Monday, July 30, 2018

Counter Climate Change backfire effect with #RiseForClimate

A growing body of research over a range of issues shows that evidence that threatens someone’s worldview can actually backfire and strengthen people’s beliefs. (Dr. John Cook UQx DENIAL101x Worldview backfire effect)

As if it isn’t difficult enough already to communicate the urgency behind addressing Climate Change, our brains may be hard-wired to resist such information. Good grief.

According to Dr. Cook, we would be wise to understand what is driving climate denial and the importance of the world views of those we are trying to reach with climate science. We are trying to communicate with the large undecided majority; we are not trying to change the minds of hardened climate deniers (which just makes them double-down their denial, anyway). We need to explain two things: the science of Climate Change, and how that science can be distorted. And how, during these tumultuous times, do we get beyond the ‘fake news’ meme going on in the US and leverage the right of the public to be informed? Check out this short video:

UQx DENIAL101x Worldview backfire effect “John Cook explains the wordview backfire effect using examples from recent history and research. He also talks about ways in which we might combat this phenomenon when it comes to discussions of climate change.”

While I agree that we who communicate the urgency of addressing Climate Change should be mindful of the ‘backfire effect’, this human failing of sorts, we should not be ruled by it. You can only bend over backwards so far trying to convey the urgency of addressing Climate Change while still talking about Climate Change.

However valid studies might be on the psychological state of the backfire effect, when it comes to denying Climate Change, it is a luxury. It is a luxury for people in first world countries who have caused but are not noticing the consequences of Climate Change, to double-down on their denial because, for various reasons, it’s very convenient.

In the real world, the one we evolved within, we take action when there is immediate danger, or we perish. For example: If several people, waving their hands, shouting, and trembling with fear, told you that a hungry tiger had just entered your house, you would probably take evasive actions regardless of how remote you thought the chances of a man-eater coming into your house might be. You wouldn’t think you had the luxury of ignoring this message; you would at least check out the possibility, however improbable, that a tiger’s eyes are nearby and burning bright for you.

We should be mindful of the backfire effect, but it should not be paraded as another excuse to avoid addressing Climate Change on a scale and time frame that will matter.

Instead, we should counter the most dramatic form of Climate Change backfire, Trump’s attempt to pull out of the Paris Accord and the continual rollback of environmental regulations, by pressing on. Do that here on September 8th.

Time passes. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

#RiseForClimate in Rochester, NY and everywhere else

The fact that Trump, his administration, and the GOP have copped a ‘tude’ on Climate Change (despite all sensibility, they still think it’s a hoax) doesn’t mean this crisis doesn’t have to be addressed, or that we the people will shut up about it. The moral failing and political irresponsibility of our federal government on Climate Change and our environment must be addressed as urgently and rigorously as possible. The window of opportunity to address this crisis on a scale and time frame that will matter is quickly closing.

Heatwaves, melting glaciers, sea level rise, wildlife changes, ecosystem collapses—in short, all the things you would expect from a quickly warming planet—including these consequences on the massive human population and their infrastructures—are happening.  So please, enough with the we’ve had climate changes before and we got through them or they make us stronger blah, blah, blah.

Disgusted with the lack of leadership at the highest levels of our government, we are coming together yet again to send a signal, a stronger one, that Climate Change is happening, and it needs to be addressed:

Rise For Climate SEPTEMBER 8, 2018 — JOIN A GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION Real climate leader­ship rises from the grass­roots up. Local action is leading the way — Be part of the movement that’s ending the era of fossil fuels and building 100% renewable energy for all. Find an event near you: FIND AN EVENT

Admittedly, grassroots efforts to address Climate Change are kind of desperate: First, because climate science itself hasn’t motivated enough effort, and because we really have to get serious about the science.

In that effort, check out this great video: Dr. John Cook - Responding to Alternative Facts in a Post-Truth World. Dr. Cook has been focusing on one of the major conundrums of our times: Communicating the climate science behind Climate Change effectively. The video contains some of the highlights of his website Skeptical Science, his books, and his online courses.

Secondly, efforts to inform people that our politics should be free of climate denial have failed. Check out this humongous list from National Geographic on “A Running List of How Trump Is Changing the Environment”. If you’re thinking that there isn’t a relationship between humanity’s ability to address environmental matters, including Climate Change, and our whacky politics, think again. Who we put in charge of our nations matters to our collective, long-term survival.

We are desperate. Science isn’t convincing enough people, nations are more focused on fending off attacks by Trump than motivating world efforts to solve this crisis, our media (which has finally ‘gotten it’ on Climate Change) is being ignored by the very people who should be paying attention, and the freaking heat is getting worse.  

2018 Global Heat So Far With the release of the monthly global temperature analysis from NOAA today, it is a good opportunity to compare temperatures so far this year to their historical levels. And as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, the heat goes on both globally and here in the U.S. Globally, the past four years have been the hottest four years on record, and 2018 so far is coming in as the 4th hottest. All-time record heat has peppered the Northern Hemisphere this summer. Here a few stats compiled by Weather Underground: Glasgow, Scotland had its hottest day on record, reaching 89°F on June 28. Montreal, Canada set a new all-time high, reaching 98°F on June 29. Ouargla, Algeria had the highest temperature on record in Africa, reaching 124°F on July 5. This is believed to be the hottest temperature reliably measured in Africa. Tianxiang, Taiwan had the hottest temperature on record in Taiwan, reaching 105°F on July 10. According to the WMO, 2018 has been the hottest La Niña year on record, with La Niña years today consistently warmer than El Niño years from 30 years ago. Consensus forecasts are trending toward a new El Niño before the end of the year, meaning 2018 will probably finish as one of the 10 hottest years on record globally. (July 18, 2018) Climate Central [more on Climate Change in our area]

Having been involved in many climate actions over the years myself, it does feel increasingly repetitive: doing the same thing and expecting different results. Yet, not entirely so. We are changing our actions as time goes on, as things become more dire and the science more certain. The rise of social media, the importance of telling our stories, the importance of meeting with our local leaders, the lessons learned from psychology, history, and getting the vote out (probably the most important thing we can do) are being gleaned for clues on how to get ourselves out of this climate mess we created. How does humanity talk to itself about something very urgent and very inconvenient without pissing ourselves off so much we won’t even listen? Again, VOTE, help get others to vote and use candidates environmental record to help choose wisely. {See: League of Conservation Voters Scorecard.]

Our politics have become so crazy that even the environmentalists themselves are downplaying the science because it turns off the people who have themselves turned off the message from science. Well, what are you going to do? (If you were a physician and your patient’s complaints turned out to be cancer, would you remove ‘cancer’ from your diagnosis?) We have an administration that isn’t compelled by science to do the right thing and is continually burying “Climate Change” to cover their interests. The public is getting tired of hearing about Climate Change. And the place continues to warm up.

It must be like the end of Reconstruction and the election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, where even the Republicans and the people of the North were tired of trying to make elections fair, and so they deluded themselves that the South would keep their promises to treat the former slaves fairly and the North would pull federal troops out of the South. Of course, then the Jim Crow era began with a vengeance where open, public murder of a free people became common. Inaction doesn’t accomplish change.

Getting tired of fighting for people’s rights results in people losing rights. Getting tired of fighting to address Climate Change means it’s going to be more difficult to address this crisis, if at all. Getting tired of governmental interference and regulations is going to incur the very Big-Brother scenario those tired of this fear the most.       

Which is to say, living on a quickly warming planet with such an intelligent but ‘complicated’ species as ourselves is getting very weird. If we choose to ignore Climate Change, give up and go about our business, we are still committing this crazy suicide on a quickly warming planet. Climate Change doesn’t change because we change our minds; it changes when we change our collective behavior.

A note of hope: Those thinking that we’ll get sick and tired of making a fuss about this worldwide existential crisis, think again. We’re going to keep thinking of ways to press the case for addressing Climate Change because survival is hard-wired into our genes. And it would be nice to know that we have a fighting chance for a viable future.

In the Rochester region, many folks are working on plans for the #RiseForClimate event. Check out this from the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition (RPCC):

Save the Date: "Rise for Climate" on Sept. 8    As part of's global day of action on September 8, we invite you to Rise for Climate. People are rising up around the world on September 8th to demand real climate leadership from every level of government. Together, we’ll show that people everywhere are committed to a just transition away from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy for all.  Here in Rochester, everyday people affected by climate change will share their stories with local decision-makers and advocate for the community wide solutions that we need.   Please join us! Mark your calendar for Saturday, September 8, roughly 10am-noon. Details will be forthcoming; our local event will be up on the Rise for Climate website soon.

Time passes. 

Monday, July 09, 2018

Why US xenophobic isolationism is non-adaptive during Climate Change

There wasn’t enough oomph in the sound system at the Rochester ‘s Families Belong Together rally last week, so it was very difficult for my wife and me to hear the orators amidst the other city sounds at Washington Square Park. But we knew the big picture, the horrific intolerance of the Trump administration’s policies towards those desperately trying to find sanctuary from the violence, economic strife, and Climate Change compelling them to flee to our door. What we couldn’t hear well were the local stories of those trying to keep themselves and their families together while our country gives way to xenophobia.  

Rochester responds to Trump immigration moves Saturday's Washington Square Park rally was part of a national day of action organized by Families Belong Together (Familias Unidas, No Divididas), a group that began holding events and rallies around the country in early June. Some 750 protests took place, bringing out hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for the reunification of families separated at the southern border. Despite the day's heat, hundreds of Rochesterians turned out to hear speakers who included farmworkers, local immigrant-rights advocates, and members of religious organizations. (July 2, 2018 - Rochester City Newspaper)

Given that most of us are immigrants to this country (I descend from potato-famine Irish), the hypocrisy of Trump’s moves to separate families at our borders is hard to stomach. Trying to appease his political base by terrorizing those who help make our country work, who actually make the US the US, only puts everyone else, including our friends around the world, on edge. Many are probably wondering why the Statue of Liberty still stands. Would you leave your ‘No Pesticides’ signs on your lawn if you started to use pesticides?    

The heat at the rally was oppressive. As I write many days later, the heatwave is still going on. It is part of a worldwide, record-breaking string of heatwaves that all but the most indifferent see as another sign that our planet is quickly warming.  [See Red-hot planet: All-time heat records have been set all over the world during the past week, July 4th The Washington Post)

The connection between the heat at our local rally (which was but one around the country) and Trump’s hypocrisy is clear, for it is hard not to see the selfish hypocrisy that our present US attitude towards migration has now taken: We put most of the greenhouse gas emissions into our climate system, which  this system is presently responding to, but we refuse to stop the burning of fossil fuels for energy, refuse to help other nations adapt, and then refuse to let them into our country when climate change makes them desperate.

Migrants Are on the Rise Around the World, and Myths About Them Are Shaping Attitudes Immigration is reshaping societies around the globe. Barriers erected by wealthier nations have been unable to keep out those from the global South — typically poor, and often desperate — who come searching for work and a better life. While immigrants have often delivered economic benefits to the countries taking them in, they have also shaken the prevailing order and upended the politics of the industrialized world — where the native-born often exaggerate both their numbers and their needs. (June 20, 2018) The New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

Then, in the same article:

Global warming is driving migration | Rising average temperatures are already pushing people from their homes in many middle-income countries, according to research by Cristina Cattaneo and Giovanni Peri, increasing migration from rural areas to urban centers and across borders to other nations. As warming continues in the coming decades, it will probably push people from agricultural areas to urban areas and from the global South to the richer global North. (ibid)

Morally, this is despicable, and you don’t have to be a bleeding-heart liberal to understand it.
Practically, it’s insane. We are trying to shut the door on people whose building we have set afire—forgetting somehow that we live in the same building.

The present reign of xenophobic isolationism, trying to pull out of the Paris Agreement, refusing to help the Climate Fund, and slamming our doors shut to the victims of our self-induced conflagration, is not going to make America great or safe again. It’s going to cook us all in a boiling vat of hate.

Time passes. 

Monday, July 02, 2018

Carbon budgets are a dangerous delusion

As I suspected, a 2C safe warming is a dangerous delusion created by man-made agreements when it’s more likely that any more warming is unsustainable. Our planet’s environment is far too complicated and sensitive to think we can safely put any more greenhouse gases into it. We are not going to tinker our way out of Climate Change; we need a full-court press by all nations to address this crisis—and even our major climate studies are bursting with this truth.

Warming of 2C ‘substantially’ more harmful than 1.5C – draft UN report Latest version of major UN science report concludes the upper temperature goal of the Paris Agreement does not represent a climate safe zone A leaked draft of a major UN climate change report shows growing certainty that 2C, once shorthand for a ‘safe’ amount of planetary warming, would be a dangerous step for humanity. The authors make clear the difference between warming of 1.5C and 2C would be “substantial” and damaging to communities, economies and ecosystems across the world. In 2015, the Paris Agreement established twin goals to hold temperature rise from pre-industrial times “well below 2C” and strive for 1.5C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has since been working to assess the difference between those targets, with a view to publishing a sweeping analysis of all available research in October this year. The report summary, which Climate Home News published on Wednesday, is a draft and subject to change. The IPCC said it would not comment on leaked reports. An earlier draft from January was also published by CHN. CHN has compared the January and June drafts. The new version builds a stronger case for governments to rapidly cut carbon pollution. It also strikes a marginally more optimistic tone on the attainability of the 1.5C target. (June 22, 2018) Climate Home News [more on Climate Change in our area]

I’m not a fan of using carbon budgets because they encourage the belief that we can burn any more fossil fuel, though I understand their power in negotiations and Climate Change communications. Carbon budgets seem to promise there’s still a while yet before we must get our act together, shift our economy around, and get on a sound, sustainable footing. This message may placate but also strips the ending the fossil fuel era of its urgency.

As scientists learn more about how sensitive our environment is to temperature changes, they keep noticing new phenomena. For example, Climate Change is turning the Arctic Sea into part of the Atlantic Ocean.

A huge stretch of the Arctic Ocean is rapidly turning into the Atlantic. That’s not a good sign Scientists studying one of the fastest-warming regions of the global ocean say changes in this region are so sudden and vast that in effect, it will soon be another limb of the Atlantic Ocean, rather than a characteristically icy Arctic sea. The northern Barents Sea, to the north of Scandinavia and east of the remote archipelago of Svalbard, has warmed extremely rapidly — by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit just since the year 2000 — standing out even in the fastest-warming part of the globe, the Arctic. “We call it the Arctic warming hot spot,” said Sigrid Lind, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Research in Tromso, Norway. Now Lind and her colleagues have shown, based on temperature and salinity measurements taken on summer research cruises, that this warming is being accompanied by a stark change of character, as the Atlantic is in effect taking over the region and converting it into a very different entity. (June 26, 2018) The Washington Post {more on Climate Change in our area]

These climate changes, many of which hit home when extreme weather fueled by warming waters occur, should remind us that even when we have a known terminal disease, how that disease actually unfolds is of the most immediate interest to us. It is the daily symptoms of cancer, for example, that concern a patient just as much as the fear of the possible outcome. Humanity knows Climate Change is something ominous threating our existence and some of us are already experiencing it more than others—for now. Because we’re talking physics, everyone eventually cooks in a heated pot.

Although Climate Change is a moral and existential issue, it’s the changes along the way that will throw our future into turmoil—unless we act quickly to adapt and mitigate this disaster.

Thinking we can still put greenhouse gases into our climate system seems absurd.

Time passes.