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Intentional Ignorance

November 6, 2012

I wrote this essay to offer some essential information about our world and the future of our species, adding my voice to the many cries of alarm over the environmental crisis (lately reaching criticality). [More…]

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Climate Change

Conservative, Climate-Change-Denying Members of Congress are Neither Deniers nor Conservatives

You’ve heard them. Conservative Republicans claiming that climate change has been happening since the beginning of time (which is true), but not bothering to explain that those changes were epic, huge, and spread over extremely long portions of the Earth’s 4.55 billion year existence. (This is not their only outrageous miscommunication about climate change, as I’ll describe later, just an illustrative one.)

It’s not just a matter of political philosophy, but lack of knowledge of history and/or the scientific basis of climate change phenomena.

The Beginning. The fruits of modern civilization come from the great trees of science, engineering, and other more general knowledge. Our country has flourished—some would say above all others—because it was founded on principles of equality, justice, fairness, and a belief in the value of knowledge. That was central to the framers of our Constitution and our political system.

A faction of our political system has arisen using a different approachin which beliefs are based on how you want the world to work, not on how it really works.

True Knowledge is based on facts and evidence derived from careful study. In the last few decades, however, a faction of our political system has arisen using a different approach—in which beliefs are based on how you want the world to work, not on how it really works.

We see some political leaders spouting fake news, fake facts, and fake science. They are sometimes called science deniers.

But they really are not.

When they drive a car, cross a bridge, fly on an airplane, get a flu shot, and take medicines, they are willing to stake their lives on science and engineering. They are not science deniers, just deceivers,  charlatans,  and quacks—because they know better (or should).

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Making a Difference

From Design with Nature to Carbon Fee and Dividend

Throughout the last 46 years, I read (and wrote) a lot of words, heard (and gave) a lot of speeches on the environmental crisis, the energy crisis, and climate change.

It is true that a lot has been done to reverse the trend of environmental degradation around the world. Major legislation was passed, like the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970. Additional laws were written, better to regulate polluting and other destructive practices, fuel efficiency standards have been made more strict, a lot of habitats and species have been protected, and the growth of energy conservation and renewable energy technology has been remarkable.

Problem is, these have proven not to be sufficient. They are not of a scale that can really reverse the destructive trend. It is as if humanity continues, systematically to take apart the life-support systems of the planet, almost as if we intended to do so. The conclusion is clear: Words alone are not enough.

More is needed

Last year I discovered Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). This year I joined and got active.

What I like about CCL is that it is on the ground, actively lobbying the people that matter—our elected officials in Washington. I also learned that the most important and most powerful people in a democracy are not the wealthy influencers, the paid lobbyists, nor the politicians themselves.

Those with the power are the people themselves, the electorate—you, me, and all our friends and colleagues. Continue reading

Citizen Lobbyists Flood Capitol Hill to Combat Climate Change

The day before yesterday, I joined 350 other volunteers from around the country to visit Congressional offices in Washington at the Capitol for pre-arranged meetings with staffers for Senators and Congressmen. I had four such meetings: with a Texas Congressman’s staff, with a Florida Congressman’s staff, with my Senator Marco Rubio’s staff, and with my local representative, Bill Posey’s, staff. At each meeting I was joined by two to four other members of the organization which planned the meetings, Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

That day, we held nearly 535 meetings with members of both houses of the Congress. That’s the number of our representatives in Washington currently. The message is clear and straightforward:

Climate change is real and is accelerated by human actions, mainly from the fast-growing emissions of global warming gases, mostly carbon dioxide (CO2), but others as well, including methane (CH4), produced by a variety of causes, most importantly the combustion of fossil fuels. The level of those “greenhouse gas emissions” has ramped up steadily throughout the industrial revolution. The rise in the concentration of these gases has been trapping solar radiant heat in the atmosphere, on the Earth’s surface, and in its oceans and other water bodies at increasing levels throughout the last century. The trend is accelerating in this century, with bad and growing consequences. Great damage will be done to human civilization if the process is not stopped in the next few decades. But if we wait too long, it will be too late. A cascading sequence of adverse effects will have begun. Continue reading

Can We Go All the Way to 100% Clean Renewable Energy?

 I was pleased to see the 10 August 2016 announcement by the Sierra Club that ten U.S. cities have vowed to ”lead the way to 100 percent clean energy.”

The club announced a new report showcasing the 10 cities making ambitious commitments to replace fossil fuel combustion (which generates greenhouse gases, adding to global warming and its many adverse consequences).

The report claims that

“…public officials and community leaders see the transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy not as an obligation but as an opportunity. Cities powered by 100% clean energy save taxpayer dollars, help their residents save money, create good jobs, and foster a better quality of life.”

All well  and good. However, partial conversion of a few subdivisions, towns, and cities does not a substantial reversal of the accelerating global warming process make. This great beginning needs rapidly to escalate from partial to complete conversion (including homes, offices, factories, government facilities, and even transportation) and from a few towns and cities to the whole country, eventually the world.  And “eventually” cannot mean in the next century.

That will be too late. As you’ll read in my article, the process is already well under way around the world and in the U.S., driven almost completely by market forces, with a little help from local, state, and national governments. But it still is way too slow for ultimate success to be anything we all would want. Continue reading

Extinction, the New Environmentalism, and the Cancer in the Wilderness

Previously published at CounterPunch.org          on 30 October 2015     Reproduced with permission.

by Christopher Ketcham           

The word is in from the wildlife biologists.

Say goodbye in North America to the gray wolf, the cougar, the grizzly bear. They are destined for extinction sometime in the next 40 years. Say goodbye to the Red wolf and the Mexican wolf and the FloriWolf in Yellowstoneda panther. Gone the jaguar, the ocelot, the wood bison, the buffalo, the California condor, the North Atlantic right whale, the Stellar sea lion, the hammerhead shark, the leatherback sea turtle. That’s just North America.

Worldwide, the largest and most charismatic animals, the last of the megafauna,  our most ecologically important predators and big ungulates, the wildest wild things, will be the first to go in the anthropogenic extinction event of the Holocene Era. The tiger and leopard and the elephant and lion in Africa and Asia. The primates, the great apes, our wild cousins. The polar bears in the Arctic Sea. The shark and killer whale in every ocean.

“Extinction is now proceeding thousands of times faster than the production of new species,” biologist E.O. Wilson writes. Between 30 and 50 percent of all known species are expected to go extinct by 2050, if current trends hold. There are five other mass extinction events in the geologic record, stretching back 500 million years. But none were the result of a single species’ overreach.

I’ve found conversation with my biologist sources to be terribly dispiriting. The conversation goes like this: Homo sapiens are out of control, a bacteria boiling in the petri dish; the more of us, demanding more resources, means less space for every other life form; the solution is less of us, consuming fewer resources, but that isn’t happening. It can’t happen. Our economic system, industrial consumer capitalism, requires constant growth, more people buying more things. “I will go so far as to say [that] capitalism itself may be dependent on a growing population,” writes billionaire capitalist blogger Bill Gross, Forbes magazine’s Bond King. “Our modern era of capitalism over the past several centuries has never known a period of time in which population declined or grew less than 1% a year.”  Growth for growth’s sake, what Edward Abbey called the ideology of the cancer cell. Continue reading

The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here

The worst predicted impacts of climate change are starting to happen — and much faster than climate scientists expected

By

Current issue of Rolling Stone. See below for link.

“Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state’s Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide.”

On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public’s attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren’t cut:

“We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-point-of-no-return-climate-change-nightmares-are-already-here-20150805#ixzz3hys9Wi1Y
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

Ross McCluney

The Future of Humanity Web Blog

www.futureofhumanity.org

All Is Not (Yet) Lost

The new Year in America brings in a new Congress, largely dedicated to the proposition that climate change is not human-induced, nor is it an urgent problem, so there is no need in the minds of a powerful faction of the Republican Party for major climate reform legislation. This is but another threat to the future welfare of the human species.

Fortunately, however, at least for the next couple of years, we have a President in place who can veto the worst anti-environment legislation that might come up, perhaps starting off with the Keystone XL pipeline legislation expected to arrive at his desk early this year. However, the future of civilization is in growing jeopardy, mostly from the continued human-induced degradation of our climate. It’s not just the climate of the US. It’s everyone’s climate. The dire prospects for the air we breathe is not something the younger generation likes to hear or think much about, especially if they have or expect to have children and grandchildren of their own who will suffer most from the currently underwhelming action to reverse climate degradation. There’s enough bad news in the world these days.

Oldsters such as myself, have lived through the promising 70s, when so much hopeful environmental legislation was passed, creating national environmental agencies of government and some improvements in state and local laws aimed to protect natural resources directly benefitting humans. In spite of all the optimism back then, now we see that those efforts have largely failed. The reason is a decades-long lack of focused attention to the implementation of those laws and bold actions of the environmental agencies on a scale sufficient to make a real difference.

Mary Christina WoodThe governmental bodies set up to police our environmental assets and protect them from serious abuse and degradation have been infiltrated or even taken over by corporate interests which increasingly see nature as little more than their own resource base from which whatever desired can be taken and used for financial profit and enhanced power, regardless of the damage, depletion, and contamination of those resources and related assets.

At least in America, however, we do have three branches of government designed to protect us from the menace of a powerful few taking value and sustenance from the seemingly weak many. These are the Executive Branches, the Legislative Branches, and the Judicial Branches at national, state, and local levels of government.

As environmental law professor and author of a new book on the subject, Mary Christina Wood points out, the failure of one of these branches to take action to reverse a trend affecting the future welfare of the citizens who elected them does not mean the other two branches cannot take action.

Fortunately, as I mentioned, President Obama has already taken serious action and is poised to take further steps. (For example the agreement between two of the most climate-disrupting nations in the world, China and the U.S.,  to halt carbon and other climate altering emissions, new fuel efficiency standards, EPA rules to cut light duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 2016 in the U.S, and other actions, plus his threatened veto of the Keystone XL pipeline legislation.)

But what about the third branch of government, the Judiciary? Some interesting actions in this sector were begun several years ago and are currently being amped up in a big way this year. 18 year old Kelsey Juliana from Eugene, Oregon has joined as co-plaintiff in a law suit spearheaded by Our Children’s Trust claiming that Oregon is not doing all it can to slow down global warming and protect the future.

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UN Weighs in on Global Warming

Breaking News – Part 2

The major news media took little note of a dire report from the largest scientific society on the planet, news about which was posted here 18 March, but fortunately, they finally got the message when yesterday the United Nations issued a sweeping report on the same subject. The U.N. announcement took note of a landmark new publication by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The new report is filled with sobering facts about what is happening to our climate now and offers predictions of what is likely to happen in the future. Coverage of the announcement was extensive in the major news media and many announcements and stories were posted on the internet, as can be seen with a web search on “UN Report On Climate Change 2014.” Continue reading

Proof by Assertion

Below I offer a hopefully reasoned rant about our current political milieu and request feedback from you, Dear Reader, to help me refine my arguments and correct any misconceptions.

When a person wants to do something that might have unintended or unwanted consequences, or to which someone or some group of people is opposed, one would think that the person should do at least some study of the likely costs and benefits of the action before making the decision.

If it is a relatively small matter affecting only them, then they might be granted some leeway to use more emotion than reason in making the decision. One might like to take a day or two off to have some fun, when it probably would be better to address current tasks that are relatively urgent and important. Perhaps there is a popular entertainer in town for a rare performance, so you decide that takes precedence over gathering your receipts and making a start on your tax return for next year.

When the decision or action brings real monetary or other benefits but might result in harm to people, the environment, or the future safety of civilization, then a serious quandary is presented. What happens next, how the person responds to the quandary, I contend, depends a lot on these factors: Continue reading

Links of Interest September 2013

There is so much information on the web about stresses to the biosphere, it’s difficult to keep up. From time to time I plan to offer a few internet links to material of interest and relevancy. Here’s my current installment, several more below it.

Hooked on Growth

Added 12 NOV 2013

Check out this short video ad for the Hooked on Growth web portal.

“Join GrowthBusters to find the cure for the silent killer of growth addiction. Unending economic growth, pursuit of population growth, perpetual urban growth, and increasing consumption are not the model for a sustainable culture. The GrowthBusters movie is now finished.”

 

Al Bartlett has Died

Added 10 SEP 2013

Prof. Bartlett died Saturday at the age of 90.
Here are two articles:
Denver Post
Denver Journal

Al’s website is at www.AlBartlett.org

 

 

The Kahn Academy

Added 3 SEP 2013

Thanks to TV I found the Kahn Academy.  It is a remarkable approach to offering short video nuggets or lessons for free on a variety of subjects. The platform chosen is well-suited to learning simple things in geometry, for example, but has been and continues to be extended to very much more involved subjects on its knowledge map. Of interest to this web blog are these three lessons:

History of Life on Earth

Human Population Growth

5 Human Impacts on the Environment

These are contained in a Kahn Academy “Crash Course on Ecology.”

Once you start watching these relatively short videos, it is difficult to stop watching them.

Typical 10 minute lesson using Sal Kahn’s original presentation model:  The Beauty of Algebra.

 

How Keystone Flunks The Climate Test

From Michael Brune of the Sierra Club,  AUGUST 29, 2013

https://content.sierraclub.org/beyondoil/sites/content.sierraclub.org.beyondoil/files/documents/kxl-climate-report.pdfMichael Brune KXL

In June President Obama set a climate test for his decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. He said he will not approve the pipeline if it would significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. Today the Sierra Club, Oil Change International, and 13 partner groups have released a report that settles the issue unequivocally: Keystone XL would be a climate disaster.

Our report, “FAIL: How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Flunks the Climate Test,” spells out the full consequences of building the pipeline.

Start with the one fact that the State Department, the U.S. EPA, climate scientists, and even Wall Street and industry analysts all agree on: The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will create massive amounts of carbon pollution. Tar sands, after all, are the world’s dirtiest and most carbon-intensive source of oil. Oil Change International estimates that the pipeline would carry and emit more than 181-million metric tons of carbon pollution each year. That’s the pollution equivalent of adding 37.7 million cars to U.S. roads, or 51 new coal-fired power plants.

The State Department, though, tried to ignore this 181-million metric ton elephant. It argued in its environmental review of Keystone XL that tar sands development was inevitable, regardless of whether the pipeline is built. That’s not true for several reasons.

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