Saturday, September 28, 2013

News on release of Climate Change IPCC (AR5) reaches all but Rochester, NY


ClamteAbsAfter looking high and low for news about the United Nation’s release of the new Climate Change report today (9/27/2013) of the IPCC WGI AR5, I could find nothing. Zip (except this, by Rochester City Newspaper). This is puzzling because over the last decade of attending to local online news every day, I’ve noticed no dearth of local media’s interest in far-off political shenanigans, celebrity breakups, sport scores, CEO changes, and how to develop your abs for that desired washboard look.

You’d think something as important as a 95% agreement among the world’s climate scientist that our planet’s atmosphere is warming up, we’re the cause, and we need to get off our duff and start planning would capture our media’s attention. You’d think all that would get at least an itty-bitty mention here. None, nada (except this, by Rochester City Newspaper). Though there are many, many Likely Changes coming to the Rochester area because of warming, there are no interviews of mayoral candidate on how they’ll lead, or even a little polling of what the average Rochester person on the street thinks of this:

Human influence on climate clear, IPCC report says STOCKHOLM, 27 September - Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident in most regions of the globe, a new assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The evidence for this has grown, thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models. Warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850, reports the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group I assessment report, Climate Change 2013: the Physical Science Basis, approved on Friday by member governments of the IPCC in Stockholm, Sweden. “Observations of changes in the climate system are based on multiple lines of independent evidence. Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased,” said Qin Dahe, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I. (September 27, 2013) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Non-local media mention the AR5 release in depth--Climate Panel Says Upper Limit on Emissions Is Nearing (September 27, 2013) New York Times; Climate change: U.N. summary of latest science coming Friday (September 26, 2013) CNN; and As IPCC Warns of Climate Disaster, Will Scientific Consensus Spark Action on Global Warming?  (September 26, 2013) Democracy Now! just to name a few—but Rochester’s media seems immune to the planetary situation that will affect the lives of all Rochesterians, our wildlife, plants, soil, and, of course, our climate. The Guardian provided around the world coverage of reactions to the AR5 release, unlike local Rochester media that has become more deeply committed to what the public craves—sports, puppy love, newest TV shows, and how to doll up your lawn—rather than what they need to know. There are other outlets for the public’s prurient interests than our mainstream media.

Most climate scientist agreed that a 2C rise in global temperature would be the absolute limit we can tolerate, but we’re headed for 4C or 6C. That’s because we are doing freaking nothing about it. Climate Change isn’t about apocalyptic horror stories, it’s about planning. We in Rochester cannot plan for something we are incapable of talking about. By ‘planning’ I don’t mean like planning for a vacation, where you could conceivably leave everything to last minute, then stop the mail, throw your stuff into a suitcase, and run to the airport hoping you can find an open seat on a jet to Europe.

I mean planning in the sense that a failure to do so dooms plant and animal species, and wreaks bloody havoc on our transportation, telecommunications and our water infrastructures. A lack of planning mean the poorest in our region get to die miserably from inadequate health insurance due to increases in heat and diseases. No planning for Climate Change, because much warming will occur even if we stop putting greenhouse gases into our atmosphere right now, means absolute chaos for our kids, or maybe even sooner. The window for planning against the worst consequences of Climate Change is quickly closing.

Some who have read the preliminary AR5 report are carping about the leveling off of world-wide temperatures in the last 15 years despite a continual rise in carbon dioxide—but at least someone in that crowd as actually read the report! Look, clever as our scientists are it’s very difficult to chase down how added CO2 to our atmosphere will radiate through the system. The system, 4.5 billon years old, is on a level complexity that would even bewilder even an Einstein with a supercomputer. This ‘missing’ heat could well be going into the ocean for the moment only to spring back into our atmosphere all at once. Odds are that the leveling off of temperature rises is not due to the laws of physics, bending its rules just once because we’re a really nice species. ‘Pretty please’ doesn’t work with Mother Nature.

The point is that silence in Rochester (or anywhere else for that matter) on Climate Change won’t make it go away or mitigate its consequences. We’ve been dragging our feet on this issue for many decades and it’s getting a bit morbid. Morally, it’s rather depraved to think only of ourselves, when most of the greenhouse gases that are warming up the world’s atmosphere came from us, the US. Since the Industrial Revolutions (both in Britain and here) GHG’s have skyrocketed. Many third-world countries made almost no contribution to Climate Change but they are feeling the effects. Climate Change will change the world and everything we hold dear.

I’m not sure what it will take for communities like Rochester, NY to speak up and have a conversation about Climate Change—how we will respond, how we will adapt and mitigate it—but because at the core of this issue is physics we will start talking soon.

As bad as our local media is on keeping us informed on Climate Change there is no excuse for ignorance on Climate Change. There is the Internet: check Global Environmental News for Climate Change. But without local media’s attention to this issue, most will be blind to its relevance to us.

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