Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Climate Change in the Rochester, NY region will mess up your cell phone and other gadgets

 

Among the other Likely Changes coming to New York State because of Climate Change is the disruption of our telecommunications sector. This is not only an inconvenience for those (most of us) who bank, communicate, publish, buy, and even GPS our way through these extraordinary times, but a real threat. Emergency information and keeping our economy thriving is going to be critical as Climate Change further disrupts our state.

I have read about a lot of changes coming to our state, but I hadn’t thought about this sector that should interest all—especially the younger set who now spend so much of their lives on the Internet and on their Smartphones. Hey, I do too. It’s OK. But to keep this critical component of our modern life operating well, even as Climate Change takes hold, will be a challenge.

Read this section of the Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID). It’s not just Job Blow banging away at his computer spewing out Climate Change alarmism. The report was funded by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and it is probably going to factor largely in how New York State sees itself in the coming. Instead of listening to the cranks and news stations that leave you a complete idiot on the most important issue of our time, read the whole report by a host of experts and really get a sense of what New York State is going to look like soon. Everything and I mean everything, including that cell phone of yours, is going to be challenged by Climate Change. Here, check this out:

Adaptation strategies presented by the Telecommunications sector in Chapter 10 include tree trimming to avoid damage to existing wires, switching from aboveground to belowground infrastructure, the use of fiber optics rather than wires, and wireless systems instead of land lines. A general adaptive principle in the sector is to increase redundancy via the use of generators and backup solar-powered battery banks. Other useful adaptation strategies include relocation of central offices away from floodplains and diversification of telecommunications media, e.g., the continued development of high-speed broadband and wireless services throughout the state. Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID) (Page 11)

Don’t just sit there. Demand that our state start adapting to and mitigating Climate Change. You can start by stopping Fracking in our state. The Sierra Club can help you with that: Sierra Club: Atlantic Chapter

Wait! Before you let NYS start Fracking, this is already on our plate:

 

Soon, on December 12, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will close public comments on the Revised Draft SGEIS on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program (September 2011. It’s the draft (where you can make public comment) on whether or not to lift the moratorium on hydrofracking in our state. Before we here in New York State allow the rush for gas companies to prime the pumps for Fracking, you really ought to read this: Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID).

It’s not the usual Yada Yada. It’s our future--without Fracking. (I suggest reading the whole 652 pages of this report, but that’s probably not going to happen. Still, you might skim through it to get sense of the expertise and research behind this study.)

The reports was funded by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and it is probably going to factor largely in how New York State sees itself in the coming years because Climate Change is already in the pipes—meaning that even if we stop putting greenhouse gases in our atmosphere right now, these changes are coming anyway. There are 50 years of warming already stored in our land, water, and air that has to play out in our environment because we have not addressed this issue.

Can you imagine adding the environmental stress of a major natural gas drilling boom? Before you scoff, remember a lot of research went into this description of our future.

Climate Change in New York State

Climate change is already affecting and will continue to affect a broad set of activities across New York State. Its geographical and socioeconomic diversity means that New York State will experience a wide range of effects. There will be opportunities to explore new varieties, new crops, and new markets associated with higher temperatures and longer growing seasons. New York’s relative wealth of water resources, if properly managed, can contribute to resilience and new economic opportunities. On the other hand, higher temperatures and increased heat waves have the potential to increase fatigue of materials in the water, energy, transportation, and telecommunications sectors; affect drinking water supply; cause a greater frequency of summer heat stress on plants and animals; alter pest populations and habits; affect the distribution of key crops such as apples, grapes, cabbage, and potatoes; cause reductions in dairy milk production; increase energy demand; and lead to more heat-related deaths and declines in air quality. Projected higher average annual precipitation and frequency of heavy precipitation events could also potentially increase the risks of several problems, including flash floods in urban areas and hilly regions; higher pollutant levels in water supplies; inundation of wastewater treatment plants and other vulnerable development in floodplains; saturated coastal lands and wetland habitats; flooded key rail lines, roadways, and transportation hubs; and travel delays. Sea level rise will increase risk of storm surge-related flooding, enhance vulnerability of energy facilities located in coastal areas, and threaten transportation and telecommunications facilities. Across the varied geography of New York State, many individuals, households, communities, and firms are at risk of experiencing climate change impacts. Some will be especially vulnerable to specific impacts due to their location and lack of resources. ” Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID) (Page 3)

Remember, we can disassemble wind turbines and solar panels if they start wrecking our environment; but all the king’s men and all the king’s horses will not be able to deconstruct natural gas wells once they start going haywire. Even if they never have a problem, drilling for more natural gas is more greenhouse gas that we will be burning and adding to Climate Change.

I don’t know, I’m just an ordinary person, but I’m thinking the DEC is going to have enough on its plate just wrestling will Climate Change in New York without having to babysit the gas industries at every single well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cigarettes and Climate Change, Good Grief!


I couldn’t help being amused at the irony of someone complaining online about the dismal regularity of the dire Climate Change studies recently.  He said something like, “I’m so tired of seeing new studies every day about how bad our climate is getting.  It’s like those days of old and those constant warnings about the dangers of cigarettes.”  Pretty funny.  It’s like someone lying in bed moaning about a fire alarm going on in their house that just won’t stop.

Truth is both Climate Change and cigarettes will kill you.  They will do so slowly and wreck your future.  As we are increasingly realizing with cigarettes, it’s not simply a personal choice to do yourself in with a product that even when used as intended will harm your health, but it’s a choice to harm others.  That’s why some cities are making stricter rules about where you can smoke.  And if you are smoking and don’t have health insurance (which, given that 50 million in the USA don’t) then the rest of us have to pick up the bill when you can’t breathe anymore.  The cigarette folks knew back in the 1960’s that cigarettes were bad for your health, but kept it from Congress and the public.  The industry talked about the freedom of choice and reaped millions why millions died and the public paid smoker’s medical bills (when they darted off to the emergency wards) and our government gave the tobacco industry subsidies.  American Capitalism, you have to love it.

Climate Change, based on science, is also getting further verification that it’s causing extreme weather and unless stopped and reversed will cause our climate to spin out of control.  This must seem a dismal faire for those who just want to be free—in some infantile way.  The freedom to smoke and die and harm others.  The freedom to pick up paper and not have to read about how our climate is warming up.  The freedom, as stated in the Declaration of Independence for “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Yet, the pursuit of happiness is not just your happiness, however you wish to define that, but everyone’s happiness.  As recorded in this story, many around the world are getting annoyed that the US and other polluting countries are only interested in their happiness (by continuing their addiction to fossil fuels) and not the rest of the world’s happiness:

Climate talks commence in South Africa - Africa - Al Jazeera About 25,000 people gather in Durban, but expectations remain low for any global agreements. Up to 25,000 people, including 7,000 delegates from 194 nations, have gathered for United Nations-backed climate change talks in the South African port city of Durban (November 28, 2011) AJE - Al Jazeera English 

Not only are the US and other rich countries dragging their feet at the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) · talks in Durban, South Africa going on right now, the mainstream media in our local and national news arena hardly even bothers to mention this next attempt to solve this world-wide problem in a world-wide way.  It’s too boring, or it annoys too many people who just want to get on with their lives, burn fossil fuels, and forgetaboutit.

The freedom to smoke wherever, whenever you want. The freedom to fill the air with greenhouse gases.  We love our freedoms, but other’s freedoms?  Not so much.
 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Another Climate Change report: hopelessness or ridicule?

 

Another report about the changes coming to our region because of Climate Change says that we may get our unfair share of Invasive Species. I haven’t actually read this particular report yet (but I will) though it states what most other reports say about how Climate Change will affect our region. Besides more extreme weather, major disruptions to our economy and public health there are a host of Likely Changes coming. It can be daunting.

NCPR News - Scientists: Climate change in New York could increase diseases A new report finds that New York may suffer disproportionate effects of climate change in the coming decades, when compared with other regions. The report was co-authored by scientists from Cornell, Columbia University, and Hunter College. It finds that because New York is a northern state, it has already warmed more than twice the global average - 2-point-4-degrees Fahrenheit in the last forty years.  (November 28, 2911) NCPR: North Country Public Radio

In the past when Climate Change first came to the public’s consciousness in the late 1970’s Climate Change was usually met with hopelessness from those who quickly understood the problem of putting too much greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and ridicule from those who believed the progressives were trying to pull a fast one on them. I suspect both reactions to more information about Climate Change still go on, but not so much.

Increasingly, though probably not quickly enough, attitudes towards the ramifications of Climate Change are moving from useless emotions to useful emotions. Useful emotions are those that attempt to address this fundamental change that humanity is making to our environment (think: our environment where we need to survive). Useless emotions are those where you don’t do anything but snipe at endless reports about Climate Change that are and will be coming.

What can you do about Climate Change? Here in New York you can push for high-speed rail, active transportation (walking and bicycling for those short distances that constitute most of our trips), demand and purchase more renewable energy (solar and wind) and make public comment on hydrofracking, which will put even more greenhouse gases (GHG) into our atmosphere and warm it up more. Actually, here’s a meeting you can go to tonight to learn more about hydrofracking and how it will transform our NYS environment:

Forum on gas drilling is tonight | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com A forum on the local effects of expanding natural-gas drilling is scheduled for tonight in Honeoye Falls. The Rochester Sierra Club is among the groups sponsoring the event, which begins at 7 pm in the Lower Mill, 61 N. Main St.  (November 28, 2011) Democrat and Chronicle | Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York | democratandchronicle.com

Another thing you can do is something original. Find out how to get the US to engaged in the Durban Climate Change talks, rather than draging our feet. Because of the nature of Climate Change massive and quick actions need to be taken and the Climate Change talks by the IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are the only way we can move on these issues on a planetary scale. However, things don’t look so good:

As Durban conference opens, little hope for a climate-change agreement - The Globe and Mail With the Kyoto Protocol on the verge of death, gloomy negotiators are gathering in South Africa Monday in an attempt to salvage a vague “road map” for a future climate agreement in 2020 or later. Without hope for a binding agreement in the near future, the United Nations climate conference is likely to resign itself to at least an eight-year gap between the expiry of Kyoto next year and a possible future treaty on cutting greenhouse gases. In the interim, the world would be governed by voluntary pledges – or “climate anarchy” as some environmentalists call it. (November 22, 2011) The Globe and Mail

At times it does seem hopeless—everyone pointing fingers and little being done—and there’s that nattering ridicule from those who don’t have a clue about what’s coming. On the other hand, there are actions we must take against such odds, as the direction we are presently going is unsustainable.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Greenhouse gases rise off the scale; Climate Change talks dismissed and attacked; but enjoy this Thanksgiving

 

Amidst the squabbling about delaying stricter GHG emissions, a new rash of stolen Climate scientist’s emails, refusing to adhere to an updated Kyoto Protocol, and probably a zillion other reasons why humanity as a whole shouldn’t and won’t act on Climate Change, the talks will go on at city of Durban, South Africa from November 28 – December 9th.

COP17 | CMP7 “The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol, will be held in the sunny city of Durban, South Africa.”

It is amazing to watch this human spectacle of denial. More reports continue on equating extreme weather events with Climate Change and more action by concerned citizens goes on to address Climate Change, but little will be done. As we all sit around the Thanksgiving table few will be so uncouth as to discuss the imminent demise of life on this planet via Climate Change. That’s because few, very few indeed, think we have reached any climate tipping points, where the climate just warms up beyond our ability to adapt or mitigate it. Few believe that extreme events are related to Climate Change. Actually, judging from mainstream media attention, few think about the Climate Change Crisis at all.

I suspect few around our Thanksgiving tables even know there is another IPCC Climate Change meeting, this time in Durban, South Africa. So, few will feel discouraged when the representatives of the leaders of the world fail again to come together and agree to lower greenhouse gases GHG so we can all have some kind of future. Few probably don’t believe that in order for all the Climate Change Action plans on a local—towns, cities, counties, states, and country—levels need to have world-wide agreement on lowing GHG in order for what they do to be worthwhile at all. Only a very few think Climate Change is more important than corporate-sponsored sports games, shopping like mad the day after Thanksgiving, or all the nonsense that fills our media today.

So, eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we …

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Should the GOP because of their attitude towards our environment be thrown on the ash heap of history?

 

One of the loony ideas that the Republican candidates have marched out to please their constituents and appeal to the US population’s desire for a quick fix for the job crisis is to allege that environmental restrictions lose jobs.

E.P.A. Draws Harsh Words From Most G.O.P. Candidates - NYTimes.com WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is emerging as a favorite target of the Republican presidential candidates, who portray it as the very symbol of a heavy-handed regulatory agenda imposed by the Obama administration that they say is strangling the economy. (August 17, 2011) The New York Times

In the first place, that’s just not correct:

Why Republican attacks on environment laws are flawed | Environment | guardian.co.uk Republicans have been attacking environmental regulations, arguing that they hurt the economy and that the costs outweigh the benefits. But four decades of data show they are wrong. In recent months, some in Congress have been waging a whole-scale war against the Environmental Protection Agency. By now it has reached comical dimensions, with three separate bills aimed at preventing a so-called EPA "dust rule" that has never even existed. (November 15, 2011) The Guardian

In the second and most important case, this position by a major political party is depraved. I won’t use case of centuries of environmental abuse by industries that have used our waters as toilets, our forests as fuel, and our air as an exhaust outlet. And, when anyone, any group, fought to curb these environmental abuses the money and power of the corporations fought, and still do, tooth and nail to treat our environment as a magical resource spring and an infinite dumping ground. Just do your homework: New York State, which suffered as much industrial pollution as any region, became a leader in government taking over environmental protection to ‘…blunt the power of the market.”( The Nature of New York An Environmental History of the Empire State page 146).

What argument I would like to use against this Republican tactic to get elected by accusing the environmental regulatory bodies for ‘killing jobs’ is the disingenuousness of their argument—from the viewpoint of the studies on our environment not yet accomplished. In other words, there are a zillion accounts of industrial pollution that has affected most of the worlds, land, water, air, flora, and fauna, but there are probably even more studies that should be done to find out the full truth of what the manmade chemicals unleashed on our environment have wrought. This story hints at the more research we do on industrial contaminates in our environment, the more we find industry at fault.

More contaminants may be added to Great Lakes fish consumption advisories | Great Lakes Echo#bXpulseX Every Great Lakes state warns people about eating toxic fish but officials are examining the risks of contaminants that aren’t covered under current advisories. All eight states – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York – pool resources from their health, environmental and natural resource agencies to issue fish consumption advisories. The group is dubbed the Great Lakes Fish Consumption Advisory Consortium. Most state advisories spell out the risks of PCBs, mercury, dioxins and chlordane, which are contaminants found in some fish that can cause health problems.  (November 21, 2011) Great Lakes Echo - Environmental news across the basin

And of course, corporations will fight tooth and nail in the courts against anyone or any group that tries to link their abuse of our environment to their practices. Again, just do your homework.

This is the Big Lie, those corporations and now a major political party is trying to abuse us with now that jobs are dire and the moguls of these corporations are in the process of devouring the rest of our money. They say, if you take away the restraints of government to regulate our environment then corporations will police themselves and we’ll have a sustainable environment and acquire a zillion new jobs. This argument is so depraved and false as to be an insult to every American’s intelligence. The media, with a modicum of research, could fill their pages with abuse after abuse corporations have dumped on our environment.

That only unrestrained laissez-faire capitalism will save us and right our economy is a political tactic that should end the Republican Party as a viable party. It is so monstrously depraved and false as to be tossed into the ash heap of history as a political party bereft of any importance.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Where do the US presidential candidates stand on the Durban Climate Change Conference?

 

I’ll admit I haven’t been paying close attention to the GOP presidential race much at all. What’s the point really? Mainstream media has framed the alleged democratic process of electing our presidents around the candidate’s ability to win, and almost nothing on substance. Certainly, not on Climate Change.

If we were a rational people in a responsible country, the candidates would have a debate solely on Climate Change. Think of it, our planet’s atmosphere is warming up and we are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, the candidates are squabbling about how to screw the American people out of more of their money and health benefits so the 1% can sit pretty.

That’s even when more and more stories are leaking out, even in mainstream media, about how Climate Change is going to affect our country. Check out California, for example:

Climate changes in California come into focus | SignOnSanDiego.com A spate of recent research offers new insight into how global warming is changing or could change California, from the mountains to the seashore, in both predictable and unusual ways. The studies show that common trees are fading from their current ranges, premium wine grape varieties are under siege, marine creatures are shifting locales, the hub of the state’s water system faces increasing risks and — surprisingly — birds in the state are getting bigger as the weather warms. (November 20, 2011) San Diego News

So, I’ll ask. What do the presidential candidates think of the next in the global attempts to curb greenhouse gas so we might have a chance of addressing Climate Change? The major developed countries have managed to squash the concerns of the developing nations for quite some time now and they probably will continue to do that at each of the Climate Change conferences. Probably, this one too: Durban climate change conference 2011 | Environment | The Guardian.

That’s too bad because the nature of Climate Change demands that massive changes in our behavior occur sooner rather than later are required. Villages, towns, counties, states, and countries doing a little bit here, changing a few light bulbs there, will not address something so incredible large as Climate Change. Only our ability to work together as a planet can make the kind of changes that will work.

Here’s what is trying to be done in Durban on Climate Change coming up:

Durban Climate Change Conference - November 2011 “The United Nations Climate Change Conference, Durban 2011, will bring together representatives of the world's governments, international organizations and civil society. The discussions will seek to advance, in a balanced fashion, the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the Bali Action Plan, agreed at COP 13 in 2007, and the Cancun Agreements, reached at COP 16 last December.”

But here in the US, you probably won’t hear much about the most important issue of this century and you certainly aren’t going to hear the presidential candidates grilled on it. What do they know; what will they do; how will their administration shape the existing Climate Change studies in this country and all the states in the union?

Pretty soon we’ll be like China, but not in a good way. We’ll develop some crazy technology to Band-Aid the country’s energy supply (take hydrofracking, or Fracking) and when it ruins our fresh water and continues to warm the planet, we’ll just be able to deny it because the media and the government will be one. Take China’s position on the state of the largest dam in the world. They say it went great, ripping up a few mountain valleys and flooding them and displacing thousand of folks, and none of this had any measurable affect all at all according to the government: it didn’t harm the environment. That’s just amazing!

Other’s not drinking the Kool-Aid, say differently. So, it becomes one group’s word against the others.

Yangtze River Pollution Imperils Hundreds of Millions | Society | China | Epoch Times The banks of China’s Yangtze River are crowded with chemical factories, which dump massive amounts of toxic waste water into the river, affecting hundreds of millions of people who rely on the river for drinking water. Nevertheless, a Chinese official recently stated that the Yangtze’s water quality “overall is good and can be used safely.” (November 20, 2011) Epoch Times | National, World, China, Sports, Entertainment News| united-states

If the media kept asking the presidential candidates how they were going to address Climate Change, this issue might get some focus. The next Climate Change talks are coming up in December and there’s nary a peep in the US press about this attempt to save our planet and all the folks in it.

BTW: Whatever you think about Climate Change and whether we can weather it, Climate Change is about tipping points. Tipping points are when we reach a concentration of GHG in our atmosphere when things warm up out of our ability to right it. When that happens, it’s game over. Squabbling about whether Climate Change is happening at all or whether we are even near those tipping points is a human dysfunctional thing. Adhering to the laws of physics is a warming up thing.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Can we address Climate Change at all, or are we too stupid?

 

What struck me most about the film “Most Dangerous Man - Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.” was the bafflement of Daniel Ellsberg felt after the complete airing of the Pentagon Pagers. Ellsberg, who had just revealed in top secret documents how the US presidents back to Eisenhower had been lying about the benign role of the US in shaping Vietnam policy, was amazed that the public didn’t rise up and end the Vietnam War. Not only that, the public reelected Nixon with an overwhelming majority.

It’s something to ponder. Even if the American people understand a crisis and are given all the facts will they change their behavior? This is especially pertinent with Climate Change, a crisis on an unimaginable scale because we humans have never experienced anything like a quick and massive climate change during our entire evolution. Sure, we’ve had our storms and droughts and fires and other upheavals. But nothing like warming up the entire planet in a few decades that might tip beyond even our brainy species’ ability to right it has never even remotely occurred.

Climate Change is a phenomenon we are causing that has no historical equivalent. As Marshall McLuhan argued in “The Medium Is The Message”, we cannot use the past as instruction on how to addressed some changes in the future because we are changing too fast. No really, nothing like it.

The news about Climate Change, unlike the Pentagon Papers, has not been delivered to the public in a single wallop, but it has entered mainstream news with increasing regularity and ominous portent. The releases of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC, a very conservative group of scientists around the world, seem to have been counteracted in the US by a political party that finds the news about Climate Change very inconvenient. What are you going to do? Climate Change is physics not politics.

But still, given all the artificial doubt poisoning the press on Climate Change, it’s difficult to avoid stories like this that are becoming more frequent in mainstream media.

Extreme weather to worsen with climate change: IPCC | Reuters (Reuters) - An increase in heat waves is almost certain, while heavier rainfall, more floods, stronger cyclones, landslides and more intense droughts are likely across the globe this century as the Earth's climate warms, U.N. scientists said on Friday. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urged countries to come up with disaster management plans to adapt to the growing risk of extreme weather events linked to human-induced climate change, in a report released in Uganda on Friday.  (November 18, 2011) Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News | Reuters.com

In truth, this news about extreme weather worsening is not news at all. When you read the official documents the US and most departments within the US and nearby Canada on Climate Change, you find that the findings in the IPCC report above have been known for quite awhile. Not only that, most of these reports include how the various departments think they can address Climate Change. Here are but ten reports from major agencies and governments and groups on Climate Change that include changes that our coming to our world and possible solutions:

1. From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007 from Natural Resources Canada

2. The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity from The US Department of Agriculture

3. Indicators of Climate Change in the Northeast 2005 from Clean Air -Cool Planet

4. Stop trashing the climate from Institute for Local Self-Reliance |Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA) | Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives | Eco-Cycle

5. Bird and Climate from National Audubon Society

6. New York State Climate Action Plan Interim Report from New York Climate Change Advisory Group

7. Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast from Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment

8. Climate Change Indicators in the United States from the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA)

9. Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority

10. Global Climate Change Impacts in the US (2009) from United States Global Change Research Program

That’s the good news, the information is there and there are solutions suggested so that everyone can read them. The bad news is that in all these documents there is not enough money, not enough will, not enough interaction between government and their institutions, not enough awareness by the public, not enough ability to regulate corporations to make them act on any of the provisions in the studies, and, quite frankly, not enough interest or understanding in mainstream media on how to handle something as large and compelling as Climate Change. The media doesn’t have a clue as to how to present a catastrophe as relatively slow moving as Climate Change. Back during World War II, they got it. Back in World War II mainstream media told the public (as much as they could given the need for secrecy) everything expected of them, what was happening, why, and what how everything was going.

With Climate Change, the media is acting as if they are on the sidelines of what they believe is a ‘special interest’ issue, one that only a certain segment of society would be interested in. This is a dangerous illusion that will certainly cook our species until we wipe out all life on this planet—think of the history of Venus, where greenhouse gases have so build up the heat there that you can melt lead on the surface.

To return to the question: Can we address Climate Change at all? It took many years after the Pentagon Papers for the Vietnam War to end. Then, we thought our country would never embroil itself in an unwinnable war that would tear our country apart, but we lied ourselves into the Iraq War. Now we face Climate Change. The information we need is out there that overwhelmingly proves without a shadow of doubt that anthropogenic (us) Climate Change is happening and happening quickly.

The public sits, the government waits, the media squirms, and the politicians waffle. Someone has cried “Fire!” and some look around. No one moves. We look around and still no one is moving…

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Please read this carefully, it's not the usual Yada Yada

 

Effectively immediately: the system has a new manual rendering all previously versions null and void. We have been informed that you have been negligent and irresponsible in your past use of our service; hence the need for a new and completely updated version of the manual. Compliance to the new manual affects everyone, no exceptions, no excuses, and absolutely no fobbing off your responsibility to the system to a third-party. This new manual pertains to you.

The new manual requires your immediate attention and ignorance the rules of the new manual cannot be used as an excuse. All provisions in the manual must be strictly adhered to.

The most important change to the manual is that there is a new pay structure. Everything from now on is going to cost you dearly. No more free ride. What you have previously taken from the system must be returned in full. (Instructions on how to do that can be found on forthcoming pages in the manual.)

Unfortunately, for too long it has been assumed by many who use the service that they could do so without cost. This new manual has been updated to clear up any misunderstandings on the nature of the service and how it operates.

We are sorry for the inconvenience, but somehow you have been misinformed. The system never was free. It is not our fault that you thought it was.

Changes to the system:

  • When you take something from the system, you have to put it back.
  • If you put something into the system that causes the entire system to malfunction, you must right it immediately.
  • If you destroy any component of the system and cannot recreate it exactly, there will be a stiff penalty.
  • If you pollute any part of the system with your product or byproduct of your product you must, at your own expense, clean that up. No half-measures will be accepted.
  • If you construct a sub-system to the system that deprives anyone else of their right to enjoy the full measure of the system, you must stop that immediately. Prohibiting anyone to enjoy the system is prohibited.
  • If you design something and attempt to implement it without first checking the manual, you will be severely punished if it goes haywire.
  • If you have trouble complying with the system, please deal with it as there is no help available—we simply lack the resources.

If you are unhappy with the new manual, please note there is no one, no department, to complain to. This is it. No more notifications will be forthcoming.

Signed,

Mother Earth

Amphibian decline should be on our radar

 

Since I began writing on our environment back in the 1990”s dire warnings about the loss of amphibians around the world have been circulating. You’d hear a story here and there, but this looming crisis was rarely in mainstream media. What is the life of a frog or salamander compared to whether your football team is winning or losing?

But, think a moment. What role does an entire family of animals (fauna) play in the biological machinations of our environment? Let me unpack that last statement: Do we know if our environment, the actual environment that humankind needs to sustain its way of life, can endure the massive loss of amphibians? Amphibians--turtles and frogs and much more--lasted through the demise of the dinosaurs. They been around a long time and what this means is the amphibians are probable integral to how our environment actually works.

They aren’t just another pretty face. Amphibians do stuff and stuff happens because of them—as all the players in our environment. And because amphibians go back into our evolution so far, we aren’t just going to miss them because we like all that croaking at night; we are probably going to miss them because they have a critical role in the vast biological machinery that begat and sustains our existence. We probably don’t have a complete picture of how amphibians buttress our environment, but instead of letting them die off, we should be finding out more.

But now, because of our way of life, this particular fauna (and most of the others for that matter) are dropping away. Even if frogs and turtles and salamanders aren’t our ‘thing’ what do we need to know about this crisis? Check this out:

Amphibians facing 'terrifying' rate of extinction | Environment | The Guardian Researchers say tropical regions of richest diversity are most at risk of losing frogs, toads, newts and salamanders | If the current rapid extermination of animals, plants and other species really is the "sixth mass extinction", then it is the amphibian branch of the tree of life that is undergoing the most drastic pruning. In research described as "terrifying" by an independent expert, scientists predict the future for frogs, toads, newts and salamanders is even more bleak than conservationists had realised. (November 16, 2011) The Guardian

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It’s America Recycles Day, November 15th

 

We always need reminders that it’s time to recycle. Today is that day. Recycling keeps potential resources out of our landfills, as that junk can be reused by industry at a lower cost than mining the virgin materials from the ground. Recycling helps reduce Climate Change because then we aren’t burning and releasing methane gas from landfills, which at best only captures and uses about 20% of this very potent greenhouse gas (GHG) where the rest goes into our atmosphere. Recycling is something everyone can do and should do.

America Recycles Day “Since 1997, communities across the country have come together on November 15 to celebrate America Recycles Day. More than a celebration, America Recycles Day is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to the promotion of recycling in the United States. One day to educate and motivate. One day to get our neighbors, friends and community leaders excited about what can be accomplished when we all work together. One day to make recycling bigger and better 365 days a year. Get involved!”

For the Rochester, NY region, I have accumulated all the information and links and news on recycling for the last ten years here: Recycling Rochester NY . It includes lots of information about why and how to recycle. It can be overwhelming if you just want to buy stuff and throw it away without much effort at all. Monroe County makes much of what we throw away easy to recycling as now Monroe County recycles all plastics and has a new EcoPark for a lot of other stuff.

What gets tricky is that there are a lot of products that don’t easily fall into neatly recyclable categories like hazardous waste, items made with plastics and metals, pharmaceuticals, and much more. That’s why a lot of industry and groups (like the Rochester Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee) have formed: to connect the dots between the development of products and how they are disposed. When we do have to discard our stuff (after trying to reuse and reduce them) we should do so in such a way that we don’t deplete our natural resources and harm the environment.

America Recycles Day reminds the public that they are a critical component in making sure that we keep our environment healthy. If we thought, when we purchased something, how it was going to end up and bought stuff with our environment in mind, there would be a better chance that our way of life would be sustainable. We are getting better, and more folks are recycling, but we have a long way to go.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Don’t sit this one out: make public comment on Fracking in New York State

 

Even if you don’t agree with my view about Fracking, or hydrofracking, you should make an effort to make public comment with the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC). Anyone with any sense of responsibility for their children’s future should not sit this critical issue out.

If you think Fracking should happen in NYS, you should justify your opinion. If you are against this form of gas drilling, your concerns should be voiced. Sure, it’s daunting to bone up on all the specifics of Fracking and troublesome to get oneself to one of the public meetings the DEC has set up (go here to do all that), but you owe it to the folks who come after you. Your decision (and doing nothing is a decision) on Fracking will have a profound effect on our environment and future generations. Here’s the first and closest public hearing : Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 1-4PM and 6-9PM, Dansville Middle School Auditorium, 31 Clara Barton Street, Dansville, NY 14437.

Several decades ago I had the privilege of serving on the county’s Grand Jury, where the public is invited to participate on legal issues for a month. Before we began our task, the District Attorney reminded us that we were taking on a very important service for our county, so it was imperative that we all pay attention. (He also implored us not to embarrass the county.) So, too with this decision on whether our state follows other states to allow Fracking.

If you don’t know what Fracking is go here: Revised Draft SGEIS on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program (September 2011) - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation.

So here’s my pitch against Fracking. Fracking is going to be a disaster for New York State. Unlike wind turbines, we cannot easily dismantle such a pervasive technology as Fracking from our environment. This is the case of the camel’s nose, as once approved drilling will begin in the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale. Snaking under our feet for the entire state, regardless of the ownership of the property above, will be thousands of pipelines forcing undisclosed chemicals and our fresh water through a network of drilled and natural fissures. Who can possibly know where these natural fissures will take these chemicals far beneath our sight? There will be errors (note: EPA Finds Compound Used in Fracking in Wyoming Aquifer - ProPublica) just like there is in the nuclear industry.

And remember who we are. New York State embodies the Finger Lakes, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie of the Great Lakes, not to mention key watersheds to major cities, including New York City—one of the largest cities in the world. There is a reason why business folks complain about New York State’s usually tight environmental restrictions: we are the fresh water capital of the world.

Many, especially the fossil fuel industry, are getting very excited about the prospects of drilling here in New York. Boom times in New York. However, added to the threat that Fracking brings to our fresh water is Climate Change where many Likely Changes are already in the pipeline for our region—even if we stop all greenhouse gases going into our atmosphere right now. Burning the natural gas we get from our ground will further increase the consequences of Climate Change, instead of the reversing this tendency, as renewable energy such as wind power would do. Consequently, if we fail to address Climate Change and poison our fresh water, we deny our future potential as a place where folks will want to come when their water runs out. Climate Change brings drought, and many Southern and Western aquifers are drying up. They are either going to take our water or come and join us. They won’t come to our region if we destroy the most valuable resource we have.

We will have sold our family jewels to the fossil fuel industry rendering our potential for a sustainable boom of fresh water null and void.

So think about making a public statement about Fracking. In our Democracy at present we tend to think that the majority opinion is the right opinion—even though with a little reflection we realize that is wrong. We used to think a century and a half ago that slavery was a great idea. It wasn’t.

Somehow we have to find a way to make decisions that are best for ourselves and future generations. Right now, might and money make right. Sorrowfully, the best we can do in this time of economic misery is come to a public meeting, make our informed opinions known on this critical environmental issue, and think further ahead than our own present self interests.

You can find out what Rochesterians are doing about hydrofracking here: R-Cause: Rochesterians Concerned About Unsafe Shale-gas Extraction

If we permanently pollute our fresh water, our grandkids are going to be really annoyed with us.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Getting your flu shot and why it matters

 

Flu season is upon us and everyone should get a flu shot. Everyone should get a flu shot to lessen the chance that children and the elderly and those with compromised immune systems will get the flu. For, the flu (or influenza) is nasty business: “On average 41,400 people died each year in the United States between 1979 and 2001 from influenza.”Influenza - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. However, as bad as that is there is even a more compelling reason why you need to get your flu shot.

With the flu there is always the chance that it will morph into a pandemic flu. Basically, a pandemic flu is when humans catch a variation of the flu that has been transmitted from bird to human or from swine to human. Then people die. But when that flu jumps from human to human millions can die quickly. “The 1918 flu pandemic, commonly referred to as the Spanish flu, was a category 5 influenza pandemic caused by an unusually severe and deadly Influenza A virus strain of subtype H1N1.”Influenza pandemic - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. I suggest you read “The Great Influenza: The story of the deadliest pandemic in history”, by John M. Barry.” Some historians have suggested that over 100 million people died from this virulent form of the flu. World War I and World War II didn’t kill that many people.

So, given that, I’m wondering why the New York State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control haven’t put more messages out about getting your flu shot since October:

Here’s what the New York State Department said about getting flu shots a early this fall:

State Health Commissioner Leads by Example in Getting Flu Shot “All New Yorkers Urged To Get Vaccinated As Soon As Possible ALBANY, N.Y. (October 25, 2011) – New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., visited the Whitney M. Young Jr. Albany Health Center today to demonstrate how easy it is to protect yourself against the flu. As he received his annual flu shot, Dr. Shah urged all New Yorkers to get vaccinated as soon as possible. "About five minutes is all it takes to protect yourself from a dangerous virus," Commissioner Shah said. "Flu vaccinations are available at a variety of locations, including health centers, physician offices, and many local pharmacies, and are often covered by insurance plans. There's simply no reason not to be vaccinated."” (October 25, 2011) New York State Department of Health

The Centers for Disease Control (CD) says you should get a flu shot:

CDC Online Newsroom - Press Release: October 14, 2011 “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the initial “FluView” report for the U.S. 2011–2012 flu season with the message that flu activity is currently low, making this the perfect time to get vaccinated. There should be lots of vaccine available, because the supply is projected to set a U.S. record. “It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body′s immune response to fully kick in,” says Joe Bresee, M.D., Chief of CDC′s Influenza Epidemiology and Prevention Branch. “It′s best to get” Flu.gov

This is what you have to get your head around. Some years there is more of a chance of a pandemic flu than others. It’s a crap shoot. Meaning, it’s hard to predict if anyone year will be the killer year. When the experts are making flu serum earlier in the year they can’t tell exactly if they have the form of the flu that will take off later in the year because these kinds of flu can turn on a dime. Back in the winter of 1918 only a few died of the Spanish Flu. It’s only when that same flu returned in the fall of 1918 and the winter of 1919 that it metastasized into one of the world’s worst people killers.

We tend to think that the danger of a flu pandemic depends on how much fuss is created in mainstream news about the flu, sometime criticizing heads of government who plow millions of public dollars into a possible flu pandemic that doesn’t occur. Of course, one of the reasons why a possible flu pandemic doesn’t span out is because under this possible threat folks get vaccinated and that prevents the flu from going viral.

But the real reason, and this is my point that I’ve taken so long to get to, is that in order to be ready for something so virulent and fast and pervasive as a pandemic flu, we have to have the infrastructure—serum, everyone with a health plan so they can get shots, a distribution system for the serum, a network for containment (keeping folks from going to work, and businesses economically healthy enough to produce the serum world-wide. To do that ya’ll need to get a flu shot each year to keep this infrastructure viable and ready to go.

Many like to hold government officials ‘accountable’ for ramping up the attention for flu shots (like President Ford’s 1976 Flu decision) when a pandemic doesn’t occur. Then, the public got all shook up and seemingly a lot of public money went to waste. That’s wrong-headed thinking. Predicting pandemic flu wouldn’t be so expense and open to criticism if we had an infrastructure ready to handle a pandemic all the time. That would mean everyone should have a health care plan (in the US, 50 million folks don’t) and everyone should get a flu shot each year to keep the system honed for an eventual pandemic outbreak. A pandemic is inevitable because humans in some countries live in very close proximity to birds and swine. A flu pandemic is only a matter of time.

Will we hold those who have fought against complete health care for all (for it is the weak links, the sick, who provide a pandemic the mechanism to spread the disease quickly) responsible when a pandemic strikes? Will we hold those who criticize government officials for alarming the public responsible when the pandemic finally does come and millions upon millions die because we were not ready?

Ya’ll need to get your flu shots.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

RochesterEnvironment.com supports the mission of the Occupy Rochester movement.

 

We as a nation are moving rapidly towards a more and more unsustainable future that cannot be resolved under the present Plutocracy that has become America—where money dominates our politics, our environment, and even our morality. 

Climate Change is upon us and will have many Likely Changes in the Rochester, NY region. 

Some actions are being address in our area to comeback Climate Change but not enough and not quickly enough. 

The prevailing notion of our present business/government set up is that we can adapt and mitigate Climate Change by accomplishing ad hoc measures—like changing light bulbs.  But to reduce our concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG), in particular carbon dioxide, from its present level of 385 parts per million (ppm) to the optimum of 350 ppm, and change something as incredibly large as our atmosphere, we have to move faster and with everyone’s participation.

Occupy Rochester describes the kind of upheaval in conventional thinking and practices that will be needed to put our environment on a sustainable path.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Occupy your Internet before the corporations do

 

We the people have assumed that because the Internet has been free and open to all for a long time that it will remain so forever. Think again. You who want to have the ability to reach everyone with your message, your product, your whatever via the Internet will soon be limited if you don’t make your voice heard soon.

Here’s an encapsulation of what you need to know:

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know | Save the Internet Next week [this week] the Senate is expected to vote on a measure that could kill the Internet as we know it. The political process surrounding this “resolution of disapproval” — which will have a negative impact on small business owners, entrepreneurs, students, activists and everyone else who depends on the open Internet — is opaque and complicated. In October we held an hour-long Q&A session on Twitter to field questions about the upcoming resolution, which would strip the FCC of its ability to protect the open Internet. (Click here to see whether your senator supports or opposes this dangerous measure.) We decided to break down exactly what this fight is all about, and why it’s essential that the FCC have clear authority to enforce Net Neutrality rules. (November 3, 2011) Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know | Free Press

Corporations have so eaten up the other mass communication venues in the past—telegraph, TV, radio, and cable—that we tend to forget that they began as free and open to the public to speak to the public just like in a real Democracy. Now, the Internet is going to be carved up so that major corporations charge fees for what used to be free and limit what you can post and receive. Here’s the info on the Internet/Corporation link:

Net Neutrality and Occupy Wall Street – Making A Connection The U.S. Senate may vote this week on overturning Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules aimed at guaranteeing an open Internet, whereby corporations were forbidden to give some people better access to the Web than others. And the fate of the so-called "net neutrality" rules could affect future protests like Occupy Wall Street. At Occupy Chicago, communications volunteers count more than 33,000 Facebook "likes," 20,000 Twitter followers, and several thousand website hits every day. (November 8, 2011) Public News Service

Why fear the corporate domination of the Internet? Many might think that a corporate dominated Internet will be better. There will be more slick ads ad a better quality programming—just like in present day radio. This is nonsense. Slick corporate media means the corporate media, some backed by the fossil fuel industry, is not going adequately report on fossil fuel news and Climate Change. Even though we were 10,000 strong protesting around the White House on Sunday, there was very little corporate media coverage of the event:

Largest demonstration to stop Climate Change ever Those of us who stood in Lafayette Square yesterday in Washington, DC and then marched around the White House to implore that President Obama reject the Keystone XL Tar Sand Pipeline project validated the concerns of millions of Americans and Canadians on Climate Change. Over 12, 000 souls took time out of their lives to come together to demonstrate that the wholesale capitulation of the public to the fossil fuel industry over our environment and our future is over. This is not a jobs or the environment kind of issue; forgetaboutit: “Jobs vs. our Environment – Wrong characterization of Tar Sands Action”. Admittedly, this massive rally with a host of world environmental leaders and activists on stopping this project to tear up a portion of the boreal forests in Canada and threaten many ecologies via a pipeline that would divide our country up and end up at the Gulf for refinement—a thoroughly nasty business fraught with all the planetary exploitation and pollution possible—was fun. Yes, it was fun to join with thousands to demand we finally stand up for stewardship of our environment. (November 7, 2011) Environmental Thoughts

We are at a serious juncture in the history of our media and here’s what you need to do about it:

Free Press | Media reform through education, organizing and advocacy “The Fight for Better Media Begins Here | Free Press is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Please join us.”

Monday, November 07, 2011

Largest demonstration to stop Climate Change ever

McKibbenAtTarSandsRallyThose of us who stood in Lafayette Square yesterday in Washington, DC and then marched around the White House to implore that President Obama reject the Keystone XL Tar Sand Pipeline project validated the concerns of millions of Americans and Canadians on Climate Change. Over 12, 000 souls took time out of their lives to come together to demonstrate that the wholesale capitulation of the public to the fossil fuel industry over our environment and our future is over. This is not a jobs or the environment kind of issue; forgetaboutit: “Jobs vs. our Environment – Wrong characterization of Tar Sands Action”.

Admittedly, this massive rally with a host of world environmental leaders and activists on stopping this project to tear up a portion of the boreal forests in Canada and threaten many ecologies via a pipeline that would divide our country up and end up at the Gulf for refinement—a thoroughly nasty business fraught with all the planetary exploitation and pollution possible—was fun. Yes, it was fun to join with thousands to demand we finally stand up for stewardship of our environment.

However, Dick Gregory, the great activist and one hell of a public speaker, reminded all of us who might forget that there was a reason why we were not laid brutally upon by police violence. It was because of the thousands of courageous protesters who came before us who did endure the dogs and bullets and whips in peaceful demonstrations of the past so we present activists could bring our children and elderly to focus on the message--not suffer the humiliation of belonging to an intolerant police state.

Bill McKibben, Naomi Kline, Dr. James Hansen, Michael Brune, and other great speakers talked about this moment in history, where humanity must stand up for the stewardship of our planet. Debunking the myths surrounding the Keystone XL Tar Sands formed the catalyst for our immense peaceful gathering, but encouraging President Obama to be the president and leader on our environment as he promised in the last election was the hope and spirit that drove us. We expect that the president we voted and hoped for will be on the side of the stewards of this planet—not the disdainful polluters.

Media coverage seemed scant as we walked through the streets of Washington, DC to our destination; note the New York Times could only find room for the event on a blog entry: Thousands Protest Keystone XL Pipeline Project - NYTimes.com Nothing on the front page of the Washington Post because 12, 000 US citizens from all over the country demonstrating to save our planet from Climate Change through the streets to the White House must be small potatoes over there inside the Beltwave. This is tragic because under the present-day scheme of media, where corporate-backed funds replace a century of advertising loss depicts a world where only a marginalized few care about the health of our planet or understand the gravity of Climate Change. This is nonsense. We are the 99%. If we had a functional press you could see that. You can see some great photos and learn all about yesterday’s rally here: Tar Sands Action. Move away from corporate-backed press and occupy the media.

Increasingly though, our dysfunctional media is being occupied by social media and other media models evolving to deal with the insular and vicious political mouthpieces disguised as media and find a new media structure that can reach everyone with all the information we need to be a true Democracy. However, we have yet to find some way to adequately fund the thousands of expert journalists we need to hold power to the public spotlight.

Despite the power of corporations (whose only mission is to give their shareholders a profit , those thousands who attended this rally will radiate their message to the rest of this country, and other countries. Yesterday’s Tar Sands Action offers a glimpse of a world to come where millions of folks who care about our environment come with their cell phones, and cameras, and tablets and use these democratic tools for a new media that is rounding the corner to get in your face.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Jobs vs. our Environment – Wrong characterization of Tar Sands Action

 
This is an interesting delusion coming from our public airwaves --Obama's Pipeline Decision Must Balance Jobs, Environment : NPR—as it characterizes our present economic and environment problems as an illusory polarity of desperate choices. The GOP and their silly candidates running for President of the United States has been very successful in deluding the public that they have only a choice between jobs and our environment. Choose one or the other, they say. And, of course, our public media is onboard with that characterization.
“In other words, the president will ultimately decide whether to give a red or green light to the oil pipeline. It will inevitably divide his base, says Josh Freed, vice president for the clean energy program at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way. “Labor unions are big supporters of building the Keystone pipeline,” he says. “Environmentalists who’ve been frustrated with several other decisions the president has made over the last three years have turned this into a proxy to see whose side of many environmental issues the president stands on.” That’s how the environmentalists describe this fight, too: a test of how much this president really deserves their support.” (November 4, 2011) NPR : National Public Radio
However, it is not the case that we must choose between jobs or our environment. We the people can decide not to let the fossil fuel industry lord over our economics and instead help renewable energy and take away the billions we give to the fossil fuel industry. Then, jobs by the zillions would be available to both stop the increase in greenhouse gases (GHG) that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will cause and increase our ability to combat Climate Change.

Those of us going to Washington tomorrow are not against jobs. We are against what will be a dangerous pipeline of dirty oil snaking through our country to refine that dirty oil and put more GHG into our atmosphere. We want President Obama to keep his promises and take action on Climate Change. Allowing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to happen would be the final capitulation of our president to our addiction to the fossil fuel industry, instead of taking leadership on Climate Change. We hope to get in the president’s face tomorrow with that message:
Tar Sands Action “November 6th: Tar Sands Action Returns to DC | One year from the next election, we will return to DC to try to encircle the White House to ask President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The action begins at 2 pm in Lafayette Park.”
The story below is a dreary characterization of what will happen if the president approves of the pipeline:
Obama Advisers Fret Over Keystone XL Pipeline's Political Risks | InsideClimate News Officials fear that a decision in favor of the oil pipeline could dampen enthusiasm among volunteers needed for door-to-door campaigning in 2012. Reeling from months of protests, President Barack Obama's advisers are worried that administration approval for a planned oil pipeline from Canada could cost him political support from Democrats in 2012. Senior officials at the White House and Obama's Chicago campaign headquarters have fielded complaints from supporters who are unhappy about TransCanada Corp's plan to build a massive pipeline to transport crude from Alberta to Texas, sources familiar with the situation said. (November 4, 2011) | InsideClimate News
So, everyone thinks the president has only two choices:

  • Approve the pipeline and create jobs and pollute the environment
  • Don’t approve it and take away potential jobs, lose the next election, and save the environment.
Let’s grow up. It’s a lot more complicated than that and our media needs to get it.

What this really reflects is the insane dilemma that the GOP and the president have put those who are trying to save our environment from the ravages of our mean-spirited economy, where the rich do fine and the rest of us 99% don’t fare so well, into an impossible bind. But, it’s an illusory bind created by our media and our loony politics. There are more than two choices to get more jobs and save our environment. Environmentalist want jobs, but green jobs, not dirty fossil fuel jobs. We will be very disappointed in the president if he does not stop this crazy scheme to run a fossil fuel pipeline through our country and risk our environment to refine dirty oil that will only increase GHG.

But to say that if the president approves of the pipeline it will drive us to the GOP camp is wrong. Those people (as Robert E. Lee used to characterize the Union forces) are so extreme in their Laissez-faire Capitalism that they would indeed keep to their failed ideology even if it brought our environment to a collapse. Obama is teachable; the GOP not so much. Environmentalist would be shooting themselves in the food if they stayed at home on Election Day.

We are a culture addicted to the burning of fossil fuels for energy. So, one of the consequences of that addiction is that most of the jobs at this present time are related to the use of fossil fuels. So the GOP and the fossil fuel industry keep saying that if we don’t drill and drill for more fossil fuel you won’t get a job—which scares the bejesus out of the public into believing that their only choices for survival are fossil fuel jobs or our environment. The fossil fuel industries know they have us in a stranglehold if they can force our president to continually back their industry and sow doubt on Climate Change—which is as real as gravity.

It’s not. We can change the political and economic landscape to address Climate Change by backing renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal) while increasing our energy storage, energy efficiency, and conserving energy. Not only can we, we must.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Hydrofracking decisions in New York State will not be based on science, but greed

 

If the basis upon which the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is making the final decision to permit hydrofracking (Fracking) in New York State is on science, they wouldn’t allow it. Period. They would abandon this irrational fossil fuel boom in our state altogether and clear the political path for renewable energy.

This quote by DEC spokesperson in today’s local news says volumes.

"We will consider all comments made during the comment period," said Emily DeSantis, the spokeswoman. "Any final determinations on setbacks and other changes to the proposed mitigations will be based on science." (November 4, 2011) Democrat and Chronicle

On December 12, 2011 The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will close public comment on the Revised Draft SGEIS on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program. Then, sometime after that, the drilling will begin because if there is fossil fuel to be burned, we will burn it even though it makes the Climate Change Crisis worse.
Remember, the SGEIS we are shaping into the drilling law of the land includes the Utica Shale (though they don’t say it in the title, it’s on page 7 of the Executive Summary) and Rochester, NY lies well within the Utica Shale, Google ‘Utica Shale’ and click on images. There you’ll see a lot of images and drawings of the Utica Shale blanketing the Rochester, NY area.

Also, the DEC has been gutted recently of jobs across the state meaning their role for educating, regulating, monitoring, and enforcing our environmental laws is being done by fewer people doing more work. (This, of course is occurring throughout all governmental agencies and business around the country in these lean economic times.) Now, we hear that because of hydrofracking, there will be a new job spurt over at the DEC. My question is whether the DEC will be severely compromised in fulfilling their main role as environmental protectors, if they are consumed by the potential environmental damage due to Fracking? Something, we should avoid altogether because it makes no scientific sense.

When you take a state like New York State that has many rivers, wetlands, all of the Finger Lakes, and a portion of the Great Lakes and you then you propose to allow drilling through the shale rock with undisclosed chemicals and vast quantities of our water and ask does that make scientific sense, you are begging the question. It doesn’t make scientific sense to suddenly implement a questionable and massive drilling operation in an environment that doesn’t already have it. If would be like saying, “You’re a very healthy person and though you have never smoked cigarettes before, we think it will be safe if you start chain-smoking.”

Here are some of the guidelines as you fill out the New York State High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Comments:

  • Please be clear and specific when providing comments.. If possible, reference specific page numbers of the document.
  • Please base your comments on your own reading of the documents, or the parts that interest you. Summaries which you read on the Internet or in newspapers may not be complete or accurate, and some on-line articles may be out-of-date.
  • Please be polite and avoid using profane, abusive or threatening language.

This is code for: If you are against Fracking because you think fossil fuel lobby and pressure has given this industry and unfair advantage, don’t bother us. If you think that it’s unreasonable and unscientific to drill all over our state and put our water in jeopardy, we don’t want your opinion about this threat; we want you to prove Fracking cannot be done safely. If you on general principle believe that Climate Change is happening in New York State and will have many unpleasant and Likely Changes and Fracking will at best produce more greenhouse gases (GHG) that will further warm up our planet, we don’t want to hear it because you cannot back it up with facts, because there isn’t sufficient information, and there isn’t sufficient information because few have the money to fund such studies.

The DEC is supposed to be committed to stop Climate Change and its effect on our environment (see, Climate Change - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation), however, they are going to spend what little money and people-power they have to monitor the Fracking process. Is the DEC taking their eye off the ball by permitting Fracking?

Even our local media is beginning to ‘get it’ on the overwhelming evidence of the science behind Climate Change:

Biggest jump ever seen in global warming gases - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow Washington — The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated, a sign of how feeble the world's efforts are at slowing man-made global warming. The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago. (November 4, 2011) Home - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow

Let’s be honest with ourselves before New York State goes whole hog over drilling for natural gas by Fracking. We are not going to drill because it makes sense scientifically. It doesn’t make scientific sense if you control the comment period by only allowing what facts are available in a field where most of the research is funded by the fossil fuel industry.

What would make sense scientifically would be to not take a chance drilling for more greenhouse gases, but to conserve energy, make energy more efficient, and help renewable energy become our major energy source.

When the climate deniers say we should use ‘science’ they mean let’s use all the studies we can cherry-pick on the studies we prefer, those funded by the fossil fuel industry itself, and push for more fossil fuels because that is where the money is. This myopic view of what people think science is will make sure we cook on our own planet. There is enough information now that Climate Change should be seriously researched around the world. Governmental bodies like the DEC should be spending their time on ruling out Climate Change because it is most serious environmental problem of this century. They shouldn’t be encouraging more fossil fuel drilling.

Because the DEC’s comment period is framed around “Use facts, examples and scientific or engineering principles as appropriate” those who understand that digging up more GHG and possibly endangering our water supplies are at a great disadvantage from the starting block. Opinions about what we want our landscape to look like should matter. Grave concerns about Climate Change and how it will affect New York State with extreme weather events that will overwhelm our waste water treatment plants, changes in growing seasons, and more heat waves that will require millions in public health costs—these concerns won’ t be heard or taken seriously. Those who want jobs and realize most of the jobs will be itinerants coming into the state and leaving when the well is dry will not get heard.

Most of us who are worried about these concerns do not have a whole lot of ‘engineering principles’ at our finger tips because we aren’t fossil fuel digging engineers. Nor, should we be.

We are the stewards of our environment and we wish our environmental regulatory agencies would be also.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Extreme weather for the Rochester, NY region because of Climate Change just doesn’t cover it

 

Recent stories about Climate Change deniers recanting and more stories that extreme weather is coming to our area in the local news is a sign that the press is starting to get how serious Climate Change is. This article Experts: Future holds more extreme weather - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow and others are anticipating a new report by the IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The draft says there is at least a 2-in-3 probability that climate extremes have already worsened because of man-made greenhouse gases. (November 2, 2011) Experts: Future holds more extreme weather - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow

Though it seems the media has begun to give on holding back the news of Likely Changes coming to our area due to Climate Change, there’s a lot more to go. Climate Change in our region, for example will affect people’s health. This report--From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007—from Canada, explains in detail what the Northeast American hemisphere can expect—and these were known back in 2007. Check out this just this section of the report on “Air Pollution and Related Diseases” for the Ontario Provence:

Thousands of Canadians die prematurely each year from short- and long-term exposure to air pollution (Judek et al., 2004). The Ontario Medical Association (2005) has estimated that the annual illness costs of air pollution in Ontario include 5 800 premature deaths, more than 16 000 hospital admissions, almost 60 000 emergency room visits and 29 million minor illness days. Estimates are also provided for 2015 and 2026, assuming no improvements in regional air pollution levels and taking into account an aging population. Under such conditions, the number of premature deaths is expected to rise to about 7 500 by 2015, and may exceed 10 000 by 2026. The total number of minor illness days is projected to increase to more than 38 million annually by 2026, with most of this increase associated with persons 65 years and older (Ontario Medical Association, 2005). From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007

And the southern portion of Canada, including Ontario Province which falls in our Climate Change region of influence, is already addressing issues like an increase in heat days. Toronto, only seventy-miles across Lake Ontario from Rochester, NY, has an elaborate program to protect the public on heat days:

From May 15 to September 30 of each year, Toronto Public Health staff monitors the Heat Health Alert System to determine when the Medical Officer of Health should declare a Heat or Extreme Heat Alert. Using spatial synoptic classification, the Heat Health Alert System compares forecast data to historical meteorological conditions which have in the past, lead to increased mortality in Toronto. Forecast data includes weather conditions such as temperature, dew point, humidity, cloud cover, wind speed and direction. The system also considers when in the summer season offensive conditions are present and the number of consecutive days oppressive conditions occurred. Heat Alert is when forecast weather conditions suggest that the likelihood of a high level of mortality is between 25 and 50 percent greater than what would be expected on a typical day. Extreme Heat Alert is when forecast weather conditions suggest that the likelihood of a high level of mortality is at least 50 percent greater than what would be expected on a typical day. Heat Alerts and Extreme Heat Alerts - The Heat Alert System

Heat days, an increase in diseases because of insect driven diseases, like West Nile Virus, and all of the health problems mentioned in the above report are coming to the Rochester, NY region. How long will it take mainstream media to report on this? Already, in Rochester the press reports on high heat days and there are some efforts to relieve the heat stress for those who don’t have air conditioning and other protective measures. But we have nothing like the programs in Canada where folks actually go around seeing if the most vulnerable are OK.

Heat stress should be addressed in the media for what it is: a Climate Change issue. There are going to be more heat days and they are going to be hotter. This will affect not only the public’s health, but all those air conditioners being used at the same time will cause considerable energy use—and if that energy is produced by fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil) that is going to further aggravate the Climate Change crisis.

The public needs to understand what is coming because we have not already addressed Climate Change in a rapid and comprehensive way. That isn’t going to happen if the media bends over backwards to keep from the public the volumes of information already know in official reports and other public reports adapting and mitigating Climate Change—like this report: Climate Change 101 series | Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The media has a long way to go to update the public on what is already known and being done about Climate Change and this lack of effort is being reflected in the public believing we can delay action on adapting and reversing Climate Change.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Future environmental trends for the Rochester, NY region: Doublethink

 

Doublethink is the word George Orwell used in his world famous book “1984”to describe the absurd (yet, all too humanely possible) notion that you can hold two opposing ideas to solve the same problem. I suspect as we move into a warmer future because of Climate Change that there will be a lot of doublethink: thinking we can understand that Climate Change is a clear and present danger (militaries around the world acknowledge and plan for Climate Change flare-ups due to stressors, like water shortages between nations) while at the same time increasing the very practices that contribute to Climate Change, like burning fossil fuels.

Two news items today in our local media point to this absurd trend. At the same time we are beginning to acknowledge that our region, along with the rest of the world is warming up, and will experience likely changes like ‘extreme weather events’ because of Climate Change:

Experts: Future holds more extreme weather For a world already weary of weather catastrophes, the latest warning from top climate scientists paints a grim future: More floods, more heat waves, more droughts and greater costs to deal with them. A draft summary of an international scientific report obtained by The Associated Press says the extremes caused by global warming could eventually grow so severe that some locations become "increasingly marginal as places to live."  (November 2, 2011) Home - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow

We are also considering to massively increasing ethanol production by burning solid waste, which is burning more fossil fuel:

Development council proposes 10 major projects for Rochester region The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council has tentatively proposed 10 multimillion-dollar projects that, if approved by the state, could generate thousands of jobs in the nine-county region. Virtually all key economic sectors in the region are represented on the project list, with an emphasis on advanced technologies such as next-generation battery research, biomedicine and life sciences, and alternative energy. Largest of the proposals, in terms of money, is the Clean Technology Initiative. The investment firm U.S. Renewables Group has proposed two projects at Eastman Business Park. In one, a California company, Fulcrum BioEnergy, would build a $300 million biofuel generating plant with the capacity to convert 250,000 tons of solid waste into 30 million gallons of ethanol. (November 2, 2011) Democrat and Chronicle

Maybe we can make doublethink clearer if we say that we ‘want to have our cake and eat it too.’ We want to be responsible citizens and look at our world with clear and adult eyes, but we also want to have all the energy we want producing the same old jobs producing that energy and we want it all at the lowest cost. To really understand why land-filling and burning our waste is such a bad idea for addressing Climate Change, you really should read this report: “This report, Stop Trashing the Climate, makes the case that working to prevent waste and expand reuse, recycling, and composting — that is, aiming for zero waste — is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective strategies for reducing climate change in the short term.”

Some experts have suggested a carbon tax, where we charge those mining and burning fossil fuels to pay a tax back to the public for using their natural resources—like coal and our atmosphere—which is presently that space between land and the troposphere that we use to breathe and dump our greenhouse gases and other ‘stuff’. It maybe a realistic (in terms of preserving our present economic system) way to address Climate Change, but I suspect as we continue to ramp up greenhouse gases we are going to need more radical measures to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in something so large as our atmosphere. Climate Change, after all, is a problem of physics, not something the liberals cooked up.

As for our present, media I also suspect that they are going to continue to Doublespeak and report to the public that our Climate is warming and at the same time herald new jobs in burning the fossil fuel industries—like burning garbage for energy and Fracking. This means that our media wants their cake and eat it too: Our present media wants to sell their news to a public that wants to learn that their planet is warming, but at the same time the media doesn’t want their readership to worry because they will continue to pander to a world view where fossil fuel rules. This is probably why, in our area, that Fracking has become so prominent (and inevitable) while the effort to greatly increase our renewable energy [the Great Lakes Off-shore Wind Project, GLOW] was allowed to die in the press, a quiet an uneventful death.