Month 8, Day 13: L.A. Heat Edition.

There’s a heat wave expected in LA this weekend, says the LA Times.

Not a standard boilerplate LTE.

A midsummer heat wave is not particularly remarkable. They happen all the time. But there are more and more of them happening these days, in the U.S. and around the world. As a consequence of climate change, we’re getting very extreme weather, and we’re getting it more often. While it’s impossible to say that global warming caused a specific weather event, climatologists have predicted for two decades that it will bring about ever more frequent extremes of temperature and precipitation. In the past, climate change was something that would happen in the future. But the past is gone and the future is now. Climate change is happening to us. News media must begin including this information as part of their print and online articles on weather conditions. People need to understand what’s going on so they can make informed decisions; ignorance is no longer an option.

Warren Senders

Oh, and for what it’s worth, I only became aware that there was a TV show by that name a few seconds before hitting “publish.”

Month 7, Day 26: Once We Make Nanobots That Eat CO2 and Shit Diamonds, Our Problems Will Be Solved!

A CCS project in Billings, Montana has been shut down because of lack of funds. The LA Times ran the AP version of this fairly minor story, and since I was tired of decrying our failure to act on a climate bill, I thought I’d send them a little reality check.

It speaks volumes that a process that is “considered key for addressing climate change” rests on “a largely unproven concept.” The problems involved in economical carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) from burning coal are immense, and the technology is still in its infancy. It’s important to fund research and development in CCS, because it may lead to methods of removing carbon dioxide not only from coal plants, but from our atmosphere itself, where the greenhouse gas has built to dangerous levels. But it is both bizarre and tragic that we consider a yet-to-be-developed technology as an integral element of our response to an immediate crisis; if your house is on fire, you don’t have time for the fire department to invent a new kind of pump. There is an excellent way to keep the carbon in coal from entering the atmosphere: leave it in the ground. We Americans must radically transform our consumption habits, and recognize that our nationality conveys no inherent right to waste the Earth’s resources, further accelerating the climate crisis.

Warren Senders

Month 6, Day 7: Adapt or Die — Choice We Can Believe In

The LA Times has a nice op-ed from Bill McKibben, who is, as usual, uncomfortably correct.

Bill McKibben has it right. The President has the opportunity to turn the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico into a sea-change for America and the world. The millions of gallons of oil now washing ashore on the coasts of Louisiana and Florida illuminate a stark choice: adapt or die. With smaller spills every day of the week around the world, the true costs of fossil fuels can’t be ignored. Are we going to continue basing our way of life on an incredibly dirty commodity, a substance that has profoundly negative effects on our atmosphere, and one which is going to become ever scarcer and costlier in the years to come? Or will America rise to the challenge? Now is the time for an energy economy that does not devastate ecosystems, shatter communities and pour millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We can no longer afford oil.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 21: Can We Get It Together In Time?

The report from the National Academy of Science is now out, and it’s very forthright: we’ve gotta get our shit together, and quickly, or we’re in for a world of hurt. We’ll be in for a world of hurt anyway, but if we begin thinking hard about what to do, it’ll hurt less.

The linked article is from the L.A. Times, so I wrote them a letter.

The National Academy of Science report on climate change should convince any remaining denialists that the costs of inaction far outweigh those of action. America and the world simply cannot afford to put this problem off any longer. Higher gas prices may be politically unpopular, but it may the only way we break free of our addiction to oil. Make no mistake about it: fossil fuels are far from cheap. Factor in the costs of cleaning up spills, of countless cases of black lung, of smog, asthma, toxic wastes, and oil wars, and the price per energy unit suddenly goes way up. When we include global climate change in our assessment, oil and coal are revealed as the most expensive energy sources we have. The NAS Report confirms, with unimpeachable science, that we need to act rapidly, forthrightly, and energetically. The time is past for allowing political exigencies to dictate to us in a matter of global survival.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 17: I’m Glad I’m Not Plankton

The latest news from the Gulf is that lots of the oil has been whacked by huge quantities of toxic dispersants, which appear to be making it vanish from the surface, but collect somewhere below. Meanwhile, oil gushing out of the pipe on the ocean floor is collecting in enormous blobs that are going to wipe out entire ecosystems. The LA Times did a little piece about it, so I wrote them a little letter.

While British Petroleum claims success at trapping a fraction of the oil pouring out of its broken pipe, it has steadily refused requests from scientists who want to obtain accurate measurements of the flow. It’s not hard to see why: BP will be liable for massive cleanup expenses, and ambiguous measurements are in their corporate self-interest. The corporation’s estimates are almost certainly an order of magnitude too low. As Boxall and Semuels point out, much of the resulting pollution appears to be remaining below the surface, where it is likely to decimate the extraordinary aquatic life of the Gulf of Mexico’s unique ecosystems. Recovery may take decades, if it happens at all — and what price can be put on vulnerable ecosystems? The whole catastrophe illuminates a simple fact: if the price of oil included the cost of cleaning up after a disaster, there would be no such thing as cheap gasoline.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 10: La La La La La La…..

Hadn’t written to the LA Times in quite a while, so I went over there, typed “climate change” in their search-bar, and got Michael Brune’s Op-Ed, “A clean-energy future, now.” Good enough for a tweaked version of the “oil is only cheap if you’re not paying attention” letter.

Michael Brune is exactly correct.  America must make a transition to clean energy without any further foot-dragging from the Oil and Coal lobbies.  For decades, fossil fuels have been considered both unlimited and inexpensive.  Both notions are wrong; “peak oil” demonstrates the limit to the world’s supply — and a long succession of disasters demonstrates that carbon-based energy sources are anything but cheap.  Sure, their initial cost is low, compared to renewables — but by the same token we could conclude that cigarettes are cheap, compared to food.  When a realistic cost analysis takes into account such things as long-term health and environmental effects, cleanup expenses and the catastrophic effects of global climate change, it becomes ever more obvious that fossil fuels are among the most expensive energy sources we have.  How much longer are we going to continue fooling ourselves?  When will we stop burning, and start learning?

Warren Senders

Month 2, Day 26: Bill McKibben Speaks For Me

Daily Kos diarist A Siegel directed my attention to Bill McKibben’s piece in the LA Times, which included a telling analogy (and one particularly suited to the Los Angeles audience:

The “dream team” of lawyers assembled for Simpson’s defense had a problem: The evidence against their client was formidable. Nicole Brown Simpson’s blood was all over his socks, and that was just the beginning. So Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, F. Lee Bailey, Robert Kardashian et al decided to attack the process, arguing that it put Simpson’s guilt in doubt — and doubt, of course, was all they needed. Hence, those days of cross-examination about exactly how Dennis Fung had transported blood samples and which racial slurs LAPD Det. Mark Fuhrman had used.


Similarly, the immense pile of evidence now proving the science of global warming beyond any reasonable doubt is in some ways a great boon for those who deny that the biggest problem we’ve ever faced is actually a problem at all. If you have a three-page report, it won’t be overwhelming, but it’s also unlikely to have many mistakes. Three thousand pages (the length of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)? That pretty much guarantees you’ll get some things wrong.

The whole piece is terrific; like all of McKibben’s writing, it is a model of clarity and logic. So I thought I’d send the LA Times a letter, reinforcing his words. Here you go:

Bill McKibben’s comparison of climate “skeptics” to the O.J. Simpson defense team is spot on. These corporate-funded denialists exploit our tragically short national attention span in order to delay or derail meaningful action on global climate change. How do they do it? By shrieking about ambiguities in the data while ignoring the overwhelming evidence that same data provides. Why do they do it? Because they’re paid.

Climatologists have long forecast that local weather will get weirder and more unpredictable as the atmosphere warms. It’s counterintuitive that planetary warming can bring unexpected snow — but it’s also counterintuitive that a starving child’s belly swells. Regardless of its importance to our politics, Washington, DC takes up a tiny fraction of the world’s surface area — 1/285,507th, to be exact. Kwashiorkor doesn’t disprove world hunger; a blizzard in Washington doesn’t disprove global warming. We must move boldly to address the climate crisis. There is no time to waste.

Warren Senders