Tuesday, August 21, 2018

On the Climate Emergency

Lots of bleak news these days. The fires sweeping through Canada and the U.S. this year, at least, for the thinnest of silver linings in these devastating tragedies, have woken more people up to the reality of climate change. We need the U.S. on board on this, and that will only happen when they start to see the consequences out their living room windows. Richard Smith explains the solution to our current issues in New Politics,
"Scientists tell us we face a climate emergency . . . Suppressing emissions means closing down the producers of those emissions – the oil companies, auto manufacturers, power plants, chemical companies, construction companies, airlines, etc. . . . Corporations, typically limited to one line or field of production, like oil production for example, can’t be expected to provide new jobs in an entirely different field for displaced workers and have no mandate to do so. Society has do this. . . . This is the public conversation the whole nation and the whole world needs to be having right now." 
Yup. Except he says scientists have been warning us since the 80s, but we actually had a much longer timeline to get our shit together. Here's the Washington Post, page 2, from November 2, 1922:

And this one is from a New Zealand paper, dated August 14, 1912:

Yesterday, Craig Welch published an extensive overview of the effects on the permafrost in National Geographic:
"Arctic experts are weighing a troubling question: Could a thaw of permafrost begin decades sooner than many people expect in some of the Arctic's coldest, most carbon-rich regions, releasing trapped greenhouse gases that could accelerate human-caused climate change? . . . By the time some changes are detected, a significant transition may be underway, he says. That means the public and policymakers may not grasp the real risks. "Most models don't project major carbon releases until beyond 2100," Walter Anthony says. That may be the case. But it's also possible, she says, that they "could actually happen in my children's lifetime—or my own."
The data isn't 100% at this point or extensively collected, but,
"Even scientists uncomfortable with the limited data say the possibility that something so fundamental could change so quickly gives them pause. . . . When we see things happening that haven't happened in the lifetime of the scientists studying them, that should be a concern."
Meanwhile, in today's New York Times, Lisa Friedman reports on how new US policies will cost lives:
"The proposal, the Affordable Clean Energy rule, is a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which was an aggressive effort to speed up the closures of coal-burning plants, one of the main producers of greenhouse gases, by setting national targets for cutting carbon dioxide emissions and encouraging utilities to use cleaner energy sources like wind and solar. The new proposal, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, instead seeks to make minor on-site efficiency improvements at individual plants and will also let states relax pollution rules for power plants that need upgrades, keeping them active longer."
Well, we had a good run.


Lorne said...

Your last sentence says it all, Marie. You have probably seen this, but I think George Carlin put our belief that we are the acme of existence into perspective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W33HRc1A6c

The Mound of Sound said...

And this morning comes news that the really old, thick Arctic sea ice off Greenland that was assumed to be sound and long-lasting is breaking up. Look what happened last winter in the midst of the long Arctic night. Temperatures spiked above freezing several times. Then we've seen Arctic temperatures this summer exceed 90F. Scientists are describing the unforeseen break up of this "old guard" sea ice as "scary."

What scares me is that they didn't foresee this. It took them unawares, by surprise. Go back even 15 years to the IPCC reports, the hopelessly compromised data our governments use for their feeble climate change responses, and, in comparing those projections to what is already upon us, you'll see they were shamefully inaccurate, out in some cases by 80 years.

Look at our supposedly enlightened Trudeau government whose leader has pledged to "follow the science" in their policy making. What science are they following? What science tells them that flooding world markets with the worst, most toxic, highest-carbon ersatz petroleum, bitumen, is just fine in a world that's melting down as rapidly as ours? Carbon pricing is a gestural joke at best, their environmental "beard."

The sad part is that we know the Conservatives would be worse, not that we should find any consolation in the current regime.

In his weekly missive at TruthDig, Chris Hedges opines that it's over.

And the band played on.

Owen Gray said...

The willful ignorance which drives our current crop of leaders is truly depressing, Marie.

Marie Snyder said...

That's a classic.