Saturday, March 29, 2014

Earth Day 2014: Communicating Climate Change to the public, Part 7

 

CC7BillionThis is part 7 of a series of essays leading up to a major public discussion of Climate Change in Rochester NY on Earth day. On April 17, 2014 at 7PM, the Rochester Sierra Club will host a community discussion on Climate Change in our region with Mark Lowery, Climate Analyst, and manager of the state’s Climate Smart Communities program. The program is called 2014 Earth Day Forum “Climate Smart Communities:  Let’s Get With the Program." This “Earth Day” event (I know, April 22 is actually Earth Day) will be held at the First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Road South, Rochester, NY. We hope to reach the entire public—community, faith, and business leaders, students, the unemployed, the employed, young and old, healthy and not so healthy, rich and poor, and folks busy with other stuff —and have an old-fashioned community talk about the world crisis called Climate Change. Join your neighbors in a town hall meeting free from activism, ideology, politics, and denial.

It’s not uncommon for Americans to look to their wealthiest for the answers to their problems. After all it was J. P. Morgan who single-handedly helped ease the financial panic of 1907. Some of our wealthiest businessmen-turned-philanthropists have continually poured their time and resources into solving many of the world’s aliments. Today, some of those starting to get alarmed about Climate Change find a desire to pick the brains of those whose brains have served them well in the present economic system. “Innovation is the real driver of progress” (Bill Gates: The Rolling Stone Interview The richest man in the world explains how to save the planet, March 13, 2014), which is what you would expect from someone with a golden hammer seeing every dirty little problem as a nail. 

As suggested by some billionaires, innovation certainly must be considered. New ideas in the form of creating products that don’t produce waste--finding environmentally friendly ways to sort, dismantle, and reuse materials--will undoubtedly be a part of our climate adaptation toolbox.  However, as with much of the conundrums of addressing Climate Change, we cannot engineer ourselves out of a problem that human ingenuity and a fantasy economic system put us in.

For example, to address past, present, and future waste on a level that will matter in the coming decades, the public will have to understand the issues related to Climate Change and be a major part of the solution. Changing our way of living, one that continually creates waste, can only be accomplished by billions of ordinary folks changing their behavior—quickly. The innumerable things we use every day to get around with, to eat with, to compute with, have all been forged from fuels that are heating up the planet. Smug billionaires with lots of time to recycle their past solutions to this new problem of Climate Change won’t put us on the road to a sustainable future.

Communicating with those seven billion folks who are desperately trying to better themselves is arguably the most difficult conundrum of Climate Change. Do you pander to the public’s inclination to avoid bad news by sugaring it with things they do like, profitable stock options, pets, and sports?  Or, do you tell it to them straight? How about this straight talk from the guy who invented the hockey stick (not that one), climate scientist Michael Mann:  

How Scientists Are Moving Climate Change Conversation Forward Last January, I wrote an op-ed for the New York Times—If You See Something, Say Something—about my feelings of duty as a climate scientist to engage with the public. I hoped it would help other scientists feel more comfortable speaking out to the public about the dangers of a world warmed by human emissions. Little did I know that exactly two months later, the largest scientific organization in the world and publisher of the leading academic journal Science would launch an initiative aimed at doing just that—move the conversation forward by telling Americans “What We Know.” It boils down to three main points—97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is here and now, that this means we risk abrupt and irreversible changes to the climate, and the sooner we act, the lower the costs and risks we face. (March 27, 2014) EcoWatch)

Why doesn’t the public want to hear about the crisis of our century? Is Climate Change too absurd, too awful, too boring, too slow, too fast, too existential, or too depressing? How about understanding the Climate Change crisis by asking yourself this question: What if the sole purpose of human life, all the billions of life forms before it, were but to give the Baby boomers a neat retirement plan? Apr├Ęs nous, le deluge!

For that is what it comes down to, if we, meaning all of us, don’t vote in the right folks who are planning for Climate Change, and keep them in office. If we don’t change our behavior towards our environment, if we don’t act to adapt and mitigate Climate Change on a massive scale quickly, the folks retiring now may be witnessing a world that is, despite its various annoyances and bad TV programs, as good as it gets. No collective afterlife in the sense that our endeavors, our aspirations for our children, will carry on. What if Washington’s, Susan B. Anthony’s, and Fredrick Douglas’s sacrifices boiled down to well-off folks driving gadget-filled vehicles completely mindless of the moral implication of their actions? 

Only the behavior of billions will solve Climate Change, not a few innovators, or even a few environmental groups, viewed in the media as a special interest. Somehow we must rise from our lethargy and get moving. Below is the kind of quick comprehensive action in our New York State region that can make a big difference.

Make comment on the “2014 New York State Energy Plan” by April 30, 2014. Climate Change is about planning. One of the most important things you can do is add your voice to create a good plan to address and mitigate Climate Change. The “2014 New York State Energy Plan” falls far from the mark by vague language, pretty pictures of solar panel and wind turbines, and no baselines for a real clean energy future. Are we merely setting the table for more fossil fuels with various gas line infrastructures? This is all explained by Agree New York, who will quickly take you through the process of learning about the energy plan, explaining the problems with the plan, and pointing you towards making your own comment to the plan.

“On January 7, 2014 the New York State Energy Planning Board released the long-awaited draft New York State Energy Plan. Unfortunately, the draft plan does not represent the sea-change in energy policy that New York needs to confront the challenges of global climate change, pollution, public health, or energy affordability. The draft plan sets some ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but lacks aggressive policies and interim commitments to move the state from fossil fuels and nuclear power to energy efficiency and renewables. It's time for you to let the energy planners know what you think about this proposed plan. Read the draft New York Energy Plan at energyplan.ny.gov. Public Comments are due by April 30, 2014. (Note, this deadline has been extended from March 31, thanks to the efforts of AGREE, Frack Action and 51 other organizations that are demanding a better public comment process.) Visit energyplan.ny.gov/Process/Comments.aspx to submit comments electronically.” from Agree New York.

Also, come to the forum explained above on April 17th. Consider asking your community leader to join you and ask that they take the Climate Smart Community pledge.  This is the way ordinary folks, communities, and an entire state can begin to move towards realistic solutions to Climate Change.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Earth Day 2014: Climate Change probable scenario, Part 6

 

CCDifferentThis is part 6 of a series of essays leading up to a major public discussion of Climate Change in Rochester NY on Earth day. On April 17, 2014 at 7PM, the Rochester Sierra Club will host a community discussion on Climate Change in our region with Mark Lowery, Climate Analyst, and manager of the state’s Climate Smart Communities program. The program is called 2014 Earth Day Forum “Climate Smart Communities:  Let’s Get With the Program." This “Earth Day” event (I know, April 22 is actually Earth Day) will be held at the First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Road South, Rochester, NY. We hope to reach the entire public—community, faith, and business leaders, students, the unemployed, the employed, young and old, healthy and not so healthy, rich and poor, and folks busy with other stuff —and have an old-fashioned community talk about the world crisis called Climate Change. Join your neighbors in a town hall meeting free from activism, ideology, politics, and denial.

It’s good to hear about movements forward on addressing Climate Change locally. For example, in a recently released study, the Genesee Transportation Committee explores our transportation options in New York State—including “City of Rochester, Streets and Sidewalks” (Page 223)—as the consequences of Climate Change looms.

“Transportation sources such as cars, trucks, commercial aircraft, and railroads release greenhouse gases (GHG) that contribute to climate change. Climate change results principally from buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Climate change is altering the way people live, as the environment is becoming more variable and communities are forced to plan for the future like never before. More frequent flooding as a result of heavy precipitation events and more frequent heat waves are climate change impacts anticipated to be common to the Northeast Region. Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation sources is one of the largest contributors—in 2011, transportation represented 27% of total U.S. GHG emissions. Local governments are witnessing the physical and fiscal impacts of climate change. Precipitation intensity is projected to increase in many areas, resulting in flooding and other stormwater runoff problems. Fiscally, local governments are spending more on emergency response and retrofitting infrastructure. Long-term planning that accounts for climate change is needed to ensure that money spent today will reduce future risk.” (Page 1, Planning for Transportation and Climate Change: Model Ordinances, Incentives, and Other Resources (March 2014, Genesee Transportation Council)

But the critical question is whether the planning and implementation of these options to address Climate Change are happening fast enough and on a scale that will bring down greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere. If not, it’s just making us feel good and probably keeping us from a sustainable environment. The above study that connects the dots with our transportation system and Climate Change did not make it to our local news, which is to say much of the effect of the study fails to get appreciated by the public.

This is what fails to get appreciated:

Scientists Sound Alarm on Climate Early in his career, a scientist named Mario J. Molina was pulled into seemingly obscure research about strange chemicals being spewed into the atmosphere. Within a year, he had helped discover a global environmental emergency, work that would ultimately win a Nobel Prize. Now, at 70, Dr. Molina is trying to awaken the public to an even bigger risk. He spearheaded a committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society, which released a stark report Tuesday on global warming. The report warns that the effects of human emissions of heat-trapping gases are already being felt, that the ultimate consequences could be dire, and that the window to do something about it is closing. (March 18, 2014) New York Times

Climate Change is a catastrophe like no other in history. It is difficult to convey the magnitude of this slow-motion disaster in a way easily comprehended by the public. Some think we’ll (eventually) respond to Climate Change the way we did to World War II. That is, when we finally ‘get it’, good ole American ingenuity will kick in and we’ll kick butt.

Rather, Climate Change is unfolding more like another disaster— the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. [Read: “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America”, by John M. Barry.]

In that preventable disaster, politics, engineering hubris, hope against evidence, and a media hell-bent on comforting people instead of warning them, created a perfect storm. “The flood caused over $400 million in damages and killed 246 people in seven states.” Great Mississippi Flood of 1927

Basically, the Mississippi River was flooding long before the Europeans came to America, but they wanted to farm the rich soil along it anyway. Engineers studied the situation and came up with a variety of options. For a set of complicated reasons, they choose the worst solution of all: a policy based solely on levies all along the great river. Other options, where the power of the river could be released instead of trying to contain it, were off the board. Then in the years before 1927, many heavy rainfall events and flood warnings were ignored until on April 15, 1927, when the heavens unleashed a biblical torrent of rain.

No, the example of the flood disaster is not a perfect model of the Climate Change disaster. But it offers some examples of human behavior in the face of a monumental environmental threat. Folks tend to want to live next to water and farm its rich soil; engineers tend to think they have the answer to an environment they don’t completely understand; politicians tend to push for policies that will get them more power regardless of their merit; and the media tends to pander to the public’s desire that, all evidence to the contrary, everything is OK. Except for a few sage souls, inevitably labeled alarmists, everyone tends to view mounting evidence in the form of near misses (floods nearing, but not exceeding the levee tops) as proof all along the way that our actions are the right ones. Lastly, the idea of living in harmony with a great dangerous environment, instead of forcing it to our will, seems never to have been considered.

Climate Change slams human behavior into new territory, so searching for answers in past disasters or triumphs may prove fruitless. There’s no comparable scenario where our species is warming up the planet by buring up the fossilized remains of all past species, heedless of its effect on ourselves and all present day species. Solving Climate Change is going to require that we exploit all our good attributes and bury our bad ones. Quickly.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Earth Day 2014: rethinking environmental focus, Part 5

 

CCNewLookThis is part 5 of a series of essays leading up to a major public discussion of Climate Change in Rochester NY on Earth day. On April 17, 2014 at 7PM, the Rochester Sierra Club will host a community discussion on Climate Change in our region with Mark Lowery, Climate Analyst, and manager of the state’s Climate Smart Communities program. The program is called 2014 Earth Day Forum “Climate Smart Communities:  Let’s Get With the Program." This “Earth Day” event (I know, April 22 is actually Earth Day) will be held at the First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Road South, Rochester, NY. We hope to reach the entire public—community, faith, and business leaders, students, the unemployed, the employed, young and old, healthy and not so healthy, rich and poor, and folks busy with other stuff —and have an old-fashioned community talk about the world crisis called Climate Change. Join your neighbors in a town hall meeting free from activism, ideology, politics, and denial.

Many people over the eons have railed against what seemingly looked like obstructionist environmentalists thwarting their notion of progress. Environmentalists in the shape of landowners, ordinary citizens, educators, and folks from all walks of life have fought for forests, pitting themselves against the lumber industry. Others fought against damming rivers to save riverine ecologies from turning rivers and streams into conduits for waste. Thousands over the years have fought many forms of environmental disturbances to the dismay of those anxious to get ahead. However, not to be confused with Luddites, most environmentalists encouraged progress as long as it was viewed through the lens of sustainability. Over the years there began a growing concern among many diverse peoples that progress often meant a reckless disregard for environment. This galvanized environmentalists to fight in the courts, in the streets, and now on the Internet to salvage our birthright—a place where all life, not just our own, could go on.

How’s all that worked out? Well, our streams are suffering from decades of abuse, where there are few fish and the water is not drinkable. Our forests, riddled with roads and highways, have been ravaged of their diversity. More alarming, our species’ way of life is causing the Sixth Great Extinction, or Holocene extinction, an extinction event on par with five other major environmental collapses. This crisis is wonderfully articulated by Elizabeth Kolbert in her new book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.

Environmentalists have tried to protect our environment by forming influential groups and acquiring powerful allies in government, education, and even business. But the human desire for a better life and an almost infinite resourcefulness to fulfill that desire has not only put most other species in jeopardy but ours too. With Climate Change, there are hints that our own existence (not entirely independent of the environmental services provided by all those other creatures going extinct) might go the way of the dodo also.

This Earth Day might be a good time for environmentalists to reflect on where things are headed. We might ask ourselves: Are local past successes and failures good enough guides for looming worldwide catastrophes? Are there benefits to pooling our resources and concerns providing a united front? Perhaps most importantly, is there a way for environmentalists to get into or around our present media to educate the public on the complicated character of Climate Change?

Without a competent media to objectively report and investigate Climate Change, the crisis of our age, our efforts will be crippled by an uninformed public. Just this week, the Bonn Climate Talks, battles between developing nations and developed nations, climate-protection pledges, all go unmentioned by our local press as the window of opportunity for addressing Climate Change closes. No articles about an all night talkathon by senators trying to change the dialogue about Climate Change in Congress. Nary a word about rolling back flood insurance reforms to appease those with increasingly costly coastal properties, which highlights a major conundrum with addressing Climate Change: When the going gets rough, our politicians opt for the quickest and easiest solution instead of a major overhaul of our flood insurance programs that reflects this new era of warming. With rising waters on our coastlines and more extreme weather coming with Climate Change, we need a way to lessen the threat of home damage and lessen the threat that we won’t be able to provide insurance at all. [See: Senate Vote to Roll Back Flood Insurance Reform Increases Climate Risk, Taxpayer Burdens] Without connecting the dots locally on the worldwide, human-caused crisis of Climate Change, our environmental efforts to address this issue are but a tepid tempest in a teapot. Without some way of getting the message to the people, environmentalists will continue to be unfairly characterized as the problem, not part of the solution.

With Climate Change looming, environmentalists (not to mention the rest of humanity) are entering new territory—even those who have, more or less, predicted that things wouldn’t go right if we mistreated our life support system. Perhaps, we thought that the accumulated actions of our separate groups would add up to a wholesale solution to our environmental problems. This has not worked. The Sixth Great Extinction, the collapse of the ocean ecology, and now Climate Change prove that past and present efforts are not enough to fix the problem. The problem: If nothing else, Climate Change has now defined the nature of all environmental issues because if we don’t make it through the dicey wormhole of Climate Change, all our other efforts will be moot.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Earth Day 2014: addressing Climate Change, Part 4, the big and small

This is part 4 of a series of essays leading up to a major public discussion of Climate Change in Rochester NY on Earth day. On April 17, 2014 at 7PM, the Rochester Sierra Club will host a community discussion on Climate Change in our region with Mark Lowery, Climate Analyst, and manager of the state’s Climate Smart Communities program. The program is called 2014 Earth Day Forum “Climate Smart Communities:  Let’s Get With the Program." This “Earth Day” event (I know, April 22 is actually Earth Day) will be held at the First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Road South, Rochester, NY. We hope to reach the entire public—community, faith, and business leaders, students, the unemployed, the employed, young and old, healthy and not so healthy, rich and poor, and folks busy with other stuff —and have an old-fashioned community talk about the world crisis called Climate Change. Join your neighbors in a town hall meeting free from activism, ideology, politics, and denial.

When it comes to addressing Climate Change our politicians tend to only think in terms of what is politically feasible. Our economic leaders focus on the feasibility of solving Climate Change through the lens of an economic system almost blinded by loony budgets, crazy cost analysis, and theories that ignore our environment (unless there are lawsuits to be had involving pollution). Getting at the core of Climate Change is getting our greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations to a sustainable level—anything else, is well …, something else.

The window for doing only small things to address Climate Change has closed. Small things, like changing your light bulbs, driving a fuel efficient car, and weekly recycling, are important only if they result in enough change to quickly bring down GHG’s. Thinking that addressing Climate Change should only be accomplished after all the political and economic hurdles are leapt is an upside down view of reality. It is only by doing things that actually cool things down that we have a chance for our way of life to flourish. Those in Pompeii around the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD would have done well to heed the rumbling warnings of Nature rather than squabbling amongst themselves about politics and economics.

With the Arctic melting and our GHG’s rising at a rate ten times faster than the last ten thousand years, we must shift into a mode where our actions have a speedy planetary effect. Big actions are in order. The small stuff must be added to the big stuff. The Golden Rule for human behavior from now on might look something like this: Act in such a way so that when they are added to the accumulated actions of others it results in the quick and fair resolution to Climate Change.

Here are some of my suggested guidelines on Big Actions to address Climate Change before the window of opportunity closes and we are condemned to environmental tipping points we cannot reverse:
  • Vote. Do not vote a climate denier, or someone without a strong climate policy, into office, regardless of their position on other issues.
  • Encourage all environmental groups, politicians, and countries to advocate for a top-down, worldwide, binding agreement on lowering GHG’s. [See: IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]
  • Stop Fracking (a method of using undisclosed chemicals to drill a hole in the ground for more GHGs to send up into our atmosphere) and go 100% renewables. Living off the sun and wind is not insane; it’s a real choice: Read: Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight
  • Read and get others to read climate studies; stop listening to media that don’t report reality. Especially read ClimAid if you live in New York. Bumper-sticker talking points on Climate Change are not enough to understand the crisis of our age.
  • Encourage High Speed Rail and Active Transportation instead of throwing more public money at our present transportation infrastructure that’s too fossil-fuel intensive and costly to boot.
  • Get your community to sign up to Climate Smart Communities and come to the 2014 Earth Day Forum "Climate Smart Communities: Let’s Get With the Program", April 17, 2014 5:30pm: Environmental Fair; 7-9pm: Program at the First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Road South, Rochester, NY. Talk about Climate Change; get engaged with the crisis of our age.
  • Become a citizen scientist to help monitor what’s happening to our environment and help provide more robust data for climate modeling.
  • Conduct more climate studies to fill in holes in our knowledge. Check out these amazing photos of the Finger Lakes with the smaller lakes completely frozen over by this year’s whacky weather. These lakes will be profoundly affected by Climate Change, but few studies exist. Each lake will react differently to Climate Change. There should be a dramatic push to undertake more climate studies on the Finger Lakes and surrounding region.
  • Refrain from nuclear power (which is too hot to for us to handle) and most geoengineering schemes—except planting trees. Plant as many trees as you like. Opportunity Available to Support Conservation Tree Planting in New York State (March 6, 2014) The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
  • Get your government to get moving on infrastructure fixes and updates geared towards minimizing and addressing Climate Change.
  • Get meteorologists talking about Climate Change. If you think weather prediction is problematic, Climate prediction will be a doozy. It’ll be more than a parade that gets rained on if the projections are wrong. We’re going to have to plan our future based on climate predictions and free it up as much as possible from politics, economic jitters, and ideology, or else our predictions will be completely delusional.
  • Get wealthy Climate Change deniers out of American politics. Move to amend Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and gets some of ‘we the people’ back into it.
  • Stop the XL Keystone Pipeline “Stop the fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.”
  • Morph social media into something useful. If environmentalists were to direct the energy that our youth pour into social media towards Climate Change, instead of inadvertently pushing corporate agendas, we would have a society tuned in to the most important crisis of our age. Corporations, the film industry, and the fashion industry, have learned how to leverage Youth Power and social media to make big bucks for themselves; why can’t scientists and environmentalists get our kids to focus on something important to Generation Like’s continued existence?  Just saying… Think of all this as you watch this insightful program “Generation Like”:  Generation Like | Frontline | PBS 
  • Get politics out of our Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) so that projections of future catastrophes include Climate Change predictions. When your property is destroyed by extreme weather due to Climate Change, you’re going to need a well-funded FEMA to help you pick up the pieces. Get your elected officials to fix this:
FEMA: Caught Between Climate Change and Congress The agency has needed Congress to approve extra disaster relief funds every year over roughly the past decade to handle mounting climate-related damage. Thanks to climate change, extreme weather disasters have hammered the United States with increasing frequency in recent years—from drought and wildfires to coastal storms and flooding. It is perhaps surprising, then, that the U.S. agency in charge of preparing for and responding to these disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), doesn't account for climate change in most of its budget planning and resource allocation or in the National Flood Insurance Program it administers. (January 27, 2014) Inside Climate News

You get the picture. As long as you’re thinking about addressing Climate Change, think big.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Earth Day 2014: addressing Climate Change in time, Part 3, the window

 

CCWindowThis is part 3 of a series of essays leading up to a major public discussion of Climate Change in Rochester NY on Earth day. On April 17, 2014 at 7PM, the Rochester Sierra Club will host a community discussion on Climate Change in our region with Mark Lowery, Climate Analyst, and manager of the state’s Climate Smart Communities program. The program is called 2014 Earth Day Forum “Climate Smart Communities:  Let’s Get With the Program." This “Earth Day” event (I know, April 22 is actually Earth Day) will be held at the First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Road South, Rochester, NY. We hope to reach the entire public—community, faith, and business leaders, students, the unemployed, the employed, young and old, healthy and not so healthy, rich and poor, and folks busy with other stuff —and have an old-fashioned community talk about the world crisis called Climate Change. Join your neighbors in a town hall meeting free from activism, ideology, politics, and denial.

Recently a radio program began a segment on Climate Change: “When most people think of Climate Change, they think of science ….” But to say that Climate Change is only a matter of science is like saying a murder trial where a gun is the murder weapon is merely a matter of ballistics. Climate Change, although proven by science and given to the laws of physics, is a problem of human behavior. That is, Climate Change is a problem of how people’s behavior affects the warming of the planet—hence, accelerated anthropomorphic Climate Change. Burn fossil fuels to get around, and the place heats up.

It’s critical to that we recognize our responsibility for addressing Climate Change, and not delude ourselves into believing that it’s an indifferent scientific phenomenon remorselessly unraveling while we try to get on with our lives. Climate Change has been happening since the 1850’s when it first began spiking concentrations of greenhouse gas (GHGs) from human industrialization (280ppm) to the present (399+ppm). This warming is affecting so many environmental issues that many experts believe we are quickly losing our window of opportunity to adequately address this problem:

'Window of Opportunity' to Curb Climate Change Quickly Closing: Report |UNEP says world likely to 'lock in' worst effects of climate change at current rate The likelihood of limiting the world's overall temperature to a 2-degree Celsius rise and avoiding the worst effects of climate change has become "ever more elusive" and will not be possible without immediate and drastic measures on a global scale, a new report by the United Nations Environmental Program warned Tuesday. If countries stick to their current strategies, or lack thereof, for reducing greenhouse gases, levels will still be eight to 12 billion tons greater than suggested levels in 2020, according to UNEP's Emissions Gap Report 2013, which incorporated 44 scientific groups across 17 countries and analyzed countries' current pledges for emission cuts. (November 5, 2013 Common Dreams)

The various excuses for why humanity has failed to address Climate Change—the inconvenience of it all, the fear of big government, and the huge expenses involved--are the very results that will become more likely the longer we wait. The chances we might have had to slowly modify our economy and everything else to a more sustainable trajectory are going to be hijacked by desperate and limited options (think geoengineering or the proliferation of nuclear power) that come with a closing window of opportunity.

One of the conclusions James Burke came to in Connections (TV series) was that humanity has always been at the mercy of the intriguing way human inventions haphazardly evolved. Until now. Today, instead of jumping on to latest new thing, we have the information and perspective to choose what inventions we will encourage and those that we should discourage.

Both geoengineering and the call for nuclear energy to solve Climate Change rest on the assumption that humanity won’t shift to a sustainable way of life in time and a false argument about science and nuclear power. Geoengineering ideas, like creating islands of algae three times the size of Texas to suck up carbon dioxide from our atmosphere, would in themselves be major disturbances to our delicately balanced environment.

Hi-tech fixes for climate change, fish tracking Growing marine algae to solve society’s food, energy and climate change problems and a revolutionary tool to track marine fish populations are two topics Cornell oceanographer Charles Greene will discuss during presentations at the Ocean Sciences Meeting, Feb. 23-28 at the Hawaii Convention Center, Honolulu. The first presentation is a tutorial talk about the challenges facing society due to man-made climate change and ocean acidification, both fed by the accumulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. (February 20, 2014) Cornell Chronicle Online

And while we trust climate scientists to examine the repercussions of GHGs trapped in our atmosphere, that does not mean that a climate scientist is an overall environmental expert, or an expert on how nuclear power will be managed, engineered, placed, paid for, insured, or monitored by various political institutions and agencies whose track record is fraught with malfeasance and disasters. The argument that because environmentalists trust scientists in their particular area of expertise, does not mean scientists should replace a healthy moral concern about the oftentimes slipshod vagaries (pollution, the loss of biodiversity, and a whole lot more) of human development in a vast planetary environment that we but only partially understand.

Former climate scientist and hero of action on Climate Change, Dr. Hansen’s draft report is a critical read on our understanding of an important juncture on Climate Change solutions:

I also recommend that the public stop providing funds to antinuke environmental groups. Send a letter saying why you are withdrawing your support. Their position is based partly on fear of losing support from anti-nuke donors, and they are not likely to listen to anything other than financial pressure. If they are allowed to continue to spread misinformation about nuclear power, it is unlikely that we can stop expanded hydro-fracking, continued destructive coal mining, and irreversible climate change. (Page 14, Renewable Energy, Nuclear Power and Galileo: Do Scientists Have a Duty to Expose Popular Misconceptions? James E. Hansen

However, I must respectfully disagree on Hansen’s position on nuclear power. There are too many unknown unknowns about the workings of our planetary biology and information lost on our way to development for anyone to speak with complete authority on the proper workings of our planetary environment. The nuclear industry is rife with sloppy work and a great distain for public concerns about a technology we can barely keep under control. Environmentalists distrust geoengineering and nuclear power for good reasons.

What will happen, I suspect, as the people and their governments continue to prevaricate on addressing Climate Change is that it will fall on our public servants to do the best they can. As Climate Change is going to cause major local disruptions to our infrastructure (energy, transportation, telecommunications, water, and sewage), they will have be addressed and anticipated by those whose job it is to do so. Without widespread public support, where the media educates the public on why these measures need to be taken, Climate Change will remain in the fuzzy background of intellectual paralysis as the consequences of it will have to be dealt with in an ad hoc and ultimately ineffective way. One of those ineffectual ways will be to shift the burden onto the institutions who actually maintain our infrastructures—until the burden of Climate Change becomes too much.

NY State Expects All Utilities to Prep for Climate Change In a major settlement that could have far-reaching implications nationwide, New York's largest utility is now responsible for preparing for a future of extreme weather, including the impacts of climate change. The state now expects all of the utilities it regulates to consider how sea level rise, extreme weather and other possible effects related to climate change will affect their operations and reliability as they make future construction plans and budgets. It's a model that experts say other states could use to address the ravages of climate change.  The expectations were set forth as part of a Feb. 20 settlement between the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) and Consolidated Edison, the New York City area’s largest electric utility, which approved ConEd’s new electricity, steam and natural gas rates for the next several years. (February 25, 2014) Climate Central

It would be far better if ‘we the people’ come to a consensus on Climate Change and worked out top-down, worldwide, binding agreements to address and mitigate Climate Change—rather than pretend it doesn’t exist and burden those charged with protecting us to do far more than they are currently equipped to do.

With or without their hands tied behind their backs, our public authorities will have to address Climate Change. It’s their job. I guess our assumption is that they’ll do so within the window of opportunity and not bother us with the gory details or the bill.