Posted by: ericgrimsrud | November 19, 2016

On the terrifying importance of Trump’s next bet

Climate scientists around the world have been shocked by the recent election of Donald Trump to the most powerful office in the world – largely due to his stated stance on the issue of climate change. He apparently thinks it is all merely a big hoax perpetrated by the Chinese in order the ruin our economy. Mr. Trump has to be the most ill-informed president the USA has ever elected to that office. Therefore, we must hope that some of the statements being made by a multitude of climate scientists get through to him. I wish to refer you here to one of these in which the problem is framed around “betting”, a topic of keen interest to casino owner Trump. This statement was written by Bill McKibben and appeared in the Washington Post yesterday. It can be seen at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/donald-trump-is-betting-against-all-odds-on-climate-change/2016/11/17/8f7bf4ee-acf4-11e6-977a-1030f822fc35_story.html?utm_term=.1e4eed0b2276&wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

We are clearly at a moment in the history of mankind at which the terrible wager threatened by President-elect Trump would, if taken, ensure a long-term downward spiral of all civilizations mankind has built on this planet. It is essentially a bet against physics and the laws of nature that have been deduced by scientists over the last two centuries.  Trump clearly knows a lot about our business-as-usual world. His knowledge of the rest of human endeavors and our planet itself, however, is sophomoric, at best. It is nothing short of mindboggling and frightening to realize that the fate of mankind has fallen into the hands of such a poorly informed individual. Hopefully, the likes of Bill McKibben and other scientists will be able to help him see the unprecedented importance of his pending actions.

Our last Republican President stirred up a hornet’s nest in the Middle East by invading Iraq while wasting a decade of potential action against climate change.  Our next one will create even more chaos throughout the entire world if he chooses to invade the life-sustaining environmental system that Mother Nature has created over the last several millennia. Therefore, I will add the following message to the “victorious” Republicans. Have you no sense of shame?  This is your own species and your own descendants that you are putting at grave risk. Perhaps you could at last become part of the solution on climate change – starting by reigning in your President-elect.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | November 12, 2016

Our President Elect, what is he?

In trying to make any sense out of what President Elect Donald Trump has said, it is helpful to first remind yourself of this widely shared view of his basic character. Even within his own party, Mr. Trump is thought to represent much of what is crude, arrogant, garish, and classless in our country. While that might possibly be OK, it is also generally agreed that he has little respect for or even knowledge of American governance. The same goes for American science. And I am sorry to say that all of this is, perhaps why so many Americans voted for him and that is not OK. None the less, Mr. Trump won the election and he will be the next President of the United States of America.

Mr. Trump’s ascendance to the Presidency will be accompanied by several precedents – one of which will be immediately apparent in this blog. That is the use of unusually coarse and exaggerated language in describing events, people and places. Thus, for example, I could begin this post by congratulating our President Elect for “schlonging” “Crooked Hillary” – all made more impressive by Trump’s notion that he did this in a political system that is “horribly corrupt”. I suspect that some of his followers are now looking forward to watching President Trump “lock her up” as he promised to do. While his kindred spirit, Vladimir Putin of Russia, would thereby be impressed, its hard for me to imagine that Trump would actually do that.

Similarly, I doubt, as well as hope, that many of Trump’s outrageous claims and promises will amount to much. He obviously knows how to work an intellectually challenged crowd. One simply has to exaggerate and tell fibs. I would therefore not be surprised if Trump supporters will have to be contented with a few meaningless triumphs – such as their feigned relief in knowing – for the first time in eight years – that they will have a President who was born in this country and whose skin color is more to their liking. Nevertheless, I am very concerned at the moment about one inevitable long-term effect of what just happened.

Even long-standing civilizations eventually fall from positions of dominance for various of reasons. The Roman Empire collapsed due to war, overexpansion and rampant corruption. The British Empire dissolved due to cultural arrogance and imperialistic hubris. And sadly, the USA is presently devolving from a Democracy into an Idiocracy. Ruled by fools, what we wish for is increasingly unaffected by the realities of our existing conditions. The very best example of this concerns the issue of climate change. Thus, the USA may become the first world power to crumble under the weight of its own stupidity.

While there are countless reasons why many of us are concerned about the leadership (or lack of) our President Elect will provide, I will focus here on my own major concerns related to environmental and energy issues. On that front, Trump has promised that he will essentially ignore those concerns and undo all of the advances President Obama has made in these areas. That is, he has said he will cancel our commitment to the Paris Accord concerning reductions in greenhouse gases. Instead, President Trump has said that he will open up federal lands to additional oil, gas, and coal extractions. He has said that regulations and oversight by the EPA is unnecessary. He has said that he will scrap pending efforts to tighten methane controls on domestic drillers. He has also promised to pull back on the Clean Power Plan for reducing CO2 emissions at power plants. I also fear that he will give a green light to the Keystone XL pipeline project thereby opening a new long-term flow of Canadian tar sands oil to the world markets.

While the CEOs of the fossil fuel corporations are absolutely ecstatic about these unexpected turn of events, it should also be noted that these measures fly in the face of the recommendations of our nation’s climate scientists. Does President Elect Trump really have a better understanding than professional scientists of Mother Nature and of the forces She has set in motion in response to the changes mankind is making to Her atmosphere? As ridiculous as that notion is, our ruling Republican Party, its President Elect, and a huge portion of our voting public apparently think so.

In response to this and other anti-intellectual currents rising to the top in the USA, Ian Gurvitz has recently written a book appropriately entitled “Welcome to Dumbfuckistan, the Dumbed-Down, Disinformed, Dysfunctional, Disunited States of America”. While the vulgar name Gurvitz has applied to a large sector of our country might be offensive to many Americans, no apologies for crudeness to Mr. Trump and his supporters should be required. Instead we should just add this new label to the rich list of terms our President Elect has brought back into public usage. Because of the frank assessment this book provides concerning our degrading nation, I highly recommend it to all Americans.

In short, with Gurvitz’s Dumbfuckistan soon to be ruled by a scientifically illiterate fool, the damage done by this election, in the words of environmentalist Bill McKibben, “will be measured in geologic time”. I will add that the greatest losers in this election were our non-voting children and the yet to be born. All of this gives new meaning to the expression, “God Bless America”. And while you’re at it, God, please help us with our multitude of dumbfucks – especially those of the self-righteous variety who claim to be seated at your side.

In spite of the pessimistic view I have provided above, there is, nevertheless, always hope that things could change very quickly. For example, there is a real possibility that Candidate Trump will change many of  his views abruptly, even before he becomes President Trump. This thought is consistent with Trump’s behavior in the past. He is a self-absorbed predator who doesn’t think he owes anything to anyone. During his long business career, he repeatedly “stiffed” his contractors and material suppliers through clever use of our bankruptcy laws. Thus, when he gets into the oval office next January, I doubt that he will feel any obligation to honor any of the commitments he has made to others. Donald Trump is clearly not a stupid person himself even though he has shown himself to be a master at getting the support of those who are. This remote possibility of Trump’s future involvement in the fight against climate change was the theme of one of my previous posts concerning a President Trump (see it in the March 2016 archives). As unlikely as this more progressive view of Trump might be, there’s no harm in crossing one’s fingers. Of all of the issues on the table, only the Climate Change Problem needs to be addressed immediately. All of the others can be addressed and solved in due or even overdue time – if our life sustaining physical environment doesn’t slip away. Who knows – maybe Trump will start learning a bit about the Father of his party and be inspired by how Lincoln saved the United States of America in the nick of time. The fact that he has so little regard for what’s left of today’s Republican Party is encouraging.

 

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | November 6, 2016

Our “Spiral of Silence” explained by two cartoons

In my previous post, I complained about the inability of the moderators of the recent Presidential debates to ask any questions about climate change. Apparently, it is very difficult for journalists to get ahead of the loudest, but less important concerns of the public and it is unfortunately true that Climate Change is not one of the very top priorities of the American public. And while there have been a plethora of scientifically irrefutable reports concerning the growing risks posed by mankind’s unabated greenhouse gas emissions, the public does not yet include this topic in its regular mix of personal concerns and discussions. The presidential debates offered one of the few times when a prominent journalist could have helped turn public discussions from the heated talking points of today to tougher challenges like climate change. That didn’t happen this year and both the media and public are much to blame for this.

In some respects our species has not advanced all that much from the three of our ancestors shown below. On the really tough issues like climate change, we prefer to “see no evil”, “hear no evil”, and especially “speak no evil” leaving our more trivial issues at the top.

dotmonkeysee-blog480-v2

Thus, we are now witnessing widespread evidence of the latter trait, “speak no evil”, on the subject of climate change. For example, a recent study by Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University sought to answer the questions “Is There a Climate ‘Spiral of Silence’ in America?” (see http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/climate-spiral-silence-america/)   Some of the findings of this study include the following:

  1. Americans are interested in global warming

Two in three Americans are either “very” (22%) or “moderately” (45%) interested. Only about one in three is “not very” (16%) or “not at all” (16%) interested in it.

  1. Americans don’t hear about global warming frequently in the media

Fewer than half of Americans say they hear global warming discussed in the media (TV, movies, radio, newspapers/news websites, magazines, etc.) “at least once a week” (22%) or even “at least once a month” (22%). One in four Americans (26%) say they hear about the topic in the media “several times a year,” while 30% say “once a year or less,” “never,” or “not sure.”

  1. Americans don’t often hear global warming discussed

Nearly seven in ten Americans (68%) hear other people they know discussing global warming only “several times a year” or less often, and one in four (24%) “never” hear people they know discussing it. Fewer than one in five (18%) hear people they know discussing global warming at least once a month.

  1. Americans rarely discuss global warming with family and friends

About seven in ten Americans report that they “rarely” (36%) or “never” (32%) discuss global warming with family and friends, which has been trending slightly upward over the past eight years.

  1. More than half of those who are interested or think global warming is important “rarely” or “never” talk about it with family and friends (57% and 54% respectively).

The obvious next question is why are the public and media so hesitant to openly discuss the problem of climate change. While extensive studies in the social sciences might be required in order to fully address this question, I recently noted another cartoon which I think sums things up pretty well when coupled to the one I provided above. This carton, shown below, indicates our “default plan” for dealing with the climate change problem if we continue on our present course.

2016toon44

Upon reflecting for a moment on this carton concerning the Aztec civilization of Mexico several centuries ago, it becomes clear why a member of any culture that has a default plan such as this might not like to think too much or talk at all about the issue.  We would much prefer to think that we are well above that sort of behavior. Nevertheless, history has clearly shown that we are not. The sacrifice of select portions of our societies has occurred regularly and certainly did not begin or end with the Aztecs who are picked on in this cartoon. Instead, such behavior steadily increased with time deep into the modern era.

To pick just one of countless examples, at the onset of the 1930’s, Germany had one of the most advanced cultures of the world both in the fields of science and the humanities. As the forced removal of select German families from their homes then proceeded throughout that decade and the next – right in front of other Germans throughout Germany – along with the transport eastward of those predominantly Jewish men, woman, and children in crude industrial trucks and railway cars, one might have thought that a large fraction of Germans would have noticed and done something about it. Instead, the most common German reaction appears to have been to mimic the first cartoon included in this post. And after WWII, most German citizens claimed to have had “no idea” of what was happening throughout the ‘30s and ‘40s. The only reasonable explanation I can think of for this inhumane behavior of ordinary German citizens would be that a “spiral of silence” had descended on Germany at that time. Being mere mortals, the average German citizen simply could not entertain the obvious possibility that their country was systematically exterminating the men, women and children of this large sector of their population. I will add here that the USA did little to help these victims of Nazi terror even when directly asked for help.

I am reminding us here of these distasteful but well-documented events in human history in order to better understand our present lack of recognition and discussion of our current crime against another specific group – that is our children and those yet to be born. All of these stories tell us that when implicated in an ongoing, unjustified and preventable crime against a select portion of humanity, our brains simply cannot assimilate the facts associated with that offence. The favored option then is to play the three monkeys shown above while hoping that no one notices that we did in fact “know”.

Yes, I think these two simple cartoons tell us a lot about ourselves. And if we hope to improve, it helps to know who and where we presently are and why.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | October 23, 2016

Why was climate change ignored in the Presidential debates?

This week, we listened to the last of three presidential debates. In them, I had expected to hear some questions concerning the most important issue of our times. That, of course, is the global warming being caused by mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases and especially the emissions of carbon dioxide by the combustion of fossil fuels. The citizens of our country had every right to expect such questions. In upcoming years we are going to be hit like a ton of bricks by the relentless advance of warming. Since we are generally considered to be a leader of the free world, all citizens of the world would have a keen interest in our future President’s views on this topic. Four examples of questions we might have expected to hear in those debates are the following:

“An overwhelming majority of climate scientists say that climate change is real, caused by humans and constitutes a growing threat to our way of life. All of the top 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1998 – the year when the deniers say that warming stopped. If elected President, what would you do to address this problem?”

“The Pentagon has said that climate change is a national security risk due to the destruction caused by rising seas and displacement of people. Millions of people will become “climate refugees” as crops fail and drinking water supplies are contaminated by seawater. What would you do to prepare the USA for this?”

“Rising sea levels are already causing whole cities to be put at great risk within the next few decades. What plan will you put in place to ensure that areas such as New York and Florida aren’t inundated?”

“Addressing global climate change requires international participation and cooperation. What efforts would you make as President of the USA to ensure that an effective level of international cooperation does occur?”

But now consider the fact that not a single question of this sort was asked in any of the three Presidential debates. Nor was one asked in the Vice Presidential debate. Thus, the American public was denied the latest thoughts of our candidates on this most important issue. Given this, another question must be asked: “why were such questions not included?” Since no explanations have been provided by the debate moderators, we are left to our own guesses. Four of mine are provided below.

Corporate domination: The fossil fuel corporations provide both of our political parties with vast amounts of financial support. Those same corporations would undoubtedly prefer that open discussions of the role of fossil fuels in causing climate change not be held in front of the enormous audience viewing the Presidential debates. Staying below the radar is a good strategy when one knows one is involved in questionable activities. So perhaps the enormous financial leverage the corporate world has over both our political parties and our media was sufficient to silence all questions concerning climate change.

Cowardice of the candidates: It is also possible that both candidates, Clinton as well as Trump, preferred not to remind voters of their stances in this issue. In the case of Trump, who has said on numerous occasions that he believes man-caused global warming in largely a hoax, he would have to say the same if asked in a debate. In doing so, he would lose a lot of votes among political independents who are scientifically literate. If Hillary were asked such questions, she would have to honor her previous commitments made in her run against Bernie Sanders to forcefully address the problem. And if pressed further, she would then have to get into the details of what must be done – that is, how we would significantly cut back on our use of all fossil fuels. While a large fraction of the US public believes climate change is occurring, a distinctly smaller fraction is willing to suffer some of the sacrifices that will be required in order to do something about it. Rather than lose those votes, I suspect that Clinton would prefer not the be asked about specific plans for cutting greenhouse gases. In other words, on the subject of climate change, it is difficult to pander to the audience by offering painless, easy solutions and both candidates seek issues in which they can effectively pander to large and receptive portions of the electorate.

Scientific ignorance of the media: When the Commission on Presidential Debates Executive Director Janet Brown was asked why the subject of climate change was not included in the debates, she said. “The commission leaves the editorial discretion to moderators for both the selection of topics and questions,” and added “there are dozens of issues that unfortunately don’t fit into the time allotted for the four debates.” Really, are there actually “dozens of issues” as important as climate change? And really, does the media not know how to fit this topic into the “time allotted”? Clearly our schools of journalism and public media need to include more environmental science in their curricula. Either that or the media should hire more people who are scientifically literate.

My hope for days ahead: If any significant action on climate change is to occur during the next Presidential term, it is now apparent that Clinton must defeat Trump in the upcoming election and after that her attitude concerning climate change must quickly swing to that of Bernie Sanders. Bernie was the only candidate in the primaries who really “got it” and hopefully he has subsequently taught Hillary what must be done for the sake of future generations including her own grandchildren.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | September 25, 2016

Power Point Slides for recent presentation

This is a collection of the slides I used in a presentation at St. Olaf College, Northfield,  MN, in the Viking Theater of Buntrock Center on Sept 27, 2016, from 7 to 9 pm, entitled “An assessment of Climate Change, past, present and future”

The best way to view this slide show is to click on the first figure and then scroll through the rest.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | September 21, 2016

Another reason why St. Olaf College should divest

Those of you who have followed this web site know that I have used my own alma mater, St. Olaf College, as an example of American Colleges and Universities that continue to invest in companies and corporations whose operations depend on the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels for energy production (see previous posts on April and May of 2016 and June of 2015). Up to now, the argument I put to them was essentially one of a moral nature. That is, the science associated with global warming is now as clear as any complex scientific issue can be. Our continued extraction and combustion of fossil fuels is increasing the thermal insulating properties of our atmosphere to a point well beyond environmentally safe levels. We are nearing an onset of temperature instability thereby risking future catastrophic changes that would be in compatible with existing forms of human civilization. Thus, we must divest from fossil-fuel related corporations for the sake of our planet, all of its inhabitants, and all future generations.

To my knowledge, however, this argument has failed to change the attitude of St. Olaf College concerning its fossil fuel investments. When asked if St. Olaf has any intentions of divesting, its President simply told me “no” about one year ago and I have heard of no changes since then. Therefore, in this post I would like to provide the leadership of St. Olaf College with another reason for divesting, as explained below.

The campaign to hold Exxon accountable for their climate cover-up just took a big step forward. The federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) just announced that they’re opening an investigation into whether Exxon has failed to account for the risk that climate change and climate regulations could pose to the future financial success of their company. This investigation, which has now moved up from state to federal level, could fundamentally reshape how Exxon and the entire fossil fuel industry does business. If the SEC finds that Exxon has lied to its shareholders, the company could face major penalties. Moreover, a ruling that forces Exxon to account for its climate risks in the future could help shut down new fossil fuel development and industry expansion.

So while it appears to me that St. Olaf College has not so far been sufficiently bothered by the moral implications of their investments in fossil fuels, my hope is that the additional reason for divestment related here will provide them with the bit of additional courage needed to do the right thing.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | August 27, 2016

Not to worry – BECCS will save our grandchildren! ??

Oh goody, goodly – we finally know how our planet is going to be saved from future degradation by global warming. It increasingly appears (see my June 2016 post entitled Post Paris Accord assessment) that our global leaders, such as those who attended the Paris conference in December 2015, think this will happen via a technology known as BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Sequestration).  So, what is BECCS?  With the aid of the following figure, it can be easily explained:

BECCS

The basic idea is that we feed our power plants with biomass (wood, grass, plants, etc) instead of fossil fuels (coal, oil or natural gas) and install carbon sequestration apparatus to the smoke stacks of those power plants by which a large portion of the combustion product, CO2, is captured. That near-liquid form of CO2 is then transported via pipelines to voids deep in the Earth where the CO2 can be deposited and stored for many thousands or even millions of years.  In theory, this technology offers both power generation and a means of removing carbon from the biosphere.

The next question, of course, is will it work? Yes, it is true that each of the individual steps shown in the figure above have been demonstrated and shown to work on vastly smaller scales.  They are presently being studied and used throughout the world.  The remaining question, however, is whether or not BECCS can be scaled up enormously to a magnitude that could actually result in significant decreases in atmospheric CO2 levels over the limited period of time we have left for preventing the worst outcomes of greenhouse gas warming.

With such a massive BECCS system, a point of concern is that huge sections of arable fertile land and associated water supplies would have to be dedicated to making the amount of biomass required. It is estimated that the equivalent of one to three “India’s” would be required and these chosen biomass farms would preferably be located near both the associated power plants and the burial sites of the captured CO2 in order to minimize transportation costs and additional greenhouse gas emissions.

Upon learning just this bit about BECCS, you are perhaps already somewhat skeptical of both the technical and financial feasibility of this technology and I would expect you to be. Yet, if you have followed the debates and conferences concerning climate change being held throughout the world – such as the recent one in Paris – one definitely gets the feeling that we will be betting our futures on BECCS implementation by the middle of this century – when atmospheric CO2 levels will have soared well above the present already dangerous level of 401 ppm.

So the question then arrises, why are we headed in that direction – rather than trying ever harder to simply cut in our continuing emissions of CO2?  After all, we know how to do the former and know that it would work, but do not yet know very much about the feasibility of the latter.  Answers to this question seem to include the following:

  1. The Business as Usual (BaU) forces of the world and the USA especially like the BECCS plan because it allows continued use of fossil fuels in the up-coming decades. According to this plan, the additional CO2 that will be thereby deposited into the biosphere during the next few decades will simply be removed by bigger and better BECCS systems later, right? So easy to say while so difficult to do.
  2. And let’s face it, almost all of us want to do something for those “future generations” that we are always reminded of in climate change debates. Even though the BECCS plan does little of substance now, it does provide “a plan” and some hope for those future generations. That is, we will at least be offering our grandchildren something – even though they, and not us, will have to pay for it. And who knows, maybe “something will come up” by midcentury, right? Such as great improvements in carbon capture technologies or biomass production.  Of course, yet another description of what I am saying here is that we will be continuing to “kick that can down the road” – an activity our generation has become very good at.
  3. Also you should note that the closely related technique of CCS (Carbon Capture and Sequestration) is sure to be promoted as an intermediate stepping stone to BECCS in that it seeks the removal of the CO2 emitted by fossil-fuel-fired power plants (often referred to as “clean coal”). While this technique does not result in a net reduction of carbon in the biosphere, it seeks, at least, to be carbon neutral. Thus, CCS is the big hope for the continued use of fossil-fuel-fired power plants including those that still rely of our abundant supplies of coal. Never mind the facts that other pollutants, such as mercury and cadmium, are also emitted by coal-fired plants and that large quantities of the powerful greenhouse gas, methane, leak into the atmosphere in the mining and transport of natural gas to power plants.  It should also be noted that CCS has not yet been shown to be technically or financially viable on the large scale its proponents like to envision.

So here we are in the new post-Paris Accord era – proceeding with BaU modes of operation and lifestyles – thinking that future generations will be able to develop techniques such as BECCS in order to remove the excess CO2 that first began to show up in about 1850 and is still being added today at an unprecedented annual rate of about 2 ppm. By 2050, the biosphere can be expected to contain at least 50% more carbon than it ever has had naturally over the last 3 million years.  It now contains 40% extra carbon. The last time our atmosphere had 450 ppm CO2 in it, the Earth was almost a “water world” with very little ice anywhere on it.  Therefore by BECCS, the plan is to remove over 500 billion tons of carbon (that is, 2,000 billion tons of CO2) from our biosphere and permanently park that carbon dioxide deep in the geosphere. That’s an awful lot of carbon to be removed – approximately equal to all of the carbon that has been burned, to date, in the entire Industrial Age. And if this endeavor is to be effective, it would have to be done relatively promptly, that is, during the remainder of this century.  Whether this “gift” of the BECCS plan to our grandchildren turns out to be anything of value to them or is presently being favored simply to soothe the consciences of those of us who will be allowed to continue our extraordinarily pleasant  fossil-fuel- driven lifestyles remains to be seen.

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | August 12, 2016

Learning to Love Negativity

It’s about time for a needed bit of humor – which is so very hard to find when discussing the science of climate change. A St. Olaf College classmate of mine named Jeff Strate is the producer of  “Democratic Visions”, a community cable access program featuring interviews, stories, satire and commentaries about and by Minnesota progressive lefties and moderates.  Democratic Visions is handcrafted by volunteers from Eden Prairie, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Bloomington and other suburbs of Minneapolis.. In one of their recent programs, Jeff interviewed an alleged “Professor of Negativity”, played by humorist Jon Spayde, who does his best to help us understand the value and beauty of embracing the abundance of bad news that is right at our fingertips every day. While I am sometimes accused of seeing only the down sides of climate change (assuming for the moment that there are, indeed, some up sides), I am not, at heart, a pessimist.  I would, in fact, like to see the problem of climate change be successfully addressed.  Since that is not happening, however, I am also ripe for conversion to the dark side, a transition that the Professor would like to help the likes of me with.  See Jeff Strate and Jon Spayde’s satirical  attempt to serve this function in the U-tube video below.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | August 10, 2016

State-aided deception continues in Florida

While sea levels continue to rise, a building boom proceeds in several cities of South Florida.   As an example, see the article entitled “Rising Seas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s Building Boomtown, Toward a Bust” by Katherine Bagley at

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/01032016/ft-lauderdale-climate-change-global-warming-rising-sea-level

The construction of seaside homes and condos is at an all-time high in that city, which has already been negatively impacted by the eight inches of sea level rise over the last century. Scientists expect future sea level rises to be much greater – up to about two feet by mid-century and up to about six feet by 2100.  If so, sea level rise will render countless homes and condos in South Florida uninhabitable within a single cycle of a typical home mortgage.

And in South Florida, there is little the residents can do to protect their homes against rising water levels. Due to the porous nature of the limestone bed on which it sits, invasive water cannot be held back by the type of dikes that can protect other coastal regions of the world.  Water simply passes under such barriers in South Florida.

Another unfortunate fact facing the residents of South Florida’s coastal cities is that their state government is controlled by Republicans who prefer to deny the occurrence of climate change and provide no help whatsoever to coastal residents. Florida Governor Rick Scott, for example, has eliminated all of his state’s climate change programs and has banned government employees from using climate-related terms in official business. Both of Florida’s nationally prominent Republicans, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, deny that the climate is changing because of human activity.  Thus, little notice of South Florida’s huge coastal problem occurs in Florida’s state capitol and Florida realtors have no obligation to share sea level information with potential customers.  Look, for example, at the listings of Zillow.com for properties in the coaster cities of South Florida. They say nothing about the future risks of flooding , the increasing cost of flood insurance, and associated declines in home values.

In the article referred to above, a quote from a University of Miami scientist summed up what’s happening in South Florida: “we are building like crazy, like there is no tomorrow – which is true, unfortunately. The plan is to build these homes and sell them to Iowa pig farmers who have worked all their lives to live here, and to get a nice investment for their grandchildren.  They are being hoodwinked.”  It does not surprise me that this honest assessment of the “business plan” of South Florida came from one of Florida’s private universities that is not obliged to comply with the gag rules of its state’s government.

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 30, 2016

Intergenerational malfeasance in Zumbrota?

First, what and where is Zumbrota? The only “Zumbrota” in the world is a community of about 3,000 souls located 20 miles north of Rochester Minnesota. It also happens to be my home town in which my father ran the local newspaper starting in 1946 and passed it on to one of his sons and then a grandson – so that I still get complementary issues of the paper every week.

During the past few years I read about the big windmill controversy of Zumbrota and its county of Goodhue. Because a major national power grid runs through that region and because that region has consistently strong winds, a windmill company tried to get local farmers to allow them to put some windmills in Goodhue County. After a few years of resistance to this idea by the good folks of the county, the windmill company gave up and dropped those plans. While the proposed windmills would have brought considerable wealth to the region and would have provided a major source of carbon-free power, it was not liked by many apparently for aesthetic reasons.

Then, in my last issue of Zumbrota’s News-Record it was reported that a similar proposal for a solar panel farm near Zumbrota was also turned down by the community’s city council. I am guessing that the reason was again claimed to be aestheric since I can think of no other.

As a result of these reports, I used my influence with Peter Grimsrud, my nephew and now publisher of Zumbrota’s News-Record, to run the letter to the editor shown below under the same title as used for this post.

“A 2014 poll (Washington Post, Nov. 19, 2014) found that 74% of Americans under the age of 30 support government policies to cut carbon pollution, as compared to just 58% of respondents over the age of 40, and 52% over the age of 65. The problem set in motion by this divide is that younger generations will have to live with the consequences of the decisions we make today for much longer than older generations. Older generations prospered as a result of the burning of fossil fuels for seemingly cheap energy and tend to look fondly on how things were done back in “the good old days” – while our youngsters will not appreciate how slowly their parents and grandparents came to understand what they were thereby doing to all future generations.

With the above trends in mind, I have observed the resistance in Zumbrota and Goodhue County, in general, to the installation of first windmills and now solar panels. While such installations seem to be “no brainers” to me – I have made extensive use of solar panels on my homes and windmills in my states of residence – I have been surprised at the resistance shown to them in the Zumbrota region where I grew up and still visit regularly. In pondering this, I suspect that the reason has a lot to do with the information provided in my opening paragraph. Moreover, I wonder if the average age of Zumbrotans has significantly increased over time. In any case, it appears to me that Zumbrota has become part of the intergenerational crime being committed almost everywhere in the USA by my own baby boomer generation on all future generations. The only argument against what I just said is that the science behind it is wrong – another unfortunate notion more commonly embraced by the more aged among us. Needless to say, I hope the Goodhue County Board shows more sense concerning its apparent “solar panel controversy” than did the Zumbrota Council.    

Eric Grimsrud, Grand Rapids, MN”

While I hope that by this letter I have not worn out my welcome in my beloved home town, I hope it is also recognized that “what goes on in Zumbrota does NOT, in this case, stay in Zumbrota”. With respect to the global warming problem, Zumbrotans affect the future of the entire planet.  

 

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