President Trump and Climate Change Worries

I have a friend and former building principal colleague who would correct me whenever I said the word, “worry”.  For example, if I said I’m worried about how our neediest students will cope with the  new state assessments, he would correct me with, “concerned, not worried.” I’d reply, “Ok, I am concerned about….”.  He’d smile at my progress and we’d move on.  Well, when it comes to Presidential politics, I am damn worried, freaking panicked, totally horrified, utterly fatigued, and completely depressed about a very possible Trump Presidency.  And for all my good Republican friends out there, this is not a political statement. I vote, and have always done so, for the best candidate. Regardless of political party, I select candidates who represent my values, concerns, and beliefs. And on the very top of my list is climate change. Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 8.52.01 AM

My big worry is the fact that Trump and the Republican platform threaten all the climate progress made in the past few years. A really nice article in Greentech Media spells out the horrors of such a Freddy Kruger style outcome–content pasted below.

This is Trump’s 100-day Energy Plan:

  • “Rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions including the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the United States rule.”
  • “We’re going to save the coal industry, we’re going to save that coal industry, believe me, we’re going to save it, I love those people, these are great people — and they love that job.”
  • “I’m going to ask TransCanada to renew its permit application for the Keystone Pipeline.”
  • “We’re going to lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas.”
  • “We’re going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies.”
  • “We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement.”
  • “And stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.”

WORRIED YET?

And here are portions of the Republican Platform on energy:

  • The platform calls coal “an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource,” adding, “Those who mine it and their families should be protected from the Democratic Party’s radical anti-coal agenda.”
  • A  Republican administration “will build on those policies to find new ways to store electricity, a breakthrough of extraordinary import.”
  • “We support the opening of public lands and the outer continental shelf to exploration and responsible production, even if these resources will not be immediately developed.”
  • “Because we believe states can best promote economic growth while protecting the environment, Congress should give authority to state regulators to manage energy resources on federally controlled public lands within their respective borders.”
  • “Keeping energy in the earth will keep jobs out of reach of those who need them most.”
  • “The Democratic Party’s campaign to smother the U.S. energy industry takes many forms, but the permitting process may be its most damaging weapon. It takes an average of 30 days for states to permit an oil or gas well. It takes the federal government longer than seven months.”
  • The Keystone Pipeline is described as “a symbol of everything wrong with the current Administration’s ideological approach. After years of delay, the President killed it to satisfy environmental extremists. We intend to finish that pipeline and others as part of our commitment to North American energy security.
  • “The same Administration now requires the Department of Defense, operating with slashed budgets during a time of expanding conflict, to use its scarce resources to generate 25 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2025. Climate change is far from this nation’s most pressing national security issue.”
  • “We support the development of all forms of energy that are marketable in a free economy without subsidies, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and hydropower.”
  • “We respect the states’ proven ability to regulate the use of hydraulic fracturing, methane emissions, and horizontal drilling.”
  • “We encourage the cost-effective development of renewable energy sources — wind, solar, biomass, biofuel, geothermal, and tidal energy — by private capital.”
  • “We support lifting restrictions to allow responsible development of nuclear energy, including research into alternative processes like thorium nuclear energy.”
  • “We oppose any carbon tax.”

Folks, we know the climate is changing. We also know the worrisome risks of inaction, so there’s no need to reiterate the obvious. We know Bernie Sanders has effectively moved the Democratic Party more towards climate solutions, and that Hillary Clinton supports those climate change actions.

This isn’t about Hillary versus Trump. It isn’t about who lies more, who panders more, who looks better on-screen, or whatever else the media can drum up.  This is about which candidate will address the biggest challenge our global society has ever experienced: climate change. This is about who will do best for my daughter’s generation and those yet to come. And judging by the Trump and Republican Party playbook, there is no question who will get my vote in November. Meanwhile, I’m very worried.

Social Media and the Climate Message Bias

Sigh. Social media is THE way to get important content out fast to your followers and others on the web. But sadly, the source behind the message can immediately shut down a follower or web surfer. If I cite a Grist, Climate Reality, Huffington Post, or The Guardian story about climate change, some readers will ignore the content for the source while others will read every word start to finish.Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 11.10.26 AM

We all have our biases and preconceived notions, and draw conclusions and judge quality of content based on a number of things, including the source of media.  And Internet search engines know what we like to read, see, and hear, strengthening our biases and ultimately, myopic digestion of information. So dear reader, I’m not citing any media source this morning but will make a few simple observations.

  1. It’s hot in the Adirondacks. As I type this entry, the thermometer reads 71 Fahrenheit. This is May in Northern New York.  We will get in the 90s today. 20 degrees too hot.
  2. It’s been raining a lot around the country. Texas again wins the prize for the heaviest rains. 16 inches in Central Texas in a short 12 hours. That’s three times the snowfall we got in the Southern Adirondacks for the entire 2015/16 winter–Just sayin.
  3. The Pacific Ocean along the California Coast is 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average. That’s not good news for marine life that don’t have fins to swim away from the heat.
  4. 2016 will be the hottest year ever recorded. 2015 was the previously hottest year. And 2014 was the hottest year ever before 2015.  There’s a trend here.
  5. The Great Barrier Reef is dying from ocean thermal heating.  That is but another tragedy.

There are solutions to mitigate the damage and adapt to climate change.

  1. Stop burning fossil fuels.
  2. Change our diets to eat less meat and more fruits, vegetables, and grains.
  3. Support political leaders who understand the urgency of climate change and will act for climate solutions.
  4. Reduce our carbon footprints by using less energy, eating low on the food chain….etc
  5. Plant trees, invest in renewables, etc
  6. Listen to the scientists and stop questioning climate change.

I could go on, but that’s not necessary.  The most important thing all of us can do is vote in November to elect our next President. We can not afford to sit home and see what happens. This planet deserves leaders who will support the Paris Climate Agreement, The U.S. Clean Power Plan, and all other global, national, state, and regional climate solution initiatives. We can and must do this.

Smokey Says, Only You Can Prevent Climate Change

I remember sitting in the back seat of the old blue Dodge station wagon in the 1960s with my sisters watching Bambi at the Westbury Drive-in on Long Island. Munching on homemade popcorn in paper shopping bags and sipping soda from Dixie cups, we soaked in the big screen Disney colors of animation. Of course, we all cried and had lots of questions for mom and dad when the forest burned and the animals scattered. Would they be all right?  Where would they go?  And, what would happen to their homes? Bambi was a heaping dose of reality for three kids under the age of seven, and I do believe our parents were more selective in the future when it came to going to the drive in for a movie with the kids.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 12.32.47 PM

Perhaps it was the child’s view of tragedies in Bambi that made my concern of forest fires so strong. I knew from watching Bambi that we had to protect the forests and the animals which resided within them.  I felt it was the responsibility of people to be careful with matches, particularly since Smokey himself had said on TV in his deep resonating voice, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” Yes!!  WE must prevent forest fires. Of course, I still would play with matches as a much older ten-year old, but always with a voice in the back of my head reminding me that only I could prevent forest fires.

Fast forward to 2016, and here we are with the forest fire season well underway even though it’s still mid spring. The extreme temperatures presently desiccating the boreal forests of Alberta and other Western North American areas have created tinderbox conditions which led to the raging wildfires in the Tar Sands region. The latest news suggests the worst may be over for Fort McMurry, though the devastation will leave much of the small city unlivable for months or years–not to mention the plight of animals and plants.

Scientists have been predicting for decades that climate change would elevate temperatures across the globe, particularly in the upper latitudes of both hemispheres. They predicted the decline of glaciers (this summer we may have an ice-free Arctic Ocean), the acidification of oceans and death of corals, etc….  So why are we not reacting with a much, much greater sense of urgency?  Why are we buying more SUVs now that gasoline prices have fallen?  Why would anyone debate climate change in a world which gets hotter and hotter. AND why on Earth is climate change not addressed in all Presidential debates??? Hmmm.  Think about that one. I wonder what Smokey must be thinking now. I wonder if his new advice would be, “Only you can prevent climate change.” Hmm.

Sympathies To Fort McMurray Climate Refugees And A Rant

My heart breaks as I see the devastation occurring in Fort McMurray, gateway to the Alberta Tar Sands region. 80,000 residents in a matter of hours have become climate refugees as raging wildfires destroyed the entire town of Fort McMurray. I can’t imagine the pain and loss these victims are experiencing. Yes, climate change is nasty, unpredictable, and unforgiving. Scientists have been predicting the extreme risks of increased greenhouse atmospheric gases (think carbon dioxide, methane,…) for decades, and yet political leaders largely sit on their hands as the fossil fuel industry continues extracting coal, oil, and natural gas from the earth.Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 8.52.01 AM

Yes, I’m angry. I’m angry for being helpless to the tragedies befalling Fort McMurray. I’m angry for the residents of flood prone low-lying island Pacific Nations. For the indigenous people being forced to evacuate lands they’ve know for millennia. For the Great Barrier Reef and the myriads of other life forms suffering from acidified oceans, unparalleled heat, and extreme weather conditions. I’m angry at Florida Governor Rick Scott and all other climate change denying politicians. But mostly I’m angry at us for not demanding more from our leaders.

We have a presidential election coming up in a few short months, and the stakes could not be higher. Climate change is THE issue that should be addressed at every campaign event, debate, and media appearance from now to November. Fort McMurray is but the latest climate change calamity. A wall around Mexico, gender neutral bathrooms, or the color of some celebrity’s latest hairdo, will matter little in a climate ravaged world. Sorry for the rant, but we need to all wake up and talk about what’s happening right before our eyes. We need to act now. We can all start by looking at the Fort McMurray debacle. Peace.

A Climate Conference to Inspire, Find Common Ground, and Act

As you know, the scientific consensus on the causes of climate change is strong, but the public consensus on how North Country communities can productively respond needs to grow. Our organization, North Country Climate Reality, aims to facilitate that growth through annual conferences, working groups, educational outreach and networking. Our vision is to make communities in upstate New York and Vermont models for effective local climate action and sustainability.P1000417

Please come to our second annual conference on June 17, 2016 on the campus of SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury, NY, which will focus on inspiration, common ground and action. This second annual conference will build on our momentum by engaging local leaders and stakeholders in coalition building and action planning.  The conference is co-sponsored by SUNY Plattsburgh at Queensbury, Green Mountain College, Apex Solar, NYSUT, and Solution Generation (a national climate change education network).

To register or for more information about the conference, go to our website at https://northcountryclimate.org.  Please join us for a day of inspiring presentations, productive working sessions, and powerful music that brings us together to help our communities become more resilient and sustainable.

A Grandfather’s Climate Gift to His Grandson

From the words of Dr. Harry Brooks, “A new generation pulls the switch on saving the planet.” The picture below shows Harry connecting his new Apex Solar system to the grid with grandson, Cyla20160307_151644s.

I don’t know about you, but it’s people like Harry Brooks who motivate me to do more. And I know I can and should be doing more about climate change. It can be as simple as turning my heat down from 67 to 66, or as complicated as becoming a one-car household.  There’s so much we all can do about climate change.

Sometimes I feel the scope of climate change is so huge it overwhelms and renders us helpless. However, there is so much we can and should do to fix the problem. What are you doing about climate change? What could you be doing? Here’s a suggestion: look for easy, low hanging fruit and work your way up to the more challenging actions.  Plant a tree this spring. Walk rather than drive short distances. Talk climate with your friends and elect politicians who understand climate change. With action comes confidence. Then go after the more challenging changes–a fuel-efficient car, taking more mass transit, less meat on the dinner table, etc…   We all know what needs to be done.

It’s friends and colleagues such as Dr. Harry Brooks who motivate me to do more to fight climate change. People who do things for the next generation. In Harry’s case, for his grandchildren. In the process, Harry is a better person for his actions. After all, at the end of the day, it’s not what you did for yourself, but what you did for others that matters.

Peace

 

 

Time to Modernize USA Train Travel

The smooth ride through the Spanish countryside at 274km/hr (170mph) from Córdoba to Madrid speaks to the joys of a 21st century rail system.  My wife and I used the reliable Spanish rail system, Renfe, extensively this past week to visit Seville, Granada, and Córdoba, where our daughter studies during her semester abroad.  There truly is no comparison between Amtrak and Renfe–no surprise given America’s and Big Oil’s love for the automobile. In Europe, bicycles, scooters, buses, and rail move people from one place to another, and a steep tax on gasoline to pay for national health care helps keep automobiles off the road.Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 7.32.54 AM

Back to the beauty of a modern rail system, imagine traveling 170 miles an hour across the American landscape in a comfortable train. No bumps or shrieking tracks. Clean wash rooms, hushed conversations in nicely upholstered coaches, cafes…. Imagine traveling non-stop from New York to Orlando in 6 hours, Seattle to San Francisco in 4.75 hours, or Chicago to Atlanta in 4 hours.  What a joy. No stressful boardings with but one entrance for 150 passengers. Trains that arrive and depart on schedule. No highway roadwork, tolls, or state troopers looking for speeders. Yes, a next generation transit system is overdue in the United States.

America can and must do better with transportation.  After all, climate solutions don’t include homes with two and three car garages, new six lane super highways, or SUVs with video entertainment systems and wi-fi.  Solar panels, wind turbines, and other forms of renewable energies are certainly part of the climate change solution, but so are more efficient forms of transportation. Leadership, an educated climate-savvy public, and smart taxes and green bonds can wean Americans off cars making a state of the art mass transit system possible. We can do this.

Supreme Court Threatens Clean Power Plan?

Anger, dismay, shock, and helplessness were some of my feelings after the 2/9/16 Supreme Court decision to stay enforcement on the Clean Power Plan. I couldn’t understand why the court would delay the Plan’s implementation, particularly when 196 countries and governments unanimously declared at the UN’s COP 21 climate conference in Paris last December that climate change is real, caused by humans, and must be addressed now. My emotions are not for me, but for the younger generations to follow. I want my daughter, nieces, nephews and future generations to live on a planet as beautiful as the one I was born into, not one suffering the terrible symptoms of serious climate change.

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Given all that is at stake, why did the Supreme Court act as they did, putting at risk an international agreement to fight climate change??? Answer: greed and ignorance in the form of a lawsuit filed by elected officials beholden to the fossil fuel industry  (See side map). Shame on them. Shame on the five justices who sided with greed and ignorance, and shame on the near-sighted elected officials for jeopardizing the well-being of our children.

So here’s the hopeful news.

  1. Many states are implementing clean power plans to reduce carbon emissions and provide thousands of new jobs to workers in the green energy sector.
  2. Nearly two-thirds of Americans – not to mention 365 business and investment leaders – support the Clean Power Plan.
  3. The Supreme Court has already upheld the EPA’s authority to limit carbon pollution from power plants under the Clean Air Act.

And these are the reasons you and I, dear reader, have to fight for the Clean Power Plan:

  1. Air pollution from fossil fuel power plants threatens our health by contributing to life-threatening illnesses, like childhood asthma, that cost us billions of dollars in healthcare costs and thousands of lives each year.
  2. Power plants account for nearly 40 percent of US carbon pollution. Experts say the Clean Power Plan is the single biggest step the US has ever taken to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change (and all the problems that come with it).
  3. The Clean Power Plan sets an overall goal of reducing carbon pollution from the US power sector by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and it gives states flexibility in how they reach their carbon reduction goals.
  4. Smart industry, financial, and governmental leaders are already betting on the Clean Power Plan, moving forward with plans to incorporate strategies and implement public policies that take us toward a clean energy economy.
  5. The electricity sector has embarked on an unstoppable shift from the dirty fossil fuels of the twentieth century to the clean technologies of the twenty-first. The stay cannot reverse that trend. Nor can it dampen the overwhelming public support for action on climate change and clean energy.

What this latest hiccup by the Supreme Court action demonstrates is how critical elections are in the fight against climate change. We can not afford to elect any official who fails to recognize climate change as a serious threat or who is in the pockets of Big Coal, Oil, or Nat Gas. Too much is at stake for our kids, grand kids, and this planet.

We can do this!

Renewable Energy Disruptions and Ch-ch-ch-changes

A few weeks ago solar lost a big battle to old power in one of the sunniest states in the nation. Warren Buffett’s NV Energy had proposed, and won, new net metering policies in Nevada which essentially disincentivize homeowners from going solar. In fact, those who had elected to put solar on their homes are now paying more than had they never installed panels.  Seems a bit unfair. Worse yet, it seems contrary to fighting climate change through renewable technologies.PV array

Truth be told, NV Energy’s bottom line was being pinched by a growing base of solar-generated electricity feeding the grid, particularly during peak use times. As solar generated electricity increases, NV Energy revenues decrease-a phenomena taking place across the country. And selling less fossil fuel-generated power cuts into a utility’s profits, which is unacceptable to an industry accustomed to being your sole electricity provider.

There have been other renewable energy battles waged by old utility companies around the country in recent months. Just this past week the California Public Utilities Commission upheld net metering policies for four more years by a narrow 3-2 vote. Narrow, because this is the state of California. And last week the Supreme Court upheld Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) jurisdiction over demand response, ensuring large consumers of energy are compensated for cutting back energy usage during peak times.

What’s happening in Nevada and across the globe is a significant disruption of the status quo by a new energy model, one driven by advancements in technology and a planet growing hotter and more inhospitable by the minute. The time is upon us where the old models of electrical energy generation are being shattered as new technologies and an awakened climate change sensitive global community say enough is enough. In the words of David Bowie, “Ch-ch-ch-ch changes, Turn and face the strange”.

 

Confusing Climate Change with Weather

“Climate changes all the time”. You may have heard that line recently from some of our presidential candidates presently vying for their party’s favor; and I wonder, “do they really think climate changes all the time?”  The cynic would suggest they are purposefully confusing science with reality to sidestep the issues, while the non-cynic would assume these folks have some serious scientific misconceptions. Regardless, I cringe each time I hear the line.  As a former science teacher, I know how important it is to clear up misconceptions early lest they become permanently wired in children’s neural pathways. I also know the joy of seeing a student have an “Aha” moment when the misconception is erased.  When they “get it”.1499

Besides the weather and climate change confusion, two other common misconceptions are 1) big objects fall faster than smaller ones, and 2) winter in the northern hemisphere happens because the earth is further from the sun at that time of year. Disproving misconceptions is fairly easy with children. After all, their brains are quite plastic and more able to learn new information than older folks. My favorite technique to correct a misconception is through a discrepant event.  As an example, to address the gravity and object size misconception, I would hold a feather and plastic disc in front of students and ask which would fall faster in an evacuated column. They would of course predict the plastic disk. I would then use a compressor to remove air from the column and then drop the two objects simultaneously. When both objects hit bottom at the same time, we’d have a nice discussion.  Misconception erased. For the winter weather and distance from sun misconception, all we needed was to remind students that summer time occurs in the Southern Hemisphere during our winter. Add the 23.4 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis and the fact that the Northern Hemisphere of the Earth tilts away from the sun during winter, and voila, another misconception is erased. The final misconception is the easiest to correct using this simple declaration: “weather is what you get and climate is the weather you expect“. .

Climate describes the weather in an area averaged over 30 years or more. Weather is what you see at any given moment in time, and a weather forecast is a prediction of what weather conditions will be like in the near future. It’s not terribly complicated. Climate is the average, weather is the present. If someone has risen through the ranks to be a legitimate presidential candidate, wouldn’t they know the difference?  If not, then they shouldn’t be running for President.  JMHO. Peace.