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Ian Welsh says we’re screwed.

His new essay on what climate change is doing to our planet hasn’t a shred of good news for humanity.

Baseline Predictions for the next Sixty Odd Years

For some time my baseline scenario has been as follows: we are so screwed.

We can expect a complete collapse of the Ocean’s ability to provide fish. Japan, the worst offender in this, will also be the worst hit. That doesn’t make me happy, but it does make me laugh.  This effects the oxygen cycle and worst case we could kill ourselves off entirely.  Assuming we don’t, however…

We are currently seeing a hiatus in Climate Change. My friend Stirling predicted that years ago, and predicted it would be used to simply double down on stupidity like fracking.  It is being.  If/when the sun warms up, we are fried.  Various processes are past the point of no return, we are going to see huge methane releases from Russia, for example.  We are going to have worse global warming than the worst mainstream predictions.

Climate change will continue to show up as more and worse extreme weather events, like the nasty hurricanes we’ve been seeing hitting further and further north.  We are going to also see changes in rainfall patterns, these will continue to devastate agriculture.

Aquifers are being drained dry, in ways that permanently damage them.  This is happening in China, the US, India and other places. This water will not come back.  Large areas that are currently agriculturally productive will not be, independent of climate change.

We will see huge dust bowls form, including in India, China and the US.

There will be widespread hunger, because agriculture is going to fail.  Period.  Right now hunger is due to distribution issues: we grow more than enough food to feed everyone, we just don’t care about feeding everyone.  In twenty to thirty years this will not be the case: we will just not have enough food.

All of this is baked into the cake: we are past the decision points on all of these items—they will happen, they can no longer be stopped.  Even if you take the most optimistic scenarios we would need to act radically, right now, and we aren’t going to.

It makes me think of this:

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper

–T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men 1925

Welsh’s vision is  dark, and sad, and scary. And yet, I’m optimistic for change, breakthroughs, and transformation.

Green Links: Friday Round-up

October 18th, 2013 | Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Links - (0 Comments)

So much good stuff.

DVR Alert! A new “Climate Tipping Points” TV series starts Sunday at 9pm EDT http://wxug.us/18tli 

If you want great cities, grow good citizens. Cogent truth from future-thinker Alex Steffen http://www.alexsteffen.com/2013/10/reboot-the-civic-sphere/ …

Super piece on perverse outcomes of pay & price transparency, for corporate responsibility and metrics folks
http://www.thelowdownblog.com/2013/10/open-season-on-ceo-pay.html …

Incongruity meet sustainability: Sustainable business leaders call on Obama to approve Keystone XL pipeline?
http://goo.gl/fb/72A6K

Meme tracker: Carbon Tracker says that climate communication memes like “unburnable” and “stranded assets” are showing up in sell-side conversations. http://shar.es/EEMKp

Air pollution causally linked to cancer. What are the implications for the U.S. EPA, climate action and sustainable business? http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/10/17/2795791/air-pollution-cancer/ …

Fuzzy and unclear no more. A new Green Building certification puts rigor to Net Zero Energy certification http://fb.me/10D8PuPMc 

Financial astrologers? Surely it’s snark? http://on.ft.com/GSItEp  Or a re-tread of this 2007 article?: http://on.ft.com/1hZJWEG

 

Remember when your math teacher said, “Show me the work?”

That’s what the people who maintain  Skeptical Science do with climate science denial. They collect and debunk articles and arguments that claim climate change isn’t happening, isn’t caused by humans, and isn’t a grave threat to humanity.

(They are.)

I can’t even imagine the amount of work it takes. Hat’s off to them.

Showing your work–what we call transparency in accounting, business and government–means other people can trace the steps and have confidence in your result.

It’s a fundamental concept for good business, good science, and good policy.

So in the spirit of showing my work, here are my thoughts on a climate change denial article that is about, of all things, climate change denial.

This Fox News op-ed piece is in response to a Guardian article that reported that “Conservative media outlets [are] found guilty of biased global warming coverage.”

Balance is not bias — Fox News critics mislead public on climate change

What amazes is that Abraham and Nuccitelli still pin their hopes on the cult of consensus. Forging an inter-governmental consensus has been the IPCC’s mission for 25 years, unavoidably politicizing climate science in the process. It has long since begun to backfire. People get suspicious when government-appointed experts define “the science” for the purpose of advancing an agenda that just happens to increase government control of energy markets.

Abraham and Nuccitelli have learned nothing if they think that demanding even greater fealty to groupthink will do anything except energize skeptics and increase their popularity.

The good news is that conservative media are not going to take their advice, because doing so would allow one faction of experts to monopolize the discussion. Scores of government agencies, hundreds of mainstream media outlets, and thousands of Web sites serve up daily diets of climate alarm. Presenting contrarian analysis and commentary is balance, not bias.

Nope. That’s not right.

Fox News made it look like there are two equally valid sides to climate change discussions.

But there’s not. The science is compelling, convincing and terrifying.

And the Guardian reporters are right to call them on it.

Anyway, here’s my work on the response.

* * *

Lewis starts by saying that the 97% consensus among scientists worldwide, that humans are causing climate change and it’s a very big problem, is bunk*

Then he says:

That most scientists agree climate change is happening, but that it’s not all man-made.

But even if climate change is happening and is man-made, that there’s no evidence that it’s really a problem.

Furthermore, even if climate change is a problem, the solutions being proposed aren’t any good.

And finally, if you keep on telling the truth, it’s only going to encourage the denialists, so you might as well give up.

* * *

This line of anti-science reasoning comes straight from the Big Tobacco playbook. Sow uncertainty and spread confusion.

I really hate gotcha stories that cherry pick facts and demand absolute certainty. It’s not how we live in the real world. The real world is messy, complicated, and full of daily compromises.

Consensus is pretty much how humans get things done. See also: sharing, caring and cooperation.

Continuing to needle and pick and focus on the edges in an effort to sow doubt is (click the link for the curseword version,) being a not-nice person.

Every minute we spend dithering around about “how truely true is climate change?” is a minute lost to solving our energy needs, helping people out of poverty, preparing for weather extremes, and leaving a habitable planet for our children.

With gratitude to the world’s climate science community, I’m going to focus on covering and sharing news about solutions.

* * *

* I found an error in the first step, where Mr. Lewis makes a misleading assumption.

He says, “University of Delaware Prof. David Legates and three colleagues examined the Cook team’s database, and found that less than 1% of the 11,944 abstracts explicitly endorse the so-called consensus.”

Here’s the error.

The majority of these abstracts don’t explicitly state that “humans are causing global warming or refers to anthropogenic global warming/climate change” because, as the Cook report goes on to detail, human-caused global warming is a known fact to scientists qualified to write about it in peer-reviewed journals.

Scientists arrive at consensus, and they stop having to talk about it. Because they are talking about bigger things.

A shorthand example of this would be: “Most peer-reviewed marine biology papers don’t explicitly state that the oceans are salty.”

In everyday life, there are known facts that we assume others know about too. That’s how we are able to go on about our lives.

Here’s the Cook report.

 

**Gratuitous hat tip to me for spotting the typo. Change site to cite.

 

***And one for the editor for a really confusing headline. Most readers I bet are going to miss the word “critic” and read it the opposite of how intended.

I’m all for storytelling.

But when communications go wrong, it can really mess things up.

There’s a time and a place for jokes. And for satire.

A provocative approach can jar readers into thinking about things in a new way.

But when you are talking to an international audience across many languages, keep it simple.

Have you ever noticed how diplomats talk to audiences? They use simple words and talk in simple sentences. The clearer they speak, the better they will be understood.

(I like to think that the world’s political translators appreciate this approach.)

Anyway, something really weird happened this morning in the climate change communications world.

Here’s what happened.

Poland is hosting the world’s UN climate talks next month in Warsaw. It’s an important meeting about a gravely serious topic. It’s a huge honor and responsibility to host this kind of worldwide event.

But for some reason, someone decided to try something a little different.

The official Polish website for the meeting published a blog post. It started off just fine with the famous Northwest Passage. Fair topic. The fact that the Northwest Passage is open to sea traffic for the first time in recorded history due to melting sea ice is stunning physical evidence of climate change.

But then the copy swerves. The next sentences describe Poland’s plans to plunder natural resources previously locked under the ice.

Oh, and pirates. And terrorists.

What? (Click the image to see bigger.)

Warsaw COP19 blog

Via theguardian.com:

Arctic melt means more pirate chases, say Polish climate hosts

Melting ice could open the Arctic to new drilling and the opportunity to “chase pirates, terrorists and ecologists”, according to the organisers of this year’s UN climate talks in Poland, in comments that have been branded outrageous by campaigners.

The blogpost, published this week on the Polish site for November’s Warsaw meeting, said that not only would melting ice allow ships to cut their journey times by taking the north-west passage, but “we may also build new drilling platforms and retrieve natural resources hidden below the sea bed”.

It added that there was also the possibility of, “Chasing the pirates, terrorists and ecologists that will come to hang around …”

This blew up on Twitter this morning with the hashtag #COP19. Shortly thereafter, the blog was updated with an apology.

Via cop19.gov.pl:

Dear Readers,

For the time being we decided to take some time away from our blog. Our idea was to focus attention on important issues that need good solutions and spark discussions on those.  We did not foresee that some readers would take thepresented texts literally as the official Polish position. Notwithstanding we would like to express regret as some of you found the text to be inappropriate. We acknowledge these criticisms. It was certainly not our aim to offend anybody.

We will take due care  that all new articles and posts on this website are written in a clear and sensitive manner so as to avoid misunderstandings. Stay tuned for more ideas.

What the heck happened?

Is this a case of “Lost in Translation?”

One person on Twitter even asked if it could be a hacker prank by The Yes Men.

My communications spidey-sense says no. I’m betting on “Bold Idea Gone Bad.”

RTCC also has a great round-up of this morning’s tweets and a broader look at some of the issues.

In any event, it’s an embarrassment for the UNFCCC, and for the Poland team who is responsible for the event.

Somebody might get fired over this mistake. Bigger picture, this could cost Poland their hosting role for this meeting.

Lesson learned. Know your audience. Keep it simple.

 Update from the Minister of the Environment of Poland:

 

We need a plan.

New Jersey doesn’t have a plan for keeping our people safe, our economy strong, and our businesses thriving when the next Sandy hits.

Every state around us does, or at least is far ahead of us.

There’s boatloads of good work going on in towns and counties, but nothing on the coordinated, resource-efficient State level.

Why not? I’d like to ask Governor Christie about the role that Climate Change plays in our hot summers, destructive storms, and rising sea levels. (I believe he’s a smart man and knows perfectly well the risks facing our state.)

Chris Sturm from New Jersey Future wrote this great Sept. 23 editorial for NJ Spotlight. She lays out what NJ is missing and what our neighbors are doing to plan for Climate Change in general, and sea-level rise in particular.

Via njspotlight:

Opinion: It’s time to connect the dots between rising sea levels and rebuilding

In contrast, neighboring state governments offer tools and guidance to their communities to help them protect constituents from sea level rise and other climate impacts. New York State’s Reconstruction Rising offers $25 million in grants and a toolkit for assessing sea-level rise out to the year 2100. Connecticut has released a Climate Preparedness Plan and is creating a climate resiliency research center to help coastal communities. To the south, Delaware has assessed its vulnerability to climate change and offers its communities free climate preparedness training, while Maryland’s initiatives include new sea level rise projections to help decisionmakers plan.

I wrote back in May that the NJ Climate Change Adaptation Alliance has stepped up to fill the leadership and coordination role that I feel the Governor and the NJ DEP should be doing.

This alliance of NJ-focused planning, development, and conservation groups are working together to create a climate change adaptation plan for New Jersey.

There’s lots of strong science, experienced planning and top-notch engineering happening that we can apply to our state’s needs.

I care about our state, and want our State Leaders to take the actions needed to prove they do too.

 

So, how’d it go?

Yesterday, new EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz appeared before a House Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

The topic: President Obama’s climate change policies.

Here’s what she said:

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Testimony Before House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power

Chairman Whitfield, Ranking Member Rush, members of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

In June, the President reaffirmed his commitment to reducing carbon pollution when he directed many federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, to take meaningful steps to mitigate the current and future damage caused by carbon dioxide emissions and to prepare for the anticipated climate changes that have already been set in motion.

How come? Because:

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate scientists are convinced that human caused climate change is occurring. If our changing climate goes unchecked, it will have devastating impacts on the United States and the planet. Reducing carbon pollution is critically important to the protection of Americans’ health and the environment upon which our economy depends.

Fair enough.

And here’s a snip from Secretary Moniz’ prepared testimony.

The threat of a warming planet to our communities, our infrastructure and our way of life is also clear. Rising sea levels and increasingly severe droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and major storms are already costing our economy billions of dollars a year and these impacts are only going to grow more severe. Common sense demands that we take action.

How did the Sub-Committee members like it? Pretty good.

Via The Guardian.com:

Obama climate change plan gets first airing in front of House sceptics

EPA asserted authority to move forward without new laws from Congress at hearing where contrarian views were on display

There was some climate skepticism. Some explaining of science.

And some outright factual falsehoods. Worth the click to see regular people wearing tinfoil hats.

Via thinkprogress.org:

The Five Craziest Arguments at Yesterday’s Climate Hearing

Here are the five oddest things Administrator McCarthy and Secretary Moniz heard from House Republicans at Wednesday’s hearing.

The upshot? Tomorrow, Administrator McCarthy will present the EPA’s next steps to reduce carbon pollution and climate change impacts. She’s expected to announce curbs on new power plant emissions.

Via EPA.gov:

FRIDAY: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Speaks at National Press Club Sept. 20

WASHINGTON – EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will discuss EPA’s priorities in addressing climate change at a National Press Club Speakers’ event on Friday, Sept. 20 at 9 a.m. Administrator McCarthy will highlight the Administration’s commitment to carrying out President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution and address the impacts of a changing climate. She will also discuss her vision for the EPA and challenges the Agency will face going forward.

Yes. Please.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz will testify before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. EDT at a hearing to discuss President Obama’s climate change policies.

Why does this matter?

Because:

a) This discussion has been a long time coming. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives hasn’t wanted to talk about it.

b) High-ranking Congresspeople who are on record as denying Climate Change will likely, once again, deny that human-caused Climate Change is a problem for our country and the world. That is good, overall. Sunlight disinfects.

So why now?

c) President Obama is set to announce a new EPA Carbon Pollution Standard on Friday. Without Congress’ help. This ruling will limit greenhouse gas emissions from newly built power plants.

So what are we going to do about Climate Change?

We’re going to tell the truth about it. Until people hear it. And then join us in doing something about it.

I’m hearing a lot more truth-telling. Calling out of deniers. Naming names.

Three recent links.

1) Bill McKibben and 350.org. This Salon interview about his Climate Change activism captures some of what I’m feeling.

Via Salon.com:

Bill McKibben: “Being green won’t solve the problem”

But this [Climate Change] is a systemic problem. It’s going to be solved or not solved by a systemic solution. It’s past the point where we’re going to manage to do it one light bulb at a time.

Right. Climate Change is a systemic, global, planetary, issue. Not one or a million of our individual dollars or works will solve it.

Including business.

2) The Guardian newspaper has been knocking it out of the park with dead-on Climate Change coverage. Last week, journalist Jo Cofino covered the Carbon Disclosure Project’s surprising move to call out the names of blue-chip non-reporters. See, CDP can only report on global emissions if the business world give them the information. And if they won’t, how can we know if they are really doing what they say they are doing?

Via TheGuardian.com:

Shame on you, Apple, Facebook and Amazon

There comes a time when naming and shaming is the only way to get some businesses to start taking their responsibilities seriously.

This is why CDP, the respected global NGO, has for the first time compiled and published a list of major companies around the world that are refusing to disclose details of their carbon emissions.

In the US, that includes household names such as Apple, Facebook, Amazon.com, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Caterpillar and General Dynamics.

Shame on all of you and the other 90 of the 500 largest listed companies in the world that chose not to give CDP the data it requested.

3) There’s been some terrific individual-action climate change coverage on the Daily Kos site recently, including the outstanding Hummingbird blogathon series.

Via DailyKos.com:

Hummingbirds – Hopeful Voices in Our Midst

The “Hummingbirds” Blogathon held this past week was our humble attempt to accentuate the positive and explore what all of us can do as individuals.  After all, successful collective efforts are so deemed because the whole ends being greater than the sum of its parts.  The diaries posted this week were not only inspiring and uplifting, but based on several diary comments I read, opened many eyes.

Why did the blogathon’s writers, journalists, and activists choose a hummingbird?

This is why.

On a visit to Japan, Wangari Maathai learned the story of the hummingbird and the forest fire. While the other animals run in fear or hang their heads in despair, the hummingbird flies above the fire time and again, releasing a few drops of water from its tiny beak.

“Why do you bother?” the other animals shout at the hummingbird. “I’m doing the best that I can,” the hummingbird replies.

That’s all, and everything, we each must do.

So much bad news.

So bad. And so much of it. About sea level rise and species extinction and massively destructive storms that change lives forever. 400. 

It’s a veritable Pandora’s box of bad.

So much bad that it’s tempting to push it aside.

But just like we teach children, the truth sets free to make different, better choices. Telling our friends and family and customers and colleagues and suppliers the truth about the real, imminent dangers facing humanity is the only way out.

And moreover, this is about respect.

Do I respect myself, and every person I meet, enough to act with integrity? To think beyond my own needs to what they need? And what our children need?

Via sehn.org, authored by the world’s preeminent scholar on the Precautionary Principle, Carolyn Raffensperger:

Why We Should Tell People the Truth About the Environment Even When It Is Bad News

I think unless the people are given information about what is happening to them, they will die in ignorance. And I think that’s a big sin. I mean, if there is such a thing as a sin, that’s it, to destroy people and not have them have a clue about how this is happening.”  Alice Walker

When people find out what I do for a living—addressing climate change, toxic chemicals, and loss of species—they ask me if I am optimistic that things will turn out ok. They ask, do I think there’s a viable future for their kids and their grandchildren? They are asking me for my professional judgment about the state of the world since I live and breathe each new study and every fact.

And my colleagues and allies in the environmental work have the same kinds of discussions about the science of endocrine disruptors, rising levels of carbon dioxide, and the acidification of the ocean. My colleagues say “that’s too negative. Focus on the good news! The solutions! We can’t tell people the bad news because it will turn them off!”

But here’s the deal—we are in deep trouble. Recent data suggest that humans will suffer more chronic debilitating diseases, most of our own making; climate will ricochet from one calamitous weather pattern to another; and frogs and pollinators will not survive the predations of industrial civilization. I write this essay from central Iowa where in 2010 we had record flooding. In 2012 we had record drought. And now in 2013 we have record rainfall and flooding, again.

Here is my list of reasons for why I have come to believe that people need to know the truth about the bad environmental news.

Raffensperger’s closing thought about “looking to the birds” reminds me of the famous Mr. Rogers quote. When asked how to talk to children about horrible things, he said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Remember what’s at the bottom of that box.

Hope.

“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”

 

 

Jersey Strong means more than being ready for the next Sandy.

It’s about being ready to thrive in the coming years, no matter what Mother Nature throws at us.

It’s about taking Sustainability seriously. Going beyond the low-hanging fruit of energy savings and waste reduction. Real sustainability in the era of climate change will be about innovation, growth, and business opportunities.

A new NJDEP initiative aims to do just that.

Bob Marshall, Assistant Commissioner for DEP Sustainability and Green Energy, hosted a meeting today where he introduced a draft proposal for a NJ Sustainable Business Registry.

(The meeting was in Trenton but I attended by webinar. Well done NJDEP.)

The idea is sort of like how Sustainable Jersey offers municipalities a step-by-step action plan for being a greener, more economically successful, and generally nicer place to live.

But for businesses.

The draft being considered is based on the State of Maryland’s “Smart, Green, and Growing” program.

Here are the draft goals for a NJ program:

1. Promote sustainability planning and practices among New Jersey businesses to enhance economic success, environmental protection, and an improved quality of life.

2. Identify and share resources to educate and encourage the New Jersey business community on SROI (sustainable return on investment).

I was happy to hear that this program would be a partnership between NJDEP and the NJ Small Business Development Centers.

And that there was support in the room from Sustainable Jersey, NJ Green Association, the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise at Fairleigh Dickinson University and others.

While it’s still in the beginning planning stages, I feel it’s getting off on the right foot.

For more information, contact the NJDEP Office of Sustainability and Green Energy.