Monday, April 17, 2017

U.S. at crossroads: free science from politics and join the March for Science

The complacency by too many Americans while their government is gutting science harkens back to those onerous days in the 1850’s when our fragmented country tried tooth and nail to hold on to slavery—despite the evil. Russia (1723) and the British Empire (1808) had abolished slavery. New York State had made slavery illegal in 1827.

Yet, at the federal level: “Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave-holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers”(Wikipedia). Though most people believed that slavery was truly evil by the 1850’s, most of the public still sat on the sidelines until they were forced into the fray with their very lives, the Civil War, where 600,000 people perished.

The war was terrible; it wasn’t inevitable; it could have been prevented had it not been part of our compromised Constitution. We could have given into our better angels. But we didn’t.

The Three-Fifths Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution, which reads: Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. (Wikipedia)

Those in the middle, those who stayed quiet while slavery raged on, were forced off the sidelines anyways with a war that might have been prevented if more had spoken up sooner.  The Abolitionists did get off the sidelines, but these relative few were accused of causing violence instead of trying to right a wrong. (What if everyone had joined the Abolitionists early on? What if everyone just got off the sidelines at crucial moments in human history?) 

We are at a crossroads again.

This time it’s about not so much a great divide on the value we place on people’s lives as how we shall govern at all. Will science form the backbone of our country or will we succumb to a relatively small group’s ideology? Will our government base its decisions on our accumulated knowledge and science, or cherry-pick fact and fiction to suit a minority’s agenda? Will science be the priority it has been for two centuries in this country, or will we give up and condemn future generations to hell?

Those in the middle now, those staying quiet while science is being gutted are going to be affected whether they think so or not. There may not be a war, but we will be much inconvenienced by a planet warming up far quicker than our species has ever experienced. There are no sidelines in science.

The Fugitive Slave Act was an attempt at compromise on an issue where there was (and is) no compromise. This law placed the Northern states in the impossible position of sending free Americans to a region of the country where they would be returned to slavery. With the growing turmoil, our country in the 1850’s was finally having to face our original sin: How could we promote our country around the world as a free nation when we were enslaving millions of our people? We couldn’t. It was one or the other. No middle ground. Our founding ideals was either true, or they were a lie.  

Sitting home and doing nothing on Earth Day to stop the federal government from muzzling scientists is akin to allowing the Fugitive Slave Law to stand. Because powerful ideologies in Washington really want to rip out science by the roots, all of us must now #StandUpForScience:

Scott Pruitt Faces Anger From Right Over E.P.A. Finding He Won’t Fight When President Trump chose the Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, his mission was clear: Carry out Mr. Trump’s campaign vows to radically reduce the size and scope of the agency and take apart President Barack Obama’s ambitious climate change policies. In his first weeks on the job, Mr. Pruitt drew glowing praise from foes of Mr. Obama’s agenda against global warming, as he moved to roll back its centerpiece, known as the Clean Power Plan, and expressed agreement with those who said the E.P.A. should be eliminated. His actions and statements have galvanized protests from environmentalists and others on the left. But now a growing chorus of critics on the other end of the political spectrum say Mr. Pruitt has not gone far enough. In particular, they are angry that he has refused to challenge a landmark agency determination known as the endangerment finding, which provides the legal basis for Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan and other global warming policies. (April 12, 2017) New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

Pruitt hasn’t done enough damage to our county? Please. EPA boss: US should exit Paris climate agreement, April 13, 2017 Climate Home)

We must free Science from Politics

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL nails it: A country as large and complicated as ours must get on the same page on science. 

Nelson, near Trump’s Palm Beach resort, calls for end to attacks on climate science  Three years after he held a field hearing in Miami Beach to draw attention to a region at ground zero for climate change, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson convened a second hearing in West Palm Beach on Monday with a new target: the Trump administration’s attack on climate science. Held just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s vulnerable island retreat, the hearing highlighted worsening conditions — and the need to free science from politics. “There are people trying to muzzle scientists. I’ve seen it in Washington. I’ve seen it here in the state of Florida,” said Nelson, a Democrat and the state’s former insurance commissioner. (April 10, 2017) Miami Herald [more on Climate Change in our area]

The essential problem

How far will the ideologues get before the public stands up? Science, however powerful a discipline, does not automatically motivate humanity. For example, how many freaking times does your river have to catch on fire before you act?

“The Cuyahoga River was once one of the most polluted rivers in the United States. It has caught fire a total of 13 times dating back to 1868, including this blaze in 1952 which caused over $1.3 million in damages.” HOW A BURNING RIVER HELPED CREATE THE CLEAN WATER ACT (April 14, 2016 The Alleghany Front)

We can depend on science for a lot of things. In fact, it was science that helped lift humanity out of the Dark Ages and moved us into the Age of Enlightenment. But obviously, we cannot depend on science to overcome our Janus-faced tendency towards the love truth and also an inclination to revert back to our gut reactions—fear and mysticism. To do that we need everyone out in the streets this Earth Day to March for Science, Saturday, April 22, 2017.

Act

We cannot wait for public opinion to someday reach a tipping point; the time is now to right our course. For the March for Science in Rochester:


ROCHESTER MARCH FOR SCIENCE Marchers will gather at Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park at Manhattan Square at 9:30AM on April 22nd. At 10:30AM, we will begin marching towards the Hyatt Regency. Upon arriving at the Hyatt, you are cordially invited to attend the first Rochester Science Expo. Please visit our facebook page to RSVP to the event!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Not so easy to be green, especially since Trump

(This is an update of my 2008 article: Not So Easy To Be Green.)

It should be easy being green. That is to say, it should be easy to live sustainably. It should be easy to work and play and move from place to place and keep ourselves warm (or cool) and eat and breathe and allow our children and those in the future to do the same without crashing our life support system. But unless you are living in Ashton Hayes, England, “a well knit community of about 1000 people that is aiming to become England's first carbon neutral community”1, you’re probably going to find being green tough. 

Fossil fuels, which Trump is trying to resuscitate and reinvigorate, are so ensnarled into our way of life that even the best of efforts to go green are still going to have a significant carbon footprint. If you travel, what you drive is either power by fossil fuels or made with them. Even if you walk, that involves fossil fuels because sidewalks are made with machinery made from burning fossil fuels. If you eat, fossil fuels in some way probably got that food to your table. If you heat or cool your building, most likely fossil fuels make that possible. 

I could go on, but you get the idea. Our lives are so riddled with burning fossil fuels, which are warming the planet, it is almost inconceivable to quickly rid ourselves of this energy source. But we have to do so and we have to do so soon.

Since Trump

Trump has allowed the very convenient (although wrong) position that business as usual is not only desirable but sustainable. Polluting our collective natural resources, by continuing to burn fossil fuels and ratcheting down environmental regulations only allows us the delusion of growth, especially for those already benefitting from these outdated practices. But this way of existence is truly delusional because it threatens everyone, including those doing well, only a short time longer. Just about the time Trump leaves office, we will have blown our carbon budget:

Analysis: Just four years left of the 1.5C carbon budget Four years of current emissions would be enough to blow what’s left of the carbon budget for a good chance of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5C. That’s the conclusion of analysis by Carbon Brief, which brings the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) carbon budgets up to date to include global CO2 emissions in 2016. Our infographic above shows how quickly the budgets for 1.5C, 2C and 3C will be used up if emissions continue at the current rate. For 1.5C, this could be a soon as four years’ time. (April 5, 2017) Carbon Brief [more on Climate Change in our area]

Trump is allowing too many of us to give into our worst angels just when the doors to hell are opening for our arrival. The American dream is not going to happen if we’re all cooking in our own juices.

Hope

Just after our Civil War, when Reconstruction was but a dream, many former slaves risked life and limb informing authorities about violence from the white community. These former slaves expected justice beyond all evidence to the contrary that they would get it. But these people who had been beaten and abused for decades believed that our country could be the place where all people are created equal. They didn’t just pine away and dream; they attempted to conduct their lives as if the reconstructed country was actually going to practice what they preached. This took an incredible amount of faith in humanity, a faith that someday a people thrown into slavery would someday be treated as equals, get an education, and own businesses themselves.

They kept their eyes on the prize. Their struggle provides a beacon of hope that humanity can change, and do so quickly.

It can be easy to be green if we envision what a sustainable existence can be and move inexorably towards that goal. Once accomplished, once we have rid ourselves of burning up dead animals and plants and redesigning our way of existing as fair and sustainable, it will be easy. Being green will be easy because it will be built into the very fabric of our existence.

A beacon of hope:   

Check out one of the major environmental events this Earth Month 2017, by the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club. The president of the national Sierra Club, Aaron Mair, is going to be speaking on Intersectionality and Building a Strong Climate Movement:

“This year, your Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club is bringing a distinguished advocate for environmental justice to Rochester. He is Aaron Mair, the President of the Sierra Club and a powerful speaker who can inspire our community. Our hope is that this can be a ground breaking event for Rochester bringing together the white progressive community with the communities of color. Aaron has a long history in working for environmental change. He succeeded in shutting down a dirty incinerator plant in Albany, NY by revealing how pollution was causing sickness in the people of color who lived around it. ”2:

More details:

“Thursday, April 20th from 7-9 PM at the New Bethel CME Church located at 270 Scio Street, Rochester, NY 14605. Come early to visit tables of local environmental groups to find out what they are doing in our area from 6-6:30 PM. This event is free and open to the public. He will also be addressing classes at the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology. You can find a schedule on our Facebook page early April. We are very excited the opportunity has arrived to join forces with the communities of color on the issues that affect us all.”3.


Time passes.  

Monday, April 03, 2017

Trump’s anti-science experiment is unethical and unprecedented in U.S.

One of the problems in conducting risky experiments are the ethical problems highlighted by the infamous USPHS Syphilis Study. It was called the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male" and was conducted between 1932 and 1947. When the study of syphilis in poor black sharecroppers began, there was no known cure for syphilis. But “When penicillin became the standard treatment for the disease in 1947 the medicine was withheld as a part of the treatment for both the experimental group and control group”:

“While the panel concluded that the men participated in the study freely, agreeing to the examinations and treatments, there was evidence that scientific research protocol routinely applied to human subjects was either ignored or deeply flawed to ensure the safety and well-being of the men involved. Specifically, the men were never told about or offered the research procedure called informed consent. Researchers had not informed the men of the actual name of the study, i.e. "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male," its purpose, and potential consequences of the treatment or non-treatment that they would receive during the study. The men never knew of the debilitating and life threatening consequences of the treatments they were to receive, the impact on their wives, girlfriends, and children they may have conceived once involved in the research. The panel also concluded that there were no choices given to the participants to quit the study when penicillin became available as a treatment and cure for syphilis.” (About the USPHS Syphilis Study, Tuskegee University)

As you can imagine, all hell broke loose when the details were made public. A panel looking into this case determined that the experiment was "ethically unjustified." Yeah, no kidding.
Similarly, although we are existing in a free society where we can attend to the media we wish and vote as we choose, the vast majority of Americans never expected to be forced to engage in an experiment involving dismantling of science-based safety regulations. This experiment could be called, ‘What would be the effect if the world’s most powerful and influential nation abandoned science?’ Like the sharecroppers in the study, it would never have occurred to us that those running the experiment would hold to their ideology even if it meant a craven disregard for our lives.

The science behind gravity, flying jets, public health, ecosystems health, and climate is all the same science. When a country that once based public policies on sound science suddenly reverts to a pre-science stance, it can only be called an experiment. It’s one thing to want the world to reflect your ideology; it’s quite another thing to challenge the very science that provides the foundation of all governmental policies—and life itself. That’s not only dumb, it’s unethical. It’s unethical in the same way that denying known treatment to subjects of an experiment is unethical. (Although, the consequences in our present experiment will be far more extensive.)

The editorial board of the New York Times recently tried to characterize the unrivaled hubris and recklessness now rampant in our government:   

President Trump Risks the Planet That didn’t take long. Only 10 weeks into his presidency, and at great risk to future generations, Donald Trump has ordered the demolition of most of President Barack Obama’s policies to combat climate change by reducing emissions from fossil fuels. The assault began with Mr. Trump’s pledge in Detroit to roll back fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, continued with a stingy budget plan that would end funding for climate-related scientific programs and reached an unhappy apex Tuesday with an executive order that, among things, would rescind the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s clean power strategy, a rule that would shut down hundreds of old coal-fired power plants and freeze the construction of new ones. None of this was unexpected from a man who has described climate change as a hoax invented by the Chinese to destroy American industry and who has surrounded himself with cabinet officers and assistants who know or care little about the issue of global warming and its consequences — and who, in many cases, owe their political success to the largess of the oil, gas and coal companies. (March 28, 2017) New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

One can be on the sidelines on almost any issue. From your TV set (or wireless device), you can watch thousands protesting on issues like race, gender, justice, worker rights, and do nothing. One shouldn’t do nothing to stop evil, but one can. That is, one is physically able ignore the plight of others. 

However, with Climate Change, you cannot be on the sidelines. If you and your neighbor live on shoreline properties and the ocean is rising, both of your properties are affected. This will occur whether you like it or not.

You can deny the science behind Climate Change (and gravity for that matter), but you’d be wrong. 

You’d be wrong morally (because you’d be doing nothing at a time when something needs to be done), and you’d be factually wrong because eventually our environment will be unlivable unless steps are made on a level and time frame that will matter to us.

You can sit on the sidelines when scientists are being dismissed by their government. But you cannot sit on the sidelines of science itself. In other words, you cannot exist outside the laws of physics. You cannot start flapping your arms and fly to another planet.

Let’s face it. It’s one thing for folks to hold climate denial as their abhorrent opinion at this point in human history; it’s quite another for our government to be run this way.

We should not allow ourselves to be unwilling victims to this anti-science experiment. Earth Month is now happening in Rochester. ACT!


Time passes.  #ScienceMatters 

Monday, March 27, 2017

With so many Trump-inflicted horrors, why prioritize Climate Change?

It’s hard to keep your eyes on the ball when everyone starts throwing hundreds of balls on to the court. It’s hard to prioritize addressing Climate Change when the GOP and Trump are lobbing grenades each day onto the headlines. Our most cherished values are under attack and they all must be addressed: immigration, science, food programs, education, war against the media, our international reputation, the sanctity of the office of the Presidency, and who knows what else lurks in the heart of these clowns.  

But even these every-freaking-day assaults must be viewed through the lens of Climate Change. For if we allow our attention to be diverted from addressing Climate Change, all other issues will be exacerbated or eliminated altogether because our life support system will be breaking down. Climate Change is an existential crisis requiring that we make massive shifts in the way we live, how we get energy, and how we treat our environment.

Climate denial is a backfire-effect (when proven wrong, you dig your heels in harder) against the fact of Climate Change.  It is also most likely the cause of this hyper-divide in our country, which is threatening to take us all down a deep dark hole.

Climate denial is a stance. It is not science but a position many folks have taken. It deduces from its own self-centered ideology that any fact or argument that does not fit into its belief system is incorrect.

Science is a methodology based on a strict attention to evidence and testable results. Science is not common sense; it is a hard-fought achievement that can challenge our common sense and put our collective opinions about reality through an objective set of rigorous standards to find out if they are really true—not just some bullshit we are feeding ourselves. Check out this great podcast on common sense:

“Your common sense is informed by imperfect inputs decoded through biases and heuristics defended by logical fallacies stored in corrupted memories that are unpacked through self-serving narratives. Native good judgment? Well, sure, sometimes, but there’s a reason why we had to invent the scientific method. Native judgment is pretty unreliable.” (YANSS Podcast – Episode Seven – The Psychology of Common Sense July 22, 2013)

This brings us to the recently released WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016. It is only 28 pages. But it’s thorough and dramatic. It’s about as concise a picture of where we are on Climate Change at the moment as the public is likely to get. This report is the result of scientific research that has been accepted around the world.

At the risk of losing your attention altogether, I’m going to post the complete list of contributors to this report to give you a sense of the diverse expertize that brought this about. Take a moment to skim this material to get a sense of the nations and organizations who are not in climate denial and feel a great sense of urgency about the state of our life support system.

This publication was issued in collaboration with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), United Kingdom; Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA); Met Office Hadley Centre, United Kingdom; Climatic Research Unit (CRU), University of East Anglia, United Kingdom; Climate Prediction Center (CPC), the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), United States of America; National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA GISS), United States of America; Global Precipitation Climatology Centre (GPCC), Germany; National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), United States of America; Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) Marine and Atmospheric Research, Australia; Global Snow Lab, Rutgers University, United States of America; Regional Climate Centre for Regional Association VI, Climate Monitoring, Germany; Beijing Climate Centre, China; Tokyo Climate Centre, Japan; International Research Centre on El Niño (CIIFEN), Ecuador; Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, Bridgetown, Barbados; Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), Netherlands; Institute on Global Climate and Ecology (IGCE), Russian Federation; All-Russian Research Institute for Hydrometeorological Information-World Data Center (ARIHMI-WDC), Russian Federation; Global Atmospheric Watch Station Information System(GAWSIS), MeteoSwiss, Switzerland; World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases (WDCGG), Japan Meteorological Agency, Japan; World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS), Switzerland; World Ozone and UV Radiation Data Centre (WOUDC), Environment and Climate Change, Canada; Niger Basin Authority, Niger. Other contributors are the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services or equivalent of: Argentina; Armenia; Australia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Belarus; Belgium; Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Bosnia and Herzegovina; Brazil; Brunei Darussalam; Burkina Faso; Canada; Chile; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Denmark; Egypt; Estonia; Fiji; Finland; France; Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Gambia; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hong Kong, China; Hungary; Iceland; India; Indonesia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Ireland; Israel; Italy, Jamaica; Japan; Jordan; Latvia; Libya; Luxembourg; Madagascar; Malawi; Malaysia; Mali; Mauritius; Mexico; Moldova; Montenegro; Morocco; Netherlands; New Zealand; Niger; Norway; Pakistan; Papua New Guinea; Paraguay; Peru; Poland; Portugal; Republic of Korea; Republic of Moldova; Romania; Russian Federation; Samoa; Serbia; Singapore; Slovakia; Slovenia; Solomon Islands; South Africa; Spain; Swaziland; Sweden; Switzerland; Thailand; Tonga, Tunisia; Turkey; Ukraine; United Kingdom; United Republic of Tanzania; United States of America; Uruguay and Vanuatu. Contributions from international organizations were made available, including the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium; United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); International Monetary Fund (IMF); International Organization for Migration (IOM); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO). (WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016)

If you don’t have time to read the entire document, here’s a good overview:

State of the Warming Climate in 2016: 'Truly Uncharted Territory' World Meteorological Organization reveals extent of global warming's impacts last year, including epic Arctic melting, drought and extreme weather. Arctic ice melted to new lows in 2016, temperatures soared to scorching highs and extreme weather rocked all parts of the planet. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its annual State of Global Climate report on Tuesday, noting a year of broken records and extreme weather events—climate change trends that are continuing into 2017. "This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record—a remarkable 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. That temperature rise marks a 0.06 degrees Celsius increase over the record set in 2015. The Paris climate agreement commits the world's nations to holding the atmospheric temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius, to try to stave off potentially catastrophic global warming.(March 21, 2017) Inside Climate News [more on Climate Change in our area]

The take home message is that however dazzled and horrified we are at the circus going on at the White House and Congress, we cannot afford to let our attention stray from Climate Change. For decades we have kicked the can down the road, allowing Climate Change indicators to build up to dangerous levels and allowed those who find this truth very inconvenient to take over the helm of our government. The result is that we have ratcheted up this crisis to “uncharted territory”.

Here’s what you can do: March for Science on Earth Day, here in Rochester, NY or in Washington, DC. Join the People’s Climate Movement this April 29th here in Rochester, NY or in Washington, DC.


Time passes. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Was Rochester prepared for the consequences of Climate Change?

Our recent spate of hard storms and the public’s reaction to the government and power company response provides an interesting learning moment about the public’s expectation of preparedness in a time of Climate Change.

Was Rochester Gas and Electric prepared for storms? Questions persist about whether the Rochester region's largest electric utility was prepared for the fury nature unleashed the past few weeks. Yet complete answers could be a long time coming for customers and citizens whose lives were upended by the storms and power outages. And while Rochester Gas and Electric's handling of the crisis is of immediate concern to many, more troubling may be questions about long-term preparation, including maintenance of the local electrical system. (March 17, 2017) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

Many in the Rochester area were not happy with the response time or the infrastructure vulnerabilities revealed by these recent storms. Were our authorities ready? Were our infrastructures (telephone poles, etc.) ready for these assaults? Were our leaders prepared to protect us from these clear and present dangers—as their jobs require?

The blame game begins and judgement day looms, when everyone gets a chance to review all the details and decide whether everyone responsible planned properly and responded satisfactorily. Heads may roll, as they say.

This is all interesting because Climate Change presents itself as a unique disaster scenario, more drawn out with many extreme weather events, and a more biblical kind of Judgement Day.

Being entirely prepared for the recent storms, after a long and lulling warm spell in February, would have meant that the City and RG&E could check the integrity of all their telephone poles, immediately summon emergency crews and subcontractors, suspend vacations, and warn the public about dire winter conditions at the end of March. However, not only would the public have scoffed at such preparations, they would have been highly incensed that the City and RG&E had started throwing their money towards such an unlikely scenario.  

This says something about preparedness.

Too often, after (let me repeat ‘after’) a calamity the public gets energized about preparation. Before last week’s wind and snow storms, the public probably assumed their local governments and power companies had prepared them for the worst. And, given the low probabilities of an 80-mile-an-hour windstorm and a mega-March snowstorm coming back to back at this time, our authorities were most likely prepared. They were prepared in the sense that they were probably prepared for the usual weather expectations for a late March, but not entirely ready for what actually happened.  
Climate Change is going to require a lot of preparation and with the recent turn of political events they are unlikely to be adequate.

“As to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward: We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said at a White House briefing on Thursday. “We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”1.

Preparations for disasters always seems like a “waste of money to go out and do that” before disaster strikes. And to be fair, there are times when disasters are certain only in hindsight. Most of the time you have to plan in such a way that the public is ready to front the costs of preparations with increased taxes and bills. You have to rely on experts and take a chance that your decisions on the level of risk and the cost of preparation are all worth it.

Even with such caveats, you have to appreciate the breathtaking audacity and cravenness of the Trump administration’s attacks on the very discipline (Science) which forms the bulwark of Climate Change information on preparation.

Scientists Bristle at Trump Budget’s Cuts to Research Before he became president, Donald J. Trump called climate change a hoax, questioned the safety of vaccines and mocked renewable energy as a plaything of “tree-huggers.” So perhaps it is no surprise that Mr. Trump’s first budget took direct aim at basic scientific and medical research. Still, the extent of the cuts in the proposed budget unveiled early Thursday shocked scientists, researchers and program administrators. The reductions include $5.8 billion, or 18 percent, from the National Institutes of Health, which fund thousands of researchers working on cancer and other diseases, and $900 million, or a little less than 20 percent, from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which funds the national laboratories, considered among the crown jewels of basic research in the world. (March 16, 2017) March 16, 2017) New York Times

At this point, many in the public are stunned by this reckless disregard for predictions based on accurate scientific information. How could anyone have imagined such a blatant affront to our accumulated knowledge about how our environment actually works? Scientists are not just important in a world of Climate Change, they are absolutely necessary in the way someone operating on your heart must be a heart surgeon. You wouldn’t want a climate denier preparing you for Climate Change any more that you would want a Valentine card designer opening up your chest to get at your heart.

We are not going to be prepared for Climate Change if Trump’s attack on science and the EPA are allowed to continue. The public needs to get out and march in the streets; they need to contact their government representatives and make them accountable now; and the public needs to get engaged in this crisis before disasters strike.

Blaming our governmental officials if they don’t prepare us for Climate Change will be absurdly pointless after the fact, as we’ll be too busy struggling for our lives and our future.


Time passes.   

Monday, March 13, 2017

Declaration of Independence from climate denial

According to Carbonify.com, the atmospheric carbon dioxide level was 365.26ppm in 1998 when I began RochesterEnvironment.com. Today it’s 406.13ppm. In some places it’s projected to soon hit 410ppm. We have known for quite some time now that we are quickly warming up our planet, which is and will continue to affect all life on Earth, while increasingly making it problematic as to whether we can adapt.

For ten thousand years of the Holocene, during which humanity thrived, our carbon dioxide concentration levels hovered around 280ppm. Then in the mid-1800’s our planet’s temperature took off.

There is much about Climate Change that folks are debating and denying, but these figures on the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are pretty clear. Hard to squirm away from the math.

Carbon Dioxide Could Reach 410 PPM This Month A never-ending stream of carbon pollution ensures that each year the world continues to break records for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This year will be no different. Like a rite of spring, carbon dioxide is poised to cruise pass the previous mark set last year and reach heights unseen in human history. In the coming weeks, carbon dioxide will start to breach the 410 parts per million threshold on a daily basis at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. The monthly average for May could come close to topping 410 ppm, too, according to the U.K. Met Office’s inaugural carbon dioxide forecast, released last week. (March 6, 2017) Climate Central [more on Climate Change in our area]

The New York Times recently headlined the news that spring comes earlier each year (see below). I’m sure there is a vast swath of our U.S. citizens who won’t read the New York Times—which is odd because it’s the largest selling newspaper in the world.

Spring Came Early. Scientists Say Climate Change Is a Culprit. After a mild winter across much of the United States, February brought abnormally high temperatures, especially east of the Rockies. Spring weather arrived more than three weeks earlier than usual in some places, and new research released Wednesday shows a strong link to climate change. By the 2017 calendar, the first day of spring is March 20. But spring leaves arrived in mid-January in some parts of the South, and spread northward like a wave. The map above plots the date of “first leaf,” a temperature-based calculation of when vegetation that has been dormant starts to show signs of life. This year, with the exception of a few small areas, the wave has arrived much earlier than the 30-year average. (March 8, 2017) New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

Science tells us more of our greenhouse gas emissions are getting into our atmosphere each year. Our media (some of them anyway) explains what that means for our way of life.

Yet, we put a climate denier into the top office of our country: “To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world” (The Declaration of Independence, 1776):


It’s now time to Declare our independence from climate denial.

We, therefore, the people of the united States of America, in general, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these United States, solemnly publish and declare, That these United States are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent of climate denial, that they are Absolved from all anti-science and Climate Injustice, and that all political connection between them and climate denial, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent peoples, they have full Power to support science, work with other nations around the world to address Climate Change.— And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

We shall not be denied a future:

Rather than the trajectory of a future riven with pollution, disease, and a vast inequality of wealth and resources brought on by climate denial, we aspire to an Attractive Future possible to all of us by addressing Climate Change immediately, which will ensure better city designs, more Equality, and a healthy and sustainable environment from which all Peoples, Business, and Life can flourish. 

Inspiration to Act:

            "90% is just showing up” short video by Paul Flansburg pflansburg@hotmail.com
Overwhelmed about what to do in a world that is warming and not enough folks seem to care? Need some real inspiration in four minutes from someone who is walking the rallies? Paul Flansburg has put together an amazing personal story about why and how to care about our planet—especially at this incredible moment in history. Powerful. Incredible.

Action Opportunities:

·         March for Science on Earth Day, here in Rochester, NY or in Washington, DC.
·         Join the People’s Climate Movement this April 29th here in Rochester, NY or in Washington, DC.
·         Retweet, share on Facebook, and/or copy to your contacts or social media this article.

Time passes.


#StandUpForScience #climatechangeshealth #ClimateFacts #MarchForScience #ScienceMatters 

Monday, March 06, 2017

EPA getting gutted. Sad.

Ever since humanity began large-scale industry, business folks have been duking it out with nature lovers.

It would be convenient to entirely blame Pruitt and President Trump for attempting to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But this present crisis, where the EPA is getting eviscerated, where decades of good work by our top environmental agency is getting attacked by the Trump administration, is but a dramatic point along a continuum of our collective compliancy towards our life support system.

For most of humanity’s existence, we have fought for our place in our environment among dangerous predators and hostile climates. Some time ago, our numbers grew and our ability to dominate and even subdue nature allowed our species to thrive. We discovered how to exploit the bounties of our environment and didn’t think much about replacing or compensating important components (think, forests) because it didn’t even occur to us until centuries ago that our resources were finite.
Several hundred years ago, many naturalists and thinkers began warning humanity that the way we were treating our environment was causing problems. Serious water-polluting, soil-decimating, and other large-scale problems became so bad that communities and even civilizations perished. The push for more land was driven in part because good agricultural regions were used up by bad farming practices. We over-hunted, over-fished, and developed beyond our environment’s ability to recuperate from our abuse. We ignored the warnings of those—Thoreau, Muir, Humboldt, Marsh, and many others--whose message was to step more lightly on our planet’s bounty. They were not against growth; they were against wasteful and destructive practices that were destroying the potential of our natural resources.

After a long history of treating our environment as an infinite and magical spring of resources (as an externality), we shouldn’t be surprised when, in this latest and most horrific expression of environmental pushback, Trump says "the EPA’s regulators are putting people out of jobs by the hundreds of thousands.” (from What President Trump’s New Order Means for Clean Water, February 28, 2018, Time)

We should realize that this misguided harangue is but the most recent manifestation of a long-held attitude towards our environment from which humanity has not entirely freed itself. We’ve been treating our life support system badly for a long time.  

Shifting costs and degradation of our natural resources to tax payers

Trump’s clumsy attempts to revive old unsustainable business practices by gutting the EPA is really a throwback to how humanity used to conduct business by shifting costs and degradation of our natural resources to taxpayers. This is where business gets to use and pollute the commons—our water, land, and air—and shift the financial burden of their cleanup to the public. Meanwhile, the public suffers immeasurably in the form of bad health and in many cases, death. Too many business owners believe that it is the environmental regulations, not the loss of a healthy environment, which is causing their problems. So the EPA becomes a scapegoat for businesses unwilling to shift to sustainable practices.

Framing environmental concerns as ‘us vs. them’ is not sustainable. It never has been. In actuality, there haven’t been winners and losers in environmental fights between polluters and environmentalists. Victories have been a mirage, where polluters win the battles and we all lose the war. What has happened is a ratcheting up of environmental degradation. We are now at a place where 7 billion people are eking out an existence as we warm up the planet and extinct animal and plant species around the world on par with the other five great extinctions. This observation isn’t new and many, many businesses have come to recognize their responsibility in keeping our environment healthy. For quite a while now, responsible business have adopted sustainable business practices that are becoming standard business practices around the world—not merely as environmentally sound, but also financially profitable.

Why we need a healthy EPA

The EPA has many successes under its belt including the cleanup of thousands of industry-caused Brownfields, not to mention the countless times where the rules and the very existence of the EPA has prevented catastrophic environmental abuse. This environmental regulatory agency hasn’t led to the demise of businesses. Quite the opposite. Businesses need a level and stable playing field from which to operate. Think of the reintroduction of wolves in Yellow Stone National Park where the behavior of the elk and other animals changed dramatically when wolves were reintroduced into that ecosystem. Trees grew back and even the course of the rivers changed because elk and other herbivores couldn’t stand around all day chewing up every single plant with wolves around. Ecosystems thrive when the regulators are present.

If we again let free market fundamentalism rule, we will get the world as it was before the EPA—a very polluted environment. But things will be much worse because Climate Change is accelerating and amplifying all our other environmental issues. 

Why We Need the EPA Let’s not forget what America looked like before we had the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Our rivers caught on fire, our air was full of smog, and it stank (literally). “Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions,” said Richard Nixon, the founder of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in his 1970 State of the Union speech. If only. While there was clearly a time when support for environmental regulations transcended politics, the GOP’s broad support for EPA antagonist and Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the agency he so maligns tells us that day has passed. (February 14, 2017) NRDC [more on Environmental Health in our area]

Focusing on just a single ecosystem, Lake Erie, demonstrates how gutting the EPA will be catastrophic. Everyone, including businesses and farmers who will not be able to thrive in a failing environment, should be encouraging Trump and the EPA to keep up their pivotal role in addressing Climate Change and all the complicated consequences coming with that.

Great Lakes Scientist says, “If We Lose The EPA, We Lose Lake Erie” At the 8th Binational Meeting of the Lake Erie Millennium Network, 125 scientists gathered at the University of Windsor in Ontario to hear experts weigh-in on the health of the southernmost, warmest and shallowest of the Great Lakes. They presented research on everything from climate change, water quality, phosphorous, agricultural run-off, cynobacteria (blue-green algae), hypoxia (deficiency in oxygen), cladophora (green algae) to ice, invasive species, sediment concentrations, and much, much more. Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes by volume, and yet it has the highest population living along it’s shorelines, which makes it more vulnerable to pollution and many other problems than the rest of the Great Lakes. (February 24, 2017) Great Lakes Now [more on Climate Change and Water Quality and Great Lakes in our area]

In our desire for progress (a Star Trekian utopia perhaps) some of us forget that our visions for humanity’s future are not necessarily inevitable. There are secondary consequences to development—pollution, the breakdown of our ecosystems, and Climate Change—that can end the best of dreams. In order to ratchet up the likelihood that ours will be a bright future, we must always be mindful of our environmental health. This will not include demolishing every hard-won environmental regulation we have achieved.


Time passes. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Climate Change indicator, water

As I write, the worst possible candidate to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just got installed. It is terrible because it is via the EPA we get our legal authority to address Climate Change on a scale that will matter. States can do much, but it’s the feds that create a level playing field. So, Pruitt’s political (not scientific) confirmation could be a serious problem for our life support system. #ScienceMatters

Climate Change is affected by our politics in the sense that politics can affect humanity’s collective response to this crisis. But, at the end of the day, it is climate indicators, climate feedback mechanisms in our environment, that will determine whether we are making progress or not.
Basically, climate change indicators are things like:


Please check these indicators soon, for we do not know how much longer they will exist on the EPA’s website.

Indicators are kinda like those tubes and monitors that are hooked up to you after you’ve had a life-threatening accident. If there are loud beeps from any one of those indicators, you are going to need a nurse Johnny-on-the-spot.

I want to make a point about the changes in our water, which constitutes many of the indicators above. The importance of our water goes far beyond our current state of dysfunctional politics.

Water

Water, as you know, exists in three states on our planet: liquid, gas (vapor), or solid (ice). When it’s not present in any of these forms we have a drought, desert, or a lifeless space. #WaterIsLife
Here are some interesting data about water in our Northeast region, from GLISA a NOAA Risa team :
  • ·         “From 1973 to 2010, annual average ice coverage on the Great Lakes declined by 71%.”
  • ·         “The amount of precipitation falling in the heaviest 1% of storms increased by 37% in the Midwest and 71% in the Northeast from 1958 to 2012.”


So, let’s talk about the liquid form for a moment. That recent California dam crisis offers a teaching moment about a particular water infrastructure, but also all our infrastructures, because it talks about planning, about how infrastructure change must be tailored to the local predictions of Climate Change. Decisions for this dam should have been made years ago because now everyone is freaking about displacing 200,000 people and trying to figure out if the drought is over. No, the drought isn’t over and, no, the aquifers that will be needed for more droughts a-coming are not being replenished. But they could have been recharged if the dam had been redesigned properly. It’s not just that damn dam, it’s all our infrastructure.

Our infrastructures—dams, bridges, waste water systems, gas pipelines, electric grids, etc.—are old and they were designed for a world that wasn’t feeling the consequences of Climate Change. Our infrastructures here in the Northeast haven’t had to deal with the dramatic droughts of the West; instead, heavy precipitation (snow and rain) at a 71% increase since 1958 presents many problems with sewage overflows and damages due to increased flash flooding.

The article (below) is great for understanding some of the key issues about addressing Climate Changing because it gets to more of the particulars than merely updating old structures. Our infrastructures of the future have to be ready for the climate disruptions that are already different from the calmer climate when those structures were first designed. The public needs to be more aware of how our infrastructures—which are now key to our survival because there are so many of us who need food, waste removal, communication, and transportation. Oftentimes, when our infrastructures fail, they do so dramatically, because so many people are dependent on them.

What California’s Dam Crisis Says About the Changing Climate After five years of record-setting drought, much of California is being pummeled by an extremely wet winter. The disaster unfolding at Oroville, where precipitation is more than double the average, is the latest reminder that the United States needs a climate-smart upgrade of our water management systems. In the West, much of our water infrastructure is old. Oroville Dam, north of Sacramento, was completed in 1968, nearly a half a century ago. Other major components of our water system are generations older, and maintenance has not been a priority. The damage to Oroville Dam, where the primary spillway developed a giant gash and the emergency spillway threatened to erode, illustrates the hazard of relying on aging infrastructure to protect us from extreme weather. But age and upkeep are not the only problems. Our water system was designed and built in an old climate, one in which extremely warm years were less common and snowpack was more reliable. Here in the West, we use the same dams and reservoirs for both water storage and flood control, so during the wet season, reservoir managers continuously balance the dual pressures of storing as much water as possible for the dry summer and releasing sufficient water to create room for the next storm. (February 14, 2017) New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

Ice cover

A dramatic shift in Great Lakes ice cover due to Climate Change could have profound changes to lake levels, weather, snow, shipping, nuclear power cooling, fishing, and the entire ecosystem. There’s more on this story here.  Also, this is interesting:

Climate shifts affecting Great Lakes ice cover The mild winter across the Great Lakes is producing below average ice cover once again. As of Sunday, 13.5 percent of the Great Lakes is covered with ice according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That’s well below the historical median of about 30 percent for this week of the year, according to the Canadian Ice Service. (February 13, 2017) MPR News [more on Great Lakes and Climate Change in our area]

Data.

As of this writing, there is still official climate data from which the public and their government can work from. For example, check graphs and maps that show observed and modeled data for ROCHESTER, NY. This information comes from the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, which “is a website designed to help people find and use tools, information, and subject matter expertise to build climate resilience. The Toolkit offers information from all across the U.S. federal government in one easy-to-use location.”

This information from our government may not always be there. Data and public information from our government is disappearing in a cloud of denial and an ideology that still thinks the only way business can survive is to treat our environment as their free and unrestricted sewer.

I am continually reminded of Dr. Sagan’s warning: “Anything else you're interested in is not going to happen if you can't breathe the air and drink the water. Don't sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.”


Time passes.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The warming poles of Climate Change

Feeling a compulsion to continually acknowledge the fact that human-caused Climate Change is happening? It’s understandable. Our last US election has resurrected the pathetic chimera of climate denial. It’s a tragedy. Our attention to the problem at hand, that our climate is warming quickly, has been hijacked.

Now we worry for our latest immigrants. For we are all are immigrants. I’m Famine Irish, myself, and only differ from those misaligned today by the trumped-up Travel Ban but for the vagaries of time. At a recent rally in Rochester against the so-called ban, I felt compelled to read before a gathering of hundreds the entire poem, "The New Colossus", whose lines "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” everyone knows.  

Now we worry for indigenous peoples whose temporary victory at the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), following fire-hosing of our fellow Americans in freezing weather, captured the nation’s and world’s attention. We worry for those who have worked all their lives to qualify for Medicare and Social Security. We worry for our youth whose understanding of science is in jeopardy. We worry for the common decency we expect towards our fellow citizens and allies around the world because all that now hangs on the irrational behavior of our so-called leader.

Bizarre money-drunk politics has reinvigorated hate, prejudice, xenophobia, and a great distain for environmental regulations, dragging along with it all this climate denial BS. Science had put a lid on this immoral and anti-science ideology years ago. But this scourge has reared its ugly head, fueled, in part, by fossil-fuel money.  

While this tempest steals our attention, both geological poles of our planet are undergoing extreme changes due to warming. It’s quite possible that celestial beings far away, even if they didn’t know anything about our precious blue orb, would probably notice our polar ice caps changing. “Hey look over there at that little planet in the Local Group, its polar caps are dwindling instead of increasing as we would expect from its present orbit. Something must be causing its greenhouse gasses to increase. Hmmmm.”   

First, the Artic, where we know Climate Change is the cause:

The Winter of Blazing Discontent Continues in the Arctic Weird. Strange. Extreme. Unprecedented. These are some of the words that describe what’s been happening in the Arctic over the past year as surge after surge of warm air have stalled, and at times reversed, sea ice pack growth. And the unfortunate string of superlatives is set to continue this week. Arctic sea ice is already sitting at a record low for this time of year and a powerful North Atlantic storm is expected to open the flood gates and send more warmth pouring into the region from the lower latitudes. By Thursday, it could reach up to 50°F above normal. In absolute temperature, that’s near the freezing point and could further spur a decline in sea ice. (February 6, 2017) Climate Central [more on Climate Change in our area]

Next, the big crack in an Antarctica ice shelf, which may not be caused by Climate Change, but it is still expected to greatly threaten the stability of the ice shelf, which “… could also significantly change the landscape of the Antarctic peninsula.”

A Crack in an Antarctic Ice Shelf Grew 17 Miles in the Last Two Months A rapidly advancing crack in Antarctica’s fourth-largest ice shelf has scientists concerned that it is getting close to a full break. The rift has accelerated this year in an area already vulnerable to warming temperatures. Since December, the crack has grown by the length of about five football fields each day. The crack in Larsen C now reaches over 100 miles in length, and some parts of it are as wide as two miles. The tip of the rift is currently only about 20 miles from reaching the other end of the ice shelf. Once the crack reaches all the way across the ice shelf, the break will create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, according to Project Midas, a research team that has been monitoring the rift since 2014. Because of the amount of stress the crack is placing on the remaining 20 miles of the shelf, the team expects the break soon. (February 7, 2017) New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

Even some conservatives are concerned. They’ve marched out their own proposal for taking immediate climate action:

A Conservative Case for Climate Action CRAZY as it may sound, this is the perfect time to enact a sensible policy to address the dangerous threat of climate change. Before you call us nuts, hear us out. During his eight years in office, President Obama regularly warned of the very real dangers of global warming, but he did not sign any meaningful domestic legislation to address the problem, largely because he and Congress did not see eye to eye. Instead, Mr. Obama left us with a grab bag of regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions, often established by executive order. In comes President Trump, who seems much less concerned about the risks of climate change, and more worried about how excessive regulation impedes economic growth and depresses living standards. As Democrats are learning the hard way, it is all too easy for a new administration to reverse the executive orders of its predecessors. (February 8, 2017) New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

(Actually, it DOESN’T sound CRAZY that some US conservatives are concerned about Climate Change and urge their party to address this crisis. It doesn’t sound crazy that intelligent people find the science behind Climate Change compelling. It DOES sound CRAZY to think environmental regulations should be rolled back and the free market (which, by the way, was instrumental in causing Climate Change) be allowed to take over. The political parties will disagree about how to address Climate Change, but both political parties should NOT disagree that Climate Change is happening because that is CRAZY! Also, as long as I’ve stolen your attention from this article’s main thesis: Those inclined to pin their hopes on "The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends," for addressing Climate Change, because this is the most we are likely to get from a wrong-headed ideology, should remember that the free market system cannot fix Climate Change. Climate Change is deeply complex and will affect all aspects of our life support system, including our infrastructure, our individual health, our social stability, and our ability to adapt to the heat already built up in our climate system. While a carbon dividend will go far in slowing down human-cause greenhouse gas emissions, it is far short of a complete plan to address Climate Change. Our politics need to get their priorities straight.) #ScienceMatters

(Ok, back to my main point.) Since Trump has taken office, the poles of our political spectrum have deeply widened. A charge from the extreme wing on climate denial in our government suggests that the US and the rest of the nations were duped into signing the Paris Agreement. The facts behind this trumped-up conspiracy have been roundly refuted by folks who actually know what they are talking about. But, still, the specter of another Climategate which attempts to lie our country out of the Paris Agreement and sow more doubt into climate science is chilling.
  • ·         Climate Change, Science, NOAA Falsely Maligned by Tabloid Spin As a result of human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, the planet is warming. Those who deny this fact have pointed to a supposed “pause” in warming to justify opposition to climate action. In 2015, a study led by NOAA’s Tom Karl was published in Science that flatly refuted the idea of a “pause.” It is one of many. But its high profile made it a target for attack. On Saturday, a feature in the UK’s Mail on Sunday by David Rose makes outrageous claims that were already disproven as the paper version hit stands, and that he has already had to in part correct. Rose, who has a history of inaccurate reporting, spins a scandal out of a letter by a former NOAA employee published on a climate change denial blog. The letter makes accusations of wrongdoing in the methodology and data archiving procedures used in the study. These accusations have already been shown to be faulty. Even if they were true, the implications have been blown out of proportion by Rose. Rebuttals were published in record time, as within minutes there was a tweet describing the story as “so wrong its hard to know where to start”:  (Climate Nexus)
  • ·         Factcheck: Mail on Sunday’s ‘astonishing evidence’ about global temperature rise This is a guest post by Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist and energy systems analyst at Berkeley Earth, an independent temperature analysis project. In an article in today’s Mail on Sunday, David Rose makes the extraordinary claim that “world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data”, accusing the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of manipulating the data to show more warming in a 2015 study by Tom Karl and coauthors. What he fails to mention is that the new NOAA results have been validated by independent data from satellites, buoys and Argo floats and that many other independent groups, including Berkeley Earth and the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre, get effectively the same results. (February 5, 2017) Carbon Brief [more on Climate Change in our area]
  • ·         Contested NOAA paper had no influence on Paris climate deal Envoys from US, EU, Russia and South Africa reject claims that one piece of research in June 2015 shaped flagship UN climate pact Did a “landmark paper that exaggerated global warming” trick 195 governments into signing the Paris climate deal? That’s the bold claim in a Mail on Sunday article that, at time of writing, had been shared 36,000 times and boasted 1,600 comments. It’s a strong allegation, directed at a study from the reputable National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and one that was pounced upon by climate sceptic lawmakers in the US. “The Obama administration pushed their costly climate agenda at the expense of scientific integrity,” tweeted congressman Lamar Smith, a Republican who says climate science is bunkum. (February 6, 2017) Climate Home [more on Climate Change in our area]


While the US again ties itself up in climate denial, forever grubbing for ‘gotcha points’ in studies, articles, and discussion, the world worries.

These important words about understanding Climate Change by world renowned science communicator Dr. David Suzuki are worth noting. The US public and the media cannot just cherry-pick news and information about the complex issue of Climate Change. Climate Change, as much as possible, needs to be understood and communicated in the fullness of its impact and the exactness of its science.

Science is the most useful tool we have to adapt to climate change and avoid its worst outcomes. But it requires critical thinking and a big-picture perspective to ensure we consider all available evidence. With so many people scrolling through social media feeds for news rather than reading entire articles, facts and clarity can become elusive. It's up to us all -- media and consumers alike -- to dig deeper for the full story. (February 8, 2017, Understanding Climate Change Means Reading Beyond Headlines (Huffington Post)

Of course, physics always wins out. But will our attention have been turned away just long enough to relinquish any control we might have had over our destiny?


Time passes.