Terminating Fiction

Imagine a scenario where ice loss across the globe is continuing and accelerating, where glaciers around the world are declining, where global average air temperatures have increased 1.8 degrees F, where global average ocean temperatures have increased 1.3 degrees F, where global sea level has risen over 7 inches, where thawing permafrost in the arctic is releasing carbon dioxide and methane which is amplifying warming further, where coastal cities around the world are investing trillions of dollars to fortify sea walls and in some cases literally raise their cities elevation.

Unfortunately this is not science fiction and this is not a prediction, this is the current reality of what is happening as documented in the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) which was released by the Trump Administration on Black Friday. The NCA4 is a product of law that was unanimously passed by Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush and is the United States authoritative assessment of the science of climate change. The summary of NCA4 that you can read for yourself at http://nca2018.globalchange.gov is as follows: Climate change isn’t a distant issue anymore. It’s happening today. Humans are responsible. It’s affecting every single one of us, in every part of the United States, across almost every sector. The risks to our well-being, economy and environment grow greater every day. Now is the time to act.

Now imagine if you were the leader of a nation impacted by these issues and every academy of science nationwide agreed with the findings and the need for taking rapid action, as did every other nation on the planet, every major faith organization, and nearly all major businesses including the largest corporations from the fossil fuel industry. What would you do? I doubt you would be completely dismissive of the issue, cite how you are super intelligent and know better, or talk about how this is other nations problem. Unfortunately that is exactly what our current president has done. He truly is the new face of climate change denial. He and a minority of other US political leaders are busy doing one of two things when asked about this important topic; they quickly divert to another topic as though a planet that is becoming less habitable for humankind is a lower priority, or they cite old tired arguments that any fifth grader with a web browser could easily refute. These tired and invalid arguments remind me of that scene near the end of Terminator 2 where the T-1000 falls in to the pot of hot liquid and shape shifts trying to take a form that can sustain the predicament.

It is tempting to pause and ponder the motivations for a nations leader and some of the key influencers in power to reject science, but it is a waste of time. Part of what we always need to remind ourselves is that political will is driven by ordinary citizens. Pick any major legislative milestone that benefitted humanity and you will find that it was driven by the collective attitudes and persistence of the people, not by a few old corrupt, selfish, or incompetent white men.

Now imagine if there were a solution to climate change that was effective, good for people, good for the economy, revenue neutral, and had bi-partisan support. Republicans Francis Rooney (FL-17) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08) along with Democrats Ted Deutch (FL-22), John Delaney (MD-06) and Charlie Crist (FL-13) have introduced the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). This simple, elegant solution is a variation of the policy we have been working on with Citizens Climate Lobby, which we fully endorse and support. It will accelerate the energy transition the NCA4 report states is needed. It will create millions of jobs without growth in government and protect our pocket books. Additionally, the border adjustments in the policy will influence the rest of the world to follow our lead and implement similar carbon pricing mechanisms.

Legislation like EICDA is endorsed by economists from both sides of the political spectrum. It is endorsed by four oil and gas supermajors (BP, Shell, Total and ExxonMobil) and the largest solar company in the U.S. (First Solar). It’s endorsed by the largest automobile manufacturer in America (GM) and the largest electric utility in the America (Exelon). It’s endorsed by two of the largest environmental organizations (The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International) and Republican statesmen George Schultz and James Baker.

The time has come for national climate policy to be enacted. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act provides a legitimate bipartisan path forward which is critical to the sustainability of any solution. Historically, climate change has been a wedge issue dividing our political parties, and solutions like this one help showcase what climate change really is; an opportunity that can bridge us together.

As this bill is introduced and discussed further, the merchants of doubt will come out and begin to flail like the T-1000 with invalid arguments about unsettled science or negative economic impacts. Don’t fall for it, do some research yourself and then do the most important thing that you can; talk about it with everyone you know. The more accurate awareness to the solutions that exist and how they actually would help and benefit us, the better. While the EICDA will not be passed during the current lame duck session, being brought forward now continues the conversation and sets us up for a time in the future when with your help it will be passed in to law to innovate our way to a better and more prosperous future.

Lastly, a shout out to my friend, Tim Reckmeyer, who assisted by letting me re-purpose some of the factual details he got published in a recent newspaper commentary in to this blog entry.

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Let’s roll

A recent op-ed by Mark Reynolds of Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is titled “To solve climate change, the passengers must now fly the plane”.  It does a good job creating a metaphor but I think there is one area that could use an adjustment.  Here is a portion of it:

When it comes to climate change, most Americans are like the passengers on a jetliner wanting to arrive safely at their destination but thinking there’s no need to be involved with the actual flying of the plane. The “people in charge,” surely, have things under control.

Lately, however, the plane has experienced a rough ride:

  • On Christmas Day, the temperature at Santa’s workshop – a.k.a. the North Pole – approached the melting point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, about 40 degrees above average for that time of year.
  • With 2016 hitting another high mark for average global temperature, 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred in the current century.
  • Floods, like the disasters that struck Louisiana and North Carolina last year, are happening as a result of unprecedented rainfall measured in feet rather than inches.
  • As we start the new year, 37 million people across Africa are without food because of crop failures caused by droughts and floods exacerbated by climate change.

All this turbulence is prompting some of the passengers to rise from their seats, walk to the cockpit and check with the pilot. Upon opening the door, however, they are shocked to see no one seated at the controls.  For a number of years, President Obama did his best to keep the plane aloft with executive orders to address climate change, chiefly the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at power plants. But the 44th president has donned his parachute and exited the plane, leaving the pilot’s seat disturbingly empty.

So, how do we avoid crashing into a mountainside?

It’s time for the passengers to start flying the plane, and by passengers, we mean citizens.  This entails setting aside cynicism about our government and engaging with people in Congress who represent us in Washington. Government will respond to the will of the people, provided the people tell the government what we want.

If we take a look at the facts, our current president has tweeted that Climate change “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”, is a “Hoax”, is an “expensive hoax” and is “bullshit”.  He even tweeted “Not only are wind farms disgusting looking, but even worse they are bad for people’s health”.  Trump made campaign promises to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, has approved fossil fuel projects, has made staff appointments of outspoken climate change deniers, and placed restrictions on how scientific agencies can communicate to citizens.  The really sad thing is that with majority party control, making progress to address climate change presents a huge opportunity where the current elected officials could be heroes by following the CCL recommended and widely supported plan that would initiate significant job creation and shift the U.S. economy while moving towards clean energy. 

So back to the metaphor above.  I agree we are all passengers on the plane, the only problem is that from our seats we can hear that the captain is indeed still at the controls, we can tell he is there by his constant chirping over the PA system.  When we try to go have an honest dialogue, we learn that he has a likeminded flight crew, numerous DHS agents, and a legion of unconditional followers who will not hesitate to verbally abuse or attack the majority with a factual view of science.  As we listen to the chirps continue, we realize that a thin skinned unapologetic egocentric madman is at the controls; bullying anyone who asks tough questions or has an opposing view.  Relying on hope that someone close to him will get through to him and shift his mindset is not enough.  As passengers, we need to take action to prevent a crash landing that few will walk away from.  We can no longer afford to sit in our seats and listen to the same rhetoric and misinformation, it is time to get up and demand action; let’s roll.

Mark sums it up well by reminding us what Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart once said, “We aren’t passengers on spaceship Earth, we’re the crew. We aren’t residents on this planet, we’re citizens. The difference in both cases is responsibility.”

Guest Blogger: Tim Reckmeyer

My good friend Tim recently penned a guest column for his local newspaper titled The global heat is on for Congress, please give it a read. Below is some additional commentary from Tim.

The science of climate change isn’t what you know it’s what you believe.  More scientific studies and reasoning are not going to help people.  There are just certain things in the scientific realm that have always been that way.  Did you know that when Galileo claimed that the Earth spins on its axis and orbits the sun he was put on trial and forced to recant?  Why was this?  It went directly against the church doctrine.    

I recognize that everyone has different values (politically, spiritually, morally, etc.) which is why Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is such a great organization to be a part of.  We listen to all viewpoints and then work to find common ground – not only with our members of Congress but also with people we interact with every day.  Here are just a couple of examples:  

You want less EPA regulations – CCL has a plan for you.
You want to reduce carbon emissions – CCL has the plan for you
You want create healthier air to breath – CCL has the plan for you
You want to grow jobs in America – CCL has the plan for you
You want more money in your back pocket – CCL has the plan for you

People create political will – not Congress.  Please join us.

If you want to join Tim and I at CCL, please let us know at MNCCL-CD2@outlook.com

 

 

 

 

Global thoughts

We have likely all seen the bumper sticker or heard the phrase “think globally, act locally” but human nature sometimes makes that difficult. Despite NOAA, NASA, the Japanese Meteorological Agency, and the UK Met Office all stating that 2014 was the warmest year on record, it has been colder than normal where I live as depicted in the picture above. This localized cold sometimes makes conversations about climate change and our warming planet more challenging. In addition, people who live in the upper Midwest of the U.S. sometimes take to the opinion that a few degrees warmer sure would be nice and it is less expensive than moving to Kansas. Ironically, if our planet was just 7 degrees colder those of us in the upper latitudes would be under a mile of ice. Looking at the data above, helps get back to seeing a good depiction of a global problem. While in the upper Midwest we might have been fighting a polar vortex that caused school closings and travel restrictions, many other areas throughout the globe were fighting record heat and drought in 2014.

It is even more important to look at long term trends as depicted in the chart below taken from a data query I did on the NOAA website. It is disheartening to know that every year my children have been alive, global temperatures have been above historical averages. December 2014 was the 358th consecutive month where global temperatures were above average. In addition, 13 of the hottest years on record (since 1880) have been in the last 15 years. The scientific consensus on whether the warming is manmade or not is overwhelming everywhere except the U.S. Senate and the U.S. media. All 38 National Academies of Science agree, the hundreds of AMS organizations all agree, and peer reviewed scientific articles have outnumbered those opposed 500:1 for over 20 years.

1880-2014

What if we change our mindset to align with the former chief economist of the World Bank (Sir Nicholas Stern) and many others who view this problem as a market failure? After all, we typically do not let industries dump their garbage and toxins for free. A market failure is when costs are shifted to non-users and that is precisely what has happened here. In one way or another, everyone is currently paying for carbon regardless of their usage. Typically when markets fail, governments intervene in one of four ways: R&D, Subsidies, Regulation, or Taxes. R&D is great but in reality we already have the technology and knowledge needed though continued improvements in efficiency will help. Subsidies help but they are expensive and not politically viable, with little ROI. Regulation is good by forcing more fuel efficiency and standards on emissions, but that is quite simply not enough to move the needle significantly. And everyone hates to talk about taxes, though that is exactly what is needed here. The Citizens Climate Lobby is advocating a $10 / ton tax on CO2 with that increasing $10 each year for 20 years. To put that in perspective, in year one it would be ~10 cents per gallon at the pump and ~1.2 cents per kWh for electricity. The beauty of their proposal is that it would be 100% revenue neutral, meaning all of the tax revenue would be returned to American households equally without the government keeping anything. Imagine you, me, and Keith Hernandez all getting a monthly dividend check for the same amount. This type of tax would be a light switch moment, immediately shifting behaviors and decisions of consumers. In the past year gay marriage had a light switch moment and though there are a few states with their hand still on the dimmer switch, tremendous progress has been made. Eliminating our reliance on fossil fuels needs a similar moment to give it momentum and move us forward.

So this brings us back to thinking globally and acting locally. If you are reading this, you have much to be grateful for in terms of being born where and when you were and more. Understand that our lifestyle and choices have impacts on the planet as a whole and small iterative changes can have large impacts when multiplied by billions of people. As John Muir said, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world”. I encourage you to investigate joining one of the CCL’s weekly intro calls to learn more how you can help our elected leaders respond to our citizens political will.