November, 2017

Much of my 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.


November, 2017


  • Climate Change and the Human Mind: A Noted Psychiatrist Weighs In: Author Robert Jay Lifton has probed the psyches of barbaric Nazi doctors and Hiroshima survivors. Now, he is focusing on how people respond to the mounting evidence of climate change and is finding some reasons for hope.
    • In my book, I characterize Trump and people like [EPA Administrator Scott] Pruitt and others not so much anymore as climate deniers. I call them what I think is more accurate, “climate rejecters.” They, like everyone else, have to know in some part of their minds, that climate change is quite real and dangerous. They reject this knowledge as their primary conviction or source of action. They reject the knowledge because it’s incompatible with their worldview, their sense of identity, their anti-government and governance bias, and with all they would have to do and be if they were to take in these truths.
    • Human beings are not linear, orderly creatures. We’re more complicated than that. And in the various studies I’ve done, the mind can contradict itself; it can believe one thing one day and something else another day. And we know that behavior is an adaptation to circumstances. Well, belief can be an adaptation to circumstances also.
    • All that is by way of saying that beliefs change, and that we’re erratic, our psyches can be quite erratic in general. That said, there can still be noted significant trends. So we have a swerve that’s irregular. The very term suggests irregularity in its origins from Lucretius, the Roman poet millennia ago. And yet, it can be quite definite in its direction. It’s been affecting us in recent decades, in my view, in profound ways. There’s a temptation to give up on it when we see powerful figures like Trump and Pruitt do the harm they’re doing to our country and to the world. But I think it’s crucial that we recognize the importance and the power of what I’m calling the climate swerve, which really amounts to species awareness of the danger that we face, along with a capacity to take the necessary steps to avoid, really, the end of our civilization.
    • And with the election of Trump and all that he represents, and the extremity of his dangerous behavior in relation to climate, with all that, of course there has been a reaction and a response of, call it massive depression in relation to appropriate climate action. Having said that, I think we should recognize the larger picture that even Trump has trouble extricating us from Paris. When there was this extreme reaction, angry reaction, all through the country with governors and mayors and all through the world with European countries, and an insistence on carrying through with the Paris commitments, he backtracked. And it’s unclear now whether we’ve extricated ourselves from Paris. The explanations or interpretations given by his administration are, as is frequently the case, unclear: “Yes, we will go to meetings about climate. Yes, maybe we can negotiate climate change. Yes, we’re still withdrawing from Paris.” The whole thing is uncertain because of the pressure of the swerve and the degree to which it’s taken hold.
    • I see the vast projections of geoengineering as what I call a “rescue technology.” It’s calling upon technology to take over from what we human beings have been unable to solve in our own minds, even though it’s our responsibility to do exactly that. I see [geoengineering] as a desperate last stand, very ill-advised, and as a form of sometimes justifying the failure to take the necessary action in relation to climate change. And in that way, it could support what I call the “malignant normality” of climate change. Just going about things as they are now in this ultimate absurdity, as I call it.
    • e360: At the end of your book, you give an articulate explanation of why you, as a 91-year-old who will not see the worst effects of climate change, care about this issue. Could you share a bit of that now? Lifton: It’s sometimes assumed that when one reaches the last stages of life, one shouldn’t have to care about the human future. One, after all, won’t be there. But it can be the reverse for many of us, and I think I’m hardly alone in this. If one considers oneself, as I do, part of the human flow, part of the Great Chain of Being, part of human connectedness, which extends from generation to generation, of course it includes one’s own children and grandchildren — and I have those. But it’s more than that. It’s continuing the human chain that one has been a part of. And in my case, that I sought to in some ways contribute to, in a modest fashion, all through my life in my work.
  • Greenhouse gas concentrations surge to new record: Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surged at a record-breaking speed in 2016 to the highest level in 800 000 years, according to the World Meteorological Organization's Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. The abrupt changes in the atmosphere witnessed in the past 70 years are without precedent.
  • From Miami to Shanghai: 3C of warming will leave world cities below sea level: An elevated level of climate change would lock in irreversible sea-level rises affecting hundreds of millions of people, Guardian data analysis shows
  • Antarctica's Winds Increasing Risk of Sea Level Rise from Massive Totten Glacier: The little-studied glacier in East Antarctica holds enough ice to raise global sea level by more than 11 feet.
  • The Climate Risks We Face: We helped write the “Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I,” released on Friday by the United States Global Change Research Program. This comprehensive report — the most up-to-date climate science report in the world — is an outstanding example of federal science in action, and is especially noteworthy given the current political climate.
    • The report concludes that “global climate continues to change rapidly compared to the pace of the natural variations in climate that have occurred throughout Earth’s history.” It finds that “human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” The bottom line is that this report confirms and strengthens what the vast majority of climate scientists have known for decades: that climate is changing and humans are primarily responsible.
    • To stabilize global temperature, net carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced to zero. The window of time is rapidly closing to reduce emissions and limit warming to no more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, the goal set in the Paris climate accord. The further we push the climate system beyond historical conditions, the greater the risks of potentially unforeseen and even catastrophic changes to the climate — so every reduction in emissions helps.
    • While climate models incorporate many important processes, they cannot include all aspects of the climate system and all of the possible interactions within that system. Vicious cycles between these climate components may push the Earth into states much different from the past: for example, one with a much smaller West Antarctic Ice Sheet and much higher sea level, or one without coral reefs and with greatly reduced marine biodiversity. Surprises can also come from compound extreme events like droughts, floods, heat waves, hurricanes and wildfires that may occur in multiple places at the same time, or sequentially in one place. What is clear is that, even though we cannot quantify all of the possible changes to every element of the climate system, the risks to things we care about — from the health of our children, to the future economic viability of our low-lying coastal cities and infrastructure — are real and growing.
    • And yet, there is also reason for optimism. The report documents how global carbon emissions may be leveling out, despite continued global economic growth. News reports in just this past year show how the cost of clean energy sources such as wind and solar have decreased dramatically both here and in emerging economies such as China, India and even the Middle East, sending powerful signals to long-term investors and businesses about which way things are trending. And more and more businesses, whether by choice or in response to investor demand, are asking: What risks do we face, if we do not plan for a changing climate?
  • Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), Volume I:
  • New Maps Show How Greenland’s Ice Sheet Is Melting from the Bottom Up: The mapping project will help scientists understand how much of the Greenland ice sheet is threatened
  • On Climate Change (and Everything Else), We’re on the Side of Facts: National Geographic ‘will continue to report—factually and fairly—on how climate change is altering the Earth.’
    • Those who deny climate change receive a lot of attention, but the vast majority of Americans acknowledge the reality of the problem. Nearly two-thirds of respondents told Gallup last year that they are worried about global warming—the highest figure since 2008.
    • We are committed to understanding, and to helping you understand, how best to care for this planet. Perhaps philosopher Eric Hoffer put it best: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
    • Seven Things to Know About Climate Change - National Geographic


  • Thousands of scientists issue bleak ‘second notice’ to humanity: In late 1992, 1,700 scientists from around the world issued a dire “warning to humanity.” They said humans had pushed Earth's ecosystems to their breaking point and were well on the way to ruining the planet. The letter listed environmental impacts like they were biblical plagues — stratospheric ozone depletion, air and water pollution, the collapse of fisheries and loss of soil productivity, deforestation, species loss and catastrophic global climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
    • To mark the letter's 25th anniversary, researchers have issued a bracing follow-up. In a communique published Monday in the journal BioScience, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries assess the world's latest responses to various environmental threats. Once again, they find us sorely wanting.
  • Fourth National Climate Assessment: Development of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) is currently underway, with anticipated delivery in late 2018. Below you will find information related to Volumes I and II of NCA4, including background information, frequently asked questions, and opportunities to participate in the process.
  • South Dakota Warns It Could Revoke Keystone Pipeline Permit Over Oil Spill: (we hope so! — ael:) Pipeline builder TransCanada is also getting pushback on the Keystone XL expansion, just approved in Nebraska. Native American tribes say they'll fight it.
  • Mapping how to feed 9 billion humans, while avoiding environmental calamity:
    • What is the “safety net”? Simply put, it’s a vision of the Earth in 2050 that provides enough arable land to feed 9.5 billion people while still allowing enough land for global conservation efforts to keep our biosphere alive and healthy. Scientists are calling for 50% of the land area of Earth to be protected in an interconnected way and 50% of the seas, too. As it turns out, reaching this target by 2050 is not only essential to solve the extinction crisis but it is also a vital piece to solving the climate crisis. Forests, wetlands, the oceans, and the permafrost layer need to be protected to absorb greenhouse gases or to not release any more dangerous emissions, all as part of any realistic chance of staying below the tipping point of a 2°C rise in temperature. The Safety Net is the first global effort to harmonize development with environmental protection. By 2050, we want a thriving, living biosphere and that won’t happen unless we align the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with conservation.


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