Thursday, June 30, 2011

Clean beaches are a healthy environment – are we monitoring them sufficiently?

 

A good indicator of an area’s Water Quality is the state of their beaches. How healthy are our beaches and how many of our beaches are we testing? This matters because it takes time and money to test our beaches, and (as the report below states) “Current water quality tests also take 24 hours or more to produce results, so beaches are not closed or placed under advisory until after beachgoers have spent a day swimming in water that did not meet water quality standards.”

Our drinking water gets tested and treated to make sure that it is safe to drink. But, are our beaches tested as rigorously? When you check the beaches in our area in NRDC: Testing the Waters 2011 report you only get the status of one beach.

NRDC: Testing the Waters 2011 “NRDC's annual survey of water quality and public notification at U.S. beaches finds that the number of beach closings and advisories in 2010 reached 24,091 — the second-highest level since NRDC began tracking these events 21 years ago, confirming that our nation's beaches continue to suffer from bacterial pollution that puts swimmers at risk.” NRDC: Natural Resources Defense Council - The Earth's Best Defense

We have more beaches. Should we have extensive reports on all the beaches in our area for public review? Over the years, over the decades, we have put a lot of pollution—human and industrial waste—into our waters. Shouldn’t we be able to check to be sure that our children who swim in our beaches are swimming are safe?

Ohio has on online system where the public can continually check their beaches:

Ohio BeachGuard System “Ohio conducts a monitoring and notification program of selected public and semi-private beaches located along the Ohio/Lake Erie border. The purpose of beach monitoring is to test the water quality of the state’s swimming beach waters and to notify the public whenever bacteria levels present a potential health risk to those engaged in water activities. Beach Guard provides data on advisories as well as monitoring activity.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

If your media isn’t grilling GOP candidates on Climate Change, change your media!

 

The GOP has successfully turned the media from discussing a budgetary crisis that they caused with tax cuts and wars to one where Obama gets the blame. All the time, while the Climate Change crisis is off the table. Not only is the GOP able to manipulate the press into believing there is still doubt about human-driven Climate Change, but the GOP cleared it from being one of the major issues the press calls them on.

GOP presidential hopefuls dance around climate change - CSMonitor.com John McCain was an early and persistent supporter of cap-and-trade efforts to reduce the greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide) associated with climate change. So was Newt Gingrich, who went on to make a YouTube video ad – with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, no less – where he said, “Our country must take action to address climate change.” Now, Republican presidential hopefuls seem to be racing in the opposite direction – disavowing their past support for policy measures on climate – even any sense that there’s a problem to be addressed. (June 19, 2011) The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com

How does this work? The planet is warming; our politicians are responsible for polices to address Climate Change so we can adapt to it and mitigate it from getting worse; but one of the major political parties doesn’t want to address it because it doesn’t fit into their ideology; so, the biggest crisis of our generation goes away. Sounds a bit fishy to me.

I’m not the only one thinking this way. We need to get Climate Change into our political discussions:

'Green' positions on climate change can help all candidates, survey finds — Environmental Health News “A new national survey has found that by taking a “green position” on climate, candidates of either party can gain the votes of some citizens while not alienating others. Voters tend to favor candidates who believe that humans have contributed to global warming and that the nation should take action, according to Stanford University’s poll.” (June 29, 2011) Environmental Health News

Weather and Climate Change, time to connect the dots



There is no way we should be watching a weather program that doesn’t include Climate Change.  Meteorologists tended not to equate extreme weather events with Climate Change back in the day and still a sizeable number of meteorologists don’t believe Climate Change is happening.  Read Hot Air : CJR “Why don’t TV weathermen believe in climate change?” Columbia Journalism Review  This is occurring despite  overwhelming evidence that extreme weather events and Climate Change are connected:   


Storm Warnings: Extreme Weather Is a Product of Climate Change: Scientific American "More violent and frequent storms, once merely a prediction of climate models, are now a matter of observation. Part 1 of a three-part series | In North Dakota the waters kept rising. Swollen by more than a month of record rains in Saskatchewan, the Souris River topped its all time record high, set back in 1881. The floodwaters poured into Minot, North Dakota's fourth-largest city, and spread across thousands of acres of farms and forests. More than 12,000 people were forced to evacuate. Many lost their homes to the floodwaters. Yet the disaster unfolding in North Dakota might be bringing even bigger headlines if such extreme events hadn't suddenly seemed more common. In this year alone massive blizzards have struck the U.S. Northeast, tornadoes have ripped through the nation, mighty rivers like the Mississippi and Missouri have flowed over their banks, and floodwaters have covered huge swaths of Australia as well as displaced more than five million people in China and devastated Colombia. And this year's natural disasters follow on the heels of a staggering litany of extreme weather in 2010, from record floods in Nashville, Tenn., and Pakistan, to Russia's crippling heat wave. (June 28, 2011) Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American

Sitting in front of your favorite weather person who is actively denying the most important issue of this century and not connecting the dots is not simply a lifestyle decision.  It’s blinding yourself to the day-to-day evidence that the predictions of Climate Change are occurring.  There is no doubt, Climate Change is warming our planet and it is human caused. 

Global Warming Continues as Greenhouse Gas Grows - ABC News The world's climate is not only continuing to warm, it's adding heat-trapping greenhouse gases even faster than in the past, researchers said Tuesday. Indeed, the global temperature has been warmer than the 20th century average every month for more than 25 years, they said at a teleconference.  (June 28, 2011) ABCNews.com: Breaking News, Politics, World News, Good Morning America, Exclusive Interviews - ABC News [more on Climate Change in our area]
We cannot go on with a large percent of our population blissfully ignoring Climate Change by only watching weather reports that does not include Climate Change.  

The public needs accurate information on our environment, not ideology shaped as science.  Sure, it’s going to be difficult to connect specific extreme weather events with Climate Change, but meteorologists need to include Climate Change predictions in their reports.  

This is critical because what’s happening is that the public occasionally reads an article that says the recent extreme events are caused by Climate Change, but every day they watch weather reports that ignore the relationship altogether.  The public becomes confuse and don’t act in their own best interest when they vote, when they buy goods, or when they heat their house.  There is one way to solve that; switch channels.   

Monday, June 27, 2011

Active Transportation attitudes in Rochester, NY

 

There is a transformation occurring on active transportation (mostly walking and bicycling) attitudes in the Rochester, NY region, but we’re still waiting for the tipping point. The tipping point will occur when both vehicle drivers and active transportation folks actually share the road, and obtain ‘complete streets’:

“Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind - including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.” Complete Streets

Many in our region want active transportation to happen:

Riding into the future: Bicycle master plans encourage two-wheeled travel around Rochester “The city wants to make it easier for people … to hop on a bike rather than in a car. It has begun implementing its Bicycle Master Plan, as much a mindset as it is a blueprint for creating a bicycle-friendly community. (June 23, 2011) Democrat and Chronicle

I believe, as chair of the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club’s Transportation Committee, that we here in Rochester can pass the tipping point and have active transportation become a major component of our transportation options. You can get a whiff of that movement from this report:

Bikes in High Demand this Summer” R Community Bikes' volunteers are having trouble keeping up with an increase in demand for bikes. The non-profit is on track to give away 100 more bikes than last year. The group gave away 1,300 bikes in 2009, 2,400 in 2010 and they're still getting inundated.” (June 2011) RochesterHomePage

We have an incredible amount of trails that help close the distance between streets and destinations, making it easier and safer to walk and bike to important destinations. We have bicycle groups, enthusiasts, universities, public health departments, and transportation authorities who all want to make our citizens healthier and reduce the negative effects of our present transportation system. A major government report emphasizes the importance of this matter:

“… a factor in rising obesity rates is a sedentary lifestyle and automobile dependence; 60 percent of Americans do not meet minimum daily exercise requirements. Making cities more walkable and bikeable would thus have multiple benefits: improved personal fitness and weight loss; U.S. Global Change Research Program 98 Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States reduced local air pollution and associated respiratory illness; and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.” (Global Climate Change Impacts in the US (2009) page 97).

However, no amount of enforcement, education, and engineering can move us beyond the tipping point if the public, in and out of their cars, doesn’t change its attitudes. What are some of the attitudes blocking our way to the tipping point?

  • Many environmentalists who do not ride bicycles themselves fail to grasp the profound implications of our local transportation, which accounts for the release of 27% of greenhouse gases, and thus fail to join the movement for active transportation. Moving a large component of those who now drive their gas guzzlers for short distances to active transportation alternatives would accomplish a sizeable quotient of their goals—combating Climate Change in our region, improving our air quality, and making us healthier.
  • Our media reports on the occasional collisions involving walkers and bicyclists, but won’t take a moment from their agenda to remind the public that bicyclists have a legal right to be on the roads—and how to do that safely. Imagine the change in attitudes that would occur if mainstream media put out 30-second reminders each day that our streets, which all of us pay for, can be navigated safely if we all followed the rules. Believe me, there are organizations that will help the media find things to fill those 30-second spots.
  • Bicyclist should be more aware of their profile on and off our streets. When a bicyclist fails to understand the rules of the road, they frustrate and annoy drivers by suddenly appearing in places drivers do not expect. Speeding down the sidewalk behind pedestrians who cannot possibly hear their silent machines often startles those who would otherwise love to share their space. The bicycle community should see the big picture, that Climate Change is really occurring, and their passion should be embraced as a major solution to it.
  • Drivers must respect the right and the vulnerability of those not (at the moment) in their vehicles. Our vehicles, which are polluting our atmosphere, are not only costing us a sustainable future, they are absorbing much of our earnings— car costs, taxes for road and bridge repair and snowplowing, insurance, car repairs, inspections—you name it. Add on the distractions we enjoy while driving (radios, texting, cell phones, GPS’s, and that coffee we’re drinking) to a negative attitude towards someone on a bike or walking, and it makes for an unsettling environment.

Last weekend, while biking along the canal, I got talking to a couple who have been bicycling across the country for seven months about their experiences (Nomads — Benson and Ashleigh's Bicycling Adventure). Some communities, they said, were very bicycle-friendly and some that purported to be friendly were not so much. Attitudes of drivers in communities they passed through made a big difference in the safety and quality of their travels. Here’s one of their ideas about improving community attitudes towards bicycling: in some communities, the bicycling community takes on the responsibility of policing themselves by reminding each other to obey the traffic signals. How close are we to that?

Here’s why there’s so much hope about our region’s commitment to active transportation. Recently, there was a major conference on how to make our community a better place to ride and walk: The Greater Rochester Active Transportation Symposium, check it out: Rochester Cycling Alliance: Active Transportation Symposium:

Walk, Bike, Smile, Thrive: a report on the first Greater Rochester Active Transportation Symposium. By Jon Schull, Ph.D. Interim Director, RIT Center for Student Innovation, and Scott MacRae, M.D. Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Flaum Eye Institute, University of Rochester. Walking and biking is good for your health, good for your state of mind, and good for Rochester. And it’s about to get better. more...

Our community leaders, our educators, our universities, our public health officials, our governmental officials, and even our grant writers want us to get over the tipping point and become as bicycle-friendly as the platinum winners of the League of American Bicyclists * Bicycle Friendly America. We need to remember that this push to increase bicycles use is not limited to Rochester, as many communities have successfully taken on their vehicle dominated culture and achieved a synergy of safe and healthy motion in their communities.

How do we get beyond the tipping point, where a majority changes their attitudes? Here are some of my recommendations:

  • We go into neighborhoods and talk about bicycle boulevards, which are now in the City of Rochester’s Bicycle Master Plan.
  • We educate continually about riding safely in our streets and obeying the rules.
  • We remind bicyclists, pedestrians, and vehicle drivers that the existing rules can keep us safe if we take a moment to observe them.
  • Report on those who are not obeying our laws, thus increasing enforcement’s awareness of specific issues. A cell phone and a license plate number can deliver a reckless driver a powerful message.
  • Encourage our communities, via neighborhood associations, to help ensure that they have an active transportation network, which will probably increase the value of their homes.
  • Remind bicyclists how quiet and fast they are, so oftentimes their movements startle pedestrians and vehicle owners. Get the proper lighting, know the turn signals, wear a helmet, and obey the rules of the road. If you look and act as if you know how to bicycle through our streets, drivers will be more likely to respect you.

Sure, few of us would actually give up our vehicles and just walk and bicycle in the Rochester area—though some do. But I leave you with this thought: for all that elegant insularity that our cars give us, we are paying a very high environmental, health, and economic price. We can do something about that; we could be changing our attitudes and moving towards a planet that will be sustainable.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fishing in the Great Lakes, how’s that working out for you?

 

You’d think that the health of the fish in our Great Lakes would be a primary concern to the public—even in these lean budgetary times.  Fish in the Great Lakes are changing and dwindling in population. 

Climate Change is going to change the fish populations because of warming waters (some fish like the Brown Trout are finicky about water temperatures) and many of the lakes invasive species are going to multiply. 

Maybe over the span of time, in our lifetimes, or since the Europeans came to these shores, we’ve not noticed the incredible changes in a short span of time how the fish in the Great Lakes are changing—not in a good way.  Besides making a living by commercial fishing and sport fishing, fish are an excellent indicator of the overall health of the Great Lakes. 

And, things are not going so well.  Read:

The Environment Report: The Shrinking Commercial Fishing Industry "Today we begin a series called: "Swimming Upstream." It's about one of Michigan's most valuable natural resources: fish. These slimy, scaly water dwellers contribute to the ecology of the Great Lakes, our economy, and, of course, our dinner plate. Other than tribal fisherman, only about 50 people hold commercial fishing licenses in the state. Bill Petersen estimates that the number used to be a thousand. " (June 23, 2011) The Environment Report: Home

Friday, June 24, 2011

International Climate Change deniers Amnesty Day (ICCdAD) – August 1st

 

Sometimes a community gets so sick of the amount of guns on the streets that they offer an amnesty period for illegal gun owners to give up their illegal guns—no questions asked. It’s probably not enforcement’s first choice as a tactic to reduce gun violence, but it might be a chance for both the community and illegal gun owners to cut their losses and get their community cleaned up.

In that way, ICCdAD will offer those who have been dragging down out our collective ability to solve the most important issue of our day, Climate Change, a reprieve. Why do we have to drag this on? All reports and studies that our government officials are using to plan for the future include plans on how to adapt to Climate Change. Our leaders are going to be held accountable for keeping our planet from boiling and that encompasses our water infrastructure, transportation, public health, energy, agriculture, and our ecosystems. They won’t be using the Climate Deniers Handbook to map out power shortages due to surges caused by more air conditioners being used.

Up until August 1st, the media, political pundits, bloggers, politicians, and those die-hard meteorologists can go on as they always have, denying what the rest of us know is more than just a reasonable assumption: our atmosphere is warming up.

After August 1st, those who previously have been in denial will just focus on helping the rest of us put our Climate back on track. We won’t get on their case for sticking to their beliefs long after reason should have kicked in.

Some benefits of an ICCdAD would include:

  • Freeing up our elections from those promoting irrational policies that are crippling our ability to solve this world-wide crisis.
  • Providing the business community a level playing field on being green—it would be science-based not ideology based.
  • Allowing our leaders to combat Climate Change instead of wrestling a stubborn zealotry-which wastes time, money, and puts more carbon dioxide into the pipeline.
  • Giving the media something useful to report, like connecting extreme weather events to Climate Change.

Good grief, we have to do something. Let there be a day of amnesty for those who continually undermine the public’s ability to adapt to and mitigate the consequences of Climate Change. It’s probably not the best tactic, but it could divert our energies from a certain showdown as the evidence piles on that physics, not ideology, runs our planet.

The great thing about ICCdAD is nobody has to do anything. There’s nothing to sign; no list to join, no money to pay; and no punishment. Climate Change deniers can just cut their losses, as any rational debater would, and go forward by helping the rest of us solve a world-wide crisis.

August 1st is a good date because it’s well before the US elections and just at the time mainstream media takes a holiday. Imagine, after August 1st reporters will ask candidates what their actions on solving Climate Change will be.

How do you keep them down at the carbon trough after they’ve seen the Climate Change figures?

 

While the press is agog over the latest GOP candidates who are doing their hardest to say nothing on how to solve Climate Change, the laws of physics march on. And so are our environmental leaders who are calling the rest of us to highlight an impossibly craven attempt to flaunt the warnings of Climate Change and build “a proposed pipeline that would bring tar sands oil, allegedly toxic, from Canada to the United States.” Check it out:

Environmental Leaders Call for Civil Disobedience to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline by Naomi Klein, Wendell Berry, Maude Barlow, Bill McKibben and Others, Dear Friends, This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age—it’s serious stuff. The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will likely get you arrested.” (June 23, 2011) Common Dreams

At a recent meeting I had with other folks concerned about Climate Change and the lack of interest by the public, it reminded me that I am not alone in my amazement. At this point in time when humanity is clearly faced with the most incredible crisis of our times, where we are quickly warming up our atmosphere to record heights, hardly anyone besides a relative few seem to notice. That’s odd.

It’s not odd that a few are concerned about a problem that most are ignoring—that goes on all the time. What’s odd is that the information about Climate Change is not only clear and compelling, but our government officials, our transportation authorities, our health departments, and all who are responsible for helping us to adapt to Climate Change are working on that. They are not acting as if Climate Change were a myth that only a few care about. They are considering the increased stress on our public health systems, our transportation corridors, our ecologies where the fish species and forests will change, where our agriculture will be heavily impacted by changes in our growing seasons, and especially our energy suppliers who will have to keep our energy systems going during spikes of a million air conditioners trying to keep millions cool in a very hot world. Our public officials don’t have the luxury of ignoring Climate Change—which, by the way, means you shouldn’t vote for anyone not ready to tackle that.

What came from the meeting was an incredible sense of awe at the state we are in: a state where the most critical problem of our existence is of little interest to the public. As noted in the story above, our environmental leaders are taking that on in a march on Washington. Most of them, I am sure, would rather do as the rest of us do, go to work, take care of our families, and chill out when we can.

But how can you stay down at the carbon trough after you’ve seen the Climate Change figures? Just read this simple straightforward report on Climate Change that explains the situation with no hype, and probably accepted by all your present public officials: Climate Change 101: Understanding and Responding to Global Climate Change | Pew Center on Global Climate Change For any of the ‘lowest emissions scenarios’ to occur, where we have a glimmer of a chance of surviving, a vast major of the public is going to have to be focused on Climate Change and change their behavior. And, we aren’t even close on that.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Solar panel leasing for Rochester?

 

We are hearing about some movement in Solar Power for the Rochester, NY area. Not much, compared with the mad rush to frack for natural gas near our borders and put our water in jeopardy and kick up more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Because our county won’t give the solar industry the kind of tax breaks it gives the oil industry (in the billions) we have to hunt and peck for those breaks that do exist for renewable power, like solar power, around here. We just caught this message about a limited program where Solar Liberty’ will install a 25 kW system for no money down and lease it to the organization for $100 a month (for 15 years) with guaranteed savings over previous bills.” Nonprofit Solar Lease

And there is a major incentive by NYSERDA to replace electric hot water systems with solar hot water systems:

NYSERDA - Press Releases - February 17, 2011 “NYSERDA Launches New York State’s First Solar Thermal Incentive Program to Spur Replacement of Electric Hot Water Systems with Solar Hot Water Systems 5-Year, $25 Million Program to Help State Move Toward Renewable Energy Goals To help New York State increase its use of renewable energy, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has launched the state’s first incentive program for solar thermal systems, which produce hot water from solar power.” New York State Energy Research and Development Authority

According to this story, solar leasing may be coming to Rochester, NY:

Lease options brighten prospects for solar panel market | The Ithaca Journal | theithacajournal.com Amid a booming U.S. solar market, more homeowners are able to lease rooftop panels -- some with no upfront costs -- and pay only for the power produced. A large provider, SolarCity, of San Mateo, Calif., announces this week a new lease option in which customers can "pick their price" in going solar: paying either nothing upfront with higher monthly fees or more initially and less monthly. To finance installations in 7,000 to 9,000 homes, Google is creating a $280 million fund. The biggest limitation is geography. Each company is offering leases only in certain states that offer financial incentives and have relatively high utility rates. Among the states, collectively, are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas. (June 19, 2011) The Ithaca Journal | Ithaca news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Ithaca, New York | theithacajournal.com

At all sounds very grand and I hope we get renewable energy in enough quantities to do any good towards Climate Change. This program by the Sierra Club, though only for California at this point, may be just the ticket: Sierra Club: Go Solar with the Sierra Club “Join the solar movement with the Sierra Club. It's good for the planet, good for the Sierra Club, and good for you. Go solar today!” Here’s a description of the program: Every Rooftop Matters

Changing politics to change Climate Change

 

One of the issues that should be top priority for the media as our country ramps up to the madness that is our political season is to separate the science of Climate Change with the political rhetoric of Climate Change denial. We have gone too far with the media nonsense about how extremists dismiss and avoid Climate Change—and not called them on it. The media should not be taking a back step to the critical importance of what we need to do to adapt and mitigate the effects of Climate Change—not pander to a party that has been trying to make Climate Change a non-issue. Check out this thoughtful essay:

Warm up to climate reality | The Post and Courier, Charleston SC - News, Sports, Entertainment "The short-term Lowcountry warming of the past few sweltering days doesn't prove long-term global warming. But Republicans' rising rejection of the clear consensus on human-influenced climate change does prove that too many conservatives are ignoring scientific reality. " (June 23, 2011) The Post and Courier, Charleston SC - News, Sports, Entertainment

When you have nothing else to do with your life, take a while and read this very comprehensive, official, readable (lot of charts and graphs) report on how Climate Change is going to impact the US. Don’t just dismiss this as the ravings of a group you don’t like, take some time and read about the best assessment of what our government thinks are coming as a result of Climate Change. It’s not a polemic, it’s a plan.

Regional Climate Impacts: Northeast "Since 1970, the annual average temperature in the Northeast has increased by 2°F, with winter temperatures rising twice this much.150 Warming has resulted in many other climate-related changes, including: "--from Global Climate Change Impacts in the US (2009)

Then, ask yourself: How are we going to solve these issues if we put a climate change denier in office? Despite all the loony fanfare over our elections, politics is not a beauty contest. Those who we elect are going to have to address the very pressing issues related to manmade Climate Change whether they believe in the tooth fairy or not. They will be accountable for protect future generations from the physics of more greenhouse gases in our atmosphere than we can tolerate.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Higher emissions scenarios are a certainty for Climate Change

 

One of the things that becomes crystal clear when you read studies about the possible scenarios that Climate Change will bring to our Rochester, NY region (or any region for that matter) is that the higher emissions scenarios are the ones that going to happen. Not the lower emissions scenarios. Take this study for example:

Global Climate Change Impacts in the US (2009) “The report summarizes the science and the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. It focuses on climate change impacts in different regions of the U.S. and on various aspects of society and the economy such as energy, water, agriculture, and health. It’s also a report written in plain language, with the goal of better informing public and private decision making at all levels.” United States Global Change Research Program

There are numerous graphs of what the impacts of Climate Change will be on Water Resources, Transportation, Ecosystems, Agriculture, Society, Human Health, Energy and they show what a particular region will look like in at the end of this century if there is a dramatic change in human behavior (lower emissions scenarios) and if things go on as they are (higher emission scenarios). They are computer projections models based on the best information possible at this time. They are not hysterical Chicken Little ravings from a group seized by an ever-present threat with the goal of undermining the existing power structure—as some of the major non-news outlets suggest. They are government studies based on the work of a lot of experts.

Basically, they say that in the lower emissions scenario where we take stock of our situation and make dramatic cutbacks in greenhouse gases going into our atmosphere things are going to get hot; if we go on as we are they are going to get really, really hot. Already, “Since 1970, the annual average temperature in the Northeast has increased by 2°F, with winter temperatures rising twice this much.” (Global Climate Change Impacts in the US (2009) pg.107) It’s a long report based on a lot of studies, you really ought to read it—those who are responsible for adapting and mitigating the effects of Climate Change around the country are doing so.

Why it’s inevitable that the highest emissions scenarios will occur is that there is nothing that indicates that it won’t. It’s inevitable in the way that if you are speeding down the highway and there’s a sharp turn coming right up and your brakes fail, there’s nothing to suggest that your car will just slow down and make the turn. It’s a matter of inertia. There’s nothing to suggest that a large proportion of our citizens will make the massive kind of changes towards renewable energy and conservation that will be needed to stop our greenhouse gas emissions from soaring. Mostly, folks around here are fighting renewable energy like wind farms tooth and nail. We are now at 395 parts per million molecules (ppm) of carbon dioxide, when 350ppm is the suggested concentration. What’s significant about 350ppm? Check this out: “350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.” from 350 Science | 350.org

Unless a vast majority of our public makes immediate changes in their behavior to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases there is going to be a very hot future. And, there’s absolutely no indication at all that these kinds of changes are going to happen. In fact, we’re going backwards:

Climate Change: Public Skeptical, Scientists Sure : NPR The American public is less likely to believe in global warming than it was just five years ago. Yet, paradoxically, scientists are more confident than ever that climate change is real and caused largely by human activities. Something a bit strange is happening with public opinion and climate change. Anthony Leiserowitz, who directs the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication, delved into this in a recent poll. He not only asked citizens what they thought of climate change, he also asked them to estimate how climate scientists feel about global warming.  (June 21, 2011) NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR

Monday, June 20, 2011

We keep digging deeper in the hole called Climate Change.

 

They say ‘stop digging’ when you’re in a hole and trying to get out. But given the human capacity for tenacity, not digging ourselves in deeper is not so easy to do. Here in the Rochester, NY region if you look (and yeah, you have to look because mainstream media isn’t going to lay it out for you) you can see a how the great big carbon/Climate Change hole we’re in is just going to get deeper.

The more we learn that Climate Change is happening and getting costly Counting the Cost, the more we ignore the dangers of existing energy sources (Federal nuclear regulators repeatedly weaken or fail to enforce safety standards - The Washington Post, Ohio taking in flood of Pennsylvania brine for disposal | The Columbus Dispatch) and the more we avoid changing to energy sources that don’t endanger our lives and heat the planet: Wind power faces multiple hurdles | Democrat and Chronicle.

You can say it is just human nature to want better yourself by whatever means, like the coal mine owners vs. the coal mine workers in the film “Harlan County, USA” but the capacity to avoid something so large and unyielding as Climate Change has to be on another level of stubbornness for our species. This is given the incredible capacity to keep our present vehicular traffic no matter how many deaths per day it causes. (Have you ever checked the local news and not seen a car, truck, or motorcycle accident?)

So, despite the unavoidable consequences of drilling for oil, mining for coal, and the fallout from nuclear power plants, we still fight tooth and nail to keep the businesses in power that put us in jeopardy and avoid making the changes to avoid a warming planet. The question we must ask ourselves is this: How long will be go before we switch direction and live sustainably?

Will it be after we have exhausted all other options?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Climate Change and weather, we have to ask

 

Is this present extreme flooding (see below) in China due to Climate Change?  Of course, there’s not enough information, not enough studies, not enough of this or that, but every time some weather out of the ordinary occurs, we are going to think Climate Change.

It’s going to irritate and annoy a lot of folks, especially political parties that don’t believe in Climate Change.  But Climate Change, which is going to have to be addressed long before all the facts and studies are in, must be thought of as a reasonable assumption. 

Why not put the burden of proof on the deniers that this catastrophe in China is not due to Climate Change?  Why not, with something so profoundly altering as Climate Change, take the time pull out all the ideological plugs and find out if we are experiences these kinds of changes due to our putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere? 

Like it or not, extreme weather event are constantly going to be questioned about their relationship to Climate Change and no amount of dismissing this relationship is going to end until it can be proven that it’s not.  There’s just too much evidence and science that our planet’s atmosphere is warming up and possibly causing these events:

China evacuates 500,000 as flooding breaks worst drought in 50 years | Environment | The Guardian Water levels on 40 rivers, including the Yangtze, above safety limits as authorities warn of dykes and dams under pressure The dramatic shift is in line with weather trends identified by the Beijing Climate Centre, which says rain is coming in shorter, fiercer bursts, interspersed by protracted periods of drought. (June 17, 20110  Latest news, comment and reviews from the Guardian | guardian.co.uk

Friday, June 17, 2011

Walking in Rochester, NY for our environment and health

 

Walking, old as the hills, is a great way to get around. It is the one thing besides eating apple pie and playing cards that humans are especially good at. But sometimes, in our effort to accommodate our vehicular traffic, our very own communities can be difficult to walk around. Drivers predominately are watching other drivers and not pedestrians. Drivers get gadget distraction. Pedestrians sometimes don’t pay attention to signal lights.

While mostly citizens want to do the right thing and obey traffic laws, from what I learned at a recent webinar at www.walkinginfo.org , there are a few who need ‘reminding’ of our laws that protect the safety of pedestrians. Considering the health and environmental benefits of walking, where you get some exercise and don’t contribute more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, it’s a good way to get around your community. Yes, walking can help us adapt to Climate Change:

DOT Transportation and Climate Change Clearinghouse “The Transportation and Climate Change Clearinghouse is designed as a one-stop source of information on transportation and climate change issues. It includes information on greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories, analytic methods and tools, GHG reduction strategies, potential impacts of climate change on transportation infrastructure, and approaches for integrating climate change considerations into transportation decision making.” –from U.S. Department of Transportation

There are a lot of things that can be done to improve the safety of walking along our streets and with the rising gas prices, and the benefits for a calmer, more livable communities, why not try them out?

Some ideas include increasing enforcement presents to let drivers know the enforcement community is watching out for pedestrians. But intimidation by the police is not the only (and usually not the best) way to make our communities safer to walk through. Neighborhoods can do a lot by just taking an interesting in this issue. Yards signs, asking speeders politely not to speed through your neighborhoods work.

Better still, so drivers don’t get too used to the signs (habituating), some neighborhoods use stickers for their waste bins so they only appear when you set your waste bins out. Educational programs to inform drivers of pedestrian issues are important for both drivers and walkers. Also, engaging the media to remind the pubic of the laws already in our communities would go far in increasing pedestrian safety. I especially like the idea of those ‘count-down’ street lights that give both driver and pedestrians a clear visual queue that walkers have the right away and how long they have.

If a pedestrian has to run across the street to make it to the other side, then it’s not enough time.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Take Action: Complete Streets are green streets

 

Walking and bicycling are active transportation options that are now legally available to all, but there’s a problem.  Most of our urban streets aren’t very friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists because they were built with mostly vehicles in mind.  That’s a problem for the safety of active transportation and it means that less folks will use active transportation to get to their jobs, to shop, or just to move about their community.  

A bill for Complete Streets will change that” “States, cities and towns are asking their planners and engineers to build road networks that are safer, more livable, and welcoming to everyone.”

Given that most transportation is for distances less than 6.5 miles from one’s home, that’s too bad.  It’s too bad because 27% of our greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions (according to the Environmental Protection Agency) come from transportation and so if more and more folks are engaged in active transportation we would put less ghg into our atmosphere and the consequences for Climate Change would be less severe. 

So, you can affect that by making sure our streets are inviting to all by making a few calls: From the Rochester Cycling Alliance:

"Take Action – Complete Streets NYS, Call your state representative today! on June 15th, 2011 Great News, Assembly bill A.8366 (Complete Streets) was introduced yesterday. However, we only have a couple of days left to get the Assembly to pass it.

Please call Assemblyman Gantt and ask him to move this legislation through the Transportation Committee and help bring it to the Assembly floor for a vote. His local district office number is 454-3670.

Also call the other members of the Assembly in the area and let them know that A.8366 has been introduced and we would like it brought to the assembly floor for a vote before session ends.

Dan Burling – 585-786-0180 Sean Hanna – 585-334-5210 Steve Hawley – 585-589-5780 Mark Johns – 585-223-9130 Brian Kolb – 315-781-2030 Joe Morelle – 585-467-0410 Robert Oaks – 315-946-5166 Phil Palmesano – 607-776-9691 Bill Reilich – 585-225-4190

This legislation is expected to pass the NYS Senate this week and the Governor has also introduced Complete Streets legislation " Take Action – Complete Streets NYS, Call your state representative today! | Rochester Cycling Alliance

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This is the Climate that we built.

 

This is the science that lay in the climate that we built.

This is the truck that sucked the gas

That is the science that lay in the Climate that we built.

 

This is plant that built the truck that sucked the gas

That is the science that lay in the climate that we built.

 

This is man who worked at the plant

That built the truck that sucked the gas

That is the science that lay in the climate that we built.

 

This is owner who made wonderful profits

That paid the man who worked at the plant

That built the truck that sucked the gas

That is the science that lay in the climate that we built.

 

This is the people all amazed

That admired the owner the wonderful profits 

That paid the man who worked at the plant

That built the truck that sucked the gas

That is the science that lay in the climate that we built.

 

This is the weather all hot and rising

That amazed the people

That admired the owner the wonderful profits

That paid the man who worked at the plant

That built the truck that sucked the gas

That is the science that lay in the climate that we built.

 

This is the hospital all doom and gloom

That weather all hot and rising

That amazed the people

That admired the owner the wonderful profits

That paid the man who worked at the plant

That built the truck that sucked the gas

That is the science that lay in climate that we built.

 

This is the future all forlorn

That is the hospital all doom and gloom

That is our weather all hot and rising

That amazed the people

That admired the owner the wonderful profits

That paid the man who worked at the plant

That made the truck that sucked the gas

That is the science that lay in the climate that we built.

Media not connecting the dots on local extreme weather and Climate Change

 

Until mainstream media begins reporting on extreme weather events as at least possibly related to Climate Change, the public will have no clue that Climate Change might be happening. Without daily reminders that the prediction of Climate Change are actually occurring, the issue of Climate Change seems merely the ravings of an extreme political party bent on changing the world order. But there are enough respected studies, enough climate scientists who agree, and enough of a worldwide concern to place many of the wildfires, droughts, floods, and in our case an abnormally wet spring (U.S. Had Most Extreme Spring on Record for Precipitation | ThinkProgress) to suggest that we are seeing the effects of human-caused Climate Change. Not only that, we should reasonably expect that our summers will be hotter and like all Climate Change predictions, we must prepare for hotter weather:

Hot Temperatures Can Create Serious Health Risks State Health Department Urges Precautions During Extremely Hot Weather to Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses ALBANY, N.Y. (June 9, 2011) - New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., cautioned New Yorkers about serious health effects that can arise due to intense heat and humidity, and advised people to take steps to protect themselves during the extreme temperatures being experienced in many areas of the state. "High temperatures and humidity over extended periods of time can cause serious health problems," Commissioner Shah said. "We strongly urge people to be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and take some common sense measures to stay cool and healthy during extreme temperatures." (June 9, 2011) New York State Department of Health

But if the media continues to drag their feet on even suggesting in their local news about energy, weather, invasive species, and the increase in diseases like Lyme and West Nile Virus are related to Climate Change; we will end up with a public voting for a party who does not believe in Climate Change at all. That would be tragic as our public officials are charged with preparing our area to adapt to the changes already coming down the pipe because of the Climate Change choices we have not made in the past. Here’s an article that suggests our media should connect those dots:

Science connects climate change and wildfires. Why won’t the media? | Grist One of the least controversial impacts of the climate crisis is more frequent, severe, and damaging wildfires in America's West. Why won't reporters say so? It's been a scary spring for wildfires in places like Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Global warming caused by human-made carbon pollution is fueling perfect conditions, with longer fire seasons, drier conditions, and more lightning strikes. (June 14, 2011) Grist | Environmental News, Commentary, Advice

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Another bad positive feedback loop on Climate Change

 

As a report puts carbon dioxide at 395 part per million (ppm), prospects for future reductions seem dim.

Expiry of emissions pact in 2012 bedevils talks - Yahoo! News BONN, Germany – Climate negotiators are exploring "constructive and creative" solutions so that wealthy countries keep trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even when binding commitments expire next year, the U.N. climate chief said Monday. Another report by the U.S. government monitoring station in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, recorded carbon levels in May of 395 parts per million, compared with 290 at the beginning of the industrial revolution 150 years ago. Scientists believe atmospheric concentration of carbon is trapping the Earth's heat and causing it to gradually warm.

This is not good news, and not surprising either. Many put the limit of carbon dioxide at 350ppm (see 350.org) but it’s not catching on. The US, which has put 30% of the manmade carbon dioxide into our atmosphere since the industrial revolution, doesn’t want to move on limiting carbon dioxide until countries like China, which has put about 7% of the carbon dioxide since then, ante up. Though in truth, there are lots of reasons why we won’t stop putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere including notions of fairness, doubts about the issue of Climate Change, push back from the inconveniences changes would put on us, and a major political party in our country that doesn’t even believe in the science of Climate Change. Here’s some on that:

U.S. EPA delays rollout of CO2 rule on power plants - AlertNet WASHINGTON, June 13 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under pressure from Republicans and big utilities, said on Monday it had extended a deadline by two months on draft rules that would for the first time limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The EPA said it had moved the date for proposing the rule from July 26 to Sept. 30 after listening to businesses and states that will have to implement the regulation. (June 13, 2011) AlertNet - A Thomson Reuters Foundation Service - AlertNet.

So, instead of considering ways of rapidly changing our collective behavior towards the constant creep of carbon dioxide towards new highs, we argue and point fingers—which, of course, will have no effect on the physics of Climate Change. This all seems dismal and so most turn away from the issue of Climate Change and that creates one of the other major feedback loops of Climate Change. The more dismal news about our collective inability to combat Climate Change, the more those who don’t believe it fight against it and the more those who do believe it throw up their hands in despair.

That’s too bad because nothing but major change in our human behavior towards Climate Change is going to matter to our climate. All that sound and fury of those fighting against the science of Climate Change will mean worst than nothing. If we don’t start connecting the dots of events that are going on between our extreme weather events and our behavior, we will never get a chance to solve this problem. Maybe we should start connecting the dots:

The most powerful climate video you’ll see all week | Grist “Bill McKibben published a must-read op-ed in The Washington Post last month about the connection between climate change and recent extreme weather events. Now Stephen Thomson has combined McKibben's words with striking footage of the events he writes about. The result is a chilling must-see video:” (June 11, 2011) Grist | Environmental News, Commentary, Advice

Monday, June 13, 2011

Great environmentalist comes to Greentopia @ Rochester, NY

 

It’s been a long time coming, a concerted effort of many volunteers, and it’s shaping up to be one of Rochester, New York’s premier events—Greentopia.

The Greentopia Festival is the primary fundraiser for the GardenAerial project. And, it’s happening at the High Falls section of Rochester, NY on Saturday, September 17th and Sunday, the 18th. It’s a festival like most Rochester festivals—except greener, where thousands are expected to arrive, enjoy, and then depart in a very environmentally- friendly way.

Greentopia is the combination of two words: ‘green’ and ‘Utopia’. Of course, ‘green’ means ‘sustainable,’ which means our way of living gets to make it into the future. And, Utopia comes from Sir Thomas More’s 1516 book Utopia. However, Greentopia is not “an ideal community or society possessing a perfect socio-politico-legal system” - Wikipedia. Existing in a sustainable way is not an ideal, a fantasy, or simply a good idea. It is the very definition of being practical because there is not really another (survivable) choice. You’re green or you’re gone.

Besides a myriad of events, music, displays, and great speakers, we are contemplating a “Greentopia Bridges Bike Ride” that will weave hundreds of bicyclers across about seven bridges to the festival grounds. You’ll have your bike parked by a bicycle valet and then watched in a designated area while you enjoy the festival. More on this ride as it develops.

At this moment, we are excited that the great environmental speaker, writer, leader, and creator of 350.org Bill McKibben has agreed to speak at this festival. We just found out.

Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books about the environment, beginning with The End of Nature in 1989, which is regarded as the first book for a general audience on climate change. He is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, which has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009. Time Magazine called him 'the planet's best green journalist' and the Boston Globe said in 2010 that he was 'probably the country's most important environmentalist.' Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, he holds honorary degrees from a dozen colleges, including the Universities of Massachusetts and Maine, the State University of New York, and Whittier and Colgate Colleges. In 2011 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. McKibben will be joining the Greentopia Festival via Skype on September 18th at 3:30pm in the WXXI Studios in the High Falls District.

One of the reasons for bringing Bill McKibben into Rochester, NY for a discussion on Climate Change is that too often this issue tends to be discussed in a silo, where those focused on this issue talk amongst themselves and not to the public. Greentopia provides a festive public arena for area residents to engage in a crucial conversation within a community experience hitherto unknown in our region. Don’t forget, Climate Change is coming to Rochester and there are many Likely Changes that it will bring to our region. We are going to have to adapt to the changes and mitigate any further damage to our delicate environment by limiting greenhouse gases.

What we will learn is that we cannot just place our faith in Climate Changer heroes like Bill McKibben to solve this problem for us, but Bill will help us understand why this issue is so important and display the kind of leadership Climate Change is going to need.

Here’s the skinny: “The festival will feature visionary speakers, live music, vendors and the finest fresh organic and local food our area has to offer. Most importantly, Greentopia will be a festival of ideas to empower everyone to create their own positive change on this beautiful planet we all call home.” News from Greentopia Festival

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Do you really want a government official who doesn’t believe in Climate Change?

 

It is absolutely incredible that the American people would even considering voting for candidates who don’t believe that Climate Change is happening. Check out this amazing story:

Rep. Fred Upton: GOP agenda turns a longtime Republican away from pro-environmental stances - latimes.com Long a moderate on environmental issues, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan has changed course. Reporting from Kalamazoo, Mich.— For years, some conservatives called 13-term Rep. Fred Upton "Red Fred." The Michigan Republican voted for amendments strengthening the Clean Air Act. He cosponsored a bill to phase out incandescent light bulbs. His website said that "climate change is a serious problem that necessitates serious solutions." So conservatives fumed late last year when Upton took the gavel of the influential panel that oversees environmental regulation, the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But the rise of the "tea party" movement, with its attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency and climate science, has pushed Upton to reinvent himself. Once a moderate, Upton emerged from an unusually close primary against a tea party candidate and a tough fight for the panel chairmanship as the standard-bearer for the Republican push to block the Obama administration's major environmental initiatives. (June 11, 2011)  Los Angeles Times - California, national and world news - latimes.com

This may fit some folk’s idea of some great ideology, but not only is Climate Change happening, the folks we put into office are going to have to help us adapt and mitigate the consequences of Climate Change. Your public officials will be accountable when they get into office for our public health and safety.

The American public must wake up and learn about Climate Change and realize that we cannot possibly address the most important crisis of our century if we put into office ideologues who won’t or cannot understand fundamental Earth Science. There is no reason why physics and politics must part ways because it doesn’t fit into a political party’s platform.

When you read some of the official documents about what just the Rochester, NY region has to face on Climate Change, you get the picture. There’s no room for crazy talk about an imminent threat to our existence. The Rochester, NY region has a lot of Likely Changes that will occur because of Climate Change.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Here’s looking at you, kid, on Climate Change in the US

 

Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States

From U.S. Global Change Research Program

Key Findings

1. Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.

Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. This observed increase is due primarily to human induced emissions of heat-trapping gases. (p. 13)

2. Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.

Climate-related changes are already observed in the United States and its coastal waters. These include increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the ocean and on lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and alterations in river flows. These changes are projected to grow. (p. 27)

3. Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.

Climate changes are already affecting water, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, and health. These impacts are different from region to region and will grow under projected climate change. (p. 41-106, 107-152)

4. Climate change will stress water resources.

Water is an issue in every region, but the nature of the potential impacts varies. Drought, related to reduced precipitation, increased evaporation, and increased water loss from plants, is an important issue in many regions, especially in the West. Floods and water quality problems are likely to be amplified by climate change in most regions. Declines in mountain snowpack are important in the West and Alaska where snowpack provides vital natural water storage. (p. 41, 129, 135, 139)

5. Crop and livestock production will be increasingly challenged.

Many crops show positive responses to elevated carbon dioxide and low levels of warming, but higher levels of warming often negatively affect growth and yields. Increased pests, water stress, diseases, and weather extremes will pose adaptation challenges for crop and livestock production. (p. 71)

6. Coastal areas are at increasing risk from sea-level rise and storm surge.

Sea-level rise and storm surge place many U.S. coastal areas at increasing risk of erosion and flooding, especially along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Pacific Islands, and parts of Alaska. Energy and transportation infrastructure and other property in coastal areas are very likely to be adversely affected. (p. 111, 139, 145, 149)

7. Risks to human health will increase.

Harmful health impacts of climate change are related to increasing heat stress, waterborne diseases, poor air quality, extreme weather events, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents. Reduced cold stress provides some benefits. Robust public health infrastructure can reduce the potential for negative impacts. (p. 89)

8. Climate change will interact with many social and environmental stresses.

Climate change will combine with pollution, population growth, overuse of resources, urbanization, and other social, economic, and environmental stresses to create larger impacts than from any of these factors alone. (p. 99)

9. Thresholds will be crossed, leading to large changes in climate and ecosystems.

There are a variety of thresholds in the climate system and ecosystems. These thresholds determine, for example, the presence of sea ice and permafrost, and the survival of species, from fish to insect pests, with implications for society. With further climate change, the crossing of additional thresholds is expected. (p. 76, 82, 115, 137, 142)

10. Future climate change and its impacts depend on choices made today.

The amount and rate of future climate change depend primarily on current and future human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases and airborne particles. Responses involve reducing emissions to limit future warming, and adapting to the changes that are unavoidable. (p. 25, 29)

Voting is one of your strongest tools for helping environment:

 

Now that we know Climate Change is coming to the Rochester, NY region, where the ‘Likely Changes’ are going to be awesome, it would be good to know how our local lawmakers are doing on that. 

You may have your pet issue that you want your lawmakers to vote on and you favorite political party who thinks like you do, but your lawmakers are going to have to protect you from Climate Change whether you believe in the most important issue of our century or not.  They will be accountable for protecting you.  This isn’t just environmental rhetoric; check out the plans ahead for dealing with Climate Change in the Northeast and the US: Regional Climate Impacts: Northeast "Since 1970, the annual average temperature in the Northeast has increased by 2°F, with winter temperatures rising twice this much.150 Warming has resulted in many other climate-related changes, including: "--from Global Climate Change Impacts in the US (2009)

Too often folks believe that they cannot do much in their lives to address something so overwhelming as Climate Change.  It is daunting because we need our planet’s atmosphere to move from its present 390 part per million molecules of carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas that warms our planet (though there are others)) to a manageable 350 ppm.  But you can. 

Voting for representatives who have a strong record on environmental issues and don’t hesitate to claim they intend on solving Climate Change must be top on your to-do list.  Even though politics has almost become dysfunctional, and political talk by the pundits completely insane (just what are those Sunday morning TV news shows talking about?) politicians are the main key to solving Climate Change. 

Our representatives control the purse strings, they make the laws, and they hold our officials to the fire.  They represent our collected thoughts on the state of our environment.  Voting against Climate Change by voting for candidates who work against work on solving Climate Change is incredibly shortsighted.  Time is running out.  Just check another story today about how Climate Change is changing our environment: Thinning Snows In Rockies Tied To Global Warming : NPR 

This fall there will be more elections and who you vote for is going to matter. While not specific recommendations on Climate Change related legislation in our area, these reports are indicative of the kind of measurements we are going to need on the voting records of our lawmakers in the future:

About EPL  Voters NEW YORK STATE'S ONLY ENVIRONMENTAL REPORT CARD You didn't vote to pollute New York State. Did your legislators? Voters Guide 2011 - The guide to the environmental records of New York Lawmakers.  and check here for the records of Rochester area lawmakers Rochester

Thursday, June 09, 2011

How is that air quality outside of our Rochester, NY area’s schools?

 

Doesn’t look good. 

Using a school’s name and address, find the air quality outside a local school.  It looks like some of the nation’s worst are in our area: 

Schools that ranked worst “A USA TODAY analysis of EPA data indicated the air outside these schools had the highest levels of dangerous toxic chemicals, most of which have never been tested for their effects on children.” 

You can also type in “Monroe County” and “New York” and get a sense of the air quality of many of our county’s air quality.  Looks disturbing:

USA TODAY Special Report – The Smokestack Effect – Toxic Air and America’s Schools "USA Today used and EPA model to track the path of industrial pollution and mapped the locations of almost 128, 000 schools to determine the levels of toxic chemicals outside. The potential problems that emerged were widespread, insidious and largely unaddressed. " News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World - USATODAY.com

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Don’t be a Climate Change bystander

 

Take a look under the hood of Climate Change in New York State from the perspective of those who must address it. 

Just telling folks that Climate Change is coming and they’d better adapt and stop it doesn’t seem to have much effect.  Maybe it’s too big an issue to get one’s head around.  Or, maybe most folks think Climate Change is out of their control, like that awful music some restaurants play while you’re paying good money to eat there. 

We become so used to a certain unpleasant din in the background of our lives that we just tune it out—like the constant drone from someone like me that you’d better pay attention to Climate Change. 

Well, you’d better pay attention to Climate Change. 

If you take just one document, say, “Responding to Climate Change in New York State” by Effective Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in New York State (2011) you’ll get a strong whiff of what coming for our area with Climate Change. 

This isn’t a report by your favorite blogger, or an environmental group.  This is a report by the state of New York who is charged with protecting you against potential dangers to you and your family and businesses. 

So, maybe you’re thinking that given that let them have at it.  Well, it’s not that easy.  Much of what the state needs to do to protect you from Climate Change in New York State requires that everyone understand Climate Change, what the prospects are, and that major changes in our collective behavior needs to happen. 

If you plan on staying around in our state for awhile (moving won’t do you much good as Climate Change is going to be happening everywhere on the planet) you should be aware of the myriad of changes coming to our state including, the possible loss of trout as game fish, a major upset in the skiing industry, which is the largest in the country, extreme changes in weather, changes in the crops that we can grow, changes in the diseases we will experience, and especially the changes in public health due to increase Ozone days that burn the membrane inside your lungs—a day just like today: Air quality alert issued for our region today | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com 

Remember, this isn’t a report from a greenie organization trying to scare the bejesus out of you.  It’s your state government who has to get ready for the inevitable.  It is a detailed account of what is going to be done to adapt in New York State to Climate Change and it’s going to affect you. 

Don’t be a Climate Change bystander; this change in Climate is due to our behavior and we can change our behavior to prevent the scenario in this report from getting worse for the next generation.

Integrated Assessment for Effective Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in New York State (Project Update.pdf) This project addresses a key issue identified in the EMEP research plan. Prior to devoting limited research dollars to intensive studies, an integrated assessment of potential impacts and adaptation strategies will be useful in identifying impacts and needs specific to New York. Working interactively with stakeholders, the assessment will identify critical vulnerabilities, climate risks, and adaptation strategies specific to NYS, for a range of key sectors: agriculture, coastal zones, ecosystems, energy, infrastructure, public health, and water resources. For each sector, the economic costs and benefits of impacts and adaptation strategies also will be assessed. Responding to Climate Change in New York State [5.67MB .pdf] text only [263KB .pdf] Full Report Forthcoming" - from  http://www.ny.gov/

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Are our beaches safe?

 

This article about testing the beaches in Michigan is a good template for determining any beach connected with the Great Lakes, or any beach for that matter. 

Does our area have sufficient funds for sufficient studies to make sure our beaches are safe to swim?  It’s a question our local media should be checking up on continually. 

Like many areas of our environment monitoring that require public monies, beach monitoring cannot be shortchanged. 

Beach tests: Too little and too late | The Times Herald | thetimesherald.com "Delayed results, funding cuts may put swimmers at risk. Under the glare of a hot summer sun, the sparkling blue water in Lake Huron and the St. Clair River can be tantalizing. But the water hides many secrets -- including things that can make you sick. The St. Clair County Health Department tests public beaches every week for E. coli throughout the summer." (June 5, 2011)  The Times Herald | Port Huron news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Port Huron, Michigan | thetimesherald.com

Monday, June 06, 2011

Food and Climate Change won’t be solved by fiddling with seeds.

 

Check out this article from the New York Times (see below) on how Climate Change is going to change our ability to feed ourselves. 

Seems, according to this article, that one perceived benefits of Global Warming was an increase of carbon dioxide that would help food plants grow.  That’s not working out so well. 

Some of the other consequences of Climate Change are that there will be extreme weather, droughts, floods, and changes in growing season that wreak havoc on our production of food. 

It seems as though anyone who thinks there are going to be positive outcomes of Climate Change just hasn’t considered all the effects of warming our planet. 

Our planet’s climate system is just too big to predict with any precision what warming it even a little is going to do to any one thing—like food production.  Maybe we shouldn’t have put so much extra greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in the first place.  But it’s too late for those regrets.  And putting our hopes into fiddling with plant genes will only have a modicum of benefits because  more likely than not the negatives will overshadow the positives because we evolved in a very specific and stable environment for hundreds of thousands of years.  Now all that is changing in a very short time. 

Hope for mankind to change our plant seeds so they can survive Climate Change is misguided and a dangerous illusion.  Rather, we should bite the bullet and drastically cut back our use of greenhouse gases and not hope for silver bullets to solve a problem that needs to be addressed by the wholesale change in releasing greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. 

Food Supply Under Strain on a Warming Planet - NYTimes.com CIUDAD OBREGĂ“N, Mexico — The dun wheat field spreading out at Ravi P. Singh’s feet offered a possible clue to human destiny. Baked by a desert sun and deliberately starved of water, the plants were parched and nearly dead. Dr. Singh, a wheat breeder, grabbed seed heads that should have been plump with the staff of life. His practiced fingers found empty husks. “You’re not going to feed the people with that,” he said. (June 4, 2011) The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

Saturday, June 04, 2011

World Environment Day (WED) is June 5th, tomorrow.

 

It’s not looking good and it shouldn’t be presented as though it is. 

Considering the horrible state our environment is in and what little governments, business, and individuals are willing to do to stop Climate Change there isn’t much to celebrate. 

Reports and studies I have read about the state of our environment and what can be done seem impossibly framed as if we have the will and capacity to actually make a dent in the various environmental issues around with world—loss of biodiversity, over population, pollution of our land, air, and water—that will all compounded by Climate Change. 

We are a delusional species bent on wanting our cake and eating it too.  Despite the positive wording that we can save our forests and our oceans and create a sustainable existence with a few simple steps, it is not so. 

Environmentalists are getting murdered.  There no lessening of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere even though a recession should have squelched people’s ability to pay for more greenhouse gas (GHG) put into our air.  The public refuses to change how they get their news, even though their present news is blinding them with ideologies that reinforce the delusion that fossil fuels are OK and the future is bright. 

The future isn’t bright for our environment, and we shouldn’t feel festive.  I don’t think that those organizations trying to get the public engaged on our environmental issues should bend over backwards to frame our environmental plight in a ridiculous fashion where only a few simple changes in our lives will make our environment sustainable.  This isn’t even close to being true. 

We nearing critical tipping points, where species will disappear from our planet, where our oceans are acidifying rapidly and changing all life in them, and our planet is warming up at an alarming rate.  We should start focusing on the problems at hand and finding a way to tackle them in the face of very powerful polluters and ideologies that think less government and more freedoms for corporations to do anything to make a profit should rule. 

We have yet to get serious about Climate Change and our other environmental issues. 

World Environment Day - United Nations Environment Programme "World Environment Day (WED) is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. WED activities take place all year round but climax on 5 June every year, involving everyone from everywhere. WED celebration began in 1972 and has grown to become the one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action. Through WED, the UN Environment Programme is able to personalize environmental issues and enable everyone to realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development. WED is also a day for people from all walks of life to come together to ensure a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations. Everyone counts in this initiative and WED relies on you to make this happen! We call for action – organize a neighborhood clean-up, stop using plastic bags and get your community to do the same, plant a tree or better yet organize a collective tree planting effort, walk to work, start a recycling drive . . . the possibilities are endless. Check out the WED pack for interesting suggestions on what you could do Whatever you do, tell us about it! We will post your activities on this website and make it part of the Wide World of WED map. So what are you going to do for WED? "