One of the great gifts of this work is meeting some really unusual and gifted people. Katharine Hayhoe is one.
Don Cheadle in Time:
There’s something fascinating about a smart person who defies stereotype. That’s what makes my friend Katharine Hayhoe — a Texas Tech climatologist and an evangelical Christian — so interesting.
It’s hard to be a good steward of the planet if you don’t accept the hard science behind what’s harming it, and it can be just as hard to take action to protect our world if you don’t love it as the rare gift it is. For many people, that implies a creator. Katharine and her husband, evangelical pastor Andrew Farley, have authored the defining book for the planet-loving believer, A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions. I got to know Katharine as we worked on Showtime’s climate documentary Years of Living Dangerously. But we are all getting to know and benefit from her work.
Aaron Huertas for Union of Concerned Scientists:
Our friend and long-time collaborator Katharine Hayhoe has been named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people. Obviously, it’s quite an honor and it’s one she richly deserves. To mark the occasion, I wanted to share some lessons about science communication I’ve learned from her that go beyond the basics.
Listen Before You Talk
I’ll never forget Dr. Hayhoe explaining to a group of Earth scientists how she talks about climate change to people who are skeptical about the geologic age of the Earth. A lot of scientists might be dismissive of such an audience or think that they were simply unreachable on this topic. That would be a mistake.
April 24, 2014
Obama’s big leap is driven by two factors. The first is that the politics of climate and energy are changing fast. “Nature has a vote now,” says Chris Lehane, a political consultant who works with Tom Steyer, a hedge-fund-billionaire-turned-climate-activist. “People can look outside their window and see that the climate is changing.” The most recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which are authored by the world’s top scientists, have erased any doubt that climate change is real and the risks – famine, drought, flooding – are increasing with each passing day. But at the same time, solutions are becoming more obvious: The price of clean energy has fallen dramatically in recent years, solar panels and wind turbines are popping up everywhere, and the path to a post-fossil-fuel world is suddenly opening before us. “The cost curve of clean-energy technology is bending down quickly, while the rate of deployment is going up,” says Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who points out that wind now generates four percent of the electricity in the U.S., and the price of solar panels has fallen 75 percent in the past five years. “Look at what’s happened with LED light bulbs, with photovoltaics. The clean-energy economy isn’t something that’s happening in the future. It’s here today.”
April 24, 2014
You’ll often hear deniers say, “Even if we stop polluting here, China’s just going to keep right on.”
No they’re not.
Nearly 60% of China’s underground water is polluted, state media has reported, underscoring the severity of the country’s environmental woes.The country’s land and resources ministry found that among 4,778 testing spots in 203 cities, 44% had “relatively poor” underground water quality; the groundwater in another 15.7% tested as “very poor”.
Water quality improved year-on-year at 647 spots, and worsened in 754 spots, the ministry said.“According to China’s underground water standards, water of relatively poor quality can only be used for drinking after proper treatment. Water of very poor quality cannot be used as source of drinking water,” said an article in the official newswire Xinhua, which reported the figures on Tuesday.
Read the rest of this entry »
April 24, 2014
Pity the birds.
As if cats weren’t bad enough, humans have invented all sorts of torture devices for our winged friends. We’ve paved over their nesting sites to make room for Olive Gardens and have broken up their skyscapes with glass buildings and radio towers.
Then came the most infamous bird killer of all: the wind turbine. As you can see in the chart below, these sky blenders top the list.
Just kidding. Windmills aren’t the biggest serial killer, but are instead the smallest threat to birds worthy of mention, on par with airplanes. Turbines are responsible for as little as one percent of the deaths caused by the next smallest killer, communications towers.
You would hardly know this by reading Twitter or scanning the comments on any news article about wind power. Here’s a sampling from the gaggle of bird commenters on thestory I wrote a few weeks ago about broken records in U.S. wind power:
“I assume a record number of bats and birds will be killed again.”
“Wind is OK for some areas. A lot of birds will get wiped out though. Then we will see what happens.”
“How many bats and birds did they slaughter this year?”
“Mass murdering devices”
April 24, 2014
The Dark Snow Project is making plans for an expanded presence on the Greenland Ice Sheet this summer. Details are online at Dark Snow Project’s website. We have expanded our alliance with several universities, more scientists, and a diverse team of climate communicators.
For the team to maximize our effectiveness, we need support from everyone who can possibly help – donations page here.
Joseph Cook at Dark Snow Blog:
Greenland contains the largest continuous mass of ice in the northern hemisphere; an area over 2 million km2. The frequency of Greenland surface melting has increased, likely as a result of human-induced climate warming, with the melt-area covering almost the entire ice sheet surface in 2012 (Ngheim et al. 2012; Box et al, 2013; Tedesco et al. 2013).
Although its fair to say that higher temperatures mean more melt, the response of earth’s glaciers and ice sheets to climate warming is complex, also depending upon a range of feedbacks (e.g. Box et al, 2012). For example, when ice melts, liquid water runs over its surface, sometimes collecting in pools and lakes. Liquid water is a more effective absorber of sunlight than snow or ice, so the overall reflectivity (also called albedo, Greek for ‘whiteness’) of the ice decreases. The result is faster ice melt. Melting promotes more melting.
Not only melt water that reduces Greenland ice sheet albedo. A variety of aerosol ‘impurities’ further reduce surface albedo. These include black carbon (BC) derived from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, other industrial activity, biomass burning, and wildfire. Black carbon can be transported across the hemisphere through the atmosphere and deposited on ice, and currently the impacts remain uncertain (Hodson, 2014). Dark Snow field science is examining this question in detail based on 2013 field measurements and planned measurements for June-August, 2014.
Amid one of the worst droughts in recent memory, Costa Ricans already are feeling the damage of extreme weather changes that come with climate change, experts said on Wednesday, at the Climate Vulnerability Forum’s regional workshop, held this week in San José.
“Central latitudes are getting drier but experiencing heavy downpours when it does rain,” said Matthew McKinnon, a specialist at the U.N. Development Program, who has been involved with the forum since its start five years ago. “Coastal erosion is causing some islands to disappear entirely.”
These disappearing islands already have been documented in Costa Rican waters, officials at the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) warned, and a larger threat looms for habitats in the region that lie beneath the ocean. Earlier this month, The Tico Timesreported that experts expect the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – which runs from Mexico to Honduras – to collapse by the year 2060.
Conference attendees also warned of the more abstract effects of climate change.
“Climate change means 50, 60 or 70 hot days will happen each year,” McKinnon said. “We know from the science of ergonomics that when it is hot people work less effectively. By the end of the century these losses could represent significant proportions of GDP.”
April 24, 2014
“The most radical thing you can do is stay home,” – Gary Snyder
Wendell Berry – The Mad Farmer’s Liberation Front:
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
Complete poem at end of post.
Naomi Klein in The Nation, by way of the Guardian:
The importance of the intensely local
Climate change is place-based, and we are everywhere at once. The problem is not just that we are moving too quickly. It is also that the terrain on which the changes are taking place is intensely local: an early blooming of a particular flower, an unusually thin layer of ice on a lake, the late arrival of a migratory bird. Noticing those kinds of subtle changes requires an intimate connection to a specific ecosystem. That kind of communion happens only when we know a place deeply, not just as scenery but also as sustenance, and when local knowledge is passed on with a sense of sacred trust from one generation to the next.
But that is increasingly rare in the urbanised, industrialised world. We tend to abandon our homes lightly – for a new job, a new school, a new love. And as we do so, we are severed from whatever knowledge of place we managed to accumulate at the previous stop, as well as from the knowledge amassed by our ancestors (who, at least in my case, migrated repeatedly themselves).
Even for those of us who manage to stay put, our daily existence can be disconnected from the physical places where we live. Shielded from the elements as we are in our climate-controlled homes, workplaces and cars, the changes unfolding in the natural world easily pass us by. We might have no idea that a historic drought is destroying the crops on the farms that surround our urban homes, since the supermarkets still display miniature mountains of imported produce, with more coming in by truck all day. It takes something huge – like a hurricane that passes all previous high-water marks, or a flood destroying thousands of homes – for us to notice that something is truly amiss. And even then we have trouble holding on to that knowledge for long, since we are quickly ushered along to the next crisis before these truths have a chance to sink in.
Climate change, meanwhile, is busily adding to the ranks of the rootless every day, as natural disasters, failed crops, starving livestock and climate-fuelled ethnic conflicts force yet more people to leave their ancestral homes. And with every human migration, more crucial connections to specific places are lost, leaving yet fewer people to listen closely to the land.
How we made the air our sewer
Climate pollutants are invisible, and we have stopped believing in what we cannot see. When BP’s Macondo well ruptured in 2010, releasing torrents of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, one of the things we heard from company chief executive Tony Hayward was that “the Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.” The statement was widely ridiculed at the time, and rightly so, but Hayward was merely voicing one of our culture’s most cherished beliefs: that what we can’t see won’t hurt us and, indeed, barely exists.