Monday, April 30, 2018

We cannot volunteer ourselves out of Climate Change or most environmental problems

The French president’s call to “Make our planet great again” is more likely to occur if we renew efforts to make the Paris Agreement work.  

Emmanuel Macron Takes Aim At Trump On Climate Change In Congressional Address Some people care more about job growth than the survival of future generations, he said. French President Emmanuel Macron extolled the Franco-American relationship on multiple fronts but issued a stern warning about the need to address climate change during his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.  Speaking entirely in English, Macron laid out the numerous ways ― human rights, trade, terrorism ― in which both the U.S. and France must strengthen multilateral ties in order to confront what he called a “new world order” marked by violence and conflict.  His most forceful comments came in the form of a veiled rebuke against President Donald Trump on climate policy. Macron has emerged as a leader in the fight to protect the legitimacy of the Paris climate agreement after Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw last June. Minutes after Trump’s announcement, Macron tweeted a slogan riffing off of Trump’s own campaign rallying cry: “Make our planet great again.” (April 25, 2018) Huffington Post [more on Climate Change in our area]

Outside the US, the rest of the world understands that only under a worldwide-agreed framework can humanity address Climate Change on a scale and time frame that will matter. [See: “Governments Meet in Bonn To Step Up Climate Action Critical to the implementation of Paris Agreement” (April 28, 2018 United Nations Climate Change)]

There is an unfortunate truth about humanity’s collective ability for solving issues like Climate Change, which it seems we are going to learn only too late: voluntary efforts are not enough to address big environmental problems. Of course, voluntary efforts are critical, and the public should be engaged in solving them locally. But thinking we can slough off our environmental problems to only those who care enough to inconvenience themselves to take on these problems alone is a delusion.

Voluntary Efforts Aren't Enough To Stop Lake Erie Pollution, Study Shows Research into Lake Erie's toxic algae shows no clear decrease in the pollutants feeding the persistent blooms during the past five years, according to an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency report. The review also finds that nearly all of the phosphorus and nitrogen flowing from Ohio's streams and rivers into the lake's western end is coming mainly from agriculture runoff. The data backs up what environmental groups have been saying for years and what the head of the state EPA said last month: Voluntary steps farmers have taken to scale back the fertilizers feeding Lake Erie's massive algae blooms aren't enough. (April 23, 2018) WOSU Public Media [more on Great Lakes and Water Quality in our area]

Many folks have taken a stance that government, taxpayers’ money, should not be used to support environmental regulations. And some people believe so much in the free market system that they think it alone will solve our environmental problems. There have been and still are innumerable ways we have tried to wriggle out of our environmental responsibilities to future generations.

But the evidence for cleaning up and protecting our environment leans towards strong environmental regulations based on science and strict enforcement.

The evidence is that we will not magically mature ourselves into a sustainable future. Getting back to a planet where our children’s children will thrive is going to be inconvenient and difficult. It’s going to be more so given our inability to appreciate our fundamental relationship to our environment. We have strayed far from the right path: CO2 is Regularly Exceeding 410 Parts Per Million for First Time in Human History (April 25, 2018) ROBERTSCRIBBLER.

Time passes. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Somethings old, somethings new for Rochester NY on Earth Day 2018

As Earth Day rolls around again, there are historic concerns about our environment still to be solved and new concerns we hadn’t even anticipated back at the first event in 1970.  

Old environmental issues are still with us including Climate Change. Climate Change has brought some very inconvenient facts and sense of great urgency to Earth Day. One of the most dramatic moments in the efforts to communicate Climate Change was the ‘hockey stick’ graph authored by Dr. Michael Mann and some colleagues demonstrating a major spike in greenhouse gases in the 20th century. Check out this 20-year update by Dr. Mann:

Earth Day and the Hockey Stick: A Singular Message On the 20th anniversary of the graph that galvanized climate action, it is time to speak out boldly Two decades ago this week a pair of colleagues and I published the original “hockey stick” graph in Nature, which happened to coincide with the Earth Day 1998 observances. The graph showed Earth’s temperature, relatively stable for 500 years, had spiked upward during the 20th century. A year later we would extend the graph back in time to A.D. 1000, demonstrating this rise was unprecedented over at least the past millennium—as far back as we could go with the data we had. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, publishing the hockey stick would change my life in a fundamental way. I was thrust suddenly into the spotlight. Nearly every major newspaper and television news network covered our study. The widespread attention was exhilarating, if not intimidating for a science nerd with little or no experience—or frankly, inclination at the time—in communicating with the public. (April 20, 2018) Scientific America [more on Climate Change in our area]

What’s new this Earth Day is the scale of the Plastic Pollution problem. When you think we didn’t even have plastics until the 1960’s, it’s amazing that a little annoyance a few decades ago has mushroomed into a major world environmental problem today. Check this out:

It's a plastic planet  Plastics are everywhere. They're used to make everything from grocery bags and clothing to medical devices and military body armor. And there are reasons for its popularity. Plastics are comparatively inexpensive to make and work with, they're durable, they resist harsh chemicals, and they're lighter than other materials. But the more pervasive they've become, the more troublesome they've become. A boom in single-use and disposable plastic products has given way to plastic pollution. Bottles line roadsides, shopping bags flap around in trees, and cigarette butts litter beaches, parks, and sidewalks. And scientists have found concentrations of tiny plastic particles — microplastics and nanoplastics – in all of the Great Lakes and in the deepest reaches of the world's largest oceans. Teams led by SUNY Fredonia chemistry professor Sam Mason have also found microplastics in tap and bottled water samples from across the world. (April 18, 2018) Rochester City Newspaper [more on Recycling in our area]

Earth Day is a reminder that only humanity can and therefore should take stewardship of our life support system. We need to continue to fix old environmental problems and understand that now Climate Change has taken top priority, where all our issues (not just environmental issues) must be addressed through the lens of Climate Change. In Rochester there are many events this Earth Day. 

They are all meaningful and attempt to get at the myriad local environment issues that are ultimately linked to this existential crisis coming at us. [Existential? Check out this burning article by Mark Dunlea, Green Education and Legal Fund about the need to march in Albany on the 23rd: “Why I am doing Climate Civil Disobedience this Earth day” from 100% Renewable Now NY Campaign.]

There’s a new kind of Earth Day event for Rochester focusing on land use for Climate Change solutions: Earth Day Celebration! “This Land is Our Land” on Parcel 5 with the efforts of a local coalition called OurLandROC:

Our Land Roc is a coalition of community groups and local residents seeking to cultivate a more equitable, sustainable, and collaborative approach to development in the City of Rochester. We identify and advocate for land use practices that promote the long-term health and stability of our communities, rather than policies that privilege a few. We seek permanently affordable, sustainable development in our neighborhoods. (Posted April 16th, 2018 Earth Day Celebration! “This Land is Our Land” on Parcel 5)

The demands: 1. Community Land Trust 2. Participatory Budgeting 3. Inclusionary Zoning 4. Community Benefits Agreement 5. Adequate Notification of all development proposals  

Six evaluation criteria: 1. Benefit to all 2. Mitigate and adapt to climate change 3. Investment without displacement 4. Increased transparency 5. Addresses root causes not just transparency 6. Socially equable ecologically sound and equally to all

Want to learn more? Come on down Sunday, Parcel 5 275 E. Main St., Rochester, New York ask. Check these Twitter hashtags if you cannot make the event: #OurLandRoc #RocEarthDay
April 22 at 3 PM - 5 PM |

Back in January, I provided a brief overview on how Climate Change could be addressed locally through land use policies: “Addressing Climate Change via land use issues” Check it out and then fill out the City’s survey for its Comprehensive Plan, Rochester 2034 using what you learned.

With good Climate Change plans and actions, maybe we’ll have more hopeful Earth Days ahead.

Time passes.

* Update: Check out a short video of this event. 

Monday, April 09, 2018

Yes, Mr. Trump we still must #MARCHFORSCIENCE

Presidential tweets, however colorful, do not provide the core reasoning upon which societies make policy—it has and will continue to be science. 

Science and the respect for science in human growth are hard-won processes that helps free us from a Stone Age mentality. Evolutionary psychology rests on the observation that most of our modern brain traits are still wired for fighting nature, predators, and anyone who gets in our way. Our ‘gut’ reactions to background stimuli (like a rustle in the grass) are an example.  

Now, with over seven billion of us still growing on a planet filled with our infrastructures (roads, bridges, pipes) and the repercussions of our growth (Climate Change, pollution, loss of biodiversity, over consumption), science is a fundamental necessity for humanity moving quickly to address most of our environmental and technical challenges ahead. Science gives our minds a solid frame of reference that helps keep our paleolithic brains in check and adapt to a modern future.

“The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.[2] To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[3] The Oxford Dictionaries Online defines the scientific method as "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses".[4] Experiments are a procedure designed to test hypotheses. Experiments are an important tool of the scientific method.[5][6]” (Scientific Method, Wikipedia)

A political pushback on science isn’t going to change the facts, but it’s a mistake to think it doesn’t matter at this critical time where the window of opportunity is quickly closing to address Climate Change on a scale and time frame that will matter.

Those who underplay the ramifications of the Trump administration’s back peddling on science and trying to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Accord are not being realistic. Rather than having little or no effect on the renewable energy market, global efforts to address Climate Change, and gutting decades of hard-won environmental regulations, we may doubling-down on business as usual making the worst Climate Change scenarios inevitable.  

Why EPA’s Effort to Weaken Fuel Efficiency Standards Could be Trump’s Most Climate-Damaging Move Yet Weakening the CAFE auto standards could delay action on climate change for a generation — and launch a legal battle with California now. By hitting the brakes on the decades-long drive to reduce automotive carbon emissions, President Donald Trump's administration has taken its most consequential step yet toward undoing his predecessor's legacy on climate change. Scott Pruitt, the embattled chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced the reversal on Monday in a "final determination" that President Obama's plan for the 2022-2025 model years went too far and would be revised. Pruitt did not yet announce a replacement for the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which dictate fuel efficiency and therefore emissions. And even after he does—after more consultations and debate—it's likely to be challenged in court. So would another aspect of his plan: his threat to refuse a waiver to California, which is intent on setting its own tough standards. (April 2, 2018) Inside Climate News [more on Transportation, Air Quality, and Climate Change in our area]

Weakening the fuel efficiency standards will probably have profound effects on our environment, air quality, addressing Climate Change, and even the US car market—which will be trying to push old, polluting technology on a world moving in a more responsible direction.

It’s time to stand up again against the Trump administration’s attacks on science. We need more science education in our classrooms, more scientists, more allotment of public funds for science projects that will keep American competitive in world markets, and more scientific instruments (satellites) to monitor our environment so we can adapt and mitigate Climate Change.

March For Science. There are some marches coming in your community and a big one in Washington, DC to reach the public directly on the importance of science. We are demanding that the Trump administration reinvigorate science back into America’s core. 


  • ·         Saturday, April 14 at 12 PM - 5 PM | Martin Luther King Jr. Park at Manhattan Square, 353 Court St, Rochester, New York 14607

o   Rochester NY March for Science - Rally, March and Science Expo | Hosted by Rochester NY March For Science “Please join us for a Day of Science: The Rally will begin at 12:00 PM at Martin Luther King Jr. Park at Manhattan Square. There will be a variety of speakers and Playground Science activities for families. The March will be stepping off from the Rally at 1:00 PM and will lead to the Science Expo at Rochester Riverside Hotel, 120 East Main Street, Rochester, NY 14604. The Science Expo will run from 1:00 - 5:00 PM and feature a variety of interactive table presentations, speakers on a range of topics relating innovative science to everyday life, as well as a science and technical career fair. Plus family activities.”

o   On April 14, 2018 SCIENCE MARCHES ON In 2017, more than one million people around the world gathered together in the largest event for science advocacy in history.  In 2018, we unite again to hold our elected and appointed officials responsible for enacting equitable evidence-based policies that serve all communities and science for the common good. It’s time we held our political leaders accountable for supporting good science policy. It’s time we join together and demand that our leaders use science to inform their work and cast their votes for science. Learn More About Vote for Science ❯❯ From Washington D.C. to Abuja, Nigeria, science supporters across the globe are mobilizing.  Events range from science expos and festivals to rallies and large-scale marches but they are united with shared goals.  March for Science events energize science advocates from multiple spheres to create tangible change and call for greater accountability of public officials to enact evidence-based policy that serves all communities.    More than 70 satellite events around the world have already registered to participate in the 2nd annual event.  Don't see one in your area for 2018?  Plan a new march by registering here! Don't forget to check out the 2017 satellite list to find organizers from last year. Prefer to check by zip code? Click here.

Time passes

My essay before I marched in last year’s Washington, DC March for Science: “U.S. at crossroads: free science from politics and join the March for Science” (April 17, 2017)

Monday, April 02, 2018

Climate Change hits home

One of the biggest problems in trying to communicate the urgency of addressing Climate Change is that most people think it will only happen far into the future and someplace else. Neither is true. Climate Change is hitting home now.

However much US partisan politics are split on the scientific consensus on Climate Change, 97% of climate scientists around the world agree that Climate Change is happening, and we are causing it.

“A synthesis of this research – a survey of surveys – concluded that the expert consensus on climate change is between 90 to 100%, with a number of studies converging on 97% agreement. Among peer-reviewed studies examining expert agreement on climate change, there is consensus on consensus.” (Page 2, “The Consensus Handbook, Why the scientific consensus on climate change is important”)

How do we get the public to understand and appreciate that Climate Change is happening now, here in Rochester and everywhere else (because it’s a planetary phenomenon)? We have several expert sources that describe how Climate Change is affecting our region, but how many folks know about these resources and have read them?

Much is being done by the media, climate scientists, and Climate Change communicators to figure out how to get the message out to the public about the high level of certainty anchoring climate science. At the same time, tremendous pushback on this science has experts doing handstands trying to find a way to get the true climate facts into our brains so we won’t deny it, dismiss it, ignore it, and continually find ways to get around this hurdle to a viable future.

Why does communicating climate science matter? Aren’t many of us already doing a lot to address this crisis? It matters because at the core of all the controversy, inconvenience, and concern about Climate Change is the science. Unlike many issues that confront humanity, Climate Change isn’t immediately apparent to the untrained eye. It’s going to take a world full of people to understand the fundamental science behind this crisis.

For example, how many people can explain how global warming works? Check out this popular website created by a scientist explaining this absolutely, undeniable property of our universe: How Global Warming Works “This site's information helps people understand global warming's scientific mechanism.” The site offers videos and written explanations in various lengths (from short to really, really short) and in several languages so that this fundamental principle behind Climate Change sticks in our minds.

(I know, when communicating Climate Change you are supposed to be respectful, interesting, brief, nonpartisan, hopeful, non-wonky, convenient, and just thrilled to be repeating the basics of this crisis one more freaking time. But, jeeze.)

If we don’t get everyone onboard with climate science, too many of us will continue to vote for climate deniers. We’ll fail to turn towards renewable energy and turn away from burning fossil fuels quickly enough. We’ll be blind to the changes already occurring in our backyards making it easier for us to continue business as usual. We’ll keeping thinking we can have our cake and eat it too—like thinking we can “Roll Back Rules Requiring Cars to Be Cleaner and More Efficient” but still have a healthy future.

Time passes.