Mitch McConnell’s War on Climate

I am so tired of hearing Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell constantly declare war on the Earth’s climate. Any time he utters “War on Coal”, what he’s really saying is “dig baby dig” and “burn baby burn”. And his latest fiasco of paving a complex, strategic series of actions for other like-minded climate-denying politicians to follow in efforts to block the EPA from controlling fossil fuel emissions is so very disappointing and frustrating. Worse yet, Mitch McConnell compromises our nation’s credibility to fight climate change.Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 3.27.13 PM

I guess Mitch is unaware of the tremendous environmental damage coal has caused to the climate. I guess severe storms need to get more severe; oceans more acidic; western droughts more crippling; polar ice caps more threatened; rising seas more concerning; and the future of humanity more dire before he’s willing to stop the craziness.

How do we fight the politics of climate deniers?  How do we bring logic and understanding to the climate change conversation? How do we tell Washington, state and local governments “enough is enough!”? Well, two organizations worth your time are The Climate Mobilization and Climate Reality Project.  Do this world a favor and join both. Then go out and raise hell about Mitch and the other deniers creating confusion and havoc about climate change. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.

Climate Change Is Not A Religion

I believe in God, and my faith has helped me cope during tough times. My trust in a greater entity is steeped in what I’ve learned through my religious practices, particularly the Sunday sermon. I’ve learned where to find God in my life, and I’m comforted in my beliefs. But when it comes to climate change, I’m not a believer. Climate change is not a religion to be followed or believed in, but a scientific body of evidence studied and confirmed by every national and international science organization worldwide. No, there’s a sharp distinction between scientific fact and religious beliefs, and climate change’s scientific evidence trumps faith or beliefs.OneWordE-26

It’s hubris to “believe” climate change doesn’t exist, or that present day climate change is something to be explained as a natural occurrence. Natural, yes, when it occurs over millions of years, or when a six mile wide asteroid strikes the earth, creating winter-like conditions across the planet. Unnatural when human activity elevates atmospheric greenhouse gases 50% in less than 200 years by tapping fossil fuels to sustain an ever-growing population and thirst for creature comforts.

I’m not sure what God thinks about the mess we’ve created, but I doubt God approves of how we’re addressing the problem.  What is happening runs contrary to God’s words. The least of us are suffering the most. The love of money is the root of all climate change evils. And climate change is directly and indirectly killing or harming many of God’s creatures. I do believe God is sorely disappointed.

I pray God will help the “deniers” and “skeptics” who don’t believe in climate change to “see the light”. I pray that people like you and me will speak up and demand action now, while there’s still time, to end the fossil fuel era. I pray for my daughter and the sons and daughters of others, and those yet to come, that we don’t burden them with a sick planet. And I pray for all God’s creatures as they instinctively, and for many unsuccessfully, try to adapt to a rapidly changing planet.

 

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

Go to your favorite quiet area and make a list of all Earth’s treasures you are thankful for. Whether it’s blue skies and warm southern breezes, or red cardinals and chickadees at the bird feeder, jot them down and then reflect on what might happen to these treasures with unchecked climate change. Finish your reflection by making a list on what you will do to fight climate change. Then go out and do it.

Carbon Footprint, Green Electrons, and Climate Change

Charge the smartphone this morning? Listen to the Morning Show while getting dressed for work? Have Pandora or Spotify running in the living room wirelessly on that new Bose Soundbar while brewing coffee? Take an extra long hot shower to shake off the morning chill after yet another night of Polar Vortex winter weather? Odds are your electric meter, like most Americans’, is working overtime during the morning hours as you prep and ready yourself for another day on planet Earth.Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 7.38.52 AM

The role electricity plays in our lives cannot be overstated. We need electricity. We crave electricity. We relish electricity. And ironically, we rarely, rarely think about electrical energy until the power goes out or we receive our very reasonable electricity bill (yes, reasonable compared to the cost of electrical energy in other parts of the world). Americans love their electrical energy so much they consume a whopping 20% of total global energy output even though they represent only 4.5% of Earth’s human population. Couldn’t we do with consuming fewer electrons?

“The greenest electron is the one that’s never used,” said Nilda Mesa, director of New York City’s Office of Sustainability. I found Mesa’s comment in a recent New York Times article on New York City’s efforts to slash fossil fuel emissions 80% by 2050. Kudos to New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio for their ambitious effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions AND save the city hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Hell, if New York City can slash electricity use to the tune of 80% fewer fossil fuel emissions, we can too!

We speak so often of renewable energy technologies. Solar panels, wind turbines, passive solar homes, smart grid technologies, energy storage devices, etc. . . . Technologies that will make fossil fuels energy dinosaurs in the not too distant future. Renewables are a grand and major part of the climate change solution. However, without addressing rampant energy consumption and ever-increasing global population numbers, we’re not going to win the climate change battle.

Conservation gets short shrift in the climate change news media. Perhaps it’s not as glitzy or sensational? Who knows? What we do know is if you turn your thermostats down at night during the winter, you will burn less oil or natural gas. We do know that LED and compact fluorescent bulbs use a fraction of the electricity that incandescents do. And we know turning lights off when out of a room, insulating the attics in homes, caulking around windows and doorways, and a myriad of other energy conserving measures reduces energy use. Just imagine what would happen to the pace of climate change if we buckled down on our energy consumption? We can do this!

 

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

Use this carbon footprint calculator to learn how many tons of carbon you and your family members release into the atmosphere each year. Then discover and act on ways to reduce that imprint.

 

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.

AND

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 350.org 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.