Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Is appeasement the best strategy for dealing with deniers and industry on Climate Change?

 

Is appeasement, just giving into to the other side’s demands no matter the future consequences, really a good leadership strategy to protect our environment?

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline where Canadian tar sands oil gets piped through the US and refined then burned for energy which will warm up our atmosphere even more has a new twist. Instead of deciding to drop the pipeline in the US altogether and move forward on renewable energy, President Obama has decided on an appeasement policy to sit back and watch part of the project—the southern part—go ahead.

Obama supports TransCanada's bid to push ahead with part of oil pipeline White House welcomes construction of portion of pipeline between Oklahoma and Texas, but activists condemn 'betrayal' Barack Obama helped put the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline back on track on Monday, endorsing construction on a key southern portion of the controversial project. The White House support for construction of a southern portion of the pipeline, running from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas, essentially unravels its rejection of the entire project just one month ago.  (February 27, 2012) The Guardian

This will probably make the fossil fuel industry so thankful to President Obama for his willingness to compromise our environment in favor of their industry that they’ll pull back their claws and stop trying to gut the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to adapt to Climate Change.

EPA Rules On Greenhouse Gases Face New Legal Challenges WASHINGTON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - U.S. limits on greenhouse gas emissions face a challenge in federal court this week from more than 100 industry groups and several U.S. states, the latest high-profile effort to halt or overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's rules. Three federal judges will hear arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday at the D.C. Court of Appeals from groups seeking to overturn the regulations and also convince the judges that the science used by the EPA is wrong.  (February 27, 2012)  Green News and Opinion on The Huffington Post

Whoops. Guess not. The fossil fuel industry wants it all, no matter how much our president gives in. That’s the way it is with corporations, they only need concern themselves with their shareholders interests, while it’s government’s role to protect our country, our citizens, and our environment.

Well, ok maybe we can depend on New York State government to hold fast to our strong ballast water pollution restrictions. Remember those Zebra Mussels and other critters that traveled inside ships’ ballast waters and trashed the Great Lakes? Guess not because when the shipping industry said NYS ballast rules were too inconvenient New York switched gears and gave in.

NCPR News - NY scraps tough ballast water regs, prompting praise and rebuke (02/27/12) On Friday, we reported that New York state is pushing Federal officials to toughen proposed new standards for ballast water pollution on freighters using the St. Lawrence Seaway. In that report, we mistakenly reported that the Cuomo administration is still planning to implement its own set of ballast water regulations, scheduled to go into effect next year.  (February 27, 2012) NCPR: North Country Public Radio

Well, there you are:

New York Pursues Uniform, National Ballast Water Requirements - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation DEC Will Work with Other States and Stakeholders to Advocate a Strong National Standard In comments filed today with the Environmental Protection Agency, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens indicated that New York will pursue a uniform, national ballast water standard that will leave in place the EPA's current standards in New York for the remainder of EPA's current Vessel General Permit through December 2013. "New York remains concerned about the introduction and spread of invasive species in the state's waterways and we hope that a strong national solution can be achieved," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. "At the same time, shipping and maritime activity is critical to New York state and international commerce. A technically feasible national standard which recognizes the critical economic role played by our waterways is the only viable way to address the spread of destructive aquatic invaders through ballast water." February 22, 2012 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

We are living in a strange reality where we know more than ever about our environment but we are increasing allowing ourselves to be ruled by those who don’t understand the science. For certainly appeasement to corporate desires instead changing our behavior so that our way of life can remain sustainable is a formula for disaster.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It makes a difference what you say about Climate Change.

 

The longer it takes us to say ‘Climate Change’ the longer it will take us to adapt to it. Whether or not we, or our government agencies, call a this warming in our climate ‘Climate Change’ matters because in the scenario where we don’t call it “Climate Change” we just keep denying the implications of warming and deal ad hoc with the changes—until they overwhelm us. In the scenario where we call Climate Change what it is our government and the agencies that will be responsible adapting and addressing it can begin their work with the critical public understanding behind them.

It’s not just semantics. It seems we are treating the word ‘Climate Change’ like we treated the word ‘genocide.’ When we witness mass killings overseas and don’t use the word ‘genocide’ we don’t have to act. Those poor people. We just stand by. If we say ‘genocide’ we have to marshal our troupes and begin action to prevent the mass killing of people because of ethnic cleansing—like we didn’t say until very late in the Rwandan Genocide.

When our government and media don’t say ‘Climate Change’ they can delude themselves of their responsibility. Our growing seasons change and a myriad Likely Changes occur each year in our area and the economically challenged, businesses that rely on snow and those desperate to find shelter in a heat wave can all go fend for themselves. So, many want to be very careful about not saying ‘Climate Change’.

Yes, the winters are getting warmer, sort of The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new planting zones map suggests that much of the country, including our part, may have a longer growing season. Gardeners might discover that not only can we safely plant some varieties before Memorial Day, but we might discover that some of our annuals — if we dare leave them in planters — might survive the winter and come back. Holy North Carolina! The shift in planting zones means that in many places the average coldest winter temperature has risen a few degrees. Curiously, the USDA was careful not to suggest that these carefully researched shifts say anything at all about climate change. I called in to a phone press conference with four Cornell University professors who were puzzled by the USDA stance.  (February 21, 2012) Democrat and Chronicle

And yet, until ‘Climate Change’ is used folks will go on as they always have treating our environment as if our environment can absorb all our greenhouse gases, our pollution, and a the same time do the impossible: keep our environment the same, just as we like it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What are we going to say about Climate Change in a couple of decades?

 

We are at an incredible time in our history where it is impolitic to talk about the most important issue of our century. Even when our representatives bring out bills to upgrade our water infrastructure and increase the effectiveness of our emergency response systems, they do not mention Climate Change. This is absurd because both these issues are a part any NYS climate action plan, which attempt to ready our state for extreme weather events coming up.

Rampant are public discussions about our future and plans to meet that future by both political parties in this country and little talk about a process where our atmosphere is warming up. It’s like planning a wedding for your daughter, when you don’t even have one.

Only a few of our leaders are will to stand up and speak to the American people about the matter at hand:

“"Global warming is real and to a very significant degree global warming is man made," Sen. Bernie Sanders said Wednesday at the outset of a special, one-hour Senate floor session. He was joined by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, Tom Udall and Al Franken in the effort to draw greater public awareness to the problem and to the international scientific consensus on what is causing the climate to change. They also discussed the potential for creating well-paying jobs in the process of transforming our energy system to rely on renewable and sustainable sources of energy, such as wind and solar power.”Global Warming is Real - Newsroom: Bernie Sanders - U.S. Senator for Vermont

Strangely, it seems normal in these extraordinary times to see sports scores dominating our media front pages while a scientific issue like Climate Change languishes in the back pages, if at all. In a few decades when extreme weather—warm winters, flooding, droughts, and heat waves—dominate our news and everyone is frantically looking for ways to adapt to Climate Change, we’re going to look back at the present media and wonder what was going on. What were we thinking of?

I suspect it will be something akin to reading about 1850’s American history about the attitude towards slavery. We look back now at that tumultuous time, just before the Civil War, where even the Supreme Court was making some really crazy rulings about who was free and who wasn’t. And we wonder how anyone could really believe that one race was superior over another. It was more likely that so many held so much nonsense in their heads about economics and human nature because it was so profitable and convenient to do so—despite the fact that it had to end in a war to right a such a great wrong.

Hopefully, our generation will come to our collective senses before we ‘get it’ on Climate Change. The physics of Climate Change has about as much to do with politics as slaver does, which is to say sadly all too much. All men and woman are created equal in the eyes of the law and greenhouse gases in our atmosphere warm it up. Pretty simple actually.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WINTER SERIES ON LOCALIZATION

 

10 regional organizations are sponsoring a series on LOCALIZATION: ECONOMY, FOOD AND ENERGY" at the Brighton Town Hall Lower Auditorium, 2300 Elmwood Ave., in Rochester beginning Wednesday, February 22.  Co-sponsors will have information tables at 6:30 pm followed by programs starting promptly at 7 pm.

The February 22 movie, the "Economics of Happiness", features voices from 6 continents including Vandana Shiva, David Korten, and Bill McKibben among others.  It describes a world moving in two opposite directions: government and big business promoting globalization and consolidation of corporate power, while communities are coming together to resist and build human scale, ecological economies based on "Localization".

The February 29 program, "Local Lessons from Distant Travels: CSA as Rural Economic Development in China and Taiwan" will feature Elizabeth Henderson, organic farmer and a leading spokesperson for sustainable agriculture, sharing stories and photos of her recent trip to Asia.

March 21, "Greenhorns", a documentary film, explores the lives of America's young farming community - spirit, practices and needs - building a case for those considering a career in agriculture.  This movie, as the others, will be followed by a panel.  Two young women farmers will participate in this discussion.

April  18 will feature "Empowered", a regionally produced film exploring how innovative Tompkins County citizens are exploring renewable energy options in solar, wind, geothermal and veggie oil.  This documentary shows how a community is banding together to work for energy independence.  Film producer, Suanne McMannis, who with her husband has lived off the grid for 10 years will participate in the panel following the film.  She says "If my neighbor knew he could put up solar panels and make money, he would probably do that instead of signing a lease for drilling oil".

The program is free of charge.  Donations are welcomed.

Co-sponsoring groups include: Abundance Cooperative Market,Center for Sustainable Living, Color Brighton Green, Federation of Monroe County Environmentalists, Finger Lakes Bioneers, Genesee Valley Community Supported Agriculture, Living in Harmony, Rochester AreaVegetarian Society, Seeking Common Ground, Sierra Club Rochester Regional Group.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

According to Climate Change studies putting redundancy and resiliency into our telecommunications systems is critical.

 

Major storms tend to disrupt land lines when telephone poles go down and wireless communications go awry if the cell towers are disrupted.  Also, if an extreme weather events, heat wave, floods, or hurricanes knock out power for several days, even those with cell phones many not be able to charge them up. Mobile back-up power units has been suggested. 

Or, TV and radio Stations might not be able to broadcast (think Hurricane Katrina) and a system of Ham radio stations could help our telecommunications resiliency in prolonged severe weather or when one major storm follows another—as predicted by Climate Change in our area. 

So, this is a good idea as long as the issues related to increased extreme weather are factored in. 

Gillibrand: Funds needed to handle major disasters - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow Finger Lakes, N.Y. — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand released a letter today urging Senate and House negotiators trying to agree on details of extending the payroll tax cut, to include funds that she said would help first responders in dealing with major disasters. (February 14, 2012) Home - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow

Monday, February 13, 2012

14th Annual Environmental Forum, April 19, Rochester Sierra Club

 

14th Annual Environmental Forum, April 19- you’re the first to know! 
Thursday, April 19, doors open at 6pm
Water!
  Here in upstate New York, we may not think access to clean water is or ever could be much of a problem. We live in the Great Lakes Basin, on the shore of bountiful Lake Ontario and near the beautiful Finger Lakes.  We use both as sources of drinking water and are fortunate to be able to do so.  But the threats of hydro-fracking and climate change loom large—our precious water may be greatly depleted.  Seem far-fetched for such large supplies of water?  In the past 40 years, the Aral Sea-- the world’s fourth largest lake in the 1960s, the equivalent volume of Lake Huron and Lake Erie combined-- has been drained 90% to grow cotton in the desert.  Could the same thing happen here? 
On April 19th, join us for an evening with Jim Olson, a Michigan environmental attorney who has been fighting for 40 years for everyone’s right to the clean water that sustains life.  Jim is a worldwide leader in protecting water as a “common good” against those who would privatize water to make a profit, leaving those who cannot pay to go without.  Jim’s legal efforts are based on the premise that all of us and future generations have a right to clean drinking water. 
Jim appears in the film “Blue Gold: Water Wars,” and was responsible for a significant victory over one of the Nestle Company’s bottling operations which was adversely impacting the Muskegon River.  We are privileged to be bringing him to Rochester.   After Jim speaks, he and several panelists-- experts in the fields of the challenges we face regarding water depletion-- will answer your questions.  You will not want to miss this Forum!
You are the first to know, dear readers.  Please help us to spread the word.  More details forthcoming.
Links:
Film Blue Gold:  www.bluegold-worldwaterwars.com/
Jim speaking on water as a “common good”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yd5oMOOpkA.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Uproar over the ‘mystery illness’ in Leroy, NY

 

The hue and cry over the ‘mystery illness in Leroy, N.Y. for all I can tell is a true mystery: Why are several people in the same locality exhibiting similar symptoms? I can understand school and town officials’ desire to halt a hysterical reaction in the press that might bring unwanted and unnecessary concern to their community. Once started, it’s hard to keep a community functioning effectively if the press has made a spectacle of your community that invites all kinds of fears and disruptions.

But I can also understand the fears of parents and of those who invite lawyers and environmental groups to investigate a possible environmental cause to these recent illnesses. Without exact knowledge of cause and effect, it is reasonable to assume that an illness with similar symptoms within a small select group warrants testing for environmental health hazards. After all, we have been dumping toxic stuff all over the planet and the planet is finite in its ability to make our more noxious stuff go away.

Here’s one of the stories that you probably read because this issue has gone nationwide:

Advocates seek more testing in LeRoy In Le Roy, debate flared Tuesday over environmental testing and medical diagnoses in relation to the cluster of students with unusual neurological symptoms. A trio of environmental and health advocacy organizations told the Le Roy Central School District that more thorough testing is needed in and around the district’s high school to ensure that there are no environmental contaminants that could be triggering the symptoms. The district did one set of indoor air tests in December and on Saturday said it had commissioned a second set of tests that would check more parts of the school. (February 8, 2012) Democrat and Chronicle

I suspect some folks are sitting back and smugly thinking that outbursts such as these just come and go. Some kind of cyclical mass hysteria endemic to human nature is going on: Once in awhile, everyone gets excited about some possible environmental contamination issue, wild speculations goes viral, then things quiet down and go away. However, like most of the stuff we dump into our environment—heavy metals and toxins that get thrown into our landfills, pharmaceuticals that get flushed into our Great Lakes, greenhouse gases that get emitted into our atmosphere—they don’t just go away. They move from one place and eventually accumulate in others, where they often do much harm. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that there will be more cancer clustering and other public health outbreaks as we continue to trash our environment.

Granted, cancer clusters and other environmental effects of our modern life are hard to pin down, hard to find direct causes. Lawyers abound who protect industries’ interests, not yours. Also, in the US many industries do not have to disclose the ingredients of their product, or prove they are safe before they use our environment as their toilet. And, there is always the possibility that many public health outbreaks will occur randomly. So, unless you have an extraordinary circumstance or a telltale stream of nasty fluids pouring into a community drinking supply, there is probably enough wiggle room for a denier to slip through the legal cracks.

However, the flip side of all this legal wiggle room is doubt. Doubt and fear and some knowledge (but not enough) create widespread panics—especially when parents perceive that they are protecting their children. One of the consequences of the media and businesses and government treating the public like mushrooms (keeping them in the dark and feeding them crap) is a public always on the edge of hysteria every time a public health mystery erupts.

Frustrating as it may be to local governments and industry, events like what is going on in Leroy, NY will go on. These outbursts going on in Leroy now are not something cyclical in human nature; they are an indication of the accumulated consequences of our wasteful sort of life, which is spiraling towards more cases like this. This is because monitoring our environment, making sure products are safe for our health and our environment before they are dumped into our environment, has become so political in the media and divorced from science that the public is left with little useful information about the state of our environment.

There is a way to avoid all this, which is to elect officials who understand science and are not committed to an unsustainable ideology. We can also only attend to the media that conduct investigative reporting on our environment continually. And we can insist that our government create standards for waste-streams that turn toxic products (cradle to cradle design) back to benign resources. And most of all, conduct our economy as if our environment mattered. If not you get this:

  • Brockovich Investigator Releases Preliminary Groundwater Testing Results in LeRoy Preliminary test results on groundwater testing in LeRoy, by Erin Brockovich's team, are in. Environmental Investigator Bob Bowcock says so far test results show TCE from the 1970 Leghigh Train Derailment has not moved toward LeRoy High School. (February 11, 2012) YNN
  • Alternate Le Roy theories abound Medical experts may believe they know the cause of the cluster of stricken students in Le Roy, but there are plenty of theorists both mainstream and not with ideas of their own. For instance, I’ve had two calls from people who insisted the symptoms could be caused by Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a relative of mad cow disease. And a journalist in Uganda recently wrote a piece, brought to my attention Tuesday by a caller, suggesting the Le Roy illnesses were what’s known as Ugandan nodding disease, a very real and horrible health problem now affecting thousands in that African nation.  (February 9, 2012) Democrat and Chronicle
  • New Air Testing For LeRoy High School LeRoy, N.Y. - New air testing could begin this week at LeRoy High School. Leader Professional Services in Pittsford will test the air quality inside and outside the school. The testing will happen while students are in class and when the school is closed. (February 9, 2012) 13WHAM.com
  • Advocates seek more testing in LeRoy In Le Roy, debate flared Tuesday over environmental testing and medical diagnoses in relation to the cluster of students with unusual neurological symptoms. A trio of environmental and health advocacy organizations told the Le Roy Central School District that more thorough testing is needed in and around the district’s high school to ensure that there are no environmental contaminants that could be triggering the symptoms. The district did one set of indoor air tests in December and on Saturday said it had commissioned a second set of tests that would check more parts of the school. (February 8, 2012) Democrat and Chronicle
  • A shipment from Le Roy goes awry A second school district in western New York has fallen down the rabbit hole created by the appearance of unusual neurological symptoms in Le Roy, Genesee County. That would be the Lewiston-Porter Central School District in Niagara County, which moved to block shipment of supposedly harmless soil from an old chemical spill in Le Roy. Barrels filled with soil were to be sent to the Chemical Waste Management hazardous waste landfill in Porter, just a mile or so from the Lewiston-Porter campus. (February 8, 2012) Democrat and Chronicle
  • NYS Health Department releases report on LeRoy girls A doctor in Buffalo said today, he’s treating four more young girls with tics in LeRoy. He’s diagnosed three of them with conversion disorder. Meanwhile, the New York State Health Department released a preliminary report today on the 12 original cases at LeRoy High School. It spells out, in detail, why certain environmental factors are not to blame for these symptoms. (February 4, 2012) WHEC.com
  • More mystery illness details emerge in Le Roy With the number of known or suspected cases of unusual neurological illness in LeRoy now standing at 19, officials offered the first detailed look Friday at their inquiry into the cluster and announced a public meeting for this morning. The meeting at LeRoy Junior-Senior High School is to discuss additional testing at the building. All but one of the afflicted people is a student. (February 4, 2012) Democrat and Chronicle
  • NIH offers to evaluate Le Roy students for free LE ROY — The National Institutes of Health has offered to evaluate the LeRoy High School students exhibiting involuntary tics and verbal outbursts for free, and state Health Department tests of the school's drinking water turned up nothing out of the ordinary, the state health commissioner said Wednesday. Dr. Nirav Shah, the commissioner, announced in a written statement released late in the day that an agreement had been struck with the NIH that would allow the students to travel to Bethesda, Md., for testing at no cost to their families. February 2, 2012) Democrat and Chronicle
  • Le Roy officials: Speculation harmful Although some environmental activists continue to link a cluster of afflicted students in Le Roy to a spill of toxic chemicals in the Genesee County town 41 years ago, school officials reiterated Monday there is no evidence the two situations are connected. They said the school is safe, and that continuing national attention to the students' unusual neurological symptoms is distracting the student body and setting back the recovery of those who are afflicted. (January 31, 2012) Democrat and Chronicle
  • EPA Doing Testing In LeRoy In Response To Community Concerns! LeRoy, N.Y. - On the very day two environmental groups called for more testing in LeRoy, we learned the EPA is testing drums of soil on the site of a 1970's train derailment. The drums contain rocks and soil taken during groundwater testing at the derailment site. It is a Superfund Clean-up site and is located off of Gulf Road, about four miles from the high school. EPA Spokeswoman Mary Mears told us she doubts the material is hazardous but says the EPA agreed to the testing "in response to community concerns." (January 31, 2012) 13WHAM.com
  • Environmental icons drawn by Le Roy cluster National environmental and health groups are beating a path to LeRoy, poking into the Genesee County community's startling cluster of teenage students with troubling neurological symptoms. Groups led by environmental-activist icons Erin Brockovich and Lois Gibbs have been talking with parents and gathering background. A chapter of the Sierra Club has been digging into the LeRoy school's unusual connection with natural gas drilling. The Healthy Schools Network, Empire State Consumer Project and others are involved. (January 27, 2012) Democrat and Chronicle

Monday, February 06, 2012

Gaming knowledge gaps in Climate Change studies

 

There is a lot of doubt surrounding the issue of Climate Change, just as there would be about anything remotely as complex as the rapid warming of our planet due to human activity. It means trying to anticipate the impact of unprecedentedly rapid change -- what used to take millions of years of adaption in Earth’s biology is being condensed into a few decades—with every other environmental issue we face mixed in. For some, this doubt galvanizes them to fill those knowledge gaps by investigating and monitoring the changes in our environment due to warming. Find out what’s going on, what’s causing it, and then find solutions.

For others, this particular scientific inquiry threatens their ideology. They fight back, some very successfully:

How this paper will be received remains to be seen. A spokesperson for Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), a leading Congressional climate change skeptic, is already discounting the study because of Hansen’s participation. "Hansen has lost a lot of credibility ever since he's moved to be more of an activist than a scientist," said Matt Dempsey, communications director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Minority office, which Inhofe leads. "The American people have rejected alarmism on global warming. Global warming has all but gone away on Capitol Hill." (January 31, 2012) Texas Heat Wave Caused by Global Warming, NASA's Hansen Says | InsideClimate News

What’s most alarming about this statement that Capitol Hill isn’t listening to Climate Change warnings is that in many ways it is true— Congress has been rendered dysfunctional on the science of Climate Change—though presumably our political leaders still believe in science when they, say, hop on an airplane. (BTW: How does a scientist become less credible when enough evidence makes it apparent that one must act? If your doctor told you, you were having a heart attack and wasn’t acting to save you, would you believe her?)

The gaps in our knowledge about Climate Change are narrowing. Most scientists around the world and most of our governmental agencies charged with protecting the public and our infrastructure are already working on adaptation strategies. This is the first paragraph in a draft released last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with support by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. (Which, by the way, you can comment on by March 5th, 2012).

“Our climate is changing, and these changes are already impacting the nation’s valuable natural resources and the people, communities, and economies that depend on them ... The observed changes in climate, in turn, have been directly correlated to the increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, which have set in motion a series of changes in the planet’s climate system. Far greater changes are already inevitable because CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a long time. Even if further GHG emissions were halted today, alterations already underway in the Earth’s climate will last for hundreds or thousands of years. If GHG emissions continue, as is more likely, the planet’s temperature is projected to rise by 2.0 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with accompanying major changes in extreme weather events, sea level rise, and acidification of our oceans. The pace and scale of these kinds of changes are expected to have major impacts on our natural resources and the communities and economies that depend on them.“ NFWP Climate Adaptation Strategy

Here are some of the knowledge gaps one finds in many Climate Change studies that we know about, which doesn’t even begin to cover the things we don’t even know to ask:

  • How will groundwater recharge, stream low-flows, evaporation, and flooding be affected by Climate Change?
  • How will changes in snow pack (snow depth) affect organisms in the soil as there will be shorter periods of the protective blanketing of snow and more on/off freezing? Think of those busy little critters that decompose dead material. This is not a natural service that even the best and the brightest among our species know how to reproduce.
  • What is the actual health of our major rivers (like the Genesee River that runs through Rochester, NY) without Climate Change stresses?
  • What are reliable indicators of climate change impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem functions?
  • How can we get accurate and reliable data on change in species distributions and movements?
  • How will cloud cover be affected by Climate Change, which will determine a lot about plant and animal survival? Trying to predict things like cloud cover and how much wind there will be in the future are great big gaps in these studies.
  • What plants will be most affected if the timing of their pollinators, insects and birds, is offset by warming?
  • Where will we get the money to add the necessary resiliency and redundancy in systems such as telecommunications, whose health is tenuous due to fierce free market competition? Think of the constant assault of extreme events such as high wind, flooding, and extreme heat on systems stripped to the barest everyday necessities by the marketplace.
  • What will happen to wildlife and plants that cannot move to livable temperatures quickly enough in a warming climate?
  • How will we create adaptive strategies across city, county, state, and other countries’ boundaries?
  • Can we assess the health of our environment through climate change using an ad hoc, business-oriented approach?
  • We don’t seem to know how to even begin to examine systems holistically as they undergo assaults from numerous directions simultaneously. Think of how telecom, transportation, and public health systems all failed at once under the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina.

Our ancestors did not evolve by benefiting from knowledge gaps, quite the reverse. A lion stalking an early human did not disappear merely because the lion darted behind a bush—suddenly it became more dangerous because of the knowledge gap. We survived evolution by quickly filing in knowledge gaps, not dismissing them. In that light, there are hopeful signs that we are trying to fill those gaps:

NEON “The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) will collect data across the United States on the impacts of climate change, land use change and invasive species on natural resources and biodiversity. NEON is a project of the U.S. National Science Foundation, with many other U.S. agencies and NGOs cooperating. NEON will be the first observatory network of its kind designed to detect and enable forecasting of ecological change at continental scales over multiple decades. The data NEON collects will be freely and openly available to all users.”

But are we acting quickly enough to answer the questions we need to know about Climate Change? And, how are we going to counteract those who are intentionally thwarting our efforts to make our environment sustainable in a warming climate?

Dr. James Hansen, our country’s foremost climate scientist, says:

“Public doubt about the science is not an accident. People profiting from business-as-usual fossil fuel use are waging a campaign to discredit the science. Their campaign is effective because the profiteers have learned how to manipulate democracies for their advantage. The scientific method requires objective analysis of all data, stating evidence pro and con, before reaching conclusions. This works well, indeed is necessary, for achieving success in science. But science is now pitted in public debate against the talk-show method, which consists of selective citation of anecdotal bits that support a predetermined position.” (January 27, 2012) Cowards in Our Democracies: (Part 1, page 1.)

Have we come to the point in our evolution that we can no longer adapt to change? And, of course, the biggest question of all is this knowledge gap: “What event or series of events would be enough to convince a majority of the public, who have been sucker-punched by the deniers, that Climate Change is a dire threat to our existence?”

Media begins to notice Climate Change in Rochester, NY.

 

This is the first local story (see below) to describe what our present warm winter means besides not having to shovel snow and other things New York State residents don’t like about winter.  In truth, this warm winter may be the new normal. 

Get a full picture of what Climate Change can mean for our region by checking out these two recent Climate Change documents, not from environmentalists, but from your governmental authorities who are charged with protecting the public and our way of life:

Businesses, nature try to weather the warm winter | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com From bugs to buds, and lots of flora, fauna and financial enterprises in between, this season's unusually warm weather could have a big impact. For example, bait shops that depend on ice fishing to make ends meet in the winter months have taken a huge hit. (February 5, 2012) Democrat and Chronicle | Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York | democratandchronicle.com

Friday, February 03, 2012

Can Capitalism save our environment?

 

I’m not a free market capitalist, and I’m certainly not a laissez-faire capitalist, as they both tend to rape our environment and not even ask questions after. But this discussion by Mr. Kennedy (see below) on how the free market can solve our environmental issues is worth your attention. After listening to this interview with Mr. Kennedy I think there is a lot that can be accomplished with our existing economic system if those who pretend to believe in the free market would stop gumming up the works with their agenda—like protecting their own slice of the pie at the expense of everyone else.

What must appear abundantly clear to almost everyone on the planet except the 1% is that the existing economic system, whatever the heck it has metastasize into presently, is not healthy for people and certainly not our environment. For one, it is controlled by folks who don’t understand or wish to understand Climate science. [If they wanted to understand the basics of Climate Change, they can take a class free at Chicago University: Open Climate Science 101 (which I am doing and it’s great)]

For another, revamping our entire world-wide economic system so that it’s fair to all people and doesn’t treat our environment as a magical resource and a free garbage bin is probably not going to happen. Those in power have too much power and they are not going to share—it’s how we have always acted as a species. Sharing what we gain from our existence with other is not our way. Just criticizing Capitalism, any kind of Capitalism, these days will get you dismissed as a Commie. (It’s so hard to have an intelligent conversation these days about economics or our environment that it’s sad.)

Anyway, if you do believe in the free market and think it can keep us going a few more years, check out this fascinating discussion:

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Transcript | Climate One "Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Well you know, for 27 years -- I have been an environmental advocate for 27 years. And for 27 years, I've had the same answer to that question, which is free market capitalism. People say to me, "What's the most important environmental law that we could pass?" I've always said the same thing, it's free market capitalism. Because true free market promotes efficiency, and efficiency means the elimination of waste. And pollution is waste. And a true free market would encourage us to properly value our natural resources, and it is the undervaluation of those resources that causes us to use them wastefully. But in a true free market, you can make yourself rich without making your neighbors rich and without enriching your community. But what polluters do is they make themselves rich by making everybody else poor. They raise standards of living for themselves by lowering quality of life for everybody else, and they do that by escaping the discipline of the free market. You show me a polluter, I'll show you a subsidy. I'll show you a fat cat using political clout to escape the discipline of the free market and force the public to pay as production cost. “(9/30/2011) Climate One

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

New version of Donate Recycle Reuse (DRR) document just updated.

 

Find out easily where to Recycle just about everything in the Rochester, NY area.

Donate Recycle Reuse (DRR) Version 30 (Updated June 02, 2011) Check out this special resource for recycling opportunities for the Rochester area. This "Donate Recycle Reuse" list by one of your neighbors makes it easy to recycle in our area. It's a work in progress so, send Jeanette your additions or corrects make sure that next discarded item doesn't go in the landfill. For questions and ideas about this page contact Jeanette jdztechw@rochester.rr.com

Warm winter days in Rochester, NY and the danger of knowledge gaps

 

As I write it’s seven in the morning on February 1, 2012 and fifty degrees outside. Yesterday, it was well into the fifties and sunshine. It’s not an anomaly; it’s been warm most of January, warm in the sense that insects were buzzing about at times. How many other plants and animals have been fooled into thinking spring has come I cannot say. But we can say we haven’t got much snow:

“So far this season, we've had a little more than 25 inches of snow, which is more than 31 inches below normal.” (February 1, 2012) No indications of more snow in winter that isn't | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com

Of course, here in the US it’s unfashionable to even entertain the notion that there is a link between unusual weather and the predictions of Climate Change—which by the way do predict that we will get more precipitation in the winter and spring with the likelihood that it will be rain. We will also get droughts towards the end of summer and early fall. And while the majority of climate scientists will venture that unusual weather is what Climate Change suggests, many must push back.

The media especially must include that linking quirky weather with Climate Change must be accompanied by many who don’t think this to be true. This inability for the media to ‘get’ Climate Change has gone on for twenty years now since Climate Change first hit public consciousness. It’s called objective journalism, where all news stories about Climate Change must have a balance somewhere in the middle of pandering to the fossil fuel industry and science. Those who are willing to stand up and say that extreme events and Climate Change are related are said to have taken the ‘plunge.’

Texas Heat and Drought Caused by Global Warming, NASA's Hansen Says | InsideClimate News Temperature data shows the Texas heat wave wouldn't have occurred without warming, Hansen claims. Others aren't ready to draw such a definitive conclusion. For three months last summer, temperatures in Texas soared higher than at any time in recorded history, and the state is still coping with the most expensive drought in its history. But can the 2011 Texas heat wave be attributed to global warming? Most scientists are careful not to link specific weather events to climate change trends, but NASA's James Hansen and two colleagues from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University have taken that plunge. They've gathered data they say shows that the 2011 Texas and Oklahoma heat wave—as well as a deadly Moscow heat in 2010—were "a consequence of global warming because their likelihood was negligible prior to the recent rapid global warming." (January 31, 2012) | InsideClimate News

Still it must all be very unsettling to many to see the grass getting greener and the snowplows a rare sight in January, even for those who don’t understand and don’t want to understand how our climate is changing. It’s got to be weird for folks to be doing stuff in the winter that they would usually be doing in the winter:

Ice Fishermen Undeterred By Warmth “January's final day marked the fourth time of the month where high temperature exceeded 50 degrees according to the 13WHAM Weather Authority.” (February 1, 2012) - 13WHAM.com

It isn’t that a lot of folks don’t enjoy the warm weather, we do. It’s that feeling down deep in one’s gut that we’ve mucked with a system far out of our control. Most of the Climate Change studies coming out now include ‘knowledge gaps’ where it is acknowledged that much of the information that we need to know about how our environment works even without Climate Changes stressing it is missing. For example: What is the actual health of our major rivers (like the Genesee River that runs through Rochester, NY) without Climate Change coming?

With Climate Change there are a lot of unknown knowns and there are a lot of unknown unknowns. And, while many might think that because we don’t know something is good, i.e., that ignorance is bliss, it’s never been true in our evolution. The danger of a lion stalking an early human did not disappear because the lion darted behind a bush—suddenly it became much more dangerous because of the knowledge gap.