Climate Change White Lies

Question: “Does this outfit make me look fat?” Response: “Not at all. You look great.” Question: “Did you really like my mother’s meatloaf?” Response: “Yes. It was the best meatloaf I think I’ve ever eaten.” Question: “Are you sure you’re not mad I dropped your iPhone in the lake?” Response: “No. I’m glad. Now I can buy a new one.” Question: “Are humans causing climate change by burning fossil fuels?” Response: “No, no. Climate change is happening because the sun is getting hotter.” Comment: Whew. Good news! I was starting to worry. Sometimes people tell little white lies so as not to offend or worry others. And sometimes people tell lies to profit from others.Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 8.52.01 AM

We like to be reassured. Whether it’s about looks, relationships, or performance, it feels good when your worries and concerns are assuaged. But when the emperor has no clothes on, well, then there are problems. Years ago a supervisor gave me sage advice when he said, “Surround yourself with people who will tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear.” What wonderful advice. After all, don’t we all want to know the truth so we can do the right thing?  Usually, but sometimes the truth hurts. I don’t think anyone wants to hear they’re trashing the planet, and it’s not pleasant knowing that burning gasoline to get places in our cars contributes to climate change, or that our dietary choices have planetary ramifications. And who can bear to think they’re leaving their children and future generations a planet that may have lost the climatic conditions necessary for a healthy biosphere? Sometimes it’s just easier to believe the lies.

Big oil, coal, and natural gas know this, and just as with the tobacco fiasco of yesteryear, they are working hard to tell little white lies so we idle along as the planet gets hotter and the future bleaker. The recent news about Willie Soon is yet further evidence of Big Fossil Fuel funding “scientific” studies  designed to cast doubt and little white lies about anthropogenic (human caused) climate change. It’s so much more assuring to think changes in the sun, not human activity, are causing climate change.  We like to hear the things we want to hear, and the fossil fuel industry is happy to whistle sweet nothings in our ears. Be honest with yourself and dig deeper for the truth which 98% of all climate scientists know and will tell you: Humans are changing the Earth’s climate. Then go out there and do something about the problem.

Two 5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.


Want to support renewable energy, then push divestment of fossil fuels.  Go to Fossil Free to learn what you can do.

We Can Manage Climate Change If We Believe We Can

Think back to something in your life where you made a difference. Perhaps it was leading a community cleanup project, fixing a leaking kitchen sink faucet, or speaking at a public event. Do you remember how you felt? The “I can” attitude as you persevered through the challenges and struggles? Or what about an event that wasn’t so successful? An effort that didn’t get finished, or an outcome less than hoped for? Was the same “I can” attitude present in that failure? Most likely there was a strong sense of doubt in your mind. Social scientists tell us our mindsets, sense of grit or self-efficacy, directly relate to our successes and failures. Which means we’re going to need some serious The Little Engine that Could mindset if we hope to conquer something as big and formidable as climate change.Screen shot 2012-11-10 at 7.27.31 AM

To fight climate change we will need what Albert Bandura defines as “self-efficacy,” or “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments” (Bandura, 1997, p. 3). This is The Little Engine that Could mindset: the ability to keep chugging along past obstacles and challenges until you’ve attained your goal. We’ll need to battle the misinformation, fear, confusion, and malaise that detract from the urgency of climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. And the first course of action will be to focus on the small successes we’re experiencing in this major effort.

Success breeds more success. And with climate change, there is much to celebrate. More and more people are having difficult conversations with deniers and skeptics, and public perceptions about the urgency of climate change are moving favorably towards acceptance and action. Countries are negotiating climate change policies, and the fossil fuel industry is on its heels desperately fighting to quell divestment programs. We can and will succeed through a concerted effort.

Do you believe you have the ability to fight climate change? I believe in you, so let’s go out and make a difference.


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

One way to go out and make a difference is by joining The Climate Mobilization.  If you want politicians and other leaders to fight for policies and laws that support climate change efforts, then please join The Climate Mobilization.


Geoengineering: A “Mr. Fix-It” Solution to Climate Change

Geoengineering will fix climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reducing solar radiation. Sounds damn impressive.  Oxford defines the term as “The deliberate large-scale manipulation of an environmental process that affects the earth’s climate, in an attempt to counteract the effects of global warming.” Well, we’ve been so freaking successful altering the environment over the past 100 years that one can only imagine the scale of change we might trigger through deliberate efforts. Controlling the amount of sunlight that reaches the earth’s surface? Removing carbon dioxide, a highly stable molecule, from the atmosphere? Come on!Screen shot 2013-08-25 at 8.10.53 AM

Seriously, let’s not over-estimate our capacity to geoengineer a “fix” to the climate change problem.  We’ve made a mess of things because we’re not truly in control of this planet, and the hubris to assume we can “fix” things through geoengineering is frightening. Take a look at where Congress stands on the topic. Listen to those who support this notion of man “fixing” climate change, and you’ll find these are the same folks who claim they are not scientists, deny or refuse to acknowledge anthropogenic climate change, or claim the whole thing is a hoax. Yet, these individuals support geoengineering. Ask yourself why (hint: think fossil fuels).

We know how to fight climate change without opening geoengineering’s Pandora Box. Move to renewable energies, reduce meat consumption, conserve energy, control global population with quality education, stop burning fossil fuels, replant trees, etc. We don’t need a fleet of sulfur aerosol spewing planes circling the globe 24-7, nor do we need iron fertilization of the oceans. There are safer, more effective models that are at hand now. Again, stop and think why anyone would risk this lovely planet to geoengineering. When you do, you’ll realize geoengineering is yet one more ploy by the fossil fuel industry to drill baby drill, and burn baby burn. We must do better.


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Global Divestment Day occurred this weekend, and though the event has passed, divestment continues to be a powerful way to break our fossil fuel addiction. Want to support renewable energy, then push divestment of fossil fuels.  Go to Fossil Free to learn what you can do.


The deliberate large-scale manipulation of an environmental process that affects the earth’sclimate, in an attempt to counteract the effects of global warming.

“On Deck” For An Unenviable Climate Future

“You’re on deck!” For those who have played the game of baseball or softball, the sound of a coach uttering those three words to you are joyful reminders of the excitement, joyousness, and hope of an enduring game. The anticipation of getting your shot while loosening up in the on deck circle is a mind game. You study the pitcher, swing the bat in time with the pitch, and imagine what may be when it’s your turn in the batter’s box. It’s wildly satisfying as you ponder the possibilities of your baseball prowess.  With the bases full, a grand slam would be a royal flush equivalent. Bases empty, a solo shot far beyond the outfield wall, or a screaming liner up the middle are equally sweet. Your time is coming, and you’re getting ready.Photo by Francisco Herrera

The metaphor of being on deck intrudes beyond America’s pastime. Just the other day a good friend lamented the declining health of an elderly parent, finishing with the line, “And I’m on deck”. Yup, we’re all on deck in the game of life. We are born, grow to adulthood, and in most cases marry, raise a family, see the children off, retire, and ultimately pass on. Through all life’s innings, there is excitement, hopefulness, successes, failures, loss, wisdom, nostalgia, and acceptance for what’s to come. And that is how the game has been played throughout history. Until now.

Being “on deck” for today’s youth is more of a warning than an opportunity . Climate change has altered our children’s possibilities for a better life. Their future is bleaker as oceans warm, sea levels rise, weather gets weirder, floods intensify, and other climate change nasties become reality. I’m an optimist. Always have been and hopefully always will be. But I’m also a realist. We need to do everything in our power to make certain the youth of today and generations to come have something to hope for. To have a planet where being “on deck” as a youngster is a good thing. A hopeful thing. A desirable thing. Let’s fix things now so life on planet Earth is a fair game for generations to come.

 Photo by Francisco Herrera


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Join Live Earth  and be one of a billion voices demanding our leaders take climate action on climate change now.

When Ocean Meets Home

Ever have water in your basement? Uninvited water from a creek that rose above its banks or water rising up from the ground with a spring thaw? What a nuisance. Years ago I lived a few hundred feet from the side of a small mountain in the Southern Adirondacks, and without fail, every spring when the snow melted and the ground thawed, we’d get a few inches of water in the basement. To remove the water, I would use a flat snow shovel to push the water across the concrete basement floor towards the sump pump. Fortunately it never got more than an inch or two deep, but it was problematic. It was an inconvenience. Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.05 PM

Ever have sea water rise up and flood your property and home? Salty water that saturated the ground, contaminated your drinking water, and severely damaged your home? I can’t even begin to imagine such a scenario. Most others can’t either unless they’ve been directly impacted by a major coastal weather event such as Superstorm Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan, Hurricane Katrina….. But if you are a small island state nation resident, salt water lapping at your door has become frighteningly all too familiar.

A weak low pressure system, a lunar high tide, or fetch driven waves are all culpable for flooding. You might wonder, why build a home so close to the ocean? I mean, people should know better.  Right?  Well, small island nation cultures span centuries, and until recently managed just fine the periodic hurricane or typhoon.  Sadly, periodicity, predictability, and consistency no longer are the rule as climate change impacts gain momentum. Today, much like Norfolk, VA, Miami, FL, and other low-lying cities, sea level flooding is common.  The stark and unfair difference between residents of small island state nations such as Majuro in the Marshall Islands and those in larger countries is acreage and altitude. Where do you go when you’re living on an island a mere ten feet above sea level at its highest point? If you live in Miami, you move inland or out-of-state. But for the 25,000 Majuro residents, there is no place to move other than to another country. In the end, you have become an environmental refugee.

I have Facebook friends living in vulnerable small island nations, and their alarming comments and pictures posted earlier this month on Facebook are another reminder of the suffering climate change is causing. While I lament the nuisance water that occasionally got in my basement, friends are threatened by loss of home and place. Their (and our) suffering is sure to grow many fold as atmospheric anthropogenic gases increase and sea levels continue encroaching inland. From the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change Report, “Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century. Under all RCP scenarios, the rate of sea level rise will very likely exceed that observed during 1971 to 2010 due to increased ocean warming and increased loss of mass from glaciers and ice sheets” (IPCC, 2013, p. 25).  In other words, we must act now.

(Photos of Majuro, courtesy of Dustin Langidrik).


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Join Live Earth  and be one of a billion voices demanding our leaders take climate action on climate change now.

IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex, and P.> Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp.

My Climate Change Allergy

You won’t even feel it,” she assured me as I surveyed the needles and clear fluid-filled vials sitting on her steely cold shiny table. While tapping the syringe to remove air bubbles, she commented half to herself, “It will be itchy after the injection, but don’t worry, we’ll monitor it before sending you on your way.” She smiled and I thought to myself, “I can handle this. Two injections and then itchiness.” Welcome to the world of allergy shots.Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 11.41.45 AM

I have very little to complain about and remind myself regularly of being in good shape and spirit. Of course, this is winter and right now it’s easy to breathe without any sinus or bronchial inflammation. There are no sneezing fits. No coughing spasms. No waking up in the middle of night unable to breathe with a runny nose, itchy eyes, and a general feeling of flu-like malaise. If you suffer from hay fever, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’m 56 and have tolerated allergies for over 40 years. Until recently, I managed to take antihistamines sparingly. I don’t like taking them for a variety of reasons, mostly because they make me tired and don’t always work. However, my allergies have become unbearable to the point where hay fever meds are now part of my daily regimen. And I still suffer hay fever symptoms! Thank you climate change.

It’s really no surprise that a warmer world is causing increased incidences of allergies and other health problems, but it is affirming when mainstream doctors note climate-related health problems in their patients. A survey of 15,000 specialists in respiratory and critical care fields found 77% observed an increase in air pollution-induced chronic illnesses and 58% noted increases in mold and pollen allergies. 54% stated climate change was affecting their patients.

Allergies are generally an inconvenience to those who suffer them, but there are cases where they can become life-threatening. The real issue is increased allergies and chronic respiratory illnesses are but another “canary in the coal mine” indicator of a warming planet. They add to the red flags of rising sea levels, species extinction, severe weather, and other climate change uglies.

Oh, and by the way, my nurse was right. The allergy shots were painless. If my body develops immunities to the allergens in the air, then the shots will have been worth their time and money. I just wish fixing climate change were as simple.


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.




Keystone Pipeline, Politicians, and The Climate Mobilization

So why are we voting to approve the Keystone Pipeline? And who really benefits from this pipeline? The American public? No. The people of Nebraska? Certainly no. Then who? Canadian oil company, TransCanada. That’s right, a Canadian fossil fuel company. And I don’t care if TranCanada were French, Mexican, Algerian, or Norwegian. The fact that they are an oil company that has curried favors from our elected politicians is what burns me up. BeFunky_Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 1.jpg

Though our elected officials were voted into office to act on behalf of the American public, TransCanada expects the United States Congress to stand up for them and approve the pipeline (I guess that’s a fair expectation when you spend millions of dollars hiring lobbyists to court our politicians). And it looks indeed that Congress will not disappoint. Again, who benefits? TransCanada. Not you or me.

There are no oil sources more polluting or environmentally destroying than the Canadian tar sands. Hell, you’ve got to inject hot steam and water into the Earth just to soften up the black, viscous, tars so they can be sucked out of the ground. Oil loaded with sulfur, metals, and other nasty chemicals. And clear cutting Alberta forests to access these oily sands is antithetical to a warming planet. Not to mention that the pipeline would run across the vast Ogallalla Aquifer and its permeable layers of sand and gravel. Which brings me back to my disappointment with many of our elected leaders.

Don’t believe the BS about jobs and “it’s good for America.” Once completed, there will be few jobs serving this mammoth pipeline (39 permanent jobs is the estimate by the State Department Environmental Review). And any project that helps move oil out of the ground is a bad one. We’re better off spending our money and time on renewable energies that will create more jobs and address climate change at the same time. Remember, this pipeline is for Big Oil, not you and me.

The Keystone Pipeline has been a major battleground for and much of the environmental movement the past few years, and will continue so until the pipeline is defeated. Playing defense against Keystone and other environmental catastrophes in the making is fine and good, but sometimes climate activism needs to go on the offense. An offense that demands a rapid transition to carbon-free energy and agricultural systems desperately needed now.

That is The Climate Mobilization’s platform, a decade long, WWII scale transition to carbon neutrality. If we manage to grow TCM into a major political force, we will have the leverage and voice to change the political conversation from “Is climate change real?” or “What is most important-jobs or the environment?” to “How can we scale up renewable energy at the pace we need?” and “Does this candidate have the strength of character to lead the mobilization effort necessary to reach carbon neutrality?

Many of our politicians are beholden to where the money is, not the public they were elected to represent. So, next time we have an election, find out which candidates are for us and which are for the fossil fuel industry. Unsure of a candidate’s position on climate change? Check out The Climate Mobilization to see if the candidate has signed the pledge. Better yet, join The Climate Mobilization and share with your friends. When enough people voice their discontent with the political status quo, then we will start seeing the leadership necessary to fight climate change and ensure a viably healthy planet for our children, grandchildren…..

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.

An Apology To My Social Media Friends

Dear friend, colleague, family member… I’m sorry for filling your Facebook page, Twitter feed, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts, etc with the same climate change stuff day after day. Those endless posts, tweets, emails, and pleas to fight climate change are surely annoying. I just can’t stop myself from sharing. And I know each time you see my latest item, you’re thinking, “Oh my God, If he posts one more thing about climate change, I’m unfriending him, removing him from my contacts list, cutting him out of my Google circles.” I know all my posts take up social media space on your sites. I’ve got a problem, and that’s the first sign of recovery.  Right?BeFunky_Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 11.jpg

Who wants to read that climate change crap anyway? After all, life’s confusing enough without having to see the “clarion calls for climate change action”. The “we’re all doomed if we don’t act now” messages. Besides, not everyone believes humans are changing climate. Or at least, they have too much invested in our present ways of living to want to believe in climate change. And then of course we have the misinformation engine of the Koch Brothers. Okay, here I go again. Preaching about the sins of fossil fuels and the urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. See, I’ve got a problem.

In truth, we all have a problem with climate change. And contrary to the nincompoops who assure us all is well with the climate, the reality is our lovely planet is getting hotter and hotter. Sea levels are rising higher and higher. Oh my God, I’m doing it again. Okay, it’s time to stop. But one last thing. If you can join me and the millions of other climate change fighters on this Paul Revere crusade, then I won’t have this problem any more (actually, it will just be a more manageable problem). And neither will your children, grandchildren, or the many other future generations to come. Join me in my addiction to raise climate change awareness and action. Let’s make a difference for our planet. Oh, and by the way, it’s official: 2014 was the hottest year on record.

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Yes, you’ve seen this action item before. But given the inaction in Congress, is there any other way to get things done?

Margaret Mead reminded us to “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.



The Earth’s Climate Change Doctors Have Spoken

Your doctor tells you you’re a heart attack waiting to happen and to “cut the sugar, salt and red meat or else.” What do you do? Find a second opinion? Throw caution to the wind? Wait and see how things go? What if 1,000 doctors reviewed your health data and came to the same conclusion as your doctor’s? In fact, they wrote a detailed report on how your body got to its present condition, and made predictions on your future physical health based on four different diets you could choose from to get better. If the medical community spoke to you like that, my guess is you’d heed the warnings and act quickly to minimize the damage.1499

Now let’s take the above example and apply it to climate change. This past year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released Working Group One’s report. Nearly 1,000 of the world’s brightest climate scientists prepared the 1,500+ page document. From the report’s foreword: “The science shows with 95% certainty that human activity is the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century. The report confirms that warming in the climate system is unequivocal, with many of the observed changes unprecedented over decades to millennia: warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, diminishing snow and ice, rising sea levels and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1950.”  And if that were not enough to give one pause, the report warns, “Climate change is a long-term challenge, but one that requires urgent action given the scale by which greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere . . .” The climate science doctors have spoken.

If your doctor says eat better or else, you may or may not do your best to follow his or her advice. But if 1,000 doctors had the same message, you’d be foolish not to make serious changes in your diet. That same logic should apply to climate change. 1,000 climate scientists scoured the climate change research, had their work peer-reviewed, and then told society, “You’d better cut the burning of fossil fuels and take actions for a warmer world or else.” The “else” is almost too horrific to elaborate on. The climate doctors have spoken. Let’s change our diet with or without our political leaders. Too much is at stake to wait and see what happens in Washington (See ClimateReality Project clip below).

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Oil stocks are falling with plummeting oil prices, and investment strategists are suggesting now is the time to invest in the beaten down energy sector. Don’t do it. As tempting as it may be, divestment is the only option for fighting climate change. End 2014 on a positive note by selling any equities held in the fossil fuel sector. You’ll feel better for your actions.

Climate Change Conversations Require Embracing Confusion

Conversations on big ideas that don’t fit mental models can be confusing, perplexing, scary, infuriating, and frustrating. Evolution vs Creationism, sun-centered versus earth-centered model of the universe, flat earth vs round earth, and so on. Amidst the dichotomies are believers, deniers, and confused skeptics somewhere in the middle. Despite the misinformation cast by rich fossil fuel barons, believers listen to climate scientists and recognize the climate of their youth is very different from today’s. Spring comes earlier and winter arrives later. Storms are more intense, ocean waters a little warmer, and flooding more common.Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 4.13.12 PM

You read the headlines and know things are changing, but not everyone believes in climate change. So what do we do? How do we reach the deniers and skeptics and engage them to take action when the stakes are so high and the noise deafening? One option is to follow Margaret Wheatley’s philosophy and embrace confusion to better understand one another, to see each other’s perspectives, to find solutions. We end confusion by “embracing” it. By having the difficult conversations.

Embracing climate change confusion means confronting skeptics and deniers with conversation–not an easy task. It hurts deeply to talk about something we are destroying that is so precious to us. But there is no other course of action.  We must talk. We can not sit on our hands and adopt a “Wait and see” approach. As Margaret Klein of The Climate Mobilization recently wrote, “Passivity, in a time of crisis, is complicity. It is a moral failure. Crises demand that we actively engage; that we rise to the challenge; that we do our best.” Margaret Klein’s essay is a reminder, push, nudge, exclamation point that climate change is a crisis that demands our immediate attention and collective efforts. So let’s get out there, embrace confusion, and have those important conversations with deniers and skeptics.


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Make a list of three people who are either confused or don’t believe in climate change. Organize five simple talking points to prepare for your conversation (go to the Environmental Protection Agency’s page for information about climate change). Have a frank but serious talk about what climate change is and why you are worried about it. Share your concerns about the world our youth will be inheriting. Let them know the very powerful fossil fuel industry is sewing seeds of confusion just as the tobacco industry did years ago on the risks of smoking. And it’s okay to not know all the answers.