Year 3, Month 7, Day 6: Keep Your Eyes Wide

The Boston Globe:

As temperatures are projected to climb, polar ice to melt, and oceans to swell over the coming decades, Boston is likely to bear a disproportionate impact of rising sea levels, government scientists report in a new study.

The seas along the East Coast from North Carolina to New England are rising three to four times faster than the global average, and coastal cities, utilities, beaches, and wetlands are increasingly vulnerable to flooding, especially from storm surges, according to the US Geological Survey study published Sunday.

“Cities in the hot spot, like Norfolk, New York, and Boston, already experience damaging floods during relatively low-intensity storms,” said Asbury Sallenger, a Geological Survey oceanographer and lead author of the study in the journal Nature Climate Change. “Accelerated sea-level rise,” he said, will add to “the height that storm surges and breaking waves reach on the coast.”

Figured the times were ripe for a little bit of old Prophet Bob. Sent June 25:

The times they are indeed a’changin’. Climate-change denialists must be finding it difficult to cling to their bizarre conspiracy theories in the face of the latest reports from the U.S. Geological Survey, predicting that rising ocean levels will radically alter the East coast of the United States over the next few decades, a forecast entirely congruent with other scientific analyses of the effects from a melting Arctic ice cap.

The insurance industry’s changing its coverage model to account for damages caused by climate change; the American military’s developing new strategic protocols for a post-greenhouse-effect world; US intelligence agencies are trying to anticipate the geopolitical impact of global warming. These bastions of liberalism are all following Bob Dylan’s advice to “…admit that the waters around you have grown, and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone.”

When will our Senators and Congressmen “please heed the call”?

Warren Senders


Year 3, Month 4, Day 29: Coming Up Snake-Eyes

Guam Pacific Daily News has an excellent editorial from a guy named Richard Alley, titled “Rolling the dice on climate change.” Definitely worth a read:

Science still says, “Maybe, maybe not.” But we’re rolling the dice in a serious game where the “jackpot” means we lose.

There’s very high scientific confidence that our fossil-fuel burning and other activities, which add carbon dioxide to the air, are turning up the planet’s thermostat.

In a warmer world, we expect more record highs and heat waves but fewer record lows, just as we’re observing. Warmer air can carry more water vapor, so a warmer rainstorm can deliver more inches per hour. Hair dryers have a “hot” setting for good reasons, and warmer air between rainstorms can dry out the ground faster.

Thus, we expect rising CO2 to bring more floods in some places and more droughts in others, with some places getting more of both. That might seem contradictory, but it’s not. And with more energy to drive hurricanes, the peak winds may increase, even if the number of storms drops.

But couldn’t nature have caused the ongoing changes without our help?

Imagine playing dice with a shady character. Suppose, after you lose, you discover that some of the corners are filed off and there are carefully positioned weights inside. In court, your lawyer could say, “The dice were loaded, double-sixes came up three times in a row, so the defendant owes restitution.”

His lawyer, however, might counter, “My client doesn’t recall where he got the dice, the modifications are really quite small, dice games are inherently variable, anomalous events do happen, so my client is innocent and should get to keep all the money plus the plaintiff’s wallet.”

Time to expand the analogy. Sent April 20:

In games of chance, the amount we wager depends on how much we can spend. The embezzlers who lose vast sums of other people’s money at racetracks or card games are the exceptions, not the rule.

Or are they? The past several decades of climate science have revealed the unintended consequences of industrial humanity’s century-long fossil-fuel binge; we clever apes find ourselves in the unenviable position of a losing card player who’s squandered not just his own resources but those of generations to come.

And like compulsive gamblers, we deny there’s a problem. We loudly assert that our civilization’s progress depends on burning the fossilized sunlight of ancient eras; if we want a present, we must consume the past. But if our descendants are to have lives worth living, we can no longer wager their happiness and prosperity in a rigged game with stakes exponentially higher than we can afford.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 15: Any Port In A Storm, Right?

USA Today gives us this story, of the Kiribatians who are planning ahead:

Fearing that climate change could wipe out their entire Pacific archipelago, the leaders of Kiribati are considering an unusual backup plan: moving the populace to Fiji.

Kiribati President Anote Tong told the Associated Press on Friday that his Cabinet this week endorsed a plan to buy nearly 6,000 acres on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. He said the fertile land, being sold by a church group for about $9.6 million, could be insurance for Kiribati’s entire population of 103,000, though he hopes it will never be necessary for everyone to leave.

“We would hope not to put everyone on one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it,” Tong said. “It wouldn’t be for me, personally, but would apply more to a younger generation. For them, moving won’t be a matter of choice. It’s basically going to be a matter of survival.”

Kiribati, which straddles the equator near the international date line, has found itself at the leading edge of the debate on climate change because many of its atolls rise just a few feet above sea level.

Naturally, their carbon footprint is utterly negligible. Sent March 9:

When rising ocean levels make Kiribati a danger zone, and the island nation’s population moves en masse to Fiji, will they all become Fijian citizens? Will Fiji donate a small fraction of its total area to the climate refugees, allowing them to re-establish a sovereign state? And for that matter, what’s going to happen to Fiji as climate change keeps melting polar ice over the next century? Given that poor nations contribute hardly anything to the greenhouse emissions that have triggered their predicament, should the industrialized nations take responsibility for the damage they’ve caused?

These questions are novel enough to us now, but the coming decades in a climatically transformed world are going to alter international relationships in new and complex ways. At some point, the world community must realize that the options available to Kiribati’s citizens don’t scale upward; there’s no “Planet B” where we can all find refuge.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 12, Day 25: Vayu, Dude!

Sri Lanka’s Energy Minister writes a long op-ed in the Sri Lanka Daily News, titled “Taking On The Energy Crunch”:

I observed two emerging trends in Durban. The first is that North America getting increasingly marginalized by Europe and the other is China and India, embroiled each other in many issues, coming forward with new proposals. The Chinese presence in Bali, Poznan or even Copenhagen was hardly noticed. However, the presence of China is now getting increasingly noticed, especially due to its possession of the most cost effective renewable energy technology (solar and wind) and more importantly, its sound financial position, required for implementation of its plans.

When China proposed emission cuts to be made effective from 2020, the developed countries, excluding European Union, raised objections to it. However, they finally settled down for a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol and accordingly, go in for mandatory agreements in 2015. By that time I hope China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia would be able to lead climate discussions with the progressive support from the European countries.

Since Asia is now moving and shaping the new world, it is high time it leads the sustainable development and green growth, whilst imposing green sanctions against the USA and Canada. This double dip global economic crisis may end up creating a new sustainable future if we were to fulfill our historical responsibility.

I’d love to visit Sri Lanka before it slides beneath the waves. Sent December 21:

It is obvious by now that the governments of the industrialized world have been so subverted and co-opted by corporate influence that they are unable to formulate and implement any genuinely responsible energy and environmental policies. The current dysfunction of America’s political system is a vivid example of what happens when the lust for profit trumps the well-being of the people.

While the world’s climatologists have long since come to a consensus about both the human causes and the genuine dangers of climate change, fully fifty percent of US politicians are unable to acknowledge scientific reality. While as an American citizen I am disappointed by my own country’s paralysis in the face of a grave existential threat, as a human being, I am delighted by Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka’s suggestion that Asia take the lead in developing meaningful strategies for addressing the climate crisis. There is no time to spare.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 6, Day 4: Lending A Word Here And There

An editorial in the Australia Courier calls for “Less Hot Air On The Climate Change Debate, Please.” A good piece, and worthy of some support from over here on this side of the marble:

For every scientist who supports common acceptance of global warming, the sceptics can roll out one who says the opposite.

But there needs to be a point where we, as a nation, take a side. And in this case, the cautious approach is to act, rather than do nothing.

It is time for the conversation to move past the debate and onto what we can do to ensure that we are acting before a crisis is upon us. Simply, the time is now.

Sent May 23:

The facts of climate change have been incontrovertible for a fairly long time. As early as 1953, Arctic ice melt was predicted as a consequence of the greenhouse effect, and for the past six decades the evidence has been accumulating. At this point the scientific consensus on human causes of global warming is extremely robust; the only people in the climate science community who disagree turn out to be in the pay of industries with much to lose in a transition to a low-carbon energy economy. And by presenting these “skeptics” as equal countervoices to the thousands of very worried climatologists, the world’s news media provide protective cover for those who seek to delay a shift to energy sustainability. Were this a trivial political matter, it would sort itself out, given a chance. But these stakes are very high indeed; it is not only Australia whose future hangs in the balance.

Warren Senders