Monday, August 27, 2018

Rochester, NY’s Climate Vulnerability Assessment Public Input Session just in time for the City’s #RiseForClimate event

On September 8th, four days before the start of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, California, people from across the country and around the world will be calling for renewed commitments to climate action.  People are asking for real actions to replace hollow words. These events are being held under the rubric of #RisesForClimate.

Rochester’s #RiseForClimate event is called “Rise for a Resilient Rochester” and it will be held on Saturday, September 8 at 10 AM - 12 PM at the Gathering Space at Asbury First United Methodist Church 1050 East Ave, Rochester, NY 14607. Community leaders will listen as Rochester and regional residents share personal stories of Climate Change impacts and the solutions they’d like to see.

On Wednesday, August 29th 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at City Hall Council Chambers, 30 Church Street, 3rd floor, Rochester, NY 14614 the City of Rochester will hold the Climate Vulnerability Assessment Public Input Session, which is the next step in the City’s Climate Action Plan.

“How Vulnerable Is Our City to Climate Change? Join us to learn about our City’s Climate Vulnerability Assessment, review draft findings, and share feedback on how climate change will affect our community. For the last several years, the City has worked to lessen the impacts of climate change by creating action plans aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As a next step towards becoming more resilient, the City is seeking to understand our vulnerability so that we can better prepare for adapting to climate change.” (Climate Vulnerability Assessment Public Input Session)

The Climate Vulnerability Assessment Public Input Session by the City comes just in time to give a backdrop and legitimacy to the Rise for a Resilient Rochester” event because Climate Change is about adapting to this crisis—even here in Rochester. What are our collective vulnerabilities. How are we going to address them?

We need to give the City feedback on how climate change will affect our community at the Vulnerability Assessment session and we need to be a part of the worldwide #RiseForClimate events by going to the Rise for a Resilient Rochester event here.

Climate Change is the defining issue of our time, however inconvenient that may seem to many. We need to demonstrate that we understand and care about solutions to this crisis. 

Time passes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Climate Change, there will be limits

Interesting essay in the New York Times recently by Dr. Erle C. Ellis called Science Alone Won’t Save the Earth. People Have to Do That: “We need to start talking about what kind of planet we want to live on.”

“The Anthropocene is not the end of our world. It's just the beginning. Collectively, we have the potential to create a much better planet than the one we are creating now. So let’s start talking about the better future we want, and less about the future we don’t. It’s about articulating values, and about sharing, fairly, the only planet we have with one another and the rest of life on earth. The planet we make will reflect the people we are. (August 11, 2018, The New York Times)

This article received a lot of comments—some hopeful, some not, some very thoughtful, some not so much, and some comments seemed to me to be spot on.

However, in my opinion, we needed to have started talking about what kind of planet we want to live on—some time ago. We can and should have that conversation now, except that science has explained quite clearly that there are now limits to the kind of planet we can have.

We cannot have a planet that won’t be having stronger hurricanes, won’t be having more wildfires, and won’t be having more torrential downpours. Each day we drag our feet and fail to address Climate Change on a scale and time frame that will matter, our choices for the planet we want are fewer. And science suggests we don’t have all the time in the world to get ‘conversing’ about Climate Change.

Science may not be the final word on solutions (especially ones that involve human behavior), but science can help humanity understand the limits, the bottlenecks, the when and where we must cut our losses.

As we go further into the Climate Change Bottleneck, where our past environmental abuses get cooked on a warming planet, there will be limits. There will be limits on development, population, and consumption. There will be limits on how much heat humanity can adapt to, especially working outside. [See “In India, Summer Heat May Soon Be Literally Unbearable,” (July 17, 2018, The New York Times)] There will be limits on how much more pollution we can put into our land, air, and water because all these features of our planet can only support life, our life, if certain restraints are kept.  

Limits is not a word humanity suffers gladly, but it would be prudent for us to plan for Climate Change, so we don’t bump up against the kind of boundaries that are non-negotiable under any circumstances.  

Time passes.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Paralysis on Climate Change: It didn’t have to be—and it doesn’t have to be

Back in the day, addressing Climate Change on a scale and time frame that will matter was possible. We might have been able to keep carbon emission to a 1.5C above pre-industrial rates. Now? Not so much. What when wrong? Will our paralysis continue?

Why U.S. lawmakers failed to act on climate change decades ago This coming week, The New York Times Magazine will devote an entire publication of the Sunday magazine to the issue of climate change. The single-themed edition called "Losing Earth," will look at scientific discoveries and decisions made on climate change from 1979 to 1989 through the story of a former NASA scientist. Nathaniel Rich, who authored the edition, joins Hari Sreenivasan for more. (July 29, 2018) PBS NewsHour [more on Climate Change in our area]

Though heartbreaking, Wednesday’s New York Times article “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change” offers a ghoulish hope that a reflection on our past failures to address Climate Change might, as a drunkard bottomed out, redeem ourselves by changing course immediately. Instead of allowing our past dismal behavior towards our environment, our inclination to preoccupy ourselves in the present, and our inconsistency in the face of long-term problems to keep us paralyzed, we can change. Clearly, we haven’t yet:

“More carbon has been released into the atmosphere since the final day of the Noordwijk conference, Nov. 7, 1989, than in the entire history of civilization preceding it. In 1990, humankind burned more than 20 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. By 2017, the figure had risen to 32.5 billion metric tons, a record. Despite every action taken since the Charney report — the billions of dollars invested in research, the nonbinding treaties, the investments in renewable energy — the only number that counts, the total quantity of global greenhouse gas emitted per year, has continued its inexorable rise.” (Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change August 1, The New York Times)

We won’t have the world we could have had if we had acted sooner. But scientists tell us still that we shouldn’t abandon hope.

We will adapt to Climate Change because we must. Survival, unless overridden by our will, is hard-wired into our species (all species for that matter or there wouldn’t be any species). However horribly and relentlessly the flames from a wildfire come licking towards us, most of us will try to escape.      

I found “Losing Earth” one of the most profound articles on Climate Change I’ve ever read. It reveals how the political side of our nature might do us in completely if we don’t somehow get it under control. That is, we must somehow shape our collective will towards solutions for the long-term problem of Climate Change, so our survival is not thwarted anywhere along this existential plight.  

Some will blame many of the players who fought against doing something significant about Climate Change from 1979 to 1989. But there is a larger point to be made. Such condemnation will not do the rest of us much good as we race for answers. Blame is a matter best left to the courts. We are now near a baseline of 410ppm of CO2 that will continue to rise unless we change. (About 280ppm of CO2 was the baseline just before the Industrial Revolution and about 10,000 years before that.)
Humanity could have done better. We’ve been treating our environment, our life support system so badly for so long that taking it for granted is what we do—despite the centuries of warnings (pollution, killing off entire species, destroying land and water). We are disinclined to monitor the health of our environment regularly no matter what we do to it. 

As we go further into the Climate Change Bottleneck, where our past environmental abuses get cooked on a warming planet, there are solutions that will no longer be possible, consequences that are inevitable, and losses that will have to be cut. There are some coastline cities and regions we won’t be able to prevent from flooding. Some of the consequences will be environmental restrictions that will come down hard on those predisposed to fight all attempts to curb their behavior. There will be loss of species that, even if stored in a zoo, will not have an ecosystem to return to. A quickly warming planet choked with pollution offers far less than an environment robust and resilient from constant care.

As Earth’s air, land, and seas heat up more, our attempt to survive will trump our ideology. We will learn to live with limitations never thought possible.

“Losing Earth” reminds us that climate denial is not new, nor is it soon to be eradicated because it offers those whose worldview doesn’t mirror reality the fantasy of short-term benefits.

Sometime soon, maybe now, many will be asking for more time, a larger carbon budget perhaps in which to rid ourselves of unsustainable behaviors. But we may have squandered what we had, and ours will be a much hotter, more uncomfortable world, regardless of what we do.

Perhaps our best hope is a nurturing of our best inclinations, while being mindful of our worst.

Time passes.