April, 2022

Thanks

Much of my climate news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs. Unfortunately he and his pal Michael stopped collecting news at the election of U.S. Unindicted Co-conspirator Forty-Five, which was a frickin' party pooper of a day, I'll tell ya. Their recovery scenario is perhaps more progressive than the Green New Deal (and their book is darkly inspirational, and terribly funny — and free).

Quotes

  • James Baldwin:
    • "People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction…." — Notes of a Native Son
    • "It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." — No Name in the Street
    • "Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced." — As Much Truth As One Can Bear
  • "If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there's no progress. If you pull it all the way out that's not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven't even pulled the knife out much less heal the wound. They won't even admit the knife is there." — Malcolm X, TV interview, Mar. 1964
  • "… all you can talk about is money, and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!" — Greta Thunberg (address to the UN, 2019)
  • "Poverty is the worst form of violence." — Mahatma Gandhi
  • "The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands." — Genesis 9:2
  • "[Y]ou cannot postpone a rendezvous with reality forever." Nick Cohen, Observer columnist
  • “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” — Voltaire
  • "Any course in US history is inauthentic — worse, is a lie — if it doesn't teach the experiences of people like Fannie Lou Hamer." [ael: me, late to the game…:(]
  • "I want to be a great ancestor…." Overheard on an ACLU zoom call….
  • "A question ain't really a question if you know the answer too." John Prine (Far from me)

And Now for the News:

April, 2022

4/30/2022

  1. This Eminent Scientist Says Climate Activists Need to Get Real:
    • Q: One of the fundamental arguments in your new book is that in order to have a serious discussion about an energy transition that gets us away from burning fossil carbon, we need a shared acknowledgment of the material realities of the world. Which is to say, an acknowledgment that our current way of life is dependent on burning that fossil carbon. But do you believe decarbonization should be the goal? And if rapid decarbonization isn’t feasible, then what’s the best way to stop heating the planet?
    • A: The most important thing to understand is the scale. An energy transition affecting a country of one million people is very different from a transition affecting a nation of more than one billion. It is one thing to invest a few billion dollars, another to find one trillion. This is where we are in terms of global civilization: This transition has to happen on a billion and trillion scales. Now, according to COP26, we should reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent by 2030 as compared with 2010 levels. This is undoable because there’s just eight years left, and emissions are still rising. People don’t appreciate the magnitude of the task and are setting up artificial deadlines which are unrealistic. Now, to answer your question. If you assume that carbon dioxide is our deadliest problem, then of course we should decarbonize totally. But people say by 2050 — they call it “net” carbon emissions. The I.P.C.C., they don’t say zero, they say “net zero.” Leaving that cushion — one billion, five billion, 10 billion tons of CO2 we will still be emitting but taking care of by carbon sequestration. Is it realistic that we’ll be sequestering so rapidly on such a scale? People toss out these deadlines without any reflection on the scale and the complexity of the problem. Decarbonization by 2030? Really?
    • Q: I understand the problem of setting difficult goals, but aren’t goals necessary for orienting our actions?
    • A: What’s the point of setting goals which cannot be achieved? People call it aspirational. I call it delusional. We are forging ahead with more S.U.V.s, we are building bigger houses, we want to invent new techniques to make more steel. But do we need all that more and bigger? I’m not against setting a goal. I’m all for realistic goals. I will not yield on this point. It’s misleading and doesn’t serve any use because we will not achieve it, and then people say, What’s the point? I’m all for goals but for strict realism in setting them.
    • Q: You know Pascal’s wager? [Which, roughly speaking, is the argument proposed by the 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal that belief in God is a good bet because the potential benefits far outweigh any drawbacks.]
    • A: Yes, of course.
    • Q: Couldn’t we think about the problem of decarbonization in similar terms? Like, yes, maybe all the effort to transition to renewables won’t work, but the potential upside is enormous. Why not operate according to that logic?
    • A: This is the misunderstanding people have: that we’ve been slothful and neglectful and doing nothing. True, we have too many S.U.V.s and build too many big houses and waste too much food. [U.S. food waste has been estimated to total between 30 and 40 percent of our entire food supply.] But at the same time we are constantly transitioning and innovating. We went from coal to oil to natural gas, and then as we were moving into natural gas we moved into nuclear electricity, and we started building lots of large hydro, and they do not emit any carbon dioxide directly. So we’ve been transitioning to lower-carbon sources or noncarbon sources for decades. Moreover, we’ve been making our burning of carbon much more efficient. We are constantly transitioning to more efficient, more effective and less environmentally harmful things. So, yes, we’ve been wasteful, but our engineers are not asleep. Even those S.U.V.s, as wasteful as they are, are getting better than they were 10 years ago. The world is constantly improving.
    • Q: Do you think we are facing a civilizational threat in climate change?
    • A: I cannot answer that question without having the threat defined. What does it mean? You’ve seen it with Covid: Was Covid an unprecedented catastrophe, as many people portrayed it? Or was it nothing, as other people portrayed it? Anti-lockdown, anti-mask people would say, Oh, it’s another flu. Clearly it was not another flu. But you know as well that it was not an unprecedented catastrophe. What do you want me to say? I cannot tell you that we don’t have a problem because we do have a problem. But I cannot tell you it’s the end of the world by next Monday because it is not the end of the world by next Monday. What’s the point of you pressing me to belong to one of these groups? We have a problem; it will be difficult to solve. Even more difficult than people think.
    • Q: Does your understanding of the science around energy and climate change compel you in any particularly political directions?
    • A: No. I used to live in the westernmost part of the evil empire, what’s now the Czech Republic. They forever turned me off any stupid politics because they politicized everything. So it is now, unfortunately, in the West. Everything’s politics. No it is not! You can be on this side or that side, but the real world works on the basis of natural law and thermodynamics and energy conversions, and the fact is if I want to smelt my steel, I need a certain amount of carbon or hydrogen to do it. The Red Book of Mao or Putin’s speeches or Donald Trump is no help in that. We need less politics to solve our problems. We need to look at the realities of life and to see how we can practically affect them.
    • Q: So, practically speaking, what are the implications for natural gas of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Germany halted the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and the United States banned Russian oil. Might an effect of the war be speeding up the transition away from natural gas?
    • A: No, not at first. It’s the quantities and how embedded it is. Germany just struck a massive agreement with the United Arab Emirates for liquid hydrogen. Germany has been successful in replacing a large share of electricity generation with wind and solar. [For 2021, Germany provided a little more than 41 percent of its electricity via renewable energy sources.] However, if you would switch on your satellites and look at the German autobahn right now, there are millions of cars moving down the autobahn at unlimited speed. That’s burning crude oil right, left and center. Famous German industries which make glass and plastics and chemicals are running on natural gas. You need gas for processing. Yes, Ukraine will make people rethink strategically, but at the same time they cannot move rapidly. Germany is a nation of some 83 million people. If half of them are using natural gas for heating, you just cannot rip up those natural gas furnaces and replace them in a year.
  2. ‘Hurtful and insulting’: Florida teachers react to the ‘don’t say gay’ bill: Educators fear the wave of anti-gay laws threaten the supportive environments they try to build for LGBTQ students
    • Clinton McCracken, an art teacher in Orange county, Florida, grew up in a small midwest town where he didn’t experience a person out as LGBTQ until he went away to college. He’s concerned Florida’s recent controversial “don’t say gay” bill is dangerous, hateful legislation that poses many risks to LGBTQ youth in the state. “I wasn’t able to walk to any classroom and see rainbow stickers on the door that says this is a safe place where you can be who you are,” said McCracken. “We have that now. That’s what we’re trying to create for our students. This law, I see as an effort to take away the years that we’ve put in trying to make this a better place for kids so they don’t have to grow up like I grew up, where I thought I was all alone and then I barely made it through high school.”
    • “As a gay man, I find it both hurtful and insulting. It’s hurtful, because I don’t believe there’s anything inappropriate about my life as a gay man,” he said. “I have a loving husband, we have a wonderful life together. I believe that I’m a good teacher and have positively impacted students and that me being gay not only hasn’t been detrimental to their learning, but it has probably been helpful for a lot of people – not only LGBTQ+ students, but other students as well who see that I’m willing to live my life openly and that I believe everyone should be able to live their life with dignity and respect and we should be treating each other like fellow humans.”
    • “I’m gay too so this hits me doubly hard,” said Jean Eckhoff, a history teacher of middle school and high school students in Live Oak, Florida, for 17 years. “I’m 52 years old, and I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime.”
  3. Mow problem: gardeners encouraged not to cut lawns in May: No Mow May scheme promotes letting wild plants thrive to provide nectar for insects
    • The number of people not mowing their lawns is increasing after a successful campaign to keep gardens wild, a leading nature charity says. Gardeners are this year being urged once again by Plantlife to keep their lawnmower in the shed during No Mow May, in order to let wild plants thrive and provide nectar for insects.

4/29/2022

  1. ‘Apocalypse Papers’: Scientists Call for Paradigm Shift as Biodiversity Loss Worsens (complete lead story in Today's Climate, from Inside Climate News)
    • When scientists from the United States and Europe published a study two weeks ago, warning that climate change was on track to push more than half of the world’s species of cactus—a plant known for its extraordinary ability to survive heat and drought—into extinction by midcentury, Tierra Curry simply filed it among the quickly growing pile of similar reports. “I have a whole folder, I call them apocalypse papers,” said Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, a prominent U.S. environmental advocacy and research center. “We pass them around everyday, like, ‘Oh here’s another one.’”
    • Curry is part of a growing chorus of scientists worldwide calling for an immediate paradigm shift in the way humans travel, produce energy, grow their food and consume goods. Such a shift is not only necessary to tackle climate change, Curry said, but it’s also critical to mitigating the threat of mass extinction, as a rapidly increasing number of species of plants and animals face the threat of losing their natural habitats to inhospitable heat and the growing footprint of human industry and agriculture.
    • In the last two weeks alone, a slew of research papers predicting horrific outcomes of biodiversity loss and mass extinction were published in major journals at an alarming pace, underscoring warnings from the scientific community that the consequences of global warming are becoming more intense and accelerating far faster than previously understood.
    • Last week, researchers reported in another study that the world’s insects were in dramatic decline in both population and diversity due to the combination of climate change and expanding agriculture. In some areas, overall insect populations dropped nearly in half, with more than a quarter fewer species found, the study said. (Climate change linked to fewer bugs, study finds: The research builds on a body of work that has some scientists ringing alarms about the pace of the decline of insect populations.)
    • Then on Wednesday, in a first-of-its-kind study, researchers declared that more than 1 in 5 species of reptiles—including iconic animals like chameleons, Komodo dragons and king cobras—are now at risk of extinction as humans continue to take away their habitat for farming, urban development and other industry. And on Thursday, another study warned that the climate crisis is pushing Earth’s oceans toward a mass extinction event at a level not seen in about 250 million years, when scientists believe up to 90 percent of marine organisms went extinct due to overheated, acidic and deoxygenated oceans.
    • Taken altogether, the studies show how the rate at which animals and plants are going extinct because of human activity is getting worse and accelerating beyond what scientists had previously feared, Curry said.
    • Complicating matters further, two other reports—yes, also released this week—show that the majority of the world’s land is now farmland or has been developed for industry, and that nations are failing their global promise to preserve the Earth’s remaining rainforests.
    • A sweeping new report from the United Nations found that more than 70 percent of the Earth’s land has already been altered by human activity, primarily because of expanding agriculture. And another study published by the World Resources Institute found that the world is essentially losing 10 soccer fields worth of tropical forest per minute because of development and industry.
    • The public should be terrified by these findings, Curry told me. “The natural habitats are still being bulldozed and lost on a daily basis,” she said. “It has to become part of daily conversation and awareness, and it’s not right now.”
    • For years, climate campaigners have pointed to a growing disconnect between what climate science says must be done to avoid catastrophic warming and mass extinctions and the action world leaders are actually taking to address the issues. That disconnect is what is pushing many scientists, including Curry, to take up activism in recent years, departing from the traditional role as a neutral information provider to call for specific policies, including endorsing a rapid transition away from fossil fuels and a major restructuring of the world’s food systems.
    • Earlier this month, more than 1,000 scientists from around the world staged demonstrations and even faced arrest for civil disobedience as a way to decry a lack of action to address the climate crisis. And in a tragic scene last week, in what is believed to be a protest on climate inaction, a U.S. climate activist lit himself on fire in front of the Supreme Court and later died from his injuries.
    • In some ways, the latest batch of biodiversity studies should act as a clarion call to humanity to do far more to address the industries driving the climate crisis, including logging and agriculture, Curry said.
    • “You really need to remember that we are species on a planet, and our fate is tied to the health of all of the other species on this planet,” she said. “Killing the planet is killing ourselves, and that’s the message that everybody needs to absorb and start acting on.”

4/28/2022

  1. For Gen Z, Climate Change Is a Heavy Emotional Burden: Britt Wray is a leading researcher on the mental health impact of climate change. In an e360 interview, she talks about the rise of climate anxiety in young people, how social media exacerbates this trend, and why distress about the climate crisis can spur positive change.
  2. Democracy can lead to climate change solutions, but it may be up to states to act first
    • If ever there was an individual permanently stationed at the intersection of democracy and climate change in the public consciousness, it's probably former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. In 2006, the documentary film "An Inconvenient Truth" showcased Gore's efforts to educate people about the reality and consequences of global warming, featuring a slide show of information on climate change that Gore estimated he had presented to worldwide audiences more than 1,000 times at that point. [ael: I was just thinking of Gore and "An Inconvenient Truth" this morning….]
    • Last week, Arizona State University held its inaugural conference on "Democracy and Climate Change," hosting two full days of panel discussions on topics ranging from how the U.S. Constitution influences climate action, to the challenge of fake news, to the necessary role of Indigenous communities in policy decisions. Gore joined Tuesday night via Zoom as the keynote speaker. (Video recordings of all talks are available on ASU's conference website.)
    • The good news, advocates say, is that domestic progress is not all about federal action. States play a role, as do education and public engagement in the democratic process. In 2007, Gore and the IPCC were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change." He hasn't stopped trying to recruit you since.
  3. About 6M Californians ordered to cut water use amid drought: Southern California’s gigantic water supplier has taken the unprecedented step of requiring about 6 million people to cut their outdoor watering to one day a week as an extended drought plagues the state following another dry winter.
    • “We don’t have enough water supplies right now to meet normal demand. The water is not there,” district spokesperson Rebecca Kimitch said. “This is unprecedented territory. We’ve never done anything like this before.”
    • January, February and March of this year were the driest three months in recorded state history in terms of rainfall and snowfall, Kimitch said.
    • California Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked people statewide to voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 15%, but so far residents have been slow to meet that goal. [ael: imagine….]
    • Households will be allowed to use 1,646 gallons (6,231 liters) per day [ael: What? That's insane! 6+ giant plastic tubs of water per day…. I pity the fools!] — far above the average household usage of about 200 gallons (757 liters) daily — and the agency expected that only 1% to 2% of customers will exceed the limit, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
  4. A top energy regulator is in turmoil over climate rules: The little-known Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is increasingly under fire over how — and whether — it should address climate change
    • In February, a little-known federal agency for the first time laid down rules requiring energy regulators to consider new gas pipelines’ effects on climate change and environmental justice. The agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), would have to analyze the environmental effects of any project that emits a set amount of planet-warming greenhouse gases. The move thrilled environmentalists — but it didn’t last.
    • Fossil fuel industry groups, Republican lawmakers and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), publicly denounced the changes. They accused the agency’s Democratic chairman, a President Biden nominee, of trying to destroy gas companies, destabilize the country’s energy supply and favor renewable power. The commission backtracked quickly, voting in March to recategorize the policies as mere drafts and ensuring they wouldn’t apply to new gas projects.
    • As Democrats’ swing vote in the Senate, Manchin has blocked the party from passing significant climate legislation. He has also turned his attention to FERC, using his position as chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to criticize FERC Chairman Richard Glick’s efforts to incorporate climate science into the agency’s pipeline review process. “Your work swings the pendulum far to the left,” Manchin said at a March Senate hearing, blaming the commission’s Democratic majority for obstructing gas projects in West Virginia.
    • On the same day FERC voted to rescind its climate policies, it also approved three gas projects that had been pending for months. Earlier this month, regulators unanimously issued a key authorization for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile gas pipeline from West Virginia to southern Virginia that has run into repeated setbacks. Manchin is among its most vocal supporters.

4/26/2022 — Kane Tanaka day

  1. Record heat has gripped India since March. It’s about to get worse.: March maximum temperatures were the highest in 122 years. Temperatures late this week could near April records.
    • Temperatures in India remain high amid ongoing heat waves that have plagued the country with dry, sweltering weather since early spring. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) stated that its March maximum temperatures were the highest in nearly a century and a quarter, and rainfall was only running about a quarter to a third of normal.
    • Temperatures are forecast to rise further, leaping 10 to 15 degrees (5.5 to 8.3 Celsius) above average during the second half of this week, reigniting worry for those without any way to escape the heat. Portions of northern and western India, especially areas near the borders with Pakistan and Nepal, may endure the most extreme heat. That’s where highs may reach 110 to 115 degrees (44 to 46 Celsius) Wednesday and Thursday.
    • Potentially more problematic than the lofty high temperatures, though, have been elevated nighttime lows. That’s especially true in the city, where the “urban heat island” effect spurred by cement and paved-over surfaces traps thermal energy long after the sun has set. Warm overnight lows prevent the body from having a nocturnal cool-down period, increasing heat stress and the propensity for negative health effects.
  2. At 119, She Was a Symbol of How to Live With Wit and Vitality: Kane Tanaka, who died in Japan this month, survived two world wars, the 1918 influenza outbreak, paratyphoid and two rounds of cancer. She loved chocolate and hated losing at board games.
    • Kane Tanaka was born on Jan. 2, 1903, to Kumakichi and Kuma Ota, farmers who lived in a village that is now part of Fukuoka City, her grandson Eiji Tanaka said.
    • Ms. Tanaka kept her sharp wit until the end, and she liked to entertain the reporters who would drop by to interview her, said Chikako Tanaka, her granddaughter-in-law. At one such session, a reporter asked, brazenly, what kind of man the centenarian preferred. She didn’t miss a beat. “A young man like you,” she said.

4/23/2022

  1. Prosecutor drops all charges against Pamela Moses, jailed over voting error: Moses, convicted last year, was granted new trial in February after Guardian revealed files that had not been given to her defense
    • The central issue in her case was whether she had known she was ineligible to vote when a probation officer filled out and signed a form indicating she was done with probation for a 2015 felony conviction and eligible to cast a ballot. Even though the probation officer admitted he had made a mistake, and Moses said she had no idea she was ineligible to vote, prosecutors said she knew she was ineligible and had deceived him. Moses stood in the lobby of the probation office while the officer went to his office to research her case for about an hour, he said at trial.
    • The case stirred national outrage because it underscored disparities in the way Black people are punished for voting errors. Several white defendants elsewhere have been sentenced to probation for impersonating family members and voting on their behalf.

4/21/2022

  1. ‘What we now know … they lied’: how big oil companies betrayed us all: In a powerful new three-part docuseries, the oil industry is put on trial as the extent of climate change awareness is revealed
    • There is a moment in the revelatory new PBS Frontline docuseries, The Power of Big Oil, about the industry’s long campaign to stall action on the climate crisis in which the former Republican senator Chuck Hagel reflects on his part in killing US ratification of the Kyoto climate treaty. In 1997, Hagel joined with the Democratic senator Robert Byrd to promote a resolution opposing the international agreement to limit greenhouse gases on the grounds that it was unfair to Americans. The measure passed the US senate without a single dissenting vote after a vigorous campaign by big oil to mischaracterize the Kyoto protocol as a threat to jobs and the economy while falsely claiming that China and India could go on polluting to their heart’s content.
    • A quarter of a century later, Hagel acknowledges that the vote was wrong and blames the oil industry for malignly claiming the science of climate change was not proven when companies such as Exxon and Shell already knew otherwise from their own research. “What we now know about some of these large oil companies’ positions, they lied. And yes, I was misled. Others were misled when they had evidence in their own institutions that countered what they were saying publicly. I mean they lied,” he told the documentary makers.
    • But Hagel apparently has not asked why he was so willing to be swayed by big oil when there was no shortage of scientists, including prominent Nasa researchers, telling him and other political leaders the truth.
    • The Power of Big Oil has the answer. The documentary’s makers have dug out a parade of former oil company scientists, lobbyists and public relations strategists who lay bare how the US’s biggest petroleum firm, Exxon, and then the broader petroleum industry, moved from attempting to understand the causes of a global heating to a concerted campaign to hide the making of an environmental catastrophe.
    • Some of those interviewed shamefacedly admit their part in the decades long campaign to hide the evidence of climate change, discredit scientists and delay action that threatened big oil’s profits. Others almost boast about how easy it was to dupe the American public and politicians with consequences not just for the US but every country on the planet. What emerges is a picture of a political system so compromised by corporate money that even when it finally appears that truth will win out, reality is swiftly smothered.
    • Frontline shows that key to that shift was a little known company in the 1990s, Koch Industries, which specialized in refining and distributing some of the heaviest and dirtiest oil. The firm was run by brothers Charles and David Koch. Charles also founded a libertarian thinktank, the Cato Institute in Washington DC. The Kochs saw a threat to their business from the Clinton administration’s plan for a carbon tax. They mobilized Cato and a Koch-funded front group masquerading as a grass roots organization, Citizens for a Sound Economy, to oppose it. The Kochs drew in lobby organizations, such as the American Petroleum Institute and the Global Climate Coalition, a group of businesses that opposed climate science.
    • Related: IPCC: We can tackle climate change if big oil gets out of the way: Experts say criticism of oil and gas’s ‘climate-blocking activities’ cut from final draft, reflective of industry’s power and influence
    • The fossil fuel industry and its influence over policy was the major elephant in the room looming over the release of the third and final report, out this week, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading climate authority. The major source of contention: how do you talk about mitigating climate change without confronting the fossil fuel industry? “It’s like Star Wars without Darth Vader,” says environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, of Brown University.
    • Social scientists were successful in pushing for more of their research to be included in the IPCC’s reports, with chapters that touch on everything from debunking claims that less developed countries need fossil fuels to help tackle poverty to a rundown of efforts to block climate policy. The report made one thing abundantly clear: the technologies and policies necessary to adequately address climate change exist, and the only real obstacles are politics and fossil fuel interests.
    • The role of the fossil fuel industry is highlighted throughout the report’s nearly 3,000 pages, but researchers note it was mysteriously absent from the “Summary for Policymakers” – traditionally the first part of the report that’s released and often attracts the most media attention. An earlier draft of the summary leaked to the Guardian, however, described the fossil fuel industry and others invested in a high-carbon economy as “vested interests” that have actively worked against climate policy, noting: “Factors limiting ambitious transformation include structural barriers, an incremental rather than systemic approach, lack of coordination, inertia, lock-in to infrastructure and assets, and lock-in as a consequence of vested interests, regulatory inertia, and lack of technological capabilities and human resources.”
    • Brulle, whose research is cited multiple times in the report, was dismayed to see the cut. “The scientists clearly did their job and provided ample material on climate obstruction activities in the report,” he says. “The political process of creating the Summary for Policymakers ended up editing all of this information out.”
    • Oil company representatives were also included in this process as both authors and editors of the report, which has been the case since the IPCC began. For the latest report, a senior staffer for Saudi Aramco – Saudia Arabia’s state-owned oil and gas company – was one of the two coordinating lead authors, a position of considerable influence, for the chapter on cross-sector perspectives. A longtime Chevron staffer was also the review editor for the chapter on energy systems.
    • The connection between social justice and climate mitigation is one that runs throughout the report. “People are beginning to realize how serious the climate crisis is, and that the ways to meet the challenges of the climate crisis – moving to low-carbon energy, looking after the environment, shifting transport – tend to also improve energy security, justice, social concerns, there are a lot of win-wins and co-benefits,” says Catherine Mitchell, professor of energy policy at Exeter University, and one of the two coordinating lead authors on the chapter focused on policy.
    • That’s not to say there’s no further need for atmospheric models, or a better understanding of various aspects of climate science. But what this report makes abundantly clear is that acting on climate is not being restricted by a lack of scientific knowledge or technological options, but by entrenched power structures and an absence of political will. To effectively address that, and act in time to avoid the worst impacts of warming, social scientists agree: we’re going to need more than climate models.
  2. ‘Forgotten how to behave’: comics say audiences more abusive post-lockdown: Comedians such as Nish Kumar say they have noticed a change since crowds have returned to clubs
    • “There’s something in the water,” said Kumar, who has noticed a change in audience behaviour since the pandemic. “I’ve had a few conversations with other comics and there’s a sense that something doesn’t quite feel right.”
    • Comedians are not alone in noticing a shift in behaviour since the end of lockdown. There have been reports from supermarket workers and bus drivers of worsening treatment by customers, and concerns from child psychologists about a lack of empathy in children.
    • Charlotte Bence, of the performers’ union Equity, said it was too simple to put the kind of behaviour experienced by comics solely down to the pandemic. “It was a problem before,” she said. “[But] perhaps our ability to collectively distinguish between how we are when we’re in our own homes or with our very close friends versus how we are when we’re out and about has been knocked about, I don’t know.”
  3. Seed banks: the last line of defense against a threatening global food crisis: As climate breakdown and worldwide conflict continue to place the food system at risk, seed banks from the Arctic to Lebanon try to safeguard biodiversity
    • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, dubbed the “doomsday vault” or the “Noah’s ark of seeds”, aims to contain a duplicate of every seed housed in other banks across the globe. Its location is deliberately remote, sited in the Svalbard archipelago, halfway between mainland Norway and the north pole. The hope is that the permafrost and dense rock into which the vault has been sunk will ensure that seed samples remain frozen – although it was breached in 2017 by meltwater after high temperatures in the region.
    • Launched in 2000, and located in rural Sussex, England, the Millennium Seed Bank is considered to be the most diverse wild plant genetic resource in the world. In flood-, bomb- and radiation-proof vaults, it houses a collection of more than 2.4bn seeds belonging to about 40,000 species. The Millennium Seed Bank contains seeds from almost all of the UK’s native plant species plus collections originating from 189 countries and territories, and it stores nearly 16% of the world’s wild plant species.

4/20/2022

  1. My kids love building blocks. Here’s why experts say playing with them is crucial: We know how important play and imagination are to children. But what is it about building, specifically, that feels so necessary?
    • We all know how important free play and imagination are to children’s brains – it’s a cornerstone of human development, and one of the many reasons the trend of sitting kids in front of screens and relying on technology for entertainment instead of requiring that they generate it themselves has been such a terrifying digital age evolution. But what was it specifically about building, I found myself wondering as we constructed towers, crashed them down, and erected them again, that was so innate, so soothing, so necessary? And why was it so satisfying to me, a grown woman who once got so overwhelmed by a set of Ikea instructions for a dresser that she lived for weeks with her socks and underwear in little piles on the floor?
    • In my attempt to get at an answer, and as the house’s collective snot production started to wane, I came across a charming little book. Published in 1933 by one Harriet M Johnson, The Art of Block Building treats children’s play structures with the same solemnity as an art critic visiting a new exhibition.
    • Johnson was the founder, and then director, of the first ever laboratory nursery school in America, and a pioneer of the belief that early childhood was critical to later life success. She intuited that engaging with block building and construction was something innate to humans, and writes of a child’s “impulse” – the impulse to build, to name the structure, to dramatize what is going on around the structure – that is born nearly when they are. Yes, block building has baked-in engineering and mathematical concepts, and the activity has been linked to nearly every possible pre-school readiness skill: being good at math, having increased spatial awareness, cooperating and showing higher verbal ability. But for Johnson, just like for Beckham, the point of the play was more fundamental: it was, simply, to build. Whatever enrichment came from the activity was secondary.

4/19/2022

  1. We Have a Creativity Problem: Outwardly, we praise innovation. Inwardly, we harbor a visceral aversion to it, studies have found.
    • [ael: oh, I love this!] “People actually have strong associations between the concept of creativity and other negative associations like vomit and poison,” said Jack Goncalo, a business professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the lead author on the new study. “Agony was another one.”
    • Dr. Goncalo has spent a decade studying the underlying factors that motivate and hinder creators. For instance, he and his co-authors have found that in some cases religious belief can limit a person’s creativity, and that creativity can provide a feeling of liberation to people who carry secrets.
    • He has also explored people’s subconscious views of creativity, and found that innovation is aversive in part because it can intensify feelings of uncertainty.
    • The reasons for this implicit bias against creativity can be traced to the fundamentally disruptive nature of novel and original creations. Creativity means change, without the certainty of desirable results. “We have an implicit belief the status quo is safe,” said Jennifer Mueller, a professor of management at the University of San Diego and a lead author on the 2012 paper about bias against creativity. Dr. Mueller, an expert in creativity science, said that paper arose partly from watching how company managers professed to want creativity and then reflexively rejected new ideas.
    • But, she said, the people invested in the status quo have plenty of incentive not to change. “Novel ideas have almost no upside for a middle manager — almost none,” she said. “The goal of a middle manager is meeting metrics of an existing paradigm.”
    • “Our findings imply a deep irony,” the authors noted in the 2012 paper. “Prior research shows that uncertainty spurs the search for and generation of creative ideas, yet our findings reveal that uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most.”
    • Melissa Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Yale and an author of the recent study, said the emerging research on implicit bias in creativity was revealing a powerful, larger finding. “Peoples’ judgments are not captured only by what they say they think,” she said.
    • For instance, the study notes that Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who painted prostitutes and drug addicts in the late 19th century, was “embraced in the cabaret scene in Paris but did not achieve widespread acclaim until after his death.” Plus ça change.

4/18/2022

  1. Jamie Raskin on the climate crisis: ‘We’ve got to save democracy in order to save our species’: Progressive congressman from Maryland believes that no other crisis, even the existential threat of the changing climate, can be solved without first protecting the fabric of American democracy
    • On the one hand there is the planet, heating up quickly past the limit that is safe and necessary for human survival, while Congress stalls on a $555bn climate package. On the other, a pernicious movement, spurred by Donald Trump and other rightwing conspiracy theorists, to upend voting rights protections and cast double on the current election system. But Raskin, a progressive congressman from Maryland, is clear about which comes first: he said America can’t fix the planet without fixing its government.
    • Later Raskin added: “We’re never going to be able to successfully deal with climate change if we’re spending all our time fighting the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers and Ku Klux Klan, and the Aryan nations and all of Steve Bannon’s alt-right nonsense.”
    • “I think for me the struggle to defend the truth is a precondition for defending our democracy, and the struggle to defend our democracy is a precondition for taking the effective action that needs to be taken in order to meet the climate crisis in a serious way and turn it around,” he said Thursday.
    • “The key to understanding the collapse of civilizations is that you get a minority faction serving its own interests by dominating government,” he said, referencing Jared Diamond’s book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. “And then everything collapses, usually through the exploitation of natural resources to a point where it’s unsustainable and untenable. That fits pretty perfectly the situation that we’re in with the GOP and climate change today.”
    • Raskin remained optimistic about Congress passing climate legislations, noting last year’s climate-friendly infrastructure bill, but said the party must always “be realistic” about what that means, even if it denotes considering alternative energy legislation via Joe Manchin, the moderate Democrat from West Virginia who has stood in the way of several progressive bills in the Senate. (Manchin was also a critical roadblock in Raskin’s wife Sarah Bloom Raskin’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Block.)
  2. Game theory says the Paris Agreement looks like a winner for the climate
    • One of game theory’s classic dilemmas is called the stag hunt. In this scenario, two hunters are out in the woods. Both agree to shoot a deer together. If they cooperate, they may go home with the prize stag. It’s a gamble, but a big reward. Yet they face a choice. Either hunter can choose to trap a rabbit alone instead. The smaller animal, while less tantalizing, is easier to catch. It practically guarantees they’ll have meat in their own pot next meal assuming they give up on the bigger prize. The key to mutual success—and the biggest win—comes when both parties establish mutual trust and cooperate. If they don’t, they’re each tempted to break the original pact, pursue a rabbit, and end up with less.
    • The climate game is playing out under the international agreement called the Paris Agreement which commits countries to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, thus avoiding the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Right now, the most optimistic game theorists say this strategy could be a winner because it’s structured just like a stag hunt, also known as an assurance or trust game.
    • In a climate stag hunt, rules can be designed to ensure no single country wants to defect, and the rewards of mutual trust outweigh those from pursuing one’s short-term self interest, says Anders Fremstad, an environmental economist at Colorado State University. The Paris accord, unlike the Kyoto Protocol, is well designed to spur collaboration, but only, says Fremstad, if “the world can agree on which game we’re playing.”
    • Yet there is a more pessimistic scenario. Another classic game theory scenario is known as the prisoner’s dilemma. In this quandary, two thieves taken to separate interrogation rooms must either cooperate (remain quiet and evade jail time), confess (and face a lighter sentence), or turn in the other (condemning one or both to imprisonment, if both choose to snitch.) Remaining silent is in the suspects’ best interests as a pair, but only if both refuse to confess. Without faith that the other won’t inform, they are strongly incentivized to betray their partner.
    • This has happened before in climate policy. Game theorists like Chander say the 1997 Kyoto Protocol was structured more like a prisoner’s dilemma, ensuring its failure. The agreement was a one-time deal that imposed requirements on its signatories without creating conditions for mutual trust. “It was safer not to cut emissions, just as it was safer for the proverbial prisoner to betray their partner,” he explains.“Under Kyoto, cutting emissions would have led to a greater [financial] loss if the other players did not do the same thing.”
    • Not everyone agrees the Paris accord ensures serious climate action. Oleg Smirnov, an associate professor of political science at Stony Brook University, thinks it’s safer to assume that countries will continue to prioritize their short-term economic interests and protect polluting industries rather than pursue climate action.
    • This effort might force game theorists studying climate negotiations to integrate the work of philosophers and behavioral economists, she suggests. By enhancing their models with political developments and real-world variables, game theorists could provide climate leaders with more actionable advice and precise, nuanced perspectives.
    • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, after which most of the world’s major democracies enacted unprecedented sanctions on Russia and allies of president Vladimir Putin, might seem to contradict that. But the US and NATO are intent on avoiding a direct confrontation with Russia. Leaders in the West have made it a point to condemn the act as a violation of international order and call the invasion “a breach of civilized behavior,” according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
    • Likewise, complacency in the face of climate change should be considered as objectionable as invading another country or starting a war, says Fremstad. The Paris accord is one way that new norm is being created. The coalition of like-minded countries, influential enough to convince other countries to join, has advanced decarbonization without the punitive compliance mechanisms common in trade deals. Ultimately, he says,”we need to make it unacceptable to extract all the coal and burn it.”
  3. “Try to Design an Approach to Making a Judgment; Don’t Just Go Into It Trusting Your Intuition.” Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman discusses the stubbornness of cognitive biases, the “noise” that besets human decisions, and how institutions can learn to make fairer judgments.
    • Q: During the pandemic, people have had to make elaborate risk assessments to decide whether to visit loved ones, or send their kids to school, or sometimes just leave the house. How did you see the phenomena that you’ve explored in your work—our intuitive and effortful ways of thinking and our mental shortcuts and biases—operating in the context of the pandemic?
      • Kahneman: Well, the first thing that was very salient at the beginning of the pandemic was that people really find it difficult to deal with exponential growth. I recognized this in myself. I was about to take a flight to France when there were just a hundred cases in France; that didn’t look like much, except it was doubling every couple of days. And that was really quite powerful.
  4. Scandal-tarnished Pruitt hopes to go from Trump’s EPA to Senate: During his tenure leading the EPA, Scott Pruitt was at the center of 14 federal investigations. Now he's parlaying that record into a GOP Senate campaign.
    • It was a few weeks ago when The Washington Post first reported that Scott Pruitt, who ran the Environmental Protection Agency under Donald Trump for a while, was eyeing a U.S. Senate campaign in his home state of Oklahoma. In fact, the Republican had apparently called up some oil industry billionaires to discuss a prospective candidacy.

4/16/2022

  1. Roots of a crisis: As temperatures rise because of climate change, trees are being hit with heat waves and drought, killing them or weakening their resistance to a cascade of pressures, from pests to rising sea levels.
    • Trees are facing unprecedented mortality events around the globe. These die-offs are projected to accelerate as more frequent and severe droughts and heat waves push trees—especially old-growth forests that matured under bygone conditions—beyond their threshold of survivability.
  2. Canada in deepwater: behind the Trudeau government’s approval of the Bay du Nord offshore oil development: Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault greenlit Newfoundland’s first deepwater oil and gas development project. Questions remain about how that decision was made
    • An obvious one, she points out, is that the largest oil spill in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history wasn’t mentioned in a discussion of historical spills: a 250,000-litre spill in 2018 from the SeaRose Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading vessel. That’s the same type of vessel proposed for use on Bay du Nord, and it was operated by Husky Energy (now Cenovus) — Equinor’s partner on the Bay du Nord project. Despite this omission being raised by Fisheries scientists, the SeaRose spill is not mentioned in Equinor’s final statement.
  3. Across the Boreal Forest, Scientists Are Tracking Warming’s Toll: Researchers are studying dramatic changes in the vast northern forests: thawing permafrost, drowned trees, methane releases, increased wildfires, and the slow transformation from carbon sinks to carbon emitters.
    • As Kolka guided me through a chambered bog that is being heated up at the fastest rate, he pointed out warming-related changes. The tamarack and spruce trees were browning. Heat- and moisture-loving shrubs were so dense that we could hardly see the sphagnum on the bog floor. These and other mosses that are the building blocks of peat, he said, are not going to last.
    • At the Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, located near Fairbanks, Alaska, scientists have since 1987 been working to better understand the mechanisms that have made the boreal resilient for thousands of years and now render it so vulnerable to unprecedented warming. One of the key findings is that frequent fires are favoring the regeneration of broad-leafed deciduous trees like aspen and birch over conifers. Summer fires burn the soil’s deep organic layer, which exposes the mineral soils below, aiding the expansion of hardwoods and reducing the insulation of permafrost. While aspen and birch do store more carbon than conifers, increased warming could mean that the northern boreal suffers the same fate as vast stands in the south that are dying because of drought.
    • One recent study found that the ability of black spruce — a keystone boreal species — to regenerate declined at 38 percent of the fire study sites and failed completely at 18 percent of the sites.
    • Another concern linked to the swamping is the “brownification” of lakes, rivers, and streams that comes as solid organic carbon in rapidly thawing peat dissolves in the water. When harmless inorganic mercury from the thaw attaches itself to carbon, according to a number of studies, microorganisms can convert it to the highly toxic inorganic form of methylmercury.
    • A major question now is whether thawing of permafrost in boreal peatlands ecosystems will be a slow-moving phenomenon that gradually releases greenhouse gases or a “carbon bomb” about to unload huge stores of carbon. Either way, the transformation of the boreal has implications not only for climate change, but for water quality and wildlife habitat and for wildfires that are projected to burn bigger and at shorter intervals — all making boreal regeneration difficult.

4/14/2022

  1. Our food system isn't ready for the climate crisis: The world's farms produce only a handful of varieties of bananas, avocados, coffee and other foods – leaving them more vulnerable to the climate breakdown
    • The climate breakdown is already threatening many of our favorite foods. In Asia, rice fields are being flooded with saltwater; cyclones have wiped out vanilla crops in Madagascar; in Central America higher temperatures ripen coffee too quickly; drought in sub–Saharan Africa is withering chickpea crops; and rising ocean acidity is killing oysters and scallops in American waters.
    • Nature has a simple way to adapt to different climates: genetic diversity. Even if some plants react poorly to higher temperatures or less rainfall, other varieties can not only survive – but thrive, giving humans more options on what to grow and eat.
    • bananasGuardian.png
    • Yet diversity boosts the overall resilience in our food systems against new climate and environmental changes that can ruin crops and drive the emergence of new or more aggressive pathogens. It’s what enabled humans to produce food and thrive at high altitudes and in the desert, but rather than learn from the past, we’ve put all our eggs in a few genetic baskets. This is why a single pathogen, Panama 4, could wipe out the banana industry as we know it.
    • The Irish famine led to the death of around one million mostly poor rural people after a mould known as late blight destroyed the country’s entire potato crop between 1845 and 1849. Another one to two million Irish people emigrated to the US to escape starvation and British tyranny.
    • This story is true for bananas, asparagus, vanilla, oysters and many other foods. Yes, consumers have more choice, but mass producing only a handful of varieties for exportation helped elbow out thousands of years of diversity which poses a major problem for crop resilience - and therefore food security.
    • This story is true for bananas, asparagus, vanilla, oysters and many other foods. Yes, consumers have more choice, but mass producing only a handful of varieties for exportation helped elbow out thousands of years of diversity which poses a major problem for crop resilience - and therefore food security.
    • foodLosses.png
    • History shows us that diversity really matters. In 1970, a new fungus called southern corn leaf blight wiped out 15% of maize crops in the US and southern Canada, as susceptibility was tied to a genetic sequence used in all popular hybrids. Today around 43% of maize grown in America is still derived from just six inbred lines. Like an investor with stocks, savings and real estate, diversity in the field spreads the risk: if an early season drought wipes out one crop, there will be others which mature later or are naturally more drought tolerant, so farmers aren’t left with nothing.
    • canadianWheatDiversity.png
    • Every apple eaten today can be traced back to the Tian Shan forested mountains between China and Kazakhstan, where every tree produces unique fruit in shape, size and flavor. The wild orchard has dizzying diversity, according to food journalist Dan Saldino, and hidden in the trees are drought and disease resistant traits we will need as the climate crisis increasingly puts pressure on food production. But this living gene bank is under threat, with huge swathes already culled to make space for cash crops, cattle ranches, and housing developments. Malus sieversii, the wild apple which is the primary ancestor of all our favorite apples, has been on the IUCN red list of threatened species since 2007.
    • In contrast, agroecologists and regenerative farmers argue that the most efficient and sustainable food systems are those which use techniques that mimic nature, rather than try to dominate it with artificial ones. “It’s about understanding what farmers have done for millenia to draw on traditional knowledge – and support that with current science – to deal with evolving environmental stressors including climate change,” said Alexis Racelis, agroecology professor at the University of Texas.
    • [ael: fantastic article — lots more in it, too!]
  2. ‘Historic’: global climate plans can now keep heating below 2C, study shows: But goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C will fail without immediate action, scientists warn
    • However, the researchers said this depended on all nations implementing their pledges on time and in full, and warned that the policies to do so were not in place. The pledges also include those that developing countries have said will not happen without more financial and technical support.
    • [ael: i.e. BULLSHIT]
  3. I went on TV to explain Just Stop Oil – and it became a parody of Don’t Look Up: I wanted to sound the alarm about oil exploration and the climate crisis, but Good Morning Britain just didn’t want to hear
    • Given the government’s inaction, which I believe will be judged as criminal in the near future, there are no longer any options left than to take clear direct action in the form of civil resistance. Some of my best friends are now preparing for their next action. This will be their fourth in 12 days, perhaps also leading to their fourth time sleeping in a police cell. They are between 20 and 23. They have degrees and jobs. They should be enjoying their final weeks at university and preparing to celebrate their graduation; instead, they are putting their bodies in the way to grind the distribution of oil to a halt. No matter what the government or the media say, these are good people who are terrified for their future. They are refusing to just sit by while their government pours more fuel on their dreams and lets them go up in smoke.
  4. ‘The lunacy is getting more intense’: how Birds Aren’t Real took on the conspiracy theorists
    • It’s no surprise that it first gained popularity among high schoolers. The younger you are, the quicker you get it. “Teenagers understand it, they don’t need footnotes,” McIndoe says. I asked my own two teenagers if they were aware of Birds Aren’t Real. They went off on some crazy extemporising, where pigeon was pronounced “piggin” and doves had the greatest surveillance accuracy, and it seemed that they really did have a good working knowledge of how a fake conspiracy theory functioned, with its need for jargon and taxonomy. Then I asked again the next day, and it turned out that they’d never heard of it, they were just taking the piss. Teenagers do just seem to get it. I still need quite a lot of footnotes.
    • So the leap isn’t as great as it looks. McIndoe is more interested in “tribal language” and how “conspiracy theory language echoes, in many ways, what I saw in a religious community. From QAnon, one of the main tag lines was ‘the storm is coming’. I hear many Christians talking about that right now, about coronavirus and the end times.”
    • McIndoe has a long game with Birds Aren’t Real: “I think it has the potential to be a creative collective for a long time. I would love Birds Aren’t Real to continue to be a space to process the badness. I don’t think the madness is going to necessarily end. I think the lunacy is going to become more intense.” He ends with an image that is poetic, freighted and incredibly neat. “We talk about it like an igloo. Making a shelter out of the same thing that’s posing the threat. Take the materials of what is around us, build something with them, be safe in there together, and laugh.” [ael: beautiful….]
  5. Documents Show How Polluting Industries Mobilized to Block Climate Action: Since its inception, the IPCC itself has been the target of corporate obstructionism.
    • In 1988, climate scientist James Hansen gave a stark warning to the U.S. Senate, testifying, “It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.” Later that year, the IPCC was formed to bring the world’s climate scientists together to help inform governments, the media, and the public about climate change. Just one year before all this action on the “greenhouse effect,” global leaders had effectively joined forces to address the hole in the ozone layer, adopting the Montreal Protocol and agreeing to a mandatory phaseout of the chemicals associated with ozone depletion. Greenhouse gas-emitting industries were very concerned that they would be targeted next. Almost immediately, what environmental sociologists call the “climate countermovement” began to form in response.
    • One key entity in that movement was the Global Climate Coalition, which emerged in 1989 as a project of the National Association of Manufacturers, with founding members from the coal, electric utility, oil and gas, automotive, and rail sectors. Many scholars have noted the influential role the GCC played in obstructing climate policy in the 1990s, but the first peer-reviewed paper on the group, published this week, reveals that the original and lasting intention of the GCC was to push for voluntary efforts only and torpedo international momentum toward setting mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Casting doubt on the science was part of that strategy from the beginning — the paper points to a 1994 communications strategy, for example, that suggested industry spokespeople downplay IPCC findings with following talking point: “The IPCC reports no evidence that directly links manmade GHG emissions to changes in global average temperatures.” Also common, though, were the delay tactics we still see today, particularly the economic argument against acting on the climate crisis and the jingoistic argument that America shouldn’t allow the rest of the world to tell it what to do.
    • The group also commissioned third-party economists and policy analysts to bolster its argument that mandatory emissions cuts would spell death for the American economy. “It was very much, play up the economic impact, play up the threat to the ‘American way of life,’” Brulle said. “When you can attack the science, do that, but always, always play up the economics.” That’s particularly interesting in the context of recent research in which some of the same economists the GCC hired have admitted that their models were deeply flawed. The paper “Weaponizing Economics,” published last year by Stanford University researcher Ben Franta, shows that the economists working for the GCC and other anti-climate policy groups in the 1990s were using models that inflated the cost of climate policy while ignoring entirely the economic benefit of avoiding climate impacts.
  6. Amid Hopes and Fears, a Plastics Boom in Appalachia Is On Hold: The rise of fracking in Appalachia has fed visions of turning the Ohio River Valley into a petrochemical and plastics hub. But overproduction of plastic, opposition to natural gas pipelines, and public concern about rampant plastic waste are upending those plans.
    • Five years ago, the flood of ethane coming from the Ohio River Valley’s fracking wells got the plastic industry — petrochemical firms that are often subsidiaries of big fossil fuel producers — dreaming about a new generation of massive plants in the region. Companies envisioned building as many as four more ethane crackers like Shell’s in Appalachia, and state and local officials from both parties embraced the idea.
    • The Ohio River Valley — desperate for economic revival after the steep decline of its coal and steel industries — was supposed to be the site of the next big push. Like many in the region, Gdula has complicated feelings about petrochemicals. She spent much of her career at a company that designed equipment for oil and gas workers, so she was not someone predisposed to distrust the industry. But after the explosion, she was dismayed to realize that much of its infrastructure was feeding plastic plants. And not just locally: Pennsylvanian ethane flows by pipeline to the Gulf Coast and Canada, and to a port near Philadelphia where it is shipped to European plastic producers.
    • By creating a market for ethane, plastic production drives more fracking, with the well-documented health and climate dangers it poses. One study found that the $23 billion toll of air pollution from fracking in the region — including between 1,200 and 4,600 premature deaths over 12 years — outweighed the economic gains, which researchers put at $21 billion. A plant the size of Shell’s needs more than 1,000 fracking wells to supply it with ethane, Duquesne University’s Center for Environmental Research estimates.
    • And the plants pose their own dangers. “Cracking” ethane’s molecules to turn it into ethylene — which is then processed into polyethylene, the world’s most widely used plastic — can emit benzene, toluene, and formaldehyde, which are linked to leukemia, nervous system damage, and respiratory problems, respectively. Shell’s facility will also create pollutants including sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, which increase risks of cancer, heart problems, and other ailments. The company declined an interview request, but has said the plant complies with all regulations.
    • Oil and gas companies’ political donations have stymied development of any alternative plan, she believes. There’s plenty of room “to think creatively about the future of energy, the future of jobs, and the future of other industries.” The challenge, Innamorato said, “is just getting people to see it doesn’t need to be this way. There can be another vision.”

4/12/2022

  1. Harmful chemicals found in toys and canned food at US discount stores: Among the products that tested positive for chemicals were colorful baby toys, as well as canned foods and non-stick cookware
    • Researchers tested 226 products purchased at five popular retailers for chemicals, including phthalates and lead, and found that 120, or more than half, had at least one chemical of concern. Among the products that tested positive were colorful baby toys and Disney-themed headphones. “As a parent, I should be able to buy a product without expecting to poison my child,” said Jose Bravo, national coordinator at the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, a coalition that calls on dollar stores to phase out hazardous chemicals from their products.
    • DollarPoisons.png
    • At 34,000, there are more dollar stores in the US than Walmarts, and they usually sell inexpensive, mass produced goods from overseas. They are generally concentrated in low-income areas and communities of color, and they remain an affordable option for groceries, household items and other goods, particularly as consumer prices rise due to inflation.
    • “If a child gets their hands on a product, it becomes a children’s product whether or not it meets the regulatory definition,” said Gearhart, referencing headphones adorned with Disney characters which tested positive for lead, phthalates and phosphates. A cheap pair of headphones, even though it’s not considered a toy, is still something that kids can put on their head and chew on the wires, he said.
  2. What happens when a group of Fox News viewers watch CNN for a month? A study that paid viewers of the rightwing cable network to switch shed light on the media’s influence on people’s views
    • Watching Fox News can be like entering an alternative universe. It’s a world where Vladimir Putin isn’t actually that bad, but vaccines may be, and where some unhinged rightwing figures are celebrated as heroes, but Anthony Fauci, America’s top public health official, is an unrivaled villain.
    • In an unusual, and labor intensive, project, two political scientists paid a group of regular Fox News viewers to instead watch CNN for a month. At the end of the period, the researchers found surprising results; some of the Fox News watchers had changed their minds on a range of key issues, including the US response to coronavirus and Democrats’ attitude to police. The findings suggest that political perspectives can be changed – but also reveals the influence partisan media has on viewers’ ideology.
    • David Broockman and Joshua Kalla, political scientists at the University of California, Berkeley and Yale university, respectively, paid 304 regular Fox News viewers $15 an hour to instead watch up to seven hours of CNN a week during the month of September 2020. The switchers were given regular news quizzes to make sure they were indeed watching CNN, while a control group of Fox News viewers continued with their regular media diet.
    • By the end of September, the CNN watchers were less likely to agree that: “It is an overreaction to go out and protest in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin” and less likely to believe that: “If Joe Biden is elected President, we’ll see many police get shot by Black Lives Matter activists”, when compared with their peers who continued watching Fox News.
    • The CNN switchers were also, as Bloomberg’s Matthew Yglesias reported, 10 points less likely to believe that Joe Biden supporters were happy when police officers get shot, and 11 points less likely to believe that it is “more important for the President to focus on violent protests than the coronavirus pandemic”.
    • Kalla and Broockman were particularly interested in a third method of influencing: “partisan coverage filtering” – which they defined in the study as the process where “partisan outlets selectively report information, leading viewers to learn a biased set of facts”.
    • Most of the CNN switchers stuck to the length of the task, according to the study. But once it was over, and the $15 an hour was taken away, “viewers returned to watching Fox News”, Kalla said.
    • “When politicians do something bad, we hope that voters will punish them, irregardless of their party – otherwise, politicians won’t have to work hard to make our lives better in order to keep their jobs,” Kalla said.
    • “However, this type of behavior becomes less possible if the media engages in partisan coverage filtering. If CNN doesn’t cover bad things Democrats do or good things Republicans do, and if Fox News doesn’t cover bad things Republicans do or good things Democrats do, then voters become less likely to learn this information and less able to hold their elected officials accountable.
    • “This is troubling for the functioning of a healthy democracy.”
    • [ael: seems to me that what we've learned here is that propoganda works.]
  3. Scientists risk arrest to demand climate action
    • Abramoff participated in last week’s demonstrations as part of the climate movement “Scientist Rebellion” — a loosely knit, international organization of scientists advocating for stronger climate action through nonviolent protests and acts of civil disobedience. (Abramoff is one of the organizers for participants in the U.S. and Canada.)
    • The group has adopted, as a kind of slogan, the phrase “1.5C is dead. Climate revolution now!” It’s a reference to the Paris climate agreement’s goal to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, if at all possible, or “well below” 2 C.
    • “It makes no sense for scientists to stay silent when their science informs them of existential risk from a clear and present danger that’s mounting very, very rapidly,” said Peter Kalmus, a NASA climate scientist. Kalmus also stressed that his activism, and his interview with E&E News, are conducted only on his own behalf and don’t reflect the positions of his employer. “I feel that all scientists should be speaking out like this and taking action,” he said. “And not only that, but scientists have a moral responsibility to do so.”
  4. Climate Anxiety Is an Overwhelmingly White Phenomenon: Is it really just code for white people wishing to hold onto their way of life or to get “back to normal?”
    • One year ago, I published a book called A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety. Since its publication, I have been struck by the fact that those responding to the concept of climate anxiety are overwhelmingly white. Indeed, these climate anxiety circles are even whiter than the environmental circles I’ve been in for decades. Today, a year into the pandemic, after the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed, and the attack on the U.S. Capitol, I am deeply concerned about the racial implications of climate anxiety. If people of color are more concerned about climate change than white people, why is the interest in climate anxiety so white? Is climate anxiety a form of white fragility or even racial anxiety? Put another way, is climate anxiety just code for white people wishing to hold onto their way of life or get “back to normal,” to the comforts of their privilege?
    • The white response to climate change is literally suffocating to people of color. Climate anxiety can operate like white fragility, sucking up all the oxygen in the room and devoting resources toward appeasing the dominant group. As climate refugees are framed as a climate security threat, will the climate-anxious recognize their role in displacing people from around the globe? Will they be able to see their own fates tied to the fates of the dispossessed? Or will they hoard resources, limit the rights of the most affected and seek to save only their own, deluded that this xenophobic strategy will save them? How can we make sure that climate anxiety is harnessed for climate justice?
    • My book has connected me to a growing community focused on the emotional dimensions of climate change. As writer Britt Wray puts it, emotions like mourning, anger, dread and anxiety are “merely a sign of our attachment to the world.” Paradoxically, though, anxiety about environmental crisis can create apathy, inaction and burnout. Anxiety may be a rational response to the world that climate models predict, but it is unsustainable.
    • Today’s progressives espouse climate change as the “greatest existential threat of our time,” a claim that ignores people who have been experiencing existential threats for much longer. Slavery, colonialism, ongoing police brutality—we can’t neglect history to save the future.
    • Instead of asking “What can I do to stop feeling so anxious?”, “What can I do to save the planet?” and “What hope is there?”, people with privilege can be asking “Who am I?” and “How am I connected to all of this?” The answers reveal that we are deeply interconnected with the well-being of others on this planet, and that there are traditions of environmental stewardship that can be guides for where we need to go from here.
    • [ael: maybe a little of both? Who speaks for the creatures caught up in the 6th Great Mass Extinction event?]

4/10/2022

  1. The Climate Atlas of Canada: combines climate science, mapping, and storytelling together with Indigenous Knowledges and community-based research and video to inspire awareness and action.
    • In 2022, the Climate Atlas of Canada team — in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Métis National Council (MNC), and numerous Indigenous collaborators — launched Indigenous-focused data, knowledge, and resources developed by, with, and for Métis, First Nations, and Inuit communities. This launch made public climate data for all 634 First Nations communities, all 53 Inuit communities, and projects across the Métis homeland as well as new videos and resources to support Indigenous-led climate solutions.

4/09/2022 — Mimi Reinhardt (and Oskar Schindler) Day

  1. Woman who drew up Schindler’s lists during Holocaust dies at 107: Mimi Reinhardt was in charge of compiling names of Jews to work in German industrialist’s factory
    • Mimi Reinhardt, who was employed as Schindler’s secretary, was in charge of drawing up the lists of Jewish workers from the ghetto of the Polish city of Kraków who were recruited to work at his factory, saving them from deportation to Nazi death camps…. Austrian-born Reinhardt, who was also Jewish, was recruited by Schindler himself and worked for him until 1945.
    • Schindler, who died in 1974, was named by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum as a member of the “Righteous Among the Nations”, an honour for non-Jews who tried to save Jews from Nazi extermination. The lists that Reinhardt compiled for him helped to save about 1,300 people at considerable risk to his own life.
  2. On Cycles: by Julia Falkner
    • This syllabus is a sampler of cycles, a glimpse at how their structure entangles with everything we know. I have broken it into seven domains: physics, language, memory, myth, trauma, love, and art. If you like, try one every day this week…you’ll be well-timed for next week’s Syllabus, ready to begin the next cycle of learning.

4/08/2022 — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Day

  1. "In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States.": Ketanji Brown Jackson Day
    • Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson: "As I take on this new role I strongly believe that this is a moment in which all Americans can take great pride. We have come a long way toward perfecting our union. In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States."

4/7/2022

  1. Energy executive was inadvertently listed as author of GOP witness's testimony at Big Oil hearing: When Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee invited the top executives of oil and gas companies to testify on Wednesday about their purported role in high gasoline prices, Republicans on the panel responded by inviting H.R. McMaster, who served as President Donald Trump's national security adviser and is a prominent conservative voice on energy issues.
    • But when McMaster submitted his testimony to the committee, it accidentally listed an executive at Sempra Energy as the author, according to an original copy of the testimony obtained by The Climate 202. While a spokesman for McMaster said the energy executive did not draft the document, the incident raises questions about whether McMaster's advocacy to lawmakers dovetailed with Sempra's interests. [ael: emphasis theirs]
    • McMaster told lawmakers at the hearing that boosting U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas would benefit both the climate and national security. Sempra, a California-based energy company, develops and invests in liquefied natural gas export facilities across North America. Brian Lloyd, regional vice president for external affairs and communications at Sempra Energy, was listed as the author of the testimony in the Word document that McMaster provided to the committee. Lloyd's name did not appear on the PDF that the committee publicly posted on its website.
    • Meanwhile, Democrats struggled at Wednesday's hearing to formulate a consistent message on climate and energy policy, Maxine and our colleague Mike DeBonis reported. Several Democrats on the Energy and Commerce panel yesterday implored the executives to increase oil production to lower gas prices for American consumers. But at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in October on the oil industry's role in spreading climate disinformation, Democrats delivered the opposite message, urging the executives to decrease production to combat the climate crisis.

4/6/2022

  1. US right wing figures in step with Kremlin over Ukraine disinformation, experts say: False narratives pushed by Tucker Carlson and key Republicans in Congress have been embraced and recycled by Moscow
    • Led by Tucker Carlson at Fox News, a few Republican rightwingers in Congress, and some key conservative activists, a spate of comments that have disparaged Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and echoed other Russian war disinformation have been recycled by Moscow, say experts.
    • Still, the influential figure of Carlson has pushed several false narratives to millions of Fox News viewers that have been eagerly embraced and recycled by Moscow and parts of the American right. Last month, for example, Carlson touted rightwing conspiracies that attempted to link Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, to a discredited allegation that the US financed bioweapons labs in Ukraine.
    • On a separate front, two Republican congressional conservatives, Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene, delighted Moscow last month by condemning Zelenskiy without evidence in conspiracy-ridden terms that sparked some bipartisan criticism. Cawthorn called Zelenskiy a “thug” and his government “incredibly corrupt”, while Greene similarly charged that Zelenskiy was “corrupt”.
    • Schafer noted the feedback loop seems “best evidenced by the recent effort to connect Hunter Biden to a US-led bioweapons program in Ukraine, where one can clearly see the merging of a favored domestic narrative into a foreign disinformation campaign that makes it feel more familiar, and therefore more plausible, to certain target audiences”.

4/5/2022 — Elizabeth Hayes Day

  1. IPCC report: ‘now or never’ if world is to stave off climate disaster: Greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025, say climate scientists in what is in effect their final warning
    • The world can still hope to stave off the worst ravages of climate breakdown but only through a “now or never” dash to a low-carbon economy and society, scientists have said in what is in effect a final warning for governments on the climate. Greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025, and can be nearly halved this decade, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to give the world a chance of limiting future heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
    • The final cost of doing so will be minimal, amounting to just a few percent of global GDP by mid-century, though it will require a massive effort by governments, businesses and individuals.
    • The final cost of doing so will be minimal, amounting to just a few percent of global GDP by mid-century, though it will require a massive effort by governments, businesses and individuals.
    • Related: When will the world reach 1.5C of global heating?
      • NowOrNeverStopClimateChange.png
    • Soaring energy prices and the war in Ukraine have prompted governments to rethink their energy policies. Many countries – including the US, the UK and the EU – are considering ramping up fossil fuels as part of their response, but the IPCC report made clear that increasing fossil fuels would put the 1.5C target beyond reach.
    • John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, called the report “a defining moment for our planet” and warned governments must move faster. “The report tells us that we are currently falling short in our battle to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis and mobilise the urgent global action needed. But importantly, the report also tells us we have the tools we need to reach our goals, cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, reach net zero by 2050, and secure a healthier, cleaner planet,” he said.
    • The Guardian understands that governments including India, Saudi Arabia and China questioned messages including on financing emissions reductions in the developing world and phasing out fossil fuels. However, scientists stressed that the final summary was agreed by all 195 governments.
    • This was the third instalment of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report, covering ways of reducing emissions. It follows a first section published last August that warned human changes to the climate were becoming irreversible; and a second section published at the end of February warning of catastrophic impacts.
  2. Scientists sound alarm at US regulator’s new ‘forever chemicals’ definition: Narrower definition excludes chemicals in pharmaceuticals and pesticides that are generally defined as PFAS
    • Researchers say the international scientific community has been engaged in a debate over how to define PFAS that’s focused on chemical structure. PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because their fluorinated atoms prevent them from fully breaking down.
      • The most widely used, inclusive definition, and that proposed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), defines any chemical with one fluorinated carbon atom as a PFAS. That could include tens of thousands of chemicals on the market.
      • The EPA toxics office, however, wrote a “working definition” that calls for “at least two adjacent carbon atoms, where one carbon is fully fluorinated and the other is at least partially fluorinated”. It covers about 6,500 PFAS, and the EPA is using that definition in its recently introduced “national testing strategy”, which serves as a road map in its attempt to rein in PFAS pollution.
    • Beyond chemicals in pesticides and pharmaceuticals, the narrower definition excludes some refrigerants and PFAS gases. Some of the excluded PFAS compounds turn into highly toxic chemicals, like PFOA and PFOS, as they break down in the environment or are metabolized by the human body. And the production of some excluded PFAS requires the use of other more dangerous PFAS compounds. “How do you say something is not PFAS when it becomes PFAS after it is metabolized by the body or undergoes changes in the environment – that just doesn’t hold with me,” Birnbaum said.
    • The definition change’s implications have already been seen in North Carolina’s Cape Fear basin, a region contending with decades of pollution from a PFAS manufacturing plant owned by chemical giant Chemours. A 2019 citizen group petition asked the EPA to conduct studies that would shed light on the health impacts of 54 PFAS compounds found in human blood and water in the region.
    • In the agency’s December 2021 response, it declined to test for 15 chemicals it said “do not meet” the toxic’s office PFAS definition. The citizen groups are suing, and the justice department and EPA are coordinating with Chemours for their defense, said Bob Sussman, an environmental attorney for the groups.
    • Critics also stressed that there was very little data on the toxicity of some excluded chemicals, and permitting the use of PFAS with little toxicological data has led to problems. The EPA in November reported GenX, PFOA and PFOS – three widely used compounds – are much more toxic than previously thought, noted Kyla Bennett, a former EPA scientist now with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
    • “That’s the biggest issue: the EPA just doesn’t know,” she said. “I would rather use the precautionary principle and capture chemicals that maybe don’t deserve to be regulated as strongly than miss [dangerous chemicals].”
  3. Drought may have forced Vikings to leave Greenland, says study: Research casts doubt on theory that little ice age was to blame for Norse colonies being abandoned
    • Archaeologists have generally assumed it was the little ice age that put an end to Greenland’s Viking colonies, which had been established in the 10th century. New research suggests another culprit: a gradual drought that forced the Scandinavians to retreat.
    • In the study the researchers looked not just at temperature but also the pattern of moisture by studying the waxy coating of plant leaves. They found that temperatures remained more or less constant but the area had gradually become drier. The farmers relied on sheep, goats and cattle, which grazed on pasture. Worsening conditions meant less fodder could be stored over winter. According to historical accounts, sometimes the animals were so weak they had to be carried to the pasture when the snow finally melted.
  4. Overlooked No More: Elizabeth Hayes, Coal Town Doctor Who Fought for Miners: “Dr. Betty” led 350 miners on a strike in Pennsylvania in 1945 demanding that the mining company that owned their town improve horridly unsanitary conditions.
    • It was 1943, and Elizabeth Hayes was several months into her new job as a coal town doctor in Force, Pa., when she noticed something worrisome. Many of the miners she treated were falling ill, not from the black lung disease so common from inhaling coal dust, but with mysterious stomach ailments and diarrhea.
    • Hayes was employed by Shawmut Mining, the company that owned the entire town — the streets, the church, even the miners’ homes. She was certain that the ailments she was seeing were caused by the town’s dirty drinking water and other unsanitary conditions; Shawmut had refused to build sewers, pave streets or pipe clean water into the miners’ homes. After rainstorms, raw sewage flowed through yards, alleys and unpaved streets. Children played in sewage-filled ditches, and many of the wells were dug too close to outhouses.
    • Hayes implored the company to install a new water system, but nothing changed. So in April 1945, she told the company that she would quit unless it fixed the town’s sanitation problems. When Hayes, one of nation’s few female coal town doctors, spoke up at a union meeting with management, Shawmut grew fed up with her and accepted her resignation.
    • Hayes, often called “Dr. Betty,” was the only doctor within a 15-mile radius, and local miners were furious to lose her. About 350 of them went on strike in three Shawmut-owned Pennsylvania towns, Force, Byrnedale and Hollywood, demanding that the company keep Hayes and build a new water system.
    • The miners, members of the United Mine Workers, sent a telegram to President Harry S. Truman asking for help, and a federal judge, Guy K. Bard, was assigned to investigate Shawmut’s finances. At a hearing, Hayes and the miners testified about the horrid sanitation conditions, Biederman wrote, with Hayes’s testimony clearly moving the judge. She spoke of delivering a baby after she had fallen into a ditch and sewage had splattered her clothes. Public health professionals had urged women to have their babies in hospitals, “using everything that science has taught us about baby care,” Hayes said, yet, she added, “we have to mix our formula with sewage and diluted urine.” Judge Bard appointed two new executives to run Shawmut, ousting Dickson and his top aide. The new executives rehired Hayes and agreed to fix the sewage problems and pave the roads. Declaring victory, the miners ended their five-month strike.
    • Hayes became so celebrated that Woody Guthrie wrote a song, “The Dying Doctor,” about her and her father. The lyrics go, in part, “My daddy told me to fight to cure sickness / But I can’t cure sickness with sewage all around.”
  5. Climate change: greener lifestyles linked to greater happiness – in both rich and poor countries
    • A wide range of research now shows there is a positive relationship between environmentally friendly behaviour and personal wellbeing. This may be because taking steps to protect the environment makes us feel good by fulfilling basic psychological needs, such as the sense that we are making a useful contribution to the world or acting on our own values and concerns.
    • At the personal level, the connection between green behaviour and wellbeing was as pronounced for those on lower incomes as those in higher income brackets. We also found that, regardless of how altruistic or materialistic people considered themselves to be, personal wellbeing rose by a similar degree as a result of behaving in a more environmentally friendly manner. Whether or not you are an avowed “tree hugger” seems to make little difference.
    • We did find that this connection between behaviour and wellbeing varies across cultures, however. In places typically considered to be have a more collectivist social organisation and way of seeing the world – in our study, Brazil and China – we found that environmentally beneficial actions which engaged multiple people at once, such as planting trees together, had a particularly profound effect on wellbeing [ael: my emphasis]. This effect was not seen in the more individualistic societies we examined, like the UK and Denmark.
  6. 'Swallowing a toad': Progressives warm to Manchin's fossil fuel demands to clinch climate package: Voters' frustration with high energy prices and the likelihood that Democrats will lose control of the House in November have made progressives more open to a deal.
    • “The reality is we don’t have the votes to do everything we want,” said Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), a member of the House Climate Crisis Committee. “So compromise is called for. Is it the compromise I would like? No. But we have a saying in the Virginia legislature. Every now and again you have to swallow a toad. And this is swallowing a toad.”
    • “If we are saying that in this moment we need to stimulate the production of fossil fuel, that has to be tied to a longer-term move to prevent this from happening again,” said Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “I am willing to compromise. I am willing to negotiate. Americans are feeling it at the pump.”
  7. Russia’s war has chilling effect on climate science as Arctic temperatures soar
    • Jessica McCarty, a professor of geography at Miami University in Ohio and part of the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, said scientific and technical exchanges during and after the Cold War helped lay the groundwork for peace by normalizing relationships between countries. “International scientific exchanges are really important for understanding climate change in places like the Arctic, but they’re also really important for maintaining things like global peace,” she said.
    • For example, Veraverbeke said the boreal forests in Canada and Alaska are dominated by black spruce, which grow in clumps low to the ground, so fires in those regions burn very intensely [ael: my emphasis]. But the forests in Siberia are dominated by Pinus sylvestris, a taller pine, interspersed with other tall trees that grow in a more open forest structure, so wildfires will often consume ground fuels but leave the canopies untouched. Part of Veraverbeke’s research over the past few years has been quantifying the amount of carbon combusted in these fires, but 2019 was the only year his team was able to get out into the field.

4/4/2022 — Adriana Hoffmann Day

  1. The world is running out of options to hit climate goals, U.N. report shows: With the world on track to blaze past its climate goals, only immediate, sweeping societal transformation can stave off catastrophic warming
    • If the world remains on its current track, global average temperatures are projected to rise 3.2 degrees Celsius (5.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels by the end of the century. [ael: and that's without any unforeseen feedbacks, which are going to occur, IMHO…]
    • [ael: No, we're going to do the experiment. We're going to find out what happens when you blow past sensible and into the unknown climate chaos. And it's unlikely to look good….]
    • The world’s continued emissions, even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence about the costs of climate change, are “to a large degree rooted in the underlying structural features of societies,” the IPCC writes. Existing buildings were designed to be heated with gas. Cities were constructed to be navigated by car. Much of the world still depends on pipelines, power plants and other vast infrastructure that crosses borders and was built to last for decades.
    • “The scale of what we’re talking about is so vast,” said Kevin Book, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, a Washington-based research firm, adding, “In practice, there is no master planner to carry this out.” Fossil fuels have long been reliable, affordable and ubiquitous, Book added. “The reason to do something else has to become more compelling.” [ael: so "the existential crisis of our time" isn't enough….]
    • Some experts, such as Brown University sociologist Robert Brulle, had hoped the IPCC would be even more explicit. “There’s not a clear and coherent statement that says there’s organized obstruction to climate action that is a major barrier to moving forward,” said Brulle, who volunteered as an outside reviewer for the report.
    • If people hope to stay within this budget, the world must roughly halve emissions in the next eight years. This means coal use needs to be almost eliminated within 30 years, according to the IPCC. Gas dependence should be reduced by 45 percent, oil use must fall 60 percent by the middle of the century and humans must find near-term ways to slash emissions of potent, planet-heating methane. Some existing fossil fuel infrastructure will have to be decommissioned early or used at less than full capacity, the IPCC says. And even if those cuts occur, the world must also invest in strategies that remove carbon from the atmosphere to have a chance of meeting its climate goals.
    • IPCC contributing author Dana Fisher, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who has studied the environmental movement since the 1990s, said it is “unfathomable” that governments and other institutions will transform so quickly, given the history of the past 30 years. “That’s the problem,” she said. “And it’s depressing.”
    • “Individual behavioral change is insufficient” to alter the world’s warming trajectory, the report says, unless laws, institutions and cultural norms also shift. The report recommends passing “policy packages” aimed at wide swaths of the economy that can be more effective, enhancing cooperation between countries to help spread new technologies and protecting the most vulnerable people and places on the planet.
  2. Adriana Hoffmann, Botanist Who Fought for Chile’s Forests, Dies at 82: The U.N. recognized her as one of the top 25 environmental leaders of the 1990s, championing her nation’s natural resources in the face of corporate power.
    • In her last interview before she died, published in January, she was asked what she had learned from nature, having dedicated her life to it. “Love,” she responded. “Nature has given me love.”
    • In the early 1990s, she met Douglas Tompkins, a conservationist and the founder of the North Face and Esprit clothing brands, and his wife, Kristine Tompkins, who together bought about one million acres of Chile’s forests to protect them. Ms. Hoffmann advised and supported the Tompkins’ conservation efforts, Ms. Tompkins said in a phone interview, and once joined other conservationists in obtaining the couple’s help in preserving a vast stretch of precious but threatened land on the border of Chile and Argentina. In 2014, the area became the mountainous Yendegaia National Park.
    • But by the time of her death she had become an inspiration to many environmentalists and scientists. In 2015, the Ministry of Environment created the Adriana Hoffmann Environmental Training Academy to train teachers, public servants and the general public. More than 12,000 students have completed courses there.
    • Speaking at Ms. Hoffmann’s funeral, the newly appointed minister of the environment, Maisa Rojas, an accomplished climatologist, recognized the environmental obstacles that her predecessor had faced and that still challenge Chile and the rest of the world. “Now more than ever, we have been called to take care of a threatened and very degraded nature,” she said. “As a woman and a minister of the environment, I put Adriana’s shoes on, and they are too big.”
  3. Canada lays out C$9.1 bln roadmap to meet 2030 climate targets: Canada released its first real roadmap to meeting 2030 climate targets on Tuesday, laying out detailed plans and C$9.1 billion ($7.3 billion) in new spending to cut planet-warming carbon emissions after years failing to meet its goals.
    • Canada has missed every emissions reduction target it has ever set but Trudeau said fighting climate change was one of his government's top priorities during last year's election campaign, and a recent deal with the opposition New Democrats should ensure the passage of climate legislation for the next three years.
    • The country is the world's fourth largest oil producer and 10th largest carbon emitter. The oil and gas industry is its highest polluting industry, followed by transportation.

4/2/2022

  1. ‘They called her crazy’: Watergate whistleblower finally gets her due: Martha Mitchell, wife of Nixon’s attorney general who ordered the break-in at the scandal’s heart, was drugged and kidnapped
    • The phone call came five days after the Watergate break-in. Martha Mitchell began telling a reporter that she would leave her husband, former US attorney general John Mitchell, if he did not quit the “dirty business” of politics. But the conversation ended abruptly and Mitchell was heard shouting: “You just get away – get away!” Then the line went dead. She had been accosted by a former FBI agent and would be forcibly tranquilized and held captive for days.
  2. Complex Models Now Gauge the Impact of Climate Change on Global Food Production. The Results Are ‘Alarming’: Climate change is a "threat multiplier," making hunger emergencies worse. Advanced modeling shows that crop yields could plummet, faster than expected.
    • The research said that the models “agreed” that the detrimental effects from climate change—mostly in developing countries around the planet’s midsection where more extreme weather events could batter crops—would be worse than previous research had suggested. It also emphasized some of the results were highly uncertain. But now, after six more years of work, AgMIP researchers have bolstered those findings. Their latest major paper, which rests on improved models and updated climate data, projects a more alarming picture—one that will appear even sooner.
    • “More crops are predicted to react negatively,” said Jonas Jägermeyr, the lead author of the paper, which was published late last year in Nature Food. Jägermeyr, a crop modeler and climate scientist, also at GISS, noted that the projected yields of corn dropped by more than 20 percent globally compared to current production levels. “That’s a completely new realm,” he said. “Across the world and in many bread basket regions, this is going to occur in the next couple years. The main message here is: This is right around the corner.”
    • “In addition to the challenge of producing enough food on a global scale in 2050, we’re also going to be looking at a climate where we have much more year-to-year variability and we’re going to face a lot more agricultural production shocks in a lot of countries,” said Chris Funk, director of the Climate Hazards Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “We used to have one crisis a year. Now we’re having three or four serious crises at the same time.”

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RClimate Examples

  • Here's the 10-day weather forecast for Mattawa, Ontario, where we have a farm, away from the noise of that blowhard tRump, the once-and-always-liar-in-chief. I try to spend as much time as I can on the farm.
  • Public News Service - Environment
  • More quotes:
    • Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token save it from ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world. HANNAH ARENDT. From the Introduction to “Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism”, by Henry Giroux.
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