Year 9, Month 9, Day 13: Sick Comedy

The Hindu (India) notes that climate change is going to bring us some issues with insects:

How will wind strength impact the migration and affect the flight range of mosquitoes? These and several other parameters are being studied at the micro-environmental level by scientists as part of a national project on climate change to forecast spectrum of vector-borne diseases.

With climate change influencing all aspects, including health and agriculture, CSIR through its network of institutions is seeking to develop sustainable mitigation strategies at local level. As part of this, a national project — Integrated Analysis for Impact, Mitigation and Sustainability — has been initiated to leverage multi-disciplinary expertise available at CSIR for developing suitable models by taking into account various geographical variations.

Pesky little buggers, aren’t they? September 6:

A common prognostication from those who are attentive to the geopolitical implications of climate change is that unimaginably large numbers of people are likely to become “climate refugees” in the coming decades. Indeed, as rising sea levels wipe out coastal lands, disappearing glaciers no longer provide sufficient water for agriculture in mountainous areas, and intensifying drought bakes the areas in between, it’s a fair bet that millions will lose their land and their hopes, if not their lives.

But humans are only the tip of the (rapidly melting) iceberg when it comes to climate-caused displacement. Countless plant, animal and insect species are going to be racing to new habitats; these lifeforms, just like human beings, will be struggling to survive on a transforming planet — but their interests aren’t always going to align easily with ours. The increased prevalence of insect-carried diseases like dengue fever is a case in point.

While diplomatic preparations will be necessary in a post-climate-change world to avoid resource wars and border conflicts, it is equally necessary to develop medical communications and infrastructure to cope with these smaller (but equally significant) “refugees.”

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 22: Skerble Wop Derp, Herp Wing Derblewop!

The Manila Standard (Philippines) notes the 2012 World Risk Report:

Just recently, the Alliance Development Works, United Nations University and The Nature Conservancy released the 2012 World Risk Report, which ranked the all countries according to their vulnerability to risk. In this report, the Philippines was identified as the third highest disaster risk hotspot in the world, the result of combining a high exposure to natural hazards and climate change with a very vulnerable society. The Philippines comes after Vanuatu and Tonga, which were ranked first and second, respectively.

That the Philippines is ranked so high in the World Risk Index may actually seem both fitting and ironic. It is fitting because given the country’s high exposure to the risks brought about by climate change, the government responded quickly by putting in place policies aimed at addressing these risks. The Philippines is one of the first few countries that came out with definite climate change policies, and actually enacted laws on climate change. At the same time however, it may seem ironic because despite such an acknowledgement of these risks, there still seems to be a rather raw understanding of climate change in general, and what is needed to address it.

The Climate Change Act established the Climate Change Commission in 2009, and gave it the task of coordinating climate change-related actions and policies. As part of its mandate, the CCC produced the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change, and the National Climate Change Action Plan. The even more recent establishment of the People’s Survival Fund, meanwhile, provides an avenue for the management of climate financing at the national level.

Calling out the lying liars is always appropriate. July 30:

That there is still widespread ignorance of the causes and consequences of planetary climate change in this day and age is no longer something that can be attributed to chance. The effects of an intensifying greenhouse effect triggered by increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are all around us. It is a sad irony that the Philippines and other island nations are most at risk from these phenomena, despite contributing essentially nothing to the problem.

For some decades there has been active collusion between multinational fossil-fuel corporations and the majority of the world’s print and broadcast news outlets. The American journalist A.J. Liebling’s quip, “Freedom of the press is only guaranteed to those who own one,” tells almost the whole story. Equipped with unimaginable sums of money and the respectful attention of the world’s leaders, these corporate miscreants have corrupted and diluted public discussion of an environmental crisis from the worst possible motivation: to protect their already grotesquely large profits. It’s their greed versus humanity’s need.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 31: It’ll Aggravate Your Soul

The Hanover Sun (PA) reprints the AP story on industry pushback against President Obama’s CC proposals. The same querulous whinging from Gary Long is featured:

BOW, N.H.—President Barack Obama’s push to fight global warming has triggered condemnation from the coal industry across the industrial Midwest, where state and local economies depend on the health of an energy sector facing strict new pollution limits.

But such concerns stretch even to New England, an environmentally focused region that long has felt the effects of drifting emissions from Rust Belt states.

Just ask Gary Long, the president of the Public Service Co. of New Hampshire, the state’s largest electric company.

Long says the president’s plan to impose limits on carbon dioxide emissions suddenly raises questions about the fate of the state’s two coal-fired power plants, electricity rates for millions of customers and the ability to find new energy sources. And he also notes that New England has already invested billions of dollars in cleaner energy, agreed to cap its own carbon pollution and crafted plans to import Canadian hydroelectric power.

“New Hampshire’s always been ahead of the curve,” he says. “Does no good deed go unpunished?”

I’m in New Hampshire now, as it happens. July 13:

Gary Long, president of New Hampshire’s Public Service Company, fires off a rhetorical question about President Obama’s climate proposals, asking, “does no good deed go unpunished?”

No, Gary. No good deed goes unpunished, even those of environmentally proactive energy companies. Just ask the citizens of Kiribati, an island nation which is going to vanish beneath rising ocean levels, even though they’ve contributed nothing to the greenhouse effect spelling their doom. They’re getting punished for the irresponsibility of industrialized nations that find it too inconvenient or too costly to do the right thing — and throughout the world, nations with miniscule CO2 output find their stability, their borders, and in some cases their very existence threatened by climate change. In this context, Mr. Long’s inquiry sounds more like whining and less like a reasonable question. The fact is that without concerted effort from all the world’s great industrialized powers, planetary climate change is going to punish us all, good deeds or no.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 9: Homeward Bound

Brian Schatz is a good guy. US News & World Report:

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, introduced an amendment Wednesday to the pending immigration bill that aims to allow Pacific islanders and others affected by climate change to reside legally in the United States.

“It simply recognizes that climate change, like war, is one of the most significant contributors to homelessness in the world,” Schatz said, according to Think Progress.

If enacted as law, the amendment would allow non-U.S. citizens to seek recognition as “stateless persons,” allowing them possible legal residency in the U.S.

“This amendment to the immigration bill gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretion, but not an obligation, to take into account situations in which a person cannot return to their country because it’s uninhabitable due to climate change,” a Schatz spokesperson told U.S. News in an email.

“This is not an abstract issue. Hawai’i has had a long, close and enduring relationship with its island neighbors in the Pacific for which climate change is an imminent threat. For Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, the Cook Islands and others, rising seas threaten the very existence of these countries,” said the spokesperson. The amendment’s language does not specify these nationalities.

I ain’t got no home in this world anymore. June 22:

It’s universally human to think of our closest associations before those more distant in time or space. First ourselves, then our families, then our neighbors, then our countrypeople. And for the entire span of human history this has been a sane and logical response to disasters, regardless of their causes.

But we have to to re-imagine these ancient instincts. This makes for heightened understanding between peoples and nations, and widens our network of obligation and reciprocity. The millions of stateless people created by the burgeoning catastrophe of planetary climate change cannot be excluded from our communities; it is the CO2 emissions of the industrialized nations that has triggered their plight in the first place. In these first years of the twenty-first century, we are coming face to face with an irreducible truth: on an Earth made smaller by efficient transportation and instant communication, we are all neighbors; we’re all family.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 20: Contending In Vain

The Sydney Morning Herald notes that island nations have more than rising seas to worry about:

The delegation of parliamentarians from four tropical Pacific Islands nations braved the Canberra cold last week, and that wasn’t the only climate shock they suffered.

They watched the impressive intellectual exchange of question time in the House of Representatives on Wednesday and then moved on. But almost as soon as they left, Parliament started to debate a motion on whether the science of man-made climate change was real. This came as a bit of a jolt to the legislator visiting from Kiribati, a country of about 100,000 people on 33 small, low-lying islands strung along 5000 kilometres of the equator.

“Climate change is real in our places,” Rimeta Beniamina, a government MP and vice-chairman of his parliament’s climate change committee, told me, expressing surprise at what was going on in the chamber a few metres away.

“A few years ago it was not taken very seriously. But now quite a few villages are experiencing hardship. Beaches are eroding, houses are falling down, crops are damaged and livelihoods are destroyed.

“The intrusion of salt water is very evident. The sea level may be rising millimetres a year, but it is still rising. The strong winds and rising tides are the worst part. Once the salt water enters the land, that’s it. Trees are falling along the coast, crops dying, pigs and chickens are affected.”

Finding the link for sending letters to the SMH was a nightmare all its own. June 5:

For Kiribati, the tiny Pacific island which now faces submergence beneath ominously rising seas, and whose entire carbon footprint is probably not much larger than that of a single wealthy Western consumer, rejecting the overwhelming evidence of global warming is an impossible absurdity. It is telling that nowhere but in the developed world do we find the institutionalized denial of climate science; nowhere but among the nations whose profligate greenhouse emissions triggered the problem in the first place.

Climate denialism is heavily underwritten by corporations with enormous economic interests built on a fossil-fuel-based economy. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into the coffers of a complaisant media and political establishment to perpetuate the myth that the science of climate change “isn’t settled.” For the world’s island nations, to suggest that the reality of climate change is still an unanswered question is to add gross insult to profound injury.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 5, Day 14: An Inconvenient Tooth

The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot (VA) reports on what a bunch of shrill tree-hugging hippies had to say:

A panel of speakers laid out a grim scenario for Hampton Roads’ future Monday night, predicting devastating effects if the region fails to adapt to escalating climate change.

It is a scenario that is particularly troubling to the Navy because of its enormous footprint in the area, said Rear Adm. Philip Hart Cullom, deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics.

Cullom was one of five speakers at a town hall meeting at Nauticus organized by Operation Free, a national coalition of veterans and security experts that portrays climate change as a threat to national security.

“We have to figure out how we’re going to adapt,” Cullom said. “There are good futures. There are bad futures. It depends on what path we choose.”

Hampton Roads is threatened by rising sea level, increased flooding and more frequent natural disasters, said Joe Bouchard, a retired Navy captain and a former commanding officer of Norfolk Naval Station.

Taking another opportunity to mock Teapublicans. May 2:

If Virginia wants to prepare for the rising seas and increasingly severe weather that is certain to accompany Earth’s climbing atmospheric temperatures, the state’s politicians must recognize that they cannot legislate climate change out of existence. All over America, Republican lawmakers have declared open hostility to scientific method, in which hypotheses are tested, experiments analyzed, and false results rejected. Instead, these legislators have chosen to exalt a kind of politicized wishful thinking, in which inconvenient facts are either erased from the record or not allowed in the first place. South Carolina’s recently enacted law requiring the use inaccurate projections of sea-level rise is one of many examples.

When it comes to climate, ideology trumps reality in the minds of conservative politicians. This is the worst sort of magical thinking, endangering the lives and livelihoods of millions of people through deliberate and cynical pandering to the forces of ignorance and denial.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 21: Post-Modernism As Policy, Chapter 29

North Carolina isn’t the only state with a stupidity surplus. Virginia is in the running:

State lawmakers ran into a problem this year when recommending a study on rising sea levels and their potential impacts on coastal Virginia.

It was not a scientific problem or a financial one. It was linguistic.

They discovered that they could not use the phrases “sea level rise” or “climate change” in requesting the study, in part because of objections from Republican colleagues and also for fear of stirring up conservative activists, some of whom believe such terms are liberal code words.

On its website, for example, the Virginia tea party described the proposed “sea level rise” study this way: “More wasted tax dollars for more ridiculous studies designed to separate us from our money and control all land and water use.”

The group urged its members to contact elected officials right away to defeat the measure: “They will pass this without blinking if we don’t yell loudly.”

So lawmakers did away with all mention of sea level rise, substituting a more politically neutral phrase: “recurrent flooding.”

The amended study, while fixed on the same research, sailed through the General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, who also has raised questions about what is causing slightly higher temperatures on the planet.

How I wish this was unbelievable. Sent June 10:

Everybody seems to be risk-averse when it comes to discussing the problems that accompany the accelerating greenhouse effect. Democratic politicians tend to avoid the issue entirely if they can, while Republicans simultaneously cater to the emotional needs of their voter base (who entirely deny the existence of climate change) and the financial demands of their funders (who refuse to take responsibility for mitigating the mess they’ve helped create).

While Virginian lawmakers don’t want to use words like “sea-level rise,” because they’ve acquired negative political associations, North Carolina’s gone one step further, actually banning any techniques of measurement that could potentially yield troublesome numbers. “Ignore it and it will go away” works fine for the night-time fears of childhood, but it makes for a poor climate policy; it is long past time for America’s politicians to address the crisis rather than using terminological hairsplitting as an excuse for inaction and complacency.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 1, Day 19: Wow. An Inspiring Politician. Who Knew?

The Manila Bulletin tells us about Philippines Senator Loren Legarda’s advice to the country and the legislature:

“As we continue to face weather in extremes, public health, energy, water security, our biodiversity, and economic growth are also under grave threat. Most at risk are lives that we cannot put a price on,” Legarda said.

“With all this in mind, we cannot afford to wait for the next screaming headline about death and destruction from typhoons, floods or drought before we take concrete actions. It is critical that the increased attention, interest, and sense of urgency in responding to the challenges posed by climate change and disaster risks are translated to local actions that effectively reduce disaster vulnerability,” she further explained.

The senator stressed the need to make communities safer, more resilient, and even more ready to act when disaster strikes.

“We must build homes for the homeless, but we need to make sure they are built in areas that will ensure safety and security to home owners even in times of disasters. We must construct roads and bridges to facilitate movements of goods and services; but in building them, we will make sure they do not facilitate the demise of lives. We must not train our sights merely on enhancing our capacities to re-build in times of disasters; but rather on reducing risks for our people and building lasting communities,” she said.

I didn’t know about her. I think I have a new hero:

Loren Legarda is a Filipino broadcast journalist, environmentalist, and politician of Visayan ancestry, notable as the only female to top two senatorial elections (1998 and 2007). During the 2004 Philippine general election, she ran for the position of Vice-President as an Independent with Fernando Poe, Jr. as running mate.

Legarda is a notable advocate of Climate Change Awareness and has numerous achievements in the fields of social development and human rights advocacy along with her work in journalism. As a journalist, she has received many awards. In 2008, she was chosen as “United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Asia Pacific Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation”. She was a member of the Philippine delegation during the 2009 Copenhagen Summit.


Could we have a few like her in this country? Please?

Anyway, my letter to the Manila Bulletin:

At this point, there is no valid rationale for doubting the danger posed by anthropogenic global warming. Atmospheric heating triggered by the greenhouse effect was predicted decades ago, and climatologists have been refining their understanding of these phenomena since then. It is a cruel irony that through accidents of geography, the world’s wealthiest and most developed nations may the last to be severely affected. These countries are responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse emissions, while the nations with negligible carbon footprints stand to lose the most to rising sea levels, extreme weather, crippling drought and all the other predicted consequences of climate change. The Philippines’ initiative to plan ahead for likely outcomes in a world of climate chaos is an important example to the rest of the world. There are many good ways to prepare for the future — but avoiding the facts is not one of them.

Warren Senders

Month 12, Day 28: Beginners’ Luck

The Contra Costa Times runs an article highlighting the work of a climate delegate from the Cook Islands. At the time I wrote this letter, there was but one comment on the article, a pitch-perfect version of the teabag denialist mentality.

It is true: Americans have been protected from the increasingly severe ravages of climate change by the luck of the geographical draw. It’s also true that Americans are insulated (but not protected) from the facts of global warming by a complacent and lazy media that prefers the ease of he-said/she-said stenography to actual reporting and factual analysis. At least the first part of this equation is going to change in the decades to come, as the consequences of the greenhouse effect are felt ever more on the North American continent. As to whether our news and communications systems are up to the task of informing Americans about the nature of the emergency we face, we have good reason to be skeptical. Looking at the contorted rationalizations of climate deniers in the public, in the media and in our politics, it is harder and harder to believe that our country’s citizens can recognize the crisis before it is too late. The citizens of the Cook Islands do not have the luxury of ignorance; for them, the rising waves have already arrived.

Warren Senders