Saturday, May 02, 2015

Paris matters to Rochester


CCPARISS800 folks in Rochester, including many of our local leaders, attended the Sierra Club’s forum on ClimatParis matters to Rochester e Change with world-renowned climate scientist Dr. Hansen. This event, one of many during Rochester’s Earth Week 2015, gave a lot of press coverage to the absolute certainty of the dramatic warming that is occurring worldwide. Including: “Summers in particular will be scorching.”

James Hansen's Earth Eve message: Get busy Hansen, now in his mid-70s, has become one of the world's best-known scholars of global warming and a forceful advocate for action. He quit his NASA post two years ago so he could speak out more aggressively against government inaction. He proved a huge draw here. As many as 800 people packed a theater and two overflow rooms at Monroe Community College Tuesday night -- Earth Eve, if you will -- to hear Hansen speak. His message was, in part, very similar to his testimony in 1988, except his one-percent uncertainty is long gone. The global climate is being warmed by the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere, Hansen said. Last year was the warmest year globally on record. This year will be hotter still, he promised. Summers in particular will be scorching. (April 22, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

On April 14th at the Mauna Loa Observatory, CO2 levels hit 404.67ppm. It’s been a million years since our planet has endured these levels. (Today ((Friday, May 1st) this level is at 400.06ppm of CO2, the highest level in 650,000 years. These levels fluctuate due to our planet’s seasonal ‘breathing’ CO2 in and out, but they are continually arching over 400ppm and getting higher each year.)) If we were truly prioritizing Climate Change, this number would be appearing every day in our local media headlines. Remember: 350ppm is safe, although actually it was 280ppm in the mid-1800’s and for the ten thousand years before that when our species flourished. So this crisis isn’t just about the heat; it’s also about the speed. If you aren’t watching anything else about the Climate Change issue, you might want to watch this part per million of carbon dioxide figure that is the true measure of our climate mitigation. If this figure does not come down soon, nothing else will really matter. It is in this way that Climate Change is the mother of all problems. 

A Fearful Glance at the Global Carbon Stores — Weekly CO2 Values Hit 404 Parts Per Million a Little Too Soon (Big jump in weekly CO2 averages during second week of April bring 2015 concentrations into the range of 404 parts per million a month earlier than expected. Image source: The Keeling Curve.) Over the past decade, annual rates of atmospheric CO2 increase have remained in a range of around 2.2 parts per million (ppm) each year. It’s a geologically blinding pace of increase driven by a human carbon emission on the order of around 11 billion tons each and every year. Primarily driven by fossil fuel burning, this massive dumping of carbon into the atmosphere is steadily filling up a number of the world’s key carbon stores. (April 14, 20150 RobertScribbler

Even those who have been responsible for predicting our weather (but dragging their feet for years on Climate Change) are finally getting it: Weathercasters See the Light on Climate Change (April 22, 2015) Pacific Standard

This brings us to Paris and why Rochester needs to pay attention. Paris, or the COP21 Paris Conference in December, may well be humanity’s last chance to bring our CO2 to sustainable levels.

But rarely, even during this Earth Day in Rochester, has the importance of Paris been mentioned in our media, by local environmental groups, or our government. Why? Why is this monumental tipping point for humanity being ignored at the local level—even though it will have major consequences for everything we will do and hope to do in the future? Why is it that only solutions—driving less, a carbon fee or tax, more solar power—are mentioned without mentioning the very worldwide political structure that will have to succeed if any of those solutions have a prayer of working?

For those paying attention to this historic Paris meeting, some say the 2C (or 3.6F) above preindustrial averages that is the target for Paris is too high and we’ll bake even if we achieve this goal by 2100. Some say 2C is too difficult, that it’ll wreck our economies. Also, many are saying that if Paris fails and we put too much faith in this conference, the whole structure of the world climate talks will fall apart. (This is top US climate negotiator Todd Stern’s concern.) Maybe Paris should switch its measuring metric to parts per million of CO2 (instead of degrees) and shoot for 350, as Dr. Hansen suggests. Who knows?

But without the world coming together soon to address Climate Change, there is little chance for any scheme to fix this worldwide crisis. No carbon fee, tax, or cap will work if the world doesn’t agree to it in a timeframe that will matter. No renewable energy scheme will work unless all governments change the economic structure so that renewable energy will achieve the levels necessary and fossil fuels drop away. No public consensus on Climate Change will be achieved if the public sees their leader’s waffling on Climate Change. The COP21 Paris talks should be in the news every day, including a worldwide dialogue about this critical conference by the media, our government, the public, environmental groups—and how about some attention to this during our political races? 

Climate change: Paris 'last chance' for action Scientists are calling on world leaders to sign up to an eight-point plan of action at landmark talks in Paris. The key element is the goal to limit global warming to below 2C by moving to zero carbon emissions by 2050. The UN meeting in December is "the last chance" to avert dangerous climate change, according to the Earth League. Scientific evidence shows this can be achieved, but only with bold action now, says an alliance of climate researchers from 17 institutions. (April 22, 2015) BBC News

Those who think Climate Change should only be addressed from the bottom up, or left to market-based solutions, are forgetting that many of the actions needed can only be provided by governments—including military involvement in the conflicts caused by the social instability that’s already baked into Climate Change. There are many other tasks—working with other countries, making laws, setting emission limits, and changing the economic playing field—that only governments can accomplish. So the COP21 Paris talks must not fail. For all the disparaging rhetoric about the Paris talks, there is no substitute for a successful treaty. The window of opportunity is closing.

Laurent Fabius: Our Climate Imperatives PARIS — Toward the end of this year, France will host the 21st United Nations climate conference. The aim? To reach a universal agreement that will limit the rise in average global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, compared to the pre-industrial period, by the end of the century. There is real hope for success, but it is an enormous task. As the president of the conference, known as COP21, my role will be to facilitate an ambitious compromise between 195 states (196 parties when we include the European Union). In the negotiations, the differences among countries that are at distinct stages of development necessitate differences of approach. Yet strong common interests unite us. One example is the impact of climate change on our shared security. (April 24, 2015) New York Times

Even the 1.2 billion Catholics are stepping up the pressure for success in Paris, highlighting the moral imperative of addressing Climate Change. People shouldn’t let people perish from indifference.

Pope Francis forces the issue on climate change High-profile climate researchers, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and church officials will gather at the Vatican next week for a conference on climate change. It’s Pope Francis’s latest effort to raise the profile of the issue among churchgoers, and it’s sure to make some Catholics hot under the collar. Since taking the helm of the church in 2013, Pope Francis has stated repeatedly that Christians have a moral obligation to lower carbon emissions. He has spoken frankly about how global warming hits poor, marginalized communities hardest. And he’s announced his intentions to issue, as early as June, a teaching document known as an encyclical which is set to merge the science and theology of climate change. He’s done these things in spite of angry rhetoric from conservative-leaning Catholics. (April 24, 2015) Grist

However, our local Rochester media is mum on Paris and thus failing to inform our local public what humanity is actually accomplishing in this worldwide crisis. (This might explain why our public transportation system is falling apart and why we cannot even fund the proper maintenance of our existing transportation infrastructure—let alone prepare it for more extreme weather.) Our local media are not informing the public about progress on the road to Paris (the state of the Green Climate Fund, or tracking individual nations’ pledges (or INDCs)) which would enable the public to gage for themselves the impact and importance of Paris. Our media is not holding our public officials accountable for their local adaptation efforts. In other words, our local media mentions lowing greenhouse gases, mentions (finally) the crisis, reports on the growing fossil fuel infrastructure (increase of oil trains, gas storage at Seneca Lake) but doesn’t connect the dots on what part local efforts play in the worldwide efforts to adapt to and mitigate Climate Change.

Paris matters to Rochester because in order for our efforts to address Climate Change to matter, we must be part of a worldwide concerted effort—not a small, loose pack of groups who disagree on actions and cannot be held accountable.

Time passes.

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