Year 4, Month 8, Day 31: Merde Alors!

Time Magazine’s Bryan Walsh notes that the IPCC Report discusses oceanic acidification, saying of climatologists:

But here’s one thing they do know: oceans are absorbing a large portion of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere—in fact, oceans are the largest single carbon sink in the world, dwarfing the absorbing abilities of the Amazon rainforest. But the more CO2 the oceans absorb, the more acidic they become on a relative scale, because some of the carbon reacts within the water to form carbonic acid. This is a slow-moving process—it’s not as if the oceans are suddenly going to become made of hydrochloric acid. But as two new studies published yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change shows, acidification will make the oceans much less hospitable to many forms of marine life—and acidification may actually to serve to amplify overall warming.

The first study, by the German researchers Astrid Wittmann and Hans-O. Portner, is a meta-analysis looking at the specific effects rising acid levels are likely to have on specific categories of ocean life: corals, echinoderms, molluscs, crustaceans and fishes. Every category is projected to respond poorly to acidification, which isn’t that surprising—pH, which describes the relative acidity of a material, is about as basic a function of the underlying chemistry of life as you can get. (Lower pH indicates more acidity.) Rapid changes—and the ocean is acidifying rapidly, at least on a geological time scale—will be difficult for many species to adapt to.

I revised a letter I sent to Time on the same subject about 2 years ago. Took me about 10 minutes. Better luck this time, non?

Those of us who grew up in the 1960s will remember that Walter Cronkite wasn’t the only man on television who was universally loved and trusted. The late Jacques Cousteau introduced millions of young people to the notion that our planet’s oceans were places of strange and profound beauty, well-worth the effort to preserve and protect. The IPCC Report’s distressing news about accelerating oceanic acidification makes me wonder that that tough old Frenchman would say — and do — about it. It’s easy enough to imagine: after a few unprintable Gallic expletives, he’d start speaking truth to the world’s industrialized nations — telling them to show genuine leadership on climate change and carbon emissions. This passionate and eloquent explorer noted years ago, that “the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” Our captains of industry and the leaders of our civilization need to heed those words before it’s too late.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 30: And The Countdown Begins!

The Washington Post is moving slowly to atone for decades of George Will columns:

NEXT MONTH, the international arbiter of the scientific consensus on global warming will release its latest evaluation of the state of the research. A few will dismiss the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) findings as overwrought alarmism. But a draft leaked to reporters last week indicates that, for most people, the report will serve as another stern warning about the risks of continuing to pump carbon dioxide into the air.

The scientists are set to claim that the increasing amount of greenhouse gases that humans have emitted into the atmosphere has almost certainly been the chief driver of the warming of the planet over the past half-century, a finding to which they ascribe 95 percent confidence. That’s the level of likelihood researchers typically consider robust enough to justify drawing very strong conclusions.

Grim. August 27:

The question is not whether humanity’s complex industrial civilization has caused a radical reconfiguration of Earth’s climate. That was resolved long ago, and the answer was “Yes”; the IPCC’s new report is just statistical icing on a well-baked cake of certainty. The real question is how long it’s going to take for this new climatic reality to radically reconfigure the attitudes of those with deeply vested financial and political interests in denial.

It’d be nice to think that the encroaching realities of climate change — burgeoning wildfires, rising ocean levels, increasingly severe storms, historically unprecedented droughts — would be persuasive enough. But it is inherent in the nature of paranoid thinking that mere evidence is inadequate. The only way these politicians will change their entrenched anti-science attitudes is for their corporate sponsors to recognize that rejection of climatological evidence will negatively impact profit margins. Civilizational collapse is bad for business.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 29: You’ve Just Got To Understand: What Is Its Motivation?

Former GOP Representative Bob Inglis keeps pounding his tocsin. This time it’s in New Jersey:

Gov. Chris Christie listened to the scientists at the National Hurricane Center when they said Hurricane Sandy was coming to New Jersey. It’s time to listen to the scientists warning of the longer-range risks of climate change.

New Jerseyans would have been alarmed had Christie said, “I don’t buy it. I think the National Hurricane Center is exaggerating the threat.” And perhaps he might have found an “expert” or two who might have said the odds of Sandy surging onto New Jersey were lower than the costs of preparing for her wrath.

But Christie did what good leaders do: He listened to the best advice available and then acted to protect New Jersey.

Likewise, folks alive today and folks yet to be born will be grateful for elected officials who listen and act on the science that indicates risk of climate change.

That doesn’t mean acting hysterically or exaggerating the threat. Leaders who would lead on climate change need to talk to us about reasonable risk avoidance, not apocalyptic visions.

Tire rims and anthrax. Tire rims and anthrax. Tire rims and anthrax. August 2:

Bob Inglis’ op-ed recommending that Republican politicians focus on addressing the climate crisis is well-conceived, articulate and factually correct. Indeed, the GOP’s legislators should indeed embrace strategies to mitigate our civilization’s emissions of greenhouse gases, to reinforce our infrastructure in preparation for the coming storms, and to educate the public about the causes and consequences of climate change.

They should. But they won’t. And the reason is simple: today’s Republican party is entirely driven by an ideologically-premised hatred of all things liberal, all things Democratic, and all things Obama. For example, a recent study showed that conservatives only bought compact fluorescent lights if they were marketed as money-saving products — but if the label used the word “environment”, there would be no sale.

When politicians reject responsibility to the greater good in favor of doctrinal rigidity, they no longer deserve the respect — or the votes — of their constituents.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 28: It’s A Rock! It Doesn’t Have Any Vulnerable Spots!

The Laramie Boomerang (WY) notes that the state’s farmers are looking trouble in the face, and not liking what they see:

Just like the weather, Gregor Goertz said, his Wheatland farm is changing.

“What I have seen personally is changes in weather: less predictable rains and snows,” the United States Department of Agriculture Wyoming Farm Service Agency executive director said. “That has really affected our farming operations.”

Goertz was one of several speakers at the “I Will Act on Climate Change” event Wednesday at the University of Wyoming ACRES Student Farm.

Speakers discussed the effects of climate change on Wyoming agriculture.

Goertz said the Farm Service Agency serves 11,000 production operations, which farm about 30 million acres throughout the state. Many of those operations are strained because of climate change, he said. But he began his conversation with a discussion of observations he’s made on his own farm.

“Out on the farm, we’re seeing more frequent hails,” Goertz said. “It used to be, when I was growing up, if we had a hailstorm once every ten years, we thought that was about normal. Now I’m experiencing that about every other year. So, we’ve had to change our operation to try to deal with that.”

Ranchers across Wyoming are dealing with droughts, Goertz said.

Here we go. August 2:

Wyoming isn’t alone in confronting the troublesome facts of planetary climate change. All over the globe, agriculturists — from factory farmers in the American corn belt to subsistence farmers in the world’s poorest nations — are looking towards a future in which extreme and unpredictable weather disrupts planting schedules, hinders plant growth, and makes for increasingly uncertain harvests.

The climate crisis underlines the crucial importance of diversity in our food systems. Monocropping leaves cultivators far more vulnerable to pests and disease (the Irish potato famine is a compelling demonstration of the dangers of relying too heavily on a single vulnerable staple food), creating the potential for catastrophic failures from environmental disruptions.

There are many differences of opinion about how to prepare for the greenhouse effect’s onrushing consequences — but can be no doubt that the problem will never be successfully addressed by those who refuse to admit its existence. The time for climate-change denial is past; just like Wyoming’s farmers, our politicians and media figures must adapt to these new environmental realities.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 27: What It Don’t Get, I Can’t Use

Delaware Online notes their state’s response to POTUS’ initiatives:

Delaware officials gathered in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach on Wednesday as part of a nationwide chain of rallies supporting the Obama administration’s new climate change initiatives, producing both calls for action and ominous warnings.

“We need to think through the various tradeoffs, the economics, but the only way we can do that is to keep it at the top of the agenda,” Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin P. O’Mara said. “The only way we can keep it at the top of the agenda is if all of you and all of us keep bringing it up over and over again.”

O’Mara’s comment came at the end of a small group meeting at Wilmington’s Riverfront, supported by a coalition of business, labor, government, health and environmental groups backing Obama’s proposal last month to curb power plant emissions of carbon dioxide. That proposal immediately came under fire from skeptics and conservative politicians, with a Senate committee releasing a report earlier this month questioning the science behind Obama’s initiative.

Supporters have focused on a need for action to deal with growing evidence that human-caused pollution and fossil-fuel burning has set the stage for disastrous global warming and climate shifts before the century ends.

Threats range from sea-level rise and more intense storms, to flooding, extreme weather, longer and more-intense droughts, and changing agricultural and water supply conditions that Defense Department officials warn could increase global suffering and political instability.

I don’t remember specifically conflating economic and theological fairy tales before. I like it. Aug. 1:

Lawmakers, business leaders, and media figures are all fond of telling us that the imperatives of addressing climate change must be balanced with the requirements of economic expansion. Unlike the anti-science screeds of conservative climate-change denialists, this stance seems entirely plausible at first glance. And indeed, public statements of allegiance to the doctrine of continuous economic growth are as essential to a politician as professions of religious faith.

Perhaps it’s time to reconsider this shibboleth. After all, those photographs of Earth from space have been part of our consciousness for four decades. We live on a finite planet; our resources, whether they’re water, food, or the capacity of the environment to absorb our waste products, are likewise limited — and it is logically absurd to assert that infinite growth is possible under these circumstances.

As the saying goes, “Health is our greatest wealth,” and the health of our planetary home is ultimately the only “economy” that matters; a massive quarterly return isn’t going to keep our grandchildren from suffering the consequences of our civilization’s profligate and wasteful fossil-fuel binge. That can only happen through a concerted effort to address the causes and consequences of climate change.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 26: Two Words.

The Waterville Morning Sentinel (ME) tells us about the problems of their state’s fishing industry:

Maine’s fishermen must be better informed, more communicative about conditions on the water and responsive to change to survive the constant shifts brought by a warming climate and water that is growing warmer and saltier.

That was the message from about 100 marine biologists, fisheries managers, commercial fishermen and others who shared both scientific findings and anecdotal observations on the changes that are occurring in the Gulf of Maine. The fisheries participants gathered Wednesday in Portland at a two-day Island Institute symposium on climate change and its impact on fisheries in the Gulf of Maine.

The consensus on the changes in conditions was predictable, given the roller-coaster ride over catches and pricing for lobstermen in 2012 and the ongoing crisis over groundfish stocks.

Peak Fish. August 1:

Maine’s fishing industry would be facing huge changes even without the looming threat of climate change, since overfishing has made the huge catches of the past increasingly harder to achieve. But adding heating and acidification (the two most tangible oceanic consequences of the accelerating greenhouse effect) to the mix means that fisheries are likely to confront catastrophic declines. In the coming decades, there will be fewer fish, and they’ll be harder and more expensive to find and catch. In other words, we’ve reached Peak Fish.

Given that between a quarter and a third of Earth’s population depends on the ocean directly or indirectly for food, this amounts to a humanitarian emergency. Combined with the likely impacts of climate change on land-based food production, this constitutes a stark warning to our species: get ready, for the storm clouds are gathering, and it’s going to be a rough ride.

Politicians who cater to the fossil-fuel industry and promote climate-change denialism are doing a grave disservice to their constituents, to their fellow citizens, and even to their myopic corporate paymasters.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 25: Eat. Eat. We’re Paying For You Like An Adult!

The Boise Weekly:

Under an overcast Saturday morning sky July 27, bright blue and red signs proclaiming “Climate Action: It’s Our Obligation” and “It’s Time to Cut Carbon” were taped to a table boasting equally eye-catching mounds of ripe tomatoes. A cluster of Boise Farmers Market shoppers paused to listen as local-food advocates discussed the intersection of local farming and climate change at a rally dubbed Producing Food, Reducing Carbon: An Event for People Who Grow and Eat Food.

“Probably nobody in our community deals with weather more than farmers; we are always checking the forecast,” said Meadowlark Farm owner Janie Burns. “Is it going to be good for planting? Is it going to rain? Is it going to snow? What’s the wind going to do? And so, when we think about the weather that’s just what’s happening today, sometimes we don’t pay attention much to those very small changes, those insidious changes that are happening in our climate.”

The farmer is the one who feeds us all. July 31:

Climatic transformations are happening everywhere around the planet, affecting local ecosystems and regional agriculture in profound and unpredictable ways. While farmers are always aware of weather conditions, it is a sad fact that many are still prone to rejecting the reality of the climate crisis, even as it unfolds around them.

This tendency to denial stems from several factors. First and foremost is the simple fact that nobody likes to contemplate bad news. And when it’s bad news set at some indefinite point in the future, it’s all too easy to put off responding to another day (a strategy employed by our government on climate issues since the likely consequences of the greenhouse effect were first discussed in the late 1950s).

But there is another element in the equation which is far less forgivable. Fossil-fuel corporations, eager to maintain their mind-bending profitability, have invested millions of dollars in “think tanks” and “institutes” which provide the print and broadcast media with handsome, telegenic, and authoritative-sounding “consultants,” “analysts,” and “research associates.” These people are amply paid to recite misinformation as a counter to the words of increasingly worried climate scientists. By confusing the public discussion, these corporate miscreants ensure their continued profitability, pitting their greed against the planet’s need.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 24: They Don’t Suffer; They Can Hardly Speak English!

The New York Daily News notes the US’ first likely climate refugees:

The northwestern Alaskan village of Kivalina is perched on a remote and narrow strip of sand next to the frigid waters of the Chukchi sea. Its 400 residents are the descendants of an Iñupiat tribe.

And in just 10 years, these folk might just be America’s first climate change refugees.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts that Kivalina will be completely uninhabitable by 2025, a victim of melting ice, coastal erosion and rising sea levels.

Until the shopping malls are covered, ain’t nobody gonna give a damn. July 31:

That an obscure town in the middle of nowhere will probably fall victim to planetary climatic transformations does not at first seem like particularly significant news, for the world is full of tragedies. But Kivalina’s plight merits closer attention. Its 400 residents have contributed next to nothing to the greenhouse emissions which may well seal the fate of their ancestral homes. The melting Arctic ice and rising seas are triggered by industrialized civilization’s essentially instantaneous introduction of hundreds of millions of years’ worth of fossilized carbon into the atmosphere.

These villagers will become climate refugees, with luck moving on to other towns, other lands, other lives, other hopes. Kivalina holds a lesson and a warning for the rest of us. We all live together on an obscure planet in an unremarkable corner of a nondescript galaxy — which we are rapidly rendering uninhabitable. Where shall we send seven billion climate refugees?

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 8, Day 23: Because It’s There

The Bloomington Pantagraph (IN) notes that one of their state’s own has spoken out:

BLOOMINGTON — McLean County farmers are fortunate to have high quality soils but their success – and ultimately the economic success of the broader community – relies on a favorable and stable climate.

That was the message McLean County Board member Carlo Robustelli offered as he joined several local and state leaders at the DoubleTree by Hilton Monday to urge the acceptance of the scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change that, unmitigated, will have devastating effects.

“The consequences of climate change are real,” he said, noting the inability to transport farmers’ harvest last year due to low river levels caused by drought. “Taking action on climate change is good economic policy … It is also just the right thing to do for future generations.”

Aaaaand away we go. July 30:

While the grim realities of climate change are starting to hit home, the fact that there is still a vocal plurality of “denialists” speaks to the remarkable power of giant financial interests to influence public understanding. By sponsoring their own pseudo-scientists through “think tanks,” multinational fossil-fuel corporations have muddled the discussion of a rapidly metastasizing crisis while co-opting legislators and ensuring that meaningful policy initiatives are impossible to enact.

How many times have you seen “Senior Policy Analysts,” “Energy Research Consultants,” and “Energy Strategy Fellows” on your television? These generic talking heads are the creation of Big Oil and Big Coal, which have invested heavily in creating diversions and distractions in order to persuade a significant number of Americans that the international scientific community is a front for a liberal One-World conspiracy.

Yes, climate change is real. Unfortunately, so is the massively-funded denial industry, brought to you by the same people who fought tooth and nail to hide the link between cigarettes and lung cancer. Of course we can trust them. What could possibly go wrong?

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 22: Skerble Wop Derp, Herp Wing Derblewop!

The Manila Standard (Philippines) notes the 2012 World Risk Report:

Just recently, the Alliance Development Works, United Nations University and The Nature Conservancy released the 2012 World Risk Report, which ranked the all countries according to their vulnerability to risk. In this report, the Philippines was identified as the third highest disaster risk hotspot in the world, the result of combining a high exposure to natural hazards and climate change with a very vulnerable society. The Philippines comes after Vanuatu and Tonga, which were ranked first and second, respectively.

That the Philippines is ranked so high in the World Risk Index may actually seem both fitting and ironic. It is fitting because given the country’s high exposure to the risks brought about by climate change, the government responded quickly by putting in place policies aimed at addressing these risks. The Philippines is one of the first few countries that came out with definite climate change policies, and actually enacted laws on climate change. At the same time however, it may seem ironic because despite such an acknowledgement of these risks, there still seems to be a rather raw understanding of climate change in general, and what is needed to address it.

The Climate Change Act established the Climate Change Commission in 2009, and gave it the task of coordinating climate change-related actions and policies. As part of its mandate, the CCC produced the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change, and the National Climate Change Action Plan. The even more recent establishment of the People’s Survival Fund, meanwhile, provides an avenue for the management of climate financing at the national level.

Calling out the lying liars is always appropriate. July 30:

That there is still widespread ignorance of the causes and consequences of planetary climate change in this day and age is no longer something that can be attributed to chance. The effects of an intensifying greenhouse effect triggered by increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are all around us. It is a sad irony that the Philippines and other island nations are most at risk from these phenomena, despite contributing essentially nothing to the problem.

For some decades there has been active collusion between multinational fossil-fuel corporations and the majority of the world’s print and broadcast news outlets. The American journalist A.J. Liebling’s quip, “Freedom of the press is only guaranteed to those who own one,” tells almost the whole story. Equipped with unimaginable sums of money and the respectful attention of the world’s leaders, these corporate miscreants have corrupted and diluted public discussion of an environmental crisis from the worst possible motivation: to protect their already grotesquely large profits. It’s their greed versus humanity’s need.

Warren Senders