IBI Watch 5/12/13

12 05 2013

Respect Mom //

Just in time for Mother’s Day, we have an alarming new marker on the Pignorance (pretend ignorance) Path. For the first time in quite awhile, atmospheric carbon dioxide has hit 400 parts per million. That “awhile” is quite a stretch – at least 800,000 years, and maybe as much as three million years. (Check the video at that link.) In other words, well before our planet-altering species evolved and began burning fossil-fuel joy juice to produce heat, civilization and, oh yes, greenhouse emissions.

Is this any way to treat “Mother Earth,” i.e., the planet and its systems that we depend on for everything, including our survival? I think we all know the answer to that question, though we clearly don’t want to know it, and we act as if the question does not matter very much. How much it matters becomes clearer with each chaotic lurch in climate systems. At some point, we will have to change our ways. If we fail to do so before catastrophic climate change occurs, Mother has some nasty surprises in store for us. Oceans raised by 100 feet, anyone? How about half a billion climate refugees?

The 350.org movement, founded by Bill McKibben, takes its name from the most commonly cited number for a “safe” atmospheric carbon dioxide level – 350 ppm. That’s well above the historic (pre-industrial) level that prevailed throughout human history until we got coal- and oil-happy – 280 ppm. Doing the math, we see that in just a couple hundred years – a blink in geological time – we have managed to raise CO2 by 70 percent. And we are poised to blow by 450 (maybe 20 years from now) and even 500 ppm (probably 35 years out at most). Considering all the increased weather instability we have set in motion with just a 0.8 degree C. rise in world temperatures, it is hard to imagine what we will see with two degrees or a lot more. Most experts say we already have two degrees of man-made warming locked into the system based on the effects of emissions we have already produced.

So, what are we doing to head off this building crisis? Not nearly enough. To understand the factors in play here, it helps to delve into the carbon cycle – the natural process plus the warp speed “adjustment” that humans have added. Caroline Alden does a good job at that, writing for the BURN journal. A careful reading of that concise piece helps us understand how we have the earth’s natural systems to thank for keeping a lid on the boiling pot we have ignited – in particular, ocean absorption of our CO2 has slowed climate change. But it’s also clear that that planetary “free pass” is about to expire, and it is also clear that James Hansen can say with authority “game over for the climate” if we unleash the massive amounts of carbon that will come with full exploitation of the Alberta tar sands.

The wisest – and most necessary – course of action is for the world to drastically reduce its use of fossil fuels. The only way to do that is to “internalize the externalities,” that is, to make carbon pay its way. “Cap and trade” has not worked so well; Hansen and others have a better idea. That would be “fee and dividend,” a gradually increasing fee on the carbon content of fuels that would be collected at the time of production, and returned directly to the public. This would reward those who use less carbon and therefore emit less heat-trapping greenhouse gas.

Here in the United States, one of our major political parties is a wholly owned subsidiary of the big corporations, and the other is a highly paid, all-too-supportive partner. With the power of Big Oil and Big Coal undiminished, how can we get a carbon fee enacted? Corporate pressure can help. Big Insurance gets it. Here is a more recent update from MPR’s ClimateCast on that angle. Still, it won’t be easy. Just read how this latest episode of GOP obstruction is hamstringing the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s hard to regulate on behalf of the public with no one at the top.

Pressure from activists and ordinary, informed citizens will be essential. Here’s a piece that encourages populist uprising. Bill McKibben sees a growing synergy between Baby Boomers and the Millennials. And imagine this – modern Republicans getting past ideology to understand and accept climate science.

We are all involved in discussions on this all-important issue from time to time. Here are two resources that can be very helpful. First, a climate change flow chart with attitude from the ThinkProgress site. And finally, courtesy of Joe Romm of Climate Progress, a listing of one-sentence and one-paragraph rejoinders to deliver in response to the 99 most popular denialist assertions on climate change.

Ultimately, it is a battle for public opinion on this issue. The mainstream media barely cover the issue. They need to hear from us. It’s the least we can do for Mom.

 

Weather: Something New Under the Sun

I love a Minnesota day where the weather changes by the minute. Winds wailing, then nearly calm. Bright sunshine, followed by a dark sky and brief dousing, then a return to brilliance. But this morning I experienced something I have never seen. Picture this: 50 degrees, bright sunshine, clear sky overhead, passing dark clouds all around, north wind blowing a gale. I am leaving my neighborhood park with my dogs. And it starts “snowing.” But the stuff is not at all like snow, more like sleet, except it floats, with a texture like fresh popcorn. By the way, it is May 11.  My meteorologist friend pointed me to this odd phenomenon’s name – graupel. It is going to be a mighty interesting ride, this climate change business.

 

Environmental Action Large and Small

With all the bad news on our disregard for earth systems, we often forget that there are many people in this world who “get it” on the important issues, and take meaningful action. Here is a story on a continent-wide tree planting initiative in Africa. Read more here. Read about the comeback of the US wind power industry. (Idea – check if your local utility has a program whereby you can buy some or all of your electricity from alternative production. We pay a small, worthwhile premium at my Minnesota home for all wind power.) And finally, this article with imbedded video is probably more about symbolism than major environmental impact. Still, it says a lot about making the most of resources.

 

Corporatism – Harmful, Heritable, Habitual

It’s been nearly three years since the Dodd-Frank Act passed in response to the financial disaster of 2008. And still, actual reform crawls at best. Wonder why? This Fresh Air installment features an interview with Gary Rivlin. The Nation’s investigative journalist names many names in the obstructionist squad, but the one that stuck most in my memory happens to be the son of the ultimate corporatist right-wing Supreme Court Justice. You can also read Rivlin’s Nation article here – How Wall Street Defanged Dodd-Frank.  This makes us wonder what is the next bursting bubble on the agenda. Looks like most are betting on student load debt.

 

Energy: Conservation, Efficiency and the Zero Point

This is a guest post by Desmond Berghoffer. He blogs at Grandparents for the Future and also posts frequently at Boomer Warrior.

 

Facts? Why Bother?

I am old enough to remember Art Linkletter and his “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” feature. Think of this as an update, except that many of these fact-free sages wield power in this distracted, deluded nation called modern America.

 

Taking the Wind out of Rush

The Great Bloviator twice made the wisdom roll call in the above article. But the king of ugly radio seems to have stepped too far out on his plank of hate with his recent personal attacks on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke. Remember the “slut” firestorm? It seems that Rush Limbaugh angered enough people to launch a boycott of his advertisers. The free market has slapped him silly, as noted in these two articles – here and here. An added bonus – Sean Hannity is apparently sharing the pain.

 

Enduring Commitment

These military veterans are continuing to serve the nation. Read about a project led by a Facebook friend that is dedicated to building sustainable solutions in the wake of disasters. The Veterans Green Bus deserves recognition and support.

 

“Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.” – Wangari Maathai

 

Contributed links to this posting – Allyson Harper

 

Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN

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3 responses

12 05 2013
Desmond Berghofer

Good summary of the way it is, Mike. Thanks also for referencing my blog on Grandparents for the Future. I have worked my way through Energy and Economics and am now focusing on Ecology. It’s a bad news good news story all the way, but unfortunately still mostly bad as vested interests remain firmly in control of an agenda that benefits them at the expense of everyone else. The task is to motivate and organize the people who do understand and care to become a force strong enough to save civilization for our grandchildren.

Best wishes for your work.

Desmond

16 05 2013
Awakening from apathy | clearskies, bluewater

[…] IBI Watch 5/12/13 (ibiwatch.wordpress.com) […]

19 05 2013
IBI Watch

[…] common-good regulation in the years since the 2008 economic collapse. (For more on this, check last week’s IBI Watch, under “Corporatism – Harmful, Heritable, […]

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