It was three and a half years ago that I began writing letters to the editor on the subject of climate change. This daily "practice of conscience" has had its good impacts on my life: the ego boost of publication in a major or unusual venue; the satisfaction of a well-turned phrase; the honing of my craft as a writer; the occasional approbation of my colleagues and peers. It's also had its negative effects, mostly due to this regular ritualized immersion in dire news and the self-imposed discipline involved in summarizing and commenting on it.
Carolyn Raffensperger accurately speaks to my condition in her essay, "Moral Injuries and the Environment: Healing the Soul Wounds of the Body Politic."
The moral injury stemming from our participation in destruction of the planet has two dimensions: knowledge of our role and an inability to act. We know that we are causing irreparable damage. We are both individually and collectively responsible. But we are individually unable to make systemic changes that actually matter. The moral injury isn’t so much a matter of the individual psyche, but a matter of the body politic. Our culture lacks the mechanisms for taking account of collective moral injuries and then finding the vision and creativity to address them. The difference between a soldier’s moral injury and our environmental moral injuries is that environmental soul wounds aren’t a shattering of moral expectations but a steady, grinding erosion, a slow-motion relentless sorrow.Pre-traumatic stress disorder. Let that marinate in your mind for a moment.
My environmental lawyer friend Bob Gough says that he suffers from pre-traumatic stress disorder. Pre-traumatic stress disorder is short hand for the fact that he is fully aware of the future trauma, the moral injury that we individually and collectively suffer, the effects on the Earth of that injury and our inability to act in time. Essentially pre-traumatic stress disorder, the environmentalist’s malady, is a result of our inability to prevent harm.
There are two kinds of independence which need declaring. We must end our dysfunctional relationships with fossil fuels and the economic forces that compel their use — this is a practical independence exemplified by reducing or eliminating wasteful behaviors (at the personal and local levels) and advocating strongly for society-wide actions to make these reductions universal.
And there is another set of forces that have directed our lives in ways that now threaten our species' potential for a future of joyous exploration of the universe. Most of Western civilization is caught in a for-the-most-part unarticulated narrative that lurches inexorably toward a crashing final conflict and a happily-ever-after epilogue. Our stories, symphonies, movies, and eschatologies are suffused with this notion, which is why so many people have a hard time visualizing or understanding what a sustainable civilization would look like. It's also a big part of why so many conservatives reject the idea of sustainability so viscerally; a truly long-term vision of humanity is for them a religious abomination (they hate environmentalists because they cannot stand the idea of hippies in heaven.).
We must end our dysfunctional relationship with this civilizational story, for such a narrative, if unexamined, will not end well for the multivariate manifestations of DNA on this little rock rotating a little star.
This is the first philosophical declaration of independence:
We reject the story of cataclysm and redemption offered to most of us without alternative by our civilization. There are cultural narratives which express humanity's narrative ecologically instead of teleologically; let us turn to these in this time of crisis.^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Now, some climate letters which have made it into print over the past few months.
We begin with Denialist Idiots, because they are so many, so varied, so much fun to mock, so essential to correct in public forums. Here are a few letters addressing the inanities of Republicans:
BREAKING: Idiot half-term governor's hand-picked replacement is also an idiot:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Before being picked as John McCain’s running mate in 2008, Governor Sarah Palin seemed a true believer in climate change. In September 2007, responding to requests for urgent action, Palin established the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet to develop and implement a comprehensive Alaska Climate Change Strategy.The changer things get, the samer they stay. March 2:
But we’ve just learned that, after Palin resigned in summer 2009 and Sean Parnell (a former ConocoPhillips executive) replaced her as governor, the new governor essentially terminated the Climate Cabinet, without informing the Alaska public. Evidently, Gov. Parnell does not think the risk of climate change in Alaska serious enough to continue the Climate Cabinet, or perhaps he fears it may compromise his “drill-baby-drill” economic plan. Either way, this is spectacularly irresponsible.
In establishing the Climate Cabinet, Palin correctly stated that: “Climate change is not just an environmental issue. It is also a social, cultural, and economic issue important to all Alaskans. As a result of this warming, coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, retreating sea ice, record forest fires, and other changes are affecting, and will continue to affect, the lifestyles and livelihoods of Alaskans. Alaska needs a strategy to identify and mitigate potential impacts of climate change and to guide its efforts in evaluating and addressing known or suspected causes of climate change.”
The distance between "should" and "will" is vivdly evident in the cavalier dismissal of Alaska's climate change sub-cabinet by Governor Parnell. The readiness of self-styled "conservatives" to do anything but conserve would be astonishing if it weren't so predictable.Published.
Under climbing Arctic temperatures, huge swaths of land will become unrecognizable; ecosystems which developed to fit Alaska's unique conditions will struggle to adapt to an environment changing too fast for evolution to keep up. Climatologists' predictions of the impact of an increasingly hotter world have, if anything, underestimated the speed, severity, and complexity of the damage; to willfully ignore science because its findings are inconvenient or uncomfortable is to live in a dream world.
Conservative climate-change deniers in American politics need to visit the real world — a place where superstorms, droughts, heat waves and drastic ecological transformations are already underway. Governor Parnell needs to wake up and smell the permafrost.
Another day, another dullard. Meet Pennsylvania meteorologist Tom Russell:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Let’s say you’re an alien and your spaceship landed here on Earth in the 1500’s. Then you landed here again in 2013. Now think globally.His mother was a hamster and his father smelled of elderberries. March 10:
Would you say the climate on Planet Earth is generally the same? Same Oceans? Same land masses? You’d probably say it’s the same climate too, right?
Or maybe you’d look more closely and say the climate has changed. What? Climate change?
The point is, perspective matters.
Ken Caldeira of Stanford University says, “Climate is the statistics of weather over the long term.” Turns out the climate is always changing, no matter the time scale, hourly, monthly, yearly, per decade, etc. Even your every 500 year alien visit.
A recent Midwest snow storm was described in the media as “crippling.” Really? An 8-inch snowfall in the Midwest in February is so unusual it’s crippling? Makes you wonder if the weather really is worse than ever or just our reaction to it. Maybe we should dial it back a bit.
And our recent non-snowstorm should be a reminder of our forecast modeling limitations. Imagine carrying out that margin of error over 50 or 100 years.
Tom Russell falls into an ancient logical fallacy: the argument from personal incredulity. But an inability to understand climate change is not a valid argument against its existence. He's certainly correct that the extreme weather Americans are now experiencing is not unprecedented, and that the climate has always been changing. But his argument nevertheless fails.Published.
First, no climatologist has ever said that our current weather is entirely new. Rather, they tell us that the frequency, intensity, and unpredictability of extreme weather is increasing — and that this increase is directly correlated with rising atmospheric temperatures. Second, no scientist has ever said our climate has always remained the same. Rather, they tell us that the past eleven millennia have a climate stable enough for agriculture to develop, and in its wake, a complex civilization — and that these "stable enough" conditions are currently ending.
The thing is, human intuition is poorly equipped to make sense of planet-wide data and geological timescales; Mr. Russell and his colleagues in the world of meteorology work exclusively with local and regional data on timescales a fortnight or less. Humans' intuitions do poorly on larger scales of time and space, which is why science is important. Climatologists work with statistical analysis, historical data, and a continually improving model of the Earth's climate — and they've have been making steadily more accurate predictions for decades.
Mr. Russell may not like the facts of climate change, but he's going to have to live with them.
Sometimes you get a Denialist Idiot saying or doing stupid stuff to a Climate Hero, and in these cases it's always a pleasure to step up to the plate and write something simultaneously extolling the good and condemning the bad.
For example, Jay Inslee (Hero) vs. Don Benton (Idiot):
The Seattle Times notes WA Governor Inslee's commitment to issues that genuinely transcend politics:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
OLYMPIA — There was a telling moment just before Gov. Jay Inslee raised his right hand and took the oath of office.Well, add Don Benton to our list of dingalings, I guess. March 19:
He was introduced as a politician who sees climate change as “an existential threat that transcends politics.”
“More than any other president or governor before him, Jay has an electoral mandate on this issue,” Denis Hayes, organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970, told a packed audience in the rotunda two months ago.
If lawmakers did not grasp the significance of those remarks then, they do now.
Inslee talks about climate change all the time. He discussed it in his inaugural address, during most of his news conferences, when introducing a bill on the issue in the state House and Senate, even in announcing his choice for transportation secretary.
Still, not everyone was expecting so much, so soon.
“I think there are greater, more pressing priorities at the moment,” said Senate Deputy Republican Leader Don Benton, R-Vancouver. “I think we need to look long term, and do little things that add up over time that will benefit and help the climate-change situation and the environment. But they are long-term strategies.”
Of course State Senator Don Benton thinks there are more important things "at the moment" than climate change. Of course he's ready to advocate "little things that add up over time" that may help us address what he charmingly calls the "climate-change situation."Published.
There will always be more pressing short-term issues than climate change, because even a steadily accelerating greenhouse effect is going to offer consequences on a time-scale larger than that of electoral politics. While there is no magic bullet that will fix the burgeoning climate crisis any more than there is a pill to cure lung cancer, this fact simply reinforces Governor Inslee's sense of genuine responsibility.
That the climate "situation" is vastly larger than the problems usually preoccupying our politicians is no reason to dismiss it. There may be more important things at the moment — but climate change is not an issue of the moment, but of the millennium.
Or, in this case, Sheldon Whitehouse (Hero) vs. James Inhofe (Idiot):
The New York Daily News, on Sheldon Whitehouse and Oklahoma:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
A Democratic Senator who came under fire for linking turbulent weather in Oklahoma to Republican politicians who don’t believe in climate change has apologized for the ill-timed remarks.As you value your sanity, avoid the comment thread on this article. May 23:
Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on Wednesday said he wasn’t aware that deadly tornadoes were hitting Oklahoma at the same time he made his statement, in which he criticized Republicans who take issue with climate change but still seek out federal relief funds after natural disasters.
“Tragically and unbeknownst to the senator at the time, a series of tornadoes were hitting Oklahoma at the same moment he gave his remarks,” a Whitehouse spokesman told FoxNews.com
“Senator Whitehouse regrets the timing of his speech and offers his thoughts and prayers to the victims of yesterday’s storms and their families, and he stands ready to work with the senators from Oklahoma to assist them and their constituents in this time of need,” the spokesman added.
Sheldon Whitehouse's weekly speeches frequently note the impact of extreme weather events on different states in the US. While his apology for the timing of a recent address is gracious and welcome, he's got nothing to be ashamed of. Oklahoma's own Senators, by contrast, are a different story. Tom Coburn's "fiscal conservatism" is a kind of derangement in which spurious principles are misapplied to the detriment of his own constituents — while James Inhofe's career is based on denying basic science when it conflicts with his ideological prejudices and the desires of his paymasters in the fossil-fuel industry.Published.
Storms are caused by heat; a hotter world feeds more storms. Insurance companies are already observing a steady rise in storm-caused property damage, which is going to cost them real money, which is why, unlike Mr. Inhofe and his denialist colleagues in Congress, they're taking the problem seriously. Like Senator Whitehouse.
Lois Capps (Hero) vs. Paul Coyne (Idiot):
Meet Paul Coyne, a congressional candidate in California. He's a Republican, hence an ignorant asshole. The Ventura County Reporter:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara/Ventura, co-sponsored a House resolution suggesting there may be a link between prostitution and climate change, and Paul Coyne, Jr., a 2014 candidate for Capps’ congressional seat, has pounced on her for making such a claim.Bet you didn't see that coming. May 24:
“This is over the edge and a little out of touch with reality and the needs of our district right now,” said Coyne. “People are searching for jobs, looking for their next meal. There are higher priorities than this.”
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, introduced the resolution that says climate change can cause drought and reduced agricultural output, which can be harmful for women who have limited socioeconomic resources and “may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy and poor reproductive health.”
Because weather patterns are changing, chances for regional conflict increase with climate change, the resolution says. This could lead to a refugee and migration crisis, which also links to prostitution.
One of the commonest phrases heard from conservative politicians is "nobody anticipated." "Nobody" anticipated the crumbling levees in New Orleans during Katrina, the disastrous consequences of the Iraq invasion, the environmental impacts of oil spills, the widespread infrastructural failures that happen when the funding for public works is pulled, or the horrors of 9/11 (the August 6 PDB notwithstanding). And "nobody" is anticipating the thousands of large and small repercussions of global climate change, such as invasive insect pests, resurgent tropical diseases, agricultural collapses — and profound consequences for women around the world who are struggling in poverty.Published.
"Nobody," that is, except environmentalists, scientists, and the occasional politician like Lois Capps, who recognizes that an important and essential function of effective government is to analyze and consider the possible repercussions of our laws and policies. By mocking Representative Capps, Paul Coyne shows himself ignorant of the deeper responsibilities of public service.
And my personal favorite in this category, Michael Mann (Hero) vs. Ken Cuccinelli (Idiot). When this letter was published, I forwarded it to Dr. Mann along with an offer to be Huxley to his Darwin any time it was required; he sent me a nice note of thanks. How often does anyone get to invoke Ignaz Semmelweiss these days?
The Roanoke News takes on Ken Cuccinelli in a must-read column by Dan Casey:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
The question of the day is, did Cuccinelli learn his law school lessons about fraud? His tenure as attorney general leaves you wondering. Let’s consider two prominent fraud cases Cuccinelli has been mixed up in.Go read the whole thing. June 2:
The first concerns former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann, who’s now at Penn State. While he was at UVa, Mann published a paper that revealed the “hockey stick graph,” a chart that showed steeply rising temperatures on Earth in the past 100 years.
During its probe, the attorney general’s office demanded UVa turn over many documents, including emails between Mann and 39 other climate scientists around the world that went back more than a decade. Nearly two years later, the Virginia Supreme Court shot down the fishing expedition, and the investigation ended.
The second case involves an alleged Florida con man who, under the fake identity “Bobby Thompson,” created and ran the U.S. Navy Veterans Association scam. Via telemarketing, the group raked in as much as $100 million nationwide; it reported taking in more than $2.6 million from Virginians in 2009 alone.
That year, Virginia suspended fundraising by the U.S. Navy Vets because it had failed to comply with charity paperwork reporting requirements. Rather than submit the paperwork, Thompson made $67,500 in campaign contributions to Virginia lawmakers.
Of that, $55,500 went in three separate contributions to then-state senator Cuccinelli, who was running for attorney general. Cuccinelli personally telephoned Thompson in August 2009 and requested the third contribution. That one was for $50,000.
Understanding Ken Cuccinelli's crusade against climatologist Michael Mann requires us to look beyond the Attorney General's contemptible defense of a garden-variety swindlers. Since politicians and lawyers often have a great affinity for con men, it's hardly surprising that Cuccinelli wound up in "Bobby Thompson's" corner.Published.
Mann, on the other hand, is a scientist who has spent his professional life in a search, not for riches, but for robust historical evidence about the ongoing changes in Earth's climate. Because his findings and analyses were problematic for the corporate forces who've bankrolled climate-change denial in America for decades, his work had to be discredited at all costs — hence the usefulness of an ideologically-propelled Attorney General.
Cuccinelli's vindictiveness has historical parallels. For example, take the 19th-century discoverer of antisepsis: Ignaz Semmelweiss died at 47 after his life-saving findings were denounced by medical professionals who resented being told to wash their hands. Climatologists like Michael Mann are planetary doctors; rejecting their findings will translate into unimaginable losses of life and property in the coming decades — losses which will redden the hands of anti-science zealots like Cuccinelli, and be remembered throughout human history as a tragedy triggered by greed and ignorance.
One of the hardest freedoms to declare and to sustain is that which detaches us from the success of our actions.
I have no illusions that my letter-writing will actually bring about the social, political and technological transformations which are necessary for the sustainable future of my dreams. The overwhelming probability is that within my daughter's lifetime, much of Earthly life will be extinguished, some by attrition, some by starvation, some in conditions of pain, confusion, and terror. No matter how many letters I write, how much money I raise with benefit concerts...those are the cold and inexorable equations.
So why go on?
Because resisting evil and destruction is always the right thing to do.
Because statistics are just statistics; somebody does win the lottery. Maybe it'll be us; maybe we'll find a way out.
Because while I may not be able to end my personal melancholy, I'm not going to let it stop me from fighting the civilizational insanity.
Because I want my daughter to be proud of me.
I declare independence from despair.
Another category of letters falls under the heading of Praise Where Praise Is Due. Sometimes organizations and groups need a shout-out, like these students in Chicago:
The Hyde Park Herald (IL) notes UofC students' divestiture campaign:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Students at the University of Chicago aren’t remaining silent in their demand that the university stop investing its money in companies that deal in coal and fossil fuels.This is a rewritten version of the letter published in the Journal of Higher Education. Sent March 14:
“The petition is something we’ve been working on getting signed all quarter,” said Marissa Lieberman-Klein, a fourth year anthropology student.
The student organization Stop Funding Climate Change, UChicago delivered a petition with more than 500 signatures to president Robert Zimmer’s office on Friday afternoon.
The students asked the university to immediately stop investing any money in companies such as Exxon Mobil or Arch Coal and within the next five years have removed all of its financial investments from companies that produce fossil fuels.
Last quarter, the students delivered a letter to Zimmer’s office demanding a meeting on the topic with the board of trustees. Lieberman-Klein said the students had yet to receive a response.
In the fight against climate change, the student-led campaign encouraging colleges and universities to end their fossil-fuel investments is a genuinely hopeful sign. While financial analyses have shown that divestiture won't negatively impact institutional portfolios, doing the right thing shouldn't require a fiscal rationale.Published.
Education is based on the principle that knowledge can be transmitted across boundaries of age and culture, thereby ensuring a future of steadily increasing wisdom. Such a future is gravely imperiled by climate change, a planetary crisis precipitated by industrial civilization's rapid introduction of millions of years' accumulated carbon into the atmosphere in a geological instant, and exacerbated by the destructive business practices of big oil and coal companies.
Continued support of fossil fuels may be profitable in the short run, but it is a betrayal of our societal commitment to a better future. In striving to change UChicago's investment policies, these students demonstrate a profound commitment to the true ideals of education: fostering responsibility to and for the greater social good.
And sometimes it's a heroic individual whose work provides the hook for a necessary warning, as is the case with Dr. Tetsuhide Yamazaki:
The Japan Times introduces us to a polar explorer and total mensch:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
RESOLUTE, NUNAVUT – Spending six months of every year in the Arctic, adventurer Tetsuhide Yamazaki sees the impact of global warming firsthand through the region’s thinning sea ice, the expanse of which has roughly halved in the last three decades.There's a hero for you. April 18:
The ice is “very thin this year,” Yamazaki, 45, said after confirming a thickness of 118 cm with a drill during his recent exploration of an area at the North Pole. Sea ice in the area is usually almost 2 meters thick, according to Yamazaki, who senses the ice grows thinner every year.
Born in October 1967 in Hyogo Prefecture and raised in a coastal town in Fukui Prefecture, Yamazaki decided to become an explorer when he was in high school in Kyoto after reading a book by well-known adventurer Naomi Uemura, who climbed Mount McKinley solo in 1970. The explorer was lost on the mountain in February 1984.
After graduating, Yamazaki worked in Tokyo to save funds for his first trip at age 19 — rafting the Amazon. But it ended in failure after his boat capsized. The following year, Yamazaki successfully rafted some 5,000 km down the river in over a span of 44 days.
This February, he camped on an ice floe in the Arctic at a latitude of 74 degrees north. The temperature was minus 41 degrees, and the inside of his tent was covered with frost that formed from moisture released from his body. The dogs drawing his sled were around the tent.
While a scientist can observe its impact very clearly in the Arctic, global climate change is no longer something only specialists can detect, but a phenomenon which affects us all, regardless of where we live. The interconnected web of Earthly life is far more sensitive to environmental factors than most of us can imagine, and climatic disruption is making itself felt in ways that will only become more severe as the greenhouse effect intensifies.Published.
When flowers open a fortnight early, the insects that fertilize them may still be in their larval stages. When plants fail to spread their seeds, animals that depend on them for nourishment may have to seek food elsewhere. When agriculture reels under the impact of extreme weather or devastating drought, food prices go up.
For years we have thought of climate change as something that belongs to future times and distant places. Dr. Tetsuhide Yamazaki's observations confirm: the consequences of industrial civilization's fossil-fuel consumption belong to us all. There is no time left to waste, and no place left to hide.
Here are a few more letters on the general theme of Calling Out Republicans and Corporations For Being Such Total And Utter Dicks:
Radical economist Winona LaDuke, in the Duluth News-Tribune:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
The problems facing our nation can’t be solved in Washington, D.C., said Winona LaDuke, economist, author and two-time vice presidential candidate for the Green Party. The solution starts at home.I like Winona LaDuke; I think she'd probably agree with the gist of this letter. May 4:
“You’re either at the table or on the menu,” LaDuke, a member of the White Earth band of Ojibwe, said in a speech Thursday at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
She focused on three main issues: climate change, extreme energy addiction and the rising cost to transport food.
“I’d really like to get people to hang around another thousand years,” LaDuke said. “And so the question is how are we going to do that?”
People today have two paths in front of them, one well-worn and scorched, the other green and less traveled.
“We’re the ones who can keep them from putting a mine in … our watershed, which is the wrong thing to do,” she said. “We’re the ones that can keep them from combusting the planet to oblivion. We’re the ones that can keep them from changing the direction of any more rivers or blowing off the top of mountains, yeah. Or genetically engineering the world’s food chain … what a great spiritual opportunity that is, to be those people, to do the right thing.”
It's indisputable that the struggle to address global heating and its devastating consequences must be waged on the home front, and Winona LaDuke is correct in her assertion that for the most part, useful approaches to the climate crisis will probably not emerge from Washington, DC. But this simplistic formulation ignores the role that our notoriously dysfunctional Congress plays in making it exponentially more difficult for individual, local, and regional solutions to develop and flourish.Published.
When Republican Representatives and Senators demonize science and block even the most eminently sensible legislation for patently political motivations, this sets them in opposition to the American people's natural impulse to action and innovation. When conservative media downplay the danger of climate change and instead assert bizarre conspiracy theories, they corrupt the national conversation and make it harder for ordinary citizens to stay well-informed about the grave threat posed by a runaway greenhouse effect.
People are waking up. Slowly, but they are definitely waking up.
The San Diego Union-Times notes that their city's residents are looking around them, and not liking what they see:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
More than four out of five San Diegans are concerned about climate change, according to a newly released poll commissioned by a coalition of local universities and policy groups.The Times-Union has a 125-word limit, most anomalously. May 19:
The telephone survey of 1,211 residents found that 84 percent of respondents believe climate change is happening, but that more than half think it’s not caused by human activities. About 72 percent believe climate change will affect them personally, while 58 percent believe their actions can make a difference in curtailing its effects.
Climate Education Partners, which commissioned the polling, includes the University of San Diego, California State University San Marcos, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the San Diego Foundation.
The survey of randomly selected residents cut across ethnic, economic and political lines, with 30 percent of participants answering in Spanish, said Michel Boudrias, lead scientist for Climate Education Partners and chairman of the University of San Diego’s department of marine science and environmental studies.
As atmospheric CO2 creeps ominously past the 400 ppm level, the day-to-day signs of global climate change are everywhere. Droughts, extreme storms, unpredictable temperature swings, longer and more intense fire seasons — name a place on Earth, and there are indicators that catastrophic climate shifts are under way.Published.
With one shameful exception.
In the air-conditioned offices of fossil-fuel CEOs (along with the politicians and media figures they employ), there's nothing to worry about. Insulated by billions of dollars from the terrifying realities of a climatically transformed planet, these malefactors of great wealth wield grossly disproportionate influence over our national and regional politics — an influence which they are using to block any responsible policy initiatives on climate change and the necessary transformations of our energy economy.
Sometimes the hook for a letter is a local or regional phenomenon, in which case I try to draw the connection to whatever crazy stuff is going on elsewhere in the world, as in this response to an article on the potential problems for California winemakers:
The Riverside Press-Enterprise (CA) talks about climate change's effect on winemakers in the area:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Grape growing in the Temecula Valley Wine Country and other prime wine-producing regions of California would wither by mid-century if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated and farmers don’t make significant adjustments to their crops, say the authors of a new climate change study.And those projections are the conservative ones. April 21:
Under a worst-case scenario, the area suitable for wine production in the Temecula region would shrink by more than half by 2050, according to the work by Conservation International and Environmental Defense Fund, which looked at the impacts of climate change on wine production and conservation. The loss would be smaller if international agreements were reached to reduce emissions, researchers said.
“Certainly in the lowlands it looks like there’s plenty of declining suitability,” said study co-author Patrick Roehrdanz, a researcher at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. “We don’t use the word disappear, but you have to do something to compensate for decline in precipitation.”
Under state projections, temperatures around the Temecula wine country would increase about 2 degrees by 2050 under the lowest emission levels. The average temperature in the area was 62.6 degrees in 1975; by 2050, it is expected to be 67.2 degrees, according to the Cal-Adapt website.
As California winemakers assess the impact of climate change on their grapes, they can feel comforted that conservative politicians and media figures believe the greenhouse effect is a liberal hoax. These prominent denialists also believe that decades of careful scientific research on the world’s climate are irrelevant, since scientists are only interested in money. By viewing the climate crisis through ideological lenses, they've made it impossible to discuss science without a political slant — and the consequences are going to be devastating to agriculture in America and the world.Published.
The undisputed facts of global warming have been part of climate science for decades, but denialists have steadily hindered and delayed action for the basest of motives: short-term greed. Their radical refusal address the consequences of our greenhouse emissions is now bearing fruit, and as Temecula Valley vintners are coming to realize, it’s going to be a bitter vintage indeed.
Or the problems of homeowners in Ottowa:
The Ottowa Citizen tells its readers that the ground is shifting beneath their feet:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
OTTAWA — We learn from Saturday’s paper that carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is at its highest concentration in the atmosphere in three million years.Everything's an analogy these days. May 13:
Over shouts of “We’re No. 1!”, it might be opportune to mention an unexplored consequence of climate change: our houses are cracking up.
Ottawa is built, with some exceptions, on a vast stretch of what the experts call “sensitive clay soil”, usually referred locally as leda, the old basin of the Champlain Sea.
During a prolonged drought in an urban area, here is the shorthand version of what happens: the band of clay dries out and shrinks, thirsty trees go deeper and further looking for water, buried voids begin to form, the footings of houses begin to slip and sag, and the hapless homeowner arrives home one day asking: “That’s funny, wonder why the front door is sticking?”
Here is a more scientific description from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
“Sensitive clays have a higher proportion of water among their small particles. These tiny plate-like particles are arranged like a house of cards, holding each other up when the spaces between them are filled with water.
“When there is a severe loss of water, they collapse, leading to a reduction of soil volume and soil shrinkage.”
As the clay upon which they're constructed dries and shrinks, corresponding fault lines appear in Ottowa's buildings themselves, as walls and foundations attempt to compensate for deep fundamental transformations happening under the surface. On a local level, this may be just a story about houses and soil — but the settling and cracking of ground and concrete is a potent metaphor for the profound and potentially devastating changes now under way everywhere around the world.Published.
The grand edifice of human civilization was made possible by a stable and benign climate which permitted agriculture to flourish, helping us move from a simple struggle for daily survival to the grand and inspiring sweep of our species' achievements. This complex and interdependent society rests upon countless environmental factors which we have long taken for granted, but which are now threatened by global climate change. If we do not act promptly and responsibly to address the crisis, we will find that the Earth has shifted beneath our feet, leaving our mansion unable to stand.
Occasionally I'm able to address geopolitical aspects of climate change. Here's a fairly strong anti-colonialist message to a US-based Indian community magazine:
India West talks about the economic implications of climate change:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Sustainable development that mitigates the impact of climate change for India’s poor can only be achieved by the devolution of the Indian government, stated prominent social activist Sunita Narain at a March 27 lecture at Arizona State University.A smallpox-infested atmospheric blanket offered to the world's poor. May 14:
“Getting the model of development right so that everyone has access to health care, water and energy supplies is only achievable when the government is de-centralized,” Narain told India-West in an interview after the lecture, which was organized by ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.
The director general of the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, Narain has received numerous accolades for her work, including the Padma Shri – India’s highest honor – in 2005. In 2007, Narain was named by Time magazine as one of India’s 15 most influential people. Foreign Policy magazine has thrice named Narain one of the world’s best intellectuals.
“Climate change is already hurting the world’s most poor and vulnerable,” stated Narain, explaining that rainwater – a major resource for India’s largely agrarian population – has been inconsistent, with more rainfall, but for a fewer number of days.
“Farmers are very desperate today. This is their livelihood; it is the only thing they know. And we can send them to cities to get jobs, but the urban sector doesn’t have the ability to absorb all those people,” stated Narain.
As rising levels of carbon dioxide push the greenhouse effect into overdrive, agriculture all over the world is going to be affected; harvests will shrink, crops will come under attack from invasive parasites and diseases, and inevitably subsistence farmers and small landholders in the world's poorest countries are going to suffer. In comparison to rich and developed countries, Bangladesh's carbon footprint is statistically insignificant, yet its citizens are facing imminent displacement from their lands, lives and hopes due to rising sea levels — and this is just one example of a worldwide phenomenon. The cruel irony of global warming is that while the greenhouse emissions triggering planetary warming are produced by the richest and most privileged among us, those who are already economically and politically disenfranchised will reap the whirlwind.Published.
History notes many cases of intentional genocide in the service of colonialism and economic expansion. Climate change's impact on the world's poorest people wasn't planned, but that's no consolation. It falls to the developed world to act responsibly on the climate crisis, or to shoulder the blame for a catastrophe with both environmental and humanitarian dimensions.
And a letter addressing the need for diplomatic as well as infrastructural preparation which was published in Dawn(Pakistan). Many years ago the now-editor of Dawn was living in the US and we spent several evenings singing together. I wonder if he remembered that when he saw my name.
Dawn, a leading Pakistani newspaper, discusses the climate problem from a Pakistani perspective:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Pakistan is no stranger to being plagued by multiple crises. News headlines are usually dominated by issues like terrorism, extremism and power shortage but an even more alarming danger could affect the future of Pakistan if it is not tackled on a priority basis.Yes indeedy. June 6:
The dangerous threat we all know as climate change has been virtually left off the radar by our less than visionary leaders when it comes to issues of national priority.
Environmental degradation costs Rs 365 billion annually to Pakistan and unsafe water and sanitation costs Rs 112 alone in terms of financial damage.
A comprehensive report was first highlighted in December 2012 which shows alarming trends of climate change in Pakistan.
The report entitled ‘Climate Change in Pakistan – focused on Sindh Province’ forecast low agricultural productivity from lack of water for irrigation and erratic rainfall. Conditions in the fertile Indus delta, already facing saline water intrusion and coastal erosion, are expected to deteriorate further.
Data gathered from 56 meteorological stations show heat waves increasing from 1980 to 2009, a period marked by glacier retreats, steadily rising average temperature in the Indus delta and changes in temperature pattern in summer and winter.
Ghulam Rasul, chief meteorologist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department and the main author of the report, told dawn.com that although Pakistan’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is low, it is among countries highly vulnerable to climate change.
As global heating accelerates, Pakistan and neighboring nations will face enormous challenges in the coming decades. It is a cruel irony that those of the world's countries which have contributed the least to planetary greenhouse emissions are the ones facing the most immediate damage from their effects, while the major sources of carbon pollution are relatively protected by lucky accidents of geography from the consequences of their actions.Published...http://worldnewsviews.com/....
Analysts predict that as water shortages intensify and agriculture becomes less predictable and productive, climate change's strategic impact will include bitter resource wars, a catastrophic development. While morality demands that industrialized nations take immediate steps to reduce atmospheric carbon output, it's equally imperative that the countries currently suffering the most from this human-caused destabilization strengthen their infrastructure to prepare for times of shortage and privation, while reinforcing diplomatic and cultural systems to ensure that the likely humanitarian crises can be peacefully resolved.
As my engagement with the climate struggle has deepened, so my readiness to speak up and speak out has grown.
I am less and less reluctant to bring up the issue of climate change in everyday conversation; where once I felt constrained by etiquette, now I seek ways to introduce the motif.
Playground conversation, while I watch my daughter running happily:
Random mom: Weird weather we're having, isn't it?or boarding the bus:
WarrenS: Yes, I'm fifty-five and I've never seen anything like it. Can you believe that some people still don't think global climate change is real?
Random mom: I heard on the news that there's no clear evidence for it...
Warren S: Oh, far from it. Etc., etc., etc.
Random bus driver: Nice day!I'm actively seeking these conversations. Everybody's doing something about the weather, but nobody's talking about it.
WarrenS: Yeah, but did you hear about those people in (town) who got (rained out) (burned out) (blown away)?
Random bus driver: Those poor folks!
WarrenS: That's climate change for ya.
I hereby declare my independence from Climate Silence. I'm going to be noisy from now till the day I join the Great Hum.
And, finally, the Keystone XL will continue to yield good letters until a stake is driven through its flabby carbon heart once and for all:
The Boston Globe looks at the pressure facing John Kerry over KXL:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who for decades has portrayed himself as one of the nation’s leading environmentalists, is under siege from all sides as he faces one of the most difficult decisions of his career: whether to approve the Keystone pipeline.Just fucking block the thing, ok? May 28:
Several environmental groups are set to launch campaigns this summer to pressure Kerry into opposing the pipeline. One will publicize his past calls to fight global climate change — statements that they argue would make Kerry look like a hypocrite if he now supports the pipeline.
Pipeline advocates, meanwhile, aregearing up for lobbying efforts of their own, hiring firms whose consultants include several former Kerry aides.
One measure of the intensity of public sentiment: A staggering 1.2 million comments — an unprecedented number — have been submitted by the public as part of the State Department’s review process.
The Keystone pipeline would transport tar sands oil from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Environmental groups warn that a spill along the route would have a devastating effect on drinking water and that turning the tar sands into usable fuel would result in excessive greenhouse gas emissions.
If John Kerry approves the Keystone XL pipeline, he will have bowed deeply to the corporatist forces which have largely co-opted our system of government. Given Kerry's lifelong environmentalist orientation, such capitulation is a depressing diagnostic indicator of how deeply the rot has penetrated into our society.Published.
The pipeline's claims of minimal environmental impact have been revealed as risible, the loudly-touted job creation claims have been substantially debunked, the authors of the State Department's study of the project are case studies in conflict of interest, and the world's leading climatologists are unified in their assessment of the tar sands' potential to trigger devastating and geocidal destabilization of Earth's climate. What's left? The Keystone XL is about profits, and nothing more.
If John Kerry wishes to be remembered as a statesman, he must place the lives of our descendants above the lure of unfettered gains for the privileged and powerful few.
All of these letters and more can be found at my blog. There's also quite a bit on music, on singing, on India, and on random other subjects. Drop in and send my daily hit rate up into two figures.
Okay, dear ones. I'm done for the day. Go write a few letters, or send a few faxes, or shut down a few pipelines.
I love you all, every one.
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After a hiatus of over 1 1/2 years, Meteor Blades has revived his excellent series. As MB explained, this weekly diary is a "round-up with excerpts and links... of the hard work so many Kossacks put into bringing matters of environmental concern to the community... I'll be starting out with some commentary of my own on an issue related to the environment, a word I take in its broadest meaning."
"Green Diary Rescue" will be posted every Saturday at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on the Daily Kos front page. Be sure to recommend and comment in the diary.