Friday, September 25, 2009

Civil Disobediance Pt. 2: People before Polar Bears

Yesterday, I received a mailer from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that was trying to raise money to act on behalf of the polar bears. After all, climate change threatens their very existence. You can even buy polar bear shopping bags at an inflated, gotta raise money somehow, price.

I used to think that way myself. Those days are long gone. The situation is a lot more drastic and the specie being threatened is homo sapiens. Don't think that climate change is something that we have until 2050 to deal with. It is happening now and we had better recognize that fact.

If you click Read more! I will give more detail on three events that I don't hear Greens talking about, but they should be at the very top of the list: the dust storms that swept across eastern Australia, the Dutch experts who are advising California on methods to protect San Francisco Bay and California Delta, and my finally getting around to read The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis published by the Global Humanitarian Forum, headed by Kofi Anan. Each of these underscores the fact that Climate Change is real, it is here now, and people are being affected every day while the US twiddles its thumbs and the Senate can not yet pass a climate change bill.

Australian Dust Storms:
If you have not yet seen the effect of this, you have to watch this video. Otherwise, you might not believe it.

This is climate change in Australia. It is also what is forecast for the Southwest of the United States. We have already begun to see some effect in the mountains of Colorado as they are reporting red snow .
It is, sadly, probably too late to save much of Australia. But it is not too late to save the U.S. Southwest and other key regions in or near the subtropics. We can still prevent the worst. (Joe Robb at Climate Progress)

Dutch Engineers to save the Delta?
This is climate change mitigation right here in California. No, it did not make the local news. It was not on television, absorbed as it is with all things political unless it is a crime story. It did, however, make the San Mateo County Times and was carried in its sister paper, the Contra Costa Times.
The inevitable effects of climate change in California, and how cities can adapt to them, are starting to get more attention from Bay Area planners. While no one knows exactly how sea level rise will play out 100 or 200 years from now, analysts agree that more severe and frequent floods are going to be a part of it.

Avoiding sea level rise is by now impossible. The Bay has risen 8 inches since the start of the 20th century, and scientists worldwide agree that the Bay Area in particular can expect to experience sea level rise of as much as 16 inches by midcentury and as much as 55 inches by 2100.
Here is a link to a map of the Bay / Delta with a sea level rise of just 1 meter... 39 inches rather than the 55 mentioned in the quote above.

This should begin to give you a feel for the fact that mitigation of the effects of climate change is going to be very, very expensive. You know that the Conservatives in Congress, both Republican and Democrat, will sing the song that after bailout and a big impact Health Care bill, we just can't afford to tackle climate change now. It would do too much damage to the economy.

Don't let them sell you that line. It just is not true. If the money for levee repairs in New Orleans had not been spent on a new freeway exchange to allow access casino boats, perhaps the 9th Ward would not have flooded. It would have been so little.

Paul Krugman is already labeling this a big lie.
So the main argument against climate action probably won’t be the claim that global warming is a myth. It will, instead, be the argument that doing anything to limit global warming would destroy the economy. As the blog Climate Progress puts it, opponents of climate change legislation “keep raising their estimated cost of the clean energy and global warming pollution reduction programs like some out of control auctioneer.”

It’s important, then, to understand that claims of immense economic damage from climate legislation are as bogus, in their own way, as climate-change denial. Saving the planet won’t come free (although the early stages of conservation actually might). But it won’t cost all that much either.
The costs are right in front of our faces and California's politicians do not have the cojones (a Madeline Albright term) to take action now. They can't even pass a rational budget.

The Human Cost of Climate Change
It is not about polar bears, it is about people. Those who are fortunate to live in California can probably withstand whatever comes if we were on our own... and we just might be. However, there are hundreds of millions of people who don't have that ability. There people are the subject of Global Humanitarian Forum's Anatomy of a Silent Crisis.
We testify here to the human face of this dangerous problem. The first hit and worst affected by
climate change are the world’s poorest groups. Ninety-nine percent of all casualties occur in developing countries. A stark contrast to the one percent of global emissions attributable to some 50 of the least developed nations. If all countries were to pollute so little, there would be no climate change.
So, how bad is it. Here are some statistics from that report.
The findings of the report indicate that every year climate change leaves over 300,000 people dead, 325 million people seriously affected, and economic losses of US$125 billion. Four billion people are vulnerable, and 500 million people are at extreme risk.
Even Anan admits that there is an element of error in these numbers. But how big do they have to be to get our attention? This is no longer an economic or technological question. It is now a more imperative. The time for talking in pleasant drawing room tones has long passed.

What to do?

I was somewhat surprised when Dr. James Hansen of N. A. S. A. not only called for civil disobedience, but actually went to the Appalachians to try and block yet another mountain top removal coal mining effort. Recently I read a paper by Dr. John Lemons. He also considers this a question of ethical behavior and, like Hansen, suggests that it is time for civil disobedience. If not, he is very pessimistic.
As a natural scientist I have been engaged in global climate change issues since the early 1980s, particularly with respect to the integration of science with public policy and ethics. However, at this point in time there is little that I see that is a cause for optimism in the battle to solve global climate change on an ethical basis, to reduce immediately and significantly the emissions of greenhouse gases based on the best available scientific information.

We have heard it all. especially here in California where our Senator Boxer Chairs the Senate Committee that has to write and approve any legislation. So far, she has delivered speeches and little else. Likewise, Governor Schwarzenegger has gotten a reputation as a Green Governor, but many of his actions have been ecologically destructive and none of them, even his expensive plans for dams and a peripheral canal, have begun to address the problems of rising sea levels for the Bay and Delta regions. Even here, he is solving the wrong problem and still screwing it up.

When I was a very little boy, stocking were filled with candy and fruit if you were good and with coal if you were bad. Maybe it is time for Schwarzenegger and Boxer to receive their stockings full of coal.

Californians do not have coal mines to block. The few we did have (e. g. near Parkfield) have long played out or are too dangerous to enter. But, we can do some things. For starters, buy no foods that were not produced in California... better yet... grow your own. It might put Trader Joe's out of business but they need a new business model anyway. It does not make sense in a warming world.

The place for Greens to follow the news is with EcoAction Committee's Facebook Pages. If you know of opportunities for action of any kind, post a comment on this post.

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