SEF News-Views Digest No. 112 (12-2-15)
Are you, or anyone you know, experiencing the effects of weather extremes? It appears that the news is increasingly about extreme weather conditions—locally, regionally, nationally and all over the world.
Many people don’t fully understand the long-term effects of mounting CO2 accumulations in the atmosphere. Because day-to-day living is challenging enough, most people give little thought in planning for an unimagined future, especially the projected effects of climate change. Bettye and I, along with others of the combined Silent-Boomer generation, will likely experience minimal hardships during our remaining lifetimes. But, according to most scientific projections, anyone living in the second half of this century will likely face some increasingly turbulent times. (Sorry about that! We really meant well, having enjoyed inordinate consumerism and modern lifestyles.)
In forecasts about potential future scenarios, we observe the three typical views: optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic. Of course, most people will express all of these attitudes at times, depending on existing circumstances, as related to physical, psycho-emotional, or socio-political developments.
Optimists are inclined to be very successful persons in their chosen occupations, and satisfied with their status in life. Successful techno-experts, for instance, tend to believe that increasing technological advances (geoengineering, new energy sources, carbon sequestration, genetic manipulation, etc.) will solve any future problems facing civilization. Unfortunately, the crucial matter of having access to dependable, long-term energy sources is seldom deemed an unsolvable problem, which it may well prove to be.
On the opposite side, pessimists may be persons who generally feel overstressed, mostly due to inordinate economic, social, and political pressures. The media is constantly reminding us that impoverished people the world over are suffering, and losing hope for promising futures. Even some highly experienced professionals express pessimism, particularly those who understand and anticipate the harmful consequences of climate change, which may be attributed to our profligate use of fossil fuels in facilitating excessive consumerism.
And then there are realists, those who recognize and understand the likely potential future scenarios for humanity and the planet. Ignoring all the positive media hoopla, realists acknowledge that it’s probably too little and too late to undo human-induced environmental harm. For realists, the task ahead requires identifying and minimizing future risks, chiefly by mitigating harmful practices, finding ways to adapt, and working to create as much resilience and sustainability as possible.
Hope is certainly needed to bolster our spirits in this defining moment, as world leaders seek constructive measures to counter and remedy humanity’s excessive reliance on fossil fuels. With the 21st year of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) currently underway in Le Bourget, France (11/30-12/11), every world citizen needs to become more informed and actively involved.
To help citizens learn essential information about climate change, some excellent tutorials (writings, photos) are available on the COP21 United Nations Conference On Climate Change website. Also, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers an interactive student guide: Global Climate Change Basics (see illustration below: A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change)
The objective of the 2015 conference is to achieve, for the first time—in over 20 years of UN negotiations—a binding, universal climate agreement endorsed by all nations. The conference’s main goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in order to limit the global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, when fossil-based energy was developed to power civilization.
This newsletter issue contains several articles addressing climate change, with viewpoints ranging between optimism, pessimism, and realism, including the “too little, too late” perspective. Please pass this information along to others, including those who empathize, those teetering on the fence, and perhaps even deniers, or anyone willing to learning more about a topic that will continue affecting humanity for many years to come. –– Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
> COP21 Paris: The Paris Climate Conference 2015 (Nov.30-Dec. 11). Has COP21 found the magic bullet for climate change? Even OPEC is signing up. Does that mean the agreement will be too weak to work, and may be just for show? To find out we dug into the UN and EU reports. Here are five facts you need to know. 1) The pledges will actually prevent the world from taking a 2°C path; 2) The pledges make almost no progress over “business as usual”; 3) …because they’re based only on pure self-interest; 4) There will be no “upward ratchet of ambition;” and 5) The UN’s priority is the appearance of success.
> The New York Times: Paris Deal Would Herald An Important First Step On Climate Change (Coral Davenport). President Obama and more than 100 world leaders convened with thousands of diplomats on Monday on the outskirts of Paris to open two weeks of intense negotiations aimed at forging an accord that could begin to avert the most devastating effects of global warming and redefine the economy of the 21st century. Here is a guide to what is at stake. If the talks fail — as they did in two previous attempts to achieve such a deal — then nations will continue on a trajectory that scientists say locks the planet into a future of rising sea levels, more frequent floods, worsening droughts, food and water shortages, destructive hurricanes and other catastrophic events.
> Resource Insights: Climate Change Is Our Grand Narrative Now (Kurt Cobb). Climate change is giving us the first universally understood signal that it is time to reconsider our collective future. Will we risk the destruction of all that we hold dear in exchange for a few more decades of a fossil fuel party that is undermining our health and the health of the planet? Or will we choose to embrace not only changes in the physical infrastructure upon which we base our material lives, but also a new vision that can endlessly engage our hearts, minds and spirits in the kind of growth that has no limit?
> Common Dreams: COP21: Why Science Will Make All The Difference (Eric Rehm). Has science sufficiently warned the planet so that we can take action? Has the scientific community provoked policy change? Has science inspired and supported movements for climate and social change? The answer to all three questions: Yes! One of the most influential papers in the history of climate science was published six years ago, and it was only six pages long. “Greenhouse-Gas Emission Targets for Limiting Global Warming to 2 °C” changed the way scientists and activists alike advocated for climate change policy by shifting the conversation from concentration to accumulation. For the climate movement, science provided the numbers, and the numbers added up.
> Resilience: Drought Influenced Syrian Civil War; So What, Says U.S. Congress (Keith Schneider). A paper published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States added fresh, peer-reviewed details about how a malicious four-year (2007 to 2010) drought in Syria played a role in touching off a calamitous civil war in 2011. The long rein of water scarcity ruined the farm economy and drove over 1 million farmers and their families into unstable resource-scarce cities inspired by the Arab Spring to rebel against authoritarian rule.
> Cassandra’s Legacy: The “Syrian Sickness”: What Crude Oil Gives, Crude Oil Will Take Away (Ugo Bardi). Though crude oil is a great source of wealth for some countries, it is also a wealth that comes as a cycle. Normally, the cycle spans several decades, even more than a century, so that those who live through it may completely miss the fact that they are heading to an end of their wealth. But the cycle is faster and especially visible in those areas where the amount of oil is modest; there, wealth and misery appear one after the other in a dramatic series of events. The factors that led to the Syrian disaster (a crossover of production and consumption) also apply to other oil-rich countries, including Venezuela, Iran, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and other producers in the Arabian Peninsula.
> The Archdruid Report: The Shadows In The Cave (John Michael Greer). This week’s post explores readers’ reactions to Greer’s comments about our culture’s taboo against choosing not to use the latest technologies. He didn’t expect the vast majority of those comments would agree heartily with the two points of that post: 1) that there’s a significant number of Americans who choose not to use currently fashionable technologies; and 2) that there’s an even larger number of Americans who get really freaky about people who don’t use available technologies. According to a significant fraction of Americans, the only techno freedom you’re supposed to exercise is that of choosing brand labels on items on the officially approved list of devices you’re expected to own. The prevalence of techno-bullying and techno-shaming in today’s America is a fascinating topic.
> Common Dreams:‘ Now More Than Ever’: In Paris And Beyond, Climate Movement Will Be Heard (Deirdre Fulton). Citing security concerns in the wake of the attacks in Paris, the city’s Prefecture of Police on Wednesday cancelled a massive climate justice march planned for November 29, the day before UN-brokered COP21 climate talks officially begin, as well as more dispersed mobilizations scheduled forDecember 12, the day after the summit ends. But the climate movement—and the tens of thousands who planned to take part in the demonstrations—won’t be easily silenced. While acknowledging that certain plans need to be retooled, organizers say that now, more than ever, is the time to “work for climate justice, and the peace it can help bring,” as 350.org‘s Hoda Baraka put it.
> Yes! Magazine: As We Adapt To Climate Change, Who Gets Left Behind? (Robert Jensen). The documentary Weather Gone Wild reports on inventive ways officials and ordinary people are adapting to the predictable unpredictability of the more extreme weather we are experiencing—and will continue to experience, more intensely—due to climate change. The film does a serviceable job of addressing the planning options and technologies for adapting to the consequences of climate change, but it avoids addressing moral and political questions, posing only a brief closing reflection on wealth inequality, and the question of what adaptation means, and to whom. However threatening the effects of wilder weather in the affluent global North, it will be in the poorer global South where human suffering will be most dramatic, as, for example, with rising sea levels flooding Bangladesh.
> Carbon Brief: Hottest Five-Year Period On Record Is 2011-2015, Says WMO (Roz Pidcock). With two full months still to add in, the global average surface temperature for January to October in 2015 was 0.73C above the 1961-1990 average. This already puts it a long way above 2014, in which average global temperature reached 0.57C above the 1961-1990 average. This year’s record is down to a combination of rising greenhouse gases and a boost from the strong El Niño underway in the Pacific, says the World Meteorological Organization. To put today’s news another way, global temperature in 2015 is likely to pass the “symbolic and significant” threshold of 1C above preindustrial levels.
> AP-MPR: On Climate Science, Most GOP Candidates Fail (Seth Borenstein). When it comes to climate science, two of the three Democratic presidential candidates are ‘A’ students, while most of the Republican contenders are flunking, according to a panel of scientists who reviewed candidates’ comments.
> MPR: A Plan For Minnesota’s Parks In The Face Of Climate Change. MPR’s Cathy Wurzer spoke with Ed Quinn (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) who works with the DNR’s parks and trails division to plan for the future of climate change. Quinn says future weather patterns will require the DNR to spend more on species control. Quinn also says less snow and a shorter snow season will change resource allocation and scheduling for park maintenance.
> Daily KOS: Mother Earth Weeps As Arctic Circle Ice Cap Slides Into The Sea (by Pakalolo). This incredible video is from Chasing Ice where Adam LeWinter and Director Jeff Orlowski filmed a historic breakup at the Ilulissat Glacier in Western Greenland. Though not Austfonna, we get the idea of what is happening to our glaciers worldwide.
> Our Finite World: Why “Supply And Demand” Doesn’t Work For Oil (Gail Tverberg). Some mjor points: it is inevitable that the price of oil must stop rising at some point because of the adverse impact on spendable income of consumers; the drop in oil prices, and of commodity prices in general, makes debt harder to repay and discourages adding new debt; and instead of expecting oil prices to bounce back, we should think of the current cycle as being different from past cycles because it relates to diminishing returns–in other words, the rising cost of production, because we extracted the cheapest-to-extract oil first. In sum, trying to substitute oil that is high in cost to produce, for oil that is low in cost to produce, seems to bring on a fatal illness for the economy.
> The New York Times: Iowa’s Climate-Change Wisdom (Jeff Biggers). Recent polls show that 60 percent of Iowans, now facing flooding and erosion, believe global warming is happening. There are more solar panels on barns than on urban roofs or in suburban parking lots, and the state’s first major solar farm is in rural Frytown, initiated by the Farmers Electric Cooperative. Wind turbines now line cornfields across the state, providing nearly 30 percent of Iowa’s electricity production. With some $10 billion invested in wind energy and manufacturing in Iowa, Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the benefits of green jobs. The Versaland agroforestry farm in Johnson County features 30,000 trees, introduced cover crops, composting and multispecies grazing, and a transformed once-degraded industrial corn farm into a vibrant carbon capturing and storing ecosystem. In effect, today’s farmers can play a key role in climate solutions.
> E&E Publishing: Bill Gates Preps Biggest Clean Energy ‘In History’ (Lisa Friedman). According to government and business officials knowledgeable about the announcement of the world’s largest clean energy research and development partnership, a group of developing and developed countries — including the United States and India — will agree to double their research and development budgets for clean energy and form a coalition to conduct joint work. Bill Gates and other billionaires, meanwhile, will pledge a pool of money to assist the cooperative projects. The exact spending amount was unclear yesterday, but one source put it in the billions of dollars.
> Resilience: The Local Economy Solution (Ryan Coonerty). In an attempt to bring reason and thoughtfulness to the politics of economic development, author Michael H. Shuman has focused on commonsense economics. His new book, The Local Economy Solution: How Innovative, Self-Financing “Pollinator” Enterprises can Grow Jobs and Prosperity (Chelsea Green, 2015) reiterates the core arguments of his previous works: first, most businesses in the United States are local; and, second, local businesses are engines of growth and much more likely to create jobs than large companies. So, cities and states should stop trying to lure huge corporations from one jurisdiction to another and should instead invest in the local businesses that are likely to stay, create jobs, and support the local economy.
> The Wall Street Journal: What The Future Of Working At Home May Look Like (Frances Holliss). More than half the businesses registered in the U.S. are now home-based. But few homes are designed and built to accommodate them. People who work out of their homes are left trying to resolve conflicting needs in a single space: a business that’s open to clients on the same site as a private living area; a noisy workspace in proximity to places where the family needs to study, relax and have down time; potentially dangerous work processes in a place that needs to be safe. Before the industrial revolution, buildings were almost universally designed to combine dwelling and workplace into one structure, which we now call the workhome.
> Clean Energy Resource Teams: Clean Energy Accelerator. Metro CERT – offering rapid energy assistance to cities, counties, & schools. Learn more at: http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/accelerator/lugs
> Citizens for Sustainability: Discussion Forum & Electronic Recycling Presentation (by SAV Area FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League Team #17760), Sat., Dec. 12, 11am-1pm, St. Anthony Village Community Center, Silver Lake Rd.
> Minnesotans for Fair Economy: MFE People’s Congress, Dec. 12, 11:00am – 5:00pm (lunch will be served), Minneapolis Convention Center, 1301 2nd Ave South, Mpls.Childcare Available! Contact: Rial O’Malley (firstname.lastname@example.org)