Year 3, Month 2, Day 11: I’d Like To Be / Under The Sea

The Pakistani daily “Dawn” runs an article on the plans of island nations to attempt legal pressure on the irresponsible giants:

UNITED NATIONS: Small island nations, whose very existence is threatened by the rising sea levels brought about by global warming, are seeking to take the issue of climate change before the International Court of Justice.

Johnson Toribiong, president of Palau, said Friday his country and other island nations had formed an expert advisory committee to bring the issue before the U.N. General Assembly. That would allow the world court in the Hague to determine the legal ramifications of climate change under international law.

”If 20 years of climate change negotiations have taught us anything, it’s that every state sees climate change differently. For some, it is mainly an economic issue … for others it’s about geopolitics and their past or future place in the global economy, but for us it’s about survival,” Toribiong said.

”Pacific countries are in the red zone, a swell of ocean where waters have risen two or three times higher than anywhere else in the world. That differential might explain why we speak about climate change so urgently and we look to everyone in every corner of the United Nations to find a solution,” he added.

Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Colombia University and a member the advisory committee, said the idea is to have a court determination compelling developed nations to control emissions of the greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming in the absence of an international treaty.

I would loooooove to see that happen. Sent February 5:

The incapacity of the developed nations to address the looming climate crisis would be pathetic if it did not hold such tragic consequences for the rest of the world. Paralyzed by the overwhelming influence of multinational corporations, the United States and its allies are unable to respond even to an obvious emergency like the plight of island nations. It’s a curious irony that even as countries like Palau, Kiribati and the Maldives unflinchingly confront the rising sea levels that may soon submerge them, the industrialized West is drowning, unawares, in a toxic flood of corporate cash and media misinformation.

Eventually, of course, those petrol-paid politicians and their enablers will discover that in the wake of the greenhouse effect, there is no safe harbor. In a sad reversal of John Donne’s maxim, even those living on the economic high ground will learn: in a climate-changed world, every nation is an island.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 2, Day 5: It’s All About The Benjamins

The Bangor Daily News’ Dana Wilde talks about why Climate Change is real:

Several readers, with helpful intentions I’m sure, reassured me earlier this month with a few pats on the head that climate change, if it’s even happening, is a natural occurrence that’s nothing to do with us and moreover, to jog me out of naivete, that global warming is a hoax. Don’t worry, be happy, we were sagely advised in the 1980s.

Here are some of the points I’ve heard that are meant to reassure me there’s no need to worry about climate change or global warming:

• It still gets cold in winter.

• Earth’s climate has always changed and always will change.

• Global warming is just a theory.

• There is no proof the exhaust from my car hurts anything.

• Scientists are often wrong.

• Scientists fake climate research findings.

• Global warming is not mentioned in the Bible.

• There was no Y2K disaster.

The problem I have with these arguments is that I believe in the existence of computers, cellphones, penicillin, bone marrow transplants and internal combustion engines. I also believe in photosynthesis, DNA, infrared light, blood types, viruses, the theory of relativity and the vibration A440, even though I have never seen any of these actual items or processes with my eyes.

What I mean by this is that the same method of study — namely, what we call “the scientific method” — led to microchips, life-saving chemistry, instant communication and so on. So that method has a certain high reliability. It has been applied to Earth’s climate, and so the findings of climatologists are very likely to be in the same range of reliability.

Now, if the climatologists were disagreeing about the findings, then we would have a situation where the research was incomplete, the matter was not fully understood and global warming would be “just a theory.” In other words, the scientists would not yet be sure whether the proposed explanation was completely accurate to reality or not. Scientists are often wrong about their theories. That’s why they keep compiling, analyzing and checking data until they agree on an accurate explanation.

It’s a good piece. And the comments are mostly full of stupid (don’t these trolls have anything better to do? Or would they all fail Turing tests?). I felt the time was ripe for an OWS-style letter. Sent January 30:

Cui bono? Once conservative media outlets and their allies in politics ginned up a “controversy” about the causes and severity of global climate change, it is appropriate to ask: who benefits from increased support of climate science? And, conversely, who benefits from delay and obfuscation?

On the one hand, climatologists in small teams, angling for (at most) a few million dollars to carry out complex research projects. On the other hand, companies like Exxon, which reported profits of 10.6 billion in the first quarter of 2011 — over two thousand times more than a five-million dollar grant for a typical climate study carried out over several years. Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s CEO, received twenty-nine million dollars last year, over three hundred times the average salary of a climate scientist.

Big oil’s obscene profits won’t survive once America changes its energy economy. No wonder they want to confuse the subject as much as possible.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 17: Little Bee Sucks The Blossom, Big Bee Gets The Honey

The Khaleej Times (UAE) notes, unsurprisingly, that rich and poor countries seem to have a different set of priorities when it comes to dealing with the issues surrounding climate change.

Sent April 8:

The inequality between rich and poor is indeed a profound complicating factor in the global struggle against climate change. None of the world’s poorer nations wish to abandon the dreams of economic growth; the richest fear that their own comforts and conveniences will be undermined by measures to mitigate the threats of atmospheric warming. But these arguments are misleading. The “wealth” of developed nations is largely a function of the ready availability and relative cheapness of fossil fuels, and both of these qualities are illusory. As oil becomes harder and harder to extract, it will be both rarer and more costly; as we confront the costs of putting a century’s worth of burning carbon into the atmosphere, it’ll become self-evident that oil and coal are very expensive indeed — and that aspiring to the high-consumption lifestyles of the developed nations is like envying a drunkard’s delusions of grandeur and omnipotence.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 3, Day 16: John Company Raj Redux

The Times of India runs an article on the McGill study, which had also provided fodder for yesterday’s letter. One good turn deserves another. In this letter I tried to connect the climate crisis loosely to India’s history of British colonialism.

Sent March 7:

In an ironic coda to the destructive legacy of colonialism, the McGill University study makes painfully clear the fact that those whose lives are already subject to the vagaries of climate and extreme weather will be the first and most painfully affected victims of climate change. Asia, Africa, South America and Oceania are going to bear the brunt of the destruction caused by the industrialized nations’ greenhouse emissions; countries whose “carbon footprint” is little more than a rounding error will be the ones submerged by rising seas, devastated by drought, or inundated by catastrophic flooding. A world-wide initiative to transform the energy economies of both the developed and the developing world is morally, scientifically, economically and socially essential. Alas, in a world dominated by the short-term fiscal interests of multinational corporations, a just and equitable approach to the climate crisis seems likely to remain a planetary fever dream.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 3, Day 15: Who Killed Cock Robin?

The Winnipeg Free Press reports on a study which makes explicit something we all knew was the case:

MONTREAL – A new study suggests climate change will have the greatest impact on the populations least responsible for causing the problem.

Researchers at McGill University found what many have long-suspected — countries that produce the least carbon dioxide emissions per-capita also tend to be more vulnerable to climate change.

“Based on our ecological models, we see that the potential impact of climate change will be the greatest in countries that have contributed very little,” lead researcher and PhD candidate Jason Samson said in an interview.

Sent March 6:

The ongoing tragedy of global climate change is exacerbated by the sad ironies of geography, as it becomes ever clearer that those who will pay for the greenhouse emissions of the developed world are those who have benefited least from industrialization and large-scale agriculture. The McGill study makes these gross inequities evident, clarifying the nature of the grotesque injustice that is being perpetrated on thousands of societies everywhere around the world. Countless local, small-scale cultures with rich lodes of traditional knowledge will be extinguished as climate change destroys the ecologies within which they have flourished for thousands of years. Just as biodiversity is essential for the survival of an ecosystem, cultural diversity is key to the survival of our species. Humanity’s ability to adapt to a radically transformed post-climate-change planet will be severely compromised by the loss of these indigenous cultures, obliterated through no fault of their own.

Warren Senders