30 April 2017

What's the Right Word for "Emergency"?

Holy flying freak out! The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide hit over 412 parts per million (ppm) this past week! We're still setting temperature records, especially in the Arctic. Despite fossil fuel CO2 emissions being flat over the last few years, CO2 concentration is still increasing — and at an accelerating rate. Sea level is rising at an accelerating rate. The oceans are heating at an accelerating rate. Unprecedented ocean acidification is increasing at an accelerating rate. And ocean de-oxygenation is on the increase, as well.

If you understand global warming and climate change, you'll understand how distressing all of this is. But if you don't understand it, what can I say to explain that this is an emergency — even though you're not bleeding or in pain? Yet.

Look at this. It's a fuzzy version of what my hubby just presented at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly. Just note how all the graphs are on the upswing.

All of these data trends point to a planetary emergency ... but still, amongst the public (and even amongst the vast majority of scientists, it seems), there's no sense of panic or urgency. No sense of impending calamity or danger. No sense of crisis or emergency.

What's a gal who cares about the biosphere — and all the children, of all species — to do? What WORD is going to help people grasp the plight we are in? What metaphor will help people get that we're in a doomsday scenario?

Please, I'm begging for help here. Can we put our heads (and hearts) together globally and come up with the right words to say? The right metaphors and analogies? The right graphs and graphics? Can the advertising agencies of the world do some pro bono work in order to help us safeguard the future? Can the artists and musicians come up with ways to wake up the public? 

We are so close to the point of no return (if not already past it) that my plea is a desperate one. 

Can you help solve this problem? Or do you know someone who might be able to?

23 April 2017

Earth Day Emergency ... and More

I'm writing this on Earth Day 2017. It's also the 26th anniversary of the day my hubby and I fell in love — at an Earth Day sunrise ceremony — and our fourth wedding anniversary (yes, it was a sunrise ceremony). So it's always a special day for us. I hope it was a lovely Earth Day for you, too, wherever you celebrate it. 

Here's a small collection of thoughts and poetry for Earth Day.

The Rainbow Warriors
by Nicola Beechsquirrel
Come, all who ever loved our Earth
Who lived in peace amongst her creatures
Gentle, loving, caring folk
With healing hands, and wisdom in your souls.
Come, incarnate once more
Come to Earth in her greatest need.
Help us rid her of her burdens
Cleanse her of all poisons
Close up the deep sores on her sacred body
And cover it once more in soft green.
Walk amongst us again
That we may relearn ancient skills
And long-forgotten wisdom
And tread lightly upon our Mother Earth
Taking from her only what we need
Living her ways in love and joy
Treating her creatures as equals.
Teach us how to reach those who exploit her
How to open their souls to the beauty of Life
That they may destroy no longer.
Come to us, Rainbow Warriors
Share with us your wisdom
For we have great need of it.

Climate change impacts have now been documented across every ecosystem on Earth, despite an average warming of only ~1°C so far. (Scheffers et al, 2016, in "The broad footprint of climate change from genes to biomes to people")

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. 
— Marie Curie

 Information is everything.
— Pamela Anderson

     To understand that humanity is on a collision course with the laws of Nature is to be stuck in what I call Cassandra's Dilemma. You can see the most likely outcome of current trends. You can warn people about what is happening and underscore the need for a change in course. Some people can understand you, and a few may even believe you and try to take action — but the vast majority cannot, or will not, respond. Later, if catastrophe occurs, they may even blame you, as if your prediction set in motion the process that resulted in disaster (self-fulfilling prophets are the most reviled). If, however, the World manages to avoid the potential catastrophe, thanks in part to the work of those who were motivated to action by your warning, many will point to that escape from danger as evidence of your incompetence as a prophet.
     The role of Cassandra, issuing unpopular warnings of avoidable danger, is a no-win situation. Failure to convey the message effectively results in catastrophe. Success in being understood — which leads to action to avoid that catastrophe — means ultimately being proven 'wrong.' 
     Being willing to be 'wrong' is, by itself, not enough. Your timing and your tone must be perfect. You must be 'wrong' at the right moment, because once proven 'wrong' — and the World will use every possible means to label you mistaken, as soon as possible — your credibility will be destroyed, so that thereafter your effect on the World will be minimal. Moreover, your means of communication are severely limited: if your warnings are too shrill, you will be ridiculed; too sober, and you will be ignored.
     Even the best-case scenario — predicting disaster at precisely the right moment, in the most strategically balanced tone of voice — does not guarantee a successful outcome: a failed prediction of disaster. Warnings are notoriously ineffective. People may believe you and still do nothing.
     The worst and most painful outcome for any Cassandra is to be proven right. 
— Alan AtKisson, in Believing Cassandra: How to Be an Optimist in a Pessimist's World

Earth Day Emergency
by George Elliott Clarke
Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada

Earth Day should be Thanksgiving, not Mother
Earth’s Good Friday, when Extinction’s spectre—
Those ghosts of the Endangered or those Dead 
Creatures haunt us—souls polluted by lead,
Mercury, arsenic, acids, and seeds
“Frankensteined” genetically. Live meat bleeds
As it conveyor-belts from plains to plates—
Shrink-wrapped, sporting “Best Before”-stamp, stale dates—
While dolphins and whales, having gulped down our
Plastic garbage and water bottles, lour,
Thrash, and beach themselves, their bellies starving,
And tides turn as red as blood spilled, carving
And serving mad cows or sick swine, all ill
From ingesting strange flesh and/or feces,
Contracted in ponds, scum-green with algaes.
Earth Day should be Eden Revival Day,
Not a “Mayday! Mayday!” Emergency,
When the Apocalypse sounds factual—
Angels strike, and precious seem wine and oil,
And the seas belch up blood, and all fish die,
And sun scorches like fire, so wetlands dry,
And locusts chew roots, leaves, fruits, and Famine 
Eats every human down to skeleton,
And skies shine with poison Radiation 
Or go dark with choking smog. No nation
Is immune from terra firma that shakes!
One must ask: Does fracking trigger earthquakes?
Ebola, SARS, Swine Flu, Bird Flu,
And other pestilential plagues renew,
Plus West Nile Virus, and other disease—
Infections without treatment, deaths sans cease.
Lethal’s now the baffling kiss of sunlight—
Intricately broken down is skin, white
With pus, putrid with boils, palpably raw,
While tornadoes whirl and swirl, clout and claw,
Oceans go soapy as a laundromat,
Foaming; skyscrapers totter; homes go splat;
A tsunami of trash washes away
Hospitals, leaving unsanitary
Cadavers. Each toxic anatomy—
In obscene inundation—heaps awry.
Oil spills, clear-cut forests, firestorms, sink-holes
Swallowing suburbs whole, are routine tolls
Now, for “Progress.” Condemned seas and damned winds,
Waste lands, Rust Belts, vast contaminations,
Thorns and rubbish, smashed glass, cracked ceramics,
Charred remains, scorched-earth, war-zone Economics,
Bomb-blast disasters ever more drastic,
Atomic threats, arms races elastic,
Ever expanding, is just a short list
Of unpalatable residues unjust,
The catastrophes now making us sick—
Unsustainable—and uneconomic.
Is Capital the acceptable
Villain, or are our choices culpable?
If Mother Earth now faces assassins,
Who are the culprits if not we humans?
This Earth Day demands deliberate turns
Back to Nature: Balance: What each child learns.

16 April 2017

It's a Holiday ... Let's Just Have Some Fun!

This is a holiday weekend for many people in the world, so I thought I'd keep it short and light. Well, short and fun (cuz the topic of climate chaos is never light). 

Please enjoy Baba Brinkman’s Rap Guide to Climate Chaos. This hiphop artist's lyrics are both ingenious and educative.

09 April 2017

Ask (the Deniers) and Ye Shall Be Answered

Isn't synchronicity a wonderful thing? Just a couple of days after wondering, in last week's post, what it will take for climate change deniers to see the light (or should I say, feel the heat?), a book arrived in the mail. This book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer, had been recommended by a friend, and it came as if to answer my question.

The inside front flap explains everything, quite succinctly:
[A] network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system. The network has brought together some of the richest people on the planet. Their core beliefs — that taxes are a form of tyranny; that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom — are sincerely held.
I would like to invite these "exceedingly wealthy" people to never again use public services like highways and hospitals that were built and paid for by a government (that is, by your taxes). I know that lots more things are privatized in the United States than they are in other countries, but you can't tell me the US Government does nothing with the tax money it receives. Mind you, if Americans had health care and public schooling like the rest of us in the developed world, they wouldn't be complaining about taxes. Instead, they have crumbling infrastructure, the most costly health care system in the world and one of the worst education systems in the OECD. And they (well, some of them) will fight to the death to maintain their rights to crumbling and costly and lousy. (I have to admit that I keep wondering why they feel they have to spend over half of their taxes on their military — to protect what? Crumbling, costly and lousy? And the illusion of freedom? That's some weird arithmetic!)

I was asking what it would take to change the minds and hearts of climate change deniers, but I see now that the problem is an extremely deep and viscerally felt sense of disconnectedness and insecurity that (they believe) only greed ("intense and selfish desire for something"), mammon and "winning" can fill. This philosophical illness even has a name: pleonexia.

My sense is that only extreme shock therapy will ever have any hope of transforming greedy, insecure people who feel no connection to the future, to other people or to the rest of Nature. Perhaps it's a game to them ... let's see how close to the edge we can go.
Data visualization by Rosamund Pearce for Carbon Brief
Well, is this enough of a shock for them? Is four years close enough to the edge? A look (Analysis: Just four years left of the 1.5C carbon budget) at carbon dioxide emission numbers for 2016 shows that we only have 4.1 years left (at current levels of emission) if we want to stay below 1.5ºC of global temperature increase. You've seen the havoc wreaked by 1ºC — how much more of this before even "exceedingly wealthy" people will start to be impacted? (If one single denier ever has the nerve to say, "Why didn't they warn us?" I will not be held responsible for socking them in the mouth!)

This CarbonBrief paper finally mentions something that my hubby and I have been promoting since 2014 when the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report came out. RCP2.6 is a "representative carbon pathway" (I call it Really Cool Plan 2.6) described as:
[a] "peak and decline" scenario where stringent mitigation and carbon dioxide removal technologies mean atmospheric CO2 concentration peaks and then falls during this century. By 2100, atmospheric CO2 reaches around 420 parts per million (ppm) – about 20 ppm above current levels. In this scenario, global temperatures are likely to rise by 1.3-1.9ºC above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
Note that RCP2.6 is the only scenario that will keep us below a 2ºC global temperature increase. And if that doesn't sound like much, remember that +2.0ºC, before it became bandied about as though it's a target we're aiming for, was suggested as a safety guardrail. 

Now consider this: Once you've hit the guardrail, it's almost always too late — you're already spinning out, caught up in a catastrophic accident. 1.5ºC is those little bumps that wake you up when you fall asleep at the wheel and start swerving — oftentimes disastrously, sometimes luckily not. A 1ºC rise in global average temperature is the equivalent of all the lines painted on the road that we need and ought to stay within. And we're there already. If we keep veering all over the road, we're all going to die. Including the climate change deniers and the "exceedingly wealthy."
Photo by Roger Gendron

02 April 2017

I Have a Question for Climate Change Deniers: What Is It Going to Take?

It was a bad week for those who believe that the children (of all species) deserve a future — one with a viable biosphere and a survivable climate.

First, "President" T**** (I refuse to give his name airtime) decided to halt American momentum on the climate crisis. Is that ignorance? Stupidity? Negligence? Or just plain cronyism? (With his biggest crony being Putin, who cares not for the Russian people but for the Russian gas and oil industries and their continuing profits.)

Then we got word that the climate change denial group, the Heartland Institute, is sending their denialist drivel of a book (authored by three fossil fuel industry shills with PhDs), intended to seed even more doubt about anthropogenic global warming in the minds of the scientifically illiterate American public, to 200,000 science teachers throughout the United States. Good grief — no, bad grief. 

As I commented online about a Washington Post piece about this travesty of propaganda, there is a bright side. The Heartland Institute has just set the precedent that will allow us to send a copy of Al Gore's new movie, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, to 200,000 science teachers, too! After all, fair's fair. Thanks, Heartland.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power trailer

I got up the nerve to ask Heartland Institute to explain their mindset given the climate change emergency we're facing down. Another commenter wrote: "You do know of course that in a matter of time, very distant time, the sun is going to burn up and that will bring about the end of life on earth as we know it. Our piddling carbon footprint in the grand scheme of things means very little."

My response? "So in the near future, you don't care what kind of world we're leaving the children? Because the sun's going to burn out in a few billion years?" (I was glad to see that others suggested her comment was inane if not a little hard-hearted.)

I am really trying to understand a mindset that seems to put profit and greed ahead of life. I feel like I'm missing something. We can't drink oil, breathe "natural" (methane) gas, or eat coal. So why do so many North Americans continue to defend those industries ... at our peril?

To another Heartland supporter and climate change denier who likes the idea of spewing pseudo-science to teachers across the United States, I suggested that they follow the money. "If you do your due diligence, you'll soon discover innumerable links between the authors, fossil fuel and (for at least two of the three) tobacco companies, and 'think tanks' or other organizations (such as Heartland) funded in part by Big Oil or Big Coal (Exxon, Koch Brothers, Peabody, etc.). Even the person who wrote the forward for this second edition works for a lobby group 'funded by New Mexico oil and gas industry interests' (Sourcewatch). What the authors Bob Carter, Fred Singer and Craig Idso do (and continue to do with this publication) is called shilling."

The Heartland Institute Facebook page has a Ronald Reagan meme up top: "Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives." Then why, I asked, isn't the American government protecting its most vulnerable citizens (its children) from the hellish future that is already being unleashed by climate chaos? I just don't get it.

On a friend's FB page, in a discussion of T****'s climate change policy devastation (and the suggestion that he's doing this for the profit), someone wrote: "Exactly gore has made what a billion off of climate change." [sic]

I flipped on the guy. I'm so sick and tired of people ranging on Al Gore. I wrote: "The man has probably done more to make us aware of the climate change emergency than any other living human being. Gore understands that the fastest way to curb greenhouse gas emissions is through market mechanisms, which can turn on a dime (which T****'s stupid tweets have proven). I don't agree with him on everything (I don't agree with anyone on everything!), but revolution takes a lot longer than people think -- and we don't have that time." I invited him to read The Planet-Saving, Capitalism-Subverting, Surprisingly Lucrative Investment Secrets of Al Gore.

But I couldn't stop there: "If you want to rang on someone/something, why not rang on the governments (i.e., taxpayers) the world over who are still giving trillions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuel corporations every year! (And that's while they say that renewable energy companies should be able to stand on their own two feet. Gimme a break. Fossil fuel corporations have never stood on their own two feet. Society has always had to pay the social/health and environmental costs of fossil fuel pollution.)"

Another one that made my blood boil said that abnormally high snowpack in the Sierras proved that climate change is a scam and the California drought is over. Look, we all hope and pray for California that their drought will end (heck, Canada gets nearly 50% of its food from that American state, so you know we've got our fingers crossed for good luck), but it's not as simple as one horrendously rainy season (five deaths!) and a high snowpack. All those aquifers and reservoirs and wells are going to take years to refill.

What is it going to take for climate change deniers to see that their delay tactics are endangering us all? Oh well, let's face it. It's just been a bad and sad week for the climate.