Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle article on Climate Change breaks records

This Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (D&C) article is hands down the most important local article on why COP21 Paris matters to Rochester. This connecting-the-dots article between Climate Change and the local consequences is crucial for our public to understand why Climate Change needs to be communicated in such a way so that the pubic backs their leaders to strongly address Climate Change. We hope to see more continual coverage of how Climate Change is affecting our region so we here in Rochester can plan for and adapt as quickly and painlessly as possible to this worldwide crisis. 

Paris on the Genesee: Why it matters As the global climate summit known as COP21 begins its second full week, Paris seems a long way away. But what happens at the climate talks there does matter here. Western New York, like everywhere, is vulnerable to severe stress and disruption as our climate warms and the weather changes. The talks by officials from 195 countries are intended to minimize the scope of those disruptions, which have already begun. The goal of the COP21 talks is to agree on universal goals to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. (If you must know, the acronym signifies the 21st Conference of the Parties, meaning the countries that are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The first COP was in  Berlin in 1995.) These gases, principally carbon dioxide but others as well, are warming the Earth's climate by trapping heat that would otherwise escape into space. The predominant source of man-made carbon dioxide is burning of fossil fuels — coal and natural gas in power plants, gasoline and diesel fuel in vehicles — plus the burning of wood and some manufacturing processes. (December 8, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

This article manages to communicate to a wide and diverse local public: that the COP21 Paris Climate Summit matters to Rochester, that Climate Change is changing our weather, that manmade greenhouse gas emissions from our transportation and energy sectors are the cause of this Climate Change, that we are already experiencing heavy rainfall (flash flooding) as reported in official climate studies, that Rochester is already “2.3 degrees higher than it was 150 years ago”, that the melting of the Arctic is making our winters too whacky to predict, that our growing season has changed, that some of our worst weeds may thrive and our best crops not fare so well, that our wildlife will be more stressed, that there are more blue-green algae blooms in our ponds and lakes, and that we must evolve towards better and cleaner energy options. All of which I have been reporting on for years, hoping our media, environmental groups, public officials, and our pubic would recognize the gravity and urgency of our situation and start planning for this new normal. We have frittered away a lot of precious time by not tackling this sooner.  

The local environmental community understands the significance of this D&C article on Climate Change as the numbers of ‘reaches’ on their social media have broken all records. On the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition Facebook page alone, almost 600 folks have viewed this article and the numbers go well over a 1,000 when more groups are included. Those numbers exploded to these highs in only two days—and trust me we never get those kinds of numbers on a single posting. (Cute puppy videos doing cute tricks get these numbers but we don’t.) Those waiting for mainstream media to connect the dots with the local consequences of Climate Change have been waiting a long time for this kind of article—and they want more. The public must be engaged on Climate Change and despite the rise of the Internet, whoever rules mainstream media gets to talk to all of the people.   

Today (12/11/2015) while waiting for the outcome of the Paris summit, two stories I came across highlight why articles like the D&C article are so important. Both are about our infrastructures—transportation and wastewater. The first is about the continual inadequate funding for local highways. Keeping our local transportation system infrastructure safe and sound not only means keeping up with the needs of the system but also preparing it for the extreme weather that comes with Climate Change—more heat and more flash flooding. The public needs to understand the problem so we can properly prepare. When our transportation system fails, you cannot get around or address emergencies. A crippled transportation system is not something you can fix at the last minute. Climate Change means planning. 

Ontario County highway crews push for fair infrastructure funding Upstate roads and bridges are in are in need of work — and the money to pay for it, highway crews and local state legislators say. Ontario County has more than 1,200 culverts, which carry water from a stream or open drain underneath a road. Over 46 percent of them require major work, said Bill Wright, commissioner of public works for the county. And it can be costly — a culvert replacement project this year on County Road 16 in the town of Canandaigua cost in the neighborhood of $1 million. (December 10, 2015) Brighton-Pittsford Post

The other story is out of Portland, Oregon, a city that has been preparing for Climate Change for over twenty years. This story highlights how just any kind of planning is not enough. The public must understand the nature of the beast, as it were, so their officials fund and plan adequately. Portland had planned for a one-in-twenty-five-year flood, thinking the public would never go for more dramatically expensive updates. But Portland just got a one-in-one-hundred-year flood.

Why Portland's drainage system failed to stop this week's flooding PORTLAND, Ore. - Parts of Portland looked more like a lake this week after the city saw near record rainfall. On Monday, Portland's third wettest day ever, the Pearl District flooded as manholes overflowed. The brown water they spewed was around 90 percent storm runoff and 10 percent sewage, according to the city's Bureau of Environmental Services (BES). Similar scenes played out throughout the city this week as creeks and drains overflowed and people had to take sometimes desperate measures to avoid being stranded and stay out of the muck. So how did it happen in a city with a massive and expensive drainage system? (12/9/2015, KATU)

I believe that if our media continually reported on local consequences of Climate Change in the way the D&C did this week, public attitudes would change. When attitudes change, the public will begin voting differently. The public will vote for leaders who understand all the implications of a warming climate quickly and address it properly.

Once the public understands what has been set in motion with Climate Change, that a great giant has been awakened by our deeds and that this giant is now stirring, they will understand the urgency and level of threat this crisis poses. 

Now we know our media knows the nature of the problem. Could this recognition of our new climate normal will become the new norm for local reporting? For all our sakes, let us hope so.

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