Year 3, Month 12, Day 31: Drink A Cup For Kindness’ Sake

The Cleveland Plain Dealer sums up various responses to the nomination of John Kerry for SoS, and includes this paragraph:

Huffingtonpost.com says that Kerry presents a potential opportunity for climate action. Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, released a statement praising the decision. “Sen. Kerry is a true leader on climate change and other environmental issues and has spent his career advocating for policies that are good for our planet and our national security.”

Kerry has been stronger than others on the issue, though that’s not saying a whole hell of a lot. Sent Dec. 25:

While Republican politicians prefer an alternate reality where marriage equality and Sharia law represent the most pressing geopolitical threats on the horizon, those of us who live in a reality-based universe have other concerns. Which is why John Kerry’s nomination for Secretary of State is good news. While the Massachusetts Democrat has long been one of our saner voices on foreign policy, the most critical issue facing America and the world today is another of Mr. Kerry’s areas of expertise. A comprehensive approach to global warming demands long-term thinking and a resolutely fact-based approach; the GOP strategy of explicitly rejecting scientific findings only works for a little while, before the laws of chemistry and physics reassert themselves.

Let us hope that Senator Kerry is confirmed without unnecessary grandstanding from his erstwhile colleagues, and that he can bring the United States to a position of genuine world leadership on climate change.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 10, Day 27: Both Candidates Will Eat A Live Bug, On National Television

By the time this shows up on the blog, the last presidential debate will be in the past. Maybe my letter will have been rendered irrelevant. In any case, as I type this, it’s Saturday, October 20, and the LA Times notes that climate activists are still trying to get somebody (anybody!) to ask some damn questions:

With just 2 1/2 weeks left before election day, there’s an urgency on all fronts in the presidential race. For activists, it’s not just about whether President Obama or Mitt Romney will win, but whether either man will pay attention to their issue.

Perhaps no interest community has been as disappointed as those who worry about global climate change. They have repeatedly called for more attention to the issue and, for the most part, failed to get it.

This week’s presidential debate prompted a new round of regret and demands for Romney and Obama to address the topic, as both candidates spent their most notable time arguing about how much coal they would extract from federal lands.

“Both President Obama and Gov. Romney maintained the silence on climate, again ignoring the growing roster of extreme climate-change induced weather events,” said Maura Cowley, executive director of a consortium of youth-oriented groups called the Energy Action Coalition. “As young voters, and the generation with the most to lose if we don’t address the climate crisis now, we demand both candidates break the silence on climate change by standing up to big oil and gas with ambitious plans for clean energy.”

A political application of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis helps us understand why it’s nahgannahappan. Sent October 20:

Monday’s presidential debate will focus on foreign policy, which ought to provide a perfect opening for questions about global climate change. After all, the accelerating greenhouse effect transcends national boundaries, affecting all life on Earth equally. Furthermore, rising planetary temperatures and increased extreme weather will have humanitarian and geopolitical consequences, often in areas with a long history of conflict. It’d seem that our rapidly transforming climate is an essential subject in any discussion of foreign policy. Why won’t it happen on Monday?

“Foreign policy” as a field is concerned precisely with national boundaries — those human abstractions which surging atmospheric CO2 counts make irrelevant. The hard truth is that America (and the rest of the world) must rise above the narrow strategic concerns which have preoccupied us for centuries. Climate change is a global problem, not a “foreign” one, and there is as yet no scheduled debate on “planetary policy.”

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 22: Imagine…

I figured I’d push the Pakistan/post-climate-change-foreign-policy angle a few more times, and found a suitable article in the NYT to hang it on. This one came out rather well, I think. In any event, I relish any opportunity to use the word “epiphenomena.”

Post-flood Pakistan will not only be a nation full of shattered lives and human misery. It will also be an opportunity for the world to demonstrate a new approach to foreign policy that takes into account the reality of anthropogenic climate chaos. For twenty-five years, climatologists have predicted that the greenhouse effect would lead to ever more erratic and freakish weather; it’s finally here, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Which means that more of the world’s nations will be battered by climatic forces beyond their control. More heatwaves, droughts, massive floods, blizzards, storms — leading to more human misery and political instability. If we as a species are to survive in our self-created Anthropocene epoch, nations must learn to share resources and infrastructure against this common enemy. In an age of climate chaos, war and its profitable epiphenomena are luxuries we can no longer afford.

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 21: Time To Speak Truth

Figured I’d continue on the theme outlined yesterday and write to Hillary Clinton.

Dear Secretary Clinton,

It is obvious that the United States’ foreign policy in South Asia is going to be significantly affected by the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan. This will be the first case of important policy alternations being brought about by the effects of climate change, but it is assuredly not the last.

Twenty-five years ago, climatologists begin predicting that increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases would lead to dramatic changes in weather pattern across the globe; they anticipated more storms, more floods, more heat waves, more blizzards, more droughts. Now, despite the frantic protestations of the deniers in the U.S. Senate and their enablers in our country’s mass media, those predictions are coming true.

Climate chaos is going to get worse over the next decades, and the current policy paradigm will soon be hopelessly out of date. Either the nations of the world will be able to agree on a strategy for collective adaptation to the destructive effects of climate change — or we are going to see resource wars that will multiply the current level of global misery a thousandfold.

As Secretary of State, it is crucial that you make this point loud and clear in your public statements. Climate change isn’t going to start happening sometime in the future; it’s making its effects felt right now — in the drowning provinces of Pakistan, in the burning peat-bogs of drought-ridden Russia, and in hundreds of other places around the globe. Our news media is unable or unwilling to make the connection; they must be prodded into recognizing the magnitude of the most significant existential threat our species has yet faced.

We need your help.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 20: Time To Make Some Connections

Continuing on the theme of political upheaval in Pakistan in the aftermath of the flood, the New York Times had a good analysis (which naturally didn’t mention climate change). I started out reading the article thinking I’d write a standard admonitory letter, bla bla bla disgrace to the media bla bla bla well-informed citizenry bla bla bla.

Then I saw that Kerry was headed over there, and tonight’s letter formed itself.

The UN Development Programme’s statistics on CO2 as a proportion of world population are available here, and are well worth a look.

Dear Senator Kerry -

We learn that the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan is going to have drastic and unpredictable consequences for America’s own foreign policy in the region. The shape of our aid to Pakistan is certainly going to be profoundly transformed. I was glad to hear that you are headed there to assess the situation, for your experience in foreign affairs is invaluable.

It is a tragic coincidence that the disaster in Pakistan should also intersect with another policy area in which you have great knowledge and expertise — climate change.

Pakistan’s inundation, like New York’s heat wave, Russia’s drought, and Washington’s blizzard, is part of our new post-Industrial weather pattern — climate chaos.

Climate chaos was predicted twenty-five years ago and climatologists have been affirming and substantiating their predictions ever since. We’re just getting the first taste of it now, and even if we had taken decisive action in this Congress, climate chaos is going to get worse before it gets a lot better.

As you know.

Please use your public statements on the subject of Pakistan to make the point that the region’s political instability and upheaval is a diplomatic consequence of climate change. Please use your statements on the Senate floor to make the point crystal clear to your colleagues.

Even as America mobilizes to do its very best to alleviate Pakistan’s climatic miseries, we must focus on the conditions that gave rise to them.

The proportion of a nation’s CO2 emissions to its share of world population is a useful measure. America’s is five times greater. Pakistan’s is one-fifth. We put enormous quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere; Pakistan’s contribution, by contrast, amounts to a rounding error. In other words, Pakistanis didn’t create the climate chaos that is now destroying their country. We did.

Weather-triggered political instability is a predictable consequence of climate change, and yet another reason that quick and robust legislative action must be taken.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders