Monday, November 28, 2016

The importance advanced feedback during Climate Change

One of the features that come with a roof-top solar system is monitoring software so you can tweak your energy usage. If you’re watching too much TV, for example, you can switch that off and read a book. An electric or hybrid vehicle owner also can manage their energy use by numerous gauges that are part of the vehicle’s package. If you’re getting low on battery power, just turn off your heated seat.

Feedback, knowing how and where you are using energy, can give you a lot of control over your energy costs. Without adequate feedback on many of the complicated contraptions we use today, we wouldn’t have a clue how they (and by electronic proxy, ourselves) are performing.   

If we are seeking to live sustainably, control our energy costs, and evaluate our footprints on our environment, we need good feedback because the world has become a very complicated place. Of course, our bodies came with a lot of feedback mechanisms—sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste—but these senses are no longer sufficient to survive and live sustainably. We cannot see how much carbon dioxide or any other kind of greenhouse is in our atmosphere. We cannot hear the slowing down of a glacier-fed river that supplies our community with water. We cannot smell methane gas, the odorless but a very potent greenhouse gas, leaking from our gas lines or bogs we are melting with Climate Change.

We need enhanced feedback abilities, or instruments that allow us to fly and land our jets, drive our cars, predict our weather, and monitor our water quality. You name it. These advanced abilities that our instruments provide us now were not necessary for our survival during most of our evolution.  

Now they are. Now most of us realize at this point in our history that good feedback in the form of scientific instruments that measure sea level rise, pollution in our atmosphere, and our impact on our ecosystems is critical.

I belabor the obvious need for scientific instruments as feedback because of the potential loss of NASA’s space monitoring of Earth’s ecosystems by Trump. It would be suicidal to blind ourselves to Climate Change just when we need very sophisticated monitoring systems the most.

Trump to scrap Nasa climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’ Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding as the president-elect seeks to shift focus away from home in favor of deep space exploration Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said. Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century. (November 23, 2015) The Guardian 

BTW: There are other kinds of feedback related to Climate Change and that’s when 97% of climate scientists and 196 nations and say we should address Climate Change. Though not electronic, this is also good feedback from our fellow humans and we should pay attention to it.

196 countries to Trump: UN must tackle climate change Nations stand as one in Marrakech to reaffirm their commitment to the fight against climate change in the face of populism and division in America The governments of the world have issued a repudiation of the voices of doubt by reaffirming their commitment to defeat climate change. At a UN climate conference in Marrakech, ministers and negotiators from almost 200 countries stood as one to applaud a document  that reaffirmed the world’s commitment to climate progress in the face of the shock election result in the US. “We call for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority,” said the Marrakech Action Proclamation, read by Morocco’s foreign minister and conference president Salaheddine Mezouar. (November 17, 2016) Climate Home


Time passes. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Rethinking Climate Change activism after Trump

Since Trump won, climate activists are rethinking their strategies. Organizations like 350.org are conducting national call-ins for this very purpose.

I understand this sentiment: “The climate movement needs to connect with other conversations like the ones on trade, on gender, on economic rights, because we realize that people are disenfranchised for a reason.” (Trump won: It’s time for climate NGOs to stop preaching to the choir  (November 11, 2016) Climate Home

But I’m not so sure that trying to fit the urgency of Climate Change solely into other people’s concerns is the way to go.
Though it is important to focus on the relationships between what folks are concerned about (like clean water and justice), it is also imperative that we prioritize how the physics of Climate Change will affect not only the present but the future.

We must get folks to understand that their concerns are linked to Climate Change. For the sake of our future, addressing and mitigating Climate Change must come first—no matter where the public puts Climate Change on their list of concerns.

The planet is burning up, and if that doesn’t get addressed quickly, all other concerns won’t matter.

I oftentimes think that climate messaging is thought of as an advertisement for a great product that everyone should buy because it has something for everyone. There is an attempt to sound so positive and hopeful about addressing Climate Change by activists that sometimes the message becomes downright cheery. Not so. There are some solutions that include desirable changes we need to make, but it’s not all peaches and cream.

While advertisement experts have learned a lot about selling products to folks who probably don’t even need them, it doesn’t mean consumer psychology has anything to do with Climate Change. Climate Change is not like a product the people might buy or an issue they might chip into to if they have an inclination. 

Climate Change is a clear and present threat to our existence.  The public must understand the full implications of this—regardless of how remote it seems to their lives or how horrible it is to contemplate.

We shouldn’t have to re-package climate messaging to connect the dots between what the public is concerned about at the present moment and climate science just because a climate denier got installed into the head of our government.

Somehow we have to get the public to appreciate the absolute priority of science so they can understand how our planet is being affected by our suddenly warming it up. We don’t do that by pandering to their interests.

Climate activist didn’t do anything wrong because Trump got elected. Trump got elected because our media failed to amplify our crucial message and deliver climate science to the masses.


Time passes.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

Climate Change activism after the 2016 US elections

Many are feeling pretty hopeless after the US just installed a climate denier for President together with a political majority in both the House and Senate opposed to addressing Climate Change. Let’s face it, now the United States is a great concern to a world that just made the Paris Agreement official. 

Donald Trump Could Put Climate Change on Course for ‘Danger Zone’ For a look at how sharply policy in Washington will change under the administration of Donald J. Trump, look no further than the environment. Mr. Trump has called human-caused climate change a “hoax.” He has vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency “in almost every form.” And in an early salvo against one of President Obama’s signature issues, Mr. Trump has named Myron Ebell of the business-backed Competitive Enterprise Institute to head his E.P.A. transition team. Mr. Ebell has asserted that whatever warming caused by greenhouse gas pollution is modest and could be beneficial. A 2007 Vanity Fair profile of Mr. Ebell called him an “oil industry mouthpiece.” (November 10, 2016, New York Times)

Climate scientists are very concerned too, which is to say we should all be very concerned. Which is also to say, their voice should have been the most important voice we listened to as we voted in this historic election. Theirs was the voice of a reality that must be addressed above all others.  (Or there won’t be other issues.)

Donald Trump presidency a 'disaster for the planet', warn climate scientists Leading scientists say the climate denier’s victory could mean ‘game over for the climate’ and any hope of warding off dangerous global warming The ripples from a new American president are far-reaching, but never before has the arrival of a White House administration placed the livability of Earth at stake. Beyond his bluster and crude taunts, Donald Trump’s climate denialism could prove to be the lasting imprint of his unexpected presidency. “A Trump presidency might be game over for the climate,” said Michael Mann, a prominent climate researcher. “It might make it impossible to stabilize planetary warming below dangerous levels.” (November 11, 2016 The Guardian)

But enough of us didn’t listen to these voices; we as a nation listened to other voices.

For whatever reason the majority of the electoral votes went to a climate denier, we will pay a dear price. If it was frustration, hate, or a profound despair that things couldn’t get any worse that brought Trump to power, it is now more likely that things will get worse. We probably should have addressed, or at least listened to, the concerns of those who staged this political upset before this national calamity occurred.  As Russell Brand suggests in his rant, Trump. Right. Okay, the world's gone nuts: Russell Brand The Trews, it might now be the time to figure out how to talk to those to who believe (or have been lead to believe) that our political system has not served them.

Before many of us launch a crusade against the results of the past election, it might serve us well to find out what actually happened. It certainly would have served us better if, after the attack on 9/11, we had paused and tried to figure out why we were attacked before we ourselves launched an attack on a country that didn’t even attack us—throwing the Mideast into a horrific turmoil that seems likely to last forever. Not everyone who voted for Trump voted against women, against common decency, against minorities, against gun regulations, or what they perceived would be our nation’s response to addressing Climate Change. What caused so many to vote for a person distinctly unqualified be President of the United States?  

While we ponder the question above, we must still deal with Climate Change. Just because it was kept from the presidential elections by our media and resulted in this state of denial by the most powerful country in the world, physics still reigns. Climate Change cannot be voted out of existence. 

Like the many consequences of Climate Change we are now experiencing—more extreme weather, more wildfires, glaciers melting, and sea levels rising—the election of Trump and his fellow deniers presents innumerable challenges to what is already a complicated myriad of environmental problems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NASA, NOAA, and many more scientific agencies that monitor climate changes and educate the public about our environment are going to be burdened with directions from those who do not accept what the world’s climate scientists have told us: That our environment is warming quickly because of our way of life and we need to change immediately.  

Though many of the specific repercussions of our dependence on fossil fuel energy were unknown a couple of decades ago, climate scientists quickly learned that our climate was very sensitive, indeed. Land, air, and water around the world has reacted instantly (though unevenly) to more heat. We did anticipate some possible outcomes. Many of us knew there were going to be a lot of challenges. Scientists, environmentalists, and many more anticipated social strife when heat was turned up on our planet. For example, many of us knew that humanity itself would be part of the trials ahead.

Some people are galvanized by a great catastrophe and lead thousands towards solutions. But others think differently. They prioritized their own concerns, maniacally working towards how they think the world should be and how they can profit from the turmoil. Efforts to warn the public about the dangers of acid rain, cigarette smoke, second-hand smoke, holes in the ozone, and DDT have been fought and foiled for years. (See: Merchants of Doubt.) Humanity’s history is littered with actions based on wrong-headed notions, no matter how much evidence there was at the time to the contrary.

Those choosing to address Climate Change decades ago knew the job was dangerous when they took it. They knew there would be push-back against trying to solve this crisis—it’s part of human nature. A Trump win is but an atrocious manifestation of this human inclination for short term gain at the cost of future sustainability. Although these folks who are going to do everything in their power to increase fossil fuel use, thwart environmental regulations, and stop the worldwide attempt to make the Paris Agreement work have names, they are but part of this human condition. We are an adolescent species, hoping to mature. This is to say, the road ahead that we knew would be bumpy has now gotten very bumpy. Not only are the physical challenges going to get more difficult because we have allowed so much GHG’s to build up, the human reaction against the major changes needed to solve the warming crisis has metastasized into a powerful and irrational force against our efforts. It is a force that has to be overcome in some ways like all the other obstacles in front of us for a bright future.  

What now? This isn’t a time for despair, this is a time to assess our strengths and double-down on them.

Many who are trying to get their heads around this catastrophe are thinking that now the focus for addressing Climate Change must come from all our other tools in our toolbox, everything except our federal government. It must come from individuals, leaders, businesses, communities, environmental groups, local government, state, and other nations besides our own. 

Other countries are going to do what they can with a blind, deaf, and dumb elephant in the room:

Turnbull signals Australia won't follow Trump's lead on Paris climate agreement Prime minister confirms Australia will ratify agreement despite opposition from One Nation and conservative Coalition MPs Malcolm Turnbull has signalled Australia will not seek to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement even if the US president-elect, Donald Trump, follows through on his threat to cancel the emissions reductions commitments made by Barack Obama last December. Turnbull on Thursday confirmed Australia had ratified the Paris agreement despite domestic opposition from the One Nation party, a critical Senate bloc for the government, and persistent climate change scepticism roiling within Coalition ranks. After Trump’s victory, and ahead of Turnbull’s confirmation of the government’s intentions with ratification on Thursday morning, the chairman of the government’s backbench committee on the environment and energy, the Liberal MP Craig Kelly  (November 9, 2016) The Guardian

Or, how about this scenario? A major power like China takes advantage of the US’s climate paralysis and becomes the world leader on addressing Climate Change, leaving US in the dust:

Trump win opens way for China to take climate leadership role Beijing is poised to cash in on the goodwill it could earn by taking on leadership in dealing with what for many other governments is one of the most urgent issues on their agenda. "Proactively taking action against climate change will improve China's international image and allow it to occupy the moral high ground," Zou Ji, deputy director of the National Centre for Climate Change Strategy and a senior Chinese climate talks negotiator, told Reuters. (November 11, 2016 Reuters)

Not even Trump can tell China what to do.

If it is so that for now and for the time being much of the effort to address Climate Change in our country will come from the states, New York State may (as it did with stopping Fracking) show the nation a way through the coming anti-science miasma. 

Trump win means little for NY climate programs President-elect Donald Trump's pledge to roll back federal environmental regulations will likely have little effect on New York's efforts to combat climate change, according to the state's top energy official. Richard Kauffman, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's chairman of energy and finance, touted New York's various clean-energy programs Thursday while noting they predate the federal Clean Power Plan, an emissions-reductions program Trump has vowed to scale back. Should Trump curb environmental regulations at the federal level, New York's programs — including the Clean Energy Standard, which subsidizes renewable and nuclear energy — would remain in place. (November 10, 2016) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 

But let us not get too cocky. In order to address Climate Change, we have to adapt to the changes, and we have to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions on a scale and time frame that will avoid the worst consequences of this crisis.

One can say that “President-elect Donald Trump's pledge to roll back federal environmental regulations will likely have little effect on New York's efforts to combat climate change”, yet, it is delusional. First and foremost, Climate Change cannot be compartmentalized when it comes to being affected. When the temperature goes up on our planet, everything will be affected as there are no safe zones that won’t experience this planetary phenomenon. Some places will be affected differently and more quickly than others, for a while, but like cooking a great big pot of soup, eventually the whole pot will get hot if you leave the flame on long enough.

So if the federal government is dragging its feet or thwarting progress by doubling down on fossil fuel infrastructure (take the Dakota Access Pipeline for example), New York as all regions will eventually be affected and threatened by planetary tipping points. Holding back funds for infrastructure repair and development that is resilient enough to withstand the extreme weather that comes with Climate Change is going to affect New York. The energy aspect of Climate Change, though critical, has little to do with adaption, which will require a federal response at times, and is only a part the mitigation part of this crisis.

However committed we are individually or at the state and local level on addressing Climate Change, there’s no denying our job has been made exponentially more difficult by this election. It’s pretty late in the day for our country to have made such a colossal error in judgement. Our prospects are grim if we don’t find a way to encourage this new administration to do the right thing. In this effort we should leave no stone unturned, no vote unchecked, no bill un-scrutinized, no bad media report unchallenged, no rally for climate action and justice unattended, no chance for despair to creep into our soul. Climate denial is batshit crazy at any level.


Time passes. 

Monday, November 07, 2016

DAPL rally in Rochester wakes up local media on Climate Change–sort of

Rochester’s local media probably wouldn’t have shown up to yesterday’s rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) if this massive fossil fuel infrastructure development hadn’t been such a wickedly ill-conceived boondoggle. This violent power grab of Native American’s burial grounds, which threats their water, has garnered worldwide attention and motivated hundreds of Rochesterians, including Congresswoman, Louise Slaughter to speak in support of the #NoDAPL protesters.

World attention has focused on the horrific police response to Native Americans protesting the destruction of their own lands (in their own nation). Even mainstream media cannot suppress the brutal and craven treatment by the fossil fuel industry when those people get a sniff of more oily profits.  All you have to do is go to #NoDAPL on Twitter and Facebook to find hundreds of thousands of citizen testimonials to the importance of the Dakota lands to their people—and the brutal treatment inflicted on them as they attempt to protect their birth right.

Several local media ‘covered’ the Rochester rally but only one even hinted at the important backdrop in which this tragedy is unfolding--Climate Change.

·         Rochester protests Dakota Access Pipeline The protest took place downtown at the Liberty Pole Support on stopping an oil pipeline in North Dakota has reached Rochester. The Dakota Access Pipeline would run near a Sioux reservation. Those who oppose the pipeline say it would damage sacred Indian ground, and damage the ecosystem. Popular movie stars like Shailene Woodley and Mark Ruffalo are just a few who have spoken out against the pipeline. Woodley even was a protester and was arrested. (November 5, 2016 RochesterFirst.com)
·         Rochester protesters decry North Dakota pipeline A crowd of Rochester protesters denounced the Dakota Access Pipeline on Saturday, pointing to its potential effect on drinking water and Native American burial sites along its planned route. The pipeline, which was approved over the summer, would carry a half million barrels of crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois daily. Native American groups in the area have protested its construction for weeks, and police clashes have resulted in dozens of arrests and reports of protesters being attacked or hit with rubber bullets. (November 5, 2016 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)
·         Rochester protesters rally for 'Standing Rock' Sioux tribe Hundreds of people lined the streets of Downtown Rochester Saturday in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline project. It’s an oil pipeline that will stretch 1,200 miles underground through the Missouri River. It has garnered national attention because part of the river is the primary drinking source for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in central North and South Dakota. (November 6, 2016 WHAM Rochester)

This last article, the most responsible of local coverage, does mention that “the pipeline will eventually affect the climate.” But even then, that’s like saying when you light a fuse to a stick of dynamite, the dynamite will ‘eventually’ blow up. It’s true but it doesn’t really capture the compelling causal relationship. When you develop a major fossil fuel infrastructure you are immediately threatening our future because we are already slated to overshoot a safe level of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Our media still hasn’t grasped that Climate Change is happening, not eventually, but right now. It would have been nice if they could have put the tragedy in the Dakotas in the proper context—a world already too warm for another major fossil fuel pipeline.

The Paris Agreement, which was just made official this week, has as one of its provisions that we must switch to renewable energy immediately and stop major fossil fuel projects if we are to avoid the worst climate scenarios. Obama has indicated, despite his role in making the Paris Agreement work, that once he finds an alternative pipeline route around the Native American issue he’d be fine with that.

Obama is not getting it; the media are not getting it: Keep it in the ground!  

BTW: The DAPL protests highlight another truth emerging from Climate Change besides endless peer-reviewed science proving we are putting our life support in danger with our greenhouse gas emissions. It’s that disadvantaged communities will suffer the consequences of this great warming the first and worst. They and their supporters around the world are beginning to realize that putting a climate denier at the helm cannot trump the power of the people.