Now listen to a story ’bout a man named Jeb! No, that’s not right. Exodus 32? Closer. He wanted to be a knight, and was a great lover of France. When the Jesuit who became Pope took his name, he also knew battle was the best place to win glory and also to protect all of God’s creation:
Pope Francis has clearly embraced what he calls a “very solid scientific consensus” that humans are causing cataclysmic climate change that is endangering the planet. The pope has also lambasted global political leaders for their “weak responses” and lack of will over decades to address the issue.
In what has already been the most debated papal encyclical letter in recent memory, Francis urgently calls on the entire world’s population to act, lest we leave to coming generations a planet of “debris, desolation and filth.”
“An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at [our] behavior, which at times appears self-destructive,” the pope writes at one point in the letter, titled: “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”
Addressing world leaders directly, Francis asks: “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?”
We’ll see how they respond.
I know: EmPHAsis strikes again. But this is actually about the evolutionary arc of how climate change has been considered, the cost-benefit analysis it began with, and what’s left of that once the waters begin to rise:
“In the era before the Stern Review,” say Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth Stanton, “economic models of climate change were typically framed as cost-benefit analyses.” This framing has been preeminently exemplified by Nordhaus. Although he called global warming “the major environmental challenge of the modern age,” he did not express a sense of urgency about it. In his 2008 book, he said: “Neither extreme – either do nothing or stop global warming in its tracks – is a sensible course of action.” The central question, Nordhaus said, was: “How to balance costs and benefits.”
One especially startling statement came in a discussion about the sea-level rise that would be caused by the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets: “Although it is difficult to envision the ecological and societal consequences of the melting of these ice sheets,” Nordhaus said, “this situation is clearly highly undesirable and should be avoided unless prevention is ruinously expensive.” It is startling to suggest that, if we find avoiding the melting of these ice sheets “ruinously expensive,” we should just let them melt.
Although Nordhaus has not been guilty of science denial – indeed, he has publically debated with deniers – his analysis, Stanton, Ackerman, and Ramón Bueno, have written, “could be called risk denial – accepting a (very optimistic) picture of the most likely climate outcomes, but paying little or no attention to worst-case risks.” This risk denial is dangerous, they said, because “[w]hen climate economists – and the policy makers they advise – fail to understand the well-established findings of climate science, the result is likely to be too little emission reduction, too late.”
Stern’s 2013 writings expressed a very different picture of what climate economists should be doing. Although the Review had already said that the “economics of risk” should be made central, his new writings put even more focus on it, saying that economists must present climate change as “a problem of risk management on an immense scale,” which most economists had not done.
What that becomes once it is done will be a further contortion into nuance, most likely. But insurance – the practice of risk management – will bring an important economic force to bear on the consequences of climate change, which will have at least as much power on the concept of denial as the fossil fuel industry. Will it be decisive?
I tried to joke about this (R-A-S-P-E-C-T), but it’s really just pathetic:
Lawmakers from at least four states have introduced model legislation from the right-wing group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) seeking to prohibit state funding for the Environmental Protection A
gency’s efforts to fight climate change.
On Thursday, Missouri state lawmaker Tim Remole introduced a resolution mimicking the text of AFP’s Reliable, Affordable and Safe Power (RASP) Act. Remole’s resolution “seeks to prohibit state agencies from using state money to implement EPA rules and guidelines,” specifically the EPA’s efforts to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
Nearly identical resolutions have also been introduced in Florida, Virginia, and South Carolina in 2015. Each one says the proposed limits on carbon emissions from power plants “will not measurably alter any impacts of climate change,” “conflicts with a literal reading of the law,” and would “effectively amount to a federal takeover of the electricity system of the United States.”
Why are people so intent on making Orwell look like some kind of naive piker? We’re talking working nights and weekends to make it happen. If we just call it this, then it will be fine? Alternatively, if we ban people from using these words, we can be confident that none of it is happening? People! The man wrote about this more than sixty years ago.
Model legislation indeed.
It’s not a trick question, though at first the proposition can seem off-putting, if not unrelated. In the Chukchi Sea and the adjacent Beaufort Sea, off Arctic Alaska, bowhead, beluga, and grey whales are commonly spotted, while fin whales, minkes, humpbacks, killer whales, and narwhals are all venturing into these seas ever more often as the Arctic and its waters continue to warm rapidly. Sounds harmless, right?
The problem, however, is that the major oil company Royal Dutch Shell wants to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer and that could, in the long term, spell doom for one of the last great, relatively untouched oceanic environments on the planet. Let me explain why Shell’s drilling ambitions are so dangerous. Just think of the way the blowout of one drilling platform, BP’s Deepwater Horizon, devastated the Gulf of Mexico. Now, imagine the same thing happening without any clean-up help in sight.
You might have heard about “the sixth extinction,” the way at this moment species are blinking off at a historically unprecedented rate. The Arctic seas of Alaska, however, still are sanctuaries not only for tens of thousands of whales, but also hundreds of thousands of walruses and seals, millions of birds, thousands of polar bears, and innumerable fish from more than one hundred species, not to mention all the uncharismatic sub-sea life that eludes our eyes but makes up the food web — phytoplankton, sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers, to name only a few. Think of the Arctic Ocean as among the last remaining marine ecological paradises on the planet.
Sometimes the question is not, ‘When will we learn?’ but ‘Will we learn?’ From the looks of current thinking on public education, the trends are not encouraging.
No, not that kind. Rock cylinders, and burying it. Dateline: Iceland:
In a test that began in 2012, scientists had injected hundreds of tons of water and carbon dioxide gas 1,500 feet down into layers of porous basaltic rock, the product of ancient lava flows from the nea
rby Hengill volcano. Now the researcher, Sandra Snaebjornsdottir, a doctoral student at the University of Iceland, was looking for signs that the CO2 had combined with elements in the basalt and become calcite, a solid crystalline mineral.
In short, she wanted to see if the gas had turned to stone.
“We have some calcites here,” she said, pointing to a smattering of white particles in the otherwise dark gray rock samples. “We might want to take a better look at them later.”
Ms. Snaebjornsdottir and her colleagues are certain that the process works, but the cores — eventually hundreds of feet of them — will undergo detailed analysis at a laboratory in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, to confirm that the calcites resulted from the CO2 injection.
Let it be. Shine on you crazy… cylinder. CO2 me like a Hurricane. Living in the City. First, we take CO@ and put in the ground, then we take Berlin. Fiction Romance, with CO2 rock cylinders.
The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2014 was the highest among all years since record keeping began in 1880. The December combined global land and ocean average surface temperature was also the highest on record.
The acceleration of the rate of sea level rise over the past couple decades is even higher than scientists had thought, according to a new study that uses a novel method to estimate the global rise of the oceans.
The reason? The rate of rise across the 20th century has actually been overestimated — by as much as 30 percent — meaning there’s been a bigger jump in sea level rise rates from the beginning of the 1900s to now than previously thought.
But you know what?
VousetesCharlieSelmaGotRobbedAllCountryMusicSoundsTheSameAmericaDoesn’tTortureElCapitanBokoHaramDukeSCOTUSIslam Gas prices are down.
This is pretty right on, and not in a good way:
But before moving on, one more point about liberal and conservative denial: Naomi Klein has suggested that conservative denial may have its roots, it will surprise many liberals, in some pretty clear thinking. [i] At some level, she has observed, conservatives climate deniers understand that addressing climate change will, in fact, change our way of life, a way of life which conservatives often view as sacred. This sort of change is so terrifying and unthinkable to them, she argues, that they cut the very possibility of climate change off at its knees: fighting climate change would force us to change our way of life; our way of life is sacred and cannot be questioned; ergo, climate change cannot be happening.
We have a situation, then, where one half of the population says it is not happening, and the other half says it is happening but fighting it doesn’t have to change our way of life. Like a dysfunctional and enabling married couple, the bickering and finger-pointing, and anger ensures that nothing has to change and that no one has to actually look deeply at themselves, even as the wheels are falling off the family-life they have co-created. And so do Democrats and Republicans stay together in this unhappy and unproductive place of emotional self-protection and planetary ruin.
If one of our strengths is the ability to be honest with ourselves, then we need to go the Fully Monty. It means not being afraid to go there, if ‘there’ is about substantial changes to our way of life in order to stave off planetary ruin. Sure, the extent to which you already live close to work, take alternative transportation, do not own one car per-driving-age person in your household will make you more open and amenable to solutions that are simply out of the question to other people. But that’s the point above. maybe we need to start with ‘out of the question’ and try to work forward.
Get around the anger and soft-pedaled pedantry about climate change by blasting straight through it. It won’t make the tough decisions go away, but maybe we could get face-to-face with them sooner rather than later.
Image: The Corso, Rome, author photo from June 2014
Germany is looking to do to coal what it is also doing to nuclear energy – use less of it. And it’s all the work of its conservative government listening to its citizens and what they say they want. And responding:
“The conservative government of Chancellor Angela Merkel last week issued a discussion paper proposing to implement the strictest controls on coal fired generation yet to be seen in Europe, and to redesign its energy system around renewables, which will account for around two thirds of supply within two decades,” Giles Parkinson reports.
Currently about 45% of Germany’s electricity comes from burning coal. However, it was reported recently that new coal plants will not be financed there. About 24% came from solar and wind last year, but that amount could expand to 45% by 2025, if targets are met.
Leading utility Vattenfall is examining the possibility of dropping its lignite-powered plants in Eastern Germany. About 10% of Germany’s electricity is generated by this handful of coal plants, which also produce an estimated 60 million tons of CO2 annually.
They’re not alone, but Germany’s is a curious case to consider in light of our own political experience. Whatever it is American conservatives value and cherish, it does not seem to relate to the majority will of its fellow citizens, much less the ‘good of the country’ much less the benefit of the planet. No, it’s something else, and they’ve well-learned how to denigrate these other considerations. But note that they are plainly out of step with conservatives in other developed countries.
That it will come as news to exactly no one is not a reason that the disingenuous origins of climate change denial-ism should be woven into the general culture fabric. They do not belong, and they have nothing to do with climate change or science or Michael Mann, or hockey sticks, or warming/cooling trends. Denial-ism was a last gasp fruit from a poison tree that has achieved beyond Luntz’s wildest dreams. Who’s Luntz? This is Luntz:
a confidential party memo warned that it is the domestic issue on which George Bush is most vulnerable.
The memo, by the leading Republican consultant Frank Luntz, concedes the party has “lost the environmental communications battle” and urges its politicians to encourage the public in the view that there is no scientific consensus on the dangers of greenhouse gases.
“The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science,” Mr Luntz writes in the memo, obtained by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based campaigning organisation.
“Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly.
“Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”
The phrase “global warming” should be abandoned in favour of “climate change”, Mr Luntz says, and the party should describe its policies as “conservationist” instead of “environmentalist”, because “most people” think environmentalists are “extremists” who indulge in “some pretty bizarre behaviour… that turns off many voters”.
Words such as “common sense” should be used, with pro-business arguments avoided wherever possible.
Way to go, C-Plus. It is disgusting that so many people cop to this ‘controversy’ that never was, but that has so many plain consequences for them/us. There is no them, remember. Even these duplicitous charlatans are us.
Image: A river in Egypt
You may wonder, as I do, why and how conservatives (Republicans… however you choose to respectfully refer to them) can continue to fuel climate change denial. Evidence suggests that the house-of-cards policy package ( low taxes, drill everywhere, no regulations) they support cannot admit one such reality without a torrent of others coming into the discussion and justification for their political existence vanishing overnight. A pathetic justification, it also makes the most sense.
However, there are conservative pockets drawing pretty ‘reform conservative’ stick figures in the wet cement. As the concrete dries, so do their creaky explanations evaporate. Especially when it comes to climate change, one extraordinarily sawn limb gets walked out on, and it’s really something. A crazy metaphor involving an insurance salesman at your door is proffered to explain why now is still not the time to do anything about carbon emissions… caveat lector. But a rejoinder is offered in the comments that is quite instructive:
I generally think you show a good appreciation for the explanatory power of metaphor and incentives, but this piece is a disappointment. Your insurance policy description is fundamentally flawed: insurance exists to refund some of the losses that will indisputably occur if a low-probability event takes place. Changing our energy consumption and production habits is an action designed to reduce the probability of the catastrophic events occurring. Let’s think about a high-pollution lifestyle as similar to gang membership in the inner city, a popular conservative issue. It may cost a gang member real present resources and satisfaction to quit the gang. It may not even improve the gang member’s chance of not being shot, unless others also stop the violence. But the gang member has no moral claim on others to cease their violence unless he quits as well. And if he continues his present lifestyle he is unlikely to live a healthy or successful life. Based on your recommendation, if fewer of his friends than he expected were killed last year even though he didn’t quit the gang, and he could really use some drug money now, he should stick with it- after all, it’s uncertain future benefit versus known present costs.
People around the world are losing their homes and dying while we argue about whether or not the causality is strong enough, or what magnitude of impact we’re trying to avert.
Lying or stupid was a 2004-vintage take on why Republicans said or supported certain things. Perception certainly evolves and as they get closer and closer to honesty, the trend horizon collapses on available policy prescriptions. That is intentional, and candidates with (R) should rewarded for learning how to run out the clock for the sake of propping up their ideology. One prize we might suggest is election losses, constant and everywhere.
Image: One of my very favorite bands and records of 1981. Never quit this gang.