Tag Archive | greenhouse gas emissions

California Climate Assessment: Heat Waves, Forest Fires, and Floods to Increase Dramatically due to Climate Change


September 2, 2018
The state of California released a climate assessment that points to “apocalyptic” conditions if climate change is not halted or mitigated in the next 30 years. We discuss the report with one of the co-authors and a California EPA deputy director

 

NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warming Temperatures in 2015

 

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According to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2015’s global temperature average was 1.62ºF above the 1901-2000 average, making 2015 “by far the warmest year on record”. Ten of 2015’s monthly global temperatures tied or broke existing records.

Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much.

NOAA scientists concur with the finding that 2015 was the warmest year on record based on separate, independent analyses of the data.

“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and this issue affects every person on Earth,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Today’s announcement should make policy makers stand up and take notice – now is the time to act on climate.”

Global concentrations of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million for a monthly average in spring, 2015, breaching a symbolic barrier set by climate scientists and policy makers.

Concentrations of other greenhouse gases produced from human activities, such as methane and nitrous oxide, also reached records in 2014, the World Meteorological Organization announced in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. The report is one of several measurements made by different climate agencies to address the state of greenhouse gases.

“This evidence shows us that the concentrations are increasing, and they are increasing with increasing rates,” said Oksana Tarasova, chief of the W.M.O.’s Atmospheric Environment Research Division. “This calls for urgent and very strong actions to limit the emission of those greenhouse gasses.”

Hotter air can hold more moisture, which exacerbates greenhouse warming. According to Dr. Tarasova, if carbon dioxide levels reach 560 parts per million, or double their preindustrial levels, the feedback loop would cause water vapor and clouds to increase atmospheric warming to a rate that is three times as much as what the human-caused gases can do by themselves.

“We shouldn’t blame water vapor for making this place warmer,” she said. Rather, she said, by limiting the emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane, people can balance the feedback loop and mitigate future warming.

The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1.0 degree Celsius) since the late-19th century, a change largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.

Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. Last year was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average.

NASA’s analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations.

Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership: Tell Congress: Oppose “NAFTA on steroids”

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In a matter of days, President Obama will launch his final push to pressure Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It’s a secretive trade deal that has been called “NAFTA on steroids” – and for good reason.

During his last State of the Union address on January 12, President Obama will make his case for a “trade” deal that would eviscerate broad swaths of regulations that protect consumers, workers, the environment and the soundness of our financial system. And, it would set up a legal regime where corporate profits trump the policy priorities of sovereign governments.

With the text of the deal now public even some key Republicans who supported Fast Track authority for approving the TPP are now saying they cannot support the trade deal as it stands.1 That means the President currently does not have the votes to pass the TPP. We need to keep it that way and thwart any momentum toward passage of the TPP in this Congress.

We can jump start our campaign to stop this corporate power grab by making our voices heard as loudly as possible in advance of the State of the Union next week.

Tell Congress: Time to stand up and oppose the TPP.

In November we finally got to see what’s inside the TPP – and it’s even worse than we thought. If Congress ratifies this agreement more, American jobs would be offshored. Internet freedom would be a joke. Developing countries would lose access to lifesaving medicines. Unsafe foods and products could pour into our country while we’re powerless to stop them. The deal includes countries notorious for severe violations of human rights, but the term “human rights” does not appear in the 5,600 pages of the TPP. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The administration’s spin about the TPP being the most progressive trade treaty ever is not based in reality. Don’t take our word for it. Here is what Doctors Without Borders said about the TPP:

The TPP is a bad deal for medicine: it’s bad for humanitarian medical treatment providers such as MSF [Medecins Sans Frontieres, Doctors Without Borders], and it’s bad for people who need access to affordable medicines around the world, including in the United States.

The TPP would also commit the world to burning oil in shipping, a disaster for the planet.

Tell Congress: Oppose the TPP.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also sounded the alarm about the TPP. She previously warned that trade deals like the TPP could provide an opportunity for “banks to get something done quietly out of sight that they could not accomplish in a public place with the cameras rolling and the lights on.”3

Indeed, the TPP includes provisions that would severely hamstring the ability of governments to stem the next banking crisis. Other provisions would allow multinational corporations to push back when governmental regulations cut into corporate profits by suing governments in foreign courts staffed by corporate lawyers.

While Congress cannot amend or filibuster the TPP, they do still have to vote yes or no on it. Already some Republicans have come out against this awful deal, so if we are able to confront the big money interests behind this treaty with an onslaught of grassroots opposition, we can win.

Oil and Gas Companies Knew in 1970’s that Continuing to Burn Fossil Fuels Would Lead to a Warmer Planet – Kept Results Secret and Paid Others to Show Otherwise

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2015, the hottest on record, was also the year ExxonMobil was caught in a more than three-decade lie. Internal documents revealed Exxon knew that fossil fuels cause global warming in the 1970s, but hid that information from the public. Now it turns out nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company was likely aware of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change at the same time as Exxon.

Listen to full story online at Democracy NOW!

On this last day of the year, 2015 will be remembered as a pivotal one for the environment—the warmest year on record. In only the last few days, we’ve seen an historic storm hurtling toward the North Pole, threatening to warm temperatures by more than 50 degrees above average there, while in South America a massive drought has fueled wildfires across Colombia, which has issued a red alert for more than 80 percent of the country, and at least 24 people have died in Missouri and surrounding states amidst the worst flooding in two decades, while rare tornadoes killed 11 people in Texas over the weekend. And that’s only in the last five days.

The year 2015 ended with the U.N. climate treaty in Paris. It will also be remembered as the year ExxonMobil, one of the corporations with major responsibility for climate change, was caught in a more than three-decade lie. Exposés by the Pulitzer Prize-winning InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times revealed how Exxon concealed its own conclusions that fossil fuels cause global warming, alters the climate and melt the Arctic. Exxon knew about climate change as early as 1977. But instead of taking action, the oil giant lied to the public and funded bogus climate denial—paid for by the billions it made from practices it knew were harming the planet.

Now a new investigation reveals that in the oil industry, Exxon was not the only one with something to hide. InsideClimate News reports nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company was likely aware of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change as early as the late ’70s. From ’79 to ’83, the oil and gas industry trade group American Petroleum Institute ran a task force to monitor and share climate research. The group’s members included senior scientists and engineers from not only Exxon, but also Amoco, Phillips, Mobil, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco, Sohio and Standard Oil of California, as well as Gulf Oil, the predecessor to Chevron. Internal documents show that as early as 1979 the task force knew carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was rising steadily. The task force even briefly considered researching how to introduce a new energy source into the global market, given the research about fossil fuels’ impact on global warming. But in 1983, the task force was disbanded, and by the late ’90s, the American Petroleum Institute had launched a campaign to oppose the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted by many countries to cut fossil fuel emissions, but was never ratified by the United States.

The Exxon revelations prompted the opening of a criminal probe in New York over whether the oil company lied to the public and its investors. Exxon’s climate deception has also sparked calls for a federal probe similar to the one that led to a racketeering conviction of Big Tobacco for hiding the dangers of smoking. With these new revelations [about] Exxon’s oil industry peers, could more companies be targeted for investigation?

Neela Banerjee is a Washington-based reporter with InsideClimate News. In response to her article: “Exxon’s Oil Industry Peers Knew About Climate Dangers in the 1970s, Too.”, Banerjee answers questions from Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW!:

AMY GOODMAN: Neela, tell us just what you found.

NEELA BANERJEE: We found that as early as 1979, the oil industry—oil companies, through the American Petroleum Institute, wanted to explore the emerging science around rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And we saw this through documents that we found as part of our Exxon research. And through that, we also found the former API employee who was the director of the task force for those four years. He was—the task force was part of a broader air quality effort at API, and he filled out the picture for us, too, and that, you know, they wanted to follow the science, but that some were probably—were already doing their own modeling, though it was not as ambitious as what Exxon was doing at its site.

AMY GOODMAN: Neela, you spoke with James J. Nelson, the former director of the American Petroleum Institute’s task force on climate change, who left API in ’83. He described a shift that was taking place at the time: quote, “[API] took the environmental unit and put it into the political department, which was primarily lobbyists. They weren’t focused on doing research or on improving the oil industry’s impact on pollution. They were less interested in pushing the envelope of science and more interested in how to make it more advantageous politically or economically for the oil industry,” unquote. Expand on that.
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NEELA BANERJEE: Right. And, you know, what Mr. Nelson said was that he didn’t have any issue with that. He thought that that was the right tack to take, because at that time, even though it was under the Reagan administration, the power of the EPA and regulators was growing, and so the industry felt that it was not being properly heard. And they were trying to introduce science, they were trying to get research done, they were trying to have their papers published in peer-reviewed journals. And, you know, his viewpoint, and that of the industry, was that they were—that they couldn’t get their voices heard, and they were worried about overregulation. So, rather than having scientists work on a task force and engage with policymakers, the best way to do this was to have lawyers and lobbyists, you know. And that’s how Mr. Nelson helped fill out the picture from the documents we had.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the late ’90s and look at the oil industry’s role in opposing the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted by many countries to cut fossil fuel emissions, but was never ratified by the United States. A draft action plan circulated by the American Petroleum Institute at the time read, quote, “Unless ‘climate change’ becomes a non-issue, meaning that the Kyoto [Protocol] is defeated and there are no further initiatives to thwart the threat of climate change, there may be no moment when we can declare victory for our efforts,” they said. The American Petroleum Institute was part of a lobbying group called the Global Climate Coalition, which included Exxon and other companies. As you write in your article, Neela Banerjee, a 2001 briefing memo quotes a top State Department official thanking the GCC because Bush, quote, “rejected the Kyoto Protocol in part, based on input from you.” Explain what this memo said.

NEELA BANERJEE: This memo talked about how to influence the public—and, I think, policymakers and scientists, as well—about climate change. The interesting thing about the Global Climate Coalition, which was formed in 1989, so about a decade before this memo came out around 1998, is that they didn’t hew to a lot of the theories that climate deniers back, so, for example, that it’s sunspots or volcanoes or natural cycles. They just kept saying the science is uncertain, and it’s too uncertain to warrant drastic action on the kinds of energy we use, and economic—you know, economic ruptures because of that. So, they kept hammering away at the uncertainty, and then they came up with this communications plan to do the same. And, you know, the point that they were making, that this was unwarranted, that the science was uncertain, that we shouldn’t ratify Kyoto, I mean, it worked. It wasn’t just the GCC. I mean, there were policymakers who believed this, too. But, you know, we did not sign onto the Kyoto Protocol—or we didn’t ratify it, rather. And then, during the Bush administration, some of the key people involved in the Global Climate Coalition went on to administrative posts, top administrative posts, and worked to—some of them worked to censor science on climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to a clip from 1996, when then-Exxon CEO Lee Raymond spoke about global warming. He was also chair of the American Petroleum Institute from ’96 to ’97.

NEELA BANERJEE: Yes.

LEE RAYMOND: Proponents of the global warming theory say that higher levels of greenhouse gases are causing world temperatures to rise and that burning fossil fuels is the reason. But scientific evidence remains inconclusive as to whether human activities affect the global climate. … Many scientists agree there’s ample time to better understand climate systems and consider policy options, so there’s simply no reason to take drastic action now.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Lee Raymond, chair of the American Petroleum Institute, that excerpt from a PBS Frontline documentary. Talk about the significance, Neela, of what he’s saying and what he actually knew.

NEELA BANERJEE: Right. So, Mr. Raymond encapsulates the talking points and the strategy of the fossil fuel industry then, and that is that the science is too uncertain to warrant drastic steps to cut emissions from fossil fuels. Now, this is at a time when the science was growing more certain, and this is, you know, nearly 20 years after Exxon’s top management was told by its scientists that CO2 levels were rising, that they could drive climate change, and that the main—you know, that the main driver of higher CO2 levels was the use of fossil fuels. So, Mr. Raymond was not part of that group in 1977 that heard that, but later on, you know, scientists at Exxon continued to tell top management about CO2 and the link to fossil fuels through the ’80s, and from what we saw in the documents and the people we spoke to, Mr. Raymond was briefed on that. Now, whether he chose to believe that, why he chose to believe it or not, you know, I can’t—I can’t tell you. But we’re pretty certain he was at least exposed to the science and told about these connections by Exxon scientists.

AMY GOODMAN: Neela, can you talk about the impact of your first huge exposé about what Exxon knew, when it knew it and what it covered up, how Exxon has responded, right up to challenging the president of Columbia University, because Columbia journalism students were involved in the investigation?

NEELA BANERJEE: Well, Exxon has said, very broadly, that the reporting is inaccurate, that we’re cherry-picking, and that they’ve never stopped doing climate research. And the issue—their talking points basically don’t address the main thrust of our stories and the stories done by Columbia Graduate School of Journalism that were published in the Los Angeles Times. None of us said that Exxon stopped doing climate research—they did not. And Exxon, yes, continued to do climate research. What Exxon has not really responded to is why, despite the research that it did through the ’70s and ’80s, and really continued doing, though on a much less ambitious scale, through the ’90s, that they took a policy position that cast enormous doubt on climate science. The closest they’ve come to responding to that is to say, “Well, you know, our policy positions and what our scientists do are different things,” which—you know, which is interesting. It makes you wonder, you know, how much science informs other decisions that they take. So that’s been the Exxon position.

They also went after the reporters at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. They wrote to Columbia University and, you know, reminded Columbia about how much money they give Columbia, and said that what the Columbia journalism school project did was entirely irresponsible. Columbia responded and said—and basically, you know, they have a lot of emails and so on to show that Exxon’s assertions could not be backed up.

With us, as I’ve said, they’ve said very general things, but they can’t point—they’ve never challenged the authenticity of the documents that we’ve shared. And we digitized more than two dozen documents, so that people can see that we’re not cherry-picking. They can read the documents themselves. Exxon actually downloaded them and then uploaded them onto their website, so you can see our documents on Exxon’s website and ours. And they’ve never pointed out how we might be misinterpreting the documents in any specific way. So, it’s been a general response.

And as you’ve mentioned, you know, there’s been a response by lawmakers to launch investigations, and there’s been a subpoena that’s been issued for documents by the New York state attorney general. We don’t think that Exxon has delivered the documents yet. And, you know, we surmise that Exxon will probably fight this for as long as they can, because that’s been their strategy in other conflicts with prosecutors.

Media Reports The World Will Enter A ‘Mini Ice Age’ In The 2030s; Actually, It’s the Reverse That’s the Real Truth!

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U.K. tabloids, conservative media, and others are (mis)reporting that the Earth will enter a “mini ice age” in the 2030s. In fact, not only is the story wrong, the reverse is actually true.

The Earth is headed toward an imminent speed-up in global warming, as many recent studies have made clear, like this June study by NOAA. Indeed, a March study, entitled “Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change,” makes clear that a stunning acceleration in the rate of global warming is around the corner — with Arctic warming rising 1°F per decade by the 2020s!

Also, right now, we appear to be in the midst of a long-awaited jump in global temperatures. Not only was 2014 the hottest year on record, but 2015 is in the process of blowing that record away. On top of that, models say a massive El Niño is growing, as USA Today reported last week. Since El Niños tend to set the record for the hottest years (since the regional warming adds to the underlying global warming trend), if 2015/2016 does see a super El Niño then next year may well crush the record this year sets.

Whatever near-term jump we see in the global temperatures is thus likely to be followed by an accelerating global warming trend — one that would utterly overwhelm any natural variations such as a temporary reduction in solar intensity. A recent study concluded that “any reduction in global mean near-surface temperature due to a future decline in solar activity is likely to be a small fraction of projected anthropogenic warming.”
That’s true even for one as big as the Maunder Minimum, which was linked to the so-called Little Ice Age.
The “Little Ice Age” is a term used to cover what appears to have been two or three periods of modest cooling in the northern hemisphere between 1550 and 1850.

I know you are shocked, shocked to learn that unreliable climate stories appear in U.K. tabloids, the conservative media, and those who cite them without actually talking to leading climate scientists. Often there is a half truth underlying such stories, but in this case it is more like a nano-truth.
Last week, in Llandudno, north Wales, the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) held Cyfarfod Seryddiaeth Cenedlaethol 2015 — the “National Astronomy Meeting 2015″ (in case you don’t speak Welsh). An RAS news release had this startling headline, “Irregular Heartbeat Of The Sun Driven By Double Dynamo.”

Okay, that wasn’t the startling part. This was: “Predictions from the model suggest that solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the ‘mini ice age’ that began in 1645.”
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Ah, but the word choice was confusing. We’re not going to have temperature “conditions” last seen during the Little Ice Age. If this one study does turn out to be right, we’d see solar conditions equivalent to the Maunder Minimum in the 2030s.

This won’t cause the world to enter a mini ice age — for three reasons:
The Little Ice Age turns out to have been quite little.

What cooling there was probably was driven more by volcanoes than the Maunder Minimum.

The warming effect from global greenhouse gases will overwhelm any reduction in solar forcing, even more so by the 2030s.

So how little was the Little Ice Age?

The most comprehensive reconstruction of the temperature of the past 2000 years done so far, the “PAGES 2k project,” concluded that “there were no globally synchronous multi-decadal hot or cold intervals that define a worldwide Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age.”
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Green dots show the 30-year average of the new PAGES 2k reconstruction. The red curve shows the global mean temperature, according HadCRUT4 data from 1850 onwards. In blue is the original hockey stick of Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1999 ) with its uncertainty range (light blue). Graph by Klaus Bitterman.

The Little Ice Age was little in duration and in geographic extent. It was an “Age” the way Pluto is a planet.

Writing on Climate Progress, climatologist Stefan Rahmstorf noted the researchers “identify some shorter intervals where extremely cold conditions coincide with major volcanic eruptions and/or solar minima (as already known from previous studies).”

That brings us to the second point: The latest research finds that what short-term cooling there was during the Little Ice Age was mostly due to volcanoes, not the solar minimum. As “Scientific American” explained in its 2012 piece on the LIA, “New simulations show that several large, closely spaced eruptions (and not decreased solar radiation) could have cooled the Northern Hemisphere enough to spark sea-ice growth and a subsequent feedback loop.” The period associated with the LIA “coincide with two of the most volcanically active half centuries in the past millennium, according to the researchers.”

The cooling effect from the drop in solar activity during even a Maunder Minimum is quite modest. Environmental scientist Dana Nuccitelli discussed the literature underscoring that point in a U.K. Guardian post from the summer of 2013, the last time the “Maunder Minimum” issue popped up.
That brings us to the third point: Whatever cooling the Little Ice Age saw as result of the Maunder Minimum, it pales in comparison to the warming we are already experiencing — let alone the accelerated warming projected by multiple studies. That’s clear even in Pages 2k reconstruction above.

Just last month “Nature Communications” published a study called, “Regional climate impacts of a possible future grand solar minimum.” This found that, “any reduction in global mean near-surface temperature due to a future decline in solar activity is likely to be a small fraction of projected anthropogenic warming.” As with the Little Ice Age, any significant effects are likely to be regional in nature — and, of course, temporary, since a grand solar minimum typically lasts only decades.

So, no, the Daily Mail is quite wrong when it trumpets, “Scientists warn the sun will ‘go to sleep’ in 2030 and could cause temperatures to plummet.”

In actuality, what is going to happen in the business-as-usual emissions scenario (RCP8.5) is closer to “rate of change” of warming.

Original story by Joe Romm on Climate Progress

Why Have Our Commercial and Public Media (TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, Online Sources) and Officials in Federal and State Government in the United States Not Sounded the ALARM Yet on Continued Global Warming and Climate Change?

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The following is a summary of a 2008 international conference entitled: “ENVIRONMENT: FROM GLOBAL WARNINGS TO MEDIA ALERT” that was held October 10 and 11, 2008, in Venice, Italy. The purpose of the conference was to challenge the international media to improve public understanding of the impact of climate change. Journalists and news executives from 29 countries representing six continents attended the conference which was held by the international World Political Forum (WPF).

Unfortunately, now almost five years after this conference was held, commercial and corporation funded TV and radio media in these United States continue to purposefully ignore said challenge by not sounding the alarm on the global warming world catastrophe in the making, as do many U.S. publicly elected government officials in federal and state government, leaving the at large public in the U.S. as confused as ever over whether human activities such as fossil fuel burning: in power plants that produce electricity; in home and business heating (natural gas; oil; propane; electric baseboard); in motor vehicle travel and product shipping, via trucks, ships, pipelines (fueling lift stations), in airplanes and in trains; and in cement making and paving the landscape (fuel burning in earth moving equipment).  Another significant contributor to the growing global warming crisis is continued deforestation, worldwide, and especially the deforestation of the tropics, where previously large reductions in of carbon dioxide (CO2) were being taken out of the air by the vegetation there – through the process of photosynthesis. Less green vegetation on Earth means increasing buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans, adding to warmer global temperatures.  Methane gas (unburned natural gas) that is released from oil wells, livestock, and rotting biological matter (permafrost thawing) compound the problem that is resulting in what the scientific community has called “a potentially very dangerous situation for all humanity and life on Earth and lasting far into the future. Reason is that many positive (lead to more warming) feedbacks . One such warming feedback is the loss of Earth’s albedo, where a reduction in the area of snow-covered land, ice caps, glaciers or sea ice has a compounding effect on the initial warming.  As the loss of “white” snow and ice cover (the albedo) continues, the amount of solar energy absorbed by the ocean increases, leading to more warming, which reduces the albedo on the planet even more, which causes more warming, and so on. A small amount of snow melt exposes darker ground which absorbs more radiation, leading to more snowmelt.

The effect is most vividly demonstrated by the decline in Arctic sea ice in recent decades.

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As humans are continuing to do things that add more heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the Earth’s atmosphere, the result is that climates all around Earth have been measurably and significantly changing, mostly to the detriment of humans and animal life. 

The global warming that has already taken place has caused Earth’s ocean levels to rise – due to thermal expansion from increasing water temperatures and from melting glaciers on Greenland, Antarctica, and Earth’s numerous mountain ranges.

Ocean water acidification has already taken place (a 33% increase) which has already lead to significant environmental, economic, and social cost. These effects of  expected to continue unabated which is expected to worsen in time, with projected increases in monetary losses, damage, and loss of human and animal life due to worse and worse “natural” disasters.

As examples of recent catastrophes suspected to have been made worse as a likely direct consequence of rising average global temperatures (global warming): in 2015 heat waves in India and Pakistan killed 1,400 and 2,500 people; in 2013, the thirtieth named storm of the 2013 Pacific typhoon season, Typhoon Haiyan — known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines – with an estimated one-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h (196 mph; 170 kn), making the typhoon the strongest tropical cyclone ever observed based on one-minute sustained wind speed and the deadliest typhoon hitting the Philippines in recorded modern history, killing 6,300 people in that country alone (dozens of fatalities from the storm were also reported in Taiwan, China and Vietnam) and according to United Nation’s officials, about 11 million people were adversely impacted by the storm with many left homeless and an economic cost in the billions of dollars; in 2012, Hurricane Sandy, which remains the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter, with winds spanning 1,100 miles (1,800 km)) is estimated to have caused monetary damages of over $68 billion and killed at least 233 people along its path on the eastern U S. seaboard including New Jersey and New York; and in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, the fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, was not only the costliest “natural” disaster in the history of the United States. Total property damage from Hurricane Katrina was estimated at $108 billion; the hurricane and subsequent flooding took 1,833 human lives and an undetermined number of domesticated and wild animal lives.

Yet today, incredibly – almost six years later – there remain deniers of human-caused global warming and climate change, including our State of Wisconsin’s own U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, as well as announced U.S. presidential candidate and our current governor, Scott Walker, who continue to spread the false message that Earth’s climates have not been shown to have changed as a result of human activities, to the delight of corporations that are financially benefiting from continued and more fossil fuel burning, which releases carbon dioxide gas, the most abundant of the greenhouse gases, which compounds from year to year in the atmosphere and Earth’s oceans, leading to monumental negative consequences for humanity and other life forms on Earth.

WPF’s President Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991 when the party was dissolved, chaired the conference at which participants reached a consensus that the problem of climate change is “URGENT”.

“Time is running out,” Mr. Gorbachev said in his closing remarks. “The most efficient way to tackle the urgent environmental problems facing our planet is transparency, in which the media have a vital role to play. This means global glasnost.”

Climate experts and media delegates approved a declaration calling for higher standards of reporting on strategic options to avert irreversible damage to the Earth’s eco-systems.

Stressing the importance of well-informed public opinion, the declaration set out the following main recommendations:

– The media have the central role in ensuring that politicians, corporations, non-governmental organisations and scientists keep the general public informed about the latest facts and policy options regarding climate change. Civil society formation and action are essential components in deliberation on this issue.

– Journalists have a responsibility to improve their knowledge and skills in order to be able effectively to question government policy-makers, to distinguish facts from opinion or advocacy, and to evaluate scientific arguments from an independent viewpoint.

– Journalists and civil society should redouble their efforts to combat restrictive measures by governments on journalists reporting on their deficiencies in fighting environmental degradation or in informing the public about the dangers of climate change.

– Journalists should avail themselves of existing international databanks of validated statistics and scientific research on climate change.

– Scientists need to acquire improved communications skills to explain their findings in accessible terms and to build relationships of trust with the media.

– Media proprietors should be prepared to invest more resources in investigative reporting to allow specialist journalists to carry out serious and objective coverage of complex issues, based on a thorough understanding of good science.

– Editors should provide more space for in-depth treatment of environmental issues, not just on-line but in print and on air, and encourage innovative approaches that will grab the attention of the audience in a responsible, independent and non-sensational manner.

– Journalism training organisations should develop ever more sophisticated exercises to improve reporters’ skills in explaining complex scientific arguments. An international network should be created to share information about the availability of training courses and the development of new training models.

The Conference concluded on a positive note, declaring: “There is, however, cause for optimism if we act now. Numerous positive solutions to the global environmental change proposed by science and made possible by innovations in technology, the potential inherent in global civil society organization and by citizens’ groups everywhere in the world; and contributions from socially responsible business leaders can make it possible for us to provide for a decent and full life for all, and for generations to come, within the limits of our planet’s resources.”

SOURCE

MEDIA COVERAGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICA

Mikail Gorbachev Letter to Participants in the 23d World Congress of Political Science, Montreal, 19 – 24 July, 2014

Republican Brewhaha on Wisconsin Highway Funding Symptomatic of Larger Problem

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposed borrowing plan for highway construction the next two years has finally hit the skids! GOP lawmakers said as much in a letter to the governor yesterday. Not only is the governor’s proposed $1.3 billion transportation borrowing plan too high, said the 33 Assembly Republicans who signed the letter, but also any reduction to $800 million must include reductions in the massive Milwaukee area freeway projects already under construction.

The Republicans lawmakers, who are in the majority in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature, are negotiating among themselves over the reduction in bonding to $800 million according to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website Monday.

Allthingsenvironmental emailed the Republican dominated Joint Finance way last March after the governor’s proposed biennial budget for 2015-17 hit the streets sending them the following message:

Bad things can happen to good people. It happens all the time, and has occurred all throughout history. So when bad things, or threats, are predicted to occur or seem reasonably likely to occur, it’s best for one to take action, and involve others in removing the oncoming threat, before it gets realized and significant damage to life and our environment occurs.
Governor Walker’s biennial budget plan for Wisconsin for the next two years contains numerous threats to the people of Wisconsin and the state of Wisconsin’s natural resources. Some of those threats could have devastating and harmful impacts if they are allowed to occur without any attempts to prevent or ameliorate them.
Governor Walker’s budget plan as written will cause a great deal of harm for many thousands of Wisconsin’s people and their families. Some people who have worked their entire life at University of Wisconsin or UW-extension will likely lose their jobs, and the public who those people serve will lose out as well. Wisconsin’s elderly and disabled population, and families having children enrolled in Wisconsin’s excellent public school system will also suffer loses. Many hard working and dedicated school teachers and educational assistants serving special needs children will be without a job next fall if this budget is not revamped.
The governor’s budget also hurts those who watch over and protect our precious natural resources, both now and in the coming years, by cutting positions and land stewardship funds.
But really the worst thing about the governor’s budget is not what’s in it but rather what’s NOT IN IT BUT SHOULD IN IT. For example, despite Wisconsin’s aging population and increasing number of people who prefer not to drive, or who can’t drive because of the high cost of owning, maintaining and driving an automobile, the Walker budget proposes nothing new to help with mobility in the state, transit in particular. Rather, it borrows hundreds of millions of dollars to expand an already too large highway system at great environmental harm to the state, and for no good reason.
Numerous observations demonstrate that the climate of the Great Lakes Region, including Wisconsin’s climate, is changing. Average temperatures are getting warmer and extreme heat events are occurring more frequently. Total precipitation is increasing and heavy precipitation events are becoming more common. Winters are getting shorter and the duration of lake ice cover is decreasing over time. As a state, we should already be doing as much as we can to drastically cut back on our burning of fossil fuels but we seem to be doing almost the opposite. This tragedy grows in magnitude the longer it takes for our country and other countries to wean themselves off burning fossil fuels. There are many other unintended consequences of living in a fossil fuel burning dependent society.
But ironically, rather than then increasing substantially the funding of transit systems and the funding of positive financial incentive programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encourage walking and use of nonmotorized travel by state residents and businesses, the governor’s budget promotes more highway expansion.  Instead, the state should reward those who drive less (miles), don’t fly, and minimizing their use of fossil fuel derived energy over the year. Use the money that Governor Walker’s budget borrows to fund a bigger highway system and a big new professional basketball arena instead – expenditures that not only subject state taxpayer to great financial risks but also promote adding millions more tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere including promoting jet airplanes flying of visiting teams and fans to the games.
Wisconsin Public Radio (part of state’s UW-extension) plans vacationing trips to Scotland and Australia, trips that not only release hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere but also give nothing back to the state’s own tourism businesses.
Governor Walker’s budgets include more trade promotions with foreign countries despite the fact that shipping products and working with foreign business interests similarly add millions and millions more tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
My plan would increase Wisconsin families’ and individuals’ annual income for polluting less and reducing the global warming threat, rather than adding to it.
Governor Walker’s plan is to require a monthly drug test of food share (too low to begin with) recipients and proof of their having worked at least 80 hours at a place of employment before their receiving the meager food share benefits. It would do nothing to curb the rising income and employment inequalities and racial disparities in the state. The numbers of families and children living in poverty already will not be helped by Governor Walker’s budget. It is a fact that children of families living in poverty start their lives with a handicap because of many reason but the worst is that they do not receive adequate nutrition before and after they enter their school years. The governor’s budget insufficiently funds Wisconsin public schools and the families that live in poverty are disadvantaged in those schools from day one. Yet the governor’s budget does nothing to make up for previous cuts to public schools and add more financial stress for them by requiring them to pay vouchers for children attending private schools.
The budget should also refund the planned parenthood clinics the state had before Scott Walker took office. Certainly we ought not be adding to our human population pressures on the environment if we don’t have to.
Thank for the opportunity to submit my comments on the proposed state budget. For addition background on my concerns expressed here, please visit my blog at: www.allthingsenvironmental.com.

So it’s not just the governor’s highway plan part of the 2-year budget that’s unsustainable. It’s virtually everything Scott Walker has done as governor, starting January 2010 with his Act 10 that destroyed collective bargaining in public employee unions, having appeared out of the blue.

Meanwhile, as probable presidential candidate Scot Walker heads his way to yet another Wisconsin taxpayer funded speaking engagement, this time in California, the brewhaha simmering among his fellow Republicans is beginning to reach the boiling point. One has to wonder how many frequent flyer miles the governor and his security people have racked up over the past 5 years? A lot? Yes, but undoubtedly not even close to the millions of tons of greenhouse gases his jets, autos and motorcycles have emitted to the atmosphere for the next generation to be burdened with.