All Hands on Deck

Time to Act on Climate Change

In an essay defending the “vulgar” custom of talking about the weather, G. K. Chesterton argued that there was both an element of worship in the practice (“the sky must be invoked”) and a welcome recognition of human equality. “In the mere observation ‘a fine day,’’’ he wrote, “there is the whole great human idea of comradeship.”

[This article is part of a reading list on Catholicism and the environment.]

If only that were true of the current American political debate about the increasingly obvious and dire consequences of climate change. Earlier this month, the White House released the most recent National Climate Assessment, a report compiled by scientists as well as experts from private industry and the government. According to the report, the pace of global warming has accelerated, and its deleterious effects are already being felt in weather patterns and rising sea levels. Low-lying areas of this country such as South Florida are battling the encroaching sea. Drought across the Southwest and California will intensify, endangering basic water supplies. Severe storms and rising sea levels, caused in large part by the melting of the polar ice caps, threaten much of coastal New England and the Middle Atlantic states. Sea levels are estimated to rise from three to six feet in this century. Average temperatures in Alaska have increased dramatically over the past decade, ensuring vast ecological damage. The report makes clear that the emission of carbon gases, mostly from automobiles and coal-burning power plants, is causing climate change—this is not a hypothesis, but a scientific fact. Unless we take steps now to reduce emissions, the problem will only get worse.

Republicans in Congress resolutely deny that global warming is man-made, and this head-in-the-sand stance has become an article of faith in some GOP primaries. Facing congressional stalemate on the issue, President Barack Obama has shifted his focus to regulatory measures, such as requiring greater energy efficiency in federal buildings. In June the administration will announce tougher E.P.A. standards on greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants. Obama has also taken to the bully pulpit to engage the public on an issue that remains near the bottom of the average citizen’s list of pressing concerns. To some extent, public apathy about climate change is understandable. It is easy to confuse “climate” and “weather” by focusing on immediate conditions rather than obvious trends. The threat seems far off and the most apparent effects erratic and contradictory. At the same time, even those who believe the claims made by scientists and environmentalists are often overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. What can an individual, a community, or even one country do that could conceivably alter what seems to be inevitable at this point? If the international community cannot come together to end the slaughter of innocents, what is the chance it will agree to enforce higher gas-mileage standards or a switch to low-carbon energy sources? Finally, concerted efforts by industry and conservative groups to question the scientific consensus and dismiss the danger of global warming have often turned the debate into a ritualistic denunciation of so-called elite opinion.

Yet as the National Climate Assessment took pains to point out, there is still much that can be done to ameliorate, if not forestall, the effects of climate change. Although the assessment made no specific legislative suggestions, the way forward is as obvious as it is politically difficult. Per capita carbon emissions in the United States remain among the highest in the world, so reductions here can have a disproportionate effect on global warming. Yes, China and India must also rein in their automobile and coal-plant emissions, but they have already started doing this because of the health effects of their notoriously polluted air. There is no reason—other than scientific obscurantism and political cynicism on the part of Republicans—for the United States not to take the lead in this environmental and health crisis. Imposing a carbon tax on all goods and services seems the fastest and most effective way to bring emissions under control. Once the cost of climate change becomes evident in every consumer purchase, the demand for alternative energy sources will propel both behavioral and technological change. Revenue from the tax might be used to reduce the deficit and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. Americans, the objection goes, are allergic to taxes. Yet we also know that Americans are not indifferent to the suffering and cost of floods, drought, and severe storms. If the chance of enacting a carbon tax is slim, so is the chance that these calamities can be avoided unless the industrialized world stops pumping carbon into the atmosphere.

In his essay Chesterton reminds us that we are “all under the same cosmic conditions. We are all in the same boat.” That boat is listing badly, and as Chesterton suggests, we will all sink or swim together. It is time to take up the vulgar business of talking about the climate as well as the weather—and doing something about it.

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I am 70 years of age and a product of Dominican education (grammar school and college).  I remember the days when the good Sisters at St. Raymond's would run drills so we could be prepared if the Soviets decided to Nuke Providence.  We'd hide under our wooden desks.  I have since wondered what an advanced civilization would think about those  carbonized shapes under the desks that would obviously be fused together by a nuclear blast.

As it turned out, we had nothing to worry about sinbce the globally accepted principal of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) prevented even the most insane of nations from launching such an attack.  Unfortunately, though, climate change or global warming is a real threat.  I genuinely fear for the future of my 4 young grandsons (and perhaps their parents as well).  I'll be long gone by the time the devastation of inaction hits, but I wonder how my generation will explain to our Savior why we allowed Planet Earth to die while we squabbled about conservative versus liberal views on the subject.  

 

Living in norherm Michigan (just above the 45th parallel), it is currently, after this last wiinter -- the most severe I've experienced up here in the past 33 years -- it is a tough sell to persuade anyone hereabouts that global warming is a real threat.  However, up here we do have an unwelcome ally in the effort. It is the slow invasion of woodticks that has occurred here over the past decade, increasing in intensity each year. I had hoped those days of sub-zero temperatures last winter would kill them off, but in a few hours of spring mushroom hunting last week my neighbor collected no mushrooms but five ticks! I suspect now that lurned northward by the precious decade or so of mild winters and increasingly hot summers, the ticks have mutated to survive the occasional cold-snap. All this and the 14 tick bites I suffered last summer are another reminder that overall climate and seasonal weather are two very different things. 

For my money, responding fairly and effectively to climate change is by far the most important difficult moral and political task that faces he world today and for the foreseaable future. There is no time for recriminations or free riding or engaging in gamesmanship.

The title of this editorial, "All Hands on Deck" is right on target. Every competent citizen has a responsibiliity to inform himself or herself as well as possible about the issues and their consequences, to speak out about this issue, to be prepared to work with all sorts of people they would otherwise find difficult to cooperate with, etc. So far as I can see, this requires a full scale "conversion" in both our attitudes and in our willingness to change our ways of living.

Because of the scope and difficulty of this problem we may not be able to escape dire consequences. But that is no reason to abstain from trying with all our might and ingenuity.

 

For my money, responding fairly and effectively to climate change is by far the most important difficult moral and political task that faces he world today and for the foreseaable future. There is no time for recriminations or free riding or engaging in gamesmanship.

The title of this editorial, "All Hands on Deck" is right on target. Every competent citizen has a responsibiliity to inform himself or herself as well as possible about the issues and their consequences, to speak out about this issue, to be prepared to work with all sorts of people they would otherwise find difficult to cooperate with, etc. So far as I can see, this requires a full scale "conversion" in both our attitudes and in our willingness to change our ways of living.

Because of the scope and difficulty of this problem we may not be able to escape dire consequences. But that is no reason to abstain from trying with all our might and ingenuity.

 

 

May 14, 2014

I was seriously thinking of not renewing my subscription coming up soon. I’ve been working on my people and planet project for about 40 years give or take.  Finally Commonweal steps up to the ball.  Rejoice! I especially liked and repeat for emphasis Bernard Dauenhauer’s:

 

“For my money, responding fairly and effectively to climate change is by far the most important difficult moral and political task that faces the world today and for the foreseaable future. There is no time for recriminations or free riding or engaging in gamesmanship.

The title of this editorial, "All Hands on Deck" is right on target. Every competent citizen has a responsibiliity to inform himself or herself as well as possible about the issues and their consequences, to speak out about this issue, to be prepared to work with all sorts of people they would otherwise find difficult to cooperate with, etc. So far as I can see, this requires a full scale "conversion" in both our attitudes and in our willingness to change our ways of living.

Because of the scope and difficulty of this problem we may not be able to escape dire consequences. But that is no reason to abstain from trying with all our might and ingenuity.”

Spoken like an angel, a saint, a prophet, a true scientist, a philosopher, and a person of incredible understanding of the scope of our endeavor -- Bernard. Thank you!

 

This is doable. It will take extreme organization, cooperation, work, and time. ‘Conversion’ is key. When we see necessary and sufficient organization, cooperation, work, and time we know conversion is happening. We know that we are taking back our planet Earth.

 

Let’s keep this right on the front burner from issue to issue of Commonweal.

Hopefully Commonweal will be willing to be our communication source to message until we have a coherent plan.

 

Australia just repealed its carbon tax. 

In a competitive global economy, I fear the only solution is a true breakthrough in green energy technology.

I do like all hands on deck. The average person can at least conserve. 

I just saw in NYTimes  on-line today's 5/15 Opinion blog called "Dot Earth" a fine piece titled "Hefty Global Goals from a Vatican Meeting." I strongly recommend it. Sorry, I don't know how to do links.

Bernard - this may be the link to the Dot Earth piece.  Very thought-provoking. 

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/three-long-views-of-life-wi...

 

Jim, thanks much.

Beernard

 

5-19-14 It’s the inhabitants of the earth, not the Pope that need to bring adequate change. When we are closer to the spiral of extinction than we are right now we may come to realize this. Will it be too late?  MSR.

 

Reading suggestion 5-19-14  A copy of a comment I submitted.

http://www.moneylesssociety.com/2013/12/20/this-will-be-a-post-about-economic-collapse/#comment-176

Marie RottschaeferMarch 11, 2014 at 8:50 pm · Reply 
3-11-14 I have been working on my ‘people and planet’ project for about 40 years. The planet is so depleted that a resource-based economy will take creativity and hard work. For example, there is the issue of growing crops in a ‘climate change’ environment. Vegetation evolved in a different climate. Even seed banks can be as useful as the soil and environment they are placed in. Here is a comment I sent recently to The Atlantic Cities. _Climate change makes it imperative that food and water are immediate priorities. Agricultural engineering and related subjects should be many students’ choice to go to a community college and begin a career. Building protective habitat from cold, heat, storms, drought, floods, pollution, predators, and working with groups already designing new systems for crops and other vegetation, domestic animals and wildlife protection is vital. Weird weather will be with us for eons. Taking care of life could then lead to rebuilding a depleted planet. No shortage of jobs here. The younger generations may simply have to step up and replace the older generations obsolete plans in a convincing way that brings necessary change._
I wish you well. But it won’t be easy; nevertheless, it will be necessary.
___


                         

 

At breakfast this morning with friends in Savannah, a city that will truly be affected by rising waters, our host brought up the subject of "Science: benevolent or malevolent" -- you do earn your eggs when breakfasting here! After some speculation on a sort of metaphysical level, climate change came up. His position, as mine, is that science is never 100% certain of much, but, the evidence for climate change, change in the direction of global warming, and the very probable role human activity is playing in this likely "malevolent" trend  is strong enough that just common sense would point us to taking action. This is sicence that some on the right have chosen to ignore, as they are ignoring common sense. Marco Rubio also pointed to science that those on the left have chosen to ignore,in fact to censor from the public, that virtually all scientists believe human life begins at conception. Does the general public believe this? Common sense should tell us that we must take action on climate change, as common sense should tell all of us we must take stronger action to prevent abortions, which certainly is the killing of humans.

 

Let's keep climate change right on the front burner from issue to issue of Commonweal .                         


3-13-14

  Marie RottschaeferMarch 13, 2014 at 9:23 pm · Reply 
A mathematical model that provides a more effective basis for biodiversity conservation than existing frameworks has been developed by a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The complexity of ecological systems, expressed in the large variation in morphology, physiology and behavior of individuals of different species, individuals of the same species, or even the same individual in different environments, makes the understanding of the mechanisms affecting the diversity of ecological communities extremely difficult.
As a consequence, most theories of biodiversity are either limited to a single mechanism, or rely on highly simplified and possibly unrealistic assumptions. Thus, after more than a century of intensive research on species diversity, the world still lacks a solid, theoretical foundation that can effectively guide decision makers.
What enables different species to coexist in nature? Why do some areas, such as the tropics, host huge numbers of species, while others can accommodate only a few? How is climate change expected to affect the diversity of natural ecosystems? What level of habitat destruction can ecological communities suffer, and according to what rules should we design nature reserves?
Taking into account that preserving biological diversity (biodiversity) is crucial for the health of the environment, answering such questions is now recognized as one of the greatest challenges for the 21st century.
In his Ph.D. thesis in the Department of Evolution, Systematics and Ecology at the Hebrew University, Omri Allouche developed, under the supervision of Prof. Ronen Kadmon, a new theory of species diversity that attempts to provide a more effective basis for biodiversity conservation. The heart of the theory is a mathematical model that predicts the number of species expected in an ecological community from properties of the species (e.g., rates of birth, death, and migration) and the environment (e.g., resource availability, habitat loss, frequency of disturbances).
The generality of the model and its flexibility make it a highly effective tool for guiding conservation managers and policy makers. Interestingly, analyses of the model provide novel insights that often differ from common notions of conservationists. For example, in contrast to the intuition that improving habitat quality (e.g. by resource enrichment) should promote biodiversity, Allouche’s theory predicts that resource enrichment can actually reduce biodiversity, a result supported by empirical studies.
Another example is the response of ecological communities to habitat loss, which is recognized as the largest threat to biodiversity. Often the response of an ecosystem to mild habitat loss is used to forecast expected responses to large-scale habitat loss. The theory predicts that such forecasts may be misleading, and that ecological communities may show a sudden biodiversity collapse prior to some critical level of habitat loss.
One aspect of particular importance for conservation planning is the prediction of biodiversity responses to global climate change. Most current models of biodiversity responses to climate change make the assumption that dispersal ability of species is unlimited. In his work — which has earned him a Barenholz Prize at the Hebrew University — Allouche shows that this assumption significantly reduces the predictive power of such models and can therefore lead to misleading conclusions.
Allouche believes that his contributions can improve the ability of conservation managers and policy makers to assess potential risks to biodiversity, to efficiently design nature reserves, to effectively identify and protect endangered species, and thus, to better conserve the diversity of ecological communities.
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The above story is based on materials provided by Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “New model provides more effective basis for biodiversity conservation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2010. .
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While this is not yesterday’s news, it is encouraging news that world researchers are working on the science and mathematics of the serious ecological dilemma future people and planet inhabitants and the planet itself face. World cooperation hopefully will bring solution.


 

 

 

 

If this is Father Kropf of Stellamaris, I'm a fan of your writings.  I wonder what Teilhard would have said about the catastophism evident in the earth's record.  In the present, a novel life form capable of reflective consciousness and hacking the world is changing the atmosphere.  Analogously, as I see it, 2.65B years ago, a novel life form called cyanobacteria did the same, oxidizing the methane and bringing on a snowball earth.  Life survived to do better things.  Will humankind survive to do better things.

 

 

Dotcommonweal All Hands on Deck May 13, 2014

Time to Act on Climate Change

The Editors

May 27, 2014

The Fukushima disaster has influenced my mind and willpower to go in to a moratorium mode. To act or not to act that is the question. Prayer may be the best action at this time. Radiation is the ultimate change.

"Experts tell House panel climate change science isn’t settled"
One hopes that Pope Francis and his science advisers take the opportunity to review the testimony of the experts and seek their advise and counsel before making pronouncements based on biased pseudo-science.

"The House Science, Space and Technology Committee heard from scientists who poked holes in the prevailing catastrophic theory of man-made climate change and said researchers are under pressure to support more alarming scenarios."

 

“The science is not settled, no,” said Roger Pielke Sr., professor emeritus in meteorology at Colorado State University.

University of Sussex economist Richard Tol told the lawmakers, “Science is, of course, never settled.”

“Some things are more or less settled, some things are not,” said Princeton University geoscientist Michael Oppenheimer. “The question of whether carbon dioxide is 30 to 40 percent above pre-industrial times, that’s settled. The question of exactly how warm the Earth will become as a result, that’s not.”

Daniel Botkin, professor emeritus in biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said the U.N. panel’s 2014 report and the White House National Climate Assessment are “scientific-sounding,” but also present “speculative, and sometimes incomplete, conclusions embedded in language that gives them more scientific heft than they deserve.”

“I want to state upfront that we have been living through a warming trend driven by a variety of influences,” said Mr. Botkin. “However, it is my view that this is not unusual, and contrary to the characterizations by the IPCC and the National Climate Assessment, these environmental changes are not apocalyptic nor irreversible.”

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/may/29/unsettling-house-panel-hears-debate-on-climate-cha/#ixzz33KHnkUtj

 

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