Monday, December 31, 2018

2019: What Climate Change reveals about us

That we’re not so concerned about our fellow man as many of us profess.

That we are far more concerned about our immediate self-interests than those of future generations.

That just being smart and powerful doesn’t mean you get to have a future.

That our youth, unencumbered by politics and a lifelong addiction to fossil fuels, understand the perils of Climate Change more than we adults do. 

That we’ll discover when the Trump administration finally goes away that our environment is less resilient than we hoped, and we will have to scramble faster to get greenhouse gas emissions down to prevent major catastrophes.

That leaving our science and our morality to the markets (which got us into this mess) is the worst way to address Climate Change.

That we are leaving our children with a mess with little more than excuses to offer them as an explanation.

That despite 30, 000 years as a distinct species we cannot distinguish between real threats and threats we have manufactured in our minds.

That the resiliency built up in our environment over billions of years has been squandered by our treatment of our environment, making it very difficult for our life-support system to bounce back as our climate becomes more disruptive.

That we still cannot differentiate between the previous climate changes our species adapted to and the present Climate Change that is quickly and drastically changing the world that our species (now over 7 billion) thrived in for 10,000 years.

That by closing our borders and refusing to work with other nations to address this worldwide crisis, we are far more comfortable fighting old battles that will put us deeper into peril, rather than thinking through this worldwide crisis and working together to solve it.

That our species is still incapable of prioritizing our collective efforts towards a sustainable future.

That despite all evidence to the contrary, most of us are still planning for a future that cannot be.

That too many of us think we personally can avoid the worst consequences of Climate Change, even knowing most people won’t.

That we have an almost infinite capacity to avoid evidence that we don’t want to accept, while inversely scouring for schemes we want to accept, no matter how spectacularly false.

That by denying or refusing to understand science, we’ll be exempt from its laws.

That merely tweaking our present economy (which has brought us to this existential Climate Change) will solve all the problems coming with this warming.

That there’s a quick technological fix for Climate Change, when this crisis is far more complicated than a little warmup.

That if you just green up your life, we’ll address this worldwide crisis.

That despite bringing ourselves to the brink of extinction, most of us think our way of life is still worth pursuing unchanged.

That we still think we can vote Climate Change out of existence.   


Time passes. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Climate Change education

Imagine that along with reporting on carbon emissions and contributing money to Green Climate Fund, every country agrees on a comprehensive Climate Change education program to make sure every person is aware of every aspect of this crisis.

"ACE [Action for Climate Empowerment], which is also the focus of Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the parent treaty of the Paris Agreement, covers education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and international cooperation. Each country is encouraged to name an ACE focal point and prepare an ACE national strategy." (Education Requires Prominent Place in Countries’ National Climate Plans) (December 14, 2018) United Nations Climate Change [more on Climate Change in our area]

Note: There is no shortage of Climate Change information. On the internet, there are many expert resources on the science behind Climate Change. Check out Dr. John Cook’s web site Skeptical Science – “Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation”. 
In fact, there are innumerable places on the internet to learn about Climate Change—though you must know the difference between a good site and a bad site. The Trump administration has muddied the waters by systematically scouring its official web pages (think EPA) from the findings of 97% of climate scientists and tried to focus on climate denier’s ideology. [Check out: The Silencing Science Tracker “a joint initiative of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. It tracks government attempts to restrict or prohibit scientific research, education or discussion, or the publication or use of scientific information, since the November 2016 election.”
Also, our government is continually and insidiously silencing science and crippling our ability to deal with Climate Change.

Climate Team, and Its Boss, Just Got Harder to Find at Top Health Agency WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has quietly folded its Climate and Health Program into a branch that studies asthma and expunged the word climate from the name of the newly consolidated office, the agency confirmed on Thursday. An agency spokeswoman, Kathryn Harben, said in a statement that the move was part of a broader reorganization within the agency’s environmental health division that pared eight programs down to four. The climate and health office is the agency’s only program meant to help state and local governments prepare for the health consequences of fiercer storms, longer droughts and other extreme weather events. It was also an important contributor to the National Climate Assessment, a landmark government report that detailed new health hazards related rising greenhouse gas emissions. (December 20, 2018) The New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

The reason why a worldwide effort to educate all people on Climate Change is critical because this issue is complicated, extremely divisive (due to bad players with their own agenda), and urgent. Each region of the world is going to be impacted by global warming differently and each region will have to respond accordingly—though the basic goals of cooling the planet down and finding a sustainable way of life are the same everywhere. #ScienceMatters.

Because of the controversy surrounding and choking this issue, too many people are unlikely to search for expert information on Climate Change. Instead, many people will search (if they search Climate Change at all) within constraints that already agree with their worldview, their political persuasion, and their personal interests. How do you get humanity to educate themselves on an issue that’s extremely inconvenient and (let’s face it) depressing? Answer: Highlighting the need for Climate Change education through the Paris Agreement, local climate plans, in our schools, universities, our local social groups, and even businesses are excellent ways to prioritize this aspect of the warming crisis. When you know what happening, how it’s happening, and where it’s happening, you’re more likely to respond appropriately. Also, with everyone educated on Climate Change it’s more likely we’ll find solutions that are fair, reasonable, inclusive, and tailored to your region’s needs.

Educating ourselves on Climate Change includes understanding the science, discovering how the consequences are rippling through each society, and how our environment (our life-support system) will be impacted. In order to grasp the fullness of Climate Change, I suggest that it be capitalized to communicate just how unique and important this issue is. See my essay below:

Why this Climate Change should be capitalized” In order to prevent confusion between past climate changes and this Climate Change, I humbly suggest that we capitalize this one. There’s something special about today’s Climate Change. It’s not like the other major climate changes, which have occurred throughout our planet’s history. So, for clarification, we should capitalize this manmade, unprecedented climate change event that has warmed the planet since about the mid 1800’s and continues to jeopardize our future. We often capitalize events that stand out as extraordinary—The Great Depression, the Middle Ages, the McCarthy Era, etc.—where we differentiate the specific from the common, so this wouldn’t really violate grammatical protocol or precedence.” (JANUARY 18, 2016)

At RochesterEnvironment.com I have tried to include all the possible ways Climate Change will affect one community--Rochester, NY. Over the twenty years I’ve been working on this website and I’ve come to believe that we should turn from a general concern about environmental matters to a position that increasingly sees all environmental issues through the lens of Climate Change. Everything—our society, Wetlands, Brownfields, Urban Sprawl, Plants (Rochester's flora), Air Quality, Great Lakes, Pesticides, Water Quality, Recycling, Transportation, Food & Environment, Genesee River, Wildlife, Environmental Health, Invasive Species, Energy and education--is going to be affected by a quickly warming world.

Especially, our children. More than humanity has ever thought about it before, our children need to be included in our plans for their future.

Education Day COP24 Education is the most powerful tool to fight climate injustices in the world. Join #EducationDay at #COP24 to step up climate education and raise awareness. The more you know, the more you can do. Read more >> https://bit.ly/2zWOEFH


Time passes. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Climate Change and the specter of social unrest

Given the potential for climate-related displacement to instantly amplify social unrest, priority should be given to “developing nations that are struggling to adapt to the hastening impacts of climate change” (see below).

COP24: NEW U.N. GUIDELINES WILL HELP PEOPLE DISPLACED BY CLIMATE CHANGE The agreement marks a rare moment of unity on an increasingly fraught topic. Nations agreed to consider new policies on climate migration at the United Nations climate negotiations in Poland on Saturday, approving a set of guidelines aimed at helping migrants driven from their homes by climate change. The agreement marked a rare moment of unity on an increasingly fraught topic, and activists celebrated that President Donald Trump's divisive rhetoric around migration had not managed to "pollute" the global discussions. Those tensions were evident at a separate U.N. meeting in Morocco, however, where nations adopted a separate pact that would help deal with the subject of migration more widely; notably, the pact was adopted without the approval of a cluster of countries, including the United States, that had rejected its message. Despite the positive outcome in Katowice, the subject of climate-related displacement has been slow to get serious attention at the U.N. climate negotiations, although it's long been a priority for developing nations that are struggling to adapt to the hastening impacts of climate change. Developed nations have historically avoided the topic, and there were fears at COP24 last week that the guidelines would be rejected or sidelined entirely. (December 12, 2018) Pacific Standard [more on Climate Change in our area]

It may be that the most dangerous first consequences of Climate Change won’t be the usual predictions of climate studies—more extreme weather, more sea level rise, more heat-related health problems—but the uneven and unfair distribution of these penalties and the resulting social chaos. Even our military is quite aware of the relationship between Climate Change and social disruption, but they can only do so much about it. And it’s quite reckless, immoral, and probably impractical to expect our military to solve this crisis—as it is the failure of our collective ability to address Climate Change that would stimulate a military response. [See: Don't turn to the military to solve the climate-change crisis, 6/03/2018 The Guardian)

Climate Change is complicated because humanity hasn’t experienced a climate change with so many of us, so much of our crucial infrastructures, and our accumulated environmental abuses (pollution) catching up with us, so that using our past to predict our future is very difficult.

However, there is one aspect of humanity’s past that we know quite well, our penchant for unbridled and quickly escalating social turbulence if grievances are not immediately addressed.

Thinking that those who we leave to confront the worst of Climate Change first will silently put up with their dire situations (caused mostly by developed nations) is a dangerous delusion that those dragging their feet on addressing this humanitarian crisis avoid at our own peril.

Social unrest because of Climate Change is happening now at our borders and it will get far worse very quickly if we maintain a nationalistic, isolationist, protectionist, and selfish agenda.

We will all boil together on a quickly warming planet unless we get our priorities straight as we go further into the Climate Change bottleneck.


Time passes.  

Monday, December 10, 2018

Insuring yourself against Climate Change

Some people think they can insure themselves against Climate Change by buying enough insurance or having a second home in a ‘safer’ place.

Climate Change Insurance: Buy Land Somewhere Else Mark Dalski is an owner of Highview Creations, a company that designs and builds green roofs in New York City, and he knows a lot about climate change. That’s why he is working on his escape. Mr. Dalski, 33, lives in Greenwich, Conn., but he can envision a time when his home there might be besieged by extreme weather and rising sea levels. So he bought four acres of land in the Catskill Mountains, in Roxbury, N.Y., where he is building a home that is as sustainable and self-sufficient as possible. To date, he has drilled a well, set up poles for power lines and designed a septic system that has been approved by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. (The property is in the city’s watershed.) He is working on designing and then securing building permits for the house. He wants it to be no more than 1,200 square feet — “it should be simple, small and sustainable,” he said — and to have an open floor plan and a lofted master bedroom. The windows will look out over land where he can grow corn, collard greens and root vegetables. “Will I need it 10 years from now, or 30 years?” he said. “I don’t know.” But if his part of Greenwich is ever in jeopardy, he added, “I’ll have a safe space.” (November 30, 2018) The New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

Most of us aren’t heading for the hills as Climate Change becomes more dire because it’s unethical and besides where do you run on a finite planet that’s boiling life away? This great warming is an existential problem, where there might be no collective afterlife. A collective afterlife is something so baked into how we think that we don’t even think about it. We may or may not think there is a spiritual hereafter, but all of us believe that when we die, life will carry on.

But what if it doesn’t? That is what makes Climate Change an existential problem. What’s the point of running away from this warming crisis if all that we knew and know will be gone? If humanity eventually existincts itself (as those in the #ExtinctionRebellion movement fear) there will be no one to remember anything humanity accomplished and learned.  

Isolationism, nationalism, selfish-ism, and libertarianism don’t make any sense in the long run and would be clearly suicidal if we all tried to take up these necessarily doomed ideologies. If everyone relied on everyone else to stave off Climate Change by running away, who would fix this problem?
Most of us are relying on our leaders to make sure our communities are adapting to and preventing the worldwide warming. This attitude is akin to drinking public water instead of drinking bottled water. If you drink bottled water and refuse to drink public water because you don’t think it is safe or its taste doesn’t suit you, you aren’t going to demand that your public officials keep your water safe and tasty. We are our communities and they grow healthier with our involvement.

Besides, how do we want to survive Climate Change? Do we want our way of life on this planet to remain intact or scattered willy-nilly on a dreary landscape where our social order has broken down, huddled in a cave with limited food supplies?  

The best way to insure yourself, your family, and our future is to get engaged with this worldwide crisis. Hold your leaders accountable. Make sure your elected officials protect your water, keep your transportation systems viable, your health and emergency systems on track as your region become more inundated by the consequences of Climate Change. Demand that your government create a climate action plan that is continually updated as scientists and we learn more about this catastrophe. And be sure that our climate plans are in sync with everyone else’s plan—something the Paris Accord is desperately trying to do—right now.

Climate talks shift to nitty-gritty details of Paris accord Negotiators at the U.N. climate talks got down to the nitty-gritty task Tuesday of finalizing the rules for the Paris accord, a landmark agreement by countries three years ago to curb global warming. The 2015 accord set a goal of keeping average global temperature increases well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. Scientists say the deal’s most ambitious goal — limiting the rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 C) — is still feasible, but increasingly challenging. The two-week meeting brings together diplomats from almost 200 countries, often with differing agendas. Some, such as the small Pacific islands, are pressing for urgent and drastic action, especially from developed countries, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Others, such as the European Union, agree on the need to cut emissions but want to ensure all countries contribute a fair share. The U.S. is also taking part, despite announcing last year that it’s pulling out of the Paris accord. Decisions on crunch issues, which may include financial aid for poor countries, are expected to be left to ministers when they gather at the domed conference venue in the southern Polish city of Katowice next week. (December 4, 2018)AP News [more on Climate Change in our area]

Humanity’s usual response to climate changes in the past or other natural disasters was to run. But back in the day, there were places to run to. Today, having allowed this present phenomenon to go so far unsolved, there’s no place to run. We, when we stand and address Climate Change, are our own insurance against the worst.


Time passes. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The importance of continually adjusting our understanding of Climate Change

Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) and the National Climate Assessment’s (NCA) reports provide continual corrections to our understanding of Climate Change. Our quickly warming planet is undergoing vast changes that would be harder to ‘see’ if we didn’t have reports like these:

  • FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States The National Climate Assessment (NCA) assesses the science of climate change and variability and its impacts across the United States, now and throughout this century. "Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future—but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur. Americans increasingly recognize the risks climate change poses to their everyday lives and livelihoods and are beginning to respond (Figure 1.1).  " (November 2018, FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT)
  • 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 (October 8, 2018) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)


There are other climate reports, of course, around the world and focusing on various sectors, but few get the attention these two get. And, I suspect if the public was going to read a climate report, it would most likely be one of these two.

The impacts of Climate Change as our world quickly warms constantly alters our environment, our ability to adapt, and our choices. Both reports above provide more clarity about this manmade phenomenon so our choices in the future stay in sync with what is actually going on as we go further into Climate Change. This is important because what might have worked ten or twenty years ago may not be very effective on a scale and timeframe that will matter now.

These major reports coming at regular intervals give us the kind of feedback about the complexities of Climate Change with more objectivity than most of our other information sources. Scientists—not politicians and the media—take the lead in giving the public the most up-to-date, accurate model of reality from which we can plan. (Which is not to say that these reports haven’t been shaped by non-scientific hands also.)

One of the issues the NCA Vol. II focuses on is “Critical Infrastructure Service Disruption”, in other words, the importance of keeping our infrastructures intact as more flooding and heat come our way.

 “In order to make Northeast systems resilient to the kind of extreme climate-related disruptions the region has experienced recently—and the sort of disruptions projected for the future—would require significant new investments in infrastructure. For example, in Pennsylvania, bridges are expected to be more prone to damage during extreme weather events, because the state leads the country in the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges.” (Critical Infrastructure Service Disruption, Chapter 8 Northeast, FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States)

Pennsylvania’s bridges may be in poor conditions, but New York State’s bridges are probably not much better. We still cannot adequately fund the regular maintenance of our bridges build decades ago, let alone marshaling our collective will to fund for the future. So when these reports say that we’ve already done much to address Climate Change that may be more hopeful rhetoric than is warranted. After all, it’s getting hotter.

These reports don’t cover everything about Climate Change. They don’t cover how pollution, loss of biodiversity and bio-mass, occurring in parallel and because of Climate Change can profoundly alter our life-support system—as this incredibly comprehensive and insightful article on insect loss does in the New York Times.

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here What does it mean for the rest of life on Earth? We’ve named and described a million species of insects, a stupefying array of thrips and firebrats and antlions and caddis flies and froghoppers and other enormous families of bugs that most of us can’t even name. (Technically, the word “bug” applies only to the order Hemiptera, also known as true bugs, species that have tubelike mouths for piercing and sucking — and there are as many as 80,000 named varieties of those.) The ones we think we do know well, we don’t: There are 12,000 types of ants, nearly 20,000 varieties of bees, almost 400,000 species of beetles, so many that the geneticist J.B.S. Haldane reportedly quipped that God must have an inordinate fondness for them. A bit of healthy soil a foot square and two inches deep might easily be home to 200 unique species of mites, each, presumably, with a subtly different job to do. And yet entomologists estimate that all this amazing, absurd and understudied variety represents perhaps only 20 percent of the actual diversity of insects on our planet — that there are millions and millions of species that are entirely unknown to science. (November 27, 2018) The New York Times [more on Wildlife and Climate Change in our area]

While we are warming up the place, we are losing a healthy, robust, and resilient environment that might have alleviated the worst of crop failures the spread of infectious diseases.

And these reports don’t cover what may now be our biggest hurdle in addressing Climate Change: How our dysfunctional politics and the dismal shift worldwide towards nationalism threatens humanity’s ability to address Climate Change collectively.

These reports also demonstrate the urgency that we shift away from the use of fossil fuels immediately.

 Another more recently released UN report makes the case against fossil fuels more starkly.

 It's Not Just America: Climate Policies Are Stumbling Worldwide According to the UN, most major polluters are not on track to meet their Paris goals. But critics say that accounting may be too pessimistic. Humanity is losing ground in its battle against climate change. On Tuesday, a new UN report warned that the world is farther than it was last year from meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. More than half of the planet’s richest countries—including Canada, Australia, South Korea, the United States, and the nations of the European Union—are not cutting their carbon pollution as fast as they promised under that treaty, it says. If humanity does not change course, then Earth could warm by roughly 6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, the report suggests. This is enough warming to set off some of the most feared consequences of climate change, including deadly heat wavesravaging wildfireswidespread plant and animal extinctions, and potentially many feet of runaway sea-level rise. (November 27, 2018) The Atlantic [more on Climate Change in our area]

The next reports coming out of the IPCC and the NCA are likely to be more dire because of the heat we’ve already baked into our climate system. But hopefully, they’ll also include real hope based on dramatic increases in humanity’s ability to address this crisis resulting in a dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.


Time passes.