IBI Watch 8/12/12

12 08 2012
  • Plagues Upon Ourselves   //
    It has been easy for many Americans to ignore the perils of manmade climate change.  Until the recent dramatic uptick in extreme weather, it has been an issue for others to worry about – poor countries, low-lying islands, lovers of polar bears.  But more Americans are waking up to the issue.  And as the health effects of our vast uncontrolled experiment in atmospheric tinkering become clearer, all but the most durably pignorant (pretend ignorant) will start taking reality seriously.  And that has to help us make the necessary change away from a system that runs entirely on corporate money.  We can only hope.

    Here are three stories that focus on climate change’s immediate and rapidly evolving effects on human health.  First, here is a Daily Climate story on the evolution of climate-related diseases. Anthrax anyone?  How about some cholera?  And this story has a Minnesota connection.  Two deaths in the same Stillwater MN lake, attributed to a rare amebic meningitis that can thrive only in 80-degree waters, have spooked the public.  This Scientific American story from 2008 lists a swarm of diseases headed toward what used to be cooler, inhospitable climes.  Surely, we can’t be pignorant enough to let climate change’s effects destroy our health before we act to stop it.  Or could  we?

    Listen to those Cassandras

    James Hansen’s recent article connecting extreme weather with manmade climate change has made quite a stir, and continues to ripple.  Daily Climate’s Michael Mann (author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars) has an enlightening commentary.  I especially like his admission of his former skeptical perspective, and his reminder that so many dismissed Hansen in 1988 as an alarmist arm-waver.  Sadly, some are doing the same right now.  But Hansen was dead-on in his assessment and predictions in 1988.  Odds are, he is once again today.  We ignore him at our peril.  This New York Times piece digs into the implications of Hansen’s latest study, which compares the global climate of 1951 to 1980, before the bulk of global warming had occurred, with the climate of the years 1981 to 2011.  It also contains many links worth exploring.  And this John Broder article in the Times explores similar territory.

    Clear Evidence, Near and Far

    When I visited Glacier National Park four years ago, I saw some large, dark, bare hills that looked like glaciers had recently departed.  And of course that is consistent with the sad, ongoing trend that will lead to the park needing a new name within a decade or two.  (“The Park that Coal Melted?”)  But I could not say that for certain, lacking a historical context.  That’s not the case with MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner, who reported first-hand on dramatic climate change effects in the Black Hills.  Here are two terrific, time-delay animations from NASA.  The first shows the spread of extremely hot summer weather in the northern hemisphere since the mid-1950s.  The second shows the dramatic shift over that same time in temperature anomalies, toward the hot side of course.  So much for that ‘compensating cool weather’ you hear denialists point out when anyone tries to mention the pervasive US drought of 2012.  Far to the north, this video documents Greenland’s faster melting.  But don’t worry – the melt has increased only 30-fold.  Then there’s this Guardian piece talking about how much faster Arctic ice is disappearing.  And, just in time to speed up the process is an unusual Arctic cyclone that is spinning through as I write.  Just read the consequences of this storm, and imagine when one of these monsters pops up when Shell’s underwater oil drilling is going full bore.  It will make the Exxon Valdez disaster look like a picnic with the seals.  But again, not to worry.  The storm is not unprecedented.  But it sure is impressive, and portentous.

    Prescription: Mitigation and Adaptation

    Thanks to our greed and pignorance, we have allowed the planetary disease of climate change to fester to a critical state.  There is still time to control the fever – if we muster the political will.  The idea of cap and trade as a strategy for controlling emissions has been widely discredited, and pretty much abandoned.  But its cousin – cap and dividend (also called fee and dividend)  has much promise. It’s the dreaded carbon tax – a fee on carbon-emitting fuels – but with a twist.  The revenue collected is distributed to the people.  They then end up keeping more of the dividend if they make environmentally wise choices.  The fee increases over time, encouraging reduction in use of dirty fuels, and establishment of alternatives. Karyn Strickler interviewed Mike Sandler, a prominent advocate for this strategy.  Of course, if we keep electing politicians who deny the science for their own oily reasons (Can you say Mitt?  How about Inhofe?), there will never be political will for such a shift.

    So that is one strongly recommended idea for mitigation.  Here is one for adaptation.

    Rise of the Randians?

    Mitt Romney’s eagerly awaited VP choice proved dramatic and controversial.  Paul Ryan’s claim to fame is a budget that purports to bring balance – but exacts a dear price from middle class taxpayers while serving – of course – the ‘job creators.’  No surprise there – the ‘job creator’ myth owes no small favor to Ayn Rand, the creator of Objectivism and that fictional hero of free-market capitalism, John Galt.  So Ryan is merely being true to his principles – a refreshing change from his new boss, who is running against his own biggest success (health care reform), and has renounced his own ‘belief’ in the science of climate change.  But wait.  Congressman Ryan may not be so true.  This one-time (as recently as five months ago) unpaid salesman for Rand’s ideas now says he denounces his former guru.  So which is it?  We will find out soon, I guess.  But I am betting on his clinging to Rand.  Why?  Her system builds plutocracy best in the long run. That’s the real Ryan agenda.

    A Declaration for Our Times

    IBI Watch reader Ron Weitbrecht took pen in hand and created a statement of principles that are on the money for our current state of affairs.

    The Declaration of Subjugation

    “We hold these truths to be self evident, that rich men (not women) are created more equal than others. That they are endowed by their bankers with certain inalienable entitlements, that among these are perpetual profits, eternal corporate welfare, and tax free subsidies. That to secure these perks, governments are purchased among men, deriving their powers from the ability to bribe and outspend. That whenever any form of government becomes unwilling to protect their status, it is the right of the corporations to invoke Citizens United and select their own politicians, laying the foundation of plutocracy and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their perpetual and ever increasing income disparity.”

    Vote Fraud – the Real and Fox News Editions

    The Republican-driven full-court press on voter identification allegedly seeks to solve an imaginary problem.  That would be the dreaded ‘voter fraud.’  Far from some well-meaning attempt to preserve electoral integrity, this is a desperate Republican power grab – a kinder, gentler poll tax.  It is the culmination of a long GOP effort to restrict the vote enough to guarantee their victory.  This AlterNet article fingers the 2000 election as the starting point for the new ‘electoral’ strategy.  The star of the video, of course, is the Supreme Court Justice with massive ego and attitude to match – the driver of the political decision to stop counting votes and select George W as president.  The eminent justice tells us to ‘Get over it.’  As for the voter fraud campaign, it’s hard to top Jon Stewart’s satirical critique.

    Cry of the Soul

    This audio postcard from the coast of Maine, created by novelist Roxana Robinson, is just the kind of respite from political madness that we so badly need.  Listen to Robinson’s evocative description of loons on Mount Desert Island . . . and then their haunting calls.  Beautiful.

    “Because we don’t think about future generations, they will never forget us.” 

    –       Henrik Tikkanen

    Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN

    Contributed links or content to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Peta Kaplan, Ron Weitbrecht

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