Category Archives: climate change

Is it Time to Stop Asking Whether Climate Change is Real?

Two hundred and fifty years from now, this is how the Earth could appear. (FOX Cosmos Web Site)
Two hundred and fifty years from now, this is how the Earth could appear. (FOX Cosmos Web Site)

Last night U.S. Senators talked “all night” about climate change. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid started the discussion at about 6 p.m. EDT yesterday, with the final address by Sen. Bill Nelson ending about 15 hours later, right before 9 a.m. EDT today. The White House posted live tweets during the overnight session under the hashtag #up4climate.

HT_cspan_mar_140310_16x9_608“We have a simple message for all Americans: We’re not going to rest until Congress acts on the most pressing issue of our time,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, a freshman Democrat from Hawaii, who organized the all-nighter on the Senate floor.

Kate Sheppard live blogged the event; you can read the details of the speeches on Huffington Post.  

Many climate change activists are unhappy with the lack of progress on climate change by the Obama administration despite promises during the elections. Climate change deniers point to inadequate/conflicting evidence, uncertainty in the science because scientists are liberals, assertion that the effects are acceptable, and even that it’s a hoax.

Many Republicans see the issue as anti-business, so oppose efforts for the legislators to address climate change. 55% of Republicans in the House of Representatives and 65% of those in the Senate reject the science behind climate change or oppose action on climate change, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress.

How could something like climate change elicit so much partisan politics in the U.S.? Younger people here apparently see things differently – a bipartisan poll conducted for the League of Conservation Voters shows 80% support for Barack Obama’s climate change plan among voters under 35 years of age.

Perhaps this battle here in the U.S. is another between the religious right and the … well … almost everyone else. Why can’t religion and science just get along?

aa bruno1In the premiere episode of the program Cosmos on Sunday night, there was a segment about how the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno in the late 1500s expressed cosmological theories of an infinite universe. He was tried, convicted, and burned at the stake for heresy by the Roman Inquisition which was a method used by the Roman Catholic Church to stifle any alternative thinking. (Copernicus and Galileo were among its victims.)

According to a report yesterday in ClimateProgress, Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of National Geographic and Fox’s new show Cosmos, said Sunday that he thinks the media needs to stop providing false balance in stories on scientific subjects like climate change.

“… science is not there for you to cherry pick…You can decide whether or not to believe in it but that doesn’t change the reality of an emergent scientific truth.”

These conflicts boil down to a anthrocentric view of the world versus an isotropic Universe view. Are humans on Earth the center of the Universe and all that matters to God? Are humans supposed to use the Earth and its resources without thought for the future? We will soon look back on the climate change debate the same way we now look back on the idea of the Earth as the center of the universe.

However, while disagreement on the Earth’s position in the cosmos had significant implications for the power of the religious institutions of the time, acting as if climate change is real hurts whom, exactly? Even some of the world’s largest energy companies acknowledge climate change.

It’s time we stop arguing about it and take what actions are needed to preserve life on Earth. Because even if the consensus of scientists is wrong, taking care of the Earth not only makes sense, it is our moral obligation.


Is Earth Day Irrelevant?

earthday*304I’m not sure I like Earth Day anymore.

As I wrote last year, the Earth, our home, is a wondrous but closed system that warrants our appreciation and care every day.

Having one day designated for paying attention to our home seems token, a mere slogan.

  • Earth Day gives Google a topic for its changing home page image/doodle.
  • Earth Day provides pundits with a platform to discuss progress and failings.
  • Earth Day means that activists turn up the volume because people might be listening more today than other days.

Yet the state of the Earth is not a passing news headline, a curiosity worth only a quick glance, or a snapshot image in a line of our views of cute animals and celebrity nonsense. The Earth is our home, without which there is nothing else. And an endless stream of data and analysis is showing that we are not properly caring for our home.

Recently, we polled people, asking, “What’s the most important action we can take as individuals to live a green/sustainable lifestyle?”

  • Buy less stuff
  • Buy local stuff
  • Recycle
  • Eat less meat/eat non-GMO
  • Turn down the heat and a/c
  • Drive a hybrid vehicle or drive less
  • Other (leave a comment)

One third of the 35 respondents picked Recycle, with the remainder scattering their top choice amongst the other actions. While we can argue the relative merits of all of these actions, it seems to me that in a closed system, reducing use is most important.

While recycling is helpful, it is really a misnomer because the economics are such that recycled materials are usually turned into something different; meaning recycling is usually really downcycling. According to the Dictionary of Sustainable Management, a project of the alumni and students of the Presidio Graduate School,

Most recycled industrial nutrients (materials) lose viability or value in the process of recycling. This means they can only be used in a degraded form for components other than their original use. White writing paper, for example, is often downcycled into materials such as cardboard and cannot be used to create more premium writing paper.

It’s not that recycling is bad, but that its value is perceived to be higher than it really is. If I don’t buy the bottled water, there is no plastic to recycle or otherwise be concerned with. In our daily lives, it is the consumption choices that most affect the Earth, not what happens to our consumption leftovers.

Google’s Earth Day 2013 graphic

Whether you agree that climate change is a problem, or think that a consumption economy is essential to well being, we must move towards caring for the Earth every day, including today. Our collective health, our survival depends on paying attention to what we do and the consequences of our actions (or inaction).

So, Earth — Happy Earth Day – some attention is better than none! We’ll continue to work on thinking about you every day.




Forward on Climate: Can a rally make a difference?

Forward on Climate Rally crowd

On Sunday, while President Obama played golf in the warm Florida sunshine with oil executives, approximately 50,000 brave souls gathered in subzero temperatures near the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. for the “Forward on Climate” rally. We almost didn’t go because it was SO cold and windy … but decided it was important to be there. The rally was touted as the largest climate rally in history and intended to show Obama and others with influence that people want to be heard on the issue of climate change. There was a lot of noise and signage about the Keystone XL pipeline project that is designed to transport oil from the tar sands in Canada to the oil refineries in Texas. The project is in its permitting process that the President must approve for it to proceed.

USA Today’s report noted, “President Obama said in his State of the Union Address that if lawmakers don’t act on climate change, he will. Protesters say they are holding him to his word.”

Perhaps unlike the images of the Occupy Wall Street protests, we saw all sorts of people from young to old, of many races, and from many locations. The climate movement is inclusive by nature simply because it affects everyone. Buses carried people from 28 U.S. states to the rally, coordinated by the Sierra Club and

People in the movement are concerned that Obama will keep his promises about working on climate change, which he most recently repeated in this State of the Union address. The concern is that he didn’t do much in his first term, and that hanging out with Texas oil men reflects his true intentions. Medea Benjamin in AlterNet makes the point that golf itself is “environmentally destructive”, implying another contradictory choice for the President supposedly on the side of environmental preservation..

While today the focus is on Obama’s uncertain commitment, the real challenge to the climate change movement is much more comprehensive. Some still don’t believe the science. Others have vested interest in the status quo. And many simply are afraid so they don’t want to think about what could be happening to our earth, our home. What is needed the most is ongoing education and regular activism as seen on Sunday at the rally.

obama golfing rally

People need to learn about the issues and make decisions about their positions. And then, if they are so moved, they must speak out. Yes, we can make the small changes in our daily lives by recycling, driving less, and trying to use less electricity. However, it is the big changes that are more significant – one of the important changes to address climate change is to end our addiction to non-renewable energy. The science is conclusive, now it’s up to we the people to insist on the needed changes. The Forward on Climate rally participation of 50,000 would have been even higher on a warmer day. Perhaps the rally is a turning point for the climate movement, which has mostly relied upon science and reason until now. For the first time in its 120-year history, the Sierra Club board is allowing civil disobedience to fight the Tar Sands. The rally clearly represents what people can do, how their voices can be heard, and if progress can be made soon – just how important it can be to speak out.