roof!

 

The great issue for the media should be getting the message out to the public that our environment is in serious trouble. That is problematic because Climate Change and pollution don’t’ sell well, and they are out of the public’s comfort zone.   However, as John Dewey said, “The media’s job is to interest the public in the public interest.” No matter that the more you learn about Climate Change the more troublesome it gets. Ignoring the inevitable repercussions of Climate Change is an irrational attitude towards a concrete danger.

What I am sensing is that many who are trying to communicate about the looming Climate Change disaster are also preparing themselves for the inevitable—little or no action. That is because despite the vast accumulation of data and close observations behind this environmental issue, there is little public interest in addressing it. People just don’t want to hear about it. Few consider our environment and Climate Change when they vote, when they use energy, purchase goods, or think much about it at all.

But what is the point of being the largest-brained creature on Earth and being the most intelligent species if we cannot distinguish serious catastrophic issues from nonsense?  We are buying bigger gas-guzzlers instead of changing the way we move around. Was the only reason we went to school and institutions of higher learning to make money and employ every intellectual trick to convince ourselves that the world is indeed exactly the way we want it to be—a nice place where eventually everyone will have a car, a house, and all the gadgets they want?  That’s not going to happen in present day physics. We live on a finite planet with finite resources.

In a recent article in Nature News, it is suggested that Climate Change communicators should note “…persuasion is most effective when it matches a person's belief systems ...”

“Undermining belief in a fair world may mean that climate warnings go unheeded. The use of dire predictions to encourage action on climate change may be backfiring and increasing doubt that greenhouse gases from human activities are causing global warming.” (January 4, 2011) Why dire climate warnings boost scepticism : Nature News

So, the trick some psychologists suggest is to tell folks disturbing stuff like Climate Change in such a way that targeted audiences will be comfortable with it.  (I wonder how our ancestors dealt with critical information, like being attacked by a saber-toothed tiger. Did they lament, just before being devoured, that this tiger was being just so unfair?) One has to wonder how something as real and life-changing as the consequences of Climate Change can be communicated in such a way as to be received and acted upon by a public whose worldview doesn’t include science.


There is the old joke about two brothers: Bob, who has been watching his brother’s cat while Tim has been on vacation, tells his brother Tim that his cat died. “What!” cries Tim?  “I cannot believe you just blurted out that my favorite cat died, no warning, so heartless, I cannot believe this...” and making such a fuss that Bob feels very bad.  So, Bob says, “I’m sorry, what should I have said?” Tim says that Bob should have let him know gently.  “You should have told me a week ago that the cat was on the roof and he fell.” “Then, when I called again, you should have said, I took Fluffy to the animal hospital and they’re going to operate.” “Then, the next time you should have said that they tried everything they could over at the hospital, but it didn’t look good.”  “And, finally when you told me he just didn’t pull through, I would have been able to accept it.”  Bob hangs his head and nods, realizing just how abrasive and mean blurting out to his brother the death of his cat had been.  Finally, feeling that he got his message through, Tim tells Bob he forgives him.  “Oh, by the way, how’s Mom?” asks Tim.  Bob says, “Mom’s on the roof.” 


The truth is that there is no special psychological or marketing trick to convince the majority of the public, who do not believe that Climate Change is happening, that it is. It’s physics. We’ve been tossing greenhouse gases into the air for quite awhile now and that makes the atmosphere warm-up—and it’s warming up rapidly. Let’s just deal with it by adopting measures to curb greenhouse gases and preparing for the possible consequences. Not facing it because it doesn’t match a fantasy world that doesn’t exist is suicidal.

Check out this incredibly clear explanation of this problem on this online video from the experts:

“The scientific community has long agreed that our dependence on fossil fuels inflicts massive damage on the environment and our health, while warming the globe in the process. But beyond the damage these fuels cause to us now, what will happen when the world's supply of oil runs out?” http://www.thenation.com/video/157441/peak-oil-and-changing-climate

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Climate Change accountability in public office

 

One of the issues that are going to be taken on in the next Congress are the Climate Change debates.  This is great.  There absolutely should be debates about how our country will work in concert (as this is a global rapidly occurring issue) with other countries on how to combat Climate Change. 

But it seems that that is not what our political leaders are going to be discussing.  They are going to be ‘debating’ as to whether Climate Change is occurring and whether we should divert any public monies to this issue. 

“The report could inflame debate about global warming at a time when Republicans are pushing to roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas regulations.”  (January 11, 2011) E2-Wire - The Hill's E2-Wire

There’s no other word for this state of affairs: this is ‘Looney.” 

While this debate about whether Climate Change has been occurring on the Internet and in the basement of Climate Change deniers, scientists around the world have been gathering data, proving that there is a very good chance that Climate Change is occurring, occurring quickly, and there will be (and is) consequences. 

There is enough information to ‘move’ on this issue. 

That our Congress will be wasting its time going back over the facts gathered about Climate Change in an attempt to stall and perhaps reverse our country’s response to Climate Change is horrific. 

It’s horrific because not only is Climate Change happening, but our public officials should be acting to protect and inform the public on this issue:  Instead Congress is going to debate whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and our government should bother with this issue. 

Our public officials don’t have the luxury of debating Climate Change anymore.  They are accountable. 

Every issue our political leaders address from now on should be addressed in the context of Climate Change because our environment is shifting towards a warmer place—everywhere.   There’s linkage between water levels, precipitation, transportation, quality of life, economics, home values, all our local ecologies—and Climate Change. 

Not only should the public be insisting that their political leaders curb violent rhetoric, the public should insist that their public officials acknowledge Climate Change and do everything in their powers to address it.  

Climate Change won’t be argued away in Congress; they will be wasting time and money on an Climate Change denial ideology that doesn’t fit reality.  The truth is that when Climate Change changes our environment the public will not ask who had the best argument; they’ll be demanding reparations and accountability. 

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Temperature data could roil climate debates - The Hill's E2-Wire Climate legislation is on ice, but new data about rising temperatures keeps pouring forth. (January 11, 2011)E2-Wire - The Hill's E2-Wire

Monday, January 10, 2011

More Climate Change input

 

This new study on greenhouse gas emitting factors, as all new studies will show I suspect, admits that we don’t know all that we need to know about Climate Change and what forces will be driving it.  It’s going to be complicated. 

This particular study shows that lakes and streams emit greenhouse gases more than suspected.  Of course, those desperate to prove that Climate Change is a fraud will say (and they are) that this study proves that natural forces are responsible for Climate Change not mankind and industrialization.

As I said, Climate Change is complicated.  But, one thing is certain.  Average temperatures are going up

Check out: 

Lakes a big source of climate-warming gas: study: Scientific American "Lakes and rivers emit far more of a powerful greenhouse gas than previously thought, counteracting the overall role of nature in soaking up climate-warming gases, a study showed on Thursday. OSLO (Reuters) - Lakes and rivers emit far more of a powerful greenhouse gas than previously thought, counteracting the overall role of nature in soaking up climate-warming gases, a study showed on Thursday. A review of 474 freshwater systems indicated they emitted methane equivalent to 25 percent of all carbon dioxide -- the main greenhouse gas blamed for stoking climate change -- absorbed by the world's land areas every year. "  (January 9, 2010) Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American

Friday, January 07, 2011

Will our new NYS governor be green?

 

There are encouraging signs that Governor Cuomo will be an environmentally proactive leader. Starting off on Wednesday, in his first State of the State address, Cuomo has put our environment on his main agenda:

"A cleaner, greener environment: Governor Cuomo will create the “NY Cleaner, Greener Communities Program” to provide competitive grants that will encourage communities to develop regional sustainable growth strategies in housing, transportation, emissions control, energy efficiency. The program will emphasize revitalizing urban areas through smart growth, creating green jobs, building green infrastructure including roof and rain gardens, and strengthening environmental justice and protection. “Governor Cuomo Outlines Transformational Plan for a New NY

Grants for many green projects, including green roofs, and especially creating green jobs, will help steer us in the right direction. And, Cuomo has made some new appointments, both to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC):

“North Country officials express confidence in the nomination of Joe Martens as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made the announcement Tuesday, and the reaction here was instant and accepting of a leader many consider thoughtful and capable of assimilating different points of view to garner consensus.” Local leaders applaud Cuomo's DEC decision |January 5, 2011| Press-Republican

Also, Cuomo has been praised for his new choice for NYS Attorney General’s office. The new Attorney General has lost no time on tackling an issue mostly forgotten in our region—Acid Raid.

ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHNEIDERMAN MOVES TO SUE MAJOR PENNSYLVANIA POWER PLANT Homer City Plant Is Largest Out-of-State Contributor of Sulfur Dioxide Pollution to New York; Emits more than double the SO2 emitted by all NY power plants combined Schneiderman Suit Seeks Full Compliance with Clean Air Laws, Including Installation of State-of-the-Art Pollution Controls to Cut Pollution Emissions NEW YORK, NY (January 6, 2011) - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he is taking action to sue a major Pennsylvania electric power plant over multiple violations of the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) at the facility. The plant, Homer City Station, is the largest out-of-state contributor of sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution to New York. The facility emits approximately 100,000 tons of SO2 annually – more than twice as much of this harmful pollutant as all of the power plants operating in New York combined. (January 6, 2011) OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Maybe, those who are concerned about the state of our environment will have as strong an advocate for our environment as NYS Attorney General Elliot Spitzer. Few public officials in my time have shown the leadership and aggressiveness in trying to solve our Air Quality problems as former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

So the new governor is off to a great start, but will he go the distance? There’s going to be a lot his plate, but our environment must be at the top of his concerns. Clearly, the hydrofracking issue will take center stage in the coming month, and there are clear signs that Cuomo is going to stick to Governor Patterson’s latest order to hold off on horizontal hydrofracking:

No. 2 REVIEW, CONTINUATION AND EXPIRATION OF PRIOR EXECUTIVE ORDERS | Governor “Executive Order No. 41, issued December 13, 2010 (Requiring Further Environmental Review of High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale);”

One of the measures the new governor could adopt would be to give some teeth to the updated New York State Department of Conservation’s (DEC) Beyond Waste: A Sustainable Material Management Strategy - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation. The updated plan adopts Zero Waste principles and is good as far as it goes, but it needs enforcement behind it. That is, it is one thing to suggest that we prevent toxic and unnecessary materials from going into our landfills but quite another to strictly enforce rules to prevent it. Without enforcement, few counties will feel compelled to go the extra mile to ensure nothing that can be recycled or reused goes into a landfill.

But looming over all environmental issues in our state (and all states for that matter) will be Climate Change. Though many don’t want to accept it or change their behavior because of it, Climate Change is happening. Here’s a story that came out the same day of the governor’s State of the State address:

Northeast had a broiler of a year in 2010 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports- ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) - As the Northeast hunkers down for winter, hot-weather worshippers can take heart: New Hampshire, Rhode Island and a handful of New England cities from Hartford and Boston to Caribou, Maine, are coming off their warmest year on record. Climatologists at Cornell University say Wednesday that 23 of the 35 cities they monitor in 12 northeastern states had an average temperature in 2010 that ranked among the 10 hottest on record.  (January 5, 2011) WCAX.COM

The sense of urgency about Climate Change must be translated into concrete actions because our public officials will not have the luxury of playing Climate Change denial. As our lakes lose water, invasive species increase, warm-weather diseases increase (like West Nile Virus), water waste infrastructure gets overwhelmed by more flooding, and a whole lot more, the governor is going to have to be ready. Unlike the steady diet of the misinformed and the maddening masses of Climate Change deniers on the net, the governor is accountable for protecting the public. And there may not be much time:

“We calculate that 100 months from 1 August 2008, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will begin to exceed a point whereby it is no longer likely we will be able to avert potentially irreversible climate change. 'Likely' in this context refers to the definition of risk used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to mean that, at that particular level of greenhouse gas concentration, there is only a 66 - 90 per cent chance of global average surface temperatures stabilising at 2º Celsius above pre-industrial levels.1 Once this concentration is exceeded, it becomes more and more likely that we will overshoot a 2º C level of warming. This is the maximum acceptable level of temperature rise agreed by the European Union and others as necessary to retain reasonable confidence of preventing uncontrollable and ultimately catastrophic warming. We also believe this calculation to be conservative.” 100 Months: Technical note

Monday, January 03, 2011

An interesting perspective on Invasive Species

 

What began as an invasive species in our region, the Zebra Mussels, is now very widespread.  It makes one wonder how we choose before they even arrive at our doorstep which invasive species to watch out for and how they will radiate through our environment. 

Some non-native species seem benign and just blend into our environment and I’m sure Climate Change will change our environment so that some non-native species will just do better in our region than native plants and animals that evolved in our region. 

But some non-native species are invasive species that will spread quickly and do colossal damage—meaning we have to recognize them from the beginning and battle them before they get here. 

With Climate Change factored in, I suspect it’s going to be hard and more important that we recognize invasive species like the Zebra Mussel and get to them before they become like this:  

Zebra mussels, scourge of the Great Lakes, invade Texas | McClatchy "LAKE TEXOMA — In a cove on this massive lake on the Texas-Oklahoma border, it doesn't take long to find zebra mussels. Just a few feet from shore, a large rock is covered with them. A quick scan of the shoreline turns up many more. " McClatchy