Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rochester, NY obsesses with holiday shopping while planet burns

 

CCOneDotSWhile 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!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cuomo, he who said he would lead on Climate Change, isn’t

 

CCDisruptiveSMost of Governor Cuomo’s accomplishments on Climate Change preparations were in fact initiated by his predecessor, Governor David A. Paterson. Although it was Cuomo who stated after Hurricane Sandy that “We will lead on climate change |New York must press ahead with urgency to equip itself for the new age of extreme weather… ”, it was Patterson who began the moratorium on Fracking, developed our climate plan ‘New York State Climate Action Plan Interim Report,’ and kicked off our Climate Smart Communities (CSM) program. While most communities west of Syracuse have not signed into the voluntary CSM program (and those who have like Rochester barely admit it) it is an increasingly robust program that provides a lot of state help for local action to adapt to Climate Change.

Paterson’s climate initiatives have gone fallow under Cuomo. Instead of leading on Climate Change, Cuomo has failed to lead on energy and allowed the Fracking issue to fester. He has permitted the table in NYS to be set for fossil fuel infrastructures by snoozing as Albany becomes a major railroad hub for trafficking dangerous bomb trains and turning a blind eye as local folks fight back a Texas company from poisoning Seneca Lake lands with more fossil fuel storage. This fossil fuel mania is getting in Rochester’s face.

“About 350 New York state schools, including at least 63 in Monroe County, lie within a mile of railroad tracks used by trains carrying volatile crude oil, a coalition of environmental and other advocacy groups said Thursday.” (Oil and schools don't mix, enviro groups say 11/202014 Democrat and Chronicle)

Even our local media is finally recognizing the threat that construction of a gas storage facility on the shore of Seneca Lake presents to our region:

Opposition builds to gas storage facility on Seneca Lake shore As protests continue over construction of a gas storage facility on the shore of Seneca Lake, people across the entire Finger Lakes region opposed to the project are getting involved. As protests continue over construction of a gas storage facility on the shore of Seneca Lake, people across the entire Finger Lakes region opposed to the project are getting involved. “The Finger Lakes is all of us,” said Rosemary Hooper, a Naples resident who has joined others from Ontario County in participating in the campaign to stop the building of the gas storage facility on the shore of Seneca Lake in Schuyler County. Texas-based Crestwood Midstream's proposal is to use old abandoned salt caverns along the lake to store millions of barrels of liquid petroleum gas and billions of cubic feet of natural gas. Those opposed include organizations, individuals, businesses and municipalities. The Ontario County Board of Supervisors, Yates County Legislature, Seneca County Board of Supervisors and Geneva City Council are among those that have passed motions opposing the proposed storage facility. (11/19/2014 Gates-Chili Post)

He who should be leading on Climate Change has created a climate of delusion where business-as-usual flourishes and renewable energy languishes. Where it’s OK for our leaders and media to go mum on this worldwide warming crisis, even though over 400,000 of us insisted on action at People’s Climate March, (most of them New Yorkers). Where, despite all evidence that Fracking is a public health hazard, leaks methane gas like a sieve, and will certainly screw up our drinking water, the present governor cannot make up his mind. Where the recent snow storm buries Buffalo in a record-breaking snow storm and no dots between it and Climate Change were connected in our local media, not even in our public media: Buffalo Area Needs To Dig Out; Then Prepare For Possible Flooding (11/21/2014 WXXI) Other non-local news outlets were not so timid: Cold snap caused by climate change-weakened jet stream, scientists suggest and These Photos of Lake Effect Snow Are Crazy.

The weak-kneed Democrats in Congress are little better at leading on Climate Change. The absurdity this week that was the Keystone XL pipeline vote in the Senate would not have happened if President Obama had just squashed this game-over fossil fuel project years ago. [Demand that Obama veto it once and for all.] And while our two NYS senators didn’t cave in to this political nonsense, they didn’t lead. Our leaders have been cowed. To get a sense of just how lame this entire Senate vote was, you have to watch Rachel Maddow go at it: What On Earth Were They Thinking? Rachel Maddow On The Democratic Party. Our leaders are not leading on the most important crisis of our age.

Instead of our leaders taking the heat (suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and all that), as is part of their job description, and boldly informing the public about Climate Change and plans to deal with it, they pacify the pubic with reassurances that the climate for now is hunky-dory. Our climate is not even remotely hunky-dory.

Our scientists and the evidence of our own eyes that the growing seasons have lengthened are telling us that Climate Change didn’t go away back in the 1980’s. It’s gotten worse. No one, least of all our governor, wants to take charge. But Climate Change is physics, just like earthquakes. You can dither and downplay their devastating inevitability all you want, but come they will.

After 309 people died the in the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake, the public went berserk searching for those they thought had kept important information from them, resulting in catastrophe and no plans to avoid it. The denial machinery, political weakness, and the pressure to reassure the public is intense. After experiencing a few tremors in the region of Abruzzo, in central Italy:

“The meeting was called with intentions to reassure the public. The scientists correctly emphasised to De Bernardinis that the precise timing of major earthquakes could not be known. They were careful not to rule out the possibility of a major earthquake any time. Following their meeting De Bernardinis publicly stated: “The scientific community tells us there is no danger, because there is an ongoing discharge of energy. The situation looks favourable.” None of the scientists made an effort to correct Bernardinis’s imprecise statements. L'Aquila earthquake scientists freed but political lessons remain (11/21/2014, Dr. Lawrence Torcello, The Conversation)

With Climate Change, scientist have been clear to the point of mind-numbing simplicity:

IPCC Synthesis Report Highlights Science Strength A distillation of the major findings of the fifth assessment report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been published today (Sunday 2 November 2014). Known as The Synthesis Report, the document pulls together all the various strands of the different AR5 documents published by the IPCC over the last year or so. The launch was accompanied by a major press conference in Copenhagen. At the press conference, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a global response to climate change: “We need everyone, even individual citizens, to take action,” he said. IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri told the press conference that “Business as usual is certainly not an option” and urged leaders to look at the science. (November 2, 2014) ReportingClimateScience.com

Instead of being buried in obscurity, our appointed governor could be established as a leader on Climate Change. Governor David A. Paterson patiently and persistently established a firm ground in climate preparedness. Our present governor could be scorned forever as one of the many politicians who dithered and dallied despite overwhelming evidence in his state and beyond that there are more than enough reasons to prepare for Climate Change.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The real tragedy of the mid-term elections

 

CCMandateSMy take-home message from a talk by the Monroe County Sewer Authority (Pure Waters) (at a neighborhood association meeting) was that our sewer system is very healthy as long as you don’t believe in Climate Change. Our sewer system is the envy of many surrounding communities like Buffalo because of our Combined Sewer Overflow Abatement Program (CSOAP) program and the ‘tunnel system’. This is to say, when there have been heavy wet weather events, we tend not to discharge raw sewage into our rivers and lakes—as other communities do.

Combined Sewer Overflow Abatement Program (CSOAP) events have all but been eliminated with the phasing in of the deep rock tunnel system unique to Monroe County. This tunnel system allowed the integration of approximately 25 smaller sewage treatment plants into the Monroe County system. The lab monitors the improvement in the surrounding environment and the positive impact of this program. CSOAP and Wet Weather Events

The operative phrase here is ‘where there have been,’ meaning our system can and has dealt with most current and historical heavy rainfall events successfully (there are a few, and increasingly more, overflows each year). The continuing issues with basement sewer backups and water pooling in our streets after heavy rains has more to do with the 100-year-old sewer pipe system or blockages in any one of our 80,000 catch basins, than advances made in the 1970’s for combined sewer overflow problems. Combined sewer overflow systems which proliferate around the Great Lakes basin take away both sewage and storm water. They work fine until more frequent heavy rainfalls overwhelm the systems, at which point raw sewage gets sent (mostly) untreated into our rivers and streams.

The problem is that Pure Waters also mentioned that according to their rain gauges we have received significantly more rainfall than what historical data would predict. This is code for Climate Change, as this is precisely what climate studies like ClimAID suggest: “Climate hazards of particular relevance as detailed by the Ecosystems sector are … increased frequency of heavy rainfall events …” (Pg. 9 Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID))

To be clear, Monroe County (and Rochester) ‘has greatly reduced’ overflow events:

These discharge events are referred to as combined sewer overflows. As would be expected, this sewage contains pathogens (disease-causing agents), excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous), metals, and large debris that can harm aquatic organisms as well as curtail recreational use of waterways. In New York State, more than 60 municipalities have sewage systems that generate combined sewer overflows, and most are located in major cities (NYSDEC, 2008). The City of Rochester has greatly reduced these events; the cities of Buffalo and Syracuse are in the process of implementing mitigation plans. (Pg. 94 (ClimAID))

But when asked (by me) about the rainfall patterns coming with Climate Change for our region, Pure Waters was mum. This leads me to infer that our region is satisfied with measures to deal with current and historical rainfalls events, but we are simply not connecting the dots with Climate Change. Which is to ask, are we properly preparing and planning for the consequences of Climate Change in our region? We don’t know because despite the attention Climate Change has received nationwide and worldwide, neither the City of Rochester nor the County of Monroe mentions Climate Change much.

For whatever reason--politics, other concerns, not-being-grilled-by-the-media, whatever—our leaders are not leading on Climate Change. Climate Change is about planning. If you’re just relying on historical data to plan for the future, you’re delusional. Just focusing on the present viability of Monroe County’s sewer system, especially in the presence of data indicating a worrying trend, is like watching someone peeing into the water at the other end of the pool where you’re swimming and thinking it won’t matter to you.

The results of the mid-term elections suggest that it is more likely that those politicians already squirming on Climate Change will be more squirmy, and less likely to talk about, address, or inform the public about any measures they are taking to adapt to and mitigate Climate Change. This is significant because Monroe County’s sewer system is but one of many systems connected to the Great Lakes basin. If any number of communities around the largest fresh water system in the world are continually dumping raw sewage into our waters, this is going to matter to all of us. Top down planning, leaders around the Great Lakes talking to each other and preparing, is crucial.

Listen to this archived version of a local program on the likely effects of recent elections on Climate Change. Three local experts examine the possible repercussions of our efforts to adapt to and mitigate Climate Change after the recent dismal election turnout.  Have we shot ourselves in the foot, as it were? Have we crippled our ability to adapt to Climate Change locally and possibly hampered our efforts to lead on Climate Change at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris because it’s now easier for our leaders to plead ignorance? 

Connections: Recent Elections and Climate Change What do the election results mean for those who had hoped for more aggressive public policy relating to climate change? To say the least, advocates are disappointed. What's next? We discuss with our panel: Lawrence Torcello, RIT Ethics professor, Dr. Susan Spencer, solar scientist Abigail McHugh-Grifa of The Rochester People's Climate Coalition.

Already, we are seeing signs that the science of Climate Change is being ignored by our local leaders, who are responsible to plan for the consequences of Climate Change. For example, why hasn’t New York State upheld the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act? Are we swimming in raw sewage? (BTW: Monroe County is reporting diligently and you can find that information here: Sewage Discharge Reports. However, we here on the shores of Lake Ontario are downstream from all the other Great Lakes.)

WHAT'S IN THE WATER? STATE AGENCY'S FAILURE TO FOLLOW SEWAGE POLLUTION LAW PROVOKES QUESTIONS Each year the aging sewer infrastructure in New York’s cities, towns and villages dumps billions of gallons of raw sewage mixed with dirty stormwater into local waterways. These overflows close beaches, kill fish and wildlife, and sicken scores of people each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “No one swims in their toilet,” said Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo. “We don’t want to swim in waterways that are contaminated.” In an attempt to provide immediate notification to New York residents about this public health threat, two years ago Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act into law. (October 30, 2014) City and State

Why are we even considering liquid gas (an explosive, greenhouse emitting fossil fuel) storage on the shores of Seneca Lake and setting the table for Fracking? For a great encapsulation of this dynamic folly check this out from Food and Water Watch’s. Wenonah Hauter:

Standing by Those Who Stand in the Way of Fracking Infrastructure It all began taking shape back in March of 2013, when Sandra Steingraber – the noted biologist, author, educator and advisor of Americans Against Fracking – and 11 other courageous individuals were arrested for blockading the entrance to a natural gas compressor station on the banks of Seneca Lake, in the environmentally sensitive Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. These so-called “Seneca Lake 12” were simply doing what countless other Americans have done over generations when they knew their health and safety were threatened, when their elected leaders weren’t there to help, and when they had no other choice: they stood up for their neighbors, their families and themselves, and were hauled off to jail. Sandra spent 10 days behind bars after defiantly refusing to pay a fine. (November 10, 2014) Food and Water Watch

Also, watch, listen, and read this amazing coverage (you have to go here because the local media isn’t covering this) of the human blockade of the gates of a methane gas storage facility near Seneca Lake, one of New York’s Finger Lakes, a water source, a tourist attraction, an ecosystem, and a whole lot of other resources, all put in jeopardy by another volatile fossil fuel: 10 Arrested as Human Blockade Continues Protesting Methane Gas Storage Facility. Consider signing a petition or donating to help this cause to reject Inergy Midstream‘s (now Crestwood) proposal to store Liquefied Petroleum Gas and expand natural gas storage at facilities on the shore of Seneca Lake in Reading, NY. More at Gas Free Seneca. Even folks in the Rochester area should care about the health of our Finger Lakes.

The real tragedy of the mid-term elections, and climate denial in general, is that the burden of proof is still put on the science and on the expensive, inconvenient things that have to be done to plan properly for Climate Change. Instead of us all being grownup and facing the challenge of our generation, we are hiding behind the skirts of denial, demanding that our leaders make this problem go away—instead of dealing with it forthrightly.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The window of opportunity for mitigating Climate Change is closing

Recently, “R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC said: “The scientific case for prioritizing action on climate change is clearer than ever. We have little time before the window of opportunity to stay within 2ÂșC of warming closes.”” (IPCC warns time is running out to tackle climate change, 11/03/2014, tcktcktck)  

(Remember: Adapting is adjusting. Mitigation is alleviation. You can adapt to brushfire by continually moving away from the fire. You mitigate by putting the fire out. Pachauri is speaking about mitigation.)

One of the really annoying things about Climate Change is that, because it’s a problem of physics, we cannot wait around until our collective social consciousness can digest it. The clock is ticking. Even trying to vote it away won’t work. Regardless of the dismaying mid-term elections (in which one of the consequences will be to install Sen. Inhofe, the climate denier-in-chief, to the chair of Senate environment committee) won’t slow Climate Change down a bit. Allowing such an irresponsible senator to escalate his efforts to thwart our government’s efforts (especially our military) to address Climate Change will only cripple our chances to mitigate Climate Change. Denier obstructionists will only make our ability to make critical commitments at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris more unlikely. In other words, deniers cannot stop Climate Change—that can only be done by lowering GHG concentrations--all they can do is kill our efforts to save ourselves.

Think of our present situation this way: Someone is frantically knocking at your apartment door. You open the door and it’s a firefighter saying you must evacuate the building immediately. You ask why. The firefighter says that your building is on fire. You don’t believe her. You ask, what makes her think your apartment is on fire. She says that your apartment isn’t on fire yet, your building is on fire. You still don’t believe her. You explain that you don’t see any signs of a fire, no smoke, no sirens, no alarms in the building are sounding, and nary a mention of a fire on your TV. She says that she is a firefighter and it’s her job to know whether there’s a fire or not.  The firefighter explains to you that the manager of your apartment doesn’t believe in fires and the cable service from which you get your TV news doesn’t believe in fires either, that’s why you haven’t been warned. You say that you don’t want to leave as it would be very inconvenient for you and all your stuff inside might get stolen.  You further explain very calmly and respectfully that if you see a lot of smoke or fire trucks pulling up outside or something on the news about it then, and only then, will you get moving.  Otherwise, fuhgeddaboudit. The firefighter says that if the fire isn’t stopped in your building, then the whole neighborhood will go up in flames. You still refuse to believe that which is very inconvenient to believe; you’re not getting out of your apartment so that some firefighter can put out a fire that you don’t believe exists or will have any effect on your neighborhood. The firefighter explains with more urgency that she has witnessed the fire, you can talk to her supervisor. You can even come with her and see the fire for yourself. But you think this is just her sneaky way to get you out of your apartment so the firefighter can do some kind of mischief. You close the door on the firefighter and go back to watching the cable news, occasionally checking to see if they make any mention of the alleged fire.   

This rather silly thought experiment is just another of my futile attempts to understand why folks are not alarmed by Climate Change. The International Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is not only a collection of science experts, they tend (as anything related to the UN is very political) to be conservative. If they say the freaking window is closing, it might be a good idea to heed their warning.

On the local level, it’s interesting to look for signs of Climate Change alarm in our leaders. Are any of our local agencies alarmed; are they planning; are they even aware of Climate Change?
At least someone is. Here’s a press release from one our leaders: NYS Attorney General Schneiderman says in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (from press release, October 29, 2014A.G. Schneiderman: Two Years After Sandy, We Must Remain Committed To Making New York Stronger Than Ever):

In the past two years, Attorney General Schneiderman has made several significant efforts to help New Yorkers overcome the challenges posed by Sandy. Among his achievements:
·         Intervening in a Public Service Commission proceeding on a proposed rate hike for Consolidated Edison and successfully advocating that the utility company be required to take into account the risks posed by climate change in its storm-hardening plans;
·         Proposing legislation to require all electric and gas utilities in the state to ensure that the critical services they provide to millions of New Yorkers are properly protected from the impacts of climate change;

One of the things we absolutely have to do to address Climate Change is make sure our critical utilities are ready for more frequent disruptions. For all the doubt and dismissing of Climate Change in our region, our public officials must see to it that we are prepared for Climate Change and that we are also prepared for the collateral damage. Our public officials do not have the luxury of doubting Climate Change—no matter how loony their political constituencies are.

We need more media attention focused on efforts by our public servants like A.G. Schneiderman’s. The media must make it crystal clear to the public that Climate Change is real, that it is happening, and it must be planned for—especially by our government. Only our government can set the playing field for addressing Climate Change, and only our government (no matter how many donors and volunteers help out after a disaster) can be the insurers and provide assistance of last resort.

Some may view that the Paris 2015 conference is merely a line drawn in the sand, an arbitrary point where climate scientists around the world have chosen to act. The window of opportunity may have already passed or it still maybe some point in the future. Only someone viewing our present position from the future can be absolutely certain. We will never have absolute certainty. So, it is important that we draw a line in the sand at the Paris 2015 conference, even though there will never be a Pearl-Harbor moment of clarity on when we should act. Our best bet is not to trust the deniers, but listen to our experts, a firefighter, as it were: 


How Michael Mann Views Sunday’s IPCC Synthesis Report Michael Mann, originator of the hockey stick graph that shook world science in the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report and contributed to the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, posted some thoughts today about the final IPCC climate synthesis report released by the UN on Sunday. Mann’s take on the key points of the report, which calls for zero fossil fuel emissions by 2100: “The world’s scientists are more confident than ever that climate change is not only real and caused by us, but that it is already taking a toll: on our health, on our economy, on our security, and on the health of our environment. The good news is that it it still possible to solve the problem cheaply. But if we delay acting, it will be far more expensive, and the damages will be far greater.” He finds this latest IPCC synthesis report more definitive than the past reports in terms of its tone of certainty. He hears in it a higher level of confidence that human activity (fossil fuel burning) is responsible for warming. “The report is far more definitive that climate change isn’t some nebulous, far-off threat—it is negatively impacting us already, where we live.” He cites the influence of climate change in the US, such as increasing impacts of extreme droughts, floods, and massive wildfires. (November 2, 2014) Planet Save [more on Climate Change in our area]

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Demand NPR restore its climate reporting team

 

"I am convinced that ecology cannot be kept secret. Environmental openness is an inalienable human right. Any attempt to conceal any information about harmful impact on people and the environment is a crime against humanity." --Alexandr Nikitin, Russian environmentalist.

CCTooSmallSHere is an astonishing remark by a newly hired climate reporter for the New York Times “Few topics fuel as much reader attention as climate change.” (Steering the Climate Change Coverage, October 27, 2014 New York Times) It’s astonishing given that the New York Time gutted its climate reporters a while ago and now is rehiring. But it’s also astonishing because National Public Radio has just gone ahead and gutted their climate reporter staff.

NPR Guts Its Environment And Climate Reporting Team, Becomes ‘Part Of The Problem’ NPR has gutted its staff dedicated to covering environmental and climate issues. Given the nation’s and world’s renewed focus on the threat posed by unrestricted carbon pollution, this baffling move is already receiving widespread criticism from scientists and media watchers. It is “a sad commentary on the current state of our media,” as one top climatologist told me. Katherine Bagley broke the story for InsideClimate News. She reports that earlier in 2014, NPR “had three full-time reporters and one editor dedicated” to cover environmental and climate issues within NPR’s science desk. Now, shockingly, “One remains — and he is covering it only part-time.”(October 24, 2014) Climate Progress

The reasoning behind this unfortunate shift? Anne Gudenkauf, senior supervising editor of NPR’s science desk, says “… she doesn't "feel like [the environment] necessarily requires dedicated reporters" because so many other staffers cover the subject, along with their other beats.” (NPR Reduces Its Environment Team to One Reporter, Oct. 24, 2014 Inside Climate News). This response by our public radio would make sense if our collective understanding and acceptance of Climate Change had reached such a level that Climate Change, the mother of all problems, were already understood and assumed by the public to be, indeed, the mother of all problems.

First, the media didn’t cover Climate Change because it was so new they could not decide if it was even an issue worth reporting. Then when they did start covering Climate Change, this issue was framed as if 97% of the scientists who back the science were evenly balanced with the 3% who didn’t buy it. (See Jon Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Climate Change Debate (HBO)”.) And now, presumably, Climate Change is so ingrained into the public consciousness that it makes no sense to have dedicated reporters covering it. This magical jump—where the media leaps suddenly from unbalanced coverage to ‘this is a no-brainer’—avoids the reality that most of the US public are woefully uninformed on an issue that requires massive public planning with massive public backing —as suggested in most Climate Change studies.

NPR’s unfortunate decision is especially tragic considering the fast approach of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris—where the “objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. ” Even though we marched 700,000 strong worldwide for the People’s Climate March to demand action on Climate Change, they couldn’t hear us in Bonn, the most recent climate talk preparing for Paris: Governments at Bonn climate talks apparently lose memo on people’s support for climate action (October 25, 2014, Climate Action Network ). Secretary of State John Kerry stated on the excellent climate documentary “Years of Living Dangerously” that in order for countries to stop insane practices like drilling for more fossil fuel in the Arctic, the public needs to demonstrate they care on a level that their political servants cannot avoid.  Which is to say, the public must make it clear that not acting on Climate Change is unacceptable if they are to give our leaders the clout they need in tackling this issue. That cannot happen if the public is not informed.

“The final instalment [sic] of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due for launch on 2 November in Copenhagen, Denmark” (Special Alert: IPCC Synthesis Report, Oct. 24, 2014, The Tree). It portends the last chance, the last fork in the road for humanity:

“It is expected to say that we can go down a clean energy path where we enjoy economic benefits and manage to adapt to modest climate change, or follow a path with increasing carbon pollution worldwide where severe climate change threatens our societies and derails our economies.” [ibid]

The public is so not prepared and informed on Climate Change. To say that a major component of US public broadcasting, a public institution that “has a substantial news operation of its own with hundreds of reporters and editors in a central newsroom in Washington and in bureaus around the country and the world”1, a public entity where 39% of their revenue comes from ‘individuals’ and 4.6% from federal, state, and local governments (i.e. your tax dollars) is doing their job on the most important crisis of our generation by gutting environmental and climate reporters is ludicrous indeed.

NPR is not just another dysfunctional media outlet that we can shrug off. It’s ours; it’s not Murdock’s or a play toy for rich billionaires. Our public communications should not shrink from its prime objective: “The mission of NPR is to work in partnership with Member Stations to create a more informed public — one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures.”( Our Mission and Vision). Our public network, albeit far short of what Europe gets for their tax buck, is not supposed to pander to events, ideas, and cultures; it’s suppose to adequately inform the public about them. Unlike corporate media, which seemingly must indulge the ideology of their corporate backers, their customers’ prurient interests, and the agenda of their advertisers, our public airwaves should be free of all that. Or take out ‘Public’ from NPR.

We don’t have a Pravda (a state-sponsored political propaganda apparatus), nor should we; but we should expect from our public broadcasting independent, impartial and honest information to the public. The public’s (everyone’s) understanding of Climate Change is a must. Coverage must be continual, pervasive, free, and accessible to all. Climate Change is not emotional, nor political, nor economic, nor a special interest: It is our present and future reality and it needs your attention.

Sign this petition, via 350.org Campaigns: DEMAND NPR RESTORE ITS CLIMATE REPORTING TEAM And/or this petition: Sign the petition: Stop NPR from gutting its climate coverage. Also, consider contacting NPR and demand they restore their (your) climate reporting team: Go to NPR’s ‘Contact Us’ and demand they restore their Public mission.