While local Rochester media sets the table for the holidays and lots of shopping, the Climate Change conference in Lima sets the table for Paris 2015. There is nothing on the looming conference in the Rochester media, even though the Lima talks are a crucial link to an important benchmark in human history coming up in about a year. Of course, we have blithely passed many warning signs—hitting 400ppm of C02 concentrations in our atmosphere, dramatic increases in frequent extreme weather around the world, and the rapid melting of the Arctic—but the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris is particularly noteworthy. Paris 2015 may well be the last chance humanity has to act as one on mitigating Climate Change.
The latest IPCC report indicates that Climate Change cannot be put off a moment longer. Mitigation, keeping our global temperature below a 2C rise since preindustrial times, is the top priority.
‘Mitigation’, in the context of climate change, is a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases (GHGs). One of the central messages from Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that the consequences of unchecked climate change for humans and natural ecosystems are already apparent and increasing. The most vulnerable systems are already experiencing adverse effects. Past emissions have already put the planet on a track for substantial further changes in climate, and while there are many uncertainties in factors such as the sensitivity of the climate system many scenarios lead to substantial climate impacts, including direct harms to human and ecological well‐being that exceed the ability of those systems to adapt fully. (Page, 3, IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Page, Working Group III, Mitigation of Climate Change, WG III Assessment Report 5, Final Draft)
This is the scientists’ way of waving their hands in the air, jumping up and down, and shouting, “If we fail to make binding agreement to keep global temperatures at or below 2C preindustrial levels soon, we may very well not have a sustainable life support system—EVER!” Some non-Rochester mainstream media that finally get it on Climate Change now recommend that we ditch the Paris talks altogether because it’s too milquetoast: “We're Kidding Ourselves on 2-Degree Global Warming Limit: Experts” (11/28/2014 NBC News). However, scrapping Paris 2015 because it's too feeble means we'll never know whether we can act on Climate Change at all.
From this moment on, just days before the COP 20 in Lima, leaders around the world are readying for real action on Climate Change in the COP 21 in Paris. The Lima talks will test our political will for real success in Paris. These are the stakes:
The stakes are tropospheric, and far clearer now than when Kyoto was negotiated. High tide floods are becoming common across the coastal U.S. Greenhouse gases are making seas hotter and more acidic. Climate change is clearly amping heat waves, which are fueling wildfires. Global temperatures have risen 1.5°F since the Industrial Revolution, pushing sea levels and storm surges up an average of 8 inches. Greenhouse gas levels are rising now faster than ever, largely because India, China and other developing countries, which were never obliged under Kyoto to take climate action, are burning fuels at hastening paces to catch up on living standards. In the West, climate pollution levels are largely plateauing or dropping slightly. That’s because of energy efficiency improvements and because, in a growing number of cases, wind and solar energy are becoming as cheap as fossil fuel alternatives. Some say fracking and natural gas are helping by displacing coal. Others say methane leaks and natural gas’s low prices, which can hold back renewable energy investments, are making the problem worse. Either way, the planet is on a dangerous pollution trajectory. (What’s At Stake in Lima Climate Talks (November 27, 2014) Climate Central)
This all matters to the Rochester and the New York region—whether your local media is paying attention or not. The recent 2014 update to the “Responding to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID)” report does not indicate that taking our eye off the ball, shopping or watching sports on TV during the holiday season (which has stretched from around October 1st to mid-January), has alleviated the consequences of Climate Change at all. As a matter of fact, the projections for more heatwaves, more sea level rise, more extreme weather, and more precipitation in New York State have incredibly gone up.
Updated climate models and methods have helped scientists refine their previous projections for higher average temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and sea level rise in New York State. Scientists also project an increase in the frequency of extreme events, such as heat waves, heavy downpours, and coastal flooding. (Page 2, 2014 Supplement - Updated Projections Summary Brochure)
One of the most fascinating things to me about Climate Change is the incongruity between the lack of information and action locally on Climate Change juxtaposed with the information available worldwide about this crisis. Despite the Internet and the unlimited resources—including worldwide news and climate studies--to find out about the most important crisis of our age, there are seemingly no efforts in local media to connect the dots between the local consequences of Climate Change and the plans to deal with it. It is as if we were in the 1850’s and nobody will talk about slavery.
Actually, with Fredrick Douglas in town, back in the day, running the The North Star, from the basement of the Memorial AME Zion Church, Rochester was one of the hot beds for ending the evil system of slavery.
What has happened to Rochester, NY? Why are we now one of the leading capitols of Climate Change denial? As a major industrial region in the US Northeast that help put most of the manmade greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that is now wreaking havoc on developing nations, why have we forsaken them? Why is preparing (shopping) for the interminable holiday seasons more important to Rochesterians than this worldwide crisis we are in part the cause of?
The crucial negotiations coming up in few days aimed at paving the way for real binding agreements in Paris 2015 is not even news in our region—news of an event that will transform our future. How can we be so blind to a crisis that (besides being a worldwide moral problem) is in fact a physical problem that will eventually make Rochester and every other place on this planet unlivable—if we do not act? We have major studies and plans to deal with Climate Change locally, and you probably haven’t even heard of them because our media doesn’t investigate them and our authorities are too timid to mention them. Our local indifference to this present crisis boggles the mind.
So, what’s really fascinating about Climate Change is that because Climate Change is not simply a moral problem, but a life-support kind of problem, there are grave consequences to not paying attention to this issue in a time frame and level that will matter. Shopping for the holiday will eventually fade from our priories as our infrastructures—public health, water, waste, telecommunications, and transportation--get overwhelmed.
You don’t have to be a part of this local conspiracy on climate silence. Speak out, write letters to local media editors, and get our media to focus on Lima and then Paris. Remind them that we in Rochester marched along with 400,000 at the People’s Climate March. Give a shit about Climate Change. Make your voice heard at Lima climate discussions!