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Three new Climate Change articles worth your time.

Nutshell: Where things stand, why,  and what to do about it.

1. Where Thing Stand: Worse than we thought

Via grist.org:

Famed climate economist Nicholas Stern: ‘I underestimated the risks’ of climate change

Published in 2006, the “Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change” suggested that climate change would result in a 5 percent drop in the annual gross domestic product in perpetuity, and that stabilizing the climate would itself cost 2 percent — a massive sum.

Last week in Davos, however, Stern suggested that his conclusions were wrong. They were too optimistic. In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stern, who is now a crossbench peer, said: “Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then.”

“This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential.”

2. Why We Aren’t Doing Anything About It

Via CSRwire.com:

Acting As If Tomorrow Matters: Mapping the Obstacles to Sustainability

Habit-The sheer force of existing unsustainable habits — personal, social, organizational, and governmental — reinforced by both lack of urgency and uncertainty about what more sustainable behavior would entail. Essentially, sustainability requires all of us in all of our roles to do things in different and more sustainable ways. To do that, we need to take the time and effort to change something we have done, probably without much thought, for a while.

Unsupportive or hostile law and governance is the second area of obstacles. As many of us are all too aware, the legal playing field is often biased against sustainable alternatives.  Fossil fuels tend to get sustainable vs unsustainable developmentmore, and more permanent, financial support from the federal government — in the form of tax incentives and subsidies — than renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Politics–Political opposition and the growing influence of other countries. In principle, sustainable development is middle ground because it is does not put the environment over development, or development over the environment, but rather emphasizes both equally. But because it is based on a preference for sustainable development over unsustainable development, fossil fuel interests have funded climate change denial campaigns and political candidates who oppose action on climate change.

In practice, these obstacles reinforce each other.

3. What We Might Want to Start Doing

Via treehugger.com:

Why Environmentalists Need to Talk More About the Basics and Stop Skipping Steps

To Protect Nature, We Have to Be More Convincing
If you consider yourself an environmentalist, or green, or care at all about the life-support systems of our blue marble of a planet, one of the best things you can do to help is to convince others of what must be done. This is simple math. One person, even doing their best, usually cannot achieve as much as a group working together. But bringing others on board can be pretty hard. If you’ve tried before, you’ve probably noticed that people fall into three groups: Those that are already on board on one end of the spectrum, those that for various ideological reasons won’t be convinced even by a mountain of evidence on the other, and a large group of open minded but fairly neutral people in the middle.

 

Civil, respectful, fast-based discussion. That’s the goal.

So if that’s what we want, why do so many online comment threads get completely out of hand?

Read this thoughtful, realistic article by Bora Zivkovic for some insights.

Via ScientificAmerican.com:

Commenting threads: good, bad, or not at all.

A couple of weeks ago, an article was published in Science about online science communication (nothing new there, really, that we have not known for a decade, but academia is slow to catch up). But what was interesting in it, and what everyone else jumped on, was a brief mention of a conference presentation that will be published soon in a journal. It is about the effect of the tone of comments on the response of other readers to the article on which the comments appear.

Instead of “silent” participation leading gradually to more active participation as one becomes more comfortable with the site, it seems the opposite is happening: mildly active users are now becoming silent users as it is easier to click “Share on Facebook” than to post a brief comment.

But there is another problem here – most of the good, nice, constructive commenters may have gone silent and taken their discussions of your blog elsewhere, but the remaining few commenters are essentially trolls.

 

Uncivil, aggressive comments resulted in quick polarization. Readers, although still not well informed about the topic, quickly adopted strong opinions about it.

So trolls not only stifle discusion, they can drive readers to form polarized opinions that they did not hold previously.

Not a good situation, in my opinion, for helping people come to important decisions.

More and more, I’m finding that this quote attributed to Danial Moynihan is a helpful compass.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

 

Science tells us what. Policy tells us what to do about it.

Human-caused climate change is happening and it’s hurting the world we live on.

So why aren’t more citizens, businesses, and governments taking action?

I attended a lecture last night on just that topic at Rutgers University by Dr. Michael E. Mann, climate scientist and author of  “The Hockey Stick and The Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines.”

Dr. Mann started off stating that climate change science is not controversial.  Climate change science rests on established and well-understood facts and validated models.

The earth’s climate is changing rapidly, and perhaps irreversibly, due to human-created carbon emissions into our atmosphere.

With that out of the way, he recounted his reluctant evolution from policy-eschewing scientist to a front-line climate science  defender.

Think Attorney General subpoenas, Congressional inquiries, and even death threats.

All waged by policymakers, politicians, and those with financial interests in keeping climate change science from being accepted as basic fact.

It’s a fascinating story and I strongly recommend the book.

Watch a condensed 16-minute version of this same talk from his Dec. 2011 TEDx talk:

TEDxPSU – Michael Mann – A Look Into Our Climate: Past To Present To Future

And about that hockey stick?

Kudos for my alma mater’s student newspaper The Daily Targum for covering the well-attended event:

Author makes case for rising temperatures

Michael E. Mann, a professor in the Department of Meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, came to speak about his book, “The Hockey Stick and The Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines,” yesterday at the Cook Campus Center.

 “The hockey stick is a graph that my co-authors and I published more than a decade ago, which was an attempt to find how the temperature of the earth has changed over 1,000 years,” Mann said.

“It quickly became an icon in the climate change debate because it told such a simple story,” he said. “You didn’t need to understand the physics of how a climate model works to understand what this graph is telling you.”

His talk ended on the positive note that there is still time, not a lot,  to take action before we hit the point of no return. (Wonky but worth it.)

But first, we need to stop arguing about the science.

Learn More:

Aug. 30 White House Executive Order Signed by President Obama to Accelerate Energy Efficiency

Sept 6. Greenbiz.com: Article White House Efficiency Plan Will Up Output, Curb Emissions
(Greenbiz.com is a for-profit online news source covering Sustainable Business and related topics)

Sept. 7 New York Times: Obama Counterpunches “Climate Change is Not a Hoax”

Sept 7 Inside Climate News: Major Corporations Aren’t Waiting for Washington to Reduce Emissions and Save Money
(Inside News is a non-profit, non-partisan news source)