Year 2, Month 12, Day 5: Variations On A Theme

The Albany Times-Union runs the same AP article on Pachauri’s remarks (see yesterday’s letter for a blockquote). So I took yesterday’s piece, filed off all the serial numbers, and passed it along.

Sent November 30 (now I’m five days ahead of the curve!):

Seeking to justify inaction on climate change, self-styled fiscal conservatives are fond of invoking the specter of expense. But as Rajendra Pachauri makes clear, the economic impacts of a runaway greenhouse effect will be far more exorbitant than any costs associated with shifting to an energy economy based on the principles of sustainability.

Genuine financial responsibility implies living within one’s means, and it’s time for the world’s biggest burners of fossil fuels to recognize the hidden costs of the energy they’ve long regarded as inexpensive. Climate chaos’ impacts on infrastructure, public health, and agriculture (to name just three vulnerable sectors of the economy) will be devastating in ways that neither business or government have anticipated — and once we include all these factors in our calculations, coal and oil stand revealed as exorbitantly costly.

Our species cannot afford any more “cheap energy” if we are to survive the coming centuries.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 12, Day 4: Just Wait For The Balance-Transfer Offers!

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution runs an AP article on Rajendra Pachauri’s words about how expensive climate change is certain to be:

DURBAN, South Africa — The U.N.’s top climate scientist cautioned climate negotiators Wednesday that global warming is leading to human dangers and soaring financial costs, but containing carbon emissions will have a host of benefits.

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, summarized a litany of potential disasters at a U.N. climate conference in the South African city of Durban. Although he gave no explicit deadlines, the implication was that time is running out for greenhouse gas emissions to level off and begin to decline.

If we won’t change our ways to save the planet’s biosphere, maybe we’ll do it to save money. Sent November 30:

Time is running out for the spurious fiscal arguments that have been deployed over and over again to justify inaction on climate change. As extreme weather becomes the norm, there will be huge impacts in every area of the economy. Public health, infrastructure, agriculture, transportation — all will be profoundly affected in ways neither public or private sectors have anticipated.

Such climate-related expenses are direct consequences of our century-long binge of fossil-fuel consumption. But now, the hidden costs of our energy economy are becoming obvious; oil and coal are suddenly very expensive once these factors have been included.

Financial responsibility now requires two things. First, paying off our debt to the environment; we’ve exceeded our credit limit and are now incurring significant penalties. And second, we must build an energy economy that ensures that all citizens of Earth live within their ecological means. Sustainability and fiscal responsibility must be synonymous.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 24: Who’s That Knocking At My Door?

More on the IPCC report, this time from America’s McNewspaper:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, obtained in draft form by USA TODAY, stresses that expanding cities and populations worldwide, also raise the odds of severe impacts from weather disasters.

“Unprecedented extreme weather and climate events” look likely in coming decades as a result of a changing climate, says the draft report. The final version was released early today by IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri at a meeting hosted by report sponsors, the World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Programme, in Kampala, Uganda.

Nothin’ to see here, folks. Move along. Move along.

Sent November 20:

Climate-change denialists are sounding increasingly desperate these days, as the volume of evidence and analysis mounts ever higher. Coming hard on the heels of a recently-issued study from the International Energy Agency (which gives us about five years to change our fossil-fuelish ways or risk irreversible damage to the Earth’s climate) is the IPCC report, which offers a sobering preview of what that irreversible damage is likely to look like.

Enthusiastic fans of Armageddon will enjoy the IPCC’s predictions, which include droughts, wildfires, unpredictable storms of unprecedented severity, massive disruption of agriculture and infrastructure, and political instability, often in areas of the world that are nuclear-armed and dangerous.

It’s too bad the greenhouse effect doesn’t come with a scary-sounding name that politicians could invoke to mobilize our nation to action, for all that excess atmospheric CO2 is sure to do far more damage than any terrorist group ever could.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 8, Day 14: Is Anyone Listening?

The July 27 Manila Bulletin lets Rajendra Pachauri tell it like it is:

MANILA, Philippines — The key facts on global warming are already known and leaders should not wait for the next edition of the UN climate panel’s report to step up action, the body’s top scientist told AFP.

The 4th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released in 2007, “is very clear,” Rajendra Pachauri said Monday in Paris, ahead of a five-day meeting of the body in Brest, France.

The fifth multi-volume assessment, which summarizes peer-reviewed science to help policy makers make decisions, is due out in 2013-2014.

“We have enough evidence, enough scientific findings which should convince people that action has to be taken,” he said after a round-table discussion with France’s environment minister, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.

“Based on observation, we know that there will be more floods, more drought, more heat waves and more extreme precipitation events. These things are happening,” Pachauri said.

Sent July 29:

It is beyond foolish to delay action on mitigating the effects of climate change any further. Rajendra Pachauri is entirely correct; the accumulated evidence overwhelmingly supports the idea that global warming is caused by human civilization’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Responsibility for the solution must be borne by all the world’s nations, for building a sustainable future that protects us all against the ravages of a radically transformed climate is a civilizational project. But consider the predicament of an island state facing physical elimination in consequence of rising sea levels triggered by the greenhouse effect. Because large industrialized countries have contributed far more to the problem over the past century, it is economically sensible and morally just that they should contribute proportionally to the solution. If the tables were turned, and a tiny nation’s actions threatened the existence of one of the world’s great powers, could anyone doubt the outcome?

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 15: One Of The Good Guys…

Pachauri stays.

It is good news that Rajendra Pachauri is going to retain his position as head of the UN Climate Panel. While Pachauri’s tenure has been marked by controversies, none are of his own making, and he should not be compelled to leave a position for which he is eminently suited because of a spurious publicity campaign. The oft-cited errors in the 2007 IPCC report no more invalidate the bulk of that document than a reportorial mistake in the Times negates the rest of the paper’s news. The barrage of ginned-up “scandals” aimed at reducing the credibility of the IPCC and of climatologists in general has crippled our ability to sustain a reality-based discussion on climate issues (as witness the Republican party’s comprehensively anti-science stance, unthinkable a decade ago). Here’s hoping that Dr. Pachauri can help us wake up to the reality of global climate change before it’s too late.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 2: It’s Too Darn Hot.

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran an AP story about the IPCC, with a headline that was not supported by anything in the story.

Corporate-funded denialism went into full-bore attack mode when the IPCC reports were first released. Minor discrepancies were blown up into international scientific scandals, which dissipated under further investigation. Rajendra Pachauri was charged with conflicts of interest — and has been completely exonerated. Evidence for scientific misconduct is extraordinarily flimsy — while evidence confirming human causes of global warming is extraordinarily robust. Ninety-seven percent of climatologists agree on the factuality of anthropogenic climate change— an impressive number (what would you do if ninety-seven out of a hundred oncologists told you a lump was malignant?). Meanwhile, the physical effects of climate chaos are harder and harder to ignore. When we see Pakistan’s floods, Russia’s droughts, a heat wave hammering the country, anomalous rain, snow and storms, we’re getting a picture of what’s in store for us in the years to come. We should be heeding the IPCC’s findings, not quibbling about minutiae.

Warren Senders

Month 2, Day 10: All the Specious Equivalence That’s Fit To Print

Thank goodness for Daily Kos. Today I saw two useful posts which provided me with the recipient of this letter (the New York Times) and a framing device which surfaces briefly in my 145 words.

The first, cleverly titled “NYT Soils Itself, AGAIN!” described an article about conflict of interest accusations against Dr. Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC, and rebuked the Times for its “balanced” approach to the subject, which presents unsubstantiated allegations from AGW skeptics as somehow forming a valid counter-argument to the intensively documented and cross-checked work of the IPCC’s scientists.

The second was an article by David Brin (who’s a wonderful science-fiction novelist when he’s not writing at Dkos) noting that the climate-change denial business is a manifestation of the pervasive anti-intellectualism that saturates American culture. I strongly encourage you to read “The Real Struggle Behind Climate Change — A War on Expertise.” It rings very, very true.

So that’s the backstory for today’s letter. Off it goes to the Paper of Record, almost certainly to be filed and forgotten. Does that deter me? Not yet.

The climate-denial sector criticizes Dr. Rajendra Pachauri for supposed conflicts of interest, and generalizes to suggest that the conclusions of the I.P.C.C. are somehow compromised. These aspersions are a troubling confluence of two influences: entrenched corporate resistance to any change in business practices, and anti-intellectualism masquerading as common sense. Thousands of qualified climatologists are firmly convinced of anthropogenic global warming, yet professional denialists suggest they’re lying about it for the most venal of reasons — to increase their chances of grant funding! The evidence suggests otherwise: that Christopher Monckton and his ilk are the ones doing the lying — and receiving fat paychecks for doing so. The Times needs to report aggressively on the funding and control of the climate-denial industry, rather than adhere to a specious policy of false equivalence in which scientific facts are “balanced” by unsupported assertions from corporate shills.

Warren Senders