Year 2, Month 5, Day 23: Dark As A Dungeon

Hillary Clinton and Ken Salazar are going to the meeting of the Arctic Council, and are expected to contribute toward an agreement on the mitigation of “black carbon,” which is contributing significantly to Arctic ice melt, reports the Washington Post.

Much of the policy debate over global warming has focused on the role of carbon dioxide emissions, which are caused by fossil-fuel burning and remain trapped in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. But, with its initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions stalled in Congress, the Obama administration has been compelled to explore alternative ways to slow Arctic warming that do not require United Nations-brokered treaties or complex cap-and-trade scenarios.

At this week’s meetings in Greenland, attended by diplomats of the Arctic Council, Clinton will be joined by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Aides said they plan to highlight the role played by “black carbon” — essentially soot from inefficient combustion, such as natural gas flaring, wood stoves and the controlled burning of agricultural waste.

Such pollutants play an outsize role in Arctic warming, scientists say, essentially causing ice to melt faster than can be explained by rising temperatures alone. But instead of an international treaty, Arctic Council nations will be encouraged to adopt measures unilaterally to control emissions of soot as well other “short-term drivers” of Arctic warming, administration officials said.

Sent May 12:

The rapid losses of Arctic ice provide a sobering confirmation of the reality of global climate change, and reinforce the crucial fact that the time for meaningful human intervention is rapidly dwindling. The presence of Secretaries Clinton and Salazar at the Arctic Council meeting is a positive sign of engagement from our government; while “black carbon” is only one piece of the puzzle, it’s something that doesn’t require the acquiescence of the Republican-run House of Representatives. The GOP’s decades of anti-science advocacy, coupled with the profound innumeracy and scientific ignorance of many media figures, has created a political culture in which acknowledging reality is fatal to Republicans’ electoral opportunities. Eventually, of course, the greenhouse effect and the laws of physics will win; they always do. We are fortunate that at least a few members of our government recognize the danger and are prepared to act before it’s too late.

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 4, Day 26: Don’t Bother Us, We’re Busy.

The World People’s Conference on Climate Change has called for an International Climate Court, where environmental offenders would be called to account. The Cochabamba conference sounds fantastic, and I applaud the initiative of Bolivia’s Evo Morales, who…

…also announced plans to mount a referendum of 2 billion people on solutions to the climate crisis within a year.

Speaking at the close of the four-day World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, Morales called on the UN to listen to the voice of the poorest. “The UN has an obligation to listen to its peoples and social forces. If the UN doesn’t want to lose its authority, they should apply the conclusions of this conference. And if they don’t, I am convinced that the peoples will apply their wisdom, recommendations and documents,” he said.

Wouldn’t you know it? The U.S. Government couldn’t be bothered

….aw, hell. Just read the letter.

Dear President Obama and Secretary Clinton,

I write to express my deep disappointment that the United States Government thought so little of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change in Cochabamba that it “…politely declined to send as much as a low-level observer to the historic summit, which drew more than 31,000 people from all over the world, and representatives from almost 50 governments,” according to the U.K. Guardian.

Mr. President: after the debacle in Copenhagen many of us who worked incredibly hard to get you elected swallowed our disappointment and hoped that we would see stronger actions on climate change. We still hope that your administration will keep its promise to respect the findings of climate scientists, and we still hope to see signs that you are ready to treat climate change and global warming as the planetary emergencies they are. But your recent announcement of plans for exploratory offshore drilling is incredibly distressing, given the abysmal safety record of offshore rigs (one example of which is leaking 42,000 gallons a day into the Gulf of Mexico as I write).

But this letter isn’t about offshore drilling (I’m mailing under separate cover a copy of a comment I sent to the Minerals Management Service EIS Scoping Process). This letter has me wondering if the Obama Administration is really serious about including the voices of the poor and disenfranchised in a global conversation about the realities of climate change…and concluding, sadly, that it isn’t.

The poor and disenfranchised certainly deserve a voice. They’re the ones who are going to die in the greatest numbers. They’re the ones who are going to lose their homelands, who will fall ill with dengue fever, whose food supplies will diminish, whose livelihoods will be destroyed. Why, then, is a conference of indigenous peoples not deemed worthy of a single observer? Massive corporate interests attract the obeisances of government bureaucrats and elected officials, even as they plunder the world’s economies and continue a path of destructive consumption that is increasingly likely to lead us to a dystopian planet unfit for human habitation….a planet where our grandchildren (and yours) are going to be struggling for survival against ever-greater odds.

If you’re serious about “including all voices” in the conversation, then your administration needs to reach out to the people whose lives are being destroyed by American negligence, exploitation and profiteering. The United States must become a genuinely responsible citizen of the planet. We have only one chance to get this right, and the solution to the climate crisis cannot come from the boardrooms of multinational corporations alone; it must come from the world’s citizens, rich and poor alike.

By refusing to send a delegate to Cochabamba, the United States has again demonstrated how lightly it takes the pressing concerns of the world’s indigenous people. “Boys throw stones at frogs in fun, but the frogs do not die in fun, but in earnest,” wrote the Greek philosopher. As the planet heats up, the poor will not die in fun, but in earnest.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 21: Good Work!

I read about a gathering of representatives from all over Latin America that took place in Washington, the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Ministerial, hosted by Dr. Steven Chu. Hillary Clinton’s statement to the group are worth reading in their entirety…and it’s worth watching Secretary Chu’s opening remarks:

So I wrote him a letter of support.

Dear Secretary Chu,

It was with great pleasure that I read about the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) Ministerial which you hosted recently in Washington. It is crucial to the long-term health of the planet that the USA embrace new energy technologies, making sure that they are made available to nations across the world. The ECPA is a vital element in this process.

The actions of governments and communities throughout South America demonstrate what can happen when sustainability is taken seriously by people at all levels, from ordinary citizens to the highest reaches of government. The use of indigenous energy sources is not only a stimulus for local economies, but an essential element in the fight against global climate change.

But there are massive economic forces allied against energy localization — forces whose profits are threatened by any move away from fossil fuels. As our government moves closer to passing climate and energy legislation, the oil and coal interests will disseminate ever more misinformation, making a robust bill less and less likely. Please use the power of your position to convey to the President and to members of Congress that the United States needs to lead the world on this issue; if we cannot lead, we must at least support energy sustainability initiatives in Latin America and the rest of the world. Right now, the Carbon Lobby is doing all it can to make sure that no one gets free from the deadly addiction to fossil energy — and our lawmakers are enabling them.

This can’t go on. The eyes of the world are upon us; what we do in the next few years will determine whether future generations inherit a sustainable and beautiful planet, or an economic and environmental catastrophe.

The Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas is a great start. We need to do more; there is so much more to do.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 7: Got Methane?

The Arctic methane release continues to be my cause du jour. Not much to add here; I just took yesterday’s letter, shuffled some of the clauses, exchanged synonyms and made it germane to the job description of the Secretary of State instead of the President.

Dear Secretary Clinton,

I write to urge you to initiate international action on a very disturbing component of the global climate crisis. According to a just-published article in the journal Science the sub-sea permafrost that has kept gigatonnes of methane locked in for thousands of years is now melting.

Methane is 25 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in trapping heat, which will accelerate the greenhouse effect even further — and the effects of adding such quantities of this greenhouse gas into the atmosphere have not yet been included into climate scientists’ prediction models. Our current “worst-case” scenarios are probably over-optimistic.

Our government needs to spearhead an international effort to address this crisis before it is too late. We would like to see all the nations of the world form a unified response to this common threat, combining our resources, skills and innovations to keep our planet safe for our children and their children and their children’s children after them. We would like to see the United States of America leading this effort, earning the gratitude of generations to come.

I urge you to make the multiple elements of the looming climate crisis (atmospheric CO2, Arctic methane release and oceanic acidification) a major area of concern in your dealings with the international community.

There is no time to lose.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Year 1, Month 1, Day 13: A Letter to The Secretary of State

In over ten whole minutes of web searching, I could not find a fax number for the Secretary of State’s office, so this one is going off by snailmail.

Dear Secretary Clinton,

Over the long run, there is no issue more likely to contribute to profound global instability than runaway global warming. Projections of the sociopolitical effects of climate change include severe disturbances to farming economies caused by erratic weather, increased risk of near-apocalyptic fires in forested areas affected by severe heat, “water wars” triggered by drought and the elimination of glacial melt as a source for important rivers and aquifers, and, of course, the inevitability of millions of climate refugees, many in the world’s poorest nations.

Add to this the increasing likelihood that oceanic acidification will profoundly affect the food chain of much of earth’s life, and the terrifying prospect of gigatons of arctic methane being released into our atmosphere and bringing a greenhouse effect of unimaginable magnitude, and the possibility of a planetary enactment of a Biblical apocalypse becomes disturbingly likely. While some Dominionists may view this as desirable, hoping for the Rapture is not a valid environmental policy.

As the leader of the free world, the United States needs a diplomatic strategy that simultaneously fosters long-term thinking among the world’s governments (because a multi-decade gap between cause and effect is inherent in the processes of climate) and prompt and vigorous action (because the window of time in which our actions can make a difference to our descendents is rapidly closing). It is absolutely crucial that we take the initiative to bring about a worldwide agreement to reduce atmospheric CO2 to 350 ppm or less, as recommended by Dr. James Hansen and other climatologists.

Please make sure the world knows that America is ready to lead, both in finding ways to mitigate the unavoidable effects of climate change and in preventing further catastrophic changes from coming to pass.

Failure in this area is a guarantee of failure for all of us — all six billion of us.

Thank you,

Warren Senders

A little long, but what the hell. Writing a shorter letter would have taken an extra fifteen minutes or so.