The Virtue of Stupidity

Once again, dear friend Hugh has hit the nail on the head regarding the dangerous attitudes of this nation toward addressing environmental issues, most notably climate change, or global warming. Please take a minute to read his excellent post … and make note of his new “law” at the end! Thank you, Hugh, for the post and the permission to share!

hughcurtler

Temperatures around the country have recently been plunging and the nay-sayers once again point to the thermometer and tell us why they deny that the globe is warming. They ignore the fact that South Africa is experiencing the hottest summer on record and that what happens in Alabama or Alaska (or South Africa) is beside the point. Global Warming is a fact and it is not to be identified with passing weather events in particular parts of the world. Confusing the two and ignoring hard science are marks of the “virtue of stupidity” among those who remain with their heads in the sand — or somewhere equally dark. (This is a repost, which I have updated.)

In his remarkable book, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, Charles Pierce quotes Norman Myers of the Climate Institute who estimated that in 1995 [over twenty-four years ago!] there…

View original post 929 more words

Cause of Death: Donald Trump

This column by The Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson speaks for itself … in fact, the title says it all …

Our planet is in crisis. We don’t have time for Trump’s foolishness.

Eugene-RobinsonHere is how to interpret the alarming new United Nations-sponsored report on global warming: We are living in a horror movie. The world needs statesmen to lead the way to safety. Instead, we have President Trump, who essentially says, “Hey, let’s all head to the dark, creepy basement where the chain saws and razor-sharp axes are kept. What could go wrong?”

The answer is almost everything, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The impact of human-induced warming is worse than previously feared, the report released Monday says, and only drastic, coordinated action will keep the damage short of catastrophe.

To this point, climate change has been a slow-motion calamity whose impacts, month to month and year to year, have been hard to perceive. Unfortunately, according to the report, that is about to change.

The burning of fossil fuels on an industrial scale has raised global temperatures by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. That may not sound like much, but look at the consequences we’re already seeing: Stronger, slower, wetter tropical storms. Unprecedented heat waves. Devastating floods. Dying coral reefs. A never-before-seen summer shipping lane across the Arctic Ocean.

Meanwhile, humankind continues to pump heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a tragically self-destructive rate. The IPCC calculates that a further temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius — almost inevitable, given our dependence on coal, oil and gas — would be challenging but manageable. An increase of about 2 degrees, however, would be disastrous.

What’s the difference? With a 1.5-degree rise, about 14 percent of the world’s population would be vulnerable to severe and deadly heat waves every five years; with a 2-degree rise, that figure jumps to 37 percent. With a 1.5-degree rise, an additional 350 million city dwellers worldwide will face water shortages; with a 2-degree rise, 411 million people will suffer such drought. With a 1.5-degree rise, coral reefs will experience “very frequent mass mortalities”; with a 2-degree rise, coral reefs will “mostly disappear.”

Small differences can have huge impacts. Under the 1.5-degree scenario, up to 69 million people will be newly exposed to flooding. Under the 2-degree scenario — which the report estimates would boost sea-level rise by as much as 36 inches — the number rises to 80 million.

Please don’t dismiss all of this as just another boring compendium of carefully hedged facts and figures. I have followed the IPCC’s research since covering the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The new report strikes a different tone that combines weary fatalism with hair-on-fire alarm. In dry, just-the-facts language, it predicts declining fisheries, failing crops, more widespread risk from tropical diseases such as malaria, economic dislocation in the most-affected countries — and, by logical extension, greater political instability.

All of these impacts are bad with 1.5 more degrees of temperature rise. With 2 degrees they are much, much worse.

The obvious solution is to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. The IPCC says emissions need to decline by at least 40 percent by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050, if we are to hold warming to 1.5 degrees. Yet last year, according to the International Energy Agency, global emissions hit an all-time high.

Since 2016, representatives of 195 nations — including all the big emitters — signed on to the landmark Paris agreement calling for systematic emissions reductions beginning in 2020. But Trump, who has ignorantly called climate change a “hoax,” decided to withdraw the United States from the pact. Even worse, Trump is aggressively trying to increase reliance on coal, which contributes a disproportionate amount of carbon dioxide emissions compared with other fossil fuels.

U.S. carbon emissions actually fell slightly in 2017, because of the expansion of the renewable energy sector. But Trump administration policies are designed to reverse that trend; and if they fail to do so, it will be because the rest of the world is already moving toward clean energy — a huge economic shift that threatens to leave the United States behind.

When you read the IPCC report, you see that what the world really needs is visionary leadership. As the world’s greatest economic power and its second-largest carbon emitter, the United States is uniquely capable of shepherding a global transition to renewable energy. Instead, the Trump administration rejects the science of climate change and actively favors dirty energy sources over clean ones.

Humanity has no time for such foolishness. “I’m the president of the United States. I’m not the president of the globe,” Trump thundered at a recent rally. On what planet does he think this nation resides?

A Few Bits Of Good News On The Environment

Yesterday the high temperature where I live was 76° (F), 24° (C).  Yesterday was 20 February 2018.  It is never 76° in my area in February, nor in March.  The average high temperature for this time of year is 43°. Perhaps by mid-April we see temps in the 70s on occasion, but never, ever in February.  Now, admittedly I enjoyed the warmth of the day — Miss Goose and I went for a nice walk … I only managed 3.2 miles, but she went 5.6, and we both felt good about our accomplishments after a winter of inactivity, but … You don’t believe in global warming or in climate change?  Well, I do.

bumblebee on flowerFor one thing, when nearly all of the world’s climate scientists confirm the same data and draw the same conclusion, I am convinced, for they are the experts, not me, not Donald Trump, Rick Perry or Scott Pruitt.  For another thing, I can see and feel the difference from, say, ten years, or even five years ago.  There are fewer bees about in the springtime, the air is harder to breathe, the humidity levels in summer are much higher and the temperatures throughout the year, on average, much warmer.  The sky never looks as clear (okay, sure, I am half blind, but still …) I can observe these things on my own.

Sadly, we are governed by a bunch of stodgy and stupid men who deny or choose to ignore the evidence produced by scientists, and who do not leave their air-conditioned offices long enough to observe nature.  Rather than consider the work of the scientists, they simply dismiss the scientists and remove the words “climate change” from their new, alternative vocabulary.  Problem solved, right?  WRONG.

I don’t do a regular feature on the environment, but when news crosses my path that I think matters, I try to incorporate it into my work.  Today, there is some good news (and some bad news).  But just for today, let’s look at the good news, for that always makes us feel a little better, and I find hope in some of the steps being taken to defy the administration’s destructive environmental policies, or rather undoing of policies.seperator

One of Michigan’s largest public utilities, Consumers Energy — which provides power for more than 60 percent of the state’s residents — has promised to stop burning coal completely by 2040 in an effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The company plans to completely phase out coal and generate 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources like wind and solar.

wind turbinesIn 2016, Consumers Energy closed down 7 of its 12 coal-fired power plants, which reduced its emissions by 38%.  They currently get 24% of their energy from coal and 10% from renewable sources.

“We believe that climate change is real and we can do our part by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and we also believe it doesn’t have to cost more to do it,” Consumers Energy president and CEO Patti Poppe said, adding that coal has become less cost competitive as the cost of renewable energy continues to fall.

Michigan’s other major energy company, DTE Energy, has also pledged to shutter its coal plants by 2040 and reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

According to a recent cost analysis from the financial firm Lazard Ltd., it is currently cheaper to build and operate renewable energy projects than to operate coal and nuclear plants in many parts of the United States.

Despite Trump and Pruitt’s best efforts, many more power plants are steering away from coal and into cleaner, less costly renewable energy sources. seperatorJust the words “oil pipeline” raise the hackles of those of us who care about the environment.  Keystone, Dakota Access.  New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, is saying “hold on just a minute there …” in response to the 120-mile PennEast Pipeline. PennEast is seeking eminent domain over nearly 147 parcels of land in New Jersey and has started proceedings to condemn, or gain legal permission to take control of these areas.  Grewal, acting on behalf of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), has filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), requesting information from PennEast regarding site-specific information detailing how environmental impacts would be avoided or minimized.  Thus far, the company has not provided any such information to DEP.

The pipeline would cross some 30 streams, and no information has been provided for how that would be safely done.  Additionally, there has been no study performed to determine whether the properties PennEast wants to condemn would even qualify for permits under the Clean Water Act.  February 1, the New Jersey DEP rejected PennEast’s application for a water quality permit pending provision of the requested information.

This is one to watch, and will speak volumes about whether FERC is serving to protect our environment or to lick Donald Trump’s boots, but I am pleased to see the DEP and New Jersey Attorney General taking a stand.seperator

Rick Perry

Rick Perry

Last week, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California took a stand against Trump’s destructive moves.  For 30 years, federal standards governing the efficiency of home appliances and commercial equipment have been updated with bipartisan approval, producing major cuts in energy usage and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Consumers also have saved money on their utility bills by using highly energy-efficient appliances. But in the Trump administration, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, has missed several deadlines for updating appliance efficiency standards and is expected to miss several more in 2018.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria ordered the Trump administration to end its hold on rules that would strengthen appliance energy efficiency standards and help consumers save money on their energy bills.  According to Kit Kennedy, a senior director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) …

“The Trump administration’s baffling decision to block the final procedural step could have cost Americans $8 billion in higher energy bills and created uncertainty for U.S. manufacturers. Today’s ruling reaffirms that the Trump administration must follow the laws designed to ensure America’s consumers and businesses aren’t forced to pay needlessly higher energy bills.”

Score another one for We The People.seperatorSmall victories, of course, but victories nonetheless.  It is encouraging to see states, energy companies and the courts standing for protections for our planet, not afraid of Trump and his minions.

On the Fifth Day …

Yesterday I came across this poem, On the Fifth Day, by Jane Hirshfield.  The poem speaks simply and eloquently for itself and needs neither introduction nor explanation from me.

 

On the fifth day

the scientists who studied the rivers

were forbidden to speak

or to study the rivers.

 

The scientists who studied the air

were told not to speak of the air,

and the ones who worked for the farmers

were silenced,

and the ones who worked for the bees.

 

Someone, from deep in the Badlands,

began posting facts.

 

The facts were told not to speak

and were taken away.

The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.

 

Now it was only the rivers

that spoke of the rivers,

and only the wind that spoke of its bees,

 

while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees

continued to move toward their fruit.

 

The silence spoke loudly of silence,

and the rivers kept speaking,

of rivers, of boulders and air.

 

Bound to gravity, earless and tongueless,

the untested rivers kept speaking.

 

Bus drivers, shelf stockers,

code writers, machinists, accountants,

lab techs, cellists kept speaking.

 

They spoke, the fifth day,

of silence.

 

Jane Hirshfield is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Her most recent collection is “The Beauty.” She will read this poem from the stage at the March for Science on April 22.

Live For Today, or Preserve For Tomorrow?

As humans, one of our less desirable traits is our attitude of “yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn’t promised, so live in the moment … live for today”.  On the surface, that seems like a decent philosophy, and I know many who follow it, but there are some big problems with it.  Personal finance, of course, is near the top of the list.  There are those for whom living “payday-to-payday” with no savings for emergencies is a way of life.  They spend and buy what they want today without concern for the future because “tomorrow isn’t promised”.  There is, however, a more global effect of the “live for today” attitude that humans tend to employ, and the one I have in mind at the moment is climate change and our environment.  I do not know how citizens in other nations view the threat to our globe but as a citizen of the U.S., I can tell you that Americans are short-sighted, selfish and arrogant when it comes to their willingness to make sacrifices today in order to save the planet tomorrow.  Apparently it is easier to deny that there is a problem than to suffer sacrifice or inconvenience in order to work toward solving the problem. There is very real and irrefutable evidence that we (and I use this term in the global sense) have contributed to changes in the environment, changes that will have long-lasting consequences and ultimately have the potential to make this earth uninhabitable for human life.  Yet rather than be inconvenienced, far too many people choose to turn a blind eye, declaring that climate change is some conspiracy dreamed up by politicians … to what end I do not know. Just this morning I read a post by a fellow blogger who referred to the concept of climate change as the “hoax of the century”.  Yet most all scientists now agree that climate change is a very real and lethal phenomenon.

gw1

gw2

The evidence is clear and overwhelming as seen in the effects of our environmental neglect:

  • Sea level rise – Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.
  • Global temperature rise – All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880.5 Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.
  • Warming oceans – The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969
  • Shrinking ice sheets – The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.
  • Declining Arctic sea ice – Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.
  • Glacial retreat – Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.
  • Extreme events – The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
  • Ocean acidification – Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.
  • Decreased snow cover – Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier.

The above information with supporting detail and much more from the scientific community can be found at: http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

The leading cause of climate change remains the burning of fossil fuels for power plants and transportation.  Though this is by no means the only cause of what is known as the “greenhouse effect”, it is the biggest culprit and the one over which we, as humans, have the most control.  I hear people say that it won’t make a big difference if the turn their thermostat up by 5 or 10 degrees in the winter, or if they make an extra trip to the market to pick up just one or two items.  The fallacy in this way of thinking is that of volume.  You may not save the world by turning that light out when you leave the room or donning a sweater instead of turning the thermostat up, but your efforts combined with millions of others just might contribute to making a difference.  On a larger scale, we can refuse to support businesses that are not environmentally-friendly.  We can elect politicians who support environmental legislation such as research for alternative, renewable energy sources.

I do not claim to be a scientist, nor do I entirely understand the science behind the data despite having taken two courses on Environmental Science.  Thus it is not my intent to go into the details of the science behind climate change, but merely to assert that there seems to be more evidence in support of the fact that mankind is destroying the global atmosphere than there is evidence to the contrary.  No matter how diligent or negligent you and I are at working toward solutions to the problem of climate change, we will not be around to see the effects, but other humans will.  Shall we not worry about the future and simply “live for today”, or shall we be responsible global citizens and do that which is in our power to preserve the world for future generations?

climate

On Pogo and Climate Change …

I know that there are many who believe it is all smoke and mirrors when talk turns to “global warming” or “climate change”, but those of us who have studied the facts and reviewed the data take it quite seriously.  I have friends who, every time the temperature drops below the “average for this date in history”, say to me, “Hah, Jill, where is your global warming now”?  Naysayers can deny and mock as much as they like, but it is real, it is imminent, and there is no doubt that we, citizens not just of the U.S., or citizens of the UK, or citizens of France, but citizens of the globe, are the only ones who can reverse the process, save the globe for our children, grandchildren and all future generations.  On November 30, 2015, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change opened in Paris, just over two weeks after the terrorist attacks that rocked Paris on November 13th.  What follows is the speech Britain’s Prince Charles gave at the opening of the conference, and I thought it had value enough that I wanted to share it in its entirety:

 

“Minister Pulgar-Vidal, Minister Fabius, Madame Figueres, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am enormously touched to have been invited by President Hollande to say a very few words at the start of this crucially important Conference. May I just begin by expressing my profound horror at what happened in Paris two weeks ago, together with untold sympathy for the grieving families and loved ones of those whose lives were so brutally extinguished? My heart is with the courageous French people in their hour of anguish.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as the Executive Secretary has just said, rarely in human history have so many people around the world placed their trust in so few. Your deliberations over the next two weeks will decide the fate not only of those alive today, but also of generations yet unborn.

So I can only urge you to think of your grandchildren, as I think of mine, and of those billions of people without a voice; those for whom hope is the rarest of sensations; those for whom a secure life is a distant prospect.

Most of all, I urge you to consider the needs of the youngest generation, because none of us has the right to assume that “for our today they should give up their tomorrow.”

On an increasingly crowded planet, humanity faces many threats – but none is greater than climate change. It magnifies every hazard and tension of our existence. It threatens our ability to feed ourselves; to remain healthy and safe from extreme weather; to manage the natural resources that support our economies, and to avert the humanitarian disaster of mass migration and increasing conflict.

In damaging our climate we become the architects of our own destruction. While the planet can survive the scorching of the earth and the rising of the waters, the human race cannot. The absurd thing is that we know exactly what needs to be done; we know we cannot adapt sufficiently to go on as we are, nor can we build ourselves a new atmosphere. To avoid catastrophe we must restrict climate change to less than two degrees, which requires a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions.

This can be done. We have the knowledge, the tools and the money – only 1.7% per cent of global annual consumption would be required to put us on the right low carbon path for 2030. We lack only the will and the framework to use them wisely, consistently and at the required global scale. Governments collectively spend more than a trillion dollars every year on subsidies to energy, agriculture and fisheries. Just imagine what could be done if those vast sums supported sustainable energy, farming and fishing, rather than fossil fuels, deforestation and over-exploitation of the seas. It is the premium we need to pay for our collective, long-term insurance policy. We are always hearing nowadays that all our actions must be based on “good science”. We have that science. Why, then, when it comes to climate change is this apparently no longer applicable?

We have also seen how fast innovation and investment can drive low carbon energy technologies and we are learning how to develop circular economies, in which everything we previously regarded as waste becomes the feedstock for future growth.

So I pray that in pursuing National interest you will not lose sight of the International necessity. Back in 2009, just before COP.15, in Copenhagen, I remember trying to point out that the best scientific projections gave us less than a hundred months to alter our behaviour before we risk the tipping point of catastrophic climate change, beyond which there is no recovery. Have we really reached such a collective inertia that ignores so clear a warning? Eighty of those hundred months have now passed, so we must act now. Already we are being overtaken by other events and crises that can be seen as greater and more immediate threats. But in reality many are already and will increasingly be related to the rapidly growing effects of climate change.

The whole of Nature cries out at our mistreatment of Her. If the planet were a patient, we would have treated her long ago. You, Ladies and Gentlemen, have the power to put her on life support, and you must surely start the emergency procedures without further procrastination!

So today, after far too long an interval, you are all here to set us on the road to a saner future. If, at last, the moment has arrived to take those long-awaited steps towards rescuing our planet and our fellow man from impending catastrophe, then let us pursue that vital goal in a spirit of enlightened and humane collaboration.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you well in your endeavours and I shall pray for your success.”

 

In the coming weeks, this blog will address this issue in greater depth, but for tonight let me just say that we need to stop denying and start thinking.  Climate change is real and it is potentially catastrophic for life on the planet Earth as we know it.  We can only slow or reverse the process if we are willing to make sacrifices in our lifestyles, in our lives.  As Pogo Pogo(any of my followers old enough to remember Pogo?) once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us”.