Monday, November 26, 2018

Don’t bury the NCR4 Volume II on Climate Change in the US

In what might be a craven diversionary tack to bury the release of the National Climate Assessment (NCA) Volume II on Black Friday, Trump tweeted on November 21st “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS - Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

'Absolute Disgrace': When No One Looking, White House Plans to Dump Major Climate Report on Black Friday The administration just announced Wednesday that the National Climate Assessment Volume II would be released Friday afternoon Environmental groups, journalists, and climate scientists are reacting to the Trump administration's decision to release a major climate report the day after Thanksgiving—a move some are describing as an effort to bury an assessment packed with an "astonishing amount of science," and they are hoping to see that effort backfire "bigly." "It's an absolute disgrace to bury the truth about climate impacts in a year that saw hundreds of Americans die during devastating climate-fueled megafires, hurricanes, floods, and algal blooms," said National Wildlife Federation president and CEO Collin O'Mara. (November 22, 2018) Common Dreams)

What’s important (and obvious) is that the NCA reports (there have been 4 of them, each more dire) by 13 governmental agencies responsible to “develop and coordinate a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”(1) is so incredibly different from Trump’s playing-dumb stance on this worldwide crisis. Playing dumb means you never have to say, “I will lead on this worldwide crisis and do so justly for all mankind.

I wrote this back in 2014 with the release of the NCR3:

The release of the third National Climate Assessment, which will direct President Obama’s Climate Change efforts until he leaves office, proves Climate Change is happening now. Tragically, the release of the NCA earlier this month has been met with distain by the few, but very powerful and influential, leaders of the Climate Change denial camp:
A power grab by political con artists “Here are the top 10 reasons Congress should ignore advice to pass major legislation to combat climate change:…,” (May 21, 2014) Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel)
This is tragic because, despite all reason to the contrary, Climate Change deniers have a good chance of not only staying in control in the House, but maybe taking over the Senate. Thirteen agencies of our government (Department of AgricultureDepartment of CommerceDepartment of DefenseDepartment of EnergyDepartment of Health & Human ServicesDepartment of the InteriorDepartment of StateDepartment of TransportationEnvironmental Protection AgencyNational Aeronautics & Space AdministrationNational Science FoundationSmithsonian Institution, and Agency for International Development) not only participated in the findings of the NCA, but their actions will be based on this particular study. If our Congress is jammed up with Climate Change denial, all the efforts of these agencies of our government to fulfill their responsibilities to the NCA will be castrated. (May 30, 2014, The 2014 Climate Change elections)

My projections on how a power change in Washington would damage our ability to address Climate Change have come to pass. We are decades behind addressing this crisis on a scale and timeframe that will matter. There will be climate and environmental disruptions no matter what we do, though we can tone it down and even halt the worst if we make societal transformations. 

As I await the NCA4 Vol. II later today, I remember having a chance to see and comment (the public was asked to comment for about a month) on Volume II last year. It focused on how Climate Change will impact regions like the US Northeast. I found it quite alarming and I’ll just have to wait a few more hours before I see the official Volume II release today.

Time passes.

In the meantime, it’s helpful to read NCA4 Volume 1 and understand how Volume II will differ from Volume I and the last report—NCA3.

Most fundamentally, the majority of the report’s focus has shifted from national-level chapters to regional chapters, in response to public demand for more localized information on climate impacts. As a result, the regional chapters provide more detail, the Great Plains chapter has been split into separate Northern and Southern Great Plains chapters, and a new chapter focusing exclusively on the U.S. Caribbean has been added. Volume II also reflects a number of advances in the science of climate change impacts and adaptation with the inclusion of new national-level chapters on Air Quality; Climate Effects on U.S. International Interests; and a chapter on Sectoral Interdependencies, Multiple Stressors and Complex Systems. Finally, and again in response to public feedback and input, the report reflects three cross-cutting contextual advances: (1) added international context, (2) enhanced coverage of the economic impacts, and (3) greater focus on risk-based framing. (NCA4 Vol. I and II: FAQs, 

Time passes.

So, it’s a little before 2PM on Black Friday and the FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT Volume II has been posted online.

In the moral sense, you should read it. You should get everyone you know to read it. You should make sure your media covers it. Our climate scientists have done their job. Some of our media have done their job. Now we need to make sure this US climate report doesn’t get buried.
I haven’t had a chance to read all of it yet, but I’m going to finish it and report on the most salient points in later essays. Meanwhile, remember this volume II covers the regional impacts of Climate Change, like our Northeast:

“By 2035, and under both lower and higher scenarios (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), the Northeast is projected to be more than 3.6°F (2°C) warmer on average than during the preindustrial era. This would be the largest increase in the contiguous United States and would occur as much as two decades before global average temperatures reach a similar milestone.36.” (Chapter 18, 2018, Northeast FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT Volume II)

Time passes.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Do we have the will for the societal transformation needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C.?

Sustainable development supports, and often enables, the fundamental societal and systems transitions and transformations that help limit global warming to 1.5°C. Such changes facilitate the pursuit of climate-resilient development pathways that achieve ambitious mitigation and adaptation in conjunction with poverty eradication and efforts to reduce inequalities (high confidence). {Box 1.1, 1.4.3, Figure 5.1, 5.5.3, Box 5.3} (Page 24, IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, H. O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P. R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J. B. R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M. I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, T. Waterfield (eds.)]. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 32 pp.
The good news is that renewable energy is ramping up significantly. The bad news is that fossil fuels are not dropping significantly—that is, on a scale and time frame that will matter.

World has no capacity to absorb new fossil fuel plants, warns IEA Watchdog says new projects must be low carbon or existing plants must be cleaned up The world has so many existing fossil fuel projects that it cannot afford to build any more polluting infrastructure without busting international climate change goals, the global energy watchdog has warned. The International Energy Agency said almost all of the world’s carbon budget up to 2040 – the amount that can be emitted without causing dangerous warming – would be eaten up by today’s power stations, vehicles and industrial facilities. Fatih Birol, the executive director of the Paris-based group, told the Guardian: “We have no room to build anything that emits CO2 emissions.” The economist said to limit temperature rises to 2C, let alone the 1.5C as scientists recommend, either all new energy projects would have to be low carbon, which was unlikely, or existing infrastructure would need to be cleaned up. (November 12, 2018) The Guardian [more on Energy and Climate Change in our area]

Many groups around the world, including environmentalists Rochester, are working furiously on environmental concerns. They are part the societal transformation needed to tamp down our need for fossil fuels.

But. Denial springs eternal, I guess. For example, despite no clear evidence that we are reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, which you would think would give people pause when building in high flood risk zones for most coastal states, new homes are being built there like crazy regardless.

Ocean at the Door: New Homes and the Rising Sea In 2012, Hurricane Sandy slammed into New Jersey, producing a major storm surge and damaging or destroying many thousands of homes. Over the years that followed, builders put up new houses and reconstructed damaged ones — in many areas that will be vulnerable to more flooding in the future. The post-Sandy rebuilding was a striking example of a broader pattern. Across the United States, coastal communities have recently built tens of thousands of houses in areas at risk of chronic future flooding driven by sea level rise from climate change. That has put homeowners, renters, and investors in danger of steep personal and financial losses in the years ahead. And while municipalities are increasingly developing plans to cope with sea level rise, the pattern of actual recent construction may be a more robust guide to which places are taking the threat most seriously. In what we believe to be the first country-wide analysis of its kind, Climate Central and Zillow have isolated the number of new homes in low-lying coastal areas in all 24 coastal states, projecting how many will become exposed to chronic ocean flooding over the coming decades — depending on what choices the world makes around greenhouse-gas pollution today. (November 13, 2018) Climate Central [more on Climate Change in our area]

And our federal government is actively working in the opposite direction from what climate science studies say we need to do.

Exclusive: At U.N. climate talks, Trump team plans sideshow on coal The Trump administration plans to set up a side-event promoting fossil fuels at the annual U.N. climate talks next month, repeating a strategy that infuriated global-warming activists during last year’s talks, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. (November 15, 2018, Reuters)

The kind of transformation change we need in the time we need it to happen doesn’t look hopeful. If humanity does have the will to make the necessary changes, we will need to see evidence of that very soon.

Time passes. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Addressing Climate Change after the US midterms

The results of the US midterm elections, with the Democrats retaking the House and some governorships, are a victory in the sense that our country avoided falling into the abyss—a horrible place where our economics, our humanitarian values, and our politics run amuck. Supposedly, there will now be checks on Trump, his administration, and the GOP’s attempts to undermine our environmental health while trying to erase Climate Change from our nation’s responsibilities:

With Democratic Majority, Climate Change Is Back on U.S. House Agenda Fossil fuel supporters will still control the Senate, but the House will soon be able to turn a spotlight on climate change and Trump's retreat from responsibility. With their win of control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats will now have the numbers to put climate change issues back on the congressional agenda. But the Republicans reinforced their firewall against any legislative efforts in the Senate by gaining at least two new members with poor records on confronting the climate crisis. (November 7, 2018) Inside Climate News [more on Climate Change for our area]

Still, we are poised on the precipice and will only back away from it when our country not only acts on Climate Change, but when we free the science of Climate Change from our politics altogether. In recent years, every US election seems to amplify our country’s ambiguity towards Climate change, instead of clarifying it.

Some suggest that the Democratic victory may yield little with regard to Climate Change action, that Democrats may muffle a strong Climate Change agenda because this issue is still so divisive that it may hinder party unity and prospects for more victories to come.

Dems damp down hopes for climate change agenda Democrats are unlikely to pursue major climate change legislation if they win the House majority, despite a growing body of evidence suggesting time is running out to address the issue. 10/17/2018 The Hill)

If we leave our efforts to address this crisis to our political convenience, it seems unlikely that we’ll make sufficient progress—even if the consequences of extreme weather, flooding, and the heat become more dire. Denier backlashes against catastrophes, or the latest refuge of climate denial – that it’s too late to do anything about it -- seem more likely to drive our politics awry on this crisis rather than a collective rational move towards it. All our other efforts—greening our businesses, honing the economics of renewable energy, and shaping our own lives to live more sustainably—are limited, perhaps prohibitively so, because of our political dysfunctionality.

In the New York Review of books “A Very Grim Forecast”, Bill McKibben, our foremost environmental writer and climate activist, provides a sober look at the background to the new IPCC’s report. It is, indeed, grim. But it’s important feedback at this critical stage that we aren’t doing remotely enough to address Climate Change. 

There are those messaging Climate Change who focus on humanity’s amazing ability to adapt—where we shouldn’t worry about the day-to-day seesaw of climate action and the resistance to that. This brand of human hubris goes something like this: We’re not only really good at adapting but excel when confronted by a climate change. Neandertals, a tough, cold-weather sister species (they weren’t our ancestors), perished during a long cold spell but our species met the challenge and prevailed. However, thinking that just because homo sapiens are able to disrupt an entire planet’s climate system doesn’t mean we have a clue on how to restore it to a livable world. It’s absurd. It’s like thinking because you have the ability to wreck something profoundly intricate, you can fix it. (Try that with your Smartphone.) How do we get 7+ billion people to quickly bring down our planet’s temperature and put back together the resiliency and robustness of our pre-industrial environment? How? Details, please?

However aware we are of the implications of Climate Change and despite the clarity coming from scientists on this crisis, we still don’t have a unified planetary response that will avoid a complete disaster—for humanity that is (Earth doesn’t really care if we’re around or not). The midterm elections can only be hopeful if whatever we gained are now pressed.

Democrats cannot be shy about pushing our country to address Climate Change and putting our fossil fuels legacy behind us. This includes not just winning battles but framing the problem so that the public understands its priority and urgency. It’s going to be far tougher than before the 2016 elections because the Trump/GOP debacle affords too many people the delusion that some could weather this existential crisis unscathed in a finite planet. They won’t. Because this crisis is a complete environmental breakdown, we will all get swept away eventually.   

Climate Change must rise to the top of our country’s concerns, where the US not only returns to the spirit of the Paris Accord, but leads this worldwide effort. Is this a mind-blowing fantasy? Not really. What is a mind-blowing fantasy is thinking we can fix this crisis with anything less. Remember, it’s not just the warming, it’s everything else too—justice, poverty, pollutions, loss of biodiversity, and centuries of humanity’s environmental abuse that are bottlenecking Climate Change into an emergency.

No half-hearted efforts, mixed messages, muted language on the full implications of Climate Change and what needs to be done to fix it will do. Politely giving in to those who want business as usual and pandering to the same political strategy that is only capable of moving one step forward and two steps backward will produce the very catastrophe that we must avoid. The planet will warm more, with us and our future cooking on it.

Time passes. 

Monday, November 05, 2018

What our youth know about Climate Change

It is hard to understand why those who deny Climate Change haven’t at least explored how this crisis will affect their kids. Because if they had, we’d all be making the necessary changes to protect our children. We know what to do, we just need the will to do it.

Kids’ Health and Climate Change Our changing environment—caused by carbon pollution from coal, oil, and gas—is already affecting children’s health and changing how they grow up. Many people are familiar with climate change impacts like flooding and sea-level rise, but rising temperatures and decreased air quality are already affecting kids: Increasing asthma attacks and allergies; Creating food insecurity; Mental health problems; Developmental delays; and Changes in their genetic makeup. Kids are not little adults. Their health is impacted more by climate change. Children’s immune systems and organs are still developing, and they eat and drink more for their size. They also breathe at a faster rate, increasing their exposure to dangerous air pollutants that can damage their lungs. Climate change is making heat waves hotter and longer, and more heat means more kids aren’t able to go outside and play. This is a critical issue because the number one health challenge facing our children today is obesity. When they do play outside, it can lead to heat stress and greater exposure to disease-carrying insects like ticks and mosquitoes. (October 17, 2018) C-CHANGE: THE HARVARD CENTER FOR CLIMATE, HEALTH AND THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT [more on Climate Change and Environmental Health in our area]

Our youth have already paid a heavy cost because the adults on our planet have refused to see our atmosphere for what it is: Life.

Polluted Air Affects More than 90% of Children A new report by the World Health Organization on air pollution and child health, launched on the occasion of their first Global Health Conference on Air Pollution and Health, shows that almost all of the word’s children are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution. The report also finds that in an increasingly populated and warmer world, still heavily dependent on carbon-based technologies, the air we breathe has serious effects on our health, accounting for a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease. Air pollution is a major environmental health threat, and children are the most vulnerable to it. “Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their full potential.” Every day, around 93% of the world’s children under the age of 15 years (1.8 billion children) breathe air that is so polluted it puts their health and development at serious risk, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Tragically, many of them die: WHO estimates that in 2016, 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air. (October 29, 2018) United Nations Climate Change [more on Climate Change in our area]

Here in the Rochester region, our youth hosted a #TrialoftheCentury rally. There wasn’t much press coverage but still, about a hundred folks showed up. Click here to find out more. Because many of our youth know the challenges of Climate Change, they want to accomplish things right now on a scale and time frame that will matter. One of those things is to get Monroe County to join with Rochester in a comprehensive Climate Action Plan (CAP) that recognizes the threat and the important role our government plays in addressing this crisis. Check this out:

“Please sign this petition ( asking the Monroe County government to create and implement a Climate Action Plan - a detailed program of greenhouse gas emissions reductions that could transform Monroe County into a leader of sustainability policy.”

Here’s what our youth already know: It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a few places like the city of Rochester to accomplish a CAP if the surrounding county, state, our nation, and all nations don’t get together solve this worldwide crisis.

Our youth know the environment being bequeathed to them from us has been seriously compromised and may not support their future. They want you to help them to have a promise of a future like you had.

Time passes.