I worry about the ongoing drought every day. I know I am starting seeds, and talking about gardening, but there is always a part of me that is worrying about the long terms effects of the last two years extreme heat, and of course, what the Spring and Summer have in store for us this Summer. Sometimes focusing on the gardens and the bees, and the like, help me maintain the illusion of control and normalcy. But I know that these are really just illusions.
Australia has been in the news lately due to the extreme droughts in their part of the world. When I read the Aussie stories, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between there and Oklahoma and Texas droughts. The last two summers here locally, it was so hot that baby birds, like those flying foxes were dropping out of the trees, some adult birds dropped out of the skies, because the heat was so intense that they were overheated and dehydrated and weakened. I rescued a Mississippi Kite last year, and some Jays as well.
Follow me through the orange portal for first hand accounts, comparisons, videos, and photos.
Our challenges, opportunities, and solution paths are complex and interrelated. Yet, all too often, we see them individually, not linked and interacting.
Fishgrease has an interesting discussion: Give Up Something You Love Or Go To Hell. In essence, Fishgrease is laying down that dealing with climate isn’t simply primarily a question of cleaning up energy sources — with somewhat a strawman that this is all Bill McKibben / 350.org focuses on — but that we must tackle consumption and reduce demand to achieve necessary change.
Fishgrease is absolutely right but, in a form of the strawman challenge of McKibben, also wrong because the truth is that we must tackle “and” rather than focus on specific ’silver bullets’.
Consumption: Needs / wants — what are seeking? Example: At the end of the day, I want (oops, many days, need) a cold beer … And, there are lots of ways to control ‘consumption’ impacts. Do I drink less beer? Is the beer local or from far away? Can or bottle? (And, well, recycling of that material …)
Efficiency: how do we get it? Example: Returning to that necessary beer: Is the beer cooled in an efficient refrigerator, out in the ice on a winter day, or is there a 50 mile drive (fast) to a liquor store carrying the specific micro-brewery beer from rural Tanzania and buy it from an open refrigeration unit …
What are the power sources involved? Example: For the electricity to cool the beer, are we talking nuclear or coal or …? For transport, even ’store to home’, is this foot/bike power or a suburban assault vehicle (or grocery store delivery truck)? Etc …
Clearly, these three aren’t ‘the end of the game’ (as above, recycling and ‘cradle to cradle’, etc …) but thinking about and understanding the reality of these connections can help us achieve a better approach to our energy/environmental challenges and opportunities.
Follow me after the fold for a look at the three-legged stool in the shower … [Read more →]
President Obama’s inaugural address is being accounted for as one of his most progressive statements (certainly to a national audience) as President of the United States. Engaging in ‘climate spotting’, the paragraphs directly discussing Climate Change make it a true centerpiece of this (relatively) short inaugural address.
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. (Applause.) Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
Sadly, as readers know, those who “still deny the overwhelming judgment of science” include the Republican Majority of the House of Representatives (along with, sigh, the Republicans on various science-related committees in the House and Senate). Recognizing this and the “political reality” that serious climate-change legislation is dead on arrival in the House, the question turns to:
What can President Obama do in the face of Republican obstructionism and science denialism?
The White House roof remains without solar electric panels despite Administration promises that this would have occurred well before now. While putting a few kilowatts (or even a few tens of kilowatts) of solar systems on the White House will have miniscule direct impact on the nation’s energy system, the symbolism remains important.
With this in mind, not surprising that one of the videos surrounding President Obama’s second inauguration relates to putting solar panels on the White House roof. While the rest of the family celebrates otherwise,
First Dog, Bo Obama, powers up his inauguration party with solar energy to celebrate another four years on the White House lawn! Good boy, Bo! Go to Solar White House to see what Bo is planning for his 2nd term.
While Bo’s celebration certainly looks more comfortable than the likely chilly weather Monday, it would nice to see Bo’s and his masters’ houses both sporting solar panels.
Harvard University’s Theda Skocpol just put out a serious look at the fight for a cap and trade bill in 2009-10 with an effort to draw lessons for environmental organizations (and others) for future action. As with essentially everything that Skocpol has ever published, there is much to be learned and think about from “Naming the Problem: What It Will Take to Counter Extremism and Engage Americans in the Fight Against Global Warming.” (pdf) — no matter how much agreement one has with Skocpol’s conclusions. Skocpol’s work help crystallize, for me, something long ‘realized’ (by many) but not truly absorbed into our national political discussion: that the entire nature of American politics is being skewed by a radicalized ‘just say no’ minority of the Republican Party and that ‘institutional’ failures to recognize this are compounding the problem.
Two graphics illuminate the issue.
The first, to the right, contrasts Congressional perspectives (based on League of Conservation Voter ratings) with the public’s perspective (based on public opinion polling) on environmental issues. While a deep divide existed between Republican and Democratic Party members of Congress, this divide has become a chasm over the past 20 years. Notably, “GOP views” (as an entirety) tracked more closely with the Democratic Party than GOP politicians until Ronald Reagan and the era of ‘trees cause pollution’. Even so, “GOP views” remained closer to Democratic Party perspectives (both party members and members of Congress) than with the GOP members of Congress.
As Skocpol put it:
two realities are worth emphasis.
Partisan differences in public opinion remained very small compared to steadily growing partisan splits in Congressional voting about environmental policies; and
Public views evolved in closer relationship to the pro- environmental positions taken by Democrats in Congress than to the increasingly all-out oppositional voting of Congressional Republicans.
The GOP Congressional caucus has — for the past 30 years or so — become far more representative of a radical, fossil-foolish (funded) minority perspective than the overall viewpoint of those stating allegiance to the Republican Party. The wall of (in)difference between GOP Congressional perspectives and the general voter has been morphing into an ever more impressive Great Wall of Denial on climate science, pollution, and other environmental issues with each passing primary. Even as the Republican Party entered the 1980s with President Ronald Reagan showed the dominance of GOP’s polluter wing (’polluting trees), a meaningful portion of the Party would count — today — as environmentalists with representation and voice in people like Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias, R-MD - and Mathias didn’t stand alone (Hatfield, Weicker, Javits, …). Mathias would almost seem a radical environmentalist today (noting that Mathias has an environmental medal named after him). In 2013, there is not a single Republican in Congress with even a shadow of Mathias (and his cohort’s) understanding and consideration of environmental issues. In Mathias’ day there would have been a good share of the GOP ‘caucus’ who would have been in line with the “Dem views” and “GOP views” somewhat balancing those Republicans (and, well, Democratic politicians as well) who were in bad with polluting industries. Those ‘balancers’ have been driven out of the GOP political elite by a radicalized minority whipped to a froth via Koch Brothers and other funded astroturfing.
Now, as to whipping to a froth’, let us take a moment to consider the impact of Faux News. As Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp machine (including, of course, the Wall Street Journal) propagates deceptive, partial, and outright false information on climate science and climate mitigation, there follow (at least a portion of the) GOP (primary) voters.
If we combine these two graphs, take the lesson that polluters take:
Investing in astroturf political movements whipped to a froth by deceptive (and false) reporting drives primary election results that provide veto power over Republican Party political action.
Professor Skocpol eloquently captures the basic Congressional Republican strategy and how it has been driven by the “Grassroots”:
Grassroots conservatives were not about to let their party’s Congressional leaders repeat old mistakes by cooperating with Obama’s initiatives in any area – and certainly not with his proposals for stimulus spending, the expansion of health insurance coverage, or regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Strategic considerations and popular pressures alike make it understandable that GOP Congressional leaders chose a “just say hell no” approach to the new Obama administration.
Now, putting the quite serious issue of how “grassroots” are often petroleum Koch-Brothers Astroturf, “just say hell no” has been the impolite Republican extension of Nancy Reagan’s approach to drugs (”Just Say No!“). (To be clear, Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson’s The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism provides a strong window on how real ‘grassroots’, impassioned Americans are being influenced (and deceived) by astroturf organizations and false reporting from Fox News and elsewhere.) And, as per the graphics above, what seems not to have been incorporated in Democratic Party leadership thinking and “The Village” conception is that this minority tail wagging the GOP dog(s) is so out-of-touch not just with “mainstream” American thinking but even mainstream Republicans.
And, the most important: this is not an environmental (climate change) issue that somehow sits in ‘pet issue’ for those softies cuddling polar bears and concerned amount the 10,000s of Americans killed by fossil-fuel pollution every year (year in, year out …) but is fundamental to the entire political dynamic.
Name any major issue of American politics today (fiscal, environmental, social, …) and the radical Republican Party elite is ‘out of touch’ with mainstream Americans.
Choice: The majority of Americans (including a good share of “GOP”) align with Bill Clinton’s concept of abortion: ”Legal, safe, and as rare as possible.” The radical Republicans in Congress call for extreme anti-choice, even thinking that rape (even “forcible rape”) victims and women whose babies would suffer horrible pain en route a death shortly after birth should face criminal charges if they seek an abortion.
Government spending: While Americans might see concern about spending (frothed up by “Fiscal Cliff” mania and fed even by President Obama’s over-discussion of it), Americans want investment and expenditures to help create employment and foster a real end to the recession. The radical Republicans in Congress want to starve the government and many are gleeful at the prospects of a government shutdown over a debt ceiling fight.
Taxes: The vast majority of Americans support a more equitable tax code, seeing that the richest Americans can actually afford to pay somewhat more and ’sacrifice’ just a bit to help pay for wars & the strengthening of society. The radical Republicans in Congress never met a billionaire tax-subsidy path that they didn’t love.
Health Care: Americans saw value to ’single payer’ approaches, certainly favored having a ‘government option’, and see many values from ACA like being able to cover children through age 26 and the elimination of pre-existing condition constraints (although this support has been skewed by false reporting and mediocre Administration messaging). The radical Republicans in Congress want to wipe away the ACA and, in fact, reduce Americans’ access to affordable health care coverage to beneath the pitiful state it was before the health care legislation.
Gun Control: Americans — especially in face of the devastating Sandy Hook Elementary School attack — support reasoned gun control measures by significant majorities. As an example of funded machines on specific issues, the NRA has become devoted to Nancy Reagan with ‘just say no’ to any rational discussion of gun control.) The radical Republicans in Congress seem to want to emulate Somalia’s libertarian paradise (must see video) with a submachine gun under every pillow and a crew-served weapon in every (three-car) garage.
On issue after issue, there is a funded effort to distort reality.
On issue after issue, we have a impassioned GOP base which might best be described as delusional. Birthers, Sandy Hook conspirators, Obama as Socialist / Muslim / etc, Global Warming deniers .. Tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists being mis-informed, manipulated, and whipped to a froth to an end …
On issue after issue, not just in pet ‘green’ worlds, this is a mobilized (and frothed up) a reality-denying ‘base’ in the primaries.
On issue after issue, we face a maniacal base that creates an environment where a Republican politician willing to work toward ‘compromise’, keep their feet firmly in reality-based decision-making, and figure out real solutions to the nation’s real problems faces an incredible uphill battle (and is as close to impossible Sisyphean nightmare in most parts of the United States).
Climate Change denial (and, more broadly, Anti-Science Syndrome Hatred Of a Livable Economic System) is part and parcel of a generalized pattern of extreme radical right misrepresentation, truthiness, falsehoods, and outright delusion. This is not some ‘pet issue’ to be dragged out in an oh-by-the-way manner but is (a) key to every other issue and (b) is part-and-parcel of the effort to undermine American Democracy and undermine our future prospects via the leveraging of this extreme radicals to push American society away from reality-based policy making.
Unless (and until) the Democratic Party leadership truly incorporates this 21st century reality, policy issue after policy issue will crash against the jagged shores of radicalized Republican reality denial that specializes in “just saying no”.
And, incorporating this reality and making this a centerpiece of political discourse creates the potential cracking of the radical right’s control over the Republican Party while increasing the chances for reality-based politicians to win electoral contests.
And, embracing reality will heighten the chance for meaningful action forward on taxes, health care, education, social issues, gun control, … and climate change.
Recognizing that Republican anti-science is one of the core issues that will foster a Populist Wave in 2014 will heighten the chance for political change that will enable meaningful action forward on taxes, health care, education, social issues, gun control, … and climate change.
Sadly, the climate silence through the 2012 Presidential election campaign and stoic refusal to pound the table as to how climate disruption helped drive Sandy does not show an understanding of the necessity to confront — directly — the falsehoods being fostered on the American public that are driving the radical Republicans in Congress toward policies so damaging to the nation’s future. [Read more →]
“Those of us who spend our days trawling - and contributing to - the scientific literature on climate change are becoming increasingly gloomy about the future of human civilisation,” said Liz Hanna, convener of the human health division at the Australian National University’s climate change Adaption Network. ‘We are well past the time of niceties, of avoiding the dire nature of what is unfolding, and politely trying not to scare the public. The unparalleled setting of new heat extremes is forcing the continual upwards trending of warming predictions for the future, and the time scale is contracting.”
As 2013 opens, it has been 27 years since the world experienced a month that was colder than average.
The US drought continues (on, for example, Texas and Oklahoma), with predictions for a damaged winter wheat crop, continued threats to navigation on the Mississippi River, water restrictions in more areas, …
This list is US dominated and isn’t even complete for just the United States — and yet this is not dominating the public discussion, “The Village” seems at best blase (with more concern over the Fiscal Cliff molehill than the Climate Cliff fissure), and the situation isn’t being addressed (essentially in no country — although some are better than others) with anything like the urgency required. Should anyone wonder why those with the most extensive knowledge about climate change science are “gloomy” at the global inaction?
So what I’m going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers and elected officials to find out what can — what more can we do to make short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary, a discussion, the conversation across the country about, you know, what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we’re passing on to future generations that’s going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.
Last night, amid consideration of Hurricane Sandy relief financing in the House, Republican after Republican trotted out global warming denier nonsense with scant regard for truth and disdain for truthful engagement in policy discussions.
While those most knowledgeable are becoming increasingly “scared” and”gloomy” (if not outright terrified) and climate chaos devastation mounts around the globe, Anti-Science Syndrome suffering Haters Of a Livable Economic System gloat in their power in the House of Representatives and we are treated to rumors about a “bipartisan summit”.
Action is required … we have long had an imperative for working to avert catastrophic impacts from climate change. We are, in fact, already suffering what any reasoned person would view as catastrophes (Sandy, anyone …?). We have the potential for reducing future impacts and for averting human civilization’s hurtling over the Catastrophic Climate Chaos Cliff if we begin to treat the situation with the urgency and seriousness required.
Rumors about bipartisan summits doesn’t meet this necessity nor do they pass any sanity check about seriousness for engaging in the fight to protect humanity from Climate Disruption.
Sparked by the White House’s thoughtful (and wonderfully hilarious and must read) rejection of the petition to build a Death Star (by 2016), actor Mark Ruffalo has posted a White House petition calling for a declaration of war on Climate Change.
I just started a petition. Let’s declare War On Climate Change. Figured if the Death star can get 35,000 sigs we could. wh.gov/EawO
Australia is burning up with #BigAussieHeat, Arctic Ice mass/extent is falling much faster than climate modeling predicted, climate change impacts are doing damage around the globe, species are going extinct, …
Declare War On Climate Change. We demand President Obama and Congress accept Climate Change as an enemy of the people.
We, the people, demand the President of the United States and it’s legislative body recognize Climate Change as great and Grave a threat to this nation as they would any other aggressive enemy. We demand that the President and Congress act against Climate Change as they have acted against Saddam Husein, Bin Laden, and Hitler for that matter. We demand a National Energy Policy that quickly begins to ween us off of Carbon Based fuels and expedites the inevitable and necessary transition to Clean Energy. We demand that our leaders act on the recommendations coming from an overwhelming majority of the scientific community to halt Climate Change and save the lives of untold millions.
Now, since Mruff221 only has some 358, 437 followers (at the moment of this writing), it should not be surprising that there were already 738 signatures (as of this writing) w/in hours.
While Ruffalo’s petition might not be what “should” be the petition (Is “War on Climate Change” to be a term to join “War on Poverty”, “The Drug War”, “War on Illiteracy” as a semi-meaningless term?), Ruffalo’s 358,437 followers and prominent place provide a tool to rocket this climate change / clean energy petition above 25,000 signatures and into the zone of promised WH response.
This coming Tuesday, 15 January 2013, an interfaith coalition will hold a “Pray-In for the Climate” in front of the White House. (Yes, sadly, this will be in front of the White House rather than in it even though this is the sort of “Prayer Breakfast” that the President (and family) should join as part of a ‘national conversation on the climate‘.) The day is powerful in its symbolism as the 15th is the date of Martin Luther King, Jr’s, real birthday even as the Presidential inauguration will come on the following Monday, the Federal MLK holiday. When considering Martin Luther King’s legacy, it is hard to imagine that he would not be in the front lines of interfaith efforts to help society see the moral (and survival and security and economic and …) necessity of confronting climate change. King likely would have been among those arrested in front of the White House in summer 2011 protesting the proposed Keystone pipeline and he would join other religious leaders in front of the White House in this interfaith action “to bring attention to the urgent need for for action on climate change.”
In a real sense all life is inter-related. All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality. ~Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On the 15th, the pray-in will meet at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church (1313 New York Ave, NW, WDC, 2005) with the religious procession to the WH (all of a five minute walk) scheduled for noon and, at 1230″, a “Prayerful Vigil at the White House”
Asking that our President and our nation find the strength and wisdom to steer us away from the Climate Cliff
“The way we respond to our warming planet is absolutely an issue of social justice, “ said Rev. Bob Edgar, CEO Common Cause and former head of National Council of the Churches. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often invoked ‘the fierce urgency of now’ in calling people to action, and nowhere are his words more relevant than in the moral
imperative we share as people of faith to take decisive action against climate change.”
The President’s offhand comments about the potential for a national conversation on climate change clearly aren’t enough to lay these religious leaders’ concerns to rest.
“President Obama needs to lead more than a conversation about climate change. It’s time he and our leaders recognize this threat and lead us toward a more energy efficient and sustainable future,” said Rabbi Arthur Waskow. “Some of us might be arrested, and frankly, it’s worth it — we need to show that this is an issue the President must address aggressively.”
Amid the struggle to foster societal attention to what might be the greatest threat that human civilization has ever faced, MLK Jr’s words certainly are worth considering.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Martin Luther King, Jr
When you think of “?growth”,? what comes to mind? Progress? Improvement? Prosperity? Is the concept of growth a pleasing one?For many people, it is all those things. But this pleasing image might pose a very serious problem, a mental and emotional obstacle to even considering whether traditional economic growth will be a good thing as we consider our future.
While the example is local to a single county here in Washington state, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that some of the systematic issues here are applicable all the way across the country, and also exist at state and national levels.
In Whatcom County, Washington, a series of meetings were conducted by the Whatcom Futures Project to examine how Whatcom County can most effectively plan for the next few decades. This project is being spearheaded by the Northwest Economic Council
This project has gone through prior drafts and public meetings, and a latest draft was published in November.
Amid the copious statements about sustainability and all that good stuff, there is a striking pattern:
the abject obeisance to the concept that economic growth is absolutely critical.
Perpetual Economic Growth
You might be thinking of this
Consider this statement: “The health and well-being of all Whatcom residents depend on sustained economic growth.”? That’??s a leadoff item in the very first Vision Statement in the draft (PDF Page 22 for you home gamers).By extension, it embraces the idea that we must have perpetual economic growth of the currently-understood type in our county and in our country, or we risk devolving to a Neolithic existence of the kind that existed before the invention of adjustable rate mortgages.
Anyone who has carefully looked at our world and environment is keenly aware that much of our economic growth to date has resulted from drawing on reserves of natural resources that accumulated over millions of years. Once those reserves are gone, they will be gone.
We Are So Screwed
But This is What Gets Promoted As “Growth”
Here’s the rub: however clearly we may see the problem of unending growth, we tend to express our concerns in the form of a prophecy of doom. As in: “Based on current trends, we are so screwed.”But a prophecy of doom simply can’t be reconciled, practically or theoretically, with any kind of future planning or even our concept of the future, especially at a community level. If the future holds certain doom, what’??s the point of doing anything in the short term other than eating more burgers and drinking more beer?
This fits into an overall pattern of how people think about these or any other issues. In most cases, people can only internally process a consistent narrative. If you introduce a contradiction or a jarringly different concern, it suddenly becomes a kind of indigestible cognitive lactose.
The hottest average maximum temperature ever recorded across Australia – 40.33 degrees, was set on Monday surpassing the old record of 40.17 °C set in 1976. (Bureau of Meteorology)
The number of consecutive days where the national average maximum daily temperature exceeded 39°C has also been broken this week—seven (7) days (between 2–8 January 2013), almost doubling the previous record of four (4) consecutive days in 1973, (BOM)
According to the National Climate Data Centre, nine of the 10 hottest years on record have been since 2000 (the other is 1998).
While temperatures vary on a local and regional scale, globally it has now been 27 years since the world experienced a month that was colder than average. “If you’re 27 or younger, you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month” - Philip Bump, Grist, November 16, 2012.
The CSIRO has found Australian annual average daily maximum temperatures have steadily increased in the last hundred years, with most of the warming trend occurring since 1970.
The Bushfire CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) says large areas of southern Australia, from the east coast to the west coast, face “above average fire potential” in the summer of 2012-13. According to the Climate Institute extreme fire danger days are expected to rise more than 15 per cent in south-eastern Australia.
The last four months of 2012 - globally - were the hottest on record. (British Met Office) and 2012 was the hottest year the continental United States of America has ever recorded.(”2012 Was the Hottest Year in U.S. History. And Yes - It’s Climate Change”, Bryan Walsh, TIME 8 January, 2013).
The hot-dry trend is expected to continue, with the Climate Commission predicting large increases in the number of days over 35°C this century.
Around the world, 2013 could be the hottest ever recorded by modern instrumentation, according to a recent study by Britain’s Met Office. If that turns out to be accurate, 2013 would surpass the previous record, held jointly by 2005 and 2010.