Monday, November 29, 2010

Our Climate Future

I am fortunate enough to have a more or less monthly column in my local newspaper, the Morgan Hill Times. In a Green Talk submitted for publication on Nov. 30, I explain why I see the future of climate action to be at the local level, since Tea Party backed Republicans are pledged to ignore reality in favor of a near religious zeal to destroy all environmental controls that impinge on either personal or corporate freedom to screw the rest of us. Click Read more! for full column. In my previous column, I asked our three mayoral candidates to answer a few questions regarding their attitudes about climate change. On the basis of those answers, I came to the conclusion that only one, Steve Tate, was perceptive enough to deserve my vote. Even if your reasons were not the same as mine, thankfully enough of you agreed on that choice to re-elect Mayor Tate.

Yet, this goes against the prevailing voter response for most of America. In state after state, voters have elected champions of small government, free enterprise, reduced taxes and no regulation of business, backed by a loose coalition of organizations known collectively as the Tea Party. Almost universally, they echo the refrain that climate change is a hoax, isn't happening or could not possibly be caused by human activity. After all, we are too intelligent to do something like that... or are we?

Maybe the most extreme is Illinois Representative John Shimkus. His position is one of Biblical faith holding fast to the promise of Exodus where God told Noah that he would not destroy the earth again. The Bible says nothing about God preventing man from doing the job himself.

I would not be concerned about the Rep. Shimkus were it not for the fact that he could become the next Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. If he gains that position, he will the ability to shape energy policies for all of us, determining which bills will come up for a vote and on what schedule. In that position, he would be dangerous.

It would seem that all of the Tea Party is following the scientific thinking of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, a trio of media personalities who will say anything to make sure that Obama will be a one term president. It has come to the point where Limbaugh has aimed his rant at Motor Trend Magazine for daring to name the Chevrolet Volt as their Car of the Year. Any deviation from the orthodoxy of revealed truth can not be tolerated.

If the Volt can be named car of the year, then you might have to agree with at least some of what the Obama administration is attempting to do and that can not be allowed. Motor Trend has even responded with the reminder that “driving and Oxycontin don’t mix.”

It does not take much effort to understand that the great hoax is really being perpetrated by those often labeled as climate deniers. Even when they do find errors in any of the science, the correction of those errors has only served to strengthen that case for climate change. When they proudly proclaim that the Arctic Sea Ice is expanding again, they fail to note that it is also thinning, having less “old ice” or volume than ever before. When emails between scientists were hacked and then leaked last year, the further investigation has shown that it was all much ado about little; that the claims of the deniers that the were proof of some perfidy were as bogus the various lists of names of scientists who supposedly oppose the idea that human activity is changing the climate. (Many of the names on that list were already dead before the list was first published, almost all of the others had never given their permission for that use of their names. Yet still, Sen. Inhofe has continued to publish it at government expense.

While Inhofe, Shimkus and their minions are all set to determine climate policy for this country, the Chinese have a different goal. They are investing heavily in Green Energy, even to produce the same forms of electric cars that Limbaugh feels in Un-American and the first step to something that he calls Socialism.

Which brings me back to the rational for why I made it into a local election issue. If the leadership of the Republican Party, especially those with Tea Party backing, have decided that rationality has no place in national policy decisions, then the future depends on what we do here, in California, in Morgan Hill. Make of it what you will.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful for the rain.

Aquafornia is an indispensable site as Chris pulls together all of the essential water news for Californians and then links to the source. A good example is this story on the future of Lake Mead as covered by Las Vegas Channel 3 TV.
Lake Mead is at its lowest level since it was filled back in 1937. Most experts agree it will go much lower.
In the bay area we have had more than a normal November's rainfall. I have recorded some 2.5 in. on my deck. The ground is wet and I have captured some 200 gal. to make sure that our suburban lot sized orchard stays hydrated in the coming cold days. Still, this is a La NiƱa year and therefore somewhat unpredictable.

Water is political quicksand in California. I have yet to pay attention to the political action in Sacramento without getting the impression that it is all posturing for votes rather than truly planning for a sustainable California. Given that we have a new Governor, a Jerry Brown says that he is old enough to be able to do what is right rather than just what is politic, there is some scant hope, but I doubt it.

KGO-TV (ABC Channel 7 from San Francisco) will have a story tonight regarding California's Water Wars. I hope that Dan Ashley will act as an explainer rather than just be a mediator of a he said - she said special interest cat fight.

So, I guess that I am thankful for the water I have and conserve it as best I can. Being Green is about more than Politics.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Risking climate changer

We have just gone through an election cycle that saw Democrats lose seats in Congress as well as a large number of state legislature majorities. Greens had races where we came close, like Ben Manski in WI but it was an election when voters rejected liberal or progressive. candidates of any party.

One of the results was the ascendancy of a group of Tea Party backed candidate with a cheering section of ideological purists eager to "take our government back." A mixture of populism and near anarchic libertarian dogma, a majority of these new Congress Critters are so locked in to the ideal of a government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub that they ultimately reject anything that could possibly upset that view. The biggest threat to this view of government comes from Climate change where the financial risk is so great that it could bankrupt any government. They either hold on to the view that climate change is a hoax designed to continue public funding for university scientists or it is a Al Gore initiated plot to force socialism on the public.

In a must read post at Climate Progress, Joe Romm laments the fact that the media spends more time on climate scientists than on the climate science itself.
But for those interested in the real climate science story of the past year, let’s review a couple dozen studies of the most important findings. Any one of these would be cause for action — and combined they vindicate the final sentence of Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe: “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”

So what can Greens do to save humanity from itself? It is not enough to just change your own personal life style and hope that it catches on.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Mass media sub-blime

Thanks to chance of rain, I figure out why I never watch pop TV. Product placement is rampant and expected... e.g. what car they drive, which soda is consumed, but to put it in the dialogue is going a bit too far. I really expected more from a show set in Santa Monica.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Climate hawks arise

As the talking heads have had almost a week to analyze last week's elections, I guess that I can put in my two cents worth. It should be as valid as the pontifications that I have heard.

The one thing that almost everyone agrees on is that action on climate is dead. Joe Romm's Climate Progress made that point clear.

California came out fairly well. AB32 seems safe until the next election. Still there is a lot of work to be done and Greens had better be in the forefront or we should change our name. If the Democrats do not have the gumption to act, then Greens are the only political voice left.

I ask you all to consider the oped that Bracken Hendricks wrote in the Washington Post today.
Many conservatives say they oppose clean-energy policies because they want to keep government off our backs. But they have it exactly backward. Doing nothing will set our country on a course toward narrower choices for businesses and individuals, along with an expanded role for government. When catastrophe strikes - and yes, the science is quite solid that it will - it will be the feds who are left conducting triage.
While Greens are motivated by many issues, there is none so wide reaching as this. Hendricks continues to outline many of the results of listening to the Tea Party, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh echo chamber.
This is just the beginning. If conservatives' rosy hopes prove wrong, who but the federal government will undertake the massive infrastructure projects necessary to protect high-priced real estate in Miami and Lower Manhattan from rising oceans? And what about smaller coastal cities, such as Galveston and Corpus Christi in Texas? Will it fall to FEMA or some other part of the federal government to decide who will move and when and under what circumstances? Elsewhere, with declining river flows, how will the Bureau of Reclamation go about repowering the dams of the Pacific Northwest?

And while we're busy at home, who will help Pakistan or Bangladesh in its next flood? What will the government do to secure food supplies when Russia freezes wheat exports? Without glaciers, what will become of Lima, Peru, a city dependent on melting ice for drinking water? Will we let waves of "climate refugees" cross our borders?
As Greens sort through the results of this election and plan our next steps, we would do well to seek candidates who can articulate both the ecological and economic arguments for saving us all. Maybe we should start listing homo sapiens as an endangered specie.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

California Water Bureaucracy

I live in the living reality of "the bureaucracy reigns supreme". This impacts decisions on water, where projects are voted on every year and state employees and advocacy groups that are hired as contractors get out the vote to increase the bureaucracy. I live in a state where corrections unions increased the size and multitude of prisons for their members. I live in a state that can't balance its budget because of state employee pensions. I live in a state that uses massive diversions of water to allay political centres of power in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I live in a state where sustainability is defined by people living in San Francisco as the ability to get by with 85% of its supplies of water imported from Hetch-Hetchy. I live in a state where Owens Lake was drained for the benefit of Los Angeles water appetite. I live in a state where the city manager in Bell with a population of 37,000 received $787,637 a year. I live in a city that is planning to spend $4.6 billion dollars to "earthquake proof" its supply of water from the Sierras and spends $6.2 billion dollars on the Bay Bridge reconstruction. I live in a state where "San Diego imports 85-90 percent of its water" and then declares: "these conditions put considerable stress on the City's water system."

I live in a state where energy used for water pumping consumes about 8% of the total statewide electrical use.

I live in a state that never heard of regional water planning with transparency and open input such as the Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly had. I live in a state where administrators, such as those in Middle Rio Council Of Governments, reign supreme and legislators change the rules of governance every year through the referenda process. Little towns such as Antioch and Owens Valley have no say. The issue is not a liberal ideology. That is simply window dressing that stamps the character of public debates. The fundamental law of political physics in California is that those in power tend to stay in power, and those who are marginalized tend to stay marginalized.

We have seen this in the Middle Rio Grande already with the water plan and how it was drowned in its own tub.

Enough said.

Monday, November 01, 2010


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