Posted by: ericgrimsrud | March 20, 2018

The most depressing aspect of global warming today

One might suspect that the most depressing aspect of global warming would be the distinctly dire predictions of what our planet will become in just a few decades if our business-as-usual lifestyles continue – as there is good reason to expect they will into the foreseeable future. The specific problems associated with that predicted future include, sea level rises causing the loss of much of the world’s most productive and populated coastal regions, an increase in the frequency of catastrophic weather events, an increase in drought conditions throughout much of the Earth, and the massive dislocations of the world’s existing populations as they try to move from ravaged to less ravaged regions. While these changes will certainly become the major causes of human depression when they hit with full force at some later date, they do not yet constitute what I believe is the major cause of climate related depression.

So, what then is the major climate-change-related cause of depression today. In my opinion (and this certainly does apply to me), the major cause of this form of depression today is simply how obtuse a controlling portion of the world’s population is to the advice it receives from its scientific communities. To these folks, it seems that the field of science is just one of several human disciplines that will determine what happens in the future to our planet. More specifically, too many of us seem to think that future physical conditions on our planet will be determined by the thoughts and conclusions drawn from many intellectual areas in addition to those of the sciences. These other areas might include economics, religion, politics, history, sociology, phycology, business, law, and all of the humanities including literature, the fine arts and sports. Clearly, human beings care a great deal about all of these disciplines and generally view the world through the lenses they provide.  On this website, I have provided amble evidence of this preference even within our colleges and universities via several posts directed at my own alma mater, St. Olaf College of Northfield MN. (see “why I give St. Olaf College such a bad time”, posted in December, 2017).

Unfortunately, it is also true that Mother Nature pays little attention to the ideas and wisdom emerging from these other areas. They exists primarily for the purpose of understanding human behavior.  Only the fields of science have shown a strong correlation between their thought processes and what actually happens within the physical universe. This should not be surprising. By definition, “science” is the one discipline of mankind whose only purpose is to understand, explain, and predict what Mother Nature has done in the past and will do in the future in response to any changes that occur in our physical world.

Modern science tells us that we have far better prospects for solving the global warming problem NOW than we will have later when the problem will become literally insolvable.  If we stay on our present course of continued CO2 emissions, the legacy we will be leaving our grandchildren is the worst one of all – one in which there is no hope left for solving this problem – because too many tipping points will have been crossed. That, indeed, is the thoroughly depressing prospect towards which we are now headed – all because human beings have not assigned primary importance to the messages coming from science.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | February 13, 2018

Assumptions of the intentionally ignorant

Advanced human civilizations have been here for about 6,000 years. That’s a long time, right? And over that period, mankind has faced down some very “tough times”, and is likely to continue to do so, right? And, we now know so much about science and technology that we can fix just about anything that comes up, right? So, perhaps we should not be fooled into believing long-term doomsday forecasts concerning global warming when things are not yet so bad. It can be distinctly unpleasant to accept the messages coming from science and is much easier to go with the flow of the business-as-usual community, right? So maybe we should not yet pay so much attention to the climate scientists. If the powerful and time-honored industrial forces of the USA tell us that continued use of fossil fuels is absolutely necessary in order to maintain the lifestyles that people have come to expect, maybe we should just continue to put our future in their hands, right? And this, after all, is what many or most of us are already doing and there is a great deal of comfort in numbers, right?

Unfortunately, an appropriate term for the above simplistic line of thinking is “technical hubris” and this unjustified confidence in the face of real science is moving our planet towards the edge of the human-friendly stable state we have enjoyed over the last 6,000 years.  But who cares?  “Something” will come up, right?

One of the most disappointing aspects of all of this is that even our institutions of higher education suffer from this malady of unwarranted hubris, as demonstrated by the lifestyles they promote and their substantial financial investments in the fossil fuel industries. This includes our wealthiest universities, such as Harvard, and our smaller liberal arts colleges, such as my alma mater, St. Olaf College of Northfield, MN. These educational institutions have mature science departments that might be expected to know a lot about the science of climate change. Nevertheless, the Presidents and Boards of Regents of those institutions almost uniformly go with the flow of our out-of-control, fossil-fuel-driven businesses-as-usual. Most of our colleges and universities are essentially wedded to those controlling financial interests and, as I have personally found, some are now actually afraid to talk openly about some of the most important aspects of the problem. In the process, our colleges and universities have become businesses themselves more than centers of intellectual thought – especially on this most important issue of our era.

The unwarranted and potentially fatal assumptions described above can provide both individuals and institutions with a convenient means of avoiding responsibility for the mess we are making on our planet. If one were to acknowledge the prevailing messages of science, one would then be accepting responsibility for doing something about it, right? And, depending on one’s present lifestyle, that might constitute a tough row to hoe. What? Cut back on my flying habits! Or, divest my assets from our lucrative fossil fuel industries! Surely, you’re joking Dr. Grimsrud! It’s much easier and far more pleasant to go along with the soothing message of the Business as Usual community – and this relieves one of the responsibility of actually doing something about it.  So, better to simply “enjoy the party” while it lasts, right? Intentional ignorance definitely has its advantages.

As suggested in my previous post, perhaps use of the Judicial Branch is the only way we can get a majority, including the intentionally ignorant, to do what needs to be done. Most of us are not criminals and will tend to obey the court-supported laws of our country.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 30, 2018

Youngsters in court, our best hope?

In one of my previous posts of Nov. 11, 2017, I provided a “heads up” concerning the most recent efforts of Dr. James Hansen to get urgently needed action against the man-caused warming of our planet. Since about 1980, Dr. Hansen has done his very best to get that action from our government and the private sector. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that has been provided by climate scientists on this problem, pathetically little action has been taken, to date, almost 40 years after Dr. Hansen’s initial efforts. Because both the Executive and Legislative Branches of the USA have failed to do what needs to be done, Dr. Hansen and a group of youngsters are trying to get that needed action though our Judicial Branch. This is a novel approach that might, at last, bear fruit. For an update on how they are doing, see https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/federal-proceedings

The video shown concerns a recent court proceeding in San Francisco where President Trump’s lawyer was attempting prevent further consideration of the plaintiff’s case. A great deal of other information concerning this program (called “Our Children’s Trust”) is also provided at the website referred to above. This includes a summary of all previous legal actions undertaken, to date.

I can easily understand Dr. Hansen’s change of tactics – moving on to the Judicial branch and giving up on the Executive and Legislative. Both of the latter branches of our government are solidly in the grips of the Business-as-Usual, fossil-fuel-driven forces of the USA. In addition, it has been one of the greatest disappointments of my life to see that even our centers of intellectual excellence – that is, our colleges and universities – are also firmly in those BaU grips and typically hide behind a few solar panels and windmills on their campuses whenever asked to provide more substantial action and leadership on this issue. Hopefully, the adults that serve in our Judicial branches are less beholding to the fossil fuel industries and will have the courage to behave like responsible grownups when confronted by Dr. Hansen’s small band of kids.

In addition, there is always the possibility that the example set by these kids will shame the leaders of our government and institutions of higher education into finally becoming fully invested in the solutions to, rather than the causes of, global warming.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 23, 2018

2017, the year our climate began to spin out of control

There are now daily reports of changes taking place on Earth that are directly linked to the fact that our planet is rapidly getting warmer. In searching the internet for the best summaries of these, I came across a recent article in MIT’s publication, Technology Review, entitled “The year climate change began to spin out of control” by its Editor, James Temple. Without additional comment, I encourage you to read this article at https://www.technologyreview.com/s/609642/the-year-climate-change-began-to-spin-out-of-control/

An opinion by the Washington Post Editorial Board this morning (1/21/18) has prompted this post. It was entitled “The shutdown brouhaha has covered up far bigger news” in which the “bigger news” was correctly said to be man-caused global warming. I have included a portion of that editorial below.

“ONE BYPRODUCT of the day-to-day chaos of the Trump presidency is that the nation’s biggest, long-term challenges are often forgotten. While Washington spent this week agonizing over the prospect of a totally unnecessary government shutdown, what should have been far bigger news went nearly unremarked.

According to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last year was one of the warmest years on record. …… One warm year is not necessarily cause for concern. The trend, however, is. The past three years were the warmest three ever recorded. The five warmest years in the record all came since 2010. Seventeen of the 18 warmest years in the data came since 2001. This decade is on track to be warmer than the 2000s, which were warmer than the 1990s, and so on. The heating of the Earth is unmistakable.

Some climate doubters insist that while the warming trend is established, humans’ responsibility is not. This assertion is nearly as absurd as denying the warming in the first place. It is not coincidence that breakneck warming occurred just as humans began pumping increasing amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.

…….Others argue that the country should not get lost in an unsolvable disagreement on the science but rather just talk about solutions. But without a clear sense of the problem, policymakers will waste time and money on the wrong responses. If global warming were a totally natural phenomenon, the task would be simply to build a society more resilient to temperature extremes, crazy weather, droughts, floods and scrambled-up ecosystems. But because humans are warming the planet, the top priority must be to remove the underlying cause by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Last year also marked a recent low in the federal government’s response to climate change. President Trump installed a climate-change denier, Scott Pruitt, at the Environmental Protection Agency, signaling the end of landmark climate rules on power companies. Mr. Trump’s energy secretary, Rick Perry, pushed for a pro-coal policy so absurd that the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected it out of hand.

In 50 years, many of the unnecessary distractions that Mr. Trump packed into his presidency will be forgotten. But no one will forget how selfishness and purposeful ignorance reigned in the United States as the world began to cook.”

I could not agree more with the message of this editorial. Our current President has found it all too easy to “rope in dopes” by encouraging them to place priority on issues of minor importance while ignoring the ones they should focus on. In addition to the example provided in the WP editorial, another occurred recently when President Trump unnecessarily involved the White House in the “taking a knee” issue being played out at the beginning of NFL football games. Instantly a multitude of “dopes” out there took the bait he offered them thereby moving substantial issues one more rung down the ladder.

The readers of my website will have noticed that I have repeatedly criticized my alma mater, St. Olaf College of Northfield, MN, for not taking a much stronger leadership role with respect to the man-caused global warming problem. Instead, the college seems to embrace other issues of distinctly lower importance. Note, for example, that on January 23, 2018 St. Olaf College’s Institute for Freedom and Community will be hosting on a forum (https://wp.stolaf.edu/news/a-dialogue-on-sport-protest-and-the-nfl-national-anthem-debate) on the controversies surrounding the NFL and its players taking a knee during the national anthem. President Trump must be singing “Um Yah Yah!” (the St. Olaf fight song) over that one.  Isn’t it about time for St. Olaf College to sponsor an in depth forum on the greatest real problem facing mankind today?

 

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | December 31, 2017

Why I give St. Olaf College such a bad time

Those who have followed this website have noted that I have frequently used my alma mater, St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minnesota, as an example of the weak leadership that has been provided, to date, by our institutions of higher education in the fight against global climate change. While considering the reasons why I do this, I recently came across an essay by Business Green author Leo Barasi who shares my concern, and provided the answer to the question posed in my title. On December 27, 2017, Mr. Barasi wrote:

“2017 has left climate deniers with nowhere to go. Merciless hurricanes, heatwaves, floods, and droughts swept the planet all year, along with impossible-sounding fires – in icy Greenland; and in California in December. All are an early taste of what life on a hotter world would be like. Public opinion recognizes the link with climate change, with international polls showing that worries about global warming are now at record levels with vanishingly few people thinking it’s a hoax.

Yet the climate war is far from over. While climate denial may have lost, there is another problem: climate apathy. Most people understand climate change is happening, but just don’t think about it much and don’t accept they should change their lives to deal with it. This matters because stopping dangerous climate change won’t be possible with only popular measures like replacing coal power stations with solar panels. There will have to be difficult changes too, like cutting emissions from flying and meat eating. So long as many people are apathetic, governments will avoid the hard changes that are also needed.

The death of climate denial is one of the most under-appreciated stories of 2017. When the climate deniers played their hand this year they found the world had left them behind. But climate apathy is proving more resilient than denial, and is stopping the world confronting what it will take to live up to its promise to stop dangerous warming. It will take more work to turn that apathy into action.”

So that, in a nut shell, is why I am giving St. Olaf College a bad time. I am trying to get them to move beyond their present state of apathy concerning the most important problem of our time. My alma mater should be providing much more leadership on this issue than it does considering the abundant assets St. Olaf College has in all intellectual areas, including both the sciences and the humanities. Up to this point in time, however, its timid response to this potentially catastrophic problem is very disappointing to those of us who have personal connections to the college and also understand the science behind global warming (my St. Olaf education was not waisted). From my own interactions with St. Olaf on this topic, I believe that the college needs to recall the fact that it was intended to be much more than a successful financial enterprise catering to business-as-usual forces of its region. As it enters the new year of 2018, St. Olaf College might consider living up to its original motto, “Onward, onward, Christian soldiers!” and its new one “Oles can and Oles will” by joining worldwide efforts to preserve livable conditions on the only planet we have. For starters, St. Olaf can help in this effort by changing or terminating its most carbon intensive activities and by divesting itself from carbon intensive industries. In addition, it should stop suggesting that its windmills and solar panels provide it with a free pass to some sort of “pretend world” with respect to their other high carbon activities. Living in the real world, where there are no such things as “good” or “ethical” emissions of carbon dioxide, is the only way any of our institutions can be of assistance.

 

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | December 16, 2017

Yes, there is life without flying!

It is ironic that prior to the 20th Century, people wondered whether or not humans could learn to fly and now we are asking ourselves if we can learn to live without flying. When I make the suggestion of not continuing this most carbon-intensive of all human activities, I know that suggestion is almost always going to be ignored. Essentially everyone of moderate or above means has become addicted to the convenience of flight and is not yet likely to consider giving it up. Instead, most will almost certainly want to continue flying and at increasing frequencies even though climate change scientists have told us countless times that the lives of our grandchildren will thereby be detrimentally affected.

The resistance to this suggestion is entirely expected. After all, my friends might say, what would our modern lifestyles be without fast transport by aircraft? We have places to go and people to see, right? Could we possibly return to the travel limitations of the ‘50’s? No way! is the resounding answer. I suspect that many even doubt that a modern professional and personal life is possible without transport by aircraft. How could the students of St. Olaf College, for example, get to the far off destinations of their now 50-year old, nation-leading Studies Abroad programs without flying? Sure, many of my generation travelled abroad on those slow boats to wherever during the summer time but now our kids must get there and back quickly so that the more traditional components of their studies can be attended to on campus. And, of course, those students must have an instructor with them for both the on-campus and off-campus experiences, right? How else could the college charge tuition fees on top of the travel expenses? In addition, why not offer the same type of enrichment programs for the alumni, parents, and all friends of St. Olaf College. The future of such programs is endless and will, indeed, be forcefully pursued – according to the latest Fall 2017 publication of the St. Olaf Magazine.

As a scientist, citizen and grandpa observing all of this, however, it is clear to me that far too many of us do not take sufficiently seriously the future of our planet beyond the lives of our immediate families. Instead, we happily pass the environmental costs of our most carbon-intensive habits on to our grandchildren and their families. In my opinion, all of this is a testament to (1) the limited scientific intelligence of human beings, (2) a surprising lack of concern for other generations, and (3) the ease with which our consciences are soothed by corporate propaganda. Throw a bit of “come fly with me” sloth into the mix and you have a “nobody home” situation in which the forces of immediate gratification determine everything.

It might still be helpful, nevertheless, for people to know that there are, in fact, some environmentally conscientious individuals who have managed to swear off their most carbon-intensive activities and especially that of flying. A climate scientist named Peter Kalmus is an example of such a person and his story can be read at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/11/climate-scientists-emit-30000-tonnes-c02

Note that Dr. Kalmus is a very busy person who used to fly about 50,000 miles per year. He presently has not flown since 2012, however, for the reasons I have suggested here and remains just as active and happy in his profession. Yippee! Proof that it can be done!

Another person who has not flown for many years and yet has a busier professional life than nearly everyone reading this post is Dr. Kevin Anderson of London’s Tyndall Centre, Great Britain’s leading center for climate modeling.

Dr. Anderson is one of the leading climate scientists in the world who arranges his travel plans very carefully in order to avoid all travel by air. Recently, he went from London to China and back by train in order to attend an international meeting and make several professional visits while also attending to a lot of “office work” while in transit. During his entire month-long trip, I would assume that maintaining his usual communications with everyone in his personal and professional life was also achieved via his cell phone and PC. In addition, Dr. Anderson provides regular presentations of his research via the internet so that all interested parties around the world can see and even speak with him without incurring of a greenhouse gas cost. I strongly recommend that you watch at least one of his recorded talks, such as that at http://vimeo.com/62871951. If you are able and willing to give about 30 minutes of your busy day to this video, you might be as profoundly affected as I have been by the both the professional and personal example set by Dr. Anderson.

There are now a few websites that promote abstinence of air travel and provide helpful discussions of how this can be done most conveniently. Two of them are flyingless.org and  noflyclimatesci.org. Over 400 academics have signed a petition at the first site mentioned and several Earth scientists have joined Dr. Kalmus in telling their stories at the second.

Individuals that take up this lifestyle often note that they are respected for the examples they provide and, most importantly, their examples are then often followed by others. Perhaps the most important contribution to the climate change problem these scientific “non-flyers” make are the examples they provide for others on how to live an environmentally responsible life. In order to have the total needed effect, however, these all too rare examples of leadership must be multiplied by the thousands and that is why I am constantly encouraging the leadership of our colleges and universities to provide much more leadership than they do. Who is better positioned than they to learn all about the need for immediate, all-out action against greenhouse gas warming AND how to impart that knowledge and commitment to others. And, I hope I can assume here that the leaders of our academic institutions are mindful of the wise worlds of Albert Schweitzer: “In teaching, example is not the most important thing – it is the only thing”.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | December 4, 2017

Changing the discussion from mere climate change to extinction

Let’s face it. With the benefit of hind sight, the ultimate fate of human beings on this planet appears to have been set a couple hundred years ago when new machines and a powerful means of driving them were discovered. Fossil fuels then ignited the Industrial Revolution and the Haber–Bosch process (for making nitrogen-based fertilizers) unleashed the human population bomb. And since then nothing has been able to stop the deadly carbon feedback loop that resulted – not even decades of scientific research and warnings.

Much like our primate ancestors, modern humans are prone to ignore threats that are not immediate or local. The global ecological overshoot which then follows is not readily recognized by the lay public. After all, global warming is caused by invisible greenhouse gases and the rate of its warming is retarded by the thermal inertia of the Earth which is quite large. Things change, but not overnight. All of this creates an under-the-radar threat that gradually undermines both our reasoning and responses. The Earth is not infinitely large, however, and now even the lay public knows that we are running up against its limits.

Still, in spite of this knowledge, humanity continues to follow the same old biological script of overshoot and collapse always seen in other organisms from bacteria to lemmings to caribou and elephants. Fossil fuels are enabling a different level of destructive overshoot, however, that will be a million-fold greater, culminating in one final and spectacular explosion of our “powder keg” Earth (see post by this name in archives of January 2017). As our temperature rises, these events can be expected to render our planet unsuitable for thousands of species, including ours.

Unfortunatelcy, open-ended growth appears to be inherent in all of nature – I doubt that any species has ever learned how to limit its own population by his own initiative. We also know, however, that any species that transcends its environmental resources cannot survive. Mother Nature will invariably “take care of them”, so to speak.

The beauty and wonder of this planet is presently being trashed by the most recent version of primates whose cleverness in tool-building and energy generation has far outstripped its ability to handle their environmental effects. Add in the development of mass consumerism, planned obsolescence, and the hypnosis of corporate-sponsored TV promoting unsustainable lifestyles and you have a passive, malleable population happily marching towards the abyss of climate instability. What me worry? No way! I am too busy keeping up with the vast opportunities provided by our business-as-usual carbon intensive lifestyles.

It comes as no surprise that we have been taken in by a bankruptcy artists who dabbled in Reality TV. In addition, every one of Trump’s cabinet picks is a big middle finger in the faces of all of us, including those who fell for his pseudo-populist rhetoric. Only billionaires, Wall Street sharks and hardcore laissez-faire capitalists might happen to like what is happening as they seek to deregulate and privatize every last bit of what remains. The allure of capitalism for the gullible masses has always been that you’re just one lucky break away from becoming one of fat cats.

President Trump is thus the living proof of the ongoing breakdown of our social system. He gets most of his numerical support by playing on the fantasies of those among the white classes of all financial levels who resent the gains made in recent decades by minority groups. He unnecessarily pokes his nose into minor disputes, such as the taking of a knee prior to football games, in order to increase racial hatred. His popularity among his core supporters is enhanced by his Third-Reich-like misrepresentations of his imagined villains, including immigrants, persons who happen to be of the Muslim faith, social progressives, and those of the free press who resist his authoritarian tendencies. President Trump is serving in an era of global resource depletion and environmental degradation and on that front is doing his best to ensure that those who are primarily responsible for this decay are not held accountable.

Free market ideologues are generally either climate “agnostics” or downright “deniers” because acknowledging the reality of human-induced climate change would be an admission that industry must be curtailed or controlled. Left-leaning people generally accept the science partially because it goes along with their criticisms of capitalism which externalizes social and environmental costs for the benefit of the few at the top of the economic hierarchy. Thus, we see parasitic Trump surrounding himself with right-wing, climate denying, fossil fuel corporatists and insiders who will be doing everything in their power to dismantle health and environmental regulations as well as social services – all of which are viewed by them to be barriers to capitalist expansion.

Perhaps our chance of developing a sustainable culture already passed us by some time ago. People will try to adapt until they cannot and then myths will be created to explain away the harsh realities. That appears to be the phase we are now in. Corporate America does a great job in comforting us by claiming that they are on top of it all and that the future will be bright as long as our regulatory forces are kept at bay. Even the administrations of our universities and colleges, from which most of our understanding of global warming has come, do not have the wisdom and courage required to make a strong public stand. Instead, almost all of them still insist that their endowment funds remain invested in the fossil fuel industries. Their greatest fear is that the large donations they regularly receive from those industries might be terminated if they become climate change activists.

Thus, I sadly suspect that a chaotic future with all of its horrific glory is awaiting us: complete with locked-in biosphere collapse, the irreconcilable contradictions of techno-capitalism, a dysfunctional political system, and a populous that is blind to the bigger picture. Our planet is now home to about 7 billion people. Growing at a rate of 200,000 per day, it will be home to about 9 billion by midcentury – unless Mother Nature has other ideas. And unfortunately, our large numbers are not a safeguard from extinction. In fact, it works the other way and that appears to be where we are headed.

I recognize that what I am saying here is hard to swallow. And for that very reason, most are not swallowing it and instead, are choosing to enter into what I have called the “pretend world” (see my previous post in October of 2017). There are countless programs that will help you with this transition – including the “Studies Abroad” programs of St. Olaf College that are described in that same post. A multitude of commercial and academic programs such as these offer unlimited opportunities to travel the world via CO2-emitting aircraft in order to learn more about the wonderful world the organizers assume will always be there – in spite of the damage these very same programs are doing to it. So, if you wish to enter this pretend world, you will have lots of company and can “enjoy the party” while it lasts. Your photos might be among the last taken around the world prior to the great ecological crash that many scientists believe is just around the corner (again see post of October 2017 cited above).

If Charles Darwin was alive today and asked if the human species merited survival into the next century, I suspect he would vote thumbs down and point out the obvious: why have humans not made better use of their brains which were reported to be the best the Earth has ever seen. It would indeed be somewhat embarrassing if homo sapiens turned out to last such a short time on this planet while the pea-brained dinosaurs lasted a couple hundred million years until they were finally brought down by another sudden change in our atmosphere that time caused an event beyond their control and not of their making. The self-inflicted termination of the human era will demonstrate the danger of using only that part of our intelligence that served our immediate gratifications.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | November 18, 2017

James Hansen seeks a new way forward

Dr. James Hansen has proven to be the father of the climate change movement in the USA. While his research in this area has been of primary importance for about four decades, his efforts to engage the public and our government has also been the most substantial of all scientists. Unfortunately, those efforts have not yet been sufficient to generate the responses needed in our legislative bodies – even as the time allowed for effective action is quickly running out. Therefore, Dr. Hansen is now changing his focus to a different branch of government – the judicial branch. For an up-to-date account of these efforts, see:  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/17/we-should-be-on-the-offensive-james-hansen-calls-for-wave-of-climate-lawsuits

Dr. Hansen’s change in tactics – to get needed actions via our court systems – is driven by his acknowledgement that our legislative and even executive branch is strongly and perhaps entirely controlled by the deep pockets of special interests, which in this case are the fossil fuel producers and users. If the fossil fuel lobbies ever suspect that some member of our legislative branches is starting the grow a conscience with respect to the damage fossil fuel use is doing to our environment, an alarm is promptly sounded alerting those industries of the need to replace that legislator in the next election cycle. Thus, both legislative houses in WDC have been essentially useless in addressing the greatest problem of our time.

Whether he will be proven correct or not, Dr. Hansen’s hope is that our judicial branches will be less vulnerable to the lobbying efforts of the fossil fuel interests and will consider their case primarily on its legal merits. Dr. Hansen and a group of young Americans will be seeking redress against those who are most responsible for the relentless advance of global warming. A result such as this would, of course, strongly affect future actions and non-actions in this area.

The problem of finding advocates for strong action on climate change is even much greater than that caused by the absence of such people in our legislative bodies. Because of the long financial reach of the fossil fuel industries, it is difficult for the likes of Dr. Hansen to find sufficient support even in the leadership of the academic institutions of our country – out of which has come the bulk of our understanding of climate change. On this website, I have provided an excellent example of this phenomenon in several posts dealing with the leadership of my own alma mater, St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minnesota. Their actions, if not words, have been difficult to distinguish from those who deny the reality of climate change. Thus, it appears that even our institutions of higher learning need help from our judicial branch in order to tell right from wrong.

Thus, I encourage you all to keep your eyes on the efforts of Dr. Hanson and his youthful group of plaintiffs as they seek to bring badly needed long-term environmental reason and intergenerational justice to our country.  Hopefully, by this mechanism they will not be defeated by the deep pockets and scientific misrepresentations of the defendants.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | November 13, 2017

Annual carbon emissions reach 10 gigatons!

While we had recently hoped that annual global emissions of carbon had leveled in the last few years, that turns out not to be true. We now estimate that the emissions for 2017 will reach a new all-time high of 10 gigatons of carbon (equivalent to 37 gigatons of carbon dioxide). For more details of this news, see

www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/11/13/fossil-fuel-emissions-projected-to-reach-an-all-time-high-in-2017-dashing-hopes-of-progress/?undefined=&utm_term=.e66dc2230365&wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1

The all-important figure showing the growth of annual emissions since 1990 is shown below.

Co2 emits

The annual emissions of CO2 by various sectors of the world is shown in the second figure below.  The sectors are China, USA, Europe, India and Rest of the World (ROW)

 

46

To put all of this into perspective, climate scientists estimate that the world can afford to emit no more than about 600 billion more tons of carbon dioxide if we are to have a chance of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius.  If we continue to emit about 40 billion tons of CO2 each year, we will reach that point in just 15 more years. Since only gradual cutbacks can be realistically accomplished, its is sobering to see that we have not yet even begun such cut-backs.

So what can we citizens of the USA do in order to help address this worldwide challenge? A good idea would be to set a good example for the rest of the world by drastically cutting our own emissions. A very poor idea would be to send our citizens to the four corners of the Earth by carbon intensive aircraft in order to teach other countries how to reduce their carbon footprints.  “In teaching, example is not the most important thing, it is the only thing” – Albert Schweitzer.

 

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